Astro-nomical Pitcher

·7 min read



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Just some words of appreciation for Houston lefty Framber Valdez.

Valdez has rarely been mentioned in the AL Cy Young conversation this season, and isn't even considered the ace of his own team, lining up behind Justin Verlander. Yet, he became the first left-hander in MLB history to have a streak of 22 quality starts in a row with his excellent outing at Texas on Tuesday.

To put his streak in perspective, Valdez's last non-quality start was on April 19. He currently ranks tied for fourth in wins (14), seventh in innings (164), tied for 17th in strikeouts (150), ninth in ERA (2.63), 23rd in WHIP (1.12), and first in groundball rate (67%) among qualified MLB starting pitchers. That formula has made him a top 15 starting pitcher for fantasy managers, with a chance to move up the list before the end of the year with multiple pitcher injuries ahead of him.

We knew Valdez could keep the ball down with the best of them before this season started, but few envisioned success to the degree that we've seen. However, his incredible sinker and the benefits of the infield shift make Valdez the perfect pitcher for the current MLB era.

As for what we can expect from Valdez beyond 2022, that's very much up in the air with discussion of the league barring the shift. Much of the debate is how pull hitters will be positively impacted if teams aren't able to move their infields to one side, but extreme groundball pitchers like Valdez will certainly be allowing far more hits if the rules change, as well. Perhaps Statcast and spray charts can even tell us definitively what the difference would have been on the 297 groundballs that he's provoked this season.

By the end of next week, Valdez has a chance to match Jacob deGrom's record of 24 straight quality outings, and has a good shot with home starts against the Angels and Rangers. No matter where the streak finishes, it's a great time to admire Valdez's own flavor of dominance.

-Finally, there's reason to believe Lance Lynn has turned a corner. He showed extreme inconsistency in his first month back from knee surgery, but Lynn shined for fantasy managers in August. He finished the month with a 2.45 ERA, posting an incredible 42/3 K/BB in 36.2 innings. Home runs continue to be an issue for Lynn, but almost every long ball over the last month has been a solo shot. He gets the benefit of large ballparks in Seattle and Oakland on the road next week.

-For the second time this season, Jack Flaherty is set to return from a shoulder injury. It's been a terribly frustrating season for Flaherty, making only three MLB starts thus far, but he could be a much-needed ace for the Cardinals as they approach the playoffs. We shouldn't forget just how dominant he's been over the last four seasons with a 3.21 ERA and 10.6 K/9, and the team has been committed to getting Flaherty fully stretched out this time, as he threw 6.2 innings and 102 pitches for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday. Flaherty is sitting on the waiver wire in many leagues, but he's an obvious pickup for the stretch run.

-Full Coors Field weeks are always a feast for Rockies hitters. Unfortunately, there are only two remaining in 2022, with the first one starting on Monday. It's a great opportunity to get your Rockies in your lineup, as well as hitters from the Brewers and Diamondbacks.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, September 2, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Gerrit Cole: MIN, TB

Kevin Gausman: @BAL, @TEX

Framber Valdez: TEX, LAA

Triston McKenzie: @KC, @MIN

Michael Wacha: @TB, @BAL

Decent Plays

Martín Pérez: @HOU, TOR

Johnny Cueto: @SEA, @OAK

Lance Lynn: @SEA, @OAK

Joe Ryan: @NYY, CLE

Jameson Taillon: MIN, TB

Jordan Lyles: TOR, BOS

Tyler Alexander: @LAA, @KC

Marco Gonzales: CHW, ATL

Luis Patino: BOS, @NYY

At Your Own Risk

Kris Bubic: CLE, DET

Chris Archer: @NYY, CLE

National League

Strong Plays

Zack Wheeler: MIA, WAS

Logan Webb: @LAD, @CHC

Decent Plays

Justin Steele: CIN, SF

Taijuan Walker: @PIT, @MIA

Blake Snell: ARI, LAD

Brandon Woodruff: @COL, CIN

Freddy Peralta: @COL, CIN

Jesus Luzardo: @PHI, NYM

José Quintana: WAS, @PIT

Jack Flaherty: WAS, @PIT

At Your Own Risk

Alex Wood: @LAD, @CHC

Justin Dunn: @CHC, @MIL

Cory Abbott: @STL, @PHI

Tommy Henry: @SD, @COL

Ryan Feltner: MIL, ARI

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Streamer City

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

American League

Monday, September 5: Jose Suarez vs. DET

Suarez has garnered fantasy consideration over his last six starts with a 2.12 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 32/8 K/BB in 34 innings. The Tigers could be his easiest matchup in that stretch, with a sub-.700 OPS against left-handers.

Tuesday, September 6: Rich Hill @ TB

The 42-year-old Hill was great against the Rays last week, tossing seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. It helps that their lineup has a .695 OPS against left-handers, and he will get a chance at an encore next week.

Wednesday, September 7: Daniel Lynch vs. CLE

Lynch has shown the inconsistency of a young pitcher this season, though he's consistently kept his team in games with four or fewer earned runs in 11 consecutive starts. The Guardians have been the worst in the AL vs. southpaws with a .631 OPS.

National League

Monday, September 5: Ryan Pepiot vs. SF

LA has moved to a six-man rotation in spite of Tony Gonsolin's absence, giving Pepiot more opportunities. He's been effective even with sub-par control, and faces a Giants lineup with a .685 OPS against right-handers.

Wednesday, September 7: Javier Assad vs. CIN

He's done it with a bit of smoke-and-mirrors, but Assad has yet to allow a run in two starts. The odds of him prolonging that streak increase against a punchless Reds lineup that has a .679 OPS vs. right-handers and is without multiple impact bats.

Friday, September 9: Nick Lodolo @ MIL

Left-handers continue to be Milwaukee's kryptonite, as the team has a poor .662 OPS. Things have started to come together for Lodolo over his last seven starts, with a 3.32 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 44 strikeouts in 40.2 innings.

Total Games

American League

6: BOS, CLE, DET, HOU, KC, LAA, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX

7: BAL, CHW, MIN, NYY, TOR

National League

5: ATL

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIA, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD

7: STL, WAS

8: MIL, SF

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.

Yordan Alvarez: Day-to-day (hand)

Joey Bart: Placed on IL (concussion)

Brett Baty: Placed on IL (thumb)

Jon Berti: Day-to-day (hip)

Nick Castellanos: Day-to-day (toe)

Cade Cavalli: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Aroldis Chapman: Placed on IL (leg)

Willson Contreras: Day-to-day (ankle)

Tony Gonsolin: Placed on IL (forearm)

Brusdar Graterol: Placed on IL (elbow)

Zach Jackson: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Eloy Jimenez: Day-to-day (leg)

Brandon Lowe: Placed on IL (elbow)

Martin Maldonado: Day-to-day (hand)

Shane McClanahan: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Dylan Moore: Placed on IL (oblique)

Anthony Rizzo: Day-to-day (back)

Luis Robert: Day-to-day (wrist)

Miguel Rojas: Day-to-day (wrist)

Austin Slater: Day-to-day (finger)

Jameson Taillon: Day-to-day (forearm)

Justin Verlander: Placed on IL (calf)