Week Ahead: Reason to Smyly

·7 min read



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MLB careers don't always go as planned. A former top prospect in Detroit, Drew Smyly broke out as an excellent pitcher immediately with the Tigers in 2012, but the road has been a bumpy one since then.

The left-hander failed to appear in MLB in 2017 or 2018 due to injury, and has reached 30 starts only once in a career that's spanned more than 10 years. The long history of arm injuries has forced Smyly to mostly settle for short-term contracts, including the one-year deal he signed with the Cubs during the offseason.

With a salary just over $5 million, Smyly wasn't expected to be much more than a back of the rotation starter for Chicago. The veteran has been much more than they bargained for, especially in the second half of the season. He's been Mr. Reliable with a 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 50/14 K/BB in 54.1 innings over 10 starts, and for the year Smyly has an impressive 3.48 and 1.19 WHIP with an elite 1.3 BB/9.

Like we started to see last year in Atlanta, Smyly has not only shown more velocity but also major adjustments with his curveball becoming his most frequently used pitch. His major issues keeping the ball in the park have continued, but the left-hander has been able to limit the damage by keeping runners off the basepaths and guessing with his heavy offspeed pitch mix.

It's been a performance worthy of attention in fantasy leagues, and hopefully for Smyly, also worthy of a multi-year contract as he approaches his age 34 season.

-Brayan Bello is having quite a run in his second time around MLB. The rookie Red Sox starter has been very reliable since rejoining the starting rotation in late August with a 2.84 ERA and 27/10 K/BB in 25.1 innings. Aside from the improved command, Bello's elite groundball rate (58%) has come up big, as he still hasn't allowed a home run over the recent stretch. The minor league numbers certainly give credibility to what we've seen in the majors, including a 2.34 ERA and 12.1 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A this year. Boston could have their next great young pitcher on their hands as they ramp up for 2023.

-Speaking of great, young pitchers, Cincinnati's Nick Lodolo is very much backing up the hype as a former first-round pick. He has 11 strikeouts in back-to-back starts and 31 strikeouts over three starts in September. Lodolo looked like a rookie at times early in the year and has missed time due to injury, but the light clearly turned on after the All-Star break. He's been an ace despite a hitter-friendly home backdrop, with a 2.95 ERA and 75/18 K/BB in 61 innings over 10 starts with a nasty fastball-slider combo. A two-start week ahead against Boston and Milwaukee gives Lodolo another chance to finish on a high note.

-Roansy Contreras returned from the minors in mid-August in what seemed like a service time and innings limiting mission at Indianapolis, but he's been worth the wait. The right-hander has struggled with his command at times, though he still has a 2.43 ERA in six starts since returning to Pittsburgh. The level of difficulty in those starts has been on the high side, facing the likes of Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Toronto, and St. Louis, yet he's allowed more than two runs only once in that stretch. With a slider that looks elite and a phenomenal minor league history, Contreras is providing a glimpse of what could be an ace sooner than later.

Going Twice…

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

American League

Strong Plays

Dylan Cease: CLE, DET

Luis Castillo: @OAK, @KC

Logan Gilbert: @LAA, @KC

Shane McClanahan: HOU, TOR

Sonny Gray: @CLE, LAA

Decent Plays

Drew Rasmussen: HOU, TOR

Ross Stripling: @PHI, @TB

Luis Garcia: @TB, @BAL

Jose Suarez: SEA, @MIN

Cal Quantrill: MIN, @TEX

Brayan Bello: @CIN, @NYY

Austin Voth: DET, HOU

Zack Greinke: MIN, SEA

Tyler Wells DET, HOU

Joey Wentz: @BAL, @CHW

At Your Own Risk

Dylan Bundy: @KC, LAA

J.P. Sears: SEA, NYM

Aaron Civale: @CHW, @TEX

Cole Ragans: LAA, CLE

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: NYM, @CIN

Max Scherzer: @MIL, @OAK

Clayton Kershaw: ARI, STL

Nick Lodolo: BOS, MIL

Tyler Anderson: ARI, STL

Decent Plays

Charlie Morton: WAS, @PHI

Kyle Wright: WAS, @PHI

Carlos Rodón: @COL, @ARI

Roansy Contreras: @NYY, CHC

Adam Wainwright: @SD, @LAD

Wade Miley: @MIA, @PIT

Edward Cabrera: CHC, WAS

Merrill Kelly: @LAD, SF

Adrian Sampson: @MIA, @PIT

At Your Own Risk

Kyle Freeland: SF, SD

Jakob Junis: @COL, @ARI

Mike Clevinger: STL, @COL

Zach Davies: @LAD, SF

Chad Kuhl: SF, SD

Cory Abbott: @ATL, @MIA

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, September 21: Bailey Ober @ KC

He's back. Ober is set to make his comeback from a groin injury today, and then gets a favorable matchup against a Royals lineup with the fourth OPS vs. right-handers. Before his injury, Ober had a 4.01 ERA and continued to throw strikes with 29/7 K/BB in 33.2 innings.

Thursday, September 22: Josh Winder @ KC

The aforementioned Royals will get a double dose of young control pitchers, as Winder has similar strengths to Ober along with a 3.83 ERA. We can't expect Winder to go very deep, throwing only 67 pitches in his last start, but he won't need to in order to qualify for the win against the Royals.

Thursday, September 22: Michael Lorenzen @ TEX

It's been another injury-plagued season for Lorenzen, but he's hoping to end the year on a strong note. The Rangers rank 24th in OPS vs. right-handers (.685), while Lorenzen returned from injury to have a very good start at Houston.

National League

Thursday, September 22: Mike Minor vs. MIL

Hitting left-handers has been Milwaukee's weakness all year (.662 OPS), which is music to the ears of Minor. While the veteran is coming off a mediocre outing against Pittsburgh, he has a 3.63 ERA with 16/6 K/BB in 22.1 innings over his last four starts.

Friday, September 23: Hunter Wesneski @ PIT

Wesneski has shown an ability to miss bats early in his MLB career, and gets a very favorable matchup next week against the punchless Pirates, with a .654 OPS against right-handers.

Friday, September 23: Trevor Rogers vs. WAS

As mentioned last week, Rogers is ending his season with a glimpse of what we saw last season, now with a 2.95 ERA and 22/3 K/BB in 18.1 innings since returning from injuries. He deserves to be rostered in all leagues again, and faces a bottom 10 Nats lineup vs. lefties next week.

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Total Games

American League

6: BOS, CHW, DET, KC, NYY, OAK, TEX, TOR

7: BAL, CLE, HOU, LAA, MIN, SEA, TB

National League

6: CIN, MIA, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS

7: ATL, CHC, COL, MIL, SF

8: ARI, LAD

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.

Luis Arraez: Day-to-day (hamstring)

JT Brubaker: Status uncertain (lat)

Justin Dunn: Out for the season (shoulder)

Avisail Garcia: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Mitch Haniger: Day-to-day (back)

Nico Hoerner: Day-to-day (triceps)

Rhys Hoskins: Day-to-day (hand)

Max Kepler: Day-to-day (leg)

Alejandro Kirk: Day-to-day (hip)

Tommy La Stella: Placed on IL (neck)

Brandon Lowe: Placed on IL (back)

Rougned Odor: Day-to-day (hand)

Rafael Ortega: Out for the season (finger)

Luis Robert: Day-to-day (hand)

Josh Staumont: Out for the season (biceps)

Seiya Suzuki: Day-to-day (hand)

Trevor Story: Day-to-day (heel)

Blake Treinen: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Andrew Velazquez: Out for the season (knee)

Joey Wendle: Day-to-day (core)