Fantasy Baseball: Can you trust these 20 'aces,' including Luis Severino, down the stretch?

Waiver Wire: Rangers need a closer after trading Keone Kela

"Ace" is one of those baseball terms that everybody uses and seems to understand even if it's not so clearly defined.

So let's not get lost in semantics, OK? Not all of these pitchers will fit your interpretation of what an ace is, but at some point in recent history — be it Draft Day, June 1 or the All-Star break — each was thought to have ace upside.

And as such, each is next to undroppable. I repeat: None of these assessments, no matter how unfavorable, is a recommendation to drop the pitcher. What I'm gauging here is trustworthiness, how confidently you can expect each pitcher to perform like an ace down the stretch.

I didn't include surefire aces like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom. Nope, each of these 20 has given us some reason to doubt them recently. It's just a matter of whether or not we should entertain those doubts.

To sum up my feelings for each, I've opted for a traffic light theme. Green should give you the most confidence. Red should send you looking for pitching help as your league's trade deadline approaches. Yellow, of course, is somewhere in between.  

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Chris Archer PIT • SP • 24
2018 season
ERA4.31
WHIP1.39
IP96.0
BB31
K102

We're used to Chris Archer falling short of expectations by now, but not in the strikeout department, where he has underachieved even with a 13-strikeout effort two turns ago. He doesn't appear to have lost anything stuff-wise, though, so the track record figures to come through. And now that he's out of the AL East, with it small parks and typically stout lineups, watch out.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.

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Jake Arrieta PHI • SP • 49
2018 season
ERA3.32
WHIP1.24
IP119.1
BB38
K87

It looked like he may finally be meeting his demise in June, but Jake Arrieta has bounced back with a nice July. His improved ground-ball tendencies are helping make up for the diminished stuff and plummeting strikeout rate, but you can't feel good about the 3.96 FIP.
The traffic signal is ... red.   

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Jose Berrios MIN • SP • 17
2018 season
ERA3.56
WHIP1.05
IP139.0
BB33
K142

Jose Berrios has been among the more Jekyll-and-Hyde pitchers in the game this year, which is why his ERA has hovered in the mid-threes, but he has really taken to the workhorse role, throwing seven innings or more in half of his starts. That's rare enough in this era, but especially for a 24-year-old and especially one with his strikeout ability. He seems like a Carlos Carrasco type in the making.
The traffic signal is ... green.

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Madison Bumgarner SF • SP • 40
2018 season
ERA3.06
WHIP1.20
IP61.2
BB24
K51

Madison Bumgarner's velocity has been in decline over the past several years and may have reached a breaking point as it relates to strikeouts, which haven't been the same dating back to the two months he missed with a sprained shoulder last year. Of course, he has a 3.27 ERA in 23 starts since then and remains a workhorse, so it may be early to sound the alarm.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.   

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Dylan Bundy BAL • SP • 37
2018 season
ERA4.53
WHIP1.26
IP115.1
BB35
K123

I've already used the Jekyll-and-Hyde analogy for Berrios, so I'd need something more extreme for Dylan Bundy, who had a five-start stretch in April and an eight-start stretch in May and June when he looked like an ace. But when he's off, it's ugly, and while I think his stuff is more in line with his best self, you can't count on him as more than an occasional starter off your bench.
The traffic signal is ... red. 

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Mike Foltynewicz ATL • SP • 26
2018 season
ERA3.04
WHIP1.19
IP112.1
BB48
K133

There came a point in early June when I looked at Mike Foltynewicz's 2.22 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and thought I was making this whole baseball analysis thing too hard. But that was right after he threw a complete game shutout. He hasn't had a quality start since. Granted, he actually lowered his ERA over his next four starts, but in only five innings at a time, which is sort of the problem. He's too inefficient to be a true standout in Fantasy and lately has seen some ERA regression as well.
The traffic signal is ... red.  

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Clayton Kershaw LAD • SP • 22
2018 season
ERA2.52
WHIP1.06
IP89.1
BB17
K91

If you accept that Clayton Kershaw isn't the tier-unto-himself uber ace of years past, there isn't much reason for concern beyond his usual propensity for injury. His velocity is down and his strikeouts along with it, but he's still throwing six innings consistently with a FIP (3.07) that hardly suggests disaster is around the corner. It's not Kershaw-like, but it's ace-like.
The traffic signal is ... green.     

Corey Kluber SP •
2018 season
ERA2.79
WHIP.94
IP145.0
BB19
K139

Like Kershaw, we should probably recalibrate our expectations for Corey Kluber, whose Cy Young numbers of a year ago were more of an aberration than what he's doing now. His breaking ball usage has returned to normal and the swinging strikes along with it, which means he's probably more like the 3.32 ERA pitcher we saw in 2015 and 2016 — not that there's anything wrong with that.
The traffic signal is ... green.     

Sean Manaea SP •
2018 season
ERA3.46
WHIP1.00
IP135.1
BB24
K93

Sean Manaea seemed like he was headed down a more believable path when his ERA jumped from 1.03 to 3.60 in May, but that's the worst it ever got even though he has the second-lowest BABIP and the fifth-lowest K/9 among qualifying pitchers. Having such good luck on balls in play is especially concerning for a pitcher who allows so many balls in play, and I still think things could go south fast for him.
The traffic signal is ... red. 

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Carlos Martinez STL • SP • 18
2018 season
ERA3.41
WHIP1.38
IP100.1
BB49
K98

The guy misses a month with a strained lat, then comes back throwing softer out of fear of reinjuring it, then suffers an oblique injury and then comes back for just one start before straining his shoulder and landing again on the DL. Carlos Martinez looked fine before this latest injury Monday, striking out nine in 4 2/3 innings, but now he has to rest, rehabilitate and win your trust all over again. We're running out of time for that.
The traffic signal is ... red.

Lance McCullers SP •
2018 season
ERA4.06
WHIP1.20
IP122.0
BB48
K133

Lance McCullers has had stretches this season when his curveball, which might as well be his moon and stars, just hasn't had the same bite to it. Such was the case in his last start of the first half and first start of the second half, but he bounced back with 11 strikeouts and no walks last time out. You can't expect perfection from him — and it's baseball, so you shouldn't from anyone — but the ups and downs aren't as dramatic as, say, those of Bundy.
The traffic signal is ... green. 

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Sean Newcomb ATL • SP • 15
2018 season
ERA3.23
WHIP1.20
IP119.2
BB57
K110

Sean Newcomb came within an out of a no-hitter Sunday, striking out eight and walking one, which would seemingly make now a bad time to sound the alarm. But in the six starts leading up to it, he had 20 walks to just 21 strikeouts, and in the 12 starts leading up to it, he averaged 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He doesn't miss enough bats to make up for all the free passes, and the ERA will keep rising if it continues.
The traffic signal is ... red.     

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David Price BOS • SP • 10
2018 season
ERA3.97
WHIP1.22
IP122.1
BB36
K119

An eight-inning gem against the Phillies on Monday should ease concerns about David Price, and if not for an eight-run disaster July 1, those concerns might not even exist. Remove it from the equation and he has a 2.74 ERA over his past 13 starts. Of course, he doesn't get the swinging strikes you'd expect for a strikeout-per-inning guy, which is especially notable given his recent injury history, but even in his Cy Young season, he was only 73rd out of 124 qualifiers in swinging strike rate.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.

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Jose Quintana CHC • SP • 62
2018 season
ERA4.26
WHIP1.42
IP107.2
BB52
K95

Jose Quintana had been on a pretty good run, actually, before giving up six earned runs in three innings Saturday, putting together a 2.94 ERA in his previous nine starts. But it was more a product of a low BABIP than any improvement in Quintana's walk and strikeout rates, and in only four of the starts did the left-hander go the minimum for a quality start. There's just too much that needs salvaging here.
The traffic signal is ... red. 

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Robbie Ray ARI • SP • 38
2018 season
ERA5.05
WHIP1.39
IP66.0
BB33
K87

There's still a lot to like about Robbie Ray, whose swinging strike rate and K/9 can compete with any ace. But strikeouts are just one leg of the FIP triangle, and Ray doesn't measure up on the other two, struggling with walks and home runs in a way that's hardly unfamiliar to him. A lot went right for him last year in terms of batted balls, which gives him a difficult path back to those numbers.
The traffic signal is ... red.  

Luis Severino SP •
2018 season
ERA2.94
WHIP1.08
IP137.2
BB33
K157

That Luis Severino can create so much turmoil while still boasting a 2.94 ERA is a testament to his greatness. In the grand scheme of things, it's four starts in which he hasn't looked right, and he was still good enough to win one of them. The velocity is fine, and he got his usual share of swinging strikes in the most recent two. Whatever's bugging him is small and correctable, and you should still feel good about him as your ace.
The traffic signal is ... green.     

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Ross Stripling LAD • SP • 68
2018 season
ERA2.68
WHIP1.13
IP104.0
BB15
K119

Performance-wise, Ross Stripling actually doesn't concern me so much even though his first two starts of the second half were among his worst of the season. For one thing, it's just two starts — and two you could possibly pin on a toe injury that just landed him on the DL. For another, his strikeout rate, walk rate and FIP are all still excellent. My biggest concern is the threat of him moving to the bullpen as the Dodgers return to full health and the innings begin to pile up, but the DL stint should afford him a brief rest.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.  

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Noah Syndergaard NYM • SP • 34
2018 season
ERA2.89
WHIP1.25
IP74.2
BB15
K83

Landing on the DL with hand, foot and mouth disease was a stroke of bad luck for Noah Syndergaard and nothing that should impact your outlook for the Mets co-ace. He returned with his usual stuff Wednesday, so as long as you're convinced he's over the finger injury that put him on the DL for June and half of May, you have every reason to believe he's the pitcher you drafted him to be.
The traffic signal is ... green.    

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Stephen Strasburg WAS • SP • 37
2018 season
ERA3.90
WHIP1.15
IP85.1
BB21
K101

Stephen Strasburg returned from a bout with shoulder inflammation to make one start before landing back on the DL with a supposedly unrelated neck issue. His all-too-frequent DL trips may already have you seeking out replacements, but he's back to throwing off a mound and may only miss one more turn. It's a don't-throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater situation for a pitcher who's clearly an ace when right.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.  

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Masahiro Tanaka NYY • SP • 19
2018 season
ERA3.84
WHIP1.05
IP98.1
BB25
K100

It's easy to take a glass-half-full approach to Masahiro Tanaka when he's coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, one a complete game, but he's so susceptible to the long ball that you can never get too comfortable. It may end up being a Dylan Bundy situation where you end up cursing him as often as you celebrate him, but he is a bit more established and impossible to bench when he's going well. That 4.42 FIP is scary, though.
The traffic signal is ... yellow.  

Senior Fantasy Writer

Raised in Atlanta by a board game-loving family during the dawn of the '90s Braves dynasty, Scott White was easy prey for the Fantasy Sports, in particular Fantasy Baseball, and has devoted his adulthood... Full Bio

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