For more Fantasy baseball insights, and to keep up with all the latest news, roster trends and more throughout the season, subscribe to Fantasy Baseball Today now on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify. You can find us on YouTube now, with full episodes and clips available every Monday through Friday.
In an industry obsessed with velocity, Frankie Montas managed to slip under the radar. It's not terribly hard to see why, with his career 4.57 ERA at Triple-A, along with his 4.90 mark in parts of three major-league seasons entering 2018.
But, the reason the industry is obsessed with velocity is precisely because it is a good stand in for potential. And Montas is showing us now that those high velocity readings were hiding more potential than we gave him credit for. He struck out five over six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.75, with a 3.59 FIP that mostly backs up the gains he has made.
What are those gains? Through seven starts, Montas has a 51.7% groundball rate, a mark that fits with his profile, which features heavy usage of a sinker that averages 97.0 mph, topped only by Noah Syndergaard. He's combined that with better-than-average control, and most importantly, an increased strikeout rate.
Montas isn't going to put up Syndergaard-esque whiff rates, but he's bumped his strikeout rate up to just about league average, with a swinging strike rate above 10%. Montas introduced a splitter this season, after being essentially a two-pitch pitcher previously. And that splitter has been extremely effective, garnering a 22.9% swinging strike rate, a big improvement from his decent slider, as well as the abysmal changeup he rarely relied on in previous seasons.
Is Montas a star in the making? Not necessarily, but he certainly looks like an asset moving forward. He didn't look like one even a month ago, so he's come a long way. I'm buying in after another solid start, and if you're in one of the 15% of CBS Fantasy leagues where he is still available, you should too.
- Josh VanMeter (8%) — One of the things we've seen over the past few years is players with strong contact profiles and middling power performing better than expected in the majors. With the ball flying out of the park at higher and higher paces, the ability to put the bat on the ball simply gives you more opportunities to take advantage of the environment. In VanMeter's case, we've seen signs of that in Triple-A this year, where the switch to the same ball as in the majors was made. Vanmeter has hit 13 homers in Triple-A, and we'll see if he can keep it up after the Reds purchased his contract Sunday.
- Pablo Lopez (34%) — If you buy into the value of advanced stats, you've gotta be a fan of Lopez. He showed above-average swing-and-miss skills with his changeup and curveball last season and combined it with a fastball that garnered plenty of groundballs. He's taken things to a new level in 2019, with a 51.0% groundball rate, 9.24 K/9, and 2.13 BB/9. He's doing everything you want from a pitcher, leading to a 2.79 FIP, and with a 2.35 ERA over his past four starts, the results are starting to catch up.
- Jonathan Loaisiga (18%) — Another guy whose results have lagged a bit behind the potential, Loaisiga returned to the majors to replace James Paxton, who was placed on the I.L. with a knee injury this weekend. Loaisiga returns from Triple-A with a 4.41 ERA in 34.2 career innings, but with a 3.73 ERA and a bevy of swing-and-miss offerings that make him worth a look if you need pitching help.
- Spencer Turnbull (38%) — It's not hard to see why Turnbull didn't have much hype coming into the season, but he's opened my eyes so far. Turnbull limited the Royals to just one run on six hits in seven innings, with seven strikeouts and only one walk, lowering his season ERA to 2.31. He won't sustain quite that level of success, but with a decent ground-ball rate and solid strikeout and walk numbers, Turnbull deserves more respect.
And here are a couple of potential impact players to stash …
- Didi Gregorius (56%) — Gregorius is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's close to getting back into games. Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters Saturday Gregorius could be playing in rehab games in a couple of weeks, and a return before June isn't out of the question. Let's not forget, Gregorius hit .268 with 27 homers in just 134 games and can still be a difference maker whenever he gets back.
- Ian Happ (12%) — There's less smoke with Happ, but it doesn't take much to see an easy path back. Albert Almora had two doubles Sunday night, bringing his grand total of extra-base hits this season to four. He just doesn't have enough bat, and it's not hard to see the Cubs looking for an upgrade at some point. After striking out nine times in his first five games at Triple-A, Happ has struck out just 20.2% of the time in 25 games since, with four walks, and a .259/.385/.459 line. The Cubs have still been using Happ in center field, and if they tire of Almora's limited bat, Happ still has a very Fantasy-friendly profile.
Winners and Losers
- Chris Sale — The velocity wasn't all the way back, but Friday was the first time Sale looked like himself this season. He struck out 10 and walked just one in his six three-hit innings, and gave up just two batted balls over 100 mph. That's been as much a problem as anything else, and I'm tentatively back on board after Sale's last few starts.
- Mike Minor — Minor has looked more like Sale than Sale himself this season, and he was dominant yet again Friday against the Blue Jays. He struck out nine over eight innings, lowering his ERA to 2.40 in an MLB-leading 48.2 innings.
- Ketel Marte — Sometimes it takes a full year for changes to take hold, I suppose. Marte was one of the "fly-ball revolution" guys last season but saw his average launch angle and expected slugging percentage drop. This season, however, Marte is sporting an above-average hard-hit% and average exit velocity and seems to have earned most of his apparently power gains. With his contact skills and willingness to swipe a base or 10, Marte looks like a Fantasy mainstay.
- Wil Myers — Myers managed to strike out just once Sunday, and at this point, it's a cause for celebration. Myers had struck out in 50% of his plate appearances over the previous 12 games, though Sunday's one-strikeout game did manage to lower his season strikeout rate to 36.8%. In a crowded Padres' outfield, how long can he keep this up without losing playing time?
- German Marquez — If you weren't buying Marquez as an ace after last season, it was probably because of one thing: his home park. Coors Field is undefeated. Exceptionally talented pitchers can tame it for a year, maybe, but nobody ever truly conquers it. With 15 earned runs in 23 innings at home, Marquez looks like the most recent casualty. He can still be a very useful mid-3.00s ERA guy, but it's hard to see Marquez repeating last year.
- Kenta Maeda — There really isn't much explanation for Maeda's struggles so far, which might be an argument in favor of ignoring them. However, we're seven starts in, and Maeda has a 4.66 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio below 2.0. There's too much track record here to dump Maeda, but you can't start him under any circumstances at this point.