Fantasy Baseball Week Ahead: Julio Urias moving into elite territory

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Fantasy Baseball Week Ahead: Julio Urias moving into elite territory
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The Dodgers starting rotation was seen as the class of MLB entering the year with two Cy Young winners and three young, budding stars behind them. Walker Buehler was at the head of the impressive, youthful group, but it’s another young flamethrower who has arguably been even better through six weeks.

Lefty Julio Urias is off to the start many had hoped, putting himself in the early NL Cy Young conversation at 5-1 with a 3.26 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 52/7 K/BB in 49.2 innings over his first eight starts. Those numbers might not seem like much of an improvement considering that Urias has a career 3.21 ERA over 288.2 innings, but the early control is remarkable.

Coming into Thursday’s games, Urias ranked fifth among MLB qualifying starters with a 1.27 BB/9 and eighth in K/BB with a 7.43 ratio. The control progress is quite significant thus far, as Urias had never had better than a 2.9 BB/9 or 3.15 K/BB in any previous season.

To this point, we’ve seen a major adjustment with Urias’ repertoire compared to previous seasons, as he’s stopped throwing his slider and thrown his curveball and changeup with more velocity. It’s not clear if trashing the slider has been a major reason for the control improvement, but the adjustments that Urias has made are certainly working.

Manager Dave Roberts and company have been mindful of workloads for the entire roster early this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Urias gets some rest later in the year given his age and arm injury history. That’s something to keep in mind as a potential trade option for fantasy managers, but while on the mound, Urias is becoming a truly elite MLB starter.

-The frustration for Jameson Taillon continues, after the Yankees right-hander allowed four earned runs in 4.2 innings against the Rays on Thursday. His ERA jumped to 5.40 as a result of the mediocre outing, though his stuff and control of the strike zone shows that fantasy managers shouldn’t give up yet. Taillon has a dominant 43/8 K/BB in 33.1 innings, but home runs have been a big reason for his demise. That might not improve significantly at Yankee Stadium, especially given his extreme flyball rate, but the ERA metrics across the board (4.63 FIP, 3.25 SIERA) still show reason to believe Taillon will get better. An upcoming two-start week against the Rangers and the White Sox gives him a chance to gain momentum.

-Logan Webb has seemingly held onto his starting rotation spot with the Giants by a string, getting additional opportunities due to injuries to Johnny Cueto and now Aaron Sanchez. He’s received just enough time to right the ship, dominating the Rangers in his last outing. The 4.74 ERA still isn’t pretty, but Webb’s indicators show much more potential if he continues to draw starts. His 58% groundball rate is among the most extreme of any starter in baseball, and paired with a dominant 10.2 K/9, Webb has a strong 3.70 FIP and 3.53 SIERA. The margin for error remains small with the Giants having depth this year, and Webb has an extremely difficult two-start week ahead against the Reds and Dodgers. Still, the indicators show he’s a potentially viable option even with that brutal slate.

-The White Sox starting rotation has been great early in the year, but former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel could be better. The lefty has a 4.53 ERA and ERA metrics that are no more impressive due to his inability to miss bats. His 3.71 K/9 is the lowest among qualifying starters this season and a potential major red flag for a pitcher who already saw his K/9 decline to 6.0 last season. Keuchel can still survive on his extreme groundball rate, but it’s difficult to see how he will provide much value for fantasy managers with the current trends. Unfortunately, Keuchel is looking more and more like just a matchup play in mixed leagues these days, and those matchups at the Twins and Yankees next week don’t look great. 

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, May 14, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Gerrit Cole: @TEX, CHW

Hyun-Jin Ryu: BOS, TB

Decent Plays

Shohei Ohtani: CLE, OAK

Michael Pineda: CHW, @CLE

Jameson Taillon: @TEX, CHW

Eduardo Rodriguez: @TOR, @PHI

Ryan Yarbrough: @BAL, @TOR

Casey Mize: @SEA, @KC

At Your Own Risk

J.A. Happ: CHW, @CLE

Dallas Keuchel: @MIN, @NYY

Mike Foltynewicz: NYY, HOU

Justin Dunn: DET, @SD

James Kaprielian: HOU, @LAA

Alex Cobb: CLE, OAK

Jordan Lyles: NYY, HOU

Matt Harvey: TB, @WAS

Sam Hentges: @LAA, MIN

National League

Strong Plays

Yu Darvish: COL, SEA

Julio Urias: ARI, @SF

Zack Wheeler: MIA, BOS

Sonny Gray: SF, MIL

Max Fried: NYM, PIT

Decent Plays

Taijuan Walker: @ATL, @MIA

Charlie Morton: NYM, PIT

Adbert Alzolay: WAS, @STL

Anthony DeSclafani: @CIN, LAD

Logan Webb: @CIN, LAD

Luis Castillo: SF, MIL

Jon Lester: @CHC, BAL

At Your Own Risk

Patrick Corbin: @CHC, BAL

Zach Davies: WAS, @STL

Trevor Cahill: @STL, @ATL 

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, May 19: Chris Flexen vs. DET

It’s been an up-and-down early season for Flexen, but he’s thrown strikes (seven walks in 33.1 innings) and fared well at home. A matchup against Detroit, who rank dead last in OPS, makes him worthy of a pickup.

Thursday, May 20: Jorge Lopez vs. TB

After two poor starts to begin the season, Lopez has been excellent over his last five outings with a 3.47 ERA and 21/7 K/BB in 23.1 innings. The light-hitting Rays rank in the bottom 10 in OPS against right-handers this season.

Friday, May 21: Brad Keller vs. DET

As Keller tries to get back on track, his matchup looks easy vs. the aforementioned Tigers. Keller has allowed no more than three earned runs in each of his last three outings.

National League

Thursday, May 20: Vincent Velasquez vs. MIA

The erratic Velasquez is coming off two solid starts, and is scheduled to face a Marlins lineup that continues to struggle, posting just a .661 OPS (26th in MLB).

Friday, May 21: Erick Fedde vs. BAL

Baltimore has been the second worst team in MLB vs. right-handers (.628 OPS) and will be without the DH in Washington. It’s a rare great opportunity to stream Fedde.

Saturday, May 22: Brett Anderson @ CIN

Cincy has had little answer for lefties this season, posting a .640 OPS. Anderson doesn’t miss many bats, but could be a solid streamer.

Total Games

American League

5: KC

6: BAL, BOS, CLE, CHW, DET, HOU, OAK, SEA, TB, TOR

7: NYY, TEX

8: LAA, MIN

National League

5: MIL, STL

6: COL, MIA, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD

7: ARI, ATL, CHC, CIN, LAD, SF, WAS

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: Status unknown (ankle)

Brandon Belt: Day-to-day (oblique)

Kris Bryant: Day-to-day (illness)

Asdrubal Cabrera: Status unknown (leg)

Jacob deGrom: Placed on IL (side)

Paul DeJong: Day-to-day (oblique)

Rafael Dolis: Placed on IL (calf)

Phil Evans: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Zac Gallen: Played on IL (elbow)

Didi Gregorius: Day-to-day (elbow)

Grayson Greiner: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Yuli Gurriel: Day-to-day (illness)

Aaron Hicks: Day-to-day (wrist)

Eric Hosmer: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Carlos Martinez: Placed on IL (ankle)

Jeff McNeil: Day-to-day (leg)

Colin Moran: Placed on IL (groin)

Wil Myers: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Ljay Newsome: Out indefinitely (elbow)

Cristian Pache: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jurickson Profar: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

J.T. Realmuto: Placed on IL (illness)

Edwin Rios: Out for the season (shoulder)

Aaron Sanchez: Placed on IL (biceps)

Nick Senzel: Status unknown (heel)

Andrelton Simmons: Day-to-day (ankle)

Fernando Tatis Jr.: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Gleyber Torres: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Jose Urquidy: Status unknown (shoulder)

Christian Walker: Placed on IL (oblique)