Draft season is over but in my experiences early in the season is a great time to make trades that can seriously alter your fantasy team’s future. One guy I own in two of the three leagues I am in is Brandon McCarthy, and I strongly suggest you do what you can to get him on your team as well.

The first part of it is his success last year in New York. While he struggled in Arizona, he put together a 2.89 ERA over 90.1 innings with just 13 walks and 82 strikeouts. Along with his success in New York, he threw 200 innings for the first time in his career, something we are hoping is a signal that he is finally healthy.

Based off of his strikeout-to-walk rate alone, I like McCarthy. Combine that with a move to Los Angeles on a team that should win between 90-100 games and I like him even more. Most all of my draft strategy with pitchers are guys who are going later than the eighth round and that have produced very good results in the recent past. Think of guys like Jake Arrieta and Carlos Carrasco, for instance. Now I do not necessarily believe McCarthy will be the next one of these two to break out, but I do think he can put together a better season than he has ever produced and his first start was a good indication of that.

That last sentence may sound confusing as McCarthy gave up four runs in five innings with a 2.00 WHIP. But even so, he struck out nine batters and even more importantly, he was throwing the ball harder than he ever had in the past. It is worth nothing that McCarthy only throws three fastball variations and a curveball. He has no other offspeed pitch, which makes his velocity even more important than other pitchers who can get guys out in a number of different ways.

McCarthy’s sinker, his most frequently used pitch over the past two years, averaged 93.4 miles per hour yesterday compared to 92.7 miles per hour in the past. For reference, last year that was also the hardest he has thrown this pitch, with him ever topping 91 miles per hour on an annual average basis prior to last season. He uses his four-seamer less often, but averaged 93.8 miles per hour compared to his career average of 89.8. The added velocity gives me confidence that the nine strikeouts in five innings last night was no fluke. And even though he gave up a couple home runs and a lot of hits, nine strikeouts in five innings is awfully impressive and his added velocity makes him an even more attractive trade target.

The good thing about going after McCarthy is that he will not cost you much, and it is probably a bit advantageous for you that he did not have a great start in terms of ERA and WHIP. However, the more telling numbers such as strikeouts and velocity make me even more confident that he is headed for a great season. He will always carry injury risk, as all pitchers do, but I still think he is a valuable guy to acquire as soon as you can.

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