Fantasy Baseball 2021: Starting Pitcher Sleepers To Target Part 2

Updated: Jan 22

In part one of my starting pitcher sleepers series, I explained why I think Freddy Peralta, Zach Eflin, Brailyn Márquez, Braxton Garrett, and Daniel Ponce de Leon could all end up being great values for your fantasy teams in 2021. Targeting sleeper options in the later rounds shouldn't be a guessing game. Knowing which late-round options are more likely to outperform their average draft position, and which ones are more likely to continue being mediocre, can help you win your league. Simply put, you're getting more value out of the draft than your fellow league mates when you know which players have more upside than others. This was originally going to be a four-part series highlighting a total of twenty starting pitchers, but instead this will be the last installment of this brief series. In this piece, I am going to dive into five more starting pitchers who may very well outperform their average draft positions, helping give you an edge in your fantasy leagues if you can secure them this offseason. Let's get to it!

Dean Kremer, 509.65 NFBC ADP


Basic Info


Position: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher


Born: January 7th, 1996 (25-years-old)


Club: Baltimore Orioles


Height/Weight: 6-foot-3 185 lbs


Career Performance


Acquired in the deal that landed Manny Machado on the Dodgers in 2018, Dean Kremer has always been a guy who's been able to pile up strikeouts. Over his entire minor league career, he struck out 8+ batters in 32.8% (19/58) of his starts. In his days as a Dodgers' prospect, pitching mainly in low and high-A, Kremer earned a 22.7% K-BB and 3.25 FIP over 197.2 innings pitched. After being traded to Baltimore, he earned a 18.3% K-BB and 3.30 FIP over 159.0 innings pitched playing mostly in Double-A as well as some Triple-A. Understandably, the competition got slightly tougher in the higher levels of the minor leagues and his K% took a slight dip (31.2% to 26.4%). Yet he was still able to limit runs, as he allowed just a 2.09 ERA (3.07 FIP) and 19.3% K-BB over his last 12 starts at Double-A Bowie in Summer 2019. He struggled in his four Triple-A starts following his stretch of productive starts at Double-A Bowie, but still managed to produce a 3.42 FIP and 19.3% K-BB. In all, Kremer had a very promising minor league career before being called up to the MLB in 2020.


However, Kremer did still display holes in his game, as he doesn't have the best command over his arsenal. In his minor league career, he allowed a 7.8% BB over 356.2 innings. While that isn't an absolutely terrible BB%, that type of spotty command will plague a young pitcher once they reach the MLB, especially if the command issues are coming from all over their arsenal. In Kremer's case, that's exactly what happened in his 2020 sample size.


Over 18.2 innings pitched, he allowed three walks in each one of his outings. Specifically, he struggled to command most of his arsenal: his four-seam fastball, curveball, and slider (cutter). He threw 177 fastballs in 2020 and the pitch earned a 7.1% K-BB (16.7% BB), he threw his curveball 94 times and it earned a 13.6% K-BB (9.1% BB), and he threw his slider 66 times and it earned a 22.2% K-BB (16.7%). The common trend here is that Kremer does have trouble commanding his arsenal consistently, but each pitch earned a 22.7% K or better, highlighting the strikeout ability he's shown throughout his minor league career.


Arsenal


His four-seam fastball sits in the low-mid 90s, but can reach around 96 mph. It also has decent spin with 2321 RPM and above average horizontal movement (9.2 inches of break) and vertical movement (13.6 inches of drop)--in comparison to other four-seam fastball's similar to Kremer's. Due to these reasons, it isn't hard to understand why the pitch generates more whiffs and swings and misses than the average four-seam fastball. More often than not, the pitch rides in towards a right-handed hitter, and may also appear to have a slight "rising" effect depending on the pitch's location, and thus it becomes hard to tee up. However, due to Kremer not having the best command of his four-seamer, sometimes he simply misses his location, leading to walks and plenty of line drives and flyballs.


His curveball is arguably his best pitch. It drops out of the zone last second and can fool the best of hitters. It had the highest groundball rate (46.7%) of all his pitches in 2020 and will be critical to his success going forward. His slider is a hard pitch that sits 86-88 mph and has nice horizontal movement (4.4 inches) relative to other sliders like his. However, it allows way too many flyballs and line drives. In 2020, there were eight batted ball events off of his slider and none of them were groundballs. As long as his slider command remains middling, it'll be hard for Kremer to consistently keep the ball out of the air and batters off the base paths. Lastly, his changeup is a pitch that he only threw nine times in 2020 and is still very much in development, but it could help him out a lot if he learns how to command it consistently. As a whole, Kremer possesses the talent to be a successful MLB starter if he can learn to command, sequence, and fully develop his arsenal


2021 Outlook


The Orioles' rotation for 2021 is far from set in stone, though it's hard to imagine Kremer not having the inside track on at least the 4th slot in the rotation behind John Means, Alex Cobb, and Keegan Akin. In addition, this Orioles' offense, and team as a whole, have slowly been improving, so Kremer seeing 8-10 wins this upcoming season is a definitely a practicable prediction. If Kremer can learn to better command his fastball and slider, while improving the overall effectiveness of his changeup, he could become a real strikeout artist who'll regularly go six or seven innings pitched. He still has a great deal of work to do before reaching that next level as an MLB starting pitcher, but he certainly has the tools to get there and the talent to thrive once he does.


Daulton Jefferies, 609.74 NFBC ADP


Basic Info


Position: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher


Born: August 2nd, 1995 (25-years-old)


Club: Oakland Athletics


Height/Weight: 6-feet, 182 lbs


Career Performance


I've said it in some of my previous articles and I'll say it again: give me a starting pitcher who can throw a 90 mph fastball with pinpoint control and command over a guy who can pump 99 mph regularly, but has no idea where his fastball will end up once it reaches the plate. Why? Because if you cannot command your fastball, you can't set up the rest of your arsenal, and as a result you'll give up a lot of hits, walks, and runs. In the case of Daulton Jefferies, he can relate a lot more to being a command artist than anything else.


Despite this strong command he's shown throughout his young career, Jefferies has had some troubles staying healthy. In Spring 2016, he missed a lot of action between April-May due to a shoulder injury, plummeting his chances of being a 1st round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. Luckily, he returned a couple weeks before the draft and performed well in this short audition. The Athletics liked what they saw as a whole and took him 37th overall in Lottery Round A. He proceeded to throw five straight starts in August 2016 for the Arizona League Athletics and earned a 17:2 K:BB and 1.65 FIP over 11.1 innings pitched--putting his upside on display early-on.


In 2017, Jefferies pitched just seven innings for the Stockton Ports before it was decided that he would need Tommy John surgery, abruptly ending his 2017 campaign, and most of his 2018 season. He threw just 2.0 rookie ball innings in 2018, but struck out five batters. In 2019, Jefferies was finally fully healthy and as a result, he had his most productive season as a professional baseball player. He earned a 3.66 ERA (3.19 FIP), 40.5% groundball rate, 1.04 WHIP, and 93:9 K:BB over 79.0 innings, pitching again for Stockton and the Midland RockHounds. In all, it's clear Jefferies has dealt with his fair share of injuries and setbacks, but he's now healthy and ready to continue developing as a starting pitcher.


Due to Jefferies' superb performance in 2019, the Athletics felt comfortable enough to bring him up to make his MLB debut in September of the 2020 sample size against the Rangers. To put it lightly, it was not a good start--purely from a results standpoint. He allowed five earned runs, walked two, and struck out just one over 2.0 innings pitched. Being a pitcher who never sniffed Triple-A, this start was understandable and despite all the negatives, there were positives to be taken away from this outing. His four-seamer sat comfortably at 94-95 and he earned six swinging strikes on 53 pitches, with three of the swinging strikes coming against his fastball. This a microscopic sample size being analyzed here, but it's clear his four-seamer will be huge part of his future success, as it's been a huge part of his past success.


Arsenal


His four-seamer sits 91-94 mph and can reach around 96 mph when the adrenaline is pumping. Due to his command over the pitch, he can easily earn called strikes or swinging strikes with the pitch as he throws it where he wants to in, or outside, of the strike zone. Its vertical movement (14.7 inches of drop) is average when compared to fastball's like Jefferies', but it is ultimately an above average offering. His cutter has very little cut (0.9 inches of horizontal break), which is well below average for cutters similar to Jefferies'. It's a flat, straight pitch that sits 89-91 mph and almost comes off as just a slower four-seamer. He commands it well and there's still a chance he can develop the pitch to be a more effective strikeout pitch, but that remains to be seen.


His slider, which some call a curveball, seems like a pitch he's still working on properly classifying, but it sits 79-81 mph with a nice horizontal break and is an important part of his future success. Lastly, his changeup is arguably his most important offering. It sits 88-90 mph and is very deceptive offering, as it looks just like has four-seamer coming out of his hand but drops out of the zone last second. Pairing an effective offspeed pitch with a four-seamer he can command well is a recipe for success. It is important to remember that Jefferies threw just 2.0 innings in 2020, so it'll be important to watch his velocity, among other things, early-on in 2021.


2021 Outlook


Matched with these effective and developing pitches is a delivery that is very consistent and controlled, meaning there aren't many jerky movements--he comes straight at you with his pitches. His arm action doesn't change much regardless of the pitch he throws, and when he's in a groove, it's easy for him to continually fool hitters. Due to this repeatability, consistent arm action, strong command and strike throwing mentality, it isn't hard to envision Jefferies eventually becoming an annual innings-eater who will consistently limit baserunners while flashing enticing strikeout upside. In other words, a strong fantasy asset.


As it currently stands, the Athletics have Jesús Luzardo, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, and Sean Manaea locked into the rotation, leaving one opening. A.J. Puk seems to be the only real competition for the 5th spot, though they may opt to limit Puk's innings coming out of the gate as he's still rehabbing from left shoulder surgery he had in September 2020. The stars appear aligned for Jefferies to grab the 5th spot in the rotation, which helps support his late-round appeal. At his ADP, he'd likely be one of your last draft selections in majority of formats, making him a worthy sleeper to target in 2021 drafts. He's a talented starting pitcher and he'll only continue to improve as he garners more MLB experience.

Tanner Houck, 389.55 NFBC ADP


Basic Info


Position: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher


Born: June 29th, 1996 (24-years-old)


Club: Boston Red Sox


Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 230 lbs


Career Performance


The "right-handed Chris Sale", at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Houck can make his presence on the mound felt rather quickly. Originally drafted straight out of Collinsville High School in the 12th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Blue Jays, Houck's talent has been sticking out for a while now. He opted to instead go to the University of Missouri to gain more experience before going professional. Three years later, he was drafted 24th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft and the Red Sox knew they had themselves a talented young arm.


Coming out of college, Houck's best offering was his two-seam fastball/sinker. It sat 92-96 mph and topped out at around 98 mph. Due to the way he gripped the pitch, it had a lot of sinking action to it, and he also commanded it well. As a result, the pitch induced plenty of weak contact and missed a lot of bats. Plus velocity mixed with solid command for hard pitches is a recipe for success, and Houck had this going for him early-on in his career. In 2018, by the Red Sox's request and with the help of the Rapsodo machine, Houck began to throw a four-seamer more than his trademark two-seamer.


The initial results weren't pleasant, as he earned a 6.16 ERA (6.16 FIP), 1.91 WHIP and a staggering 0.4% K-BB over his first 49.2 innings pitching for the Salem Red Sox using this newly found four-seamer. This arsenal change costed Houck a lot of his fastball command, which is understandable with it being a new offering for him. However, the Red Sox made it clear that they weren't looking for great results, they simply wanted Houck to start developing his four-seamer, making it more of a straight pitch as opposed to his sinking two-seamer. Over his final 69.0 innings pitching for Salem, Houck started throwing his two-seamer again, while still incorporating the four-seamer and ended up with 2.86 ERA (2.98 FIP) and 17.9% K-BB to finish off the 2018 season. Using his two-seamer to induce groundballs and swinging strikes while occasionally throwing his straighter four-seamer will help keep hitters off balance and guessing. Both pitches are an integral part of his future success.


In 2019, Houck's spotty control began to become more clear at times, but he still earned a 3.81 FIP and middling 12.8% K-BB over 107.2 innings pitching for the Portland Sea Dogs and Pawtucket Red Sox. In Pawtucket, he was used primarily as a reliever, but the Red Sox still envisioned Houck as a starter-in-the-making and in September 2020, they called him up to make his MLB debut. In his first MLB start, he looked fantastic. He earned a 10.5% swinging strike rate over 5.0 innings pitched, with most coming against his two-seamer and slider. He struck out seven batters, walked three, allowed two hits and did not allow a baserunner to cross home plate.


However, his last start of 2020 against the Braves was especially encouraging, mainly because his four-seamer looked very effective and he threw it 45.7% of the time. In the start, he struck out ten batters over 6.0 innings pitched, allowing just one run, three hits and three walks. Additionally, he earned 15 swinging strikes, with nine coming against his slider and six against his four-seamer. With Houck now beginning to demonstrate the ability to throw his four-seamer effectively and with confidence, his ceiling as a starter is on the rise. In all, he earned a 4.15 SIERA, 46.9% groundball rate, 0.88 WHIP, .113 batting average against, and 21:9 K:BB over his first 17.0 MLB innings pitched, with his hard pitches sitting at 91-93 mph and maxing out at around 96 mph. His 3.62 SIERA-ERA in this small sample size is likely the result of his control still getting away from him at times, but I fully expect Houck to be a sub-4.00 ERA starting pitcher going forward, with upside to be even better.


Arsenal


As aforementioned, Houck throws a filthy two-seamer/sinker that sat around 91-93 mph in 2020 and has phenomenal vertical drop to it. The pitch falls off the table last second and can make a batter look very silly. It's no wonder Houck has never had a groundball rate less than 45.3% at any point in his professional career. Due to the pitch's late movement, hitters might second guess or swing late, which leads to plenty of weak contact, groundballs and swinging strikes. It's easy to understand why scouts, and Houck himself, regard this pitch as his best.


His slider is a beautiful pitch, one that he threw just as much as his four-seamer in 2020 (94 thrown). It earned a whopping 38.9% K-BB in 2020 and generated about 6.5 more inches of horizontal break than slider's similar to Houck's. For perspective, here are some notable pitchers who generated more than 6.5 inches of horizontal break on their slider when compared to sliders similar to theirs: Walker Buehler, Brad Hand, Sonny Gray--this is a good list to be on. Due to this heavy break, it's understandable why Houck sometimes walks too many batters, as he throws his slider a lot and sometimes batters refuse to chase it. However, it is easily his best strikeout pitch and will be integral to his future success as a starter.


His four-seamer has developed nicely over the past couple years but is still largely velocity-driven, as it's horizontal movement and vertical movement are below average when compared to four-seamers like Houck's. In an interview with David Laurila in 2019, Houck described his four-seamer's movement," It has some arm-side run, but it’s not what you see from some of the higher-arm-slot guys, where the ball kind of lifts, where it looks like it’s flying upwards on hitters. Mine isn’t like that. It doesn’t look like it’s going straight up. As much as anything, it just stays straighter than my natural two-seam. That’s what results in hitters being fooled by it. Whereas my two-seamer has action downward with some arm-side run, my four stays up. It also has a little bit of arm-side run because of how low — how sidearm — I am." His four-seamer is a firm, straight pitch that is effective because it plays well off of his two-seamer. Lastly, Houck tested a splitter in 2020, as he's still struggling to find a reliable offspeed offering, and while the pitch has some nice natural sink to it, he only threw six of them, so a larger sample size is needed to see if he can effectively use it. Houck finding a reliable offspeed offering might be the decider between him being a reliever long-term or an MLB starter.


2021 Outlook


On the mound, Houck throws from a very distinct low three quarters arm slot, which is why he draws comparisons to Chris Sale. Due to this arm slot, it is very easy for him to dominate right-handed hitters, as his slider can sweep across the plate and out of the zone. In fact, Houck faced 41 right-handed hitters in 2020 and struck out 16 of them (39.0% K vs RHH). He did not fair nearly as well vs 22 left-handed hitters in the strikeout or walk department (4.5% K-BB vs LHH). Against left-handed hitters, his slider breaks towards them, so if his control is off and he misses his spot, he'll get punished for it. In 2019, pitching as a starter for the Sea Dogs, he earned a 4.70 ERA and 39:24 K:BB vs LHH and against RHH, he earned a 3.68 ERA and 41:8 K:BB, highlighting the fact that he's always been more dominant vs RHH. For this reason, some scouts thought, and might still think, he'd be a multi-inning type reliever who'll dominate RHH. And while that remains a possibility, Houck will get every opportunity to prove himself as an MLB starter.


Heading into 2020, the Red Sox rotation remains largely below average. As it stands right now, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodríguez, Tanner Houck, and Nick Pivetta are all likely locks for the rotation. Given the division he pitches in, Houck's control will need to improve over a full season, or he may be prone to more blowups than you'd like. Aside from his control, there are few things to dislike, and lot more to like about Houck's upside going forward. He may end up being a more valuable points league asset than category leagues asset due to the potentially high WHIP. But as a whole, Houck has the talent and tools to have a true breakout season in 2021, and it'll only cost you a bench spot to find out if he can get it done.


Clarke Schmidt, 466.92 NFBC ADP


Position: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher


Born: February 20th, 1996 (24-years-old)


Club: New York Yankees


Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 200 lbs


Career Performance


With an intriguing combination of high-ceiling, high-floor, and strong pitchability, Clarke Schmidt has the makeup to one day be a true fantasy workhorse. Schmidt has always had solid control with the ability to fill the zone up with strikes, as his 199:45 K:BB over his final 171.2 innings at the University of South Carolina helps illustrate. He doesn't have the largest frame or best raw stuff, but he possess a solid arsenal of pitches that he can control and sequence nicely. Armed with a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and developing changeup, Schmidt has the tools to make a long-term impact in the MLB.


Towards the end of his senior year at South Carolina, Schmidt tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and ended up needing Tommy John surgery, abruptly ending his final college season and potentially hurting his MLB draft stock. Luckily, the Yankees didn't seem to have many worries regarding his future health and selected him 16th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft. He ended up returning to action in June 2018 and earned a 20:4 K:BB and 4.20 ERA (2.86 FIP) over his first 15.0 innings pitched playing for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. He was then promoted to the Staten Island Yankees towards the end of 2018 and earned a 10:2 K:BB over 8.1 innings pitched. In 2019, he earned a 3.47 ERA (2.68 FIP) and 102:28 K:BB pitching between the GCL Yankees, the Tampa Tarpons, and the Trenton Thunder. Furthermore, his groundball rate never dipped below 44.0% at any stop in 2019, a good sign that his ability to limit runs will continue.


As a whole, Schmidt had a very solid minor league career, demonstrating his ability to limit baserunners all while raking up a solid amount of strikeouts and throwing a good amount of innings each start as he reached the higher minor league levels. He wasn't perfect, as at times he was got hit around when his control wasn't at it's best, but as a young pitcher with limited minor league experience, that's to be expected. The Yankees were confident enough in Schmidt's abilities to give him a taste of MLB action in September 2020. Over his first two relief appearances (2.1 innings pitched), he allowed three hits, two runs, three walks and three strikeouts. He showed slight improvements in his first official MLB start against the Marlins to end the season, throwing just 4.0 innings while allowing four hits and three runs. He also earned a 4:2 K:BB and 58.3% groundball rate. His hard pitches sat 93-95 mph, with his sinker helping keep that groundball rate at it's above average level in his first MLB start. Up to this point, Schmidt has just 120.1 career innings pitched under his belt between the MLB and minors. So while there is still much work to be done in regards to his development, this MLB experience early-on will only help him grow.


Arsenal


Schmidt throws two hard pitches, a sinker and four-seamer, as well as a solid curveball and changeup, with a cutter he is reportedly still working on developing. Per Schmidt himself, he stated in an interview with Yanks Go Yard that, "I throw a two-seam, a four-seam, a cutter, a changeup and a curveball...I’ve been having a good amount of success with it {the cutter}...So that’s something I’m tuning up. And then obviously I’m continuing to refine that fastball command….Two-team command is something I’ve been really focusing on." If Schmidt can start to successfully use his cutter more in 2021, he'll have a deep arsenal that will surely allow him to threaten 6.0 or more innings pitched on a per-start basis.


His sinker, or two-seamer, typically sits 92-94 mph with heavy sink and induces a good amount of groundballs, helping keep his groundball rate at a slightly above average mark. His four-seamer sits at a similar velocity and is much flatter than his two-seamer, but is still capable of helping set up his other pitches. It may ultimately become a pitch he uses less and less. His curveball sits low 80s and has nasty movement with great vertical drop and horizontal break. It's a pitch that simply drops out of the zone and can fool the best of hitters; it's arguably his best offering. Lastly, his changeup sits high 80s and helps keep hitters off balance due its movement and the fact that he can also hit 97 mph with his hard pitches. When he's successfully sequencing his offerings, it's easy to see why he's capable of consistently limiting baserunners and runs.


2021 Outlook


Schmidt throws from a high three quarters arm slot, with it being a borderline overhead delivery. His delivery as a whole isn't the smoothest, but it works for him and doesn't seem to cause him any mechanical issues when on the mound. Though, this delivery matched with his smaller frame (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) has caused some to question his durability going forward, but it remains to be seen if it'll become a legitimate long-term concern.


Going into the 2021 season, the Yankees have Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo Germán, and Deivi García all virtually locked into the rotation, leaving one spot up for grabs. The battle for the final spot will likely come down to whoever performs better in Spring Training between Schmidt and Jonathan Loáisiga. If awarded a spot in the rotation, Schmidt has the talent to remain in the rotation the entire season, making him an enticing sleeper in the later rounds. The upside isn't that of an ace, not yet at least, but Schmidt could become universally known as a reliable fantasy asset by the end of the 2021 season.

Cal Quantrill, 401.97 NFBC ADP


Position: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher


Born: February 10th, 1995 (25-years-old)


Club: Cleveland Indians


Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 195 lbs


Career Performance


Originally drafted out of Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario in the 26th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Yankees, Quantrill opted to instead attend Stanford University. This was likely to garner more experience against better competition and increase his draft stock. In his freshman season, that competition proved to not be much of a challenge, as he earned a 2.68 ERA and 98:34 K:BB over 110.2 innings pitched. His sophomore year got off to a solid start before he was forced to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery in Spring 2015. It held him out up until early 2016 where he was surprisingly drafted 8th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft by the Padres. Coming out of college, he was known for having a deep arsenal at an early age that he could command well, along with potentially multiple plus offerings. With the upside of a solid mid-rotation arm, Quantrill could one day make for a very solid fantasy option, maybe as soon as this upcoming season.


In his first taste of professional baseball pitching between the Arizona League Padres, the Tri-City Dust Devils, and the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Quantrill earned a 5.11 ERA (2.54 FIP) and 46:8 K:BB over 37.0 innings pitched. His success early-on earned him a promotion to the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2017 where he earned a 3.67 ERA (3.87 FIP) and 76:24 K:BB over 73.2 innings pitched. As one can see, Quantrill was having a really productive start to his professional career. He then earned a 135:54 K:BB and 4.22 FIP over 159.1 innings pitched for the San Antonio Missions and a 55:17 K:BB and 4.39 FIP over 66.2 innings pitched for the El Paso Chihuahuas before finally earning a call-up to the Majors in May 2019. Throughout his minor league career, Quantrill demonstrated plus offerings and pitchability. He's not just a thrower as some young arms are, he knows how to consistently repeat his deliveries while keeping a consistent arm slot. He knows when to throw certain types of pitches, where to throw them, and how to work batters to get them out. Pitchers who demonstrate this pitchability early in their careers are more likely to have prolonged success, simply because they know how to be consistently effective when on the mound.


On May 1st 2019, Quantrill made his anticipated MLB debut against the Braves. He allowed six hits, two earned runs, one walk, and struck out three over 5.2 innings pitched. It wasn't flashy but he limited runs and demonstrated solid command, skills he had been showcasing all throughout his professional career up to this point. Furthermore, his changeup, arguably his most effective secondary offering, earned six swinging strikes in the start, the most out of any of his pitches. A plus changeup can go a long way and Quantrill had it working early and often to kick off his MLB career. He would alternate between El Paso Chihuahuas and the MLB for a few more outings before sticking with the Padres for the remainder of the 2019 season.


As his first MLB season went on, he seemed to struggle with limiting runs and being consistently effective on the mound in all aspects. These struggles could be chalked up to a young pitcher simply learning how to successfully sequence his offerings against MLB hitting, as his fluctuation in walk rates, strikeout rates, and runs allowed in 2019 could help illustrate. Nonetheless, he finished his first MLB season with a 5.16 ERA (4.58 SIERA), 43.5% groundball rate, and 89:28 K:BB (13.8% K-BB) over 103.0 innings pitched. These numbers point towards a pitcher that likely earned a lower ERA, as his SIERA was slightly lower than his ERA and he finished with a 65.5% left on base rate.


In 2020, Quantrill pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen and that seemed to help him keep runs off the board more often that not as he earned a sparkling 2.25 ERA (3.92 SIERA), 44.4% groundball rate, and 31:8 K:BB (17.0% K-BB) over 32.0 innings. In late-August 2020, Quantrill was traded to the Indians in the surprising deal that sent Mike Clevinger to the Padres. He remained in the bullpen for the majority of his time with the Indians in 2020, but was given the chance to start two games before the season ended. In those games, he allowed five hits, one earned run, one walk and struck out six over 7.0 innings pitched of work against the White Sox and Pirates. It's unclear what the Indians view Quantrill as long-term, but the fact that they gave this young arm two starts to end this season gives reason to believe they may want him to be a rotation arm at some point.


Arsenal


In his arsenal, he has four pitches that he throws to get the job done. He used to throw a 12-6 curveball, but he seems to have ditched this offering to help simplify his approach. His two-seamer is his bread and butter, as it sits 92-95 mph and helps keep his groundball rate at an above average level while also playing great off his arm slot and extension. Often times, he throws his two-seamer higher in the zone which isn't too ideal, but he commands it well so it induces plenty of soft contact and groundballs. It doesn't have as much sink or vertical drop as a typical sinker, but it has just enough movement to get the job done.


His changeup is a plus pitch that sits 83-85 mph and is firmer than other changeups, but still generates plenty of groundballs when commanded well. It likely earns most of his swinging strikes from the pure difference in mph between it and his hard pitches mixed with Quantrill's command over the pitch. As he gains more MLB experience, it'll be an offering that should be a big part of his future success. His four-seamer sits 93-95 mph and is a pitch that is most effective when commanded well. It has nice horizontal break to it that often gives the pitch a rising or moving effect when throw higher in the zone, leading to a lot of swings and misses. Lastly, his slider has been arguably his most effective strikeout pitch since his MLB debut. It's earned a 25.6% K-BB and 14.4% swinging strike rate so far in his MLB career. It sits 84-87 mph, making it a slightly harder slider, but it earns plenty of swings and misses. As a whole, Quantrill has good but not eye-popping stuff, with overall solid command over his arsenal. He has all the makings of a true innings-eater who'll limit free passes and have decent strikeout upside.


2021 Outlook


On the mound, Quantrill throws from a distinct high three quarters arm slot with excellent extension towards the plate. His delivery is fluid and repeatable, something that could help make him a workhorse starter one day. Early in January 2021, Carlos Carrasco was traded to the Mets along with Francisco Lindor. The fact that the Indians were willing to trade away a proven veteran arm tells us that they are ready to give their young arms a chance to show what they can do. As of today, the Indians have Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie all virtually locked into the rotation, leaving an opening for Quantrill to fill with a strong Spring Training showing. Not every late-round sleeper will become a reliable fantasy asset, but Quantrill is one of those young arms who may have just needed a change of scenery and a fresh opportunity to figure it out, and never look back.













In this #FantasyBaseball article, I broke down five starting pitcher sleepers to target for the 2021 season. Disagree? Love a player I listed? Let me know! You can find me on Twitter @FantasyCentral1


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Thank you all for you continued support and God bless.

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