After throwing his 122nd pitch of the night and watching Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton weakly ground out to shortstop Tyler Pastornicky, Brandon Beachy stepped off the mound and celebrated with his teammates, leaving no doubt as to whom the ace of the Braves staff was this season. It was his fifth win of the season, first complete game, seventh quality start in eight games started, and the fourth time he pitched a minimum of seven innings. With a 1.33 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP, Beachy has established himself as one of the best in the game right now and is giving fantasy owners plenty to smile about.
The question on everyone’s minds though, is whether or not this level of performance is sustainable. Is Beachy one to hold the entire season or is he a sell-high candidate while you can? In this day and age with young pitchers heading out in droves for Tommy John surgery, the last thing you want to do is get stuck holding the bag at the end rather than profit off some early season success. Just ask the owners of Corey Luebke and even Danny Duffy right now. But while you can’t predict injuries unless you have some magic MRI-eye that can instantaneously scan a pitchers arm, there is certainly other data that can help point you in the right direction.
The first thing is velocity and whether or not it has, at least, been sustained. Beachy is averaging about 91 mph on his fastball which is a full mile per hour less than he was averaging in 2011? A red flag? Not quite. Had this been a steady decline, then perhaps there would be cause for concern, however, Beachy averaged just 91.1 mph in 2010 which means that there is still a relative consistency to his velocity through the two-plus seasons in the bigs. Bullet dodged.
Another thing to look at, with respect to potential injury and decline is pitch type. Beachy has always relied heavily on his fastball, but back in 2010 he used his changeup as his primary out-pitch, throwing it 24% of the time as opposed to 64% fastballs and 12% curves. Last year, though, Beachy developed a slider and began to incorporate that much more into his repertoire. Suddenly it was 19.6% sliders to just 10.2% changeups while dropping the curveball down to 9.2%, a change that certainly taxes the elbow a great deal more. But this season, and yes, it’s still early, Beachy has reduced the use of his slider and his offspeed stuff to go back to pounding fastballs. Hopefully, this change helps preserve the arm and allows him to continue pitching deeper into games throughout the rest of the season.
And the last thing to check out would be his batted ball data. Beachy had been primarily a fly-ball pitcher which is always a dangerous way to live. In 2010 there was a much more even split between ground outs and fly outs, but last season saw a significant increase in his fly ball rates, going from 35.6% all the way up to 45.2%. A pretty significant climb indeed. He allowed a career-high 16 home runs (in both the minor and majors) and while still looked like an effective pitcher, the potential to become just an average Joe was increasing. This season, however, Beachy’s ground ball rates have spike significantly thanks to the use of more fastballs higher up in the zone and are now at 43.1% as opposed to just 39.2% fly balls. More ground balls means less home runs which usually means a lower ERA as well. With a strong defensive group behind him, this increase of ground balls will suit him very well this season.
So the velocity is fine, his pitch selection could spare him significant injury and his ground ball rates are up. Check, double check and triple check. Sure, his strikeout rate is down this season, likely due to the fact that he’s simply pounding the strike zone and daring hitters to make clean contact, but by the rest of the indicators, Beachy is looking good, not just right now, but for the future as well. He could still be a great sell-high candidate if you are long on pitching and short elsewhere, but you just might be better off holding him and enjoying the breakout season.
All that being said, guess what’s coming next…
|Brandon Beachy, ATL||9.0||5||0||0||0||6||0||0.00||0.56|
I own him in three different leagues, two of which are keeper leagues. His relatively low-profile helped keep the costs down and he could prove to be a fantastic keeper for a very long time.
|Mitch Moreland, 1B TEX||2-2, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB|
|Andrew McCutchen, OF PIT||2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI|
|Welington Castillo, C CHC||2-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI|
|Carlos Ruiz, C PHI||4-5, 2B, 3 RBI, SB|
|Aaron Harang, SP LAD||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 6 K|
Boy, I’m really starting to regret making that “poor man’s Carl Crawford” comment about Andrew McCutchen. Since I made that statement, he’s hit five home runs with nine RBI and two stolen bases in a 10-game span. April certainly wasn’t the best month for him, but he has really turned it up in May and is becoming much more worthy of his draft position this year.
Things have seemed relatively quiet for Mitch Moreland this year, primarily because the Rangers aren’t starting him against left-handed pitching thanks to a career .229 average against southpaws with just one home run. It definitely hurts his fantasy appeal, but if you’re platooning him at a utility or outfield spot, then it’s not too bad. He’s hitting .283 on the year and now had six home runs with 15 RBI and a .343 on-base percentage. If you pair him up with a guy who mashes lefties, like a Matt Diaz or even a Brandon Snyder, then you’ve got one helluva a player there.
What has gotten in to Carlos Ruiz these days? After Thursday’s three-hit performance, he is batting .363 on the year with seven home runs and 27 RBI. In just the last 10 games, in fact, Ruiz is 12-for-22 (.545) with two home runs and eight RBI and has six runs scored. And now he’s got a stolen base?!? Come on! The .351 BABIP will regress a little, but not enough to see his average plummet at all. Enjoy the performance while you can.
A nice big night for Welington Castillo on Thursday. Given the fact that Geovany Soto is looking like garbage and possibly headed to the DL with a knee issue, and Steve Clevenger is also hurt, the door opens wide for Castillo. Now let’s see what he does inside and if he can build off of this momentum.
And how about that Aaron Harang? Pitching in L.A. really seems to suit him. Well, the ballpark definitely helps as we saw with him in Petco last year, and now he gets to face the Padres rather than the Dodgers, so that’s a boost in numbers right off the bat. He’s starting to look like a pretty decent low-end option right now as he’s given up three or fewer runs in six of eight starts, has seen a rather nice increase in K/9, and has seen an increase in ground ball outs in relation to fly ball outs.
|Ian Desmond, SS WAS||0-5, 4 K|
|Elliot Johnson, SS TB||0-3, 3 K|
|Carlos Pena, 1B TB||0-5, 3 K|
|Cameron Maybin, OF SD||0-4, 3 K|
|Brandon League, RP SEA||L, BS, 54.00 ERA, 12.00 WHIP, K|
To be expected most of the way, save for Cameron Maybin here. I don’t know what’s going on with this guy. I really don’t. Walks are up, strikeouts are about the same and while the BABIP is down, it’s not so far down that he would be tossing up such a crappy .206 average. I’m beginning to lose my patience with him as the 11 stolen bases are good, but not good enough.
Brent Morel, 3B CHW – back (doubtful)
Jack Hannahan, 3B CLE – back (questionable)
Austin Jackson, OF DET – abdomen (doubtful)
Jose Valverde, RP DET – back (questionable)
Chris Getz, 2B KC – ribs (questionable)
Denard Span, OF MIN – hamstring (questionable)
Placido Polanco, 3B PHI – knee (questionable)
Joaquin Arias, SS, SF – forearm (questionable)
Allen Craig, OF STL – hamstring (might land on 15-day DL)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over ten years on a variety of web sites including his own, The Fantasy Baseball Buzz. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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