Patience is a virtue, and it looks like patience is starting to pay off for Marco Gonzales owners.
The lefty received significant hype in spring training, mowing through hitters with a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings. About two years removed from Tommy John surgery, the former first-round pick was showing a slight uptick in velocity and consistently throwing strikes.
While the strike throwing carried over into the regular season, the lefty’s success didn’t follow him. He had a 5.02 ERA in April despite 31/5 K/BB in 28.2 innings. Fortunately, he’s turned things around this month, particularly over his last two starts. Gonzales hasn’t allowed an earned run over his last two outings, lowering his ERA to a respectable 4.05.
The ERA metrics show far more reason to be optimistic. Gonzales’ FIP is currently 3.22, making his ERA to FIP differential the 13th biggest in MLB among starters. Equally impressive are his xFIP (3.21) and SIERA (3.54), as he flashes a ground-to-flyball ratio near 2.00, career-best 8.3 K/9, and outstanding control with a 1.9 BB/9.
Acquired from the Cardinals last July for Tyler O’Neill, the early indications are that the deal is working for both sides based on O’Neill’s early hot streak in St. Louis. As for Gonzales, he’s shaping into the pitcher many projected in 2014 before injuries struck, when he had a 2.43 ERA, 8.6 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 122 innings between three minor league levels.
The week ahead looks promising for Gonzales with home starts against Texas and Tampa Bay, as does the rest of his season if he can continue to show the elite command that we’ve witnessed thus far.
-Speaking of lefties finding their footing, Tyler Skaggs has pitched like an ace for the Angels this season through 10 starts. His command has been especially sharp up to this point with a career-best 9.7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and he’s been consistent, allowing more than three runs only once. The history of arm injuries remains a concern that could spur fantasy owners to sell high, but the peripherals support a mid-3’s ERA and he has a favorable two-start week ahead.
-We’ve seen some inconsistency from Aaron Sanchez this season, and the overall numbers aren’t encouraging. His fastball velocity is down about one mph from previous, and he’s reverted back to pre-2016 command. That’s not a good thing. Over his first two MLB seasons, Sanchez had a 1.66 K/BB ratio in 125.1 innings. After increasing to 2.56 K/BB in 2016 and emerging as an ace, Sanchez had finger issues last year and has an awful 1.24 ratio in 2018, second worst in MLB. The ERA remains viable at 4.07, but his ERA metrics hover around 5.00. Coupled with his velocity loss, there’s major reason to be concerned about Sanchez.
-Chris Archer has been one of the more frustrating pitchers of the early season, with major issues nullifying lefties. Southpaws are hitting .294/.366/.495 against him, and he has only 18 strikeouts in 123 plate appearances. Lefties have hit Archer better than right-handers during his career, as you’d expect, but nowhere near what we’ve seen this year. They have a .701 OPS against Archer for his career, and his 25.2 percent strikeout rate against them is significantly higher than the 14.6 percent we’ve seen this season. The good news is that he’s coming off consecutive very good starts vs. offensive powerhouses in the Angels and Boston, and he’s set to face two right-handed heavy lineups next week (Oakland and Seattle).
-Kudos to Tyson Ross for his resurgence this season. He didn’t look quite right last season in Texas after returning from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and while the velocity continues to be down slightly this year, Ross has shown his old level of command while relying on his slider. He’s throw the pitch 45 percent of the time, helping him get back to more than one strikeout per inning, as we saw when Ross was the ace of the Padres staff in 2014-15. What we haven’t seen from Ross is the extreme groundball rate he had before the surgery (44 percent currently), but that’s nitpicking a pitcher who looked lost just a year ago. Fantasy owners who took a risk on Ross early this year are likely to be rewarded next week with extremely favorable home starts vs. Miami and Cincinnati.
-Jake Arrieta has evolved this season, pitching more to contact (6.1 K/9) but becoming an extreme groundball pitcher again with a 56 percent groundball rate after the grounders declined to 45 percent last year. For the second consecutive year, Arrieta’s velocity is well down from what we saw in his 2015 Cy Young campaign, but his ERA is down to 2.45 due to large part to only two home runs allowed. The rate is about equal to what he posted in his Cy Young season, but Arrieta’s xFIP and SIERA are both above 4.00. In addition, Arrieta’s schedule is set to get slightly more difficult going forward, ranking eighth toughest in baseball. In other words, this is the right time to sell high.
-Some scheduling notes for next week. 22 teams play at least seven games, so you’ll see plenty of two-start pitchers in the “Going Twice…” section below. In addition, the Rockies have six games at Coors Field.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, May 25, and are subject to change.
Justin Verlander: @NYY, BOS
Charlie Morton: @NYY, BOS
Mike Clevinger: CHW, @MIN
Tyler Skaggs: @DET, TEX
David Price: TOR, @HOU
Jake Junis: MIN, OAK
Marco Gonzales: TEX, TB
Dylan Bundy: WAS, NYY
Chris Archer: @OAK, @SEA
Michael Fulmer: LAA, TOR
Matt Boyd: LAA, TOR
Kyle Gibson: @KC, CLE
CC Sabathia: HOU, @BAL
At Your Own Risk
Aaron Sanchez: @BOS, @DET
Doug Fister: @SEA, @LAA
Nathan Eovaldi: @OAK, @SEA
Lance Lynn: @KC, CLE
Alex Cobb: WAS, NYY
Felix Hernandez: TEX, TB
Domingo German: HOU, @BAL
Adam Plutko: CHW, @MIN
Daniel Gossett: TB, @KC
Matt Moore: @SEA, @LAA
Jacob deGrom: @ATL, CHC
Tyson Ross: MIA, CIN
Gio Gonzalez: @BAL, @ATL
Jon Lester: @PIT, @NYM
Jake Arrieta: @LAD, @SF
Luke Weaver: @MIL, PIT
Caleb Smith: @SD, @ARI
Kenta Maeda: PHI, @COL
Jeremy Hellickson: @BAL, @ATL
Vince Velasquez: @LAD, @SF
Chad Kuhl: CHC, @STL
Dan Straily: @SD, @ARI
Brent Suter: STL, @CHW
Ivan Nova: CHC, @STL
At Your Own Risk
Eric Lauer: MIA, CIN
Steven Matz: @ATL, CHC
Brandon McCarthy: NYM, WAS
Chad Bettis: SF, LAD
Tyler Chatwood: @PIT, @NYM
Andrew Suarez: @COL, PHI
Matt Koch: CIN, MIA
Homer Bailey: @ARI, @SD
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Monday, May 28: Adam Plutko vs. CHW
My overall optimism regarding Plutko is limited with a career 7.5 K/9 in the minors, but the control pitcher has a favorable matchup on Monday against a White Sox lineup that is last in runs scored in the AL.
Tuesday, May 29: Nick Tropeano @ DET
Tropeano is coming off a very good start and has another favorable matchup ahead against a Tigers lineup with the ninth worst OPS in baseball against right-handers.
Thursday, May 31: Ryan Yarbrough @ OAK
Whether Yarbrough actually gets this start or it goes to a one-inning reliever remains to be seen, but the lefty has been very good to this point and faces an A’s lineup with the 10th worst OPS in baseball against southpaws.
Wednesday, May 30: Clayton Richard vs. MIA
Any matchup against the Marlins is favorable, and Richard has three quality starts in a row with 20/1 K/BB in 23.1 innings during that time.
Wednesday, May 30: Anthony DeSclafani @ ARI
DeSclafani could make his first MLB start since 2016 if things go well in his rehab outing today. I’m generally hesitant to use pitchers coming off long injury layoffs, but the matchup couldn’t be much more favorable with Arizona ranking dead last in OPS vs. right-handers (.618). The humidor really seems to be working at Chase Field.
Thursday, May 31: Jordan Lyles vs. MIA
Lyles was profiled last week and has a juicy matchup against Miami next week.
6: CHW, KC, TOR
7: BAL, BOS, CLE, DET, HOU, LAA, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX
6: ARI, CIN, COL, MIL, SF
7: CHC, LAD, MIA, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS
8: ARI, NYM
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.
Brett Anderson: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Jeimer Candelario: Could return this weekend (wrist)
Welington Castillo: Suspended 80 games (PEDs)
Francisco Cervelli: Day-to-day (finger)
Matt Davidson: Day-to-day (back)
Khris Davis: Placed on DL (groin)
Paul DeJong: Out 4-8 weeks (hand)
Nick Delmonico: Placed on DL (hand)
Nathan Eovaldi: Will return next week
Jake Faria: Out 6-8 weeks (oblique)
Jaime Garcia: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Leury Garcia: Placed on DL (knee)
Alex Gordon: Day-to-day (hip)
Dee Gordon: Placed on DL (toe)
Adeiny Hechavarria: Placed on DL (hamstring)
Rich Hill: Placed on DL (blister)
Raisel Iglesias: Placed on DL (biceps)
Howie Kendrick: Out for the season (Achilles)
Ryan Madson: Placed on DL (pectoral)
Starling Marte: Placed on DL (oblique)
Joe Mauer: Placed on DL (concussion)
Josh Reddick: Placed on DL (leg)
Gary Sanchez: Day-to-day (calf)
Steven Souza: Placed on DL (pectoral)
Andrew Triggs: Placed on DL (arm)
Mark Trumbo: Day-to-day (knee)
Bradley Zimmer: Placed on DL (ribs)