Pitching Report: Don't wait for tomorrow to buy Brandon Morrow

Are you a fantasy baseball owner in need of rotation help? Give Brandon Morrow a try. That and the rest of the week's news, advice and stats in the latest edition of the Pitching Report.
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It took less than a month for the DH partisans to find something that proves the NL needs to do away with pitchers hitting and add yet another specialist to the game of baseball. I’d call myself a lukewarm supporter of pitchers remaining in the lineup. I like the tradition and strategy elements, but I wouldn’t exactly rally to the cause to save it, either. There are certainly numerous substantive arguments for adopting use of the DH in the NL. But a pitcher getting injured while batting or running the bases is not one of them.

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Adam Wainwright suffered what is believed to be a season-ending Achilles injury while running out of the box over the weekend. That has once again started the drumbeat for the DH making its way to the senior circuit. Wainwright’s injury is unfortunate, for the Cardinals individually and baseball as a whole. At the same time, pitchers take thousands of plate appearances per year, and rarely are they injured because of their offensive duties. Some may say that even one is too many. I say that applying a systemic salve to an anecdotal issue would be misguided.

If you want to add the DH to the NL, build your case on the arguments that actually do carry weight. It doesn’t make sense for the leagues to use different rules, especially in an era of widespread interleague play. Pitchers are occasionally forced to leave NL games for pinch-hitters for reasons that have nothing to do with the way they’re pitching. Granting what is frequently an automatic out is not exactly exciting baseball. Anything to rid the world of the sacrifice bunt scourge can’t be a bad thing. All of these are worthwhile arguments for making the DH universal. Wainwright’s, or any pitcher’s injury sustained on the basepaths is not.

Pitchers of the Week

Chris Archer, Rays: 12 2/3 IP, 1 W, 16 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.87 WHIP

Archer is the first pitcher of the season to make it into this section in consecutive weeks, and if he truly has ascended to a new level of production, this won’t be the last time his name appears here. Archer allowed seven hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in his first start last week, but got away with it thanks to nine strikeouts. He took a hard-luck loss, surrendering just one unearned run that came on a throwing error. He then took the ball over the weekend, tossing seven shutout innings, allowing just three base runners and striking out seven in a win over the Blue Jays.

Toronto will likely be happy to not see Archer for a while: The 26-year-old has pitched 14 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays, fanning 18 batters and giving up just four hits and three walks. Archer also became the first pitcher in Rays history not to allow an earned run in four consecutive starts. His next outing is Friday against Baltimore.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners: 9 IP, 1 W, 9 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP

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Hernandez made just one start last week, but it was one of the best of the season to date as he earned his first complete-game shutout of the year, striking out nine batters, walking none, and allowing five hits against the Twins. As dominant as Hernandez has been his entire career, it was his first complete-game shutout since 2012. Through four starts this season, Felix is already doing Felix things. He has recorded at least nine strikeouts in three of his four outings and has gone at least seven innings in three of them, as well. His changeup is already as filthy as ever, boasting a 23.4% whiff rate on 111 offerings. He’ll make his next start on Wednesday in Texas.

Jake Arrieta, Cubs: 13 IP, 2 W, 13 K, 2.08 ERA, 0.85 WHIP

The Cubs may have thrown all that money at Jon Lester over the winter, but Arrieta is the staff’s ace. He made two great starts last week, earning wins over division foes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, allowing the Pirates just one run on four hits and striking out seven batters in seven innings. Arrieta, who threatened a handful of no-hitters last year, was perfect through 3 2/3 innings against the Reds before allowing a solo homer to Todd Frazier. By then, the Cubs already had a four-run lead, one that Arrieta was easily able to protect.

Arrieta has picked up right where he left off last season, going 3–1 with a 2.03 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 0.94 WHIP and 25 strikeouts against seven walks in 26 2/3 innings, and he next takes the ball on Saturday against the lowly Brewers.

Pitchers of the Weak

David Price, Tigers: 2 1/3 IP, 2 K, 30.86 ERA, 5.57 WHIP

Numbers that unsightly seem like a typo next to Price’s name, but he got roughed up by the Yankees for eight runs and 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings. It should be noted that the game was played in unseasonable cold, even for Detroit, and that snow was falling as Price surrendered six runs in the first inning alone. Hindsight may be 20/20, but it was easy to see at the time that Brad Ausmus shouldn’t have exposed Price to such elements once events started to unravel.

The weather that was at least partially to blame for Price’s terrible outing should be a distant memory when he next takes the mound against the Twins on Monday. Even after allowing eight runs and 13 baserunners against the Yankees, Price has a 3.28 ERA, 2.89 FIP and 1.26 WHIP on the season.

Shane Greene, Tigers: 4 IP, 1 K, 18.00 ERA, 2.75 WHIP

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After three great outings to begin his season, Greene finally felt the effects of not missing many bats. The lefty-heavy Indians scored eight runs on nine hits in just four innings against the Detroit righty, knocking him out of the game with a six-run fifth inning in which he failed to record an out. Until (or unless) Greene starts getting more strikeouts, he’s going to have starts like this from time to time. You can only tempt fate with so many balls in play before it turns around and bites you. But that’s not to say that the Indians BABIP’d Greene to death last week: There were plenty of well-struck balls, especially in the six-run fifth. Greene has the stuff to get more whiffs, but it hasn’t happened for him to this point of the season. He’ll get his first shot at redemption against the Twins on Wednesday.

Ian Kennedy, Padres: 4 1/3 IP, 2 K, 16.62 ERA, 2.08 WHIP

Kennedy’s return from the DL wasn’t exactly a happy one, as the Dodgers got to him for eight runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. He surrendered homers to Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Howie Kendrick, the first time he allowed three homers in a start since August 2013. If there’s any silver lining for Kennedy and his fantasy owners, it’s that his hamstring, which forced him to sit for two weeks, didn’t give him any trouble here. His struggles last week can be chalked up to both to rust and to a good lineup getting the better of him, but he has another tough assignment ahead of him, as he draws the Rockies at Petco Park on Friday.



Buy, Sell or Hold

Buy: Brandon Morrow, Padres

We’ve discussed Morrow a few times this season in both our Waiver Wire and Weekend Stream columns, where we recommended him not just as a guy who can help in a spot start, but also as one who should be on a roster for the remainder of the season. All it takes is a cursory glance at his ownership numbers to see that not many people have taken the bait. Those who have, however, understand the mistakes that are being made in other leagues by turning a blind eye to Morrow.

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In 27 innings this year, Morrow has a 2.67 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts against six walks. Just as importantly, the formerly electric starter has regained most of the velocity that he lost due to injuries: Both his average four-seam fastball and sinker are checking in at just under 95 miles per hour this year, and his average slider registers at 87.5 mph. Morrow has gone at least seven innings in three of his four starts, allowing a total of three runs in those outings.

We know what Petco Park can do for a pitcher, and Morrow’s ground-ball rates have climbed in the last two seasons. In many leagues, he can still be had for no more than the worst player on your roster.

Sell: Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Selling Zimmermann now would seem to violate every basic tenet of fantasy trade advice, given that his value probably can’t get any lower than it is through his first four starts of the season. Still, anyone who has watched him understands that it might get worse before it gets better. Zimmermann’s strikeout rate sits at a paltry 12.2%, while his average fastball and slider velocities are both down about two miles per hour, which is helping hitters catch up to both offerings. It also suggests that there might be something wrong with Zimmermann, as it’s hard to imagine an ascendant pitcher at 28 years old suddenly losing that much velocity without an injury being part of the equation.

At this point, if you own Zimmermann, you should make him available, if for no other reason than to see how much interest there is in him. If he can bring back something close to a dollar-for-dollar return, it may be worth it.

Hold: Carlos Carrasco, Indians

No one can fault Carrasco for looking a bit off since getting hit in the face by a ball off the bat of Melky Cabrera. Carrasco made just 60 pitches in his first start after the incident because of general tightness, and in his second start, he allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Tigers. Fantasy owners should not see either of these as a reason to sell, however. First of all, he was dominant in that initial outing after getting a few extra days of rest, fanning eight batters in just five innings. Second, he was not the first pitcher to struggle against the Tigers this year, nor will he be the last. What's more, the velocity and break on his pitches against Detroit were fine: When he’s throwing his fastball at 96 mph and getting 10-plus inches of movement on his sinker, he’s throwing the ball exactly as expected. Not only would I not be looking to trade Carrasco if I owned him, but I would also be checking in with his owner to see if he’s a bit jumpy after the last few weeks.

Prospect Watch

Marco Gonzales, Cardinals

Adam Wainwright’s Achilles injury has created a gaping hole in the St. Louis rotation that nobody this side of Cole Hamels can adequately fill. The Cardinals will have to fill that slot internally, at least for the time being, and that could mean the 23-year-old Gonzales gets his first real crack in the majors.

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The lefty made 10 appearances, including five starts, with the Cardinals last year, amassing a 4.15 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.53 WHIP and 31 strikeouts against 21 non-intentional walks in 34 2/3 innings. Gonzales himself is on the DL at Triple A Memphis with a pectoral injury, but he’s not expected to need to much time to get back on the mound. Once he’s ready, expect him to be the man filling Wainwright’s spot in the rotation. He was a consensus top-100 prospect heading into this season, with Baseball America ranking him No. 50 and Baseball Prospectus pushing him just a few notches lower at No. 52. His fastball sits in the low-90s, but it’s his changeup and command that make him such a highly regarded prospect.

Gonzales doesn’t project as a frontline starter, but he can be an effective mid-rotation guy for the next 10 years. Keep an eye on his progress as he makes his way back from injury. Owners in most formats will want to pounce on him once he gets the call to the majors.

Two-start pitchers

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Johnny Cueto
  3. Corey Kluber
  4. David Price
  5. Madison Bumgarner
  6. Collin McHugh
  7. James Shields
  8. Julio Teheran
  9. Jeff Samardzija
  10. Cole Hamels
  11. Sonny Gray
  12. Jake Odorizzi
  13. Michael Wacha
  14. Anibal Sanchez
  15. Trevor Bauer
  16. Doug Fister
  17. Jimmy Nelson
  18. Jason Hammel
  19. Ubaldo Jimenez
  20. Drew Hutchison
  21. Yovani Gallardo
  22. Taijuan Walker
  23. Joe Kelly
  24. John Lackey
  25. Brett Anderson
  26. Tim Lincecum
  27. Tommy Milone
  28. Jason Vargas
  29. Vance Worley
  30. Jered Weaver
  31. Jarred Cosart
  32. Dillon Gee
  33. Chase Anderson
  34. Aaron Sanchez
  35. J.A. Happ
  36. Jeremy Guthrie
  37. Nate Karns
  38. Jason Marquis
  39. Roberto Hernandez
  40. Mike Pelfrey
  41. Tyler Matzek
  42. Hector Noesi
  43. Eric Stults

GIF of the Week

David Robertson put quite the exclamation point on his week last Sunday. The White Sox and Royals finished a suspended game from the day before, with Robertson striking out the side in the top of the ninth and earning the win after Avisail Garcia’s walk-off single. Hours later, he protected a two-run lead in Sunday’s scheduled game, adding a save to the win he notched earlier in the day. All told, he allowed one baserunner and struck out five batters. Any of those five could have provided the GIF of the Week, though I prefer this strike three curveball to Eric Hosmer.