Closing Time: Selling Jon Lester

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester’s bounce back season has featured a whole lot of luck (AP Photo).
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester’s bounce back season has featured a whole lot of luck (AP Photo).

Jon Lester held the Dodgers scoreless over seven innings despite an ugly 1:3 K:BB ratio, marking his fourth straight start in which he’s allowed two runs or fewer and fifth straight in which he’s recorded a victory. Lester posted a 4.33 ERA and 1.32 WHIP last season, so it seemed safe betting on a continued decline phase entering year 14 in the league. Instead, Lester sports a 2.10 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the season despite his lowest average fastball velocity (90.8 mph) in more than a decade and has been a huge draft day profit.

Still, now looks like a good time to try to cash out, as when you combine Lester’s declining fastball with career-highs in average exit velocity (88.7 mph, which is above league average of 86.1) and Hard Hit% (37.8, which is well above league average of 30.2), there’s a pretty strong case for some forthcoming regression in a major way. Lester’s FIP is actually higher this season (4.19) than last (4.10), when his ERA was more than two runs worse, making him a sell-high candidate if possible.

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Giancarlo Stanton hit a walk-off homer, giving Aroldis Chapman the win. Chapman hasn’t allowed a run in June, and his ERA now sits at 1.10 on the season. His velocity is a bit down by his standards, but he’s yet to allow a home run this year, and Chapman’s 18.4 SwStr% is actually above his career mark. He’s on pace to rack up seven wins and 48 saves in a career-high 75 innings.

Mike Moustakas hit his 14th homer of the year, but he’s still recorded just one multi-hit game this month, as he entered Wednesday batting .203/.284/.305 in June. With Kelvin Herrera shipped out of town, expect Kansas City to deal Moustakas next. Getting out of Kauffman Stadium, which has suppressed home runs by 20 percent over the past three seasons (only AT&T Park is more extreme over that span), and arguably MLB’s worst lineup will help boost Moustakas’ already strong value. He’s retained last year’s increased launch angle approach in 2018.

Odubel Herrera homered for the fourth straight game, giving him five long balls over the past six contests. He was hitting just .170/.204/.191 over 47 at bats in June before the homer binge, so hopefully Herrera wasn’t on your fantasy bench during his recent hot stretch. He continues to hit third and benefit from a home park that boosts homers for lefties like few others. Herrera is two home runs shy of last year’s total in 255 fewer at bats.

Frankie Montas picked up his fourth win over his first five starts of the year and now sports a 2.41 ERA on the season. But that’s accompanied by an underwhelming 21:8 K:BB ratio (with a 6.5 SwStr%) over 33.2 innings, and he recorded a 4.81 FIP over nine starts in Triple-A earlier this season, so he’s not an especially intriguing fantasy add in anything but deep leagues.

Closer Talk: Sam Dyson allowed four hits and two runs Wednesday and was pulled from San Francisco’s save opportunity, as Reyes Moronta recorded the first save of his career. Dyson likely remains the favorite to close for the Giants with Hunter Strickland out 6-8 weeks, but with Mark Melancon and Tony Watson viable alternatives, his leash isn’t long…Adam Morgan recorded the final two outs of the Phillies’ 4-3 win, as the team will continue to employ a true committee in the ninth…Kevin McCarthy pitched a scoreless ninth for the Royals (who were down 3-1) and is still the best guess to get first crack at closing in KC with Kelvin Herrera traded. McCarthy is available in more than 90 percent of Yahoo leagues…The Cubs didn’t have a save situation during a 4-0 win, but Pedro Strop, who owns a 1.76 ERA and 0.98 WHIP and should close while Brandon Morrow is on the DL, is still available in 85 percent of leagues…Jake Diekman picked up a save but can be ignored in fantasy leagues, as Texas closer Keone Kela wasn’t used after pitching on three of the past four days.

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