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The Fantasy Baseball Week Ahead: Trust the young Buc

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Prospect hype is so rarely fulfilled when young players arrive. It’s cliché to say that the game is hard, and the jump from the minors to MLB has rarely been more difficult.

Young Pirates right-hander Roansy Contreras is one of the rare rookies showing the performance to back up the hype. He’s been very good through 32.1 innings this season, with a 3.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9. That’s not to say Contreras hasn’t run into challenges, including his last two starts with four runs (three earned) allowed in both outings against the Braves and Cardinals.

Still, Contreras has been fantastic overall since he was promoted from the minors to the starting rotation in late May with a 2.92 ERA and 25/9 K/BB in 24.2 innings over five starts, and the radar gun shows the dominant potential with a fastball that’s averaged 96 mph and two strong breaking pitches.

The rebuilding Pirates are very unlikely to overwork their 22-year-old ace, but the early returns are promising for a pitcher who has been electric in the minors over the last two seasons. After a couple of tough matchups, Contreras now has a chance to build more momentum with a two-start week against the Cubs and Rays.

Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates is an intriguing fantasy prospect
Roansy Contreras has an intriguing two-start fantasy week ahead. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

-Contreras’ rookie success hasn’t been matched by top Cubs prospect Caleb Kilian. After showing pinpoint control in the minors the last two years, Kilian was uncharacteristically wild in his second MLB start on Wednesday, with five walks in four innings vs. San Diego. The Cubs have almost no choice but to give him another go with a crazy number of pitching injuries. Kilian’s minor league track record shows a much better upside, including a 2.51 ERA in 10 starts at Triple-A Iowa this season with 9.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9. His control in the minors before this season was far better, and the stuff should play once he settles in with a fastball averaging 94 mph and a usable curveball. His first of two starts next week vs. Pittsburgh gives him a chance to get back on track, though Kilian is still a tough start in fantasy leagues until he shows some consistency.

-Lance Lynn made his first MLB start of the season this week following knee surgery, and ran into trouble against the Tigers, allowing three runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Lynn’s velocity was down from what we’re used to in recent seasons as he builds back up to full strength. It also shouldn’t be surprising that he struggled with lesser velocity, as Lynn’s improvement in recent years came in large part to big velocity increase with a fastball that’s averaged better than 93 mph since 2018. It’s far too soon to panic, though his first outing of a two-start week against the Blue Jays could be one to avoid.

-The story is similar for Jack Flaherty after making his first start of the year, back from a shoulder injury. His velocity was down a tick against the Pirates in his first start, and he allowed four runs (two earned) in three innings. Like Lynn, it will likely take a few starts for Flaherty to get back to the level we’re accustomed to seeing, and fantasy managers will need to exercise patience.

 

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, June 17, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Shane McClanahan: NYY, PIT

Dylan Cease: TOR, BAL

Nestor Cortes: @TB, HOU

Joe Ryan: CLE, COL

 

Decent Plays

José Berríos: @CHW, @MIL

Brady Singer: @LAA, OAK

Tyler Wells: WAS, @CHW

Lance Lynn: TOR, BAL

Marco Gonzales: @OAK, @LAA

Alex Faedo: @BOS, @ARI

 

At Your Own Risk

Beau Briske: @BOS, @ARI

James Kaprielian: SEA, @KC

Jose Urquidy: NYM, @NYY

Aaron Civale: @MIN, BOS

 

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: STL, TOR

Tony Gonsolin: @CIN, @ATL

Max Fried: SF, LAD

Yu Darvish: ARI, PHI

Logan Webb: @ATL, CIN

Miles Mikolas: @MIL, CHC

 

Decent Plays

Tyler Mahle: LAD, @SF

Aaron Ashby: STL, TOR

Roansy Contreras: CHC, @TB

Jack Flaherty: @MIL, CHC

Kyle Gibson: @TEX, @SD

Zach Davies: @SD, DET

JT Brubaker: CHC, @TB

 

At Your Own Risk

Trevor Rogers: @NYM, NYM

Daniel Castano: COL, NYM

Austin Gomber: @MIA, @MIN

Caleb Kilian: @PIT, @STL

Matt Swarmer: @PIT, @STL

 

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, June 21: Rich Hill vs. DET

We haven’t seen much consistency from the oldest pitcher in baseball this season, but he’s a plug-and-play vs. the worst lineup in the AL against southpaws. The Tigers have a pitiful .648 OPS against lefties.

 

Thursday, June 23: Devin Smeltzer vs. CLE

Smeltzer has been a godsend for the banged up Twins rotation, regaining some velocity and posting a 2.38 ERA in 34 innings. His terrible strikeout rate indicates inevitable regression, but a great matchup vs. a light-hitter Guardians squad (.651 OPS vs. LHP) provides another good opportunity.

 

Friday, June 24: Daniel Lynch vs. OAK

Like most of his teammates, Lynch has been a disappointment this season with a 5.50 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 11 starts. The ERA metrics are still slightly better than the results, and Lynch gets an A’s lineup with a .657 OPS vs. lefties.

 

National League

Thursday, June 23: Kyle Freeland @ MIA

Freeland has been excellent away from Coors Field, with a 3.00 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Facing the worst lineup in baseball vs. lefties next week is a bonus, as the Marlins sport a .591 OPS.

 

Friday, June 24: Luke Weaver vs. DET

Weaver has long frustrated fantasy managers, but the former first-round pick showed flashes in his return from injury last week and faces the worst lineup in baseball vs. right-handers (.572 OPS).

 

Friday, June 24: Andre Pallante vs. CHC

Pallante’s 1.46 ERA shows overachievement given his 25/17 K/BB in 37 innings, but there’s plenty to like with his 63% groundball rate build on a mid-90’s sinking fastball. The Cubs are in the bottom half of MLB in nearly every category, including OPS vs. right-handers (17th at .703).

 

Total Games

American League

5: TEX

6: BAL, BOS, CLE, DET, HOU, KC, LAA, MIN, OAK, SEA, TB, TOR

7: CHW, NYY

 

National League

5: WAS

6: ARI, CIN, COL, LAD, NYM, PHI,

7: ATL, CHC, MIA, MIL, PIT, SD, SF, STL

 

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: Out at least two months (foot)

Walker Buehler: Out 10-12 weeks (forearm)

Jake Burger: Day-to-day (hand)

Edward Cabrera: Placed on IL (elbow)

Matt Chapman: Day-to-day (wrist)

Mike Clevinger: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Nathan Eovaldi: Placed on IL (hip)

Yasmani Grandal: Placed on IL (back)

Garrett Hampson: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Liam Hendriks: Placed on IL (forearm)

Kevin Kiermaier: Day-to-day (Achilles)

Michael Kopech: Day-to-day (knee)

Pablo Lopez: Day-to-day (wrist)

Nick Madrigal: Placed on IL (groin)

Trey Mancini: Day-to-day (hand)

Ketel Marte: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Starling Marte: Day-to-day (wrist)

Tylor Megill: Status unknown (arm)

Yadier Molina: Placed on IL (knee)

Jeremy Pena: Placed on IL (thumb)

Jorge Polanco: Day-to-day (back)

Drew Rasmussen: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Anthony Rendon: Day-to-day (wrist)

Luis Severino: Day-to-day (illness)

Stephen Strasburg: Out indefinitely (ribs)

Marcus Stroman: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Eli White: Out indefinitely (wrist)