Building a championship MLB fantasy league roster means getting creative and finding ways to cover multiple categories with quality sleeper players at the tail end of your draft. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw are obvious locks to go in the first round but which players will you select to fill out the remainder of your roster based on need and put yourself in position to succeed?
WHIP is a key category in the pitching department that is one of the basics in almost all fantasy baseball leagues. For those who are new to MLB fantasy, WHIP is a category that reflects Walks and Hips per Inning Pitched. It’s an important metric and many value this number more than ERA, which some people feel can be tied to luck or team defense. If you’re in a fantasy league that includes this category, the follow names are players you’ll want to keep in mind.
SP: Miguel Gonzalez, Chicago White Sox
Gonzalez never dominated during his time with the Baltimore Orioles but after he was released before Opening Day 2016 he caught on with the White Sox and took full advantage of a second opportunity. Gonzalez actually had a strong season with a 3.73 ERA and a career-best 2.3 BB/9. The fewer walks translated to success for Gonzalez and he really came on strong down the stretch with a 1.02 WHIP over the second half of the season. Acclaimed pitching coach Don Cooper may have had a lot to do with the turnaround and it will be very interesting to see if Gonzalez can continue to improve this season. If he can build off a strong finish to 2016, then Gonzalez will be a strong sleeper pick that can help in the WHIP category this season.
SP: Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals
Leake struggled last season with a 9-12 record and a 4.69 ERA due in big part to his mediocre 1.32 WHIP last season. However, the advanced statistics showed just how unfortunate he was as he had a career-worst .321 BABIP. The poor BABIP combined with an above average groundball rate points towards the Cardinals defense struggling behind him last season. St. Louis ranked near the bottom of the league in fielding percentage but if they improve dramatically then Leake’s BABIP should improve big time and lead to better overall numbers in 2017. Leake might not be a dominant pitcher but he could be better than expected when it comes to wins, ERA and WHIP this coming season. Keep him on your radar.
SP: Joe Musgrove, Houston Astros
Musgrove is one of the better control pitchers from the minors in quite some time and he showed it with Houston last season when he posted a 2.3 BB/9 and a 1.21 WHIP over his first 62 innings. Another year with the Astros should make him even more comfortable this season when he will get the chance to show off his full arsenal. Musgrove needs to be better against left-handed batters and he needs to do a better job of limiting home run balls but he has all of the tools to put up excellent numbers this season and should be a solid option for wins, ERA and WHIP.
SP, Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates
One more name to keep an eye on in terms of sleeper picks for WHIP is Nova, who just recently inked a three-year, $26 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a free agent for a while and many weren’t sure where he’d end up, but he struck a deal right before the New Year.
Nova walked only three batters over 64.2 innings of work in 11 starts with Pittsburgh last season, so it’s good to see him back in that same environment. It really helped to get away from the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium and depending on playing in the Pirates park should only help his MLB fantasy numbers. He threw a lot more strikes while he made the switch to the National League. Nova will deliver a quality WHIP this season and he could really improve on his win total and ERA as well.
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