Daniel Norris - SP, DET
Owned in 17% of Yahoo leagues
If you're going to have a bad year, it's a good idea to follow the blueprint that the Tigers did in 2015. Dropping to last place after rattling off four straight division titles, Detroit took advantage of the opportunity by pawning off assets at the deadline in exchange for young pitching.
Three of those arms now find themselves in the Tigers rotation, and excelling. We've talked about Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd in this space before, but Daniel Norris seems to be the overlooked contributor in this upstart group.
Acquired along with Boyd from Toronto in the David Price trade, Norris was a starter with considerable prospect luster. He had entered the 2015 season ranked among the Top 20 in the lists put out by both Baseball America and MLB.com. He had an up-and-down campaign, which ended with his revelation that he'd been dealing with cancer in his throat (now taken care of), but ultimately he showed some promise by posting a 3.75 ERA in 13 starts.
The most encouraging aspect of this performance was the improved control. During those 13 starts between Toronto and Detroit, Norris issued only 19 walks in 60 innings (2.9 BB/9). That's a big key for the left-hander, who routinely posted big strikeout rates along with big walk rates in the minors. The sense was that if he could throw his stuff in the zone he could succeed in the majors, and Norris did just that.
Despite his solid work as a rookie, Norris spent much of this year in Triple-A, where he was merely decent. But when he's gotten a chance with the Tigers, he has never failed to keep his team in the game. In 11 starts with Detroit, he has yet to allow more than three earned runs.
The southpaw's work this month has been particularly impressive. The Tigers have won in each of Norris' three September turns, as he has put up a 3.12 ERA and 24-to-4 K/BB ratio over 17 innings. If he can keep that going, the 23-year-old is poised for a very strong finish. If he pitches each fifth game the rest of the way, he'll get the Royals and Indians at home.
Robert Gsellman - SP, NYM
Owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues
Much like Norris, Robert Gsellman gets a little lost in the fray. He's hardly the most high-profile young starter in a rotation that is filled with them. But with the rest of New York's pitching corps plagued by injuries, Gsellman has been called upon to step in. And he has answered the call.
A former 13th-round draft pick, Gsellman has had a solid if unspectacular minor-league career. A shiny 3.11 ERA over six seasons is accompanied by a 1.22 WHIP and 6.5 K/9 rate. With his numbers overshadowing his actual arsenal, he wasn't considered one of the organization's top prospects coming into the year.
Gsellman pitched very well in Double-A over the first couple of months this season before being promoted to Triple-A. He struggled initially with Las Vegas but eventually settled nto a groove, and was called up to the Mets in late August with Steven Matz sidelined by shoulder issues.
Matz still has yet to return to the mound, and Jacob deGrom is likely done for the season, so Gsellman isn't going anywhere. He has been quite effective in his first five big-league starts, registering a 3.08 ERA. Sticking to his primary strength, Gsellman has kept the ball down in the zone and thus kept it in the park, surrendering just one home run through 26 innings.
He's not a standout talent, but Gsellman has shown considerable poise in his transition to the majors. The schedule is set up favorably for him to keep it rolling. Gsellman is in line for two starts this week, with the first coming on Tuesday night against Atlanta and the second coming Sunday against the Phillies. Those are the two lowest-scoring offenses in the National League, and the righty will get them both at home. He'll get the Phillies again, on the road, in his final start.