Fantasy baseball: Padres pitcher Dinelson Lamet primed for breakout

Fantasy owners are always searching for that unexpected success story for their rotation, the next breakout pitcher. It can be a highly touted youngster with a world of potential who finally puts it all together or a veteran who finds that magical pitch to suddenly give his career new life.

In 2018, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell lived up to his hype, had a breakthrough campaign (21-5, 1.89 ERA, 221 strikeouts) and won the Cy Young award. Last year, St. Louis’ Jack Flaherty won a career-high 11 games, finished sixth in the NL in strikeouts (231) and was tied with Jacob deGrom for the lowest WHIP (0.97) during his breakout campaign. He also limited opponents to a .192 average, third-best in the majors behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

So, who looks like a candidate to be this year’s breakout pitcher? How about San Diego’s Dinelson Lamet, who has pitched just 187 ¹/₃ innings (35 starts) in the majors while going 10-13 with a 4.37 ERA?

On the surface, Lamet’s numbers are nothing that will have fantasy owners screaming, “I need Dinelson Lamet!” But, the same could have been said about Snell after his first 43 starts (11-15, 3.83 ERA, 217 strikeouts) or Flaherty after his first 34 big league appearances (8-11, 3.71, 202 strikeouts). Dig a little deeper on Lamet and you’ll find a pitcher who has the stuff to become a key cog in your rotation.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2018, Lamet returned to make 14 starts in 2019. He finished with an uninspiring 3-5 record and 4.07 ERA, but those numbers don’t begin to tell the story of the 27-year-old.

Though just four of his starts lasted longer than five innings, Lamet allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of his starts. He recorded double-digit strikeouts four times, including a 14-strikeout outing.

Dinelson Lamet
Dinelson LametAP

In 11 starts from July 18-Sept. 18, Lamet lowered his ERA from 6.30 to 3.84 by going 3-3 with a 3.41 ERA and 81 strikeouts over just 58 innings. He held opponents to a .221 average in that span. He also finished the season with a 3.91 FIP and 3.44 xFIP, indicating he got unlucky.

Lamet’s 12.95 strikeouts per nine over his 14 starts ranked third among starters who threw at least 70 innings, finishing behind Cole and Chris Sale. His 33.6 percent strikeout rate ranked sixth, ahead of Lucas Giolito and deGrom. He also held opponents to a .223 average, which ranked in the top 25, and a 14.1 percent swinging strike rate, which was in the top 15 (ahead of Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg and Charlie Morton).

Despite throwing a 96 mph fastball (a slight uptick from before his surgery), it’s his slider that is the real troublemaker for opponents. Of his 105 strikeout victims last year, 77 met their demise via the slider. Opponents also hit a pitiful .116 against the pitch. For his career, batters are hitting .129 against the pitch and have struck out 162 times, which accounts for 66 percent of his 244 career strikeouts.

Lamet’s walk rate remained far too high (3.7 per nine innings), but it was lower than his career average (4.04 per nine). If he can continue to bring that number down, while keeping balls in the park (his 19.7 HR/FB rate ranked 25th highest in the majors), and maintaining his strikeout and swinging strike rates, he will be fantasy gold.

More great news about Lamet: He’s a reasonable investment with his 129.33 average draft position or $15 auction price, according to Fantasy Alarm.

Do not think about Lamet’s Tommy John surgery. He’s healthy. Don’t think about the fact he is on a team that has finished dead-last in the NL West in three of the past four years and haven’t had a winning record since 2010. That doesn’t matter in fantasy. All that matters is his production, and he is a young arm with tons of upside who you’ll be glad to have on your side.

The 27-year-old Padre is being drafted between two other potential breakout candidates in Arizona’s Zac Gallen (128.76, $10) and Oakland’s Jesus Luzardo (132.20, $10).

In 15 starts with the Marlins and Diamonbacks, Gallen was 3-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 10.8 strikeouts per nine and a 12.8 swinging strike rate. He was a stud over four seasons in the minors — going 27-18 with a 2.87 ERA, including going 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA before being called up to the Marlins last year.

Luzardo has thrown 12 innings in the majors, all out of the bullpen. He struck out 16 (34.8 percent of the batters he faced), had a 0.67 WHIP and a 14.6 percent swinging strike rate. In the minors, he was 14-7 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 10.8 strikeouts per nine and just 2.0 walks per nine.

Other potential breakout candidates include Houston’s Jose Urquidy (227.39, $5), Cleveland’s Zach Plesac (336.8, $1) and 31-year-old Kenta Maeda (183.53, $9), who will not be tossed between the rotation and bullpen in Minnesota.

Starting pitcher rankings

1. Jacob deGrom, NYM
2. Gerrit Cole, NYY
3. Max Scherzer,Was
4. Justin Verlander, Hou
5. Stephen Strasburg, Was
6. Walker Buehler, LAD
7. Shane Bieber, Cle
8. Jack Flaherty, StL
9. Mike Clevinger, Cle
10. Blake Snell, TB
11. Luis Castillo, Cin
12. Noah Syndergaard, NYM
13. Charlie Morton, TB
14. Aaron Nola, Phi
15. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
16. Patrick Corbin, Was
17. Chris Sale, Bos
18. Chris Paddack. SD
19. Mike Soroka, Atl

Zac Gallen
Zac GallenGetty Images

20. Jose Berrios, Min
21. Lucas Giolito, CWS
22. Zack Wheeler, Phi
23. Tyler Glasnow, TB
24. Zack Greinke, Hou
25. Sonny Gray, Cin
26. Frankie Montas, Oak
27. Brandon Woodruff, Mil
28. Eduardo Rodriguez, Bos
29. Zac Gallen, Ari
30. Yu Darvish, ChC
31. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tor
32. Trevor Bauer, Cin
33. Madison Bumgarner, Ari
34. Corey Kluber, Tex
35. Carlos Carrasco, Cle
36. Dinelson Lamet, SD
37. Jesus Luzardo, Oak
38. Sean Manaea, Oak
39. Robbie Ray, Ari
40. Mike Minor, Tex
41. Kyle Hendricks, ChC
42. James Paxton, NYY
43. Andrew Heaney, LAA
44. Max Fried, Atl
45. Jake Odorizzi, Min
46. Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
47. Jose Urquidy, Hou
48. Marcus Stroman, NYM
49. David Price, LAD
50. Lance Lynn, Tex
51. Matthew Boyd, Det
52. Shohei Ohtani, LAA
53. Lance McCullers Jr., Hou
54. German Marquez, Col
55. Mike Foltynewicz, Atl
56. Caleb Smith, Mia
57. Griffin Canning, LAA
58. Kenta Maeda, Min
59. Aaron Civale, Cle
60. Jake Arrieta, Phi
61. Dakota Hudson, StL
62. Michael Pineda, Min
63. Johnny Cueto, SF
64. Luke Weaver, Ari
65. Jose Quintana, ChC
66. Miles Mikolas, StL
67. John Means, Bal
68. Domingo German, NYY
69. Sandy Alcantara, Mia
70. Dallas Keuchel, CWS
71. Julio Teheran, LAA
72. Reynaldo Lopez, CWS
73. Mike Fiers, Oak
74. Jon Lester, ChC
75. Joe Musgrove, Pit
76. Jon Gray, Col
77. Anthony DeSclafani, Cin
78. Julio Urias, LAD
79. Zach Plesac, Cle
80. Yonny Chirinos, TB
81. Cole Hamels, Atl
82. Chris Archer, Pit

Steven Matz
Steven MatzAnthony J. Causi

83. Steven Matz, NYM
84. Anibal Sanchez, Was
85. Nathan Eovaldi, Bos
86. Carlos Martinez, StL
87. Adrian Houser, Mil
88. Chris Bassitt, Oak
89. Tyler Mahle, Cin
90. Joey Lucchesi, SD
91. Dylan Bundy, LAA
92. Dustin May, LAD
93. Dylan Cease, CWS
94. Rick Porcello, NYM
95. Ryan Yarbrough, TB
96. Jeff Samardzija, SF
97. Ross Stripling, LAD
98. Kyle Gibson, Tex
99. Casey Mize, Det
100. Alex Wood, LAD
101. MacKenzie Gore, SD
102. Pablo Lopez, Mia
103. Justus Sheffield, Sea
104. Matt Shoemaker, Tor
105. Rich Hill, Min
106. Yusei Kikuchi, Sea
107. Michael Kopech, CWS
108. Kolby Allard, Tex
109. Tanner Roark, Tor
110. Forest Whitley, Hou
111. Brendan McKay, TB
112. Mitch Keller, Pit
113. Garrett Richards, SD
114. Marco Gonzales, Sea
115. Merrill Kelly, Ari
116. Justin Dunn, Sea
117. Kevin Gausman, SF
118. J.A. Happ, NYY
119. Zach Davies, SD
120. Josh Lindblom, Mil

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