Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels
It’s been a long road for Skaggs, and I certainly was not a believer a few years back. Those with better skill for scouting player talent, though, have stayed in on him. After having not thrown a major league inning since 2014, Skaggs came back better than ever. After his average four-seam velocity never got above 90.30 mph in 2012 or 2013, he averaged 92.78 mph in 2014, and then 93.42 mph in 2016—the result of which was a stellar, 22% K% last season. And while it seems like Skaggs has been around forever, he debuted when he was 22 and is still only 25 (to be 26 in July). Sure, Skaggs’s forecasted projection has to build in above-average injury risk, but the upside for a once highly regarded lefty that now throws 93-94 with a good curveball is well worth the risk for me. —Jeff Quinton
Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates
When you’re in a long-term league and you’re looking towards the future, it’s easy to be entranced by upside. Anytime a player is mentioned to have the potential of being an elite contributor, it’s only natural to become obsessed. I would never blame anyone for this, of course. However, the flip side to this line of thinking can be that solid, high-floor players can be overlooked. Enter: Jameson Taillon.
It’s not that Taillon is going to be completely overlooked, of course. This is a long-time top-50 prospect we’re talking about, and his name still carries plenty of value on its own. However, after injury issues and a pro debut that didn’t show off big-time strikeout potential, he could be relatively affordable in dynasty leagues right now. He was really solid in 104 major-league innings last season, which was his first time pitching since 2013. There is still risk here, and he’s probably just an SP2 at best, but the fear of injury will keep his price low enough heading into this season that he is more than worth the leap. Just a few months from now we could be looking at him like we did in his prospect days. —Matt Collins
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies
Owners who are trying to decide when to draft Aaron Nola will have to figure out how much a poor month and a half will influence their decision. Beginning with his start on June 11, Nola had five consecutive appearances in which he gave up 4, 6, 7, and 5 ER. His ERA for June was 10.42, and his WHIP checked in at 2.60. Nola’s walk rate nearly doubled that month from where it had been earlier in the season, and hitters ran up an astounding .528 BABIP against Nola over that stretch.
However, he looked more like the pitcher fantasy owners were expecting in April and May. Nola held down a 2.88 ERA in his first 11 starts, and his K/9 never dropped below nine in any month last season. Eventually, elbow issues caused the Phillies to shut him down at the end of July, and it’s hard to know how much that issue impacted his performance.
DRA (2.72) and FIP (3.08) both indicate that Nola was better than his final stats suggested last season. If he can stay healthy for an entire year, Nola has the potential to be a 200-strikeout pitcher. Take advantage of owners who might be sheepish about last season’s results, and invest heavily in the 23-year-old. —Eric Roseberry
With so many fantasy experts analyzing metrics, spin rate, pitch movement, etc. it is difficult for a “sleeper” pitcher to slip under the radar. But this is exactly what is happening with Norris, who is still young (he turns 24 in April) but lost time at the beginning of 2016 due to a lower back injury. There are significant small sample size alerts at work for Norris’ 2016, but his numbers last year check off most of the boxes. His 23.8 percent strikeout rate as a starting pitcher was 30th overall among starters with 60 innings or more. His walk rate wasn’t elite, but Norris did show improvement in that area, keeping it below three walks per nine innings. Norris back injury and his recovery from thyroid cancer in the 2015/2016 offseason has pushed him off of the radar and into the bargain bin. But this isn’t some prospect who emerged out of nowhere, but rather a former second round, high bonus pick who always had a chance to be elite. Chances are good that this is the last year you will have an opportunity for a discount. – Mike Gianella
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