Fantasy Baseball Week Ahead: Two-start pitcher guide

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Top prospects don’t always match the hype, but Toronto right-hander has Alek Manoah has managed to reach expectations and then some early in his rookie season.

The former first-round pick has been dominant since his promotion in late May, with a 2.90 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 11.6 K/9 in 40.1 innings over eight starts. He’s missed more bats as he’s gained experienced, with 19 strikeouts in 10.2 innings over his last two outings.

Manoah’s performance is so remarkable given that he had only nine pro starts before his promotion, as a 2019 draftee. He’s shown off two plus-plus pitches thus far, as his four-seam fastball and slider have both produced a 33%-plus whiff rate, displaying the elite strikeout ability he produced in college at West Virginia and briefly in the minors.

What should make fantasy managers who have rostered Manoah even more delighted is that he likely has plenty of juice left in his arm for 2021. Manoah threw only 18 innings before his promotion, so the concern that the Blue Jays will shut him down early seems minimal, especially on a team with playoff aspirations. Manoah could realistically be a top 20 starting pitcher after the break if he’s able to more consistently keep the ball in the park.

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JUNE 19: Alek Manoah #6 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Rookie pitcher Alek Manoah has delivered on the hype since being called up by the Blue Jays. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

-Unlike Manoah, there are some workload concerns for Detroit lefty Tarik Skubal. He has been outstanding since May with a 3.78 ERA and 11.8 K/9, but Skubal also stands at 88.2 innings. The 24-year-old has never thrown more than 122.2 innings in a season as a pro, and the Tigers won’t have much to play for down the stretch, currently 11 games below .500. Skubal is a fine option for now, much like fellow 24-year-old teammate Casey Mize, but fantasy managers should plan for other options for at least some of September.

-Logan Webb quietly returned from a shoulder injury before the break to throw three nearly perfect innings against the Nats, only giving up one hit and fanning four batters. It was his first start since May 29 and capped off a first half in which Webb had a 3.63 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and dominant 10.0 K/9. Webb has the second highest groundball-to-flyball ratio above starters at 3.38, trailing only Framber Valdez, which should leave fantasy managers even more optimistic he can continue to be effective. Webb is lined up for a two-start week, yet he was even dropped in some leagues as fantasy managers have been in a roster crunch due to the bevy of MLB injuries. We shouldn’t underestimate how big of an addition Webb could be for the Giants and fantasy rosters down the stretch.

-With the All-Star Game in the books, all eyes are on the July 30 trade deadline. The Braves already made a splash by acquiring Joc Pederson from the Cubs yesterday, and there should be plenty other prominent names moved before the end of the month. When scouring your waiver wire for useful additions, it makes sense at this point to prepare for moves by stashing top prospects on the cheap. Even if you were too late for Jarren Duran, names like Jo Adell (OF), Shane Baz (SP), Seth Beer (1B), Edward Cabrera (SP), Luis Garcia (2B), Josiah Gray (SP), Josh Lowe (OF), Joe Ryan (SP), and Drew Waters (OF) are still very much worth your attention and a possible stash sooner than later.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, July 16, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Lance Lynn: MIN, @MIL

Luis Garcia: CLE, TEX

Shohei Ohtani: @OAK, @MIN

Kyle Gibson: @DET, @HOU

Decent Plays

Jose Berrios: @CHW, LAA

Alek Manoah: BOS, @NYM

Shane McClanahan: BAL, @CLE

James Kaprielian: LAA, @SEA

Ryan Yarbrough: BAL, @CLE

Tarik Skubal: TEX, @KC

Dane Dunning: @DET, @HOU

Michael Pineda: @CHW, LAA

Jameson Taillon: PHI, @BOS

Triston McKenzie: @HOU, TB

At Your Own Risk

Garrett Richards: @TOR, NYY

Marco Gonzales: @COL, OAK

Spenser Watkins: @TB, WAS

J.C. Mejia: @HOU, TB

National League

Strong Plays

Yu Darvish: @ATL, @MIA

Trevor Rogers: @WAS, SD

Clayton Kershaw: SF, COL

Wade Miley: NYM, STL

Decent Plays

Taijuan Walker: @CIN, TOR

Zac Gallen: PIT, @CHC

Aaron Nola: @NYY, ATL

Alex Wood: @LAD, PIT

Tony Gonsolin: SF, COL

Logan Webb: @LAD, PIT

Caleb Smith: PIT, @CHC

Alec Mills: @STL, ARI

Kyle Muller: SD, @PHI

At Your Own Risk

Johan Oviedo: CHC, @CIN

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Wednesday, July 21: Michael Wacha vs. BAL

Right-handed pitchers have mowed down the O’s this season. Baltimore has a .663 OPS, second worst in MLB, and Wacha has been excellent in two of his last three starts.

Wednesday, July 21: Jordan Lyles @ DET

The Tigers remain in the bottom half of the league against right-handers with a .692 OPS, while Lyles has quietly been solid since May 28, a period spanning eight starts. He has a 3.69 ERA and 1.34 WHIP over that time, allowing more than three runs only once.

Thursday, July 22: Josh Fleming @ CLE

Cleveland hasn’t hit lefties this season, with a .688 OPS (sixth worst). Fleming hasn’t been allowed to go deep into games lately, but he’s a very worth play in this matchup.

National League

Wednesday, July 21: Erick Fedde vs. MIA

Fedde doesn’t scare anyone, but he’s a nice play in his first matchup of the year against the Marlins. Miami has a .676 OPS against right-handers, sixth worst in MLB.

Thursday, July 22: Adbert Alzolay @ STL

Alzolay has had a terrible time keeping the ball in the park, but he has a favorable matchup against the Cards. St. Louis has a .675 OPS against right-handers, and Alzolay was very effective in his first outing against them on May 22.

Friday, July 23: Johnny Cueto vs. PIT

Cueto has the perfect matchup next week, facing the worst lineup in MLB (.669 OPS) at home. He’s been far better in San Francisco this season, with a 3.21 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and miniscule 1.1 BB/9. 

Total Games

American League

5: KC

6: BAL, HOU, LAA, NYY, OAK, SEA, TOR

7: BOS, CLE, CHW, DET, TB, TEX

8: MIN

National League

5: COL, MIL

6: ARI, CIN, NYM, PHI, PIT, WAS

7: ATL, CHC, LAD, MIA, SD, SF, STL 

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Ronald Acuna: Out for the season (knee)

Ian Anderson: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Alec Bohm: Status unknown (COVID-19)

Asdrubal Cabrera: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Yan Gomes: Placed on IL (oblique)

Zack Greinke: Status unknown (shoulder)

Odubel Herrera: Placed on IL (ankle)

Aaron Judge: Status unknown (COVID-19)

Aaron Nola: Status unknown (COVID-19)

Gio Urshela: Status unknown (COVID-19)

Ryan Weathers: Placed on IL (foot)