Tyler Matzek, SP - COL
Oftentimes, we recommend viewing Colorado pitchers -- particularly those that don't induce a ton of ground balls or miss a ton of bats -- with a skeptical eye. The reason is simple: they're making half their starts at Coors Field, the most hitter-friendly environment in baseball. Matzek, however, has overcome the park's challenges and is shaping up as a solid option coming off a surprising rookie year.
Matzek was a first-round pick (11th overall) out of high school back in 2009 and was widely viewed as a Top 50 prospect during his first couple years in pro ball. Yet, as he moved up the ladder and his control problems became more pervasive, Matzek faded from national rankings.
He still moved through the upper minors in a relative hurry and debuted with the Rockies last June. Matzek went on to make 20 appearances (19 starts) for Colorado, and while his overall numbers (6-11, 4.05 ERA) were less than dazzling, he showed some positive signs that made him an intriguing sleeper entering this 2015 campaign.
The first was a solid 91-to-44 K/BB ratio in 117 innings. While a 3.4 BB/9 rate is nothing to write home about, it was a substantial improvement over his 6.0 mark in the minors. Matzek also was very effective at keeping the ball in the yard, especially at Coors where he allowed just two homers in eight starts.
The young lefty finished his first MLB season on a notable hot streak, with six quality starts and a 1.90 ERA over the span of his final seven turns. He has parlayed that into a strong start here in 2015, with a 2-0 record and 2.70 ERA through three starts. He did endure some command issues in his last home outing, issuing six walks in five innings, but still managed to limit the Padres to two runs over five innings.
He's still developing and has his warts, but thus far in his young career Matzek has given deep-league owners plenty of reason to give him a look, despite some unfavorable circumstances.
Colby Lewis, SP - TEX
When Lewis, formerly a mediocre starter who had struggled to break through, returned from Japan and signed with the Rangers, he was a revelation. He reacclimated to the big-league ranks to register a 3.93 ERA and 1.18 WHIP from 2010 through 2012.
Then, he missed all of 2013 due to elbow and hip surgeries, and came back last year to lead the American League in losses with 14, diminishing his luster. Now, slotting in as a back-end starter for a Texas team that many view as a likely last-place finisher, the righty has become something of a fantasy afterthought. Should he be?
First, let's get this out of the way: Lewis was not as bad last year as his bloated ERA (5.18) and loss total would suggest. While he was extremely hittable, as evidenced by an 840 OPS against, he did post a 133-to-48 K/BB ratio, remaining in line with his quality career rates. The most obvious culprit for his issues was a .341 BABIP, way above his career norm and the league average.
That number was bound to come down and so far it has. Through four starts this year Lewis has a .292 BABIP and that has helped lead him to a 3.75 ERA. His control has been typically sharp and he has pitched at least into the sixth inning every time out.
At 35, Lewis' velocity is declining and he may not be a good bet to reach his typical average of 7.5 K/9, but he can still pound the zone and miss a few bats. Obviously he lacks the upside of some young and unproven hurlers with similar ownership rates, but this is one instance where it makes sense to rely on the steady yet unspectacular vet. Lewis can still get it done.