Every spring, there are a number of players that either are not selected — or taken late — in fantasy baseball drafts that break out in the MLB regular season. It’s hard to state that Angels left-handed pitcher Patrick Sandoval hasn’t broken out, but it’s also fair to say that the 26-year-old doesn’t get enough love in fantasy circles. Here’s why we like Sandoval’s value in fantasy entering the 2023 campaign.
Related: The 10 MLB Rookie Pitchers that Can Make a Fantasy Impact in 2023
A Look at Sandoval
Angels LHP Patrick Sandoval saw his first taste of the Majors in 2019, but didn’t settle comfortably at the level until 2021. In Sandoval’s first two seasons, the lefty recorded a unsightly 5.33 ERA, along with a 8.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 76 innings. Those numbers led to Sandoval spending time in the Angels’ alternate site at the end of 2020 and early 2021.
When Sandoval came back in 2021, the 26-year-old recorded a solid 3.62 ERA, along with a career-high 9.7 K/9 over 87 innings. A left lumbar spine stress reaction knocked Sandoval out for most of the second half that year. The lefty returned with a vengeance the following season, as Sandoval recorded a tidy 2.91 ERA and 151 strikeouts over 148.2 innings in 2022. But thanks to a subpar Angels team, Sandoval finished with a record of just 6-9.
So, what changed? Well, a better mixing of his pitches can be attributed to his success. Back in 2020, Sandoval used his four-seamer about 45% of the time. Now? In 2022, Sandoval used it 22.8% of the time, per Statcast. The lefty relies on an eclectic arsenal that includes a mid-90’s heater, curveball, changeup, and slider. Rather than lead off with a heater, the 26-year-old has been effective at pitching backwards and has used his good slider often early in counts — Sandoval threw a slider 48.1% of the time in 0-0, 0-1, and 1-1 counts. The left-hander’s changeup was a true weapon, as it had a gaudy 44.5% Whiff % last season.
While Sandoval was a reliable arm for most of the season, the Angels left-hander was a force in the second half of the season. Sandoval’s 2.53 ERA after the All-Star break ranked among the 25 in baseball (min. 50 IP). And in total, the lefty was one of just 19 pitchers in baseball last season to have a K/9 of at least 9.0 and a sub-3.00 ERA (min. 100 IP).
2023 Fantasy Outlook
Sandoval may not be a top-30 fantasy SP heading into 2023, but the 26-year-old is close. The left-hander has been awfully effective in each of the last two seasons, but shined in 2022.
Ultimately, Sandoval’s fantasy value will be tied to two factors: control and the success of the Angels lineup. The latter is always fascinating, as only a handful of pitchers in the game have the privilege of having Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani provide run support for them. However, Anaheim will need an improved lineup that includes new additions Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela to come through, as well. If Trout and Ohtani are the only two consistent performers come 2023, this season could look quite similar to prior campaigns.
Sandoval’s control is also a point to watch come this season. The 26-year-old posted below-average BB% rates in each of the last two seasons, something that hasn’t really affected him thus far. If Sandoval’s walk rate can stay somewhat flat, the lefty does stand a good chance of replicating his impressive results from last season given very strong batted ball metrics.
Again, it’s hard to consider Sandoval a top-30 starter, simply because of the talent at the position. However, Sandoval is arguably one of the more underrated talents that can be had in drafts. ESPN currently has Sandoval ranked as the 65th-best starter available, but the lefty — in our opinion — carries more value and potential than other pitchers that are ahead of him, like Merrill Kelly and Michael Kopech.
Consider Sandoval is a nice sleeper option in 2023.