Fairly or not, I've lumped Mat Latos and Mike Minor together this season. Both started their seasons late due to injury, both have not met expectations based on past performance, and both have recently shown outward signs of turning the corner. They even faced off against each other in Friday's memorable near-no-hitter for Minor.
Whatever progress Latos and Minor have made in recent starts, Fantasy owners aren't buying it. Latos had registered 20-plus Fantasy points in three consecutive weeks before putting up a 10-spot in Week 21, yet his activation rate of 67 percent is exactly one point ahead of where it was four weeks ago. Minor has accumulated 57 Fantasy points over three starts in the last two weeks, and he would have had more if the Braves could have just mustered one more run against Latos and the Reds on Friday, giving him a win. His activation rate has inched up slowly over the last month, but only 43 percent of the owners in CBSSports.com leagues saw fit to put Minor in their rotation this week.
Though Latos is currently the more popular Fantasy option, and by a good margin, I actually trust Minor to pitch more like his old self from this point in the season on out. There's no disguising how ineffective he had been over a 10-start span lasting from June 10 to Aug. 1, as he yielded a 37 percent line drive rate and 7 percent whiff rate (per Baseball-Reference.com) and an average flyball distance of 287 feet (per BaseballHeatMaps.com).
That poor stretch produced a 7.33 ERA, but since then, Minor has notched three straight quality starts, including his flirtation with a no-no. He may always be a flyball pitcher, but his average flyball distance over those starts was merely 257 feet, and he posted a 9 percent whiff rate. That latter stat would have been even higher if Minor hadn't had the misfortune of facing the A's, who don't swing much and don't miss much when they do.
Latos isn't getting hitters to swing and miss like he has in the past, but he's had success anyway (4-3, 2.99 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) because of a .255 BABIP that is lower than any of his full-season marks. A 12 percent popup rate has helped with that, but the flipside is a modest 42 percent ground ball rate for which Latos has yet to pay the price. He has allowed just five home runs and 12 doubles this season.
Minor's recent run is a short one, but at least it presents us with some evidence that the lefty can get whiffs and avoid hard contact. We have yet to see that from Latos, who with lesser luck, could have allowed at least another dozen base hits, with several going for extra bases. I'm still not sure I'll trust either pitcher in a standard mixed league, but when it's time to set lineups for next week, I'll have a harder time sitting Minor than Latos.