Fantasy First Pitch for Week 19
Kevin Gausman is on a roll lately, but should we trust him to keep it going? Our Al Melchior breaks down the best options for Week 19 in his Fantasy First Pitch.
The post-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, big names have moved, and yet the feeling that mixed league owners will have in setting their rotations won't be much different than it was before. David Price and Jon Lester have new teams, but they remain as must-start options. John Lackey and Justin Masterson crossed over from the American League to fill out the Cardinals' rotation, but both can be treated in much the same way as they have been all season.
Of the big-name pitchers who were traded, Lackey gains the most value, moving from the doubles magnet that is Fenway Park to pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium. This week, though, Lackey is scheduled to make a single start at Baltimore, so he is a borderline option in standard mixed leagues. There are several high-end pitchers scheduled to make two starts in Fantasy Week 19 (Aug. 4-10), but finding one on waivers to replace Lackey or other one-start pitchers of similar value for this scoring period may not be easy. John Danks, Rubby De La Rosa, Brett Anderson and Hector Santiago are all available in at least 30 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, but all carry enough risk to be inferior options to the likes of Lackey, Bartolo Colon and Jesse Hahn, all of whom are scheduled to make one start.
Of the two-start pitchers likely to be available in standard mixed leagues, Charlie Morton, Brandon McCarthy and Kevin Gausman have the best chance to make benching a solid one-start pitcher worth your while. All possess considerable downside, too, so your best two-start options may ultimately be the ones already on your team.
One potential two-start option not included in this week's initial rankings is Jimmy Nelson. He has been scratched from his Saturday start at the Cardinals with a blister, but if he is ready to return to the Brewers' rotation on Tuesday to face the Giants, Nelson would line up for two starts this week. If Nelson doesn't draw the series opener against the Giants and next Sunday's finale versus the Dodgers, Yovani Gallardo would likely inherit those assignments. Nelson would be a must-start as a two-start option, while Gallardo would make this week's "bubble" list.
Monday update: Nelson has sufficiently recovered from his blister in order to make Tuesday's start, so barring further problems, he will give owners two starts this week. In Nelson's last two starts, it's the hitters who have gotten blistered, striking out 11 times, walking just three times and hitting 23 ground balls over 13 innings. Having followed up on his dominant performance in the Pacific Coast League, Nelson can be considered a must-start option for Week 19.
So can Alex Wood, who gained a second start over the weekend. The Braves' temporary demotion of Mike Minor to the bullpen plus a day off on Thursday made that possible. Josh Tomlin and Nick Martinez are also new additions to the ranks of two-start pitchers, though both have been relegated to the "pitchers to avoid" list.
|1. Clayton Kershaw||vs. LAA, at MIL|
|2. Felix Hernandez||vs. ATL, vs. CHW|
|3. Zack Greinke||vs. LAA, at MIL|
|4. David Price||at NYY, at TOR|
|5. Max Scherzer||at NYY, at TOR|
|6. Johnny Cueto||at CLE, vs. MIA|
|7. Corey Kluber||vs. CIN, at NYY|
|8. Garrett Richards||at LAD, vs. BOS|
|9. Alex Wood||at SEA, vs. WAS|
|10. Jeff Samardzija||vs. TB, vs. MIN|
|11. Alex Cobb||at OAK, at CHC|
|12. Gio Gonzalez||vs. NYM, at ATL|
|13. Zack Wheeler||at WAS, at PHI|
|14. Jimmy Nelson||vs. SF, vs. LAD|
|15. Tim Hudson||at NYM, at KC|
|16. Dallas Keuchel||at PHI, vs. TEX|
|17. Tanner Roark||vs. BAL, at ATL|
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
18. Phil Hughes, MIN (vs. SD, at OAK)
Hughes' ownership rate hasn't fallen much over a month-and-a-half-long slump during which he has gone 3-5 with a 6.08 ERA, but close to half of his owners are benching him. Outside of shallow leagues, it's time to get Hughes back on the virtual mound, as his recent slide isn't entirely of his own doing. The Twins have given him little run support, and it's probably not all Hughes' fault that he hasn't stranded many baserunners. Pitchers with a ratio of 40 strikeouts to five walks and a .117 Isolated Power over a 47 1/3-inning span are usually far better than average at preventing runs, and these are the ratios that Hughes has put up during his cold snap. Even if the Twins' offense doesn't do its part to help Hughes to rebound, he looks due for a major uptick in Fantasy production.
19. Danny Duffy, KC (at ARI, vs. SF)
Duffy has a history of control issues, but Wednesday's six-walk performance against the Twins has been an aberration this season. Over the last two months, Duffy has been downright stingy with free passes, issuing just 23 of them over 68 2/3 innings. In the absence of a high strikeout rate, recent improvements in control have helped Duffy to compile a 2.42 ERA and 1.12 WHIP this season, but that's not the whole story -- or even the main plot. Because Duffy has been spared the potential dangers of hitter's parks for most of this season, he has enjoyed the benefits of a high flyball rate (i.e., a 12.5 percent popup rate and .235 BABIP) without suffering the detriments. Duffy is probably due for some regression, but especially with a start against the ice-cold Giants, the downturn will probably happen some other week.
20. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY (vs. DET, vs. CLE)
Kuroda had been allowing too many home runs earlier in the season, and with an ERA stubbornly clinging to the mid-4.00s in the middle of June, it looked as if Kuroda may have slipped from Fantasy relevance. In his eight most recent starts, Kuroda has yielded only five long balls and a .128 Isolated Power -- and voila! -- he has produced a 3.44 ERA during that time. Kuroda hasn't become a better ground ball pitcher, but he has been better at avoiding contact, putting up an 11 percent whiff rate during this relative hot streak. He's still not overpowering, but then again, Kuroda never has been. He's just a solid pitcher who is a safe play in two-start weeks.
21. Lance Lynn, STL (vs. BOS, at BAL)
The Cardinals' acquisition of Lackey ruined Lynn's two-start week for Week 18, as Lackey took over Lynn's scheduled start against the Brewers on Sunday. That just pushes Lynn's next start to Tuesday, which gives him two turns in the rotation for Week 19. Like Lackey, Lynn has benefitted from playing home games in a stadium that is tough on home run hitters, and that makes Tuesday's start against the Red Sox at Busch Stadium an attractive one for Fantasy owners. Though he has been less effective and more homer-prone on the road, Lynn has fared well this season in starts at Milwaukee and Colorado and avoided disasters in Cincinnati and Toronto. That makes it easier to start Lynn this week knowing he will finish it in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
22. Mark Buehrle, TOR (vs. BAL, vs. DET)
July wasn't Buehrle's most enjoyable month, as he exited with a 5.74 ERA and no starts of seven innings or more. His trademark control was as good as ever, but he was unusually amenable to allowing flyballs. That contribued to a .496 slugging percentage for the month, as batters have been clobbering his changeup. According to BrooksBaseball.net, that pitch lost some movement over the past month. Buehrle has had some good starts recently, including Wednesday's victory over the Red Sox, despite his growing flyball rate. His velocity and control have remained intact, so despite some recent struggles, Buehrle is still trustworthy as a two-start option.
23. Charlie Morton, PIT (vs. MIA, vs. SD)
Morton's midseason run of high strikeout counts has come to an end, as he has notched only eight Ks over his last three starts. His ERA has inched upwards over his last four starts, but pitching to contact is only part of Morton's problem. He has been merely average in inducing grounders over that period, and while his sinker has continued to be effective, he is getting fewer ground balls on his curve, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Morton has lost some velocity on all his pitches over the four-start stretch, and his curveball has lost some of its break. While Morton benefits from good matchups this week, he has raised enough red flags to warrant caution. He is not as safe of a two-start option now as he was just a few weeks back.
24. Brandon McCarthy, NYY (vs. DET, vs. CLE)
McCarthy's backers who watched him put up career-best strikeout and ground ball rates through the season's first three months might feel vindicated, now that he has started to turn his season around. Through his first 16 starts, McCarthy was saddled with a 1-10 record and 5.38 ERA he didn't seem to deserve, but over his last six outings (two with the Diamondbacks and four with the Yankees), he's enjoying the good life with a 5-0 record and 2.41 ERA. In terms of ERA, McCarthy might not be overperforming by all that much, but he is still scuffling with a 1.29 WHIP. That might be as good as it gets for McCarthy, who has registered a line drive rate in excess of 25 percent for the second year in a row. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, McCarthy owns one of the majors' highest average distances for flyballs allowed, so there is more evidence to show that when he's getting hit, he's getting hit hard. There's much to like about McCarthy's recent trends, but the power-hitting Tigers and Indians could easily bring a halt to his hot streak.
25. Kevin Gausman, BAL (at WAS, vs. STL)
Just as McCarthy had posted peripherals that seemed too good for a 5.00-plus ERA, the 3.12 ERA Gausman has put up since his early June recall seems like it could be much higher, given his mediocre 5.9 K/9 ratio, 3.4 BB/9 ratio and 44 percent ground ball rate. The only thing in Gausman's stat line that stands out is the .092 Isolated Power he's allowed. Like Julio Teheran and Phil Hughes, the former LSU star hasn't allowed much hard contact on flyballs. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, flyballs hit off Gausman this season have travelled an average of 268 feet, putting him not far behind Hughes and Teheran in the rankings. Even if he keeps this up, Gausman hasn't shown the command that Teheran and Hughes have, so he's not a must-start by any means
26. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at CLE, vs. MIA)
Simon doesn't get many strikeouts, and he gives up too many homers, yet his regression just refuses to come. He hasn't been going deep into games as consistently as he did earlier this season, but he has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 27, and he has done so only twice all season. Because the Reds have a good defensive infield, I'm willing to entertain the notion that the .172 batting average Simon is allowing on grounders might not be as fluky as it looks. That said, I still expect that average to rise somewhat, while his 80 percent strand rate should shrink. If you need another reason to be bearish on Simon, he will visit the Indians, who have been a good power-hitting team at home. Then he will face the Marlins at home, where he has allowed 11 home runs over 63 1/3 innings.
27. Brett Anderson, COL (vs. CHC, at ARI)
Over seven starts this season, Anderson has not been consistent with his control or his aversion to contact, but it's hard not to take notice of his last three outings. In facing the Pirates twice and the Cubs once, Anderson has allowed three runs over 20 1/3 innings, while striking out 18 batters and walking five. He also allowed just four extra-base hits, all of which were doubles. It's highly encouraging that two of those starts came at Coors Field, and this week's home start is another tilt with the Cubs. They might not make much contact, but the Cubs are a decent power-hitting team. Then there's a visit to Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks have racked up a .149 Isolated Power, mostly without Mark Trumbo. This will be an interesting test of the limits of Anderson's ground ball prowess, but there's enough promise here to try him out this week in standard mixed leagues.
28. Tim Lincecum, SF (at MIL, at KC)
The incredible six-game joyride, which started with Lincecum's late June no-no, has ended abruptly. After allowing just four runs over those half-dozen appearances (which included a save), Lincecum has allowed an eruption of 11 runs -- all earned -- over 7 2/3 innings in his two most recent outings. Good control was key to his earlier run, but so was an unusually high ground ball rate. Lincecum has continued to throw strikes, but he has induced only five grounders in each of his last two starts. If this is the beginning of a new trend, then Lincecum could be in real trouble when he faces the Brewers. Then again, Lincecum's general pattern of inconsistency is reason enough to shy away from him, but until his control abandons him, he is still worth a second look.
29. Jason Hammel, OAK (vs. TB, vs. MIN)
Hammel's first three starts with the A's weren't good, but after three-plus highly successful months with the Cubs, it seemed appropriate to cut him some slack. He hadn't had as much success with inducing whiffs since getting traded, but when he couldn't keep the contact-challenged Astros from making contact in his most recent start, Hammel's struggles started to look more serious. Hammel did get four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings at Houston, but the Astros swung and missed only five times on 92 pitches. Because Hammel had been so effective and hard to make contact against during his extended stretch with the Cubs, he still deserves another chance...if you are truly desperate. Otherwise, this would be a good week to sit Hammel and watch for signs of a rebound.
|30. Bud Norris||at TOR, vs. STL|
|31. Dillon Gee||vs. SF, at PHI|
|32. Hector Santiago||at LAD, vs. BOS|
|33. Josh Tomlin||vs. CIN, at NYY|
|34. Wade Miley||vs. KC, vs. COL|
|35. Brad Hand||at PIT, at CIN|
|36. Rubby De La Rosa||at STL, at LAA|
|37. John Danks||vs. TEX, at SEA|
|38. Kyle Kendrick||vs. HOU, vs. NYM|
|39. Travis Wood||at COL, vs. TB|
|40. Hector Noesi||vs. TEX, at SEA|
|41. Nick Martinez||at CHW, at HOU|
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