Week Ahead: No Regular Joe

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Seth Trachtman
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Entering today’s games, there are only two starting pitchers with at least two starts who have yet to allow an earned run. Joe Ross, who opted out of the 2020 season, is one of those pitchers.

Obviously, Ross has been terrific in starts at the Dodgers and Cardinals, keeping those lineups off the board in 11 innings with 9/3 K/BB. He’s also slowly ramped up his pitch count after winning the fifth starter job in Spring Training, maxing out at 89 pitches against St. Louis. That’s easily explainable considering that in addition to not pitching last year, Ross made only three starts in 2018 due to Tommy John surgery and split time between starting and relief in 2019.

As a result of his lack of recent innings, Ross was an afterthought in most mixed league drafts entering the year. Along with the lack of pitching, the last time Ross posted an ERA below 5.00 was 2016, so he’s been almost irrelevant to fantasy managers going on five years.

Still, we should never forget the profile, and why Ross looks so intriguing. He was a first-round pick in 2011 and former top prospect who had a 3.52 ERA in 181.2 innings with a 3.24 K/BB over his first two MLB seasons. Ross has also regained the velocity he showed before sitting out last season, while also flashing a very encouraging 50% groundball rate through two starts.

With the struggles from Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin over the first two weeks, along with Jon Lester’s absence, this early performance from Ross couldn’t be more important for Washington. In the process, he’s earning fantasy consideration again and hope that he can be the quality middle of the rotation starter we saw half a decade ago.

-The only other starting pitcher in MLB who has yet to allow a run so far is Carlos Rodon, fresh off a no-hitter. The lefty is already a spectacular story, getting non-tendered by the White Sox after last season due to injuries but returning on a one-year, $3 million deal. Rodon looked like a potential ace early in his career, but injuries seemingly robbed him of a productive career recently. Suddenly, Rodon’s fastball velocity is up over two mph this season, and he looks like a completely different pitcher. He faces clearly his toughest test so far with a visit to Fenway Park next week after favorable matchups against Seattle and Cleveland, and the 114-pitch no-hitter is a bit of a concern given his injury history. Still, it would seem almost impossible not to start Rodon in the two-start week given his improvements and early results.

-The Rays pitching depth kept several notable pitchers in alternate camp to start the year, including 2020 breakout Josh Fleming. Injuries to the starting rotation have allowed for Fleming’s return, and his first start of the year on Wednesday against Texas was excellent. Fleming’s margin for error will be small going forward, both directly due to his inability to miss bats and indirectly with Tampa Bay’s pitching alternatives, but the extreme groundball pitcher (64% in 2020) is in a spot to succeed with the possibility of a two-start week against KC and Toronto upcoming.

-Another pitcher with limited margin for error is Texas rookie Kohei Arihara, but I’m not as optimistic about his prospects. Signed to a two-year contract in the offseason by Texas, Arihara has a 3.07 ERA in three starts due in large part to his impeccable control, allowing only one walk in 14.2 innings. The control was similar in Spring Training, but Arihara’s inability to miss bats remains a huge concern. He has only seven strikeouts so far this season after posting a 7.2 K/9 in Japan last year. Arihara gets by throwing everything but the kitchen sink, and could have more success in his first time around the league, but a tough schedule against the Angels and White Sox next week should leave fantasy managers nervous about what’s to come if he doesn’t start to miss more bats.

-Coors Field Watch: The Rockies enter an eight-game homestand today, including five home games next week. Get your Rockies hitters in the lineup.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 16, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Kenta Maeda: @OAK, PIT

Dylan Bundy: TEX, @HOU

Decent Plays

Nathan Eovaldi: CHW, SEA

Eduardo Rodriguez: TOR, SEA

Carlos Rodon: @BOS, TEX

Zach Plesac: CHW, NYY

Jesus Luzardo: MIN, @BAL

Lance McCullers: @COL, LAA

Josh Fleming: @KC, TOR

At Your Own Risk

Jameson Taillon: ATL, @CLE

Kohei Arihara: @LAA, @CHW

Brad Keller: TB, @DET

National League

Strong Plays

Zac Gallen: @CIN, @ATL

Luis Castillo: ARI, @STL

Brandon Woodruff: @SD, @CHC

Jack Flaherty: @WAS, CIN

Dustin May: @SEA, SD

Kevin Gausman: @PHI, MIA

Decent Plays

Joe Musgrove: MIL, @LAD

Joe Ross: STL, @NYM

Taijuan Walker: @CHC, WAS

Chris Paddack: MIL, @LAD

Tyler Anderson: @DET, @MIN

At Your Own Risk

Jon Gray: HOU, PHI

Chase Anderson: SF, @COL

Nick Neidert: BAL, @SF

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Tuesday, April 20: Jakob Junis vs. TB

The Rays lineup has had a rough go early this season, with a .628 OPS against right-handed pitching. Junis was been excellent so far this season with the addition of his cutter, allowing two runs in five-plus innings against the Jays on Thursday.

Friday, April 23: Martin Perez vs. SEA

Seattle’s early results against lefties haven’t been pretty, hitting just .177 with a .559 OPS in 113 at-bats. Perez has also been solid in his first two starts of the year.

Friday, April 23: Matt Shoemaker vs. PIT

Pittsburgh’s lineup has been surprisingly effective so far this season, though that seems unlikely to continue based on talent and track record. Shoemaker has been good through two starts, and most importantly, he remains healthy.

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National League

Thursday, April 22: Aaron Sanchez vs. MIA

Without velocity, we’re seeing a new version of Sanchez this season, as he’s working off his curveball more, throwing strikes, and getting grounders consistently. Facing a Miami lineup that has a .652 OPS against right-handers gives Sanchez a chance to keep the momentum going.

Friday, April 23: Trevor Williams vs. MIL

It’s been an up and down early season for Williams, but he was excellent in his first start against Milwaukee. The team is now banged up, without Kolten Wong and Lorenzo Cain, at the very least.

Saturday, April 24: Huascar Ynoa vs. ARI

Ynoa is already a popular pickup due to his excellent start to the season, including a 10 strikeout performance against Miami, and a banged up Diamondbacks lineup could allow him to continue the hot start. The hard-throwing right-hander looks like he’s here to stay if his new found control is real.

Total Games

American League

5: BAL, TOR

6: CLE, CHW, DET, HOU, KC, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX

7: BOS, LAA

National League

5: ATL, COL

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, STL, WAS

7: SD, SF

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!

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 Altuve: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Yordan Alvarez: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Chris Archer: Placed on IL (elbow)

Cavan Biggio: Status unknown (hand)

Archie Bradley: Out 3-4 weeks (oblique)

Alex Bregman: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Byron Buxton: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Miguel Cabrera: Placed on IL (biceps)

Lorenzo Cain: Placed on IL (quad)

Dylan Cease: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Johnny Cueto: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Pete Fairbanks: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Dexter Fowler: Out for the season (knee)

Max Fried: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Ronald Guzman: Out indefinitely (knee)

Jesse Hahn: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Adam Haseley: Status unknown (personal)

Kyle Hendricks: Placed on IL (illness)

Teoscar Hernandez: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Gavin Lux: Day-to-day (wrist)

Nomar Mazara: Placed on IL (abdomen)

Martin Maldonado: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Julian Merryweather: Placed on IL (oblique)

Adrian Morejon: Placed on IL (elbow)

Reyes Moronta: Placed on IL (elbow)

Wil Myers: Day-to-day (knee)

Tyler O’Neill: Placed on IL (groin)

Matt Olson: Day-to-day (thumb)

Cristian Pache: Placed on IL (groin)

Anthony Rendon: Placed on IL (groin)

Jordan Romano: Placed on IL (elbow)

Andrelton Simmons: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Drew Smyly: Placed on IL (forearm)

Max Stassi: Placed on IL (thumb)

Ross Stripling: Placed on IL (forearm)

Justin Upton: Day-to-day (back)

Christian Walker: Placed on IL (oblique)

Christian Yelich: Day-to-day (back)