Last week, we took a deeper look at some fantasy pitchers who induce grounders at a high rate. Those hurlers tend to produce a helpful ERA over plenty of innings, as they have the potential to be efficient and limit long balls.
This week we are going to go in the opposite direction and turn our attention to some pitchers who generate many fly balls.
These hurlers tend to be riskier than ground-ball pitchers, as they have the potential to give up runs in bunches via the long ball. But because fly balls are easier for defenders to handle than grounders, these pitchers can also produce an exceptional WHIP when they are on top of their game. Justin Verlander is a great example of a pitcher who has made a career out of generating plenty of fly balls and strikeouts while also limiting walks.
No one in this article is likely to eventually join Verlander in the Hall of Fame, but they all have the potential to help your fantasy team.
Cristian Javier (SP/RP, Houston Astros)
Javier has the highest fly-ball rate (57.9 percent) among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings this year. His current rate is the highest of his three-year career, but the right-hander has always generated more than his share of fly balls. Javier also has a strong strikeout rate (29.3 percent) and most of his ERA indicators are in line with his actual 3.07 mark.
Javier has a career 1.13 WHIP that includes a 1.17 mark this season. He doesn’t allow oodles of hard contact and could have a slightly lower BABIP than the .288 mark he has right now. Javier needs to go deeper into starts to take his game to the next level, but he is already a good trade target for those who seek a mid-level starter that can stabilize their WHIP.
Triston McKenzie (SP, Cleveland Guardians)
McKenzie is an anomaly among starting pitchers in terms of his ability to generate plenty of easy outs. The right-hander leads all qualified pitchers in fly-ball rate (54.5 percent), which has contributed to a 1.01 WHIP that ranks 13th in baseball. Those who believe that McKenzie has been especially lucky this year (.216 BABIP) should take a deeper look, as he has produced a career .222 BABIP across 227.2 innings.
Because he generates so many fly balls McKenzie will never be someone whom the ERA indicators love. But he is a stud in the WHIP category (career 1.08 mark) who has shown improved control skills this year. I put him at the top of the list of trade targets for WHIP-needy team that can’t acquire an ace.
Hunter Greene (SP, Cincinnati Reds)
Greene is tantalizing fantasy managers and Reds fans with his elite heat that includes an average fastball velocity of 98.5 mph. The rookie has produced an outstanding 30.1 percent strikeout rate but a 9.9 percent walk rate that could be a bit better. And Greene has generated fly balls at a lofty 56.0 percent fly-ball rate. A hard-throwing righty who was drafted second overall in the MLB draft and generates plenty of whiffs and fly balls — the Verlander comparisons are obvious.
After throwing so many compliments toward Greene in the preceding paragraph, I’m going to toss some cold water on his trade value for this season. The 22-year-old has been inconsistent so far, and I expect that pattern to continue. Greene has an ugly 5.26 ERA, which may make him reasonably valued on the trade market for those who need to acquire strikeouts.
Giovanny Gallegos (RP, St. Louis Cardinals)
Gallegos has always generated plenty of fly balls and strikeouts, which has made him a WHIP stud throughout his career, logging a 0.93 mark. And this year he has generated his best fly-ball rate ever (56.9 percent) while continuing to log an elite whiff rate (31.1 percent). Gallegos will be even more productive when his .286 BABIP moves closer to his lifetime .257 mark.
The Cardinals continue to share save chances, and they have given Ryan Helsley more opportunities than Gallegos in recent weeks. Gallegos remains one of baseball’s best pitchers, but his current role caps his value at being a mid-tier reliever in mixed leagues.
Joe Ryan (SP, Minnesota Twins)
Ryan didn’t need long to establish himself as a quality Major League starter, posting a 3.35 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP across his initial 15 career starts. His lifetime .233 BABIP is an incredibly low mark, but he has earned some of that luck by inducing fly balls at an elite rate while also limiting hard contact.
Ryan could be a long-term fantasy star by maintaining his batted-ball tendencies and making small gains on the 25.8 percent strikeout rate he has logged this year. I see him as a great trade target for those who need WHIP improvements.
Bailey Ober (SP, Minnesota Twins)
Ober combines with Ryan to keep the Twins outfielders busy. The lanky right-hander offers a great combination to keep the bases clean, as he induces many fly balls (career 46.8 percent) and limits walks (career 5.0 percent). Making strides with his 24.0 percent strikeout rate is the next step.
Unless the discount is substantial, I wouldn’t try to trade for Ober in deep leagues right now. He should be fine in the WHIP category, but his ERA may be volatile. My plan for Ober in shallow leagues is to watch him on the waiver wire and be ready to pounce when he returns. He is currently 22 percent rostered.