STARTERS: 2020 LIMA targets

The Low Investment Mound Aces (LIMA) Plan is a way for you to allocate resources on cheaper, high-skilled pitchers without paying high-skill prices, thereby allowing you to spend more of your money on hitters without sacrificing the quality of your starting rotation. It also encourages you to minimize the projected innings from your starting pitchers as a means to manage risk.

Our latest iteration of the LIMA model suggests that the best LIMA targets are those who are projected to meet the following thresholds:

  • Strikeout (K/9) rate of 7.0 or better;
  • Command ratio (K/BB) of 2.5 or better;
  • Expected home run rate (xHR) of 1.0 or less.

LIMA values can vary based on your league context. We encourage you to use our Custom Draft Guides to see customized LIMA values for your league.

Last season in this space, we identified guys like Brandon Woodruff (RHP, MIL), Matt Boyd (LHP, DET), Max Fried (LHP, ATL), Joey Lucchesi (LHP, SD), and Tyler Glasnow (RHP, TAM), all of whom delivered good value to their owners during stretches of 2019.

Here are the top 2020 projected LIMA SP targets in a 15-team 5x5 mixed league:

  • LIMA SP Targets 2020, 75+ BPV
    
                                 ---------Projected 2020---------
    Name                 League  Ctl  Dom   Cmd   HR/9  BPV  LIMA
    ===================  ======  ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ====
    Scherzer, Max            NL  2.0  12.4  6.3    1.1  185     A
    Bieber, Shane            AL  1.6  10.2  6.2    1.1  160     A
    Strasburg, Stephen       NL  2.5  10.8  4.4    1.0  154     A
    Carrasco, Carlos         AL  2.3  10.4  4.5    1.1  146     A
    Kershaw, Clayton         NL  2.1   9.8  4.6    1.2  145     A
    Stripling, Ross          NL  1.9   9.2  4.8    1.2  141     A
    Morton, Charlie          AL  2.9  10.5  3.6    0.8  138     A
    Castillo, Luis           NL  3.0  10.4  3.4    1.1  134     A
    Clevinger, Mike          AL  3.2  11.3  3.5    0.9  133     A
    Price, David             NL  2.7  10.3  3.8    1.4  129     A
    Luzardo, Jesus           AL  2.2   9.0  4.1    0.8  129     A
    Lynn, Lance              AL  3.0  10.2  3.5    0.9  126     A
    Greinke, Zack            AL  1.7   8.4  4.8    1.0  126     A
    Severino, Luis           AL  2.8   9.8  3.6    0.9  126     A
    Pineda, Michael          AL  2.1   8.9  4.3    1.6  121     A
    Hill, Rich               AL  3.1  10.2  3.3    1.2  121     A
    Nola, Aaron              NL  3.1   9.8  3.1    1.0  120     A
    German, Domingo          AL  2.7   9.7  3.6    1.7  118     A
    Archer, Chris            NL  3.5  10.8  3.1    1.4  117     A
    Lamet, Dinelson          NL  3.4  10.8  3.2    1.2  117     A
    Ray, Robbie              NL  4.4  12.0  2.7    1.4  112     A
    Bumgarner, Madison       NL  2.1   8.4  3.9    1.3  112     A
    Hendricks, Kyle          NL  1.9   7.6  4.0    1.0  109     A
    Maeda, Kenta             AL  3.3   9.9  3.0    1.2  108     A
    McCullers, Lance         AL  3.8   9.9  2.6    0.7  108     A
    Name                 League  Ctl  Dom   Cmd   HR/9  BPV  LIMA
    ===================  ======  ===  ====  ====  ====  ===  ====
    Berrios, Jose            AL  2.7   8.9  3.3    1.1  106     A
    Chirinos, Yonny          AL  1.9   7.4  4.0    1.4  105     A
    Gray, Jon                NL  3.0   8.8  2.9    1.1  104     A
    Mikolas, Miles           NL  1.7   6.8  4.0    1.1  103     A
    Rodriguez, Eduardo       AL  3.2   9.4  2.9    1.1  102     A
    Puk, A.J.                AL  3.5   9.7  2.8    1.2  102     A
    Minor, Mike              AL  2.8   8.8  3.1    1.3   99     A
    Bundy, Dylan             AL  3.2   9.4  3.0    1.5   99     A
    Junis, Jakob             AL  2.5   8.1  3.2    1.4   98     A
    Quintana, Jose           NL  2.8   8.2  2.9    1.2   94     A
    Stroman, Marcus          NL  3.2   8.0  2.5    0.9   93     A
    Lester, Jon              NL  3.0   8.3  2.7    1.4   89     A
    Keuchel, Dallas          AL  3.0   7.5  2.5    1.0   89     A
    Canning, Griffin         AL  3.5   9.3  2.6    1.3   89     A
    Odorizzi, Jake           AL  3.3   9.2  2.8    1.1   88     A
    Lauer, Eric              NL  3.1   8.6  2.8    1.3   87     A
    Leake, Mike              NL  1.6   5.8  3.7    1.4   87     A
    Smith, Caleb             NL  3.4   9.5  2.8    1.6   85     A
    Roark, Tanner            AL  2.7   7.9  2.9    1.6   84     A
    Fulmer, Michael          AL  2.6   7.2  2.8    1.2   82     A
    Wilson, Bryse            NL  2.6   7.8  3.0    1.5   81     A
    Walker, Taijuan          AL  3.4   8.1  2.4    1.3   78     A
    Montgomery, Jordan       AL  3.1   7.9  2.6    1.0   78     A

Let's take a closer look at a bunch of intriguing LIMA targets in each league.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Dylan Bundy (RHP, LAA) is getting a fresh start in LAA after never fulfilling his top prospect upside with BAL. One of the issues holding him back has been gopheritis. He's going from a park that provides a great HR advantage to RH batters to one that is HR-neutral to them. In addition, Bundy's rates of swinging and first-pitch strikes have ticked up over the last couple of seasons, which gives his 100 BPV baseline some more upside. Bundy is a great value pick at his current 292 ADP.

Griffin Canning (RHP, LAA) is being selected even earlier than teammate Bundy even though Canning hasn't made it through an entire MLB season yet. That's because he showed great promise during his debut in 2019, posting a 125 BPV in the first half before struggling with walks late in the season, which likely were amplified by elbow inflammation. Given his elite swing-and-miss stuff, there's plenty of upside here if he can find the plate consistently and prove that his late elbow issues are behind him.

Jesus Luzardo (LHP, OAK) has a varied above-average arsenal that has made him one of the better SP prospects in the game. He flashed an elite 175 BPV during bullpen work with OAK late in 2019, missing bats at a top clip but also struggling to throw strikes. He's being drafted as an upper-rotation starter (128 ADP), but if you can get him cheaper than that, he'll provide to you an interesting combination of upside and value.

Lance McCullers (RHP, HOU) no longer is being drafted as a possible cornerstone arm (193 ADP). That market price gives him more profit potential than most SP in the game though. Before undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2018, McCullers had one of the game's best combination of whiffs (14% SwK%) and groundballs (55% GB%). He has a real shot to develop into an SP1 during the 2020 season.

A.J. Puk (LHP, OAK) is another top pitching prospect who will get a chance to stick in an MLB rotation this year. He owns an electric fastball/slider repertoire and also generates groundballs at a high rate. That profile could help him make an immediate impact and gives him a higher floor than other pitching prospects.

Taijuan Walker (RHP, SEA) once was one of the better breakout targets in the game. Elbow and shoulder issues prevented him from cashing in on that upside. Still, the healthy version of Walker featured good command, and his groundball rate was on a steady incline before his injuries mounted. At age 27, it's too early to write off Walker. His 524 ADP, prior pedigree, and solid pre-injury skills all make him an intriguing LIMA value target in 2020.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Luis Castillo (RHP, CIN) is being drafted as an ace in some leagues (45 ADP), and for good reason. His skills went from solid in the first half of 2019 (95 BPV) to elite in the second half (156 BPV in 2H). He had a filthy 17% SwK% in that electric second half while still keeping the ball on the ground at a high rate (54% GB%). He's one of the game's true sub-3.00 ERA breakout candidates.

Dinelson Lamet (RHP, SD) posted a mediocre 4.07 ERA in 2019. That said, his underlying skills were excellent: 12.9 Dom, 3.7 Ctl, 36% GB%, 147 BPV. Few pitchers were better than Lamet in September (35/8 K/BB in 22 IP), an elite level of command that was backed by a 15% SwK% and 66% FpK%. And he posted a 3.0+ Cmd against lefties and righties. Breakout targets don't get much better than Lamet.

German Marquez (RHP, COL) has gone from breakout candidate to an SP3 in many leagues (176 ADP). He struggled in Coors Field in 2019 after showing promise there in 2018. That said, Marquez had an elite 62/9 K/BB in 59 IP during the second half of 2019, a level of command that drove his 154 BPV. His steady groundball tilt gives hope that he can solve some of the gopheritis issues that plagued him late in 2019. Marquez is a premium LIMA target that still carries rotation anchor upside.

Freddy Peralta (LHP, MIL) killed the pitching stats of teams he was on in 2019 (5.29 ERA, 1.46 WHIP in 85 IP). Peralta's early-season skills gave great promise though. He posted a 70/16 K/BB in 58 IP during the first half, which led him to a very strong 139 BPV. At age 24, he's well worth the investment given his current market value (468 ADP).

Caleb Smith (LHP, MIA) is another pitcher that carries profit based on his market price (225 ADP). He was fantastic in the first half of 2019 (3.41 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 66 IP), marks that were backed by a very strong collection of skills: 11.2 Dom, 2.7 Ctl, 29% GB%, 135 BPV. His command sub-indicators were even more impressive (16% SwK%, 63% FpK%). The risk that he brings is one of gopheritis given his extreme flyball tilt. Still, Smith is a very good bet to post his first sub-4.00 ERA in 2020 if he can stay healthy.

Alex Young (LHP, ARI) is going undrafted in many skill-savvy leagues in 2020 (590 ADP), as the 3.56 ERA and 1.19 WHIP he posted in 2019 didn't receive much support from his skills (85 BPV) and his fastball tends to stay below 90 mph. But he didn't allow much hard contact (87.0 mph exit velocity), and his offspeed stuff can be dominant at times. Young also looked really good in September (118 BPV in 29 IP) and also knows how to keep the ball on the ground. He's another good LIMA stash for owners looking to target hidden skills.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.