Monday April 20th, 2015

These are the top-10 starting pitchers in standard 5x5 head-to-head leagues two weeks into the season: Shane Greene, Chris Archer, Scott Kazmir, David Price, Max Scherzer, Jake Odorizzi, Bartolo Colon, Chris Heston, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez

Fantasy baseball waiver wire: Starters to believe in again

Six of the 10, including the top-three, were not deemed top-40 starting pitchers by average draft position. Greene, the No. 1 pitcher through two weeks, was outside the top-100 by ADP. Most fantasy owners probably hadn’t even heard of Heston.

What’s the point of this exercise? It’s to further show that anything can happen in two weeks. When evaluating your team for the remainder of the season, the results of these last two weeks don’t really matter. How each player manufactured his results, however, is key to understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses. That's why Green and Odorizzi are worth trusting for the rest of the season. Anyone can have success for two weeks, but only those actually earning the success will continue to reap rewards for their fantasy owners.

Pitchers of the Week

Jacob deGrom, Mets: 13 1/3 IP, 2 W, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

Fantasy baseball closer rankings

In his first two-start week of the season, deGrom delivered for his fantasy owners. He first held the Phillies scoreless across 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and one walk while fanning three batters. From a fantasy standpoint, that isn’t a great start, but he thankfully got the win. He followed that up with his best outing of the young season, tossing seven shutout frames against Miami, allowing six hits and striking out eight batters.

After winning the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was popular at draft tables this season, and he’s rewarding everyone who had the confidence to grab him back in March. He’s now 2-1 with a 0.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings on the season, and his secondary offerings look like they’ve taken a step forward. Namely, his sinker has an 11.39% whiff rate, his slider checks in at 13.95% in the same stat, and hitters are missing his changeup more than one-fifth of the time he throws it. His next start is Friday against the Yankees.

Shane Greene, Tigers: 15 IP, 2 W, 6 K, 0.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

Speaking of the Yankees, here’s a guy they may already regret trading this offseason. Greene has been a rock for the Tigers through three starts, helping them to the best record in the majors. He has thrown at least seven innings in all three of his starts, and just gave up his first run of the year his last time out against the White Sox. His first start last week was a gem, as he needed just 81 pitches to get through eight shutout innings in Pittsburgh. The Pirates had just three baserunners, none of which reached second base. He then took the ball against the White Sox, dancing around five hits and four walks to all just that one run, earning his third win of the season.

Greene may not post gaudy strikeout numbers this season, but he owns a filthy slider/cutter combo, and runs his four-seam fastball up into the mid-90s. His repertoire suggests more strikeouts are in the offing, which fantasy owners would certainly appreciate, but he’s going to induce weak contact all year. He’ll take the mound once this week, against the Indians on Friday.

Chris Archer, Rays: 7 IP, 1 W, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP

Student of the game: Well-read Archer has Cy Young hopes for Rays

Archer made just one start last week, but it was one of the best thus far in the 2015 season. He shut out the mighty Blue Jays for seven innings, striking out 11 while allowing just two hits and two walks. It was his second straight outing in which he went seven innings and didn’t allow a run. Archer has been leaning almost entirely on his fastball and slider this year, mixing in the occasional sinker and changeup. His slider has been ruthlessly effective, getting a 21.5% whiff rate on 107 total pitches. He has thrown his change just 25 times, but hitters have swung and missed on six of those offerings. What’s more, his average fastball velocity is up to 96.4 mph, the highest it has been in the last three seasons. Archer has always had the stuff to be a frontline starter, and at 26 years old, he may be finally coming into his own. His next start is Tuesday against the Red Sox.

Pitchers of the Weak

Anibal Sanchez, Tigers: 9 2/3 IP, 11 K, 13.03 ERA, 1.97 WHIP

Sanchez had an absolute nightmare of an outing on Saturday against the White Sox. He allowed nine runs on nine hits—including two homers—and two walks in just 3 1/3 innings, and that start alone increased his ERA on the season by more than four full points. His first start of the week wasn’t a whole lot better, when the Pirates tagged him for five runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.

If there was a silver lining in that start for his fantasy owners, it was that he struck out nine batters. It’s still too early to get really worked up about declined velocity, but it’s definitely a red flag for Sanchez. His average fastball velocity is at 91.81 mph this year; last season, it was 93.02 mph, and the year before it was 94.23. It’s something to keep an eye on, especially since Sanchez has dealt with injuries each of the last two seasons.

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: 8 2/3 IP, 3 K, 9.35 ERA, 2.08 WHIP

Power Rankings: Tigers in first, but Dodgers, Cardinals, Mets are close

​Zimmermann had a terrible outing in Boston last week, allowing seven earned runs on nine hits and a walk in just 2 1/3 innings in an eventual loss to the Red Sox. His next time out wasn’t nearly as bad, but also still far from what his owners expect out of him. He allowed four runs—two earned—on four hits and four walks while striking out just three batters in a loss to the Phillies. In both of the starts, Zimmermann’s defense made him work harder than he should have had to, resulting in a total of three unearned runs for the righty last week.

Zimmermann’s secondary pitches look good, but he’s getting beat on his fastball, which has lost two mph from last season. He has essentially traded his changeup for a sinker, and that is actually paying dividends through his first three starts. Now he needs to be finer with his four-seam fastball, and hopefully recoup some velocity, to pitch at the level expected of him.

Jon Lester, Cubs: 11 1/3 IP, 8 K, 7.15 ERA, 1.59 WHIP

The first three stats of the Lester era in Chicago have not gone as either the pitcher or the Cubs planned. He made two starts last week, neither of which lived up to his standard. He had a terrible night against the Reds last Monday, allowing six runs on 10 hits, though the team eventually got him off the hook, thanks to a game-tying homer by Jorge Soler in the eighth inning. He took the ball on Sunday against the Padres, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks in just 5 1/3 innings.

Lester hasn’t gone more than six innings in any of this three starts, and twice failed to make it even that far. He has allowed at least three runs and six hits in every outing this season, and has let 10 men reach base two times. Add it all up, and Lester’s carrying a 6.89 ERA and 1.79 WHIP through his first 15 2/3 innings as a Cub.


Buy, sell or hold

Buy: Carlos Martinez, Cardinals

Last Friday in our Weekend Stream column, we made a case for Martinez—not just as a stream option in his start against the Reds, but as a guy fantasy owners would want to keep around for the entire season. He proved why in that start on Saturday, allowing just one run and three hits while striking out four batters in six innings. Through 13 innings this season, Martinez’ ERA sits at 2.08, and his WHIP is a neat 0.92. He has made two starts, going at least six innings in both of them and allowing no more than two runs in either. He has had some trouble with the longball, as all three of his runs surrendered this year have come via a solo homer, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from getting him on your roster.

Martinez has had a ton of potential since first starring for the Cardinals as a reliever in 2013, and now he’s finally getting a chance to prove what he can do in the rotation. The 23-year-old may face an innings limit, but he could also be a top-30 fantasy starter across 150 innings. In many leagues, he’s still available on the waiver wire. If that’s the case in your league, go grab him right now.

Sell: Doug Fister, Nationals

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This is nothing really against Fister, a pitcher I really enjoy watching at his craft. However, Fister’s craft leads to him being an overrated fantasy commodity. He’s a great real-life pitcher, thanks to his ability to keep the ball down, and avoid both walks and homers. While those traits do translate to the fantasy game, Fister simply doesn’t miss enough bats to really be a huge asset.

In 13 innings this year, Fister has five strikeouts and a 9.1% strikeout rate. That’s going to eventually come up, but last year his strikeout rate was just 14.8%, and he’s had fewer than 7 K/9 in all but one season of his career. Given his sterling rates (0.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) through his first two starts, you can probably fetch a nice return for him right now.

Hold: Tyson Ross, Padres

Ross has really struggled with his control in April, and that has resulted in short outings as his pitch count crept too high. He has walked at least three batters in all three of his starts this year, and hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of them In his last start against the Cubs on Saturday, Ross issued five walks and allowed three runs in just 5 2/3 innings. All these walks could have his owners frustrated and looking to make a trade, especially while he still has the sheen of a high spring training rank. It would be a mistake to do so at anything less than fair value.

While Ross has had trouble finding the strike zone on occasion, he’s also missing a ton of bats. He struck out nine Cubs and fanned eight batters in his previous start against the Giants. It’s still a bit too early to put much stock into these numbers, but Ross’ strikeout rate is 26.3% and his whiff rate is 13.7%. He has had issues with his command in the past, but he’s just short of doubling his walk rate from each of the last two seasons. That will eventually settle down, allowing Ross to work deeper into games and be a top-20 fantasy starter.

Prospect Watch

Tyler Glasnow, Pirates

Now that Carlos Rodon is in the majors, attention turns to the next big prospect who could advance to the Show. While Noah Snydergaard and Jon Gray are probably ahead of Glasnow on the timeline, the 21-year-old Pittsburgh righty presents an interesting case. Glasnow has started this season at Double-A Altoona. He has made two starts on the year, allowing one run on six hits and four walks, while fanning 13 batters in 11 innings. There’s no doubt that Glasnow can be a frontline starter, and his prospect rankings reflect that. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and all have him among the top-21 prospects in baseball, with the most sanguine at No. 12.

Which highly ranked prospects could be next to make their MLB debuts?

​Glasnow’s a three-pitch pitcher right now, featuring a fastball, curveball and changeup. It’s the first two that project him as a potential ace. His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, but he can run it up into the high-90s when he needs to. It also has late, natural movement, cutting in on righties. The curveball will be his bread and butter out pitch, assuming he makes it in the majors. It sits in the high-70s and has traditional 12-to-6 breaking action. However, just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s something hitters are used to seeing. The vertical movement Glasnow gets on his curve is filthy. If he can command it in the strike zone, he’s going to be in the majors sooner rather than later.

Fantasy owners in typical redraft leagues don’t need to do anything with Glasnow just yet. Chances are he doesn’t make a serious impact in the majors until 2016, and even then he might just be a late-round flier. Keep an eye on his progress in the minors, though. If he starts to show that he has nothing left to prove at Double-A, he could quickly move up a level. Once he’s at Triple-A, he’s within arms length of the majors.

GIF of the Week

Remember all the handwringing over Masahiro Tanaka after his first two starts? He quieted a lot of that by pitching seven shutout innings and striking out eight batters in the Yankees’ win over the Rays on Saturday. Tanaka’s problems in those first two starts stemmed from his inability to command his fastball. It looks like he’s made some strides in that regard.

Two-start pitchers

1. Jake Arrieta
2. Lance Lynn
3. Chris Archer
4. Matt Shoemaker
5. Gio Gonzalez
6. Hisashi Iwakuma
7. Mike Fiers
8. Francisco Liriano
9. Trevor Bauer
10. A.J. Burnett
11. Brandon Morrow
12. Mark Buehrle
13. Dan Haren
14. Wei-yin Chen
15. Alfredo Simon
16. Anthony DeSclafani
17. Tim Lincecum
18. Edinson Volquez
19. Drew Pomeranz
20. Bud Norris
21. CC Sabathia
22. Wily Peralta
23. Brett Anderson
24. Jon Niese
25. Wade Miley
26. Nathan Eovaldi
27. Jason Vargas
28. Justin Masterson
29. Jorge de la Rosa
30. Trevor Cahill
31. John Danks
32. Kyle Gibson
33. Tyler Matzek
34. Nick Martinez
35. Kendall Gravemen
36. Kyle Lobstein
37. Jason Marquis
38. Asher Wojciechowski
39. Jerome Williams
40. Hector Noesi

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