The Fantasy Week Ahead: You Don't Know Jack

Seth Trachtman
Rotoworld

Think it’s too late to turn your season around? Jack Flaherty is an inspirational example that it’s never too late.

One of baseball’s breakout young pitchers last season, Flaherty had a 4.90 ERA in 17 starts through July 2. After earning an average draft position of 42.61 in the NFBC Main Event, Flaherty was looking like a massive bust.

Fast forward a little over one month. Flaherty’s ERA is down to 3.72, and over his last six starts he has a 0.94 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and 49/10 K/BB in 38.1 innings. Since the streak started on July 7, only Hyun-Jin Ryu has a lower ERA.

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Among the changes during his successful recent streak are a slight increase in velocity and greater slider usage. Both of those factors show in his strikeouts, and the extreme flyball pitcher has also been more successful keeping the ball in the park after having trouble earlier in the season.

Fantasy owners who stuck out Flaherty’s slow start are now being rewarded, and the 23-year-old has only gotten better as the calendar flipped to August, with two consecutive scoreless starts against elite NL opponents in the Cubs and Dodgers.

Flaherty’s next two scheduled starts look significantly easier vs. the Royals and Reds, and with nearly two months remaining, he has a good chance to reach those preseason expectations.

-If you’re looking for the Shane Bieber of 2020, Brendan McKay is an excellent candidate. The two-way star has been inconsistent early in his MLB career with a 4.55 ERA in five starts due to his home run issues, but the lefty has a Bieber-like 33/3 K/BB in 29.2 innings. Tremendous command was his calling card as a pitcher in the minors, with a 6.06 K/BB ratio in three minor league seasons. That’s not quite on a Bieber level, as the Indians right-hander had an unbelievable 13.68 K/BB ratio in the minors, but what McKay is doing in a limited sample size of major league inning shows huge upside. McKay hasn’t been an innings eater since arriving to the majors, but he’s allowed more than three earned runs in only one of his six starts.

-Were the trade rumors bothering Zack Wheeler? He’s been lights out since the trade deadline, throwing consecutive scoreless atarts with only one walk in 15 innings. His ERA is still 4.20, but Wheeler’s peripherals look more like an ace with a 9.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and resulting 3.44 FIP. Wheeler has continued to show an uptick in velocity this season, averaging nearly 97 mph on his fastball, ranking behind only Noah Syndergaard, Gerrit Cole, and Jacob deGrom in average velocity among starters this season. He’s now ensuring a mammoth offseason payday as a pending free agent.

-Martin Perez got off to a very nice start for the Twins but has worn down recently. The lefty’s ERA increased by more than one run since the start of June, and he’s allowed 19 earned runs in 21 innings over his last four starts. There’s evidence that he could be tired or nursing an injury with his recent drop in velocity, down about one mph from what we saw earlier in the season. It looks past time to drop him in mixed leagues, with a real possibility Perez is shifted to the bullpen soon when Michael Pineda comes off the IL given how well Devin Smeltzer has pitched.

-There are only three full weeks of Coors Field games remaining this season, with the first coming next week. The new baseball has really flown at Coors, with an average of 13.5 runs per game, three more runs per game than 2018. As usual, be sure to have your Rockies hitters in your lineup.

Going Twice…

Notes: Probable pitchers as of Friday, August 9, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Gerrit Cole: @CHW, @OAK
Zack Greinke: @CHW, @OAK
Lance Lynn: @TOR, MIN

Decent Plays

Mike Clevinger: BOS, @NYY
James Paxton: BAL, CLE
Domingo German: BAL, CLE
Brendan McKay: @SD, DET
Eduardo Rodriguez: @CLE, BAL
Zach Plesac: BOS, @NYY
Brett Anderson: @SF, HOU

At Your Own Risk

Yusei Kikuchi: @DET, @TOR
Ariel Jurado: @TOR, MIN
Martin Perez: @MIL, @TEX
Dylan Cease: HOU, @LAA
Dillon Peters: PIT, CHW
Jose Suarez: PIT, CHW
Ivan Nova: HOU, @LAA
Wilmer Font: TEX, SEA
Drew VerHagen: SEA, @TB

Tom Eshelman: @NYY, @BOS

 

National League

Strong Plays

Clayton Kershaw: @MIA, @ATL
Jack Flaherty: @KC, @CIN
Zack Wheeler: @ATL, @KC

Decent Plays

Max Fried: NYM, LAD
Anthony DeSclafani: @WAS, STL
Jose Quintana: @PHI, @PIT
Chase Anderson: MIN, @WAS
Joey Lucchesi: TB, @PHI
Alex Wood: @WAS, STL
Zac Gallen: @COL, SF
Jon Gray: ARI, MIA
Jason Vargas: CHC, SD

At Your Own Risk

Erick Fedde: CIN, MIL
Trevor Williams: @LAA, CHC
Merrill Kelly: @COL, SF
Jordan Yamamoto: LAD, @COL
Peter Lambert: ARI, MIA

 

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, August 14: Kolby Allard @ TOR

Allard is making his season debut today at Milwaukee, before a much easier matchup in his second outing at Toronto. The Jays have the seventh worst OPS vs. lefties, and Allard has proven highly capable during his minor league career with a 3.37 ERA and sub-3.0 BB/9.

Thursday, August 15: Aaron Sanchez @ OAK

Has Houston already fixed Sanchez? He threw six no-hit innings in his first outing, with a season-high 30 percent curveballs. Sanchez is an interesting addition with his still outstanding stuff, and will look to keep the momentum going at Oakland next week.

Thursday, August 15: Devin Smeltzer @ TEX

With the aforementioned Martin Perez pitching poorly, Smeltzer has a shot to solidify a rotation spot. The crafty lefty looks well worth an add with an ERA well below 3.00 in the minors and majors this season, including a sub-2.0 BB/9.

 

National League

Tuesday, August 14: Joe Ross vs. CIN

The overall numbers aren’t pretty, but Ross is starting to string together some success while showing the best velocity of his career. He’s posted consecutive scoreless starts and gets a weak Reds lineup that ranks 20th in OPS vs. right-handers.

Friday, August 16: Mike Leake vs. SF

Leake’s first start with Arizona wasn’t great, but he gets a much more favorable opponent in his second outing. The Giants have a .710 OPS against right-handers, fourth worst in MLB.

Friday, August 16: Vince Velasquez vs. SD

Velasquez has been killed by the long ball this season, but he’s allowed just one homer over his last three outings. During that time, he’s allowed a total of four runs in 17.2 innings. He has another opportunity to excel against a Padres lineup that ranks in the bottom 10 in OPS vs. right-handers.

 

Total Games

American League

5: KC

6: BOS, DET, MIN, OAK, SEA, TB, TOR

7: BAL, CLE, CHW, HOU, LAA, TEX

8: NYY

National League

5: MIL

6: ATL, CHC, COL, LAD, MIA, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, SF, STL, WAS

7: ARI, 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.

Shaun Anderson: Placed on IL (finger)
Tim Beckham: Suspended 80 games (PEDs)
Byron Buxton: Out at least two weeks (shoulder)
Jeimer Candelario: Placed on IL (thumb)
Griffin Canning: Placed on IL (elbow)
Robinson Cano: Out indefinitely (hamstring)
Yonny Chirinos: Out at least four weeks (finger)
Willson Contreras: Out at least four weeks (hamstring)
Nelson Cruz: Day-to-day (wrist)
David Dahl: Placed on IL (ankle)
Zach Davies: Placed on IL (back)
Derek Dietrich: Placed on IL (knee)
Steven Duggar: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Danny Duffy: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Sam Dyson: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Edwin Encarnacion: Out 3-5 weeks (wrist)
Lourdes Gurriel: Status uncertain (quad)
Aaron Hicks: Placed on IL (elbow)
JaCoby Jones: Day-to-day (wrist)
Howie Kendrick: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Craig Kimbrel: Placed on IL (knee)
Jordan Luplow: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Tyler O’Neill: Placed on IL (hand)
Felix Pena: Out for the season (knee)
A.J. Pollock: Day-to-day (groin)
Michael Pineda: Placed on IL (triceps)
David Price: Placed on IL (wrist)
Cesar Puello: Placed on IL (hip)
Anthony Rendon: Day-to-day (toe)
Miguel Rojas: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Austin Riley: Placed on IL (knee)
Danny Salazar: Placed on IL (groin)
Andrelton Simmons: Out at least two weeks (ankle)

D.J. Stewart: Placed on IL (concussion)
Gleyber Torres: Day-to-day (core)
Alex Verdugo: Placed on IL (oblque)
Neil Walker: Placed on IL (finger)
Christian Yelich: Day-to-day (back)
Jordan Zimmermann: Placed on IL (neck)

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