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He’s allowed just one run in May and owns a 1.52 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP with a ridiculous 59:4 K:BB ratio over 59.1 innings this season. Ryu’s obviously not quite this good, but he did finish with a 1.97 ERA last year, and it doesn’t matter that his fastball isn’t overpowering with one of the best changeups in baseball. Ryu’s SwStr% has improved every season he’s been in the league, and his current 25.6 K-BB% ranks top-10 among starters. The Dodgers provide strong run support and defense, and Ryu also benefits from a pitcher’s park and the NL West. He’s certainly an injury risk (he’s reached 155.0 innings just once in his career back in 2013), but nearly 60 innings of those ratios (0.74 WHIP!) and six wins have been about as valuable as any fantasy player so far in 2019. Ryu is a legit Cy Young contender if health cooperates.
Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds
After holding a Dodgers offense that sports an NL-best 114 wRC+ scoreless over six innings over the weekend, Mahle now has a 3.51 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP with a 54:11 K:BB ratio on the year. The numbers are even more impressive considering his latest outing stopped a span of six straight on the road, and it’s not often a pitcher who ranks in the top-20 in K-BB% is owned in just 15% of Yahoo leagues like Mahle is right now. His 20.7% (K-BB) mark is just a tick behind teammate Luis Castillo and ahead of Noah Syndergaard and Jose Berrios. Drafted straight out of high school and still just 24 years old, Mahle has clear breakout potential, although beware he gets another tough matchup in Chicago against the Cubs next time out.
Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
He’s batting just .176 (with eight strikeouts over 17 at bats) but most importantly has returned from his heel injury and homered over the weekend. Don’t forget Sano showed up in shape after a reportedly strong offseason before the injury, and this is someone who posted a 149 wRC+ as a 22-year-old rookie. He’s one season removed from ranking in the top 1% in the league in exit velocity (92.3 mph), so while batting average could be volatile, there’s big power upside here. Sano is hitting toward the bottom of Minnesota’s order, but it’s a loaded Twins lineup that ranks second only to the Astros in wRC+ this season, which will help his counting stats.
Frankie Montas, Oakland A’s
He was one out shy of recording a complete game during his last outing but settled for a 10:0 K:BB performance that lowered his season ERA to 2.67 and his WHIP to 1.13. Montas throws hard (96.6 mph) and has seen a huge spike in K/9 this season (8.7) compared to last (5.9), and his 2.91 FIP ranks top-10 among starters. He looks like a waiver wire gem who’s here to stay.
He’s coming off a dominant shutout in which he recorded 15 strikeouts without a walk, and he now owns a 3.22 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP on the year, which is pretty remarkable while allowing 10 homers over 58.2 innings. Bieber is going to be homer-prone since he’s always around the plate, but he’s been a little unlucky in that department (16.7 HR/FB%), and frequently they are solo shots thanks to his strong control (5.5 BB%). Bieber pitched far better than his 4.55 ERA indicated last season, and fantasy owners who bet on that showing this season are getting rewarded in a big way. More wins should follow, as Cleveland’s putrid offense simply has to improve moving forward.
George Springer, Houston Astros
He left Sunday’s game with lower back stiffness, but that’s the only thing that can slow him these days. During his sixth year in the league, Springer is crushing his career-highs in batting average (.313), OBP (.396), SLG (.654), exit velocity (91.9 mph) and Hard Hit% (55.0), the latter of which is in the top 2% of the league. He hasn’t sacrificed any plate discipline for it either, as Springer is actually sporting the lowest chase rate of his career, so he’s been absolutely locked in at the plate. Also running a bit more than in recent years while hitting atop baseball’s most loaded lineup, Springer would have an argument as a first-round pick in fantasy drafts held today, assuming the recent injury is as minor as expected.
Hector Neris, Philadelphia Phillies
A complete afterthought during drafts with David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez ahead of him on the closer’s depth chart, Neris picked up two more saves over the weekend and hasn’t allowed a run in eight straight appearances since April 25. He posted a 5.10 ERA last season, but that came with 76 strikeouts over 47.2 innings, and this year he owns a 1.86 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP with a dominant 18.4 SwStr% that ranks top-10 among relievers. Neris was held out of a save opportunity Sunday after throwing three innings the previous two days, but Dominguez continues to struggle (1.58 WHIP), and Robertson is shut down for weeks with an ominous sounding elbow injury, so Neris suddenly looks like a top-10 fantasy closer for the division-leading Phillies.
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
It certainly helps Ramirez has stolen 12 bases already, as he’s tied for third in the scarce category, saving him from being a total bust. But his .189/.289/.296 line is downright ugly, and it becomes more worrisome considering he batted just .218 after the All-Star break last season. Ramirez was a first-round fantasy pick, but he’s somehow produced a negative WAR (-0.2) despite average defense and plus baserunning. His exit velocity is right in line with his career, but his K% is his highest ever, and his Hard Hit% (29.8) is below league average (32.4). It’s easy to chalk Ramirez’s .204 BABIP as bad luck (only six hitters are worse), but he’s now batting .200 over his last 379 at bats, so the sample of this slump is growing.
Daniel Murphy, Colorado Rockies
He’s batting just .171/.244/.329 on the year and continues to find himself frequently on the bench while still recovering from an avulsion fracture to his left index finger that’s still healing and requires him to play with a brace. He may have returned from the IL, but fantasy owners would have preferred this version had just stayed on it. Murphy’s exit velocity (85.2 mph) is easily a career low, and with Brendan Rodgers called up and Ryan McMahon homering twice Sunday, Murphy could find himself on the bench even more until his finger properly heals. He entered with a ton of upside during his first season in Coors Field, but it’s unfortunately been a lost one so far in 2019.
Ryan Brasier, Boston Red Sox
He’s issued four walks without a strikeout over his last three appearances, which have increasingly occurred during lower leverage situations (including pitching in Monday’s blowout). Brasier has pitched relatively well this season, but he hasn’t recorded a save since April 21, and his role as Boston’s closer appears tenuous at best. Matt Barnes has been terrific (1.42 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 35 Ks over 19.0 innings), and the team could still address the pen in a trade, so Brasier’s run of fantasy relevance is likely finished.
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