If you made it big in the restaurant business, you got a Chef’s Table.

At Fantasy Alarm we have one too. Expect here you don’t need a reservation. Or a fat stack to pay for it.

The best part about the Chef’s Table is that you get to watch the preparation of your food from start to finish. Seeing every intricate detail that goes into your dish while enjoying the company of family and friends. Well, that’s what I’m gonna give you here.

Each week I will profile a player based on increased street cred throughout the industry.  Whether because of a recent hot streak, increased playing time or a promotion because of an injury. From there I will break down the recipe for that player’s success and determine if he is just a flash in the pan or someone who is gonna bring home the bacon.

Today’s Special: Jonathon Niese

The Mets may be without Matt Harvey this season, but the rest of the starting rotation has stepped up in a big way (outside of Bartolo Colon), but none more than Jonathon Niese. After suffering an elbow injury that forced him to start the season on the disabled list, the Mets lefty has done nothing but impress in the early going and is now on pace to have a career-year. The question is; how long can he keep pitching like this?

Through six starts, Niese owns a 2-2 record with a 1.82 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with his latest trip to the mound resulting in a no-decision after pitching seven shutout innings. One of the biggest reasons for is early season success is the fact that he isn’t allowing many walks (9 BB) while having yet to allow more than six hits in a start.  He is currently on pace to set a career-low in walks, sitting on a rate of 2.04 BB/9 through his first 39.2 innings of work. While this does not appear to be something that can be obtainable over the course of the season, this is not the only area of his game that he has improved upon in 2014.

According to Fangraphs, Niese has relied more on his fastball this season than his previous three campaigns, throwing the old reliable fastball 55.8 percent of the time. Although his average fastball is clocked at 88.9 MPH, which is a career-low, it has led to better command of the strike zone resulting in more strikes thrown and less walks. While his arsenal still features a cutter (24.1 percent thrown), curveball (13.8 percent thrown) and a changeup (6.3 percent thrown) his fastball continues to be his go-to pitch that has resulted in him throwing strikes at a 64.0 percent rate.

However, with every great start comes some luck, and those who have integrated sabermetrics into their player analysis will want to take this next tidbit into consideration. Niese is currently the owner of a 3.27 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching), which is almost two points higher than his current earned-run average. This is an indication that regression is coming, but not enough that he should be taken off the fantasy radar. His luck doesn’t end there.

Opposing hitters are currently sporting a .216 average against the Mets South Paw, a total that is well below his career-mark of .269 BAA. That is another area of his game that is bound to increase as he gets more innings under his belt. I wish I could stop there, but I can’t. His 89.4 percent strand rate (72.0 percent career strand rate) ranks him seventh in all of baseball making him one of the most fortunate pitchers with runners on base. Now that we know the facts, let's get down to business. 

The Wrap-Up

There is no denying that Niese is off to one of the best starts of his career. I have to give it to him there. But at this current rate it is highly unlikely that he will be able to continue to hold a sub-2.00 ERA much longer, let alone over the course of a full season. With that said, there is still reason to like the Mets lefty moving forward despite some red flags.

Let’s remember, just two seasons ago Niese posted the most productive statline of his career, finishing 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over the course of 190.1 innings (30 starts). So even if he was to regress some, this would be a very respectable level of production, making him worthy of a roster spot in all but the shallowest of league formats. However, for some reason he still isn’t getting the love.

He is currently owned in less than 40 percent of fantasy leagues throughout the major providers (Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS) which is a crime. I don’t care if it is a 40-year-old pitcher who hasn’t pitched in over five years in the big leagues. If they are producing at this high of a rate they gotta be owned. Plain and simple. As long as he continues to stay healthy, which is a battle in itself, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to be a solid contributor the rest of the way.

Until next time, study hard and eat plenty!




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About Matthew Beck

Accomplished chef, journalist and dedicated fantasy sports player. When Matt's not in the kitchen, he's preparing the recipe for fantasy sports success. He is...The Fantasy Chef. 

Matthew Beck on Twitter

@Bighomie586 happy footba season man! I would drop baldwin...the others have a real shot of being good flex options down the line

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