Some supposed sleepers take time to pan out during the regular season. Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery looks like he’s in that category.
The lefty is filling in for the injured Kyle Hendricks, and he’s been relatively effective through two starts with four earned runs allowed in nine innings. The Cubs worked him up to 88 pitches in his last start, in which he allowed two earned runs in five innings at the Mets.
Before going much further, it’s worth recalling why Montgomery was considered a 2017 sleeper by so many prognosticators. He had an elite 58 percent groundball rate last season in front of baseball’s best defense, and also showed a nearly three mph velocity increase. Montgomery also got a short run as a starter, posting a 3.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and nearly one strikeout per inning in seven outings.
What’s changed this season? Montgomery has a similarly terrific groundball rate in front of one of the league’s best defenses, and while his velocity isn’t quite what it was last year, his fastball is still about two mph above where it was in 2015. The result through 45.2 innings has been only two home runs allowed and a .268 BABIP.
Command has been an issue for Montgomery, however, with an ugly 1.46 K/BB ratio, and that’s certainly worth watching. However, his groundball rate could be enough to overcome his recent inability to throw strikes, at least to the benefit of fantasy owners deeper leagues.
Montgomery has very favorable matchups in the coming week against San Diego and Miami, and he’s certainly worth a long look against those opponents.
-Speaking of groundball pitchers, Padres lefty Clayton Richard continues to be relatively effective for the Padres, coming one out away from a complete game against the Reds on Tuesday. His fastball only averages about 90 mph, but Richard’s 58 percent groundball rate ranks fifth among qualifying starters this season. His 4.30 ERA and 1.42 WHIP aren’t going to get mixed league owners excited, but Richard could be a fill-in with a two-start week ahead.
-Pitcher streamers and DFS players like to take advantage of home/road splits. Mariners lefty Ariel Miranda has some of the starkest contrast in his splits this season, with a 6.56 ERA on the road and 2.14 ERA at Safeco Field. Not surprisingly, it all comes back to home runs allowed for the extreme flyball pitcher, who has allowed only three long balls at home but 11 on the road. That was one of the reasons why Baltimore traded him last season, knowing how difficult it would be for Miranda to pitch regularly at Camden Yards. Miranda is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, but he has a pair of home starts next week.
-Seattle has had quite the issues with injuries to their rotation, necessitating an opportunity for minor league journeyman Sam Gaviglio. Despite Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma nearing their returns, Gaviglio has done more than enough to keep his rotation spot with a 3.41 ERA in 34.1 innings. The soft-tossing right-hander has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, but he’s walked only eight batters after a career 2.4 BB/9 in the minors. The lack of strikeouts and home run issues should prevent fantasy owners from seeing Gaviglio as a long-term answer, but he could help in his forthcoming two-start week.
-It shouldn’t be surprising that Chris Tillman’s velocity has struggled to return after missing April with a shoulder problem. Still, his 8.07 ERA through eight starts is eye-popping, and has some wondering if he’s actually healthy. Despite allowing five earned runs in 5.1 innings against the White Sox on Thursday, there were some very good signs. Tillman’s velocity rebounded, and he had 6/1 K/BB, easily his best ratio this season. Worth noting is that Tillman allowed four of the five runs in the sixth inning, prior to being removed. While it’s dangerous to judge from one start, we’ve been grasping at straws to find encouraging signs for Tillman this season, and he finally has shown something. That said, he’s still a dangerous two-start pitcher in the upcoming week.
-Cleveland continues to roll with Josh Tomlin, who leads the AL with eight losses and has an atrocious 5.83 ERA. Tomlin has been useful for fantasy owners in short doses in the past, and there’s still reason to believe he can help again this year. Frankly, nothing has changed. Tomlin has a league-best 0.8 BB/9, walking only six batters in 71 innings. He’s also still had issues keeping the ball in the park, with 11 home runs allowed, but Tomlin’s ERA metrics show imminent improvement. He has a 4.05 FIP, his best since 2014, and a 4.23 SIERA that nearly matches last season. Tomlin’s BABIP is .348, sixth worst in baseball, but at some point his luck is bound to change. No, he’s not a recommended two-start pitcher next week, but Tomlin could be worth stashing.
Corey Kluber: @BAL, MIN
Michael Pineda: LAA, TEX
Ervin Santana: CHW, @CLE
Jake Odorizzi: CIN, BAL
Sonny Gray: HOU, @CHW
Dylan Bundy: CLE, @TB
Brad Peacock: @OAK, @SEA
Justin Verlander: @SEA, @SD
Marco Estrada: @TEX, @KC
Francisco Liriano: @TEX, @KC
Jason Hammel: BOS, TOR
Ariel Miranda: DET, HOU
Sam Gaviglio: DET, HOU
At Your Own Risk
Andrew Cashner: TOR, @NYY
Jordan Zimmermann: @SEA, @SD
Josh Tomlin: @BAL, MIN
Derek Holland: @MIN, OAK
Chris Tillman: CLE, @TB
Austin Bibens-Dirkx: TOR, @NYY
Hector Velazquez: @KC, LAA
Clayton Kershaw: NYM, COL
Jon Lester: SD, @MIA
Zack Greinke: @COL, PHI
Johnny Cueto: @ATL, NYM
Brandon McCarthy: NYM, COL
Mike Montgomery: SD, @MIA
Gerrit Cole: @MIL, @STL
Mike Leake: @PHI, PIT
Julio Teheran: SF, MIL
Tanner Roark: @MIA, CIN
Clayton Richard: @CHC, DET
Matt Garza: PIT, @ATL
Zach Davies: PIT, @ATL
Matt Moore: @ATL, NYM
At Your Own Risk
Zack Wheeler: @LAD, @SF
Chad Kuhl: @MIL, @STL
Robert Gsellman: @LAD, @SF
Edinson Volquez: WAS, CHC
Scott Feldman: @TB, @WAS
German Marquez: ARI, @LAD
Jeremy Hellickson: STL, @ARI
R.A. Dickey: SF, MIL
Vance Worley: WAS, CHC
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Tuesday, June 20: Matt Strahm vs. BOS
Obviously, a matchup for Strahm against the team with the 10th best OPS vs. lefties isn’t great. This is more a call for fantasy owners to invest in Strahm, who was a popular sleeper coming into the season and finally has a rotation spot. He allowed one unearned run in his first start on Thursday.
Wednesday, June 21: Mike Fiers @ OAK
Fiers has allowed a total of four earned runs over his last three starts. Not coincidentally, he also hasn’t allowed a home run over that time. He has another favorable matchup this week at Oakland.
Friday, June 23: Jharel Cotton @ CHW
Cotton hasn’t been especially effective since returning to Oakland’s rotation in late May, as he tries to find his control. He still has a favorable matchup next week against the White Sox, who have a .702 OPS against right-handers, second worst in the AL.
Wednesday, June 21: Eddie Butler vs. SD
The peripherals aren’t exactly pretty, but Butler has remained effective with a 4.03 ERA in six starts. Opponents don’t get much easier than the Padres.
Friday, June 23: Zack Godley vs. PHI
The Phillies rank as the fourth worst team in baseball against right-handers (.700 OPS), while Godley has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start. If he’s still available in your league, I must ask why?
Friday, June 23: Seth Lugo @ SF
Lugo was very effective in his first start off the DL, allowing one run in seven innings against Atlanta. He gets an even easier opponent at San Francisco, with a league-worst .670 OPS against right-handers.
6: BOS, CHW, KC, LAA, MIN, NYY, TB
7: BAL, CLE, DET, HOU, OAK, SEA, TEX, TOR
6: ARI, CIN, COL, PHI, SD, STL, WAS
7: ATL, CHC, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PIT, SF
Here’s some injuries to prominent players over 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.
Matt Andriese: Out till August (hip)
Tim Beckham: Day-to-day (knee)
Asdrubal Cabrera: Placed on 10-day DL (thumb)
Ezequiel Carrera: Out till August (foot)
Zack Cozart: Day-to-day (quad)
Chris Davis: Placed on 10-day DL (oblique)
Michael Fulmer: Questionable for next start (shoulder)
Adonis Garcia: Out two months (finger)
Koda Glover: Out indefinitely (back)
Adrian Gonzalez: Out indefinitely (back)
Billy Hamilton: Day-to-day (thumb)
Matt Harvey: Out indefinitely (shoulder)
Cesar Hernandez: Out six weeks (oblique)
Brian Johnson: Placed on 10-day DL (shoulder)
Matt Kemp: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Jason Kipnis: Day-to-day (neck)
Lance McCullers: Hoping to return June 19 (back)
Eduardo Nunez: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Buster Posey: Day-to-day (ankle)
CC Sabathia: Out indefinitely (hamstring)
Matt Shoemaker: Questionable for next start (arm)
Seth Smith: Day-to-day (back)
Andrew Triggs: Out indefinitely (hip)
Neil Walker: Out indefinitely (hamstring)
Kolten Wong: Placed on 10-day DL (triceps)