Chris Archer: The Undervalued Ace

Fantasy owners yearn to find the diamond in the rough, that late round sleeper that turns into a superstar that you can brag to your friends about, but we get so caught up trying to find a breakout that we often miss value in the middle rounds, and I believe an example of that for some people is Chris Archer. Archer is currently ranked 15th among starting pitchers and 60th overall on Fantasypros Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR),yet I have him as my 47th Overall player and have him ranked 10th among starting pitchers. I want to show you why and why I believe you should target Archer.

A glance at the back of Archer’s 2016 baseball card would show some ugly numbers such as a 9-19 record and a 4.02 ERA, however these numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Archer’s first and second half performances in 2016 were complete opposites. In the first half he got pounded, allowing 1.47 HR/9 and 3.93 BB/9 resulting in a 4.66 ERA. In the second half he regained his 2015 Cy Young form, slicing his walk rate in half and increasing his K rate.

Archer’s struggles boiled down to poor command. He could not locate his slider, a pitch that is regarded as one of the best in baseball. He was putting runners on base for free, and since he couldn’t locate the slider he had to lean on his fastball and changeup pitches. His pitches got over the plate but left the ballpark just as quickly. These factors compounded with a career high 16.2% HR/FB ratio and a first half BABIP against of .321 left Archer owners searching for answers.

The second half was a resurgence for Archer and he became the pitcher we drafted him to be. His second half numbers such as a 3.25 ERA and a 10.18 K/9 would put him in the top ten and flirt with the top five among starting pitchers. Also, his second half home run rate, while still higher than average, dropped considerably.

While it’s not fair to simply extrapolate his second half performance to a full season and wipe away the troubles, these second half numbers align with his breakout 2015 campaign. The slider is still one of the best pitches in the game, and if he can duplicate his second half turnaround he has 250+ strikeout potential with elite ratios to match. If you avoid picking pitchers in the first three rounds, as I often do, Archer makes an ideal staff anchor. I wouldn’t hesitate to take him over veterans like David Price, whom has almost 1000 more professional innings on his arm. In 2016 Price posted his worst season since his rookie year, and lost 1.3 MPH on his fastball. That is a ticking time bomb and its clock may not hit zero in 2017, but if it does, I don’t want it to blow up in my face.

Being on the Rays may undoubtedly hurt the perception of Archer. I have been playing fantasy baseball for 12 years, and every year, without fail, players on big market teams (Red Sox, Cubs, etc.) are slightly overvalued in drafts while players on small market teams (Rays, Brewers, etc.) are slightly undervalued. He’ll get less media exposure, his win probability will be lower, and it is presumed that he has a bad defense behind him. Don’t let this factors deter you from drafting Archer. Led by defensive deity Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays outfield should be one of the best in baseball. Also, the fact that Brad Miller will no longer be playing shortstop epitomizes the phrase addition by subtraction.

Remember that winning at fantasy baseball isn’t necessarily about getting a ton of sleepers to hit or even picking the best overall players, but taking advantages of market inefficiencies. Getting a value isn’t always about turning a 25th round scrub into a 2nd round superstar. Late rounders are equivalent to penny stocks, you may be paying almost nothing, but chances are you’ll get little to nothing in return. We’re all throwing darts at the end of the draft, but don’t let mid-round values like Chris Archer slip past you. Taking advantage of small inefficiencies, like snagging a top ten pitcher for a top twenty price, is like having an extra 3rd round pick. I believe in Archer and I think you should too.

Please direct all questions, comments, and hate mail to @Elliott_TFR