Approximately 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. As such, they face disadvantages in our everyday life, from the method in which they print on paper with margins, to having scissors specially made just for them and even something as simple as a handshake. I myself am right-handed, so I don’t know their plight, but left-handed people such as my dad have been fighting the odds since Day One. I don’t want that to be the case forever. I want us to recognize their beauty, their uniqueness, and their capabilities.
Recently I went over some Deep League Hitters with potential that you can select late in drafts in order to help you fill out your rosters. These were players that will have the potential for not only consistent playing time, but also production when actually playing. It’s important to remember players like this because drafts won’t always go as planned and it’s that depth that can really win you your league.
With regards to pitching, it’s equally as important to draft players late that you can confidently place in your lineup in certain situations. They could be pitchers that offer you category boosts or pitchers in a division with weak-hitting opponents, or pitchers who have a terrible home field but thrive on the road. In any case, they all have strengths that can and should be utilized by you, the owner, and can help you win your week and/or your season.
Furthermore, with the potential of a shortened season looming in 2020, pitching is as important as ever. A lot of games with minimal off days mean that teams will be forced to use a lot of pitchers, so having a large number of them is a solid approach to success in 2020. These are some quality arms you can add late to give you the edge you’ll need.
Just like before, I will be looking at pitchers that are being drafted with an ADP of 300 and higher. As it turns out, there are plenty of pitchers who are not only above that ADP of 300 but also are coincidentally left-handed. And, as always, NFBC will be the frame of reference for that ADP.
Jordan Montgomery, LHP, New York Yankees
2019 stats: 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K
Jordan Montgomery came into the league in 2017 and had a successful season, where he posted an ERA under 4.00 and just under a strikeout per inning while winning nine games. His strikeout percentage was better than league average and his walk rate was less than the league average.
All in all, it was a great debut season for the rookie. What followed in 2018, unfortunately, was an uncomfortable feeling in his elbow while playing catch, ultimately leading to Tommy John surgery in June. He did, however, return in 2019 to post the gaudy, yet small, stat line posted above. The promising news is that he did return in 2019 to get in some work, which was good news moving forward at the time.
.@JACKCurryYES evaluation for Jordan Montgomery's September?
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 24, 2019
Flash forward to Spring Training 2020, and there was a noticeable difference in the Montgomery we saw in limited action. His velocity was up from 90 miles per hour to even hitting 94 on multiple occasions. He seemed more confident in himself too, as he said this on MLB Radio in January, and seen in an article at nj.com
“My mechanics were pretty rough that year before (the surgery),” Montgomery told MLB Network Radio on Saturday.” I was doing anything I could to get my arm through, really contort my body to get it through because that was kind of the spot where it didn’t hurt. “Now I can just let my arm through and keep my posture and use my thighs a bit more now, which I’m excited about. Clean everything up the best I can and be simple and smooth is what I’m going for.”
What transpired was a pitcher who understood what his body had become as he was able to channel it properly on the mound. In Spring Training, he finished with 16 strikeouts compared to just one walk over eleven innings pitched. He was described as having a “less-exaggerated angular delivery” which was putting less stress on his arm, all while extending his changeup.
I've said it before, I'll say it again.
Draft Jordan Montgomery.
– He just went 12-up-12-down with five strikeouts ✅
– Sat 92/93 after averaging 91/92 in 2017 🔥
– Three secondary pitches to get whiffs. ☠️
– He's also the Yankees' #4 starter. ☑️
– ADP past pick #300 in NFBC 🚨 pic.twitter.com/NFChAfjp9M
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 10, 2020
On top of all of that, Luis Severino will be out for an extended amount of time due to Tommy John surgery of his own, thus opening a spot for him in the Yankees’ rotation. Domingo German‘s suspension will leave him out of action for almost half a season as well. The opportunity has presented itself and there is an opening for him. The time to pounce on Montgomery is sooner, rather than later before other league mates realize he needs to be added.
John Means, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
2019 stats: 12-11, 3.60 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 155.0 IP, 138 H, 38 BB, 121 K
John Means is someone who got under-appreciated in 2019 due to the fact that he plays for the pitiful Baltimore Orioles who are the mighty American League East. In 2019, he was by far the best player for his team, and the stats above don’t truly reflect how good he was. I’ll get into that a little more later, but for now, just know that his ADP is lower than it should be.
Of the four pitches in his arsenal, Means relies heavily on his fastball and his changeup. The negative against this left-handed pitcher is that it’s not a very fast pitch, averaging just under 91 miles per hour and topping out in the mid 90’s. However, despite the lack of velocity with the fastball, he makes up for it by getting a ton of movement and raise, causing some confusion in hitters as it approaches the plate. His changeup does the same, but in a completely different way (if that even makes sense). Instead of rising towards the plate, Means tends to throw it down and away, getting a significant amount of drop and landing outside of the strike zone 33.5 of the time.
What I like about Means is that his two main pitches look the same coming out of his hand. From there, they will either typically tail off downwards or speed up as they elevate. It’s a very deceptive way to keep the batters guessing and will only get better with experience.
Keep an eye on John Means. 1.72 ERA coming into tonight's game. bumped up his changeup usage this season to 35.7% from 19.7%. Same arm action as how he throws his fastball. pic.twitter.com/IMd1rZ1Lw1
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) April 24, 2019
John Means, 92mph Fastball and 83mph Changeup, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/fSJugbbimR
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 12, 2019
For where he is being drafted, Means can be a quality selection at the end of your drafts. If he doesn’t improve at all and repeats his 2019 stats, you’re still getting stability in ERA, WHIP and double-digit wins over a full season. That being said, I believe his pitches will improve from last season, and that includes a slider that is a work in progress. His teammates have also improved somewhat, thus giving him an even better opportunity for wins. He is someone who I drafted in NFBC this year to round out my roster, and I suggest that you take the chance and do the same.
Yusei Kukiuchi, LHP, Seattle Mariners
2019 stats: 6-11, 5.46 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 161.2 IP, 195 H, 50 BB, 116 K
ADP: 462.0 (and rising)
This selection has absolutely NOTHING to do with whatever happened in 2019. Kikuchi came into the season after having played successfully for years in Japan and began the first two months of the season looking like a solid fantasy contributor. He eventually struggled, lacked command, and gave up too many home runs to maintain any level of positivity, thus relegating him to the bottom of starting pitchers in drafts. My recommendation here comes fully with Kikuchi’s offseason regimen.
Whereas some players take a break after a season to get themselves and their heads in the right place, Kikuchi went right to work out of the gate while playoff baseball was happening. The first thing he admitted was that his first MLB season was a long one, which indicates fatigue. Kikuchi has said that having to pitch every five days got to him, thus lowering his velocity by season’s end. He also stated that he would change and fiddle around with the mechanics of his pitches before, during, and after games and pitching sessions. As Mariners’ manager Scott Servais told the Seattle Times about Kikuchi:
There’s mistake number two. What transpired next was something transformative. Kikuchi began to finalize one set of mechanics that he would perfect in preparation for the next season. He sought out the fine people at Driveline in Kent, an institute where other players have gone to refine their craft. From there, it was determined and developed that Kikuchi’s hand positioning when his leg hit the ground was too low. As a result, his velocity dipped significantly. So, he worked on this and tried to throw “nice and short like a catcher”. The end result:
The new simplified mechanics of Yusei Kikuchi pic.twitter.com/8fk3HdDJTg
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) February 13, 2020
What will happen when the games start to matter? I’m not 100% sure, but I do know that things will get better. He looked much better and more confident in Spring Training. His fastball touched 96 miles per hour, which is something not seen in the past. He also has experimented with improving his changeup this year and he’s a more aware and polished pitcher than he was a year ago. At the end of your draft, don’t forget about Kikuchi.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, San Diego Padres
2019 stats: 2-10, 4.85 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 104.0 IP, 105 H, 44 BB, 137 K
The life and times of Drew Pomeranz in 2019 is a two-part story that has a very happy, yet surprising ending. It all began with Drew starting 17 games for the San Francisco Giants in the beautiful and spacious Oracle Park. With expectations murky after a great 2017 campaign in Boston followed by a disastrous 2018 there too, Pomeranz came to the rebuilding Giants in the hopes of regaining his old form.
What happened with the Giants was nothing short of saddening, as Pomeranz was never able to regain his stardom ways of 2017. He was later traded to the Milwaukee Brewers as more of a bullpen piece to the playoff hunters from the north. That’s when he changed his entire perspective in his new role. He emphasized to himself that quality innings were more important than the quantity of innings. Don’t believe me, check out the differences from San Francisco to Milwaukee in his new role:
Looking at those numbers, you can see that he thrived as a reliever. His strikeout per nine jumped from 10.7 – 15.4, his walks per nine plummeted from 4.2 – 2.7, and both his ERA and WHIP were nearly cut in half. It went back to his philosophy change noted above: quality over quantity.
What supports my notion of him staying in the bullpen is he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher in 2019, using both the fastball and the curveball a combined 84.5% of the time. With a high spin rate and good movement on that curve, he seems better suited in the bullpen for short amounts of time.
Now, in 2020, he goes from a hitter’s haven in Miller Park to a pitcher’s paradise in Petco Park. He’s all-in on being a mid-inning reliever, he’s adapted to giving all he’s got over one or two innings instead of spreading it out over multiple innings, and he’s a part of a dominant bullpen where he will be able to contribute in Holds. On top of that, he could be called upon to make the odd start if necessary. He’s someone to use on your team to help maintain ratios and especially if your league has an innings cap. Remember that quality innings can go a long way, especially in a shortened season.
Kwang Hyum Kim, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2019 stats: played in KBO for 12 seasons – 136-77, 3.27 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 1673.2 IP, 1577 H, 646 BB, 1456 K
While the above stats are cumulative over many seasons, his 2019 in Korea was impressive nonetheless, posting an ERA of 2.51 and 180 strikeouts over 190 innings pitched. He finished last season with 8.5 strikeouts per nine and a 1.8 walks per nine inning ratio, which are both pretty good places to be. He relies on his fastball, which sits around 92 miles per hour, and a decent enough slider that still gets up to 85 miles per hour. He also comes armed with a curveball.
Kwang-hyun Kim (KK) throws a ridiculous 69mph curveball!
— Baseball Brit (@BaseballBrit) December 18, 2019
Here’s where it gets interesting. He looked good in Spring Training. In fact, that’s an understatement. He looked really good. Check out his numbers:
It’s an impressive way to make a debut with a club. Four games played, surrendering no runs and striking out eleven batters. He hardly looked out of place and impressed many within the Cardinals’ organization.
.@bthompson48 says he's excited to see what Kwang-hyun Kim can bring to the #STLCards' pitching staff: "By looking at him in Spring Training, he's poised, he's a veteran pitcher… And he's got a great idea of what he's doing out there." pic.twitter.com/6DEA2NWuNw
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) May 4, 2020
He’s nowhere near a rookie with that many innings under his belt and the fact that he’s entering Major League Baseball at the age of thirty-one is also a plus. Since the Coronavirus has impacted Major League Baseball in 2020, he has teamed up with teammate Adam Wainwright and played catch with him every day. No need to worry, he is properly social distancing and they are doing so by playing catch from long distances.
He’s also been picking Wainwright’s brain about how the wind swirls in various stadiums and also about what to expect with regards to how the balls carry themselves too. With an ADP of outside the 400’s, he is someone worth taking a gamble on that he can transition successfully, even for part of the season, while batters learn to catch up to him.
J.A. Happ, LHP, New York Yankees
2019 stats: 12-8, 4.91 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 161.1 IP, 160 H, 49 BB, 140 K
I’ll be honest with you. I sold my stocks in J.A. Happ immediately after a few good starts once he got traded to the Yankees. I sold them to a contending team in my league and was able to package him with expiring contracts in return for Whit Merrifield. It was glorious. His numbers took a nosedive his next season as a Yankee. So why am I recommending him?
There were many pitchers that struggled in 2019, not just Happ, due to MLB admitting there were inconsistencies in the seam heights on all of the baseball. What resulted was pitchers struggling to get good grips on the ball. Happ lost velocity on his fastball and wasn’t able to hit the corners like he is normally capable of doing. What he did do, however, was finish off the year strong, having himself a stellar September:
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 26, 2019
In September, Happ was able to increase his fastball usage (from 45% to 56%) and lower his sinker usage. As a result, weaker contact was induced at the plate since batters weren’t expecting to see it. One has to wonder if he discovered something that can carry itself over into the following year.
During the offseason, he also worked on his mechanics. He began strengthening his legs and using them alongside his hip to generate more motion. With an improved changeup, and with a better pitch mix, Happ came into Spring Training rejuvenated and refined.
J.A. Happ’s updated spring numbers after tossing 4 innings of 1-run ball this afternoon:
2 ER (1.38 ERA)
16 Strikeouts pic.twitter.com/wZjRGxgCn7
— Dan Rourke (@DanAlanRourke) March 9, 2020
Scouts have said that he looks vastly improved and ready to roll. With the potential for a shortened season upcoming, pitching is key. Teams getting as many healthy arms as possible to form a team is important going forward. Luis Severino and Domingo German are both out for quite a while and James Paxton isn’t a bill of health. Even with the aforementioned Jordan Montgomery looming as a starter, look for J.A. Happ to rebound this season and come back closer to the form that made him a great pitcher.
At the very worst, even if he remains a mirror image of his 2019 self, he is still pitching for one of the best offenses in baseball and should rack up opportunities for wins. That being said, I prefer to believe that the smart veteran will improve off of last year’s poor outings and bounce back closer to where he used to be.