3 Starting Pitchers To Target Moving Forward

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Here are three starting pitchers who have gotten off to rough starts that I am targeting moving forward.

Gio Gonzalez

Gonzalez is currently the 79th starting pitcher on ESPN’s player rater with a 4.25 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and 42 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. He was the 29th starting pitcher being drafted this season according to fantasypros.com and since 2010 he’s never finished a season with an ERA higher than 3.57 or a WHIP higher than 1.32. If we set the over/under for his rest of season ERA and WHIP at 3.57 and 1.32 respectively I’ll take the under on both and I believe he still finishes the season as a top-40 starting pitcher.

Nothing in Gonzalez’s statistical profile indicates any sort of decline in skills, while his .387 BABIP — despite a career best 58.2% groundball rate — has “this guy has run into a lot of bad luck” written all over it. Gonzalez has always averaged right around a strikeout-per-inning and he’s right there again this year, his 8.7% walk rate is also right in line with where he was last season, his velocity is actually a tick up from where it was last year and he’s only allowed one home run through seven starts. Gio’s FIP is currently 2.74, it’s only a short matter of time before his ERA begins to creep down towards that number.

Carlos Carrasco

Carrasco may have been the trendiest top-100 pick in drafts this season. Once a top prospect (he was the main component in the package the Phillies sent to Cleveland for Cliff Lee back in 2009), Carrasco’s first few years in the big leagues were nothing but disappointing. As we entered August last year, Carrasco had a career ERA of 4.65 to go with a 1.38 WHIP and 210 strikeouts in 277 innings. Then he went on a magical run that showed just how dominant he could be, resulting in him being a top-100 pick in 2015 drafts.

On the surface, a frustrated Carrasco owner can look at his numbers and think that Carrasco is back to being the pitcher he was for the first 277 innings of his career, and not the pitcher they thought they were snagging on draft day. His ERA sits at 4.84 and his WHIP is up at 1.33 and he’s currently 53rd among starting pitchers on ESPN’s player rater. Like Gio though, Carrasco’s results can be blamed more on poor defense and bad luck, not on a decline in skill.

So far in 2015, Carrasco is posting career best numbers in terms of strikeout rate and walk rate (27.8% and 5.3% respectively), his velocity is right in line with his career norms, he’s still getting batters to swing and miss nearly just as much as he did last season and over half of the balls that are being put in play against him are on the ground. Carrasco has a .371 BABIP and a 2.63 FIP; like Gio, I believe that BABIP will go down and his ERA for the rest-of-the-season will be much closer to that FIP then to where it’s currently at now.

Danny Salazar

The other two guys were “buy low” targets because if you targeted them now you’d be going after them while their value is lower than where it normally is. This is not the case with Salazar. If anything, you’d be “buying high” because his value now is quite a bit higher now than it was even a month ago. I’m still buying though, wherever I can, because I think his value is just going to climb higher and higher.

As of now, Salazar is the 15th starting pitcher on ESPN’s player rater and he sports a 3.27 ERA to go with a sparkling 0.88 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 33 innings. His WHIP is most certainly going to rise but not catastrophically and I believe the strikeout rate and the ERA are legit.

Salazar’s stuff is absolutely filthy. Like frat house bathroom filthy. His splitter is one of the most un-hittable pitches in all of baseball. According to brooksbaseball.net, Salazar has thrown his splitter for just over 25% of his pitches this season and batters are hitting just .094 against it with a .057 ISO. It’s simply a pitch that hitters haven’t been able to touch this year, he has a whiff rate of 31.62% against the pitch this year and to put that into perspective Masahiro Tanaka has a 28.69% whiff rate on his splitter.

Salazar has long been a guy with fantasy ace potential and stuff, the only question has been whether or not he can harness and control it. Well, as of now, his 3.9% walk rate is the ninth best among all qualified starting pitchers (ninth out of 112) and his 33.3% strikeout-minus-walk rate is easily the best in baseball (Michael Pineda is second at 27.9%). I’m all in on Salazar and if his owner in your league isn’t valuing him like a top-40 pitcher then pounce because he has the ability to hold down his current top-20 status.