Week Ahead: Sandy Shark

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Seth Trachtman
·8 min read
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“Holy smokes.”

Rays and Cardinals hitters have likely stated that phrase or something similar over the first week of the season after facing Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara. The 6-foot-5 right-hander has clearly come to play in 2021 with an elite fastball that’s only gotten better early this year, averaging better than 97 mph and ranking fifth in the early going among starting pitchers. The velocity is in good company, behind only Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Tyler Glasnow, and Zack Wheeler.

That velocity, along with a devastating changeup, have shown in Alcantara’s early results with 17/4 K/BB in 12 innings and only six hits allowed. The improved command is a very small sample size but also an exciting development for a pitcher who has struggled with his control and command for much of his MLB career to this point, with a mediocre 1.84 K/BB ratio and 4.0 BB/9 over his first four MLB seasons.

We saw flashes of improvement in last year’s shortened season, as Alcantara finally started to miss more bats and post a K/BB ratio of better than 2.00 for the first time. He’s taken that to a whole new level so far, albeit against lineups that are far from elite and with the pitcher-friendly backdrop of his home stadium in Miami.

Still, the evidence of control improvement is clear whether you’ve watched Alcantara, looked at the radar gun, or analyzed the numbers. Alcantara has a two-start week ahead with easily his biggest test of the year so far at Atlanta on Monday. No matter what happens, fantasy managers who drafted Alcantara have reason to be very excited.

-There was a buzz in Spring Training surrounding Jakob Junis, as he allowed only one run in seven innings with 10/1 K/BB. That was enough to win him the fifth starter job in KC ahead of Kris Bubic, and the results have carried over to the regular season with five scoreless innings and six strikeouts at Cleveland on Wednesday. The success is attributed to a new cutter that he introduced this year. While Junis has been one of the worst starting pitchers in the majors over the last two seasons (5.38 ERA in 200.2 innings), he’s long shown plus command. His issues have been an inability to keep the ball in park or get lefties out, and the cutter could be an answer to both problems. The history of the long ball makes Junis risky, but he could be worthy of a flier with his upcoming two-start week.

-Speaking of cutters, Wade Miley has used it as his primary pitch since 2018 with mostly success to show for it (3.56 ERA in 268.1 innings). Recency bias coming into 2021 would have suggested that he was a non-option in mixed leagues after struggling late in 2019 and posting a 5.65 ERA in an injury-plagued 2020 season, but it’s tough to overlook what Miley did in his first start of the year with six scoreless innings vs. Pittsburgh. There are a lot of blemishes here, with a mediocre career strikeout rate and poor defense behind an extreme groundball pitcher, but the NL Central schedule makes Miley an interesting streaming option for this season. He doesn’t play any division opponents in his upcoming two-start week, but a visit to San Francisco and home game vs. a DH-less Cleveland squad will suffice.

-Dane Dunning was suggested as a streamer last week, and his first start showed why Texas traded Lance Lynn for him this offseason. The right-hander painted the edges of the strike zone with a low-90’s fastball that he threw more than 70% of the time, and was able to provoke weak contact. He’s a pitcher who saw success at every minor league level, with strengths that in some ways resemble Aaron Nola. Although the Rangers limited Dunning’s pitch count in his first outing, he looks very interesting with a two-start week against Tampa Bay and Baltimore ahead.

-After a week of seemingly whacky off days and lack of seven-game weeks, we should be happy to report that 18 teams are scheduled for seven games next week. There are many great two-start options below, as result.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 9, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Shane Bieber: @CHW, @CIN

Gerrit Cole: @TOR, TB

Lucas Giolito: CLE, @BOS

Tyler Glasnow: TEX, @NYY

Kenta Maeda: BOS, @LAA

Zack Greinke: DET, @SEA

Hyun-Jin Ryu: NYY, @KC

Decent Plays

John Means: SEA, @TEX

Chris Bassitt: @ARI, DET

Nathan Eovaldi: @MIN, CHW

Dane Dunning: @TB, BAL

Triston McKenzie: @CHW, @CIN

Dallas Keuchel: CLE, @BOS

J.A. Happ: BOS, @LAA

Ryan Yarbrough: TEX, @NYY

Jakob Junis: LAA, TOR

Kyle Gibson: @TB, BAL

Matthew Boyd: @HOU, @OAK

Casey Mize: @HOU, @OAK

At Your Own Risk

Ross Stripling: NYY, @KC

Justus Sheffield: @BAL, HOU

Danny Duffy: LAA, TOR

Dean Kremer: SEA, @TEX

Martin Perez: @MIN, CHW

National League

Strong Plays

Clayton Kershaw: COL, @SD

Aaron Nola: @NYM, STL

Yu Darvish: @PIT, LAD

Blake Snell: @PIT, LAD

Sandy Alcantara: @ATL, SF

Stephen Strasburg: @STL, ARI

Max Fried: MIA, @CHC

Decent Plays

Pablo Lopez: @ATL, SF

Freddy Peralta: CHC, PIT

Wade Miley: @SF, CLE

Taijuan Walker: PHI, @COL

Aaron Sanchez: CIN, @MIA

At Your Own Risk

John Gant: WAS, @PHI

Chase Anderson: @NYM, STL

Chad Kuhl: SD, @MIL

David Peterson: PHI, @COL

Madison Bumgarner: OAK, @WAS

Merrill Kelly: OAK, @WAS

Adbert Alzolay: @MIL, ATL

Huascar Ynoa: MIA, @CHC

Antonio Senzatela: @LAD, NYM

Trevor Cahill: SD, @MIL

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, April 14: Griffin Canning @ KC

Canning struggled in his first start of the year, a tough matchup at hitter-friendly Dunedin against the Jays. There was still good news in that outing with 7/1 K/BB and increased velocity, and Kauffman Stadium is far more favorable in next week’s matchup.

Thursday, April 15: Bruce Zimmermann vs. SEA

Zimmermann really impressed the O’s in Spring Training and had a quality first outing at Boston, allowing three runs in six innings with 5/1 K/BB. Facing Seattle next week is as easy as it gets in the AL.

Thursday, April 15: Jordan Lyles @ TB

Lyles was obliterated in his first season with Texas, but looked great in his first start after a good spring. A slight increase in velocity and a new, more effective slider could make Lyles a terror in his next time around the league.

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National League

Wednesday, April 14: Jake Arrieta @ MIL

Arrieta was a spot starter this week against Pittsburgh, and while Milwaukee’s defense isn’t quite as bad, it’s certainly favorable for pitchers. Arrieta isn’t a long-term solution, but he can be helpful at least once more.

Friday, April 16: Adrian Houser vs. PIT

Houser has continued to get grounders at an elite rate early this season (58%), and the Pirates lineup doesn’t present much to be stressed over.

Saturday, April 17: Jeff Hoffman vs. CLE

Cincinnati’s pitcher development program is excellent, and there’s some evidence it might have already helped Hoffman after his first start. The former first-round pick reintroduced a slider in his first start and will try to parlay that success against a weak Cleveland lineup.

Total Games

American League

6: HOU, LAA, NYY, OAK

7: BAL, BOS, CLE, CHW, DET, KC, MIN, SEA, TB, TEX, TOR

National League

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIL, SF, STL

7: ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, 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.

Nick Ahmed: Placed on IL (knee)

Jorge Alfaro: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Tim Anderson: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Alex Avila: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Josh Bell: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Cody Bellinger: Day-to-day (calf)

Dellin Betances: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Mookie Betts: Day-to-day (back)

Patrick Corbin: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

J.D. Davis: Day-to-day (hand)

Jake Fraley: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Aaron Judge: Day-to-day (side)

Leury Garcia: Day-to-day (leg)

Paul Goldschmidt: Day-to-day (back)

Yan Gomes: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Tony Gonsolin: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Billy Hamilton: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Brad Hand: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Ke’Bryan Hayes: Placed on IL (wrist)

Austin Hays: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Elieser Hernandez: Placed on IL (biceps)

Brock Holt: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Kevin Kiermaier: Placed on IL (quad)

Tommy La Stella: Day-to-day (back)

Jon Lester: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Ketel Marte: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Shohei Ohtaini: Start pushed back (blister)

Chris Owings: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Enoli Parades: Status unknown (side)

James Paxton: Out for the season (elbow)

Chad Pinder: Placed on IL (knee)

A.J. Puk: Placed on IL (biceps)

Brent Rooker: Placed on IL (neck)

Trevor Rosenthal: Out at least three months (shoulder)

Kyle Schwarber: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Joakim Soria: Placed on IL (calf)

Mike Soroka: Out indefinitely (Achilles/shoulder)

George Springer: Out indefinitely (quad)

Fernando Tatis Jr.: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Evan White: Day-to-day (quad)

Kolten Wong: Day-to-day (oblique)