Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: On Dallas Keuchel's deal with the Braves, emerging saves sources and struggling aces
The Dallas Keuchel deal dominated headlines on a day when Max Kepler hit three home runs and Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin, and Caleb Smith all continued to struggle. Scott White looks at winners and losers.
Even though it meant burning a roster spot for the first two months of the season, his ownership hovered around 85 percent in CBS Sports leagues, so it's not like he's a potential pickup for most of the people reading this column. And if you play in a league shallow enough that he is, understand there's still a wait ahead of you.
How long is anybody's guess right now. Supposedly, he's been throwing simulated games on the side, but he's scheduled for at least one start in the minor leagues while the Braves assess his readiness. Presumably, it'll be more — it might even be as much as a month — but whenever the time comes, he'll be a must-own starting pitcher in Fantasy.
A potential ace? Well, he's been that before, but not in a few years. He's a below-average strikeout pitcher but the best there is at generating ground balls, which makes him kind of an odd fit in the modern game. He generally pitches deep into games but is also an injury risk and doesn't stand out in any of the traditional 5x5 categories. Once it's clear he's ready to go, he'll be about my 50th-ranked starting pitcher. Right now, I'm moving him into the 60 range.
As for who loses value with his signing, the most common assumption is that Kevin Gausman moves to the bullpen, where he could thrive as basically a two-pitch pitcher. Of course, if he turns things around between now and Keuchel's activation — which is possible, judging from his peripherals — the Braves might go another direction.
But rest assured, Keuchel will have a spot, and he'll have one soon. Prepare accordingly.
SD San Diego • #10 • Age: 27
Hunter Renfroe homered for the seventh time in 12 games Thursday and has been getting more regular playing time over the past couple weeks. Power is about all he brings to the table, but with a four-game series at Coors Field coming up next week, now is a good time to buy in.
Jose Leclerc RP
TEX Texas • #25 • Age: 25
How close is Jose Leclerc to regaining the closer role in Texas? "It's getting close," manager Chris Woodward told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He's been pitching lights out. Just the command with his fastball and getting the weird swings with his changeup." His replacement, Shawn Kelley, followed up a blown save Wednesday with a converted save Thursday, but Leclerc, who was one of the most dominant closers in baseball last year, has allowed two earned runs on three hits in his past 11 2/3 innings, striking out 23 and walking two.
SEA Seattle • #43 • Age: 30
Hunter Strickland was facing such a lengthy absence when he strained his lat back in March that you had to figure someone else in the Mariners bullpen would step up and claim the closer role in his absence. But no one has, and so word of him beginning a rehab assignment next week is a big deal in leagues where saves are scarce.
MIN Minnesota • #55 • Age: 28
Taylor Rogers has now recorded back-to-back saves for the Twins, going two innings for his sixth of the season Thursday. He allowed a run, but Blake Parker, his main competition for the role, has allowed seven earned runs in his past four outings and has much weaker peripherals. The two have basically been splitting the closer role, but Rogers could be on the verge of pulling away — an exciting prospect given the state of the Twins right now.
Max Kepler RF
MIN Minnesota • #26 • Age: 26
Max Kepler ended a 0-for-21 skid with a three-homer day Thurday, all three of his shots coming off Trevor Bauer. He's now on a 40-homer pace, which would double his career high from a year ago, when he first began elevating the ball more. Why it's paying bigger dividends now is hard to say, but the xwOBA suggests he's performing over his head a bit.
Chris Archer SP
PIT Pittsburgh • #24 • Age: 30
Chris Archer continued down the resurgent path Thursday in what was technically his first quality start in seven chances. His last outing was pretty good too, though, and in both, he took the approach of attacking with his fastball early and saving his wipeout slider for later. We'll see.
MIL Milwaukee • #51 • Age: 23
Not to be a downer after Freddy Peralta dominated in his return to the rotation Thursday, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in six innings, but 80 of his 91 pitches were fastballs. That may work against the Marlins — it worked against the Reds back in April, when Peralta struck out 11 over eight two-hit innings — but as we've seen in his other starts, the approach leaves a low margin for error.
COL Colorado • #23 • Age: 22
Credit to Peter Lambert for a sensational major-league debut in which he went seven strong, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and nine strikeouts against a good Cubs lineup. He was never much of a strikeout pitcher in the minors, though, and had a 5.07 ERA at Triple-A this year. The fact his batted balls had an average exit velocity of 94.5 in this one, which would be the third-highest mark in the majors, probably says something.
Trevor Bauer SP
CLE Cleveland • #47 • Age: 28
Trevor Bauer gave up five earned runs, mostly on three home runs to Max Kepler, in eight innings Thursday, and expressed frustration afterward about the shaky outings of late. He also made reference to being "banged up" without getting into specifics. Then again, his swinging strike rate still rates among the best in baseball, his ERA would still be the second-lowest of his career, and his WHIP is a perfectly satisfactory 1.16. He's also on pace for more than 220 innings and 250 strikeouts, so let's not lose our minds here.
WAS Washington • #46 • Age: 30
Patrick Corbin's numbers suddenly don't look so spectacular either after following up a 2 2/3-inning disaster last time out with five shaky innings in which he walked five Thursday. He hasn't leaned as heavily on his slider as during his breakout 2018, and it hasn't been as effective either. Still, nobody had any reason for concern just two starts ago. Let's ride it out for now.
Caleb Smith SP
MIA Miami • #31 • Age: 27
After looking like a breakout ace over the first six weeks this season, Caleb Smith has been something less over his past five starts, none of which have gone the minimum six innings required for a quality start. Three of them were still pretty good, though (Thursday's not so much, with his velocity being down a little), which suggests the Marlins are just being careful with him. Still, it's going to further stifle his win potential on a bad team.
Tyler Skaggs SP
LAA L.A. Angels • #45 • Age: 28
After looking like he might be on the right track with three consecutive outings in which he struck out more than a batter per inning and just missed recording a quality start, Tyler Skaggs turned in a total stinker Thursday, allowing five earned runs with four walks in four innings. He doesn't have a standout pitch, and his arsenal isn't deep enough to suggest much room for growth.
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