Zack Wheeler gets back on track and other fantasy nuggets

Yahoo Sports
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/ny-mets/" data-ylk="slk:New York Mets">New York Mets</a>' <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/9124/" data-ylk="slk:Zack Wheeler">Zack Wheeler</a> twirls a gem in a dominant performance. (AP Photo)
New York Mets' Zack Wheeler twirls a gem in a dominant performance. (AP Photo)

Like many top starters this season, Zack Wheeler was off to a rough start, entering Tuesday’s outing with a 6.35 ERA and 1.54 WHIP after he was one of baseball’s best pitchers during the second half of last year (1.68 ERA and 0.81 WHIP). Put differently, Wheeler allowed 14 earned runs and 15 walks over 75.0 innings after the All-Star break; he had allowed 16 earned runs and 14 walks over 22.2 innings this season entering Tuesday’s start.

Wheeler bounced back in a big way during a dominant performance, posting an 11:0 K:BB ratio over seven scoreless innings while also adding two extra-base hits at the plate, including the first homer of his career. He still sits with an ugly 4.85 ERA on the year, but Wheeler has averaged a career-high 97.1 mph with his fastball (only teammate Noah Syndergaard is throwing faster this season), and he’s throwing his slider (92.2 mph) harder than ever too, so he certainly appears healthy.

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He's had to deal with a tough schedule to open the year, including twice having to face the same opponent in back-to-back starts and all five outings coming against offenses that rank in the top half of the league in wRC+. It looks like the Mets’ defense is going to be a major problem, but Citi Field should more than help offset that (no park in baseball suppressed batting average more over the last three seasons and only Marlins Park has decreased run scoring more over that span). With Wheeler’s tough start to the season behind him, expect more terrific outings like Tuesday’s moving forward.

QUICK HITS

Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks

He had another strong start and now sports a 24:2 K:BB ratio over his last three outings. Weaver was a big disappointment last year when he finished with a 4.95 ERA and 1.50 WHIP when many were predicting a breakout (myself included), but he looks much better in 2019 when he entered Tuesday’s start with a career-high 10.3 SwStr%. He now owns a 2.54 FIP on the season but is still available in more than half of Yahoo leagues.

Dwight Smith Jr., Baltimore Orioles

I keep waiting for him to stop hitting, but he kindly refuses, swatting another three-run homer Tuesday, giving him seven RBI over his last three contests. Traded from the Blue Jays in March for international bonus pool space, Smith Jr. is up to five homers and three steals with a 125 wRC+ on the year. He’s hitting third for the Orioles and should benefit from a park that boosts homers, yet he’s still available in 70% of leagues.

Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins

After another solid outing, he sits with a 29:5 K:BB ratio and a 1.18 WHIP over his first five starts of the season (26.1 innings). Just two of those have come at home, which is by far the best pitcher’s park in baseball, so it’s curious Lopez is still available in more than 90% of leagues. Throwing harder than ever, Lopez should be universally owned.

Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins

He clubbed his 10th homer and now sits with a 156 wRC+ to open the year. He’s yet to attempt a stolen base but has been a top-25 fantasy player nevertheless, as his owners are hardly complaining. Rosario’s expected slugging (.596) is in the top 8% of the league, and a career-year appears to be in store.

Luke Voit, New York Yankees

He hit two more homers Tuesday, giving him three over the last two games. He’s hitting just .235 on the season but is now a fixture in the middle of the Yankees’ injury-ravaged lineup in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball. Voit’s Barrel% (21.4) is in the top 2% of the league, and he ranks second in MLB in home runs (only to Christian Yelich) since the middle of last August.

Travis Shaw, Milwaukee Brewers

Immediately after I put Shaw on my Stock Down list, he knocks three homers over two games. It came with a 4:0 K:BB ratio, but it’s nice to see the power returning.

Victor Robles, Washington Nationals

He had a three-run double with two steals Tuesday when he continued to bat second with Anthony Rendon out. It’s nice to see after Robles entered with an exit velocity (81.1 mph) that ranked in the bottom 2% of the league to go along with a K% (32.5) that ranked bottom 6%, which isn’t an ideal combo. Of course, Robles has been a fine fantasy asset regardless and should improve in those areas, but it sure would help if he wasn’t dropped back down to batting ninth once Washington gets healthy.

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