The Duel

Top 3 Sleepers for Strikeouts in the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Season

Tristan Jung
Adrian Houser pitches in a game against the Houston Astros.
Adrian Houser pitches in a game against the Houston Astros. / Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The league's strikeout rate jumped once again in 2019, rising to an all-time high of 23.0 percent for the whole year. Compared to 2010, when the league strikeout rate was just 18.5 percent, it's a completely different landscape.

While the league-wide strikeout rate increases, fantasy owners' standards have gone up considerably. Hunting for strikeouts has thus become more difficult, making it harder for owners to differentiate between elite options and run-of-the-mill pitchers that are droppable. Since everyone gets strikeouts now, having one elite pitcher for strikeouts makes more of a difference than it used to. Here's a short list of three fantasy sleepers that can make a difference for your team.

1. Adrian Houser, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

Adrian Houser pitches in a game against the Reds.
Adrian Houser pitches in a game against the Reds. / Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Adrian Houser quietly became a weapon for the Milwaukee Brewers last season, throwing 111.1 innings with a 3.72 ERA and 3.60 xFIP. Houser's stuff is great: he has a strong sinker-fastball combo that pairs well with a curveball that is near the top of MLB in vertical movement. Houser's main issue is length — he was often pulled early in many of his 18 starts last season. However, after a full offseason training to be a starter, the Brewers are likely to give him a longer leash. Considering the lack of depth in their rotation, headlined by the loss of Drew Pomeranz, they're going to need more innings. There's tons of hype swirling around Houser's teammate Brandon Woodruff, who might go in the top 100 of some drafts, but Houser's profile also looks very good.

2. Kevin Gausman, SP, San Francisco Giants

Kevin Gausman pitches in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kevin Gausman pitches in a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. / Silas Walker/Getty Images

After washing out from the Atlanta Braves, Kevin Gausman reinvented himself out of the bullpen in Cincinnati, relying on a newfound splitter to raise his strikeout rate from 7.25 in 2018 to an astonishing 10.03 in 2019. His second-half ERA was a sparkling 3.10, and it seems like the talented righty has figured something out. Gausman signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco Giants, where he will once again be in the rotation. Playing in the Giants' pitcher-friendly park, even with the fences moved in slightly, should be a boon for Gausman's career-long struggles with allowing home runs. If you're looking for an undervalued starter with strikeout potential, Gausman should be on your list.

3. Reynaldo Lopez, SP, Chicago White Sox

Reynaldo Lopez pitches in a game for the Detroit Tigers.
Reynaldo Lopez pitches in a game for the Detroit Tigers. / Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

This pick is highly speculative, but there's no one with better stuff (and lackluster results) than Reynaldo Lopez, who goes into 2019 at the bottom of draft boards due to his 5.38 ERA and 5.27 xFIP in 2019. If you've seen Lopez pitch at all, you'll find that he throws a 96 MPH fastball and has solid secondary pitches. Unfortunately, Lopez hasn't turned that raw arm strength into results, mostly because he throws completely straight, rather than with any spin. However, in terms of striking out batters, Lopez has consistently trended upward. He managed 8.27 K/9 in 2019, the best of his career thus far. He also seemed to figure something out in the second half, averaging an 8.69 K/9 and a respectable 4.29 ERA over 86 innings. If Lopez can hit anywhere close to his potential and have a turnaround like his teammate Lucas Giolito did in 2019, he could be a very valuable asset.

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Tristan Jung is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Tristan Jung also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username tristan1117. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.