Week Ahead: Always Sonny

Seth Trachtman
Rotoworld

The last three seasons have been a Jekyll and Hyde act for Sonny Gray, but he’s making the Reds look brilliant after acquiring him from the Yankees and signing him to a four-year, $38 million extension before this season.

The Vanderbilt alum reunited with former college pitching coach Derek Johnson in Cincy, and the improvement has been glaring. He’s fanned more than one batter per inning for the first time since his rookie year, with an elite 10.6 K/9. The big change has been his increase in breaking balls, throwing his slider and curveball a combined 45% of the time, and both pitches have been dominant.

Of course, keeping the ball in the park in a year when that’s been especially difficult has also been a major factor. Gray’s 0.91 HR/9 is 10th best among qualified starting pitchers, with the help of his still strong 52% groundball rate.

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Gray finished third in the AL Cy Young vote in 2015 with Oakland when he posted a 2.73 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 208 innings. He’s likely to fall well short of that innings total this season, but Gray has a good chance to finish the season with a sub-3.00 ERA for the third time in his career.

Gray has been even more dominant since the break with a 1.65 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 11.4 K/9 in eight starts. He has a favorable two-start week coming up at Miami and St. Louis, and at this point he’s obviously a must-start in almost any locale, as well as a likely top 20 starter entering 2020.

-German Marquez owners are likely all too familiar with what have been salient home/road splits this year. The Rockies ace has a very respectable 3.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP on the road, but he’s been unplayable at Coors Field with a 6.26 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. It’s especially frustrating for a pitcher who was so good overall last season, even with his 4.81 ERA in 2018 at home. He currently leads the NL in innings, but also hits and earned runs allowed. The juiced ball has taken its toll on Marquez with a 1.5 HR/9, despite a brilliant 1.8 BB/9 and 5.00 K/BB ratio. He has two home starts in the upcoming week, unfortunately.

-Unlike German Marquez, Marlins ace Caleb Smith is able to take advantage of a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. The results of roomy Marlins Park showed last year, and continue into this season. Last year his home ERA was more than two runs lower than his road ERA (3.13/5.18) and while less drastic, the results have been similar this year (3.32/4.30). For a pitcher who is extremely home run prone, Marlins Park is just what the doctor. Smith has allowed only seven home runs in 57 innings at home, compared to 16 home runs in 60.2 innings on the road. He has a home start early next week, followed by a concerning visit to Washington late in the week.

-Minnesota has the easiest remaining schedule in MLB by a wide margin, and Michael Pineda is set to take full advantage with a two-start week vs. AL Central bottom feeders in the White Sox and Tigers. Despite a second half that has been disrupted by an IL stint, Pineda has pitched well since the break with a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in six starts, and he has a great opportunity to keep that run going.

 

Going Twice…

Notes: Probable pitchers as of Friday, August 23, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Justin Verlander: TB, @TOR
Lucas Giolito: MIN, @ATL
Charlie Morton: @HOU, CLE
Mike Minor: @LAA, SEA
Michael Pineda: @CHW, @DET

Decent Plays

Andrew Heaney: TEX, BOS
Brad Keller: OAK, BAL
Adam Plutko: @DET, @TB
Mike Fiers: @KC, @NYY
Mike Montgomery: OAK, BAL

At Your Own Risk

Homer Bailey: @KC, @NYY
Yusei Kikuchi: NYY, @TEX
J.A. Happ: @SEA, OAK
Daniel Norris: CLE, MIN
Rick Porcello: @COL, @LAA

 

National League

Strong Plays

Luis Castillo: @MIA, @STL
Sonny Gray: @MIA, @STL

Decent Plays

Caleb Smith: CIN, @WAS
Yu Darvish: @NYM, MIL
Dustin May: @SD, @ARI
Gio Gonzalez: STL, @CHC
Miles Mikolas: @MIL, CIN
Marcus Stroman: CHC, @PHI
Jason Vargas: PIT, NYM

At Your Own Risk

Adam Wainwright: @MIL, CIN
Eric Lauer: LAD, @SF
Julio Teheran: @COL, CHW
Sandy Alcantara: CIN, @WAS
Dereck Rodriguez: ARI, SD
Joe Musgrove: @PHI, @COL
German Marquez: BOS, PIT
Mike Leake: @SF, LAD
Steven Brault: @PHI, @COL
Tim Melville: ATL, PIT

 

Streamer City

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

American League

Saturday, August 31: Framber Valdez @ TOR
Valdez is back in the Astros rotation following Aaron Sanchez’s injury, and the groundball pitcher did nice work in his last four outings at Triple-A while he was away. Toronto has hit better lately, but they still have a .734 OPS vs. lefties, seventh worst.

Saturday, August 31: Martin Perez @ DET
Perez has gotten back on track lately, with consecutive strong outings. The Tigers lineup remains one of MLB’s weakest and has a .720 OPS against lefties overall.

Saturday, August 31: Brock Burke vs. SEA
Burke was impressive enough in his MLB debut to stick around, and has been consistently good overall this season with a 3.90 ERA in 13 minor league starts. Seattle has hit lefties overall this season (.782 OPS) but will likely still be without Domingo Santana next week.

National League

Wednesday, August 28: Anthony DeSclafani @ MIA
DeSclafani has continued to have long ball issues this season, but a visit to roomy Miami and a weak lineup (.656 OPS vs. RHP) should be a fine remedy.

Saturday, August 31: Michael Wacha vs CIN
Wacha isn’t for the faint of heart, but he’s been excellent in his last two starts, including a visit to Cincinnati. He gets another shot against the Reds this week, who are 19th in OPS against right-handers.

Saturday, August 31: Joe Ross vs. MIA
Ross continues to pitch well despite his early exit in his last start due to injury and gets the ultimate favorable matchup vs. Miami this week.

 

Total Games

American League

5: BAL, BOS, LAA, TOR
6: CLE, CHW, DET, HOU, MIN, NYY, TB, TEX
7: KC, OAK, SEA

National League

5: WAS
6: ARI, ATL, CHC, MIL, NYM, PHI, SF
7: COL, LAD, MIA, PIT, SD, STL
8: CIN

 

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 Rotoworld's Injury Page.

Brett Anderson: Day-to-day (blister)
Chris Archer: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Jake Arrieta: Out for the season (elbow)
Griffin Canning: Out for the season (elbow)
Carlos Correa: Placed on IL (back)
Aledmys Diaz: Placed on IL (head)
Sean Doolittle: Placed on IL (knee)
Kyle Freeland: Placed on IL (groin)
Jon Gray: Out for the season (foot)
Robert Gsellman: Out for the season (shoulder)
Elieser Hernandez: Day-to-day (blister)
Yoshihisa Hiraino: Placed on IL (elbow)
Ender Inciarte: Out indefinitely (hamstring)
Eloy Jimenez: Day-to-day (hip)
Ian Kinsler: Placed on IL (neck)
Richie Martin: Day-to-day (hand)
Nomar Mazara: Placed on IL (oblique)
Brian McCann: Placed on IL (knee)
Kristopher Negron: Placed on IL (neck)
Scott Oberg: Out for the season (arm)
Ryan Pressly: Out 4-6 weeks (knee)
Roman Quinn: Placed on IL (groin)
Eddie Rosario: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Chris Sale: Out for the season (elbow)
Aaron Sanchez: Placed on IL (pectoral)
Pablo Sandoval: Could miss rest of season (elbow)
Danny Santana: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Domingo Santana: Placed on IL (elbow)
Fernando Tatis Jr.: Out for the season (back)
Julio Urias: Out 15 games (suspension)
Joey Votto: Placed on IL (back)
Jesse Winker: Placed on IL (back)

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