At the end of every Fantasy week, I'll take a look at some of the most interesting names on the most-added players list, with an eye on their future.
Billy Beane does it again?
As he famously spat toward the end of Moneyball, Billy Beane's [stuff] may not work in the playoffs, but the man clearly knows how to wring as much value as possible out of the assets he has in getting there. Pomeranz is a former top-30 prospect who stalled out in the high minors, but still showed signs of promise thanks to consistently high strikeout totals. Beane bought low on his talent, acquiring him for an injury-prone Brett Anderson, who has sadly made just three starts for the Rockies.
The A's stuck Pomeranz in the bullpen out of spring training and got terrific work out of him for more than a month, before a need arose in the rotation. Pomeranz has started two games in a row for the A's without allowing a run, and has recorded 13 strikeouts to just two walks in 10 innings of work.
Pomeranz has still tossed just 23 2/3 innings between the bullpen and rotation, so it's a bit early to say he has turned the corner. Nobody has ever questioned Pomeranz's stuff, however, just his ability to consistently get it where he wants. We need a bit more than two starts to say Pomeranz is someone you need in your starting lineup, but the A's have a track record of solving the riddle of young starters, making him someone you should look into.
Fighting for a job
Montero is the more hyped of the Mets rookie duo that made their debut this week, but he is by no means a sure thing to remain in the rotation moving forward. Jacob deGrom outpitched him during their respective debuts against the Yankees, though Montero had the misfortune of pitching in the less-than-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.
We shouldn't be too hasty in taking too much from one set of starts. Though deGrom showed off better swing-and-miss stuff in his first start, Montero comes in with the better minor-league pedigree and more upside. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old deGrom might be a more polished option than Montero at this point, which might matter more for the Mets right now. Once Dillon Gee returns from what should be a short trip to the disabled list, there will only be one rotation spot for the rookies.
Montero has the kind of upside you might want to bet on, and is probably something of a must-add in any league with a minor-league spot. Even if he is sent down at some point, Montero looks like a piece for the Mets to build around in the future, and would be back anyways.
This could be the real thing
With so many pitchers felled by injuries it makes sense that so many Fantasy owners are desperate for pitching right now. Even if pitching weren't at such a premium, Keuchel might be someone worth opening a spot for, given the way he's thrown the ball this season.
Though he still doesn't throw particularly hard, Keuchel's PITCHf/x data shows he has mixed up his pitch selection just enough to keep hitters off balance. His slider in particular has become a true weapon, garnering whiffs more than a quarter of the time he offers it to hitters. He is doubling down on that improvement by throwing it more than ever this season, while mixing in some other changes that are working out well. Keuchel is generating tons of groundballs (65.1 percent of his batted balls) while throwing nearly three times as many sinkers as four-seam fastballs, a welcome changed since his straight fastball has routinely been rocked in his career.
Keuchel is striking out 22.2 percent of batters faced this season, after failing to top 19.2 percent in any minor-or major-league season, so he might be pitching over his head just a bit right now. Still, he has made enough subtle changes in his approach to make him a worthwhile Fantasy option at this point -- as long as you aren't looking for consistent wins.
Derek Norris, C, Athletics; 50 percent owned, +31 percent
Norris is looking like yet another win for Billy Beane, though one that is providing delayed dividends compared to Pomeranz. Norris was one of the big pieces in the Gio Gonzalez trade back in 2011, though he had struggled to find his way in the majors prior to his red-hot start this season.
The story on Norris coming up through the minors was that he had a fantastic eye at the plate, but might never hit for much average; he was a Billy Beane Player, then. The .359 batting average he is sporting seems to fly in the face of that scouting report, and a .387 BABIP certainly gives reason to think he won't keep it up -- that much is obvious.
However, Norris might be able to sustain something like a league-average average even when we account for natural regression, thanks to some newfound discipline at the plate. Norris has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half, by becoming an even more patient hitter than before. He has swung at just 18.5 percent of pitches out of the strike zone this season and 36.8 percent overall, but career-low marks.
Even if we adjust for some regression in his strikeout rate and luck on balls in play, Norris has the makings of a .270-or-better hitter right now, especially since the A's have the personnel to continue spoon feeding him at-bats against left-handed pitching. The only thing holding him back as a Fantasy option is a lack of playing time; he ranks just 24th among catchers in at-bats.
Zach Britton, RP, BAL; 37 percent owned, +25 percent
He'll get his chances
Tommy Hunter's struggles have opened up the Orioles closer job, and Britton appears to have a great chance to take it and run. He has been nearly unhittable this season, posting an 0.81 ERA and .156 batting average against. With numbers like that, he certainly looks like a shutdown ninth inning option, and he is getting to those numbers with a unique approach that makes him difficult to pin down.
Britton has transformed into an extreme sinkerballer this season, having thrown just 28 pitches that weren't of the two-seam fastball variety. His velocity on that pitch has jumped two miles per hour on average since last season, perhaps thanks to his single-minded obsession witht hrowing it. That pitch has become one of the league's best almost overnight, as he has allowed a .159 average and .188 slugging percent against in 69 at-bats.
Britton has, almost overnight, become one of the league's best firemen in the bullpen, and the Orioles under Buck Showalter have always been among the league leaders in games saved. Armed with a new weapon designed specifically to induce easy groundballs, he might settle in nicely in the back of the 'pen. Though he isn't your prototypical high-strikeout closer, Britton could lock down this role if he gets the chance. Scott White said he would drop Hunter for Britton, and it is hard to argue with that right now.