They’re a mile away from contention, but if you look at your fantasy free agent pool, you might see a few surprises from the Houston Astros starting rotation.
We went over how good Dallas Keuchel had been pitching a few weeks ago, but that secret is out now and he’s essentially universally owned. Scott Feldman is doing a great job at preventing runs, but he still allows a few too many runners and strikes out too many hitters to be a viable every start fantasy option. But Collin McHugh hasn’t had any of those negatives.
Collin McHugh, 2014
That’s dealing, folks.
Pro — Strong Minor League Career: Before this year, McHugh’s Major League numbers were a little rough, but that came with a limited sample size. But even when concede that he’s not a phenom like Stephen Strasburg or Jose Fernandez (not really in doubt) his Minor League career was pretty solid.
Collin McHugh, Minor League Career
The WHIP is a bit high for fantasy standards, but not bad at all when you consider everything else. The strikeouts, especially, are always nice to see. At the very least, when you see a guy around a strikeout an inning (or better), you have a good pairing/coupling candidate with a strike thrower.
When you see a guy with that kind of baseline fantasy value, there’s a pretty good chance you have a viable fantasy pitcher on your hands.
Con — Six-man Pitching Rotation: From the Astros perspective, I guess I can understand this. Even though they’re playing good ball now, they’re not a contender this year. So, I guess it makes sense to use this season as a way to figure the future rotation out.
Having said that, I have two big problems with this strategy.
- For the sake of this site, a six-man rotation hurts fantasy value, especially for a guy whose value comes from counted stats, like strikeouts. That goes for McHugh, and any other pitcher on the Astros. That’s an issue for a fantasy site, although I understand that’s not Houston’s concern. This is.
- The number of pitchers who have had Tommy John Surgery since Spring Training is staggering. Somehow, someway, the game managed to survive for decades upon decades before T.J. surgery, and please don’t even start with an argument that pitchers in that era was inferior. The best pitchers of bygone eras generated better numbers than the best pitchers of today do, and did so before over-expansion thinned out the hitting talent. Maybe, just maybe, when pitchers are babied, their arm strength isn’t properly developed and injuries become more common. I’m not a doctor, but that’s a theory I’ve been going with.
Whether you buy that notion or not, the six-man rotation undeniably hurts the fantasy value Collin McHugh — or any other Astros starter. For a little while, you can survive but if it happens long term, your fantasy rotation will suffer a bit.
Pro — Minor League Home Run Prevention: When you’re dealing with a guy that pitches in a very home run friendly park and in the American League, knowing that he can keep the ball down and in the park is a very good thing. McHugh has that working in his favor.
- 2011: 0.3 HR/9
- 2012: 0.7 HR/9
- 2013: 0.5 HR/9 (including 0.5 HR/9 in Las Vegas, and 0.4 HR/9 in Colorado Springs, which has a higher altitude than Denver)
Of course, pitching in Houston means he’s facing Major League hitters, but McHugh’s history in preventing the long ball definitely helps his value and gives possible fantasy owners some hope.
Con — Overall Environment:Not too much too really expand on here. But the Astros are likely to be well below .500 this season, Minute Maid Park is a great place for hitters, and the Astros are in the American League.
None of these things really work in favor of a pitcher’s fantasy value. That’s not to say that the downsides can’t be overcome. It doesn’t even say that they won’t be overcome. But all of those negatives do need to be considered if you’re thinking of adding McHugh.
So, where do we stand?
I added Collin McHugh in my most competitive fantasy league right before writing this. As we went over, the big drawback is that his WHIP can run a little high and even if he pitches to his solid Minor League totals, he’s going to experience some regression between now and the end of the season.
You may need to either be sure that your rotation has a solid WHIP, or pair him with a low walk/low strikeout guy, but McHugh is pitching too well to a free agent in this many fantasy leagues. I’d recommend signing him.