Week Ahead: Snell Throws Strikes Again

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It’s a long season, but patience is often rewarded in fantasy baseball. Fantasy managers who drafted Blake Snell are finally seeing that investment pay off after five months.

The former AL Cy Young winner was wild, to say the least, through July. He walked a whopping 55 batters in 84.1 innings, which resulted in a terrible 5.44 ERA and 1.61 WHIP and one of the most frustrating early seasons of 2021. While Snell still leads the league in walks, he’s made major progress since July.

Snell clearly turned a corner beginning in August, performing as one of the league’s best pitchers with a 1.72 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 54/12 K/BB in 36.2 innings over six starts. His month included three double-digit strikeout performances, as well as seven no-hit innings at Arizona on Monday.

Among Snell’s recent changes has been all but trashing his curveball and changeup in favor of his fastball and slider. Snell threw the curveball less than 10% of the time, compared to 25% just two years ago, and barely threw his changeup at all. Snell’s simplified repertoire is obviously working, as he brought his ERA down by nearly a full run in August.

With the recent dominance, there’s reason to believe Snell will end his season on a high note. While it will be almost impossible for Snell to fulfill his ADP around 45 from March, he can at least salvage his season and build momentum heading into 2022. Next week’s two starts vs. the Angels and Dodgers shape up to be difficult, but Snell has pitched too well lately to not be a plug-and-play.

- Triston McKenzie has been on a similar track to Snell, saving his season recently after a poor start. The Cleveland right-hander was seen by some as a sleeper entering 2021 after the dominance he showed in 33.1 innings last season, but he had some young pitcher hiccups early this season, posting an ERA above 6.00 before getting demoted in June. His performance has been somewhat inconsistent since the All-Star break, including a brief stint on the injured list recently, but McKenzie is showing flashes of his ace ability again. He has a 3.75 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 45/8 K/BB in 48 innings since mid-July, displaying markedly improved control. McKenzie is showing his best self lately, with 25/2 K/BB and only two earned runs allowed total over his last three starts. The light has clearly turned on, with McKenzie recently showing increased velocity and glimpses of the true ace we saw in the minors.

-Let’s not mince words, Matt Harvey has been terrible overall this season. The former Mets ace has a hideous 6.28 ERA after getting bombarded by Toronto on Wednesday, so it would appear his career is hanging by a string at age 32. However, he’s been quite useful for Baltimore since the All-Star break with a 3.99 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in nine starts despite that terrible outing. Granted, much of the positive results are due to good fortune with a .252 BABIP, over 100 points lower than his first half, but Harvey has been getting the job done most of the time by throwing strikes and using his defense. Pitching for a bad team and showing a sub-7.0 K/9, Harvey lacks much upside but could be a viable play against a weak Royals lineup if you’re able to bench Harvey for his second start of the week against the Jays.

-The Twins will be forced to rebuild their starting rotation in 2022 after trading Jose Berrios and losing Kenta Maeda to Tommy John surgery. Fortunately, they have found one keeper in Bailey Ober. The 25-year-old deserved far more prospect hype than he received before this season, now with a career 2.41 ERA and 9.38 K/BB ratio in the minors. The 6-foot-9 right-hander is more than just using smoke and mirrors, with over a strikeout per inning in the majors as he average’s 92 mph on his fastball and mixes in three secondary pitches while pitching on a downward plane. The long ball has hindered the extreme flyball pitcher, but he showed some nice adjustments in August, lowering his ERA more than a run with his pinpoint control (26/3 K/BB in 27.1 innings). He looks like a viable investment down the stretch, especially if you need to make up ground in WHIP.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, September 3, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Gerrit Cole: TOR, @NYM

Chris Sale: TB, @CHW

Decent Plays

Aaron Civale: MIN, MIL

Hyun-Jin Ryu: @NYY, @BAL

Bailey Ober: @CLE, KC

Yusei Kikuchi: @HOU, ARI

Mike Minor: @BAL, @MIN

James Kaprielian: CHW, TEX

Steven Matz: @NYY, @BAL

Jackson Koward: @BAL, @MIN

Jameson Taillon: TOR, @NYM

Triston McKenzie: MIN, MIL

At Your Own Risk

Matt Harvey: KC, TOR

Packy Naughton: TEX, @HOU

National League

Strong Plays

Max Scherzer: @STL, SD

Max Fried: WAS, MIA

Aaron Nola: @MIL, COL

Sonny Gray: @CHC, @STL

Blake Snell: LAA, @LAD

Logan Webb: @COL, @CHC

Kevin Gausman: @COL, @CHC

Decent Plays

Carlos Carrasco: @MIA, NYY

Kyle Freeland: SF, @PHI

Edward Cabrera: NYM, @ATL

Bryse Wilson: DET, WAS

Paulo Espino: @ATL, @PIT

At Your Own Risk

Miles Mikolas: LAD, CIN

J.A. Happ: LAD, CIN

Andre Jackson: @STL, SD

Matt Moore: @MIL, COL

Patrick Corbin: NYM, @PIT

Justin Steele: CIN, 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

Monday, September 7: Jackson Kowar @ BAL

Kowar has the talent to be a household name eventually, and he looked very good in his return to the majors on Wednesday, allowing two unearned runs in six innings against Cleveland. Baltimore is an even more favorable matchup next week, and even his second start of the week at Minnesota looks viable.

Friday, September 10: Andrew Albers vs. KC

The 35-year-old Albers isn’t tricking many batters, but he’s a great story returning to the majors for the first time since 2017 due to his ability to throw strikes. He looked good in two August outings and has a chance to keep the momentum going against a weak Royals lineup.

Friday, September 10: Paul Blackburn vs. TEX

Blackburn has continued to get his grounders since replacing Chris Bassitt in the rotation last month, allowing five runs in 16 innings with a strong infield defense behind him. A Rangers lineup in the bottom five in OPS against right-handers should give Blackburn another good opportunity.

National League

Wednesday, September 8: Luke Weaver vs. TEX

Weaver is finally back from a shoulder injury, and looked very good in his first start since mid-May. The former top prospect with the Cardinals would like to finish his season on a strong note, and the aforementioned Rangers lineup gives him that chance.

Wednesday, September 8: Vladimir Gutierrez @ CHC

The easy Reds schedule is playing to the advantage of Gutierrez, who will be facing the Cubs for the second time in two weeks. He allowed two runs in 6.1 innings in his last outing, and Chicago struggled to hit in August (.702 OPS) after their trade deadline firesale.

Friday, September 10: Josiah Gray @ PIT

Gray has a blue chip arm, but he’s shown a bit too much inconsistency for shallow leagues. He should be able to get on track against the Pittsburgh lineup, which has consistently been the worst in MLB this season (.664 OPS).

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Total Games

American League

6: BOS, CHW, DET, HOU, LAA, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX

7: CLE, KC, MIN, NYY

8: BAL, TOR

National League

5: ARI, SD

6: ATL, CHC, CIN, MIA, MIL, PIT, SF

7: COL, LAD, NYM, PHI, STL, 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.

Ozzie Albies: Day-to-day (knee)

Brett Anderson: Placed on IL (shoulder)

BrIan Anderson: Day-to-day (shoulder)

Tim Anderson: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Matt Barnes: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Xander Bogaerts: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Seth Brown: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Jason Castro: Placed on IL (knee)

Michael Chavis: Placed on IL (elbow)

Johnny Cueto: Placed on IL (elbow)

Alcides Escobar: Day-to-day (knee)

Wilmer Flores: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jake Fraley: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Kyle Freeland: Status unknown (hip)

Avisail Garcia: Day-to-day (back/hamstring)

Lucas Giolito: Will miss next start (hamstring)

Jon Gray: Placed on IL (elbow)

Zack Greinke: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Ke’Bryan Hayes: Day-to-day (hand)

Andy Ibanez: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jakob Junis: Placed on IL (shoulder)

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

Lance Lynn: Placed on IL (knee)

Chris Martin: Placed on IL (elbow)

Mitch Moreland: Placed on IL (wrist)

Dillon Peters: Placed on IL (back)

Brett Phillips: Placed on IL (ankle)

Wilson Ramos: Out for the season (knee)

Max Scherzer: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Lou Trivino: Day-to-day (back)

Gio Urshela: Day-to-day (hand)

Alex Wood: Placed on IL (COVID-19)