Week Ahead: Klubot is Operational

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Despite making a total of eight starts over the last two seasons due to injuries, the Yankees gave two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber an $11 million contract for 2021. Even with Kluber’s slow start, the Yankees front office is starting to look smart for making that investment.

Kluber showed greatly diminished velocity during April, and it showed in his results. Usually a pitcher with elite control, Kluber walked 13 batters in 21.1 innings and finished the month with an atrocious 1.71 WHIP. Still, he showed signs of a turnaround on April 27 at Baltimore, and he’s continued that momentum this month.

The no-hitter on Wednesday opened some eyes to what Kluber has done in May, now 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 31/7 K/BB in 28.2 innings. Granted, he hasn’t exactly faced the toughest schedule, getting Detroit, Washington, Baltimore, and Texas, but the improvement is undeniable. Along with the success, Kluber’s velocity has picked up recently, and the whiff rate on his curveball and changeup is on par with what we saw in 2018.

Kluber’s control this month hasn’t been what we saw in his prime, and it should also be noted that Yankee Stadium is a much more difficult place to pitch than Progressive Field in Cleveland. Still, it’s great to see the 35-year-old right-hander regain some of his old form recently. Now the biggest obstacle could be health, after Kluber suffered a fractured arm, strained abdominal muscle, and torn teres major over the last two seasons.

Those injury concerns should be in the back of your mind before acquiring Kluber in a trade, but things are certainly looking up for now. Entering the new week, he has a great opportunity to continue his dominance with starts against the Blue Jays and Tigers.

-Fantasy managers have reason to be frustrated with Charlie Morton’s early-season performance, now with a 4.60 ERA over his first nine starts. He’s had some major duds in May, including a start on May 7 when he failed to get out of the first inning with six unearned runs. Morton’s peripherals still provide reason to stay the course, however. Morton’s velocity is the best we’ve seen from him since 2018, with a strikeout rate that has also bounced back somewhat at 27%. The ERA metrics show the likelihood of better results ahead with a 3.89 FIP and 3.64 SIERA. His next scheduled start is a rough one at Boston, but his second start of the week is favorable against a banged up Mets squad.

-More was also expected of Tigers lefty Tarik Skubal than what he’s produced over the first quarter of the season (5.45 ERA, 1.53 WHIP). Like his MLB debut last season, Skubal has struggled to keep the ball in the park, allowing a league-leading 12 home runs in only 38 innings. The former top prospect has still been able to miss bats, and has started to turn a corner this month with 22/5 K/BB in 16 innings. The improved control has helped Skubal go deeper in games, but ultimately his viability for shallow mixed leagues this year will be tied to the long ball. On that end, he’s been much better at roomy Comerica Park this season (4.09 ERA), and has two home starts scheduled for next week.

-Brad Keller was dropped in most leagues where he was drafted after a horrendous start to the season. His ERA still stands at 6.52 through nine starts between poor control and his inability to keep the ball in the park. The latter has been his strength for his career as an extreme groundball pitcher, but the groundball rate has been well down this season (47%) despite adding velocity. His start against Milwaukee on Wednesday was only his second of the year with more groundballs than flyballs, and the 15/5 GB/FB ratio shows that Keller might have found an answer for his issues. Overall, Keller has been relatively strong in May with a 4.35 ERA and 20/6 K/BB in 20.2 innings, and might make for a viable two-start pickup in deeper leagues next week with visits to Tampa and Minnesota on the horizon.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, May 21, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Lance Lynn: STL, BAL

John Means: @MIN, @CHW

Lucas Giolito: STL, BAL

Corey Kluber: TOR, @DET

Decent Plays

Aaron Civale: @DET, TOR

Spencer Turnbull: CLE, NYY

Frankie Montas: SEA, LAA

Cole Irvin: SEA, LAA

Steven Matz: @NYY, @CLE

Ryan Yarbrough: @TOR, PHI

At Your Own Risk

Justin Dunn: @OAK, TEX

Tarik Skubal: CLE, NYY

Brad Keller: @TB, @MIN

Matt Shoemaker: BAL, KC

Dean Kremer: @MIN, @CHW

Ross Stripling: TB, @CLE

Sam Hentges: @DET, TOR

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: SD, @WAS

Max Scherzer: CIN, MIL

Brandon Woodruff: SD, @WAS

Clayton Kershaw: @HOU, SF

Kevin Gausman: @ARI, @LAD

Trevor Rogers: PHI, @BOS

Joe Musgrove: @MIL, @HOU

Decent Plays

Blake Snell: @MIL, @HOU

Zach Eflin: @MIA, @TB

Sandy Alcantara: PHI, @BOS

Charlie Morton: @BOS, @NYM

David Peterson: COL, ATL

Wade Miley: @WAS, @CHC

Kwang Hyun Kim: @CHW, @ARI

At Your Own Risk

Jake Arrieta: @PIT, CIN

Austin Gomber: @NYM, @PIT

Riley Smith: SF, STL

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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

Thursday, May 27: Griffin Canning @ OAK

The A’s have struggled against right-handers this season (.674 OPS), and Canning was on a roll until his struggles vs. Minnesota on Thursday. His 4.23 SIERA and 10.1 K/9 shows he might not only be a streamer but a long-term pickup.

Friday, May 28: Jordan Lyles @ SEA

It hasn’t always been pretty, but Lyles has three consecutive strong starts, a fair 2.63 K/BB ratio, the help of the roomy Seattle ballpark, and the worst hitting opponent in MLB (.639 OPS) ahead.

Friday, May 28: Martin Perez vs. MIA

The schedule lines up nicely again for Perez next week, facing the Marlins in interleague play. Miami has been middle of the pack against lefties, but remain a favorable matchup with Perez holding opponents to two or fewer earned runs in five straight starts.

National League

Wednesday, May 26: Johnny Cueto @ ARI

Cueto isn’t the pitcher he was earlier in his career, but he’s shown great control when healthy this season. He gets his first matchup of the year vs. Arizona next week, and the D-Backs have the 10th worst OPS against right-handers (.684).

Thursday, May 27: Antonio Senzatela @ NYM

Senzatela is a low upside play due to his inability to miss bats, but he has a good opportunity on the road next week against a banged up Mets lineup that ranks 25th in OPS vs. right-handers (.656 OPS).

Friday, May 28: Mitch Keller vs. COL

The uber-talented Keller has been a crapshoot this season from start-to-start, but it’s go time for him on Friday against the Rox lineup with a pitiful .573 OPS away from Coors Field. Keller has been very good in two of his last three outings.

Total Games

American League

5: BOS, HOU

6: KC, LAA, MIN, NYY, TB, TEX

7: BAL, CLE, CHW, DET, OAK, SEA, TOR

National League

5: ATL

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, LAD, PHI, PIT, SF, WAS

7: COL, MIA, MIL, NYM, SD, STL

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.

Jose Abreu: Day-to-day (ankle)

Pete Alonso: Day-to-day (wrist)

Brandon Belt: Day-to-day (oblique)

Madison Bumgarner: Day-to-day (groin)

Trevor Cahill: Day-to-day (leg)

Michael Conforto: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Nelson Cruz: Day-to-day (wrist)

Danny Duffy: Placed on IL (elbow)

Erick Fedde: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Wilmer Flores: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Clint Frazier: Day-to-day (neck)

Jason Heyward: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Carson Kelly: Placed on IL (toe)

Jordan Luplow: Day-to-day (ankle)

Jeff McNeil: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Dylan Moore: Placed on IL (calf)

Mitch Moreland: Placed on IL (ribs)

Mike Moustakas: Placed on IL (heel)

Tyler O’Neill: Placed on IL (finger)

Luis Patino: Placed on IL (finger)

Kevin Pillar: Placed on IL (nose)

Michael Pineda: Placed on IL (thigh)

A.J. Pollock: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jorge Polanco: Day-to-day (ankle)

J.T. Realmuto: Day-to-day (wrist)

Victor Robles: Day-to-day (ankle)

Corey Seager: Out at least four weeks (hand)

Jean Segura: Day-to-day (illness)

Nick Senzel: Day-to-day (knee)

Giancarlo Stanton: Placed on IL (quad)

Mike Trout: Out 6-8 weeks (calf)

Vince Velasquez: Status uncertain (finger)

Taijuan Walker: Placed on IL (oblique)

Luke Weaver: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Logan Webb: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Huascar Ynoa: Out two months (hand)

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news and updates. Plus, it allows you to easily track your favorite players. Get it here!