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Weekly Planner: Tanner Roark, the Nationals' unsung pitching hero

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Tanner Roark has a 2.92 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.06 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings over 13 starts.

The Nationals sit atop the NL East despite the position players being snakebitten with injuries. Bryce Harper remains on the DL, and Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Wilson Ramos have all spent significant time on the shelf this season. Thanks to the strength of their rotation, however, they entered play Sunday in a first-place tie with the Braves. Their plus-40 run differential is the second best in the NL and third best in the majors, trailing only the Giants and A's. They've also allowed the second fewest runs in the league, with only the Cardinals surrendering fewer.

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By any measure, the Nationals' rotation has been one of the best in the league this year. They rank in the top five in ERA (3.30), FIP (3.21), xFIP (3.36), WHIP (1.20) and strikeout rate (21.4 percent). While Stephen Strasburg headlines the rotation, and Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister get their fair share attention, as well, the team's fifth starter, Tanner Roark, has been a huge part of the unit's success.

In 83 1/3 innings covering 13 starts, Roark has a 2.92 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 1.06 WHIP and 65 strikeouts. He's the No. 26 ranked starter in typical 5x5 fantasy leagues, outpacing guys like Sonny Gray, Michael Wacha and Corey Kluber. Roark doesn't feature overpowering stuff, but he has excelled with great command. He his issued just 18 non-intentional walks, good for a 5.4-percent walk rate. Opposing hitters swing at just 60.8 percent of Roark's pitches that are in the strike zone, which is the eighth-lowest rate in the majors. He may not blow hitters away, but he's able to fool them with pinpoint control of a two-seam fastball that he uses away to righties and in to lefties. Hitters offer at it even less frequently, as his fastball has a Z-swing percentage, which measures how often batters swing at a pitch in the strike zone, of 57.8 percent.

Roark has yet to get the notice from fantasy owners that his rotation-mates have earned over the years. He remains widely available in fantasy leagues even though he has been an asset for the entire season. He starts twice in the next seven days and is our No. 13 two-start pitcher for the week. However, Roark isn't just a guy you want on your roster for this week alone. He should be owned in all mixed leagues.

Roster trends

Most added

Eugenio Suarez, Tigers -- Suarez has taken over as the Tigers starting shortstop for good, slashing .400/.500/1.000 in his first 25 plate appearances. He also put up good numbers in the minors this year, hitting .284/.347/.503 with six homers between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.

Wei-yin Chen, Orioles -- Chen was great in his last start, tossing seven shutout innings in a win over the Red Sox. He's now 7-2 with a 3.76 ERA, 3.63 FIP and 1.25 WHIP in 76 2/3 innings this year, and should be owned in most mixed leagues.

Brock Holt, Red Sox -- Holt continues to hit for the Red Sox, and now sports a .338/.377/.468 slash line through 152 plate appearances. Given that he's one of the few players on the team hitting with any regularity, John Farrell will continue to find a spot for him in the lineup.

Most dropped

Yangervis Solarte, Yankees -- Solarte's production has slowed considerably, as he is in the midst of an 0-for-16 skid. He's hitting .278/.348/.426, and while his positional flexibility still makes him an asset, he is not a player who needs to be owned regardless of league size.

Oscar Taveras, Cardinals -- The Cardinals sent Taveras back to Triple-A Memphis after Matt Adams came off the DL. He hit .189/.225/.297 in 40 trips to the plate in his brief appearance in the majors. If you have the roster space to keep him, though, stash him for the time being.

Emilio Bonifacio, Cubs -- Bonifacio was placed on the DL over the weekend with an oblique strain, but he has really fallen off since a strong start. He's slashing just .266/.311/.344 on the season.

Two-start pitchers

1. Max Scherzer

2. Masahiro Tanaka

3. Johnny Cueto

4. Julio Teheran

5. Michael Wacha

6. Cole Hamels

7. Dallas Keuchel

8. Jon Lester

9. Kyle Lohse

10. Tyson Ross

11. Ervin Santana

12. Jered Weaver

13. Tanner Roark

14. Hyun-jin Ryu

15. Jason Hammel

16. Yordano Ventura

17. Phil Hughes

18. Wily Peralta

19. Jon Niese

20. Justin Verlander

21. Jake Odorizzi

22. Jason Vargas

23. Marcus Stroman

24. Trevor Bauer

25. Drew Pomeranz

26. Brandon McCarthy

27. Roenis Elias

28. Rubby De La Rosa

29. Chris Young

30. Wei-yin Chen

31. Colby Lewis

32. John Danks

33. Tommy Milone

34. Jacob deGrom

35. Tom Koehler

36. Jacob Turner

37. Eric Stults

38. Kevin Correia

39. Brandon Cumpton

40. Kyle Kendrick

41. Josh Tomlin

42. Tyler Matzek

43. Wade Miley

Teams playing seven games

Angels

Braves

Diamondbacks

Red Sox

Indians

Tigers

Royals

Marlins

Brewers

Twins

Mets

A's

Phillies

Padres

Mariners

Cardinals

Rays

Teams playing five games

Giants

Weekday day games

(all times Eastern)

Tuesday

Padres @ Mariners, 3:40

Wednesday

Phillies @ Braves, 12:10

Cubs @ Marlins, 12:40

Royals @ Tigers, 1:08

Orioles @ Rays, 1:10

Twins @ Red Sox, 1:35

Mets @ Cardinals, 1:45

Giants @ White Sox, 2:10

Rangers @ A's, 3:35

Thursday

Angels @ Indians, 12:05

Reds @ Pirates, 12:35

Royals @ Tigers, 1:08

Brewers @ Diamondbacks, 3:40

Friday

Pirates @ Cubs, 4:05

Favorable matchups

Angels (@ Cleveland, vs. Texas) -- The Angels take the field seven times this week, facing off with the Indians for four and the Rangers for three. Both of their opponents rank in the bottom-fifth of the league in ERA, and the Angels have the good fortune to miss Yu Darvish when the Rangers come to town.

Red Sox (vs. Minnesota, @ Oakland) -- While the Red Sox have to deal with the A's, who have the best ERA in the majors, over the weekend, they should feast when the Twins visit Boston.

Cubs (@ Miami, vs. Pittsburgh) -- The Cubs play six times this week, visiting the Marlins in Miami and hosting the Pirates over the weekend. They're slated to face Tom Koehler, Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, Charlie Morton and Brandon Cumpton. Eovaldi is the only one of the five who is widely owned in fantasy leagues.

Brewers (@ Arizona, @ Colorado) -- The Brewers spend the entire week on the road, playing in two of the league's best parks for hitters. They also play seven times, making this a great week to own some Brewers.

White Sox (vs. San Francisco, @ Minnesota) -- The White Sox start the week facing Matt Cain and Tim Hudson, but things should get considerably easier when they visit Minnesota from Thursday through Sunday. The Twins' 4.45 ERA is the third highest in the majors.

Unfavorable matchups

Braves (vs. Philadelphia, @ Washington) -- The Braves have a rough week, facing Cole Hamels during their three-game series with the Phillies, then heading to D.C. where they'll have to deal with Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark.

Orioles (@ Tampa Bay, @ New York Yankees) -- The Orioles spend the week in their division, visiting the Rays and Yankees. They're scheduled to face Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and Masahiro Tanaka.

Indians (vs. Los Angeles Angels, vs. Detroit Tigers) -- While the Indians play seven games this week, they have their work cut out for them. They'll have to deal with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander.

Astros (@ Washington, @ Tampa Bay) -- Any week that includes the Nationals as an opponent is typically a rough one for an offense, and that's certainly the case for the Astros this week. Even though they only play two games against the Nats, they'll have to face Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez. They also get Chris Archer, David Price and Jake Odorizzi.

Royals (@ Detroit, vs. Seattle) -- The Royals have a challenging week ahead, facing Max Scherzer, Annibal Sanchez and Hisashi Iwakuma in three of their seven games. They also get Justin Verlander, Drew Smyly and Roenis Elias.

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