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Fantasy Baseball: Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 25 (9/16 – 9/22)

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly streaming article. Each week I cover anywhere from five to six starters who are available in at least 75% of Yahoo/ESPN leagues per FantasyPros. With playoffs and fantasy Championships on the line next week, it’s now or never. No more wasting time, let’s get to the top streaming options to help win you your league!

Mitch Keller (SP – PIT) RHP, 8% owned, home vs SEA, Tuesday 9/17
Keller is a pitcher that has been extremely unlucky in his short time in the big leagues. His 8.29 ERA and 1.87 WHIP are fueled by an inflated .477 BABIP and a low 53.5% strand rate. Here’s the weirdest stat of all, hitters somehow have managed a .569 BABIP against Keller’s fastball. Umm, that won’t last. Check this out though, he has an impressive 3.61 FIP and a 21.6% K-BB rate! Both would rank in the top 20 for qualified starting pitchers. His fastball averaged 95.5 mph and his slider has a crazy-high 27.3% swinging-strike rate (SwStr%). Both his slider and curve net strikeout rates north of 30%. He draws the Mariners at home who have struck out 28.5% of the time over the last two weeks, the league’s second highest rate over that span. They’ll be without the DH, so I’d expect their offense to struggle even more than their 88 wRC+ indicates. I’m STREAMING Keller next week.


Homer Bailey (SP – OAK) RHP, 22% owned, home vs KC, Wednesday 9/18
We are all familiar with Homer Bailey. He was a first-round pick way back in 2004 by the Cincinnati Reds. After a few successful seasons in the early-2010s, he’s been essentially useless in terms of fantasy. But, this year, his strikeout rate is up over 20% for the first time since 2016. That’s largely due to an increase in his splitter usage. Typically, the unpredictability of a splitter will wreak havoc on walk rates but he’s still sitting at a solid eight percent which is just below league average. He also hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of his last six starts that includes two outings against the Yankees and one versus the Astros. He’ll be facing off against the Royals at home, so the degree of difficulty is relatively low. On the road, the Royals have a 83 wRC+ which is the fifth-lowest among all teams away from their home park. Bailey is always a risk to blow up in your face but given his recent success, I’m inclined to ride out this stretch, because we are, after all in mid-September. STREAM

Sandy Alcantara (SP – MIA) RHP, 25% owned, @ARI, Wednesday 9/18
Alcantara should be owned in more than 50% of leagues, but fortunately, he’s right at the maximum threshold for next week. His season-long numbers are not all that impressive but he’s been nearly lights out since the start of August. Over that stretch, he’s managed a 2.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and a 22% strikeout rate. Finally, he’s actually striking batters out! He’s increased his fastball/sinker velocity over the last month, not by much but 0.5-1.0 mph is quite a bit when you consider he was already averaging over 95 mph. In addition, he’s throwing his sinker more often which not only generates more groundballs but also more whiffs which is rare for a sinker. His secondaries aren’t great but his changeup is useful, so he’s still throwing a plus-pitch nearly 75% of the time. That should be enough to handle the Diamondbacks who have slipped after making a playoff push. They have a 77 wRC+ over the last two weeks and their hopes of sneaking into the wild card are just about gone. I’m STREAMING here.

Mike Leake (SP – ARI) RHP, 21% owned, home vs MIA, Wednesday 9/18

Leake is not the sexiest option but he’s a guy that can go deep into games. He’s averaging 6.14 innings per start in a season where very few starters can even make it to the sixth inning. He has three quality starts in his last four outings and draws a weak Marlins offense at home. Over the last two weeks, the Marlins have an 82 wRC+ which ranks 22nd in MLB. They have been even worse on the road. In fact, they are last in the league with a 68 wRC+ away from Marlins Park. That’s 32% below league-average. Leake’s not going to pile up strikeouts but he is utilizing his cutter and slider more often recently. He has two straight starts with double-digit swinging strike rates. Yes, he is going up against Sandy Alcantara who I just highlighted, so a win might not be as easy as it seems. I do think he can provide solid ratios and a quality start. If you’re looking for a win and strikeouts, he’s probably not your guy. In QS leagues, I’m STREAMING



Merril Kelly (SP – ARI) RHP, 22% owned, @SDP, Friday 9/20
I preached about Kelly’s increased fastball velocity last week and he draws an easier opponent next week in the Padres. The Padres have hit just 11 home runs over the last two weeks and typically struggle to score runs at home. Only the Tigers and Giants have fewer runs scored at home this season. They also struggle to make contact with a strikeout rate north of 24%. Kelly dominated the Padres a couple of weeks ago striking out nine batters across seven shutout innings. After averaging 91.6 mph on his fastball this season, he’s up to 93.2 mph over his last four starts. His strikeout rate has gone from pedestrian 18.9% prior to August 28th and is way up at 24.5% since. That’s huge because he still possesses a solid curveball which is his best secondary offering that generates a K-BB rate of 32%. I’m riding the hot hand and hoping he maintains his increased velocity because he’s more of an SP4 than a streamer when he’s throwing 93.5+. STREAM

Dylan Cease (SP – CHW) RHP, 10% owned, @DET, Friday 9/20
Any way you slice it, the Tigers offense (and entire team, really)is awful. At home, they rank dead-last offensively with a 75 wRC+ and have the third-highest K:BB ratio over the last two weeks. That’s not good. Cease is wild though. He’s a rookie with great stuff but hasn’t been able to command all his pitches, especially his fastball. However, he hasn’t given up much hard contact, just 29.7% per FanGraphs. The Tigers are the perfect team for Cease to square up against. A patient team could really give him fits but the Tigers are young, inexperienced, and aggressive. Cease, while struggling to find the zone has induced swings outside the zone over 35% of the time in two of his last three starts. He’s also generated swinging strike rate over 11% in his last five outings. There’s risk that he could hurt your ratios but he’s struck out nine or more batters twice in his brief stint in the Majors thus far. The upside is six innings with 10 strikeouts and decent ratios. Will you roll the dice? I will, especially if I need a boost in strikeouts. STREAM


Ivan Nova (SP – CHW) RHP, 17% owned, @DET, Saturday 9/21
If Cease and Keller are the upside plays next week, Nova is a floor option similar to Leake. The difference between the two is the probability of a win. Nova has a much better chance for a win as he is scheduled to go up against Edwin Jackson. You know, the guy with a 9.76 ERA on the season. I’ve already harped on how bad the Tigers are offensively, it’s like they are fielding a Triple-A team. The last time Nova faced the Tigers was August 7th. He went eight shutout innings giving up just five hits. Since the All-Star break, Nova has eight outings where he’s given up three runs or less and in seven of those he gave up two earned runs of less. He won’t stike out more than 4-5 batters but should help with your ratios at the end of the week. In his last two starts, his veloicty has been up over 93 mph, something he’s only done a handful of times this year. I like the chances for Nova to reach six or seven innings giving up two or fewer runs in this one. STREAM

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Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Republic

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Starting Pitchers to Stream – Week 19 (8/5-8/11)

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly article where I cover starting pitcher streaming options for the week ahead. I apologize for missing last week, I was out of town and didn’t have a chance to get out a quality product. You know the rules here. The pitchers I cover are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros Yahoo/ESPN Consensus leagues. I’m doing things a little differently this time. I am covering seven pitchers but only suggesting five of them. I discuss why I’m passing on the other two next week despite the favorable matchup. Let’s dig in!

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA), 19% owned, @CIN, Monday 8/5
Normally I try to shy away from pitchers going in Great American Ballpark given the way the balls fly out at alarming rates. For reference, the Reds have home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB%) of 16.5% at home this year which is about 1.5% higher than league-average. But, they have just a 95 wRC+ in Cincy and just lost one of their best hitters in Yasiel Puig. This is a below-average offensive club and Canning carries a 1.20 WHIP, 25.1% strikeout rate, and 7.7% walk rate. All of those metrics are quite a bit better league-average. Canning has been very good at inducing swings and misses in his rookie campaign and coming off a scoreless outing against the Tigers. More importantly, he’s only walked three batters in his three starts. Add in the fact that he won’t have to face a DH and I think he’ll be good for more than a strikeout per inning and a good chance at a win. STREAM


Note: Canning just hit the IL & will miss this start. Let’s find a replacement.

Vince Velasquez (SP – PHI), 9% Owned, @SF, Saturday 8/10
VV has been a bit of a roll lately and is even making assists from left field. While he hasn’t gone six innings in any of his recent starts, he’s struck out seven, nine, and six batters in his last three outings. He’s relying heavily on his fastball which is good and bad. His velocity is up a tick from last year and his 12.7% swinging strike rate on the pitch is among the best in the league. The issue is home runs. With a 24% HR/FB rate, it’s earned a negative pitch value. So this is a very boom or bust play. Since I’m a gambling man (not really) but this start is in Pitcher friendly Oracle Park, so I’ll take my chances. If his control is bad, this could go sideways but he could also throw 5-6 shutout innings with nine strikeouts. Let’s STREAM.


Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 10% owned, @DET, Tuesday 8/6
Cease faced the Tigers in his Major League debut last month where he gave up three earned runs over five innings with six punchouts. That game was at home in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field. Next week, he’ll be in Comerica Park which suppresses home runs. In addition, the Tigers lost one of their best hitters in Nick Castellanos. Even with Nicky C, the Tigers have a wOBA of just .276 at home with a strikeout rate of 25.8%. They also walk about 2% below the league-average rate which should offset Cease‘s control. Cease averages over 96 MPH on his fastball and has registered positive Pitch Values per FanGraphs on all three secondary offerings. Cease needs to command his fastball better but I feel like he can dominate the Tigers and grab his second career win. STREAM

Danny Duffy (SP – KC), 11% owned, @DET, Thursday 8/8
I’ve already bashed the Tigers who will probably end up being the number one team I will stream against going forward, so I’ll keep the negative comments to a minimum. Some other interesting statistics regarding the Tigers at home include a .229 batting average and 34 home runs hit in 49 games in Comerica Park. That’s simply not good. Let’s turn out focus to Duffy. He’s had mixed results versus the Tigers this year but has yet to give up a long ball against them and has 10 strikeouts across nine innings. Duffy has backed off his slider recently and his strikeout rate has dipped as a result. I think he needs to bring it back but there’s no guarantee he will be utilizing it. Maybe he’s lost the feel for it, I don’t know. I’m not all that interested to find out if he can get the feel back. Besides, despite how poor the Tigers have been the last couple seasons, Duffy has still struggled against them. I’m passing here and Staying away.

Cal Quantrill (SP – SD), 11% owned, Home vs COL, Friday, 8/9
It will be interesting to see if the Padres start this game with an opener as they did against the Cubs a couple of weeks ago. Quantrill flourished in that start but also has gone at least 5.1 IP in his last four outings. So at a minimum, he should qualify for a win in this one. Over those last three outings, prior to yesterday’s start against the Dodgers, he’s killing it with a 0.53 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. He’s also throwing his slider more frequently, which has been his most successful pitch. I don’t think he’s going to pile up the strikeouts but the Rockies have been absolutely brutal on the road this year, so I think his ratios will be fine. How bad have the Rockies been away from Coors this year? They are ranked 29th in both wOBA and wRC+ and rank dead last in strikeout rate at 27.6%. It’s almost like facing the Tigers. I’m Streaming here.


Drew Smyly (SP – PHI), 4% owned, @SF, Friday, 8/9
Did Philidelphia figure something out with Smyly or is his success related to the weak opponents in the Giants and Pirates? Well, let’s check his pitch mix. Here’s something, his cutter usage has jumped from just over 10% to nearly 30% in his two outings with the Phillies. He’s also throwing a few more curveballs and his fastball is way down to 38%.  The problem for Smyly is that his cutter has been crushed this year. What’s happened in his last couple starts, he’s inducing more swings out of the zone on the pitch and getting a ton of ground balls. I don’t actually think the cutter is any better, but he’s faced some poor opponents as I mentioned earlier. Now, the lack of familiarity may have helped in Smyly’s success but this will be the second time the Giants have seen him. I’m not buying into Smyly’s recent success given the poor performance of his cutter. The Giants have been much better since the break with a .322 wOBA good for 15th in Major League Baseball. I’m sitting this one out.

Jakob Junis (SP – KC), 14% owned, @DET, Sunday, 8/11
Unlike his teammate Duffy, Junis has been successful against the Tigers over the last couple seasons. He has a career 2.62 ERA against Detriot which is just about where his ERA is since the start of 2018. The Tigers have managed just a .258 wOBA against him and it’s mostly due to his devastating slider. Junis is essentially a two-pitch pitcher but the slider has basically been thrown 50% of the time. I doubt he gets through the lineup three times but should be just fine in leagues that don’t count quality starts. Expect something like 5+ innings with six strikeouts with two runs or fewer. That’s playable in deeper formats, so let’s STREAM

Chris Bassitt (SP – OAK), 23% owned, @CHW, Sunday, 8/11
I’m a little bit perplexed to find that Bassitt is only owned in 23% of Yahoo/ESPN leagues. His ERA is 3.84 on a year when the average ERA for a starting pitcher is 4.50! That’s insane. That’s nearly 0.25 over last season which means, his adjusted ERA (compared to 2018) is about 3.60. In addition, his WHIP is just 1.17 compared to league-average 1.30. Maybe his strikeout rate is extremely low? Nope, 8.58 K/9 which is a hair above league-average. I’m not really finding an issue here. His BABIP is low but he also induces infield flys (IFFB%) at 15%, so a lower BABIP is partially justified. He draws the White Sox and while it’s not at home (unfortunately), the White Sox are weak offensively and just lost Yoan Moncada. Even within their hitter-friendly environment in Chicago, they have a 90 wRC+ and strikeout over 25% of the time. I’m definitely streaming Bassitt.

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Starting Pitchers to Stream Week 16 – 7/15-7/21

Welcome back to the FreezeStats weekly stating pitcher streaming article! I hope you enjoyed the All-Star break but now is not the time to relax, even if you have a strong lead in your league. We skipped week 15 because it was abbreviated with just the weekend series. You know the drill. I choose starting pitchers that are available in at least 75% of FantasyPros consensus leagues to help you win your matchup each week. The talent seems to be falling off a bit which means the fantasy community is really on their game. I’ve been able to uncover a nice blend of high ceiling and high floor streamers and of course will be picking on the Giants, Marlins, and Tigers next week.

Adam Plutko (SP – CLE), 3% owned home vs DET, Monday, 7/15
I’m not the biggest Plutko fan but he’s walking just under one batter per nine innings (0.99 BB/9). He’s not striking many batters out and has given up far to many dingers. I would never think about streaming Putko unless he was going up against one of the weakest offensives in the Majors. Will you look a this. The Tigers are tied for the lowest wRC+ in the league with the Marlins and only the Marlins have hit fewer home runs than Detroit. The Tigers are also prone to strikeouts which they do at a 26% clip. Given Plutko’s fly ball tendencies and low walk rate, there won’t be many runners on base. Fly ball pitchers typically suppress BABIP, so as long as he keeps the ball in the yard, I feel comfortable streaming. If Zach Plesac gets the call for Tuesday’s start against the Tigers, I’d also stream him and actually prefer him to Plutko. However, he’s still in the Minors and as of this writing, the Indians haven’t named a starter for Tuesday. Either way, STREAM

Dylan Cease (SP – CHW), 24% owned @KC, Tuesday, 7/16
Cease was impressive after the first inning of his debut before the break striking out six Tigers in five innings. His command of his fourseam wasn’t great so there’s no doubt risk in streaming him. He draws the Royals in Kauffman Stadium next week. Kauffman suppresses home runs more than any other park other than Oracle Park in San Francisco. In addition, theRoyals have just an 86 wRC+ as a team at home (100 is league-average) with a walk rate of just 7.5%. That’s the 25th lowest walk rate among all teams in the league. The aggressive nature of the Royals combined with the cavernous confines of Kauffman Stadium makes Cease a high-risk, high-reward streaming option. I’m streaming him looking for strikeouts and the high probability of a win.

Jason Vargas (SP – NYM), 10% owned, @SF, Thursday, 7/18
Jason Vargas had a rough start coming off the All-Star break in Miami of all places. That does not provide a whole lot of confidence going into his start next week. But wait! The Giants (74 wRC+) are even worse offensively than the Marlins (79 wRC+) and the last time he faced the Giants, he pitched a complete game shutout with eight strikeouts. Like many pitchers this year, Vargas has struggled with the long ball giving up six homers in his last five outings. Pitching in Oracle Park should limit the probability of the long ball. In addition, Vargas has utilized his changeup over 35% of the time this year. The changeup suppresses wOBA more than any other pitch, so I think Vargas has a good shot at a W/QS and plus ratios. STREAM

Dinleson Lamet (SP – SD), 14% owned, @MIA, Thursday, 7/18
Lamet is a risky option despite the favorable matchup in Miami. Following such a prolonged absence, control is the last thing that comes back for a pitcher. Lamet could go six shutout innings with nine strikeouts or give up five earned runs in two innings. The good news is Lamet still possess elite swing and miss stuff evidenced by the 14 punch outs in 10 innings pitched. I don’t trust his 6+ ERA as he’s only allowed 12 base runners in those 10 innings. He’s also averaging over 95 MPH on his fastball. Unfortunately, he’s only a two-pitch pitcher which isn’t great long term but for this start against a weak Miami offense, I’m going Streaming.

Daniel Ponce de Leon (SP – STL), 14% Owned, home vs PIT, Wednesday, 7/17
My favorite explorer is rocking a 1.99 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP in just over 31 innings. OK, so a .175 BABIP and a 93.5% strand rate is not sustainable but Ponce is effectively pitching up in the zone inducing whiffs and popups at a high clip. His fourseam has a swinging strike rate of 13.2% which is nearly five percent above the League average for fourseamers. It’s helped him get strikeouts over 35% of the time with his heater. The Pirates have been better than advertised but have been carried by Josh Bell and Starling Marte. I think Ponce can neutralize them and I’m rolling the dice. STREAM

Anthony DeSclafani (SP – CIN), 16% Owned, home vs STL, Sunday, 7/21
Would I prefer this start if it was in St Louis? Well, of course, but Tony Disco is known for his hot stretches. His 24.1% strikeout rate would be the highest of his career along with his K-BB%. Some of those improvements are due to a career-best fastball velocity of 95.0 mph. Other than a six-run shellacking in Milwaukee in June, Disco has given up just five earned runs in his previous five outings. It cannot be overstated how bad the Cardinals offense has been. Over the last 30 days, they have a 79 wRC+ which would be the lowest in the Majors over that time if not for the Tigers. I think DeSclafani can go at least six innings and strike out six to seven batters. The Reds should provide enough run support to give him a good chance at a win. STREAM

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Starting Pitcher Rest of Season Rankings Update (June 2019)

It’s nearing the end of June and we are rapidly approaching the mid-point of the 2019 season. I can’t believe had quickly the first half has gone! It doesn’t matter whether you are in first place or in the bottom third of your league, you should still be competing. Two years ago, I was in a head-to-head league where I was in 10th place (out of 12 teams) at the end of June and managed to make a couple of trades and key waiver wire pickups where I vaulted all the way to third place by September. I ended up staying hot and winning the league after three weeks of playoffs. I understand that in Roto formats, this is much more difficult to do, but even if you’re in the middle of the pack, you have a chance. Below are my rest of season rankings for starting pitchers and relief pitchers for standard roto 5×5 leagues. If you have questions regarding specific players in the format in which you play, please feel free to comment. Keep in mind the vs ECR and +/- ECR is based on the expert consensus rankings, not my previous rankings. Click here to see my May update.


 

Risers

Dallas Keuchel (SP – ATL) +44 (93 to 49)
After a long layoff, Keuchel has finally signed with the Atlanta Braves. It’s a sweet spot to land given the soft schedule in the NL East, the quality of the ballclub as a whole, and the pitcher-friendly environment at SunTrust Park. Plus, the infield defense for Atlanta has been pretty good which compliments Keuchel’s extreme ground ball approach. Yes, Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies have not been great per FanGraphs Defensive metrics but it’s not a great measure of success in smaller samples and both ranked in the top five at their respective positions in 2018. Keuchel won’t pile up the strikeouts but he should limit walks and home runs. The projection systems have him at an ERA just under 4.00, so he should provide fantasy teams in 12 and 15-team leagues with plenty of value going forward.

Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW) +19 (39 to 20)
Giolito once again is a big mover as he pushes the top 20. Maybe I was a little reluctant to fully buy-in after only one month of success. However, since 4/17, he’s basically been the best pitcher in baseball with eight wins, a microscopic 1.25 ERA, a 0.82 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts in 65 innings (last night excluded). Everything I said last time applies to this update with Giolito with the exception of the elite strikeout rate. Since my late-May update, he’s had a nasty 18.6% swinging strike rate (SwStr%) and has a 33.6% strikeout rate. I still think the home run rate and BABIP will rise which is the reason for my hesitation in putting in the elite class. Regression can hit hard like it did last night against the Cubs. Still, owners have hit the jackpot with the soon to be 25-year-old.

Griffin Canning (SP – LAA) +30 ( 76 to 46)
Despite the hype of many other young pitching prospects, it’s Canning who has come out and been unexpectedly successful. So, his .244 BABIP is likely to rise but all of the other metrics seem to be in line with his surface numbers. Besides, he’s rocking a 21.5% K-BB rate that’s tied for 20th among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Canning is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so home runs will occasionally be a problem but keeping his 94+ MPH fastball up in the zone while keeping his changeup and breaking pitches down has helped boost his strikeout rate. His 16% SwStr rate is absolutely insane. I’m riding Canning but know that an innings cap could be in order especially once the Angels are out of the playoff race.



Lance Lynn (SP – TEX) +- (unranked to 40!)
I never thought I’d be ranking Lance Lynn in the top 40 starting pitchers, but here we are. Lynn’s career-low walk rate in a full season is 8.6% way back in 2012. He’s currently sitting on a walk rate of just 6.1% which he combines with a current career-best 26% strikeout rate. K-BB rate is one of the best in-season measures of future success and Lynn’s 19.8% K-BB% ranks 16th among qualified starters. No, I don’t trust his 4.16 ERA because his .345 BABIP is sure to come down based on his career .305 BABIP. He’s also throwing harder with an average fastball velocity of 94.6 MPH (up 0.6 MPH from 2018 and up 2.0 MPH from 2017)! I think I trust his xFIP of 3.85 more than anything. Let’s call it 3.75-3.85 going forward which is pretty solid given the current landscape of pitching.

Kyle Gibson (SP – MIN) +19 (64 to 45)
While others are salivating over prospects such as Zac Gallen or Dylan Cease, Kyle Gibson is out there slinging it with a career-best K-BB rate of 19.3%. Gibson is already dealing with a home run issue evidenced by his 19.3% HR/FB rate that’s nearly five percent over the league average and he’s still managing a 3.70 ERA and a sparkling 1.17 WHIP. Gibson might be the definition of a boring veteran. But that’s OK. The issue with rookie pitchers, especially for ones on non-contending teams is an innings cap and inconsistencies. I’d rather roll with a veteran like Gibson who is showing the best skills of his career and plays for a contender in a weak division. Besides, his metrics are all trending in the right direction despite a subpar outing last night.

Yu Darvish (SP – CHC) +11 (46 to 35)
OK, so it’s not like we can fully trust Darvish but take a look at his numbers over the last four starts: 2.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, a 25.5% strikeout rate, AND just a 7.5% walk rate. That includes a four ER start in Coors Field. I’m focused more on the walk rate that was north of 14% just a couple weeks ago. Darvish is throwing his cutter more and his slider less. He seems to have better control and command of the pitch and its yielded very solid results. In fact, his cutter is a Money Pitch (42.1% O-Swing, 50.4% Zone%, and 20.6% SwStr%) and has a minuscule .198 wOBA against the pitch compared his career .301 wOBA. Compare that to the .360 wOBA against the slider this year. I think Darvish is headed in the right direction, so he gets a bump. Although, he does have top 20 upside, so there’s still a ways to go.


Zac Gallen (SP – MIA) +13 (98 to 85) and  Dylan Cease (SP – CHW) +16 (117 to 101)
After slighting these two in the Kyle Gibson blurb, I’ve gone ahead and moved up both Cease and Gallen. Both will have their limitations as I previously discussed but both are nearing promotions with Gallen getting called up with Pablo Lopez hitting the 10-day IL. Gallen at least has the backdrop of Marlins Park to soften his inconsistent starts, so I prefer him to Cease for the rest of this season. In addition, the projection systems prefer him to Cease. That being said, both are very talented prospects and given the starting pitcher options ranked below, I’ll roll the dice on these top prospects for the upside alone. 

Fallers

German Marquez (SP – COL) -11 (21 to 32)
We knew Coors Field would make for rocky starts but now Marquez has begun to struggle on the road as well. His K-BB rate remains solid at 18.5% but his ERA has ballooned to 4.57. Even in a year with the inflated league-wide ERA, that stings a little from one of your top two or three pitchers. I’m not completely discouraged because the ERA-estimators still show solid skills, but we can’t trust them as much as we would like given the Coors backdrop. There are some positive signs, he hasn’t lost any velocity and he’s throwing his curve and slider more than ever. The issue is with his slider. It’s not performing well after it basically saved his 2018 season. After checking the movement of his slider, he’s lost about an inch of drop and a half inch of horizontal movement. As a result, it’s getting hit hard when he leaves it in the zone.

Based on the heatmap, he’s either burying it off the plate or leaving it center cut. Fortunately, the results against his slider in terms of O-Swing, O-Contact, and SwStr are still great. It’s about location. He’s not far off which is why I didn’t drop him further. If an owner is giving up on him, I’d go buy him on the cheap.

Joe Musgrove (SP – PIT) -18 (36 to 54)
Musgrove was one of my favorite mid-tier starting pitcher targets this year. I landed him on a couple of teams and was feeling good after the month of April. Since then, Musgrove has been a different guy. His strikeouts are down, walks are up, and while he’s getting unlucky with his low strand rate, his home run rate looks like it’s due to elevate a bit. I believe in Musgrove’s talent but between his velocity dip and Ray Searage’s pitch-to-contact philosophy, I feel the need to drop him in the rankings. It’s too bad because his slider is getting better results than it ever has in the past. In addition, his curveball has seen an increase and it’s also yielded great results. The problem is his fastball and he’s throwing it over 60% each of the last two outings. I’d like to see it under 50% and see something like 25% sliders, 15% curveballs, and 12% changeups.

Jimmy Nelson (SP – MIL) -33 (60 to 93)
Coming off a devastating shoulder injury and surgery, Nelson has clear rust to shake off. It’s been nearly two years since he last pitched prior to his first start earlier this month. This is not someone I’m taking a risk on given the length of his layoff. I think we will see flashes of brilliance from Nelson but those starts will not outweigh the rough outings where he can’t find his control. In addition, the feel for some of his pitches may go in and out as well. This is not a roller coaster I want to get on. I will very likely be back in on Nelson in 2020 as long as he can stay healthy. 

Yusei Kikuchi (SP – SEA) -35 (44 to 79)
After showing some flashes in April, Kikuchi has proved to be unusable in 12 team leagues. He now has an ERA above 5.00 and a strikeout rate below 7.0 per nine innings. He has been absolutely crushed by the long ball giving up 17 home runs in just 80.1 innings pitched. He’s already given up 10 homers off his fastball and a .406 wOBA against the pitch. It’s evident that he needs to reduce his fastball usage that is just north of 50% usage to date. His slider and curve have been decent and the slider can get plenty of whiffs. That’s the reason I haven’t completely buried him because I think he has a chance to be a somewhat successful junkballer. If that happens, his strikeout rate should improve and he could be useful. I’ll be monitoring his pitch mix going forward.

Kevin Gausman (SP – ATL) -62 (45 to 107)
I know Gausman landed on the IL, but that’s not why he has dropped in the rankings. It’s because of his 6.21 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. Now, his K-BB rate isn’t all that bad at 14.1% and I think his .339 BABIP and 57.6% strand rate are due for some positive regression, but he’s become a two-pitch pitcher. He throws is his fastball and splitter over 95% of the time. The increased use of his splitter is the reason for his bump in strikeout rate but also has hurt his walk rate. Given the fact that hitters can just sit on the fastball, he’s been crushed the second time through the order with an 8.14 ERA! I’ll be monitoring his pitch mix upon his return but if he continues throwing two pitches, I’m not even giving him a look despite his second-half success in the past.

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Photo Courtesy of  JAE C. HONG AP