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Starting Pitcher ROS Rankings – May Update (Fantasy Baseball)

Wow, quite a bit has changed since Opening Day back in late-March. We are just under two months into the season so a starting pitcher rankings update was well overdue. I also included my relief pitcher ranking updates as well. In the blurbs below, I’ll cover the pitchers who have seen significant movement since opening day. If a player has been injured, they, of course, have dropped in the rankings. I won’t cover them as it’s obvious why they have fallen. There are some pitchers who are intriguing and have shown skills changes (both good and bad) discussed below. Note: The ECR +/- is based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, not my previous ranks. Click here for my preseason rankings.

 

BIGGEST RISERS

Caleb Smith (SP – MIA) +73 and Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) +93
Yeah, Smith has been unbelievable this year. I had him ranked just inside the top 100 (99th) at the start the season and now he’s inside the top 20! To my credit, I did rank him as the top Marlins pitcher followed by Richards and Lopez. Smith has earned a 28.5% K-BB% which ranks fourth in all of baseball! All of the ERA estimators have him regressing closer to an ERA near 3.00, but given his skills, that puts him inside the top 20 overall for SPs.  Lopez has jumped over Richards as the Marlins second best option. His 5.06 ERA does not indicate how good he’s been. He has a 1.17 WHIP, an 18% K-BB%, and his ERA estimators have him closer to 3.65. I’ve bumped him up to 56th overall but could be higher if he didn’t pitch for one of the worst teams in the league. The same could be said for Smith (who could be top 15). Smith is long gone but Lopez may still be available in 12-team leagues.

Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW) +95
How fitting. Giolito just threw a complete game shutout against the Astros striking out nine batters. He’s been an absolute beast this year. I thought about bumping him up even more but feel that he’s safe in the upper-30s. Clearly, I was not in on Giolito coming into the season after a disastrous 6.13 ERA in 2018. He’s doing everything right. His K% is up to a whopping 12%, his walk rate is down over two percent, and he’s given up just three homers in 52 innings! That home run rate probably won’t stick but his improvements look somewhat legit. He dropped his sinker usage and is throwing his changeup more. Increasing his FB velocity has helped as well. He’s getting ahead of hitters and has a career-high zone rate. Now for the not so great. I don’t want to completely throw cold water on Giolito but he doesn’t quite have elite swing and miss stuff and when the weather heats up in Chicago, he’s in for some regression. Still, I think he’s more of 24-25% K rate pitcher with a home run per nine innings. I’d put him closer to a 3.50-3.60 ERA with near a strikeout per inning. 

Matt Boyd (SP – DET) +33
Based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus, my rank was on average 28 spots higher than the other experts. I guess you could call this one a victory for me but then why do I only own one share? Sad. I loved what I saw with his slider last season and he was one of my favorite weekly streamers. He really was just one step away from being very good which is why I boosted him in my preseason ranks. Well, he’s taken that next step and looks a lot like Patrick Corbin from last season. Other than very little run support, Boyd looks like a great SP2/3 this year with some upside. The AL Central is full of mediocre and poor offensive clubs (sans Minnesota), so I don’t see much regression in Boyd’s numbers.

Chris Paddack (SP – SD) +44
The rookie sensation has been fantastic in the early going. He’s got the stuff, he’s got command, and he’s got control. It will be interesting to see how the Padres handle him. He’s rumored to get only 140 innings this year but he’s starting every sixth day. At his current pace, he would be shut down with about three weeks remaining in the regular season. That kind of sucks for head-to-head leagues but should be just fine for roto leagues.

Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD) +16
Kershaw might not be the best pitcher in baseball but he’s doing the best with his declining velocity and skills. He’s throwing his breaking balls nearly 60% of the time but it does appear to be working. His control and command are elite and should be a top 15 starting pitcher if he remains healthy. Let’s just hope his back issues stay away for four more months.

Luis Castillo (SP – CIN) +15
Everywhere you look, people are calling for regression with Castillo and we saw some of that against the Brewers on Wednesday but his quality of contact against has been elite. Per BaseballSavant, his xwOBA is .249 which is just insane. My boo from last offseason is off to a hell of a start and has now essentially been an ace over the last calendar year. Here are his numbers since May 24th, 2018:
182.2 IP 12-9 3.25 ERA 1.08 WHIP 193 Strikeouts

That’s what I call a borderline ace. His changeup has been the best in the bigs this year. He’s close, but not quite there. His zone rate is dangerously low and it’s really bumped his walk rate. If he can dip his BB% to 8-9%, he’s going to be a monster.

FALLERS

Nick Pivetta (SP – PHI) -55
Ouch Nicky P. Was Pivetta a sleeper if everyone loved him coming into the season? Unfortunately, K-BB% isn’t everything. Quality of contact and location of pitches in the zone are extremely important. Pivetta may be recalled soon as he’s pitched well in Triple-A, I’m just no running to the waiver wire to add him save for deep leagues. He’s walking more batters and his BABIP is low in the minors. In over 315 innings in the bigs, his BABIP is .335. He just won’t succeed if those numbers continue.

Kyle Freeland (SP – COL) -65
Outside of injury or demotion, Freeland is the biggest faller from my preseason ranks. Coors Field is a bitch, amirite? Freeland has already given up 12 home runs this year after giving up 17 in all of 2018. We all knew regression was coming but no one expected this much. He’s still struggling with walks and the juiced ball has really hurt his home run rate. But, he’s also turned into a fly ball pitcher with his fly ball rate over 40% (up 6%). He’s not likely this bad but given him limitations with strikeouts, he’s not rosterable in 12 or even 14-team leagues. 

Miles Mikolas (SP – STL) -43
I had him at 24 in my preseason rankings as I believed his stuff could induce more swings and misses and therefore net more strikeouts. That has clearly not been the case. It figures that a pitcher who pitches to contact would get bitten by the juiced ball. Duh. As strikeout rates continue to rise, Mikolas’ K rate is falling. Mikolas doesn’t appeal to me as a fantasy player in this era. I missed on this one.

Ross Stripling (SP – LAD) -35
Well, we knew the risk going into the season with Stripling and other Dodgers starters. There’s a ton of skill and depth in that rotation but also a lot of uncertainty in terms of health. It’s difficult to rank Stripling any higher even though he’s been very successful as a starter. As a bullpen arm, he falls outside the top 100 but as a starter, he’s a top 40 option. In deep leagues, hold him, in shallow leagues, he’s a clear cut.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats


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Week 6 Rundown: Buy/Sell/Hold – Fantasy Baseball

This article will be covering the last 14 days. What kind of weekly rundown covers the last two weeks? This one I guess. I ultimately wanted to get this out last week but the Home Run Park Factors article took a little bit longer than anticipated. Maybe I should have called this a bi-monthly Rundown? Anyways, here we are, one week into May and Jose Ramirez is still hitting below .200 while Cody Bellinger is hitting over .200 points higher. Let’s dive into who’s hot and who’s not. I’ll give advice on whether or not the players are buys, sells, or holds.

Blazing Hot

Michael Chavis (2B/3B – BOS)
Chavis is batting a smoking hot .320 with six homers, two steals and a combined 26 R+RBI over the last two weeks. His power is no doubt legit but I’ve got questions about Chavis going forward. Will he continue getting playing time when Dustin Pedroia returns? What does his batting average look like once his .344 BABIP comes down? Putting Pedroia aside for a second, Chavis is carrying a 47% fly ball rate and doesn’t have great speed. Fenway does inflate BABIP, but I’d still expect at least a 40 point drop in BABIP. His 73.3% contact rate and high swing and miss rate tells me a 25-30% strikeout rate is likely. Best case for Chavis is something like .260 with 25-30 homers. That’s nice, but dammit, I forgot about Pedroia. He’s never healthy but working back on a rehab assignment. Chavis could lose anywhere from 10 to 50 games to the oft-injured second baseman. Chavis is a moderate sell/hold at this point in redrafts.

Anthony Rizzo (1B – CHC)
After a slow start, Rizzo is hitting .327 with six bombs and an incredible 16 RBI over the last 14 days. Rizzo is a machine. His contact rates have been near an elite level for the last several years. His power appeared to be declining in 2018 but the juiced or modified ball should help Rizzo once again reach the 30 home Run plateau. However, we should temper expectations because he’s currently running a career-high 20% HR/FB rate despite a career-low pull rate. That being said, his .228 BABIP will come up and when it does, Rizzo should settle in around .280-.285 with an outside shot at his first .300 season. 

Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS – KC)
One of the most polarizing players in the fantasy community over the offseason is smokin’ hot. He’s hitting over .320 with three bombs and three steals over the past two weeks while driving in 17 runs. During that stretch, he’s striking out just 20% of the time which is an improvement on his 26.8% rate to date. He’s proving that his second half last year was not a fluke. What’s most impressive to me is his six triples and 20 extra base hits through 36 games. That’s a pace of 90 total XBH over the course of the entire season. A quick check at his Statcast metrics shows that regression is coming, but mostly in terms of batting average. His xAVG of .246 is .034 points below his actual batting average. However, his barrel rate is a strong 14.2%, so he should actually have a few more homers. If I’m an owner, I’m holding. He’s going to swing a ton, strikeout a lot, hit homers and steal a ton of bases this year, that’s a fact.

Chris Paddack (SP – SD)
20.2 innings pitched, two earned runs, 25 strikeouts, and only 12 base runners. I’ll take what are Chris Paddack’s stats from his last three outings for $1,000 Alex. It’s almost as if Paddack is facing minor league hitters. He’s sporting a cool 1.55 ERA with an unthinkable 0.69 WHIP on the season. He’s great, I like him a lot but he should be sold in redrafts. In keeper and dynasty, obviously, he’s a hold and congrats! Here’s where regression is coming, a .176 BABIP and 5.3% HR/FB. In this era!?!  Look, his changeup is great, and his fastball is pretty good. His third pitch is a curveball that isn’t any good and only throws it 10% of the time. I foresee issues against teams he faces two and three times and the third time through the order. Besides, he likely won’t throw more than 140 innings. You’ve got ace production from him though this point, now flip him for a top 30 bat.

Martin Perez (SP – MIN)
Credit Dan Hayes for reporting on Perez’s increased velocity this spring. All he’s done in his last 21 innings is strike out 20 batters while giving up just one run compiling three wins. He can’t really keep this up, can he? Well, his BABIP and strand rates are neutral, so that’s a good sign. His walk rate is a touch high at 9.4%, so there’s a little concern there. He’s only allowed two home runs after giving up a whopping 16 in only 85 innings last year when he pitched for the Rangers. Sure, he won’t sustain a home run rate under 0.5 per nine innings but he’s not the same pitcher he was in 2018. The main reason for his success is his new cutter. He’s slinging it 35% of the time which has helped him raise his SwStr rate four percent from last year. He’s also getting a solid called strikes plus swinging strikes (CSW) rate of 29%. Perez should be owned in all leagues, so go ahead and add him. Some bumps will come along the road given his walk rate and some home run regression but he doesn’t have enough value to sell yet at this point.

Freezing Cold

Corey Seager (SS-LAD)
Coming off of the Tommy John Surgery, it’s no surprise that Seager is off to a slow start. Over the last two weeks, he’s hitting just .178 with no home runs and four RBI. I’m not all that optimistic that Seager is going to provide value given his ADP around 85-90 this year. The Dodgers feel content batting him second and he’s still taking walks, so runs should be plentiful. Seager’s strikeout rate is up and the lower contact rates reflect that. I think he will get his timing back, so strikeouts shouldn’t be a long term issue. Where I’m concerned is his batted ball profile. He’s increased his fly ball rate but not the quality of his fly balls. He’s increased his popup rate and hitting 58% of his fly balls to the opposite field. That’s where fly balls go to die. Batters want to pull their fly balls to hit home runs, something Seager is doing on under 10% of his fly balls. I’m selling Seager to an owner who still believes in a .300 hitter with 25-30 homer pop.

Wil Myers (1B/OF – SD)
Myers has managed to hit just .119 with one home run and three RBI over the last two weeks. His problem is more with strikeouts than anything. Myers has never been a guy to make a ton of contact, but he’s sitting at a career-worst 35.9% strikeout rate. Both his contact and swinging strike rates are at career-worsts. He’s not even expanding the zone either as he’s right around league average. Overall, the quality of his batted balls are fine but I can’t find any reason to buy Myers at this point. He does have six homers and two steals so it’s possible owners could float some offers out there.

Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF – BOS)
Bradley is hitting just .171 with no homers, one steal, and three RBI in the last two weeks. I led all of you astray with my JBJ love this offseason. He’s been flat out terrible this year hitting a miserable .147 on the season without a home run. It’s not just one thing either. His strikeout rate is through the roof, his hard hit rate is down over 10%, and he’s hitting more ground balls at the expense of line drives. While I don’t see him being this bad all year as his .224 BABIP is 70 points below his career BABIP, but he’s at risk of losing playing time. He is streaky, so if he continues to get playing time, grab him if he gets hot. You’ve ditched him in all shallow leagues and he’s even a drop in 15-team mixed at this point. Sorry, Fam.

Carter Kieboom (2B/SS – WAS)
Note: Kieboom was sent back to Triple-A yesterday, so this write-up while moot may still provide value going forward.
Kieboom is hitting just .128 with those two early home runs, four runs and only two RBI the last two weeks. A 37.2% strikeout rate is largely to blame, but so is a .143 BABIP. Kieboom does hit the ball hard but the expected metrics are not good for him. Against fastball this year, he’s 0 for 20 with eight strikeouts. How is that even possible? It’s too bad his contact rates are so poor because he has a solid idea of the strike zone. Look, Kieboom is just 21 years old, so he’s far from a finished product, I just don’t believe he’s ready for the show. Once Turner comes back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kieboom was sent back down. Between Dozier and Kendrick manning second base, there will be no place for Kieboom.

Cole Tucker (SS – PIT)
Tucker is hitting just .184 with zero home runs, zero steals, zero RBI, and three runs the last 14 days. The difference between Kieboom and Tucker is playing time. The Pirates have no one else to play shortstop, so they should let Tucker ride this stretch out. Tucker isn’t used to seeing strikeout rates over 30% as he was regularly in the high-teens, low-20s in the minors. I think he could provide some value later in the year given his elite speed and adjustments. However, at this point, he can be dropped.

Kyle Freeland (SP – COL)
Freeland has a bloated 9.75 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP and five homers given up over his last two starts since coming off the disabled list. That WHIP has come on just a low .238 BABIP in that stretch. Freeland’s pitch mix is nearly identical to last year. So is his velocity and so are his strikeout and walk rates. The only difference is his home run rate has gone from one of the best in the league to 13th-highest at 1.82 per nine innings. 2018 was a dream season for Freeland and his owners but the reality is starting to set in. The fact that he is unable to generate whiffs at a high rate and carries a high walk rate just doesn’t provide much value. I think Freeland curbs the home run rate down to the 1.3 per nine range but he will not sustain the .238 BABIP. Go ahead and sell in deep league but he should not be owned in shallow mixed leagues.

Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL)
Kevin Gausman is riding a four-game run with a 7.71 ERA, a 1.84 WHIP, and nine walks. Gausman was looking like an ace through his first few starts but has really fallen apart recently. It’s interesting to note that Gausman has essentially eliminated his slider and has become a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and a splitter. The splitter has seen most of the increase from the slider. That’s the main reason his swinging strike rate has increased by nearly two percent. A peek at Statcast shows Gausman has allowed some very weak contact and low exit velocities. I was not optimistic coming into this but Gausman may just be a buy. I’m a little concerned about his lack of a third pitch, so I hope he does add one going forward. If he does, he could provide very nice value going forward.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.