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Starting Pitcher Deep Sleepers for AL-Only Leagues

Finding deep sleepers is one of the most fun and important things to do when it comes to draft prep. As you come towards the end of a draft you want to take players who have upside or potential to provide a lot of draft day value.

That is what a draft is all about, finding the value that other owners don’t see and turning that into an advantage for yourself. Below are a couple of starting pitcher targets for AL-only or deep mixed leagues 2020.

Note: all ADP is set in the date range of 3/1/20-4/15/20.

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Spencer Turnbull, Detroit Tigers (ADP 372)

Looking from the outside in, Spencer Turnbull seemed to have a below-average 2019. He finished with a 3-17 record with a 4.61 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Underlying factors make him more appealing, he had a 2.47 K/BB, .258 expected batting average against, and a 3.99 FIP. Turnbull becomes even more interesting because of his lengthy arsenal and the movement of his pitches.

Four-Seam Fastball

Turnbull’s four-seam was his go-to pitch when he was in need of a strike. While he utilized it very well and it even caused above-average swinging strikes he does need to work on his command. He does tend to leave this pitch in the heart of the zone and he really needs to paint the edges more. If Turnbull could do that with his breaking stuff we could see him reach a whole other level.

Slider

Turnbull actually had a great slider last year as it provided a 35.9 O-Swing%, 15.3 SwStr%, and .221 batting average against (BAA). He also was learning to utilize it better as left-handed hitters were this pitches weakness. He lowered the usage and started throwing it more versus right-handed hitters, which show he knows how to make adjustments.

Sinker

Turnbull’s sinker can become one of the better pitches in the league. It is a power sinker that he throws as fast as 97.9 MPH and has really great vertical and horizontal movement. The sinker comes with gruesome-looking stats though, as it produced a -11.1 pVAL, 175 wRC+, and .346 BAA. That BAA should drop as it came with a .386 BABIP but clearly Turnbull needs to learn to utilize the pitch better and when he should be throwing it. On the plus side, his sinker did provide a lot of weak contact with a 65.6 GB% and 5.4 Barrel%. This pitch could be and should be much better in 2020.

Curveball

Turnbull’s curveball presents great horizontal movement with a -8.3 drop on the pitch. It was also very unlucky last year as its underlying stats in terms of xBA, xSLG, and xwOBAcon all show positive regression. He possesses solid command and creates a lot of weak contact, making his curveball a likely bright spot for the upcoming season.

With some bad luck last year and a rather impressive arsenal, Spencer Turnbull seems poised to surprise a lot of people in 2020. His ADP of 372 makes him essentially free and a great spot to take some risk for the back end of your rotation.

 

Trent Thornton, Toronto Blue Jays (ADP 573)

Trent Thornton had a very lackluster 2019 as he produced a 4.84 ERA, 4.59 FIP, 13.0 K-BB%, and 1.41 WHIP. None of those are great numbers, in fact, all of them are below average. So why the love?

Trent Thornton certainly has strikeout upside. For instance, look at his last start of the year against the Tampa Bay Rays. He finished with a stat line of five innings pitched with eight strikeouts. In fact, he had eight starts where he had seven strikeouts or more. We are going to look at Thornton a little differently than Turnbull because he seems to be working on some new pitches.

In 2019, Thornton mainly threw a four-seam, cutter, slider, curveball, and splitter. The four-seam fastball isn’t bad as it is his go-to strike pitch. The cutter is pretty filthy in terms of swing and miss stuff but it does give off some pretty hard contact. Hitters had trouble with his slider and it should improve in 2020. The curveball has decent movement but not true swing and miss stuff. The splitter was rather lethal as it provided a .122 batting average against with a 1 wRC+ against.

The reason for the short summary of his pitches is because Thornton looks to be overhauling his arsenal. If you are a subscriber to the Athletic, make sure to read this piece written by Eno Sarris. In the article, Eno goes through all of the Blue Jays pitchers and his conversations with them. Thornton was definitely intriguing. Notably, Thornton’s curveball was much better in the last month of 2019, the reason being that he went to two different curveball grips. At times the RPMs on his curveball were at the top of the league.

Another pitch Eno talks about is Trent Thornton’s new one-seam fastball. This pitch has an insane movement where it has tremendous vertical and horizontal movement, as you can see by the video in the article.

To recap, with new grips on his curveball that showed great results and a new fastball we can see Thornton break out in 2020. Thornton was close in 2019 in terms of stuff and really shined at times but adjustments had to be made. It certainly looks like he is heading in the right direction.

Intricacies

When you are finding those deep sleepers you need to look for intricacies within players. For instance, with Turnbull, it is the deep arsenal with room to improve and with Thornton, it’s him working on new pitches for his arsenal. Small things like these could mean everything when it comes to a potential breakout. Thank you for reading and please let us know if you have any questions!

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