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Deep Pickups 5/24: Pitchers

by Nick Nelson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Junior Guerra - SP, MIL

Owned in 5% of Yahoo leagues

Coming into this season, Junior Guerra was a 31-year-old minor-league journeyman with three MLB appearances on his record (he pitched three times out of the White Sox bullpen last year). The Brewers had claimed him off waivers from Chicago in October, and he entered this season as mere rotation depth, but impressed enough during his first few starts in the minors to get the call earlier this month.

Now that he has gotten his chance to start in the big leagues, Guerra is making the most of it.

In four starts with Milwaukee's Class-AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs, Guerra posted a 4.63 ERA but pitched much better than that number suggests with a 23-to-9 K/BB ratio and only 17 hits allowed in 23 innings.

Since being called up at the beginning of May, Guerra has picked up three wins in four starts and the Brewers are 4-0 when he takes the hill. Granted, this success has been partially a function of circumstance (he's mostly faced light opponents and gotten good run support), but the right-hander has legitimately pitched quite well and his latest outing was his most impressive yet.

Facing a loaded Cubs lineup on Thursday, Guerra delivered seven strong innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out 11.

The strikeouts are particularly intriguing. Leaning on a power fastball in the mid-90s, and mixing in a nasty splitter, Guerra has achieved a swinging strike rate of 13 percent through his first four turns. That's healthily above the league average, and tops for Brewers pitchers. Guerra has always missed bats in the minors, with a lifetime 9.9 K/9 rate, so there's little reason to think he can't keep it up.

In deeper leagues, it's worth finding out. There's plenty more upside here than you'd typically find in a 31-year-old minor-league veteran.

Sean Manaea - SP, OAK

Owned in 7% of Yahoo leagues

At every level of the minors, Sean Manaea has been a strikeout machine. He has averaged more than 10 K/9 at each stop, dominating opponents with a potent heater and a complementary slider/change combo that gets swings and misses. At 6'5" and 245 pounds, the lefty is an imposing figure on the mound.

The Athletics acquired Manaea, a former first-round draft pick, from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist deal last July. He finished strong with Oakland's Double-A affiliate, putting up a 6-0 record and 1.90 ERA in seven starts following the trade, then jumped out to an excellent start at Triple-A this year with a 2-0 record and 1.50 ERA in three turns.

His resounding success since switching organizations made him a natural choice for a promotion when injuries created an opening in the A's rotation. Since joining the big-league ranks, Manaea hasn't lit the world on fire, exactly, but he is showing signs of real promise.

In each of his first two starts for Oakland, the southpaw allowed four runs over five innings. His third MLB outing was a disaster, as Manaea was shelled by the Red Sox for eight runs on 10 hits over 2 2/3 innings, but pitching in Fenway is a tough assignment. He bounced back in his next outing with 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball against Texas, and once again pitched into the seventh in his latest tilt against the Yankees.

The overall numbers attached to Manaea's first five starts are not pretty: a 7.62 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, along with an 819 opponents' OPS. The strikeouts also have not been there; he has totaled only 17 through 26 innings. But he is getting better each time out and the stuff is there. Oakland manager Bob Melvin has expressed confidence in the 24-year-old and the stumbling Athletics have little reason to keep Manaea on a short leash, so it should be an extended audition.

If the young lefty's strikeout stuff plays up a little bit more and he derives benefits from his favorable home yard, he could be a hurler that shows significant second-half improvement.

Nick Nelson

Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to NBC Sports Edge's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.