Welcome to a new running series that will highlight burning topics regarding fantasy baseball preparation heading into the 2021 MLB season. Reading through all the rhetoric to discern how a player may be affected by a new pitch in the repertoire, inconsistent velocities, etc. Be sure to bookmark this page since updates will aggregate often. 

The pitching content can be found below. Click here to get to the Fantasy Baseball Hitters blog.

Editor's NoteLike this? Get my breakdown of EVERY significant player in the Jim Bowden Draft Guide Profiles Series.  Use Promo code CONWAY to get 40% OFF for a limited time.

Updated - 3/30

Time to Worry About Zach Plesac ?

Plesac allowed just three earned runs over 5.1 innings of work and punched out seven batters, but the key number here is TWO. The amount of walks? Yes, but no. He served up two home runs yesterday, pushing his total to nine round trippers in just 23.1 spring innings. Folks, that comes to a 3.5 HR/9 mark. Yikes.

Is this something to be concerned about? I’d say slightly. Homers were never an issue in the minors for Plesac, but since joining Cleveland in 2019, he’s posted HR/9 marks in the bigs at 1.48 and 1.30 respectively. His launch angle jumped in 2020, but he was able to reduce hard contact, however, his HR/FB rate stayed similar to the year prior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, to his credit, six of the eight batted ball outs he recorded yesterday were on the ground, so if he can push that ground ball rate north of 40 percent, that would be ideal.

José Leclerc - OUT

LeClerc will miss the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. The expected closer for the Rangers is now out, leaving fantasy owners guessing between Ian Kennedy and Matt Bush . My first thought was Bush, but as the spring has progressed, Kennedy is looking more and more like the guy.

-    Bush: 4.76 ERA with a 9:4 K/BB ratio across 5.2 spring innings

-    Kennedy: 0.00 ERA with an 8:3 K/BB ratio across 6.2 spring innings

While Texas may keep this situation fluid, the safer bet at the moment is Kennedy. Wow.

Angels Acquiring Bullpen Help

The Angels added some depth to their bullpen, bringing in Steve Cishek and Tony Watson, as well as Noé Ramirez and James Hoyt . None of these guys are direct competitors to Raisel Iglesias as the team’s closer, but if any two were to push for the role, should Iglesias struggle, it would likely be Cishek (132 career saves) or Watson (32 career saves).

Again, those of you who selected Iglesias in your drafts should not be worried at all. Iglesias has a lengthy leash as the team’s ninth-inning man. Instead, view this as a good thing, as the Angels are investing in guys to hold leads so that Iglesias can rack up saves for your fantasy baseball team!

Stephen Strasburg Outing

For the day, the numbers were fine for Strasburg, who is without something in his calf that apparently isn’t needed. That still blows my mind, but I digress. He logged nearly 100 pitches, so any concerns about his health should be dispelled at this point in time. Of course, that doesn’t mean we are guaranteed a full season of health. Strasburg himself even said the calf is a relative non-issue, "The calf really isn't bothering me... I've been able to do my running and conditioning in between. That's not something I'm concerned with."

If you haven’t drafted yet, you can feel slightly more comfortable drafting Strasburg, but I wouldn’t be chomping at the bit to push him up a ton either.

The No. 5 Starter in Los Angeles is….

Congrats, Dustin May!

With David Price and Tony Gonsolin heading to the pen, May will begin the year as the team’s fifth starter. Now, begin is the key word, because I could totally see Dave Roberts using the fifth starter as almost like a revolving door. Of course, we’ll get the dreaded phantom injured list stints for Dodgers pitchers to maintain their innings and May will likely bounce back and forth here and there between the fifth starter and a reliever for the team.

Dustin May has absolutely nasty stuff and at times, it feels like he’s throwing a frisbee to the plate instead of a baseball. His stuff has that much movement! However, just a seven percent whiff rate in 2020, and a 27 percent strikeout rate need to be improved upon for him to take the next step. The potential and upside are there, he just needs to miss more bats.

Boston COVID-19 Update

There have been a lot of COVID-19 related updates in professional sports, but this verbiage is one I don’t think I have heard yet.

A non-infectious positive? Is this another way of saying asymptomatic? Also, Barnes and the rest of the close contacts can return with no issue? Would love to get some more information on this, particularly the verbiage.

Anyways, Barnes vs. Ottavino for the closer job is alive again, but I’m still leaning on Ottavino. I think this situation remains fluid, however, and it will be quite some time before one is officially named the guy.

Statistical Credits:

baseballsavant.mlb.com

baseball-reference.com

fangraphs.com

Updated - 3/29

Logan Webb Gets 3rd Game

It just gets better for Webb! Following 11 dominant scoreless spring innings with a 17:1 K/BB ratio mixed in there, Webb officially won a rotation spot and gets the third game of the year. The icing on the cake for fantasy owners is that he now gets to face the Mariners (3rd-lowest OPS in 2020) instead of the Padres (4th-highest OPS in 2020). This is a monumental boost to his early season fantasy value, and it’s a great matchup to begin the year.

If you took a late round flier on Webb, his spring performance provides enough optimism, but an early season confidence booster against a weaker offense should propel him even farther forward. YOU LOVE TO SEE IT!

Corey Kluber Feels Off

This is an interesting word choice from Kluber.

 

Kluber managed to strike out five guys in 3.1 innings of work, but he also walked four Phillies. In this outing, he curveball and cutter generated a healthy percentage of whiffs, but his velocity is down a smidge. Could this be something major? Perhaps, but Kluber is generally a slow starter.

For his career, his ERA in March/April is 3.91,which is his highest month, and then for his career, he’s posted a sub-3.00 ERA in June, July and August. As the weather warms up, Kluber gets hot, so that could be in play here.

Daniel Bard Strikes Out the Side

His fastball looks sharp, generating three whiffs on five swings yesterday, and his offspeed stuff is ready to go for the season. He struck out the side and has a firm grasp on the closing gig for the Rockies. Sure, there’s some volatility in there, but he’s a closer and the unfortunate news to Scott Oberg has lengthened Bard’s leash a bit. Mychal Givens ’ changeup looked great yesterday, but he’s not an immediate threat to Bard.

If Bard is available in your league somehow, go scoop him up. If you haven’t drafted yet, he’s a guy I’d be actively targeting for saves.

Spencer Turnbull - OUT

Tough break here for Turnbull.

 

He’ll open the year on the injured list, but sounds like it will be longer than the minimum stay.AJ Hinch already said he’d likely be out at least a few series.

Through three starts in spring, Turnbull had posted a 9:4 K/BB ratio with a 5.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. If your league hasn’t drafted yet, you likely have to push Turnbull down a bit, considering he’s going to miss a couple of starts, and since he’s out due to COVID protocols, the long term implications and how long it will take to ramp back up are unknown. I guess the right verbiage here for Turnbull moving forward is “cautiously optimistic.”

Zack Wheeler Whiffs?

I mentioned in his player profile (CONWAY gets you 40% off by the way) that I believe Wheeler would set a career high in strikeouts/strikeout rate this year. Through 19.2 spring innings, his K/9 sits at 10.1, which would be a career best! The whiffs weren’t quite there yesterday, generating just two whiffs on 15 swings with his 4-seamer, but at least his curveball generated two whiffs on four swings.

We’d like to see more whiffs, but velocity is good and he’s ready to go for the season. I’m still expecting big things for Wheeler in 2021

Updated - 3/28

James Paxton

Well, 17 strikeouts through 8.1 spring innings for the Big Maple. A 1.08 ERA is pretty good as well. The draft community has most certainly taken notice in recent days. Take a look at his draft trends, per NFBC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

His ADP may sit at pick 235, but his minimum pick is at 118, and with his two spring performances, good luck getting him at pick 235. There are obviously durability concerns with Paxton, and rightfully so, but the strikeouts have hardly ever been a question.

Glasnow is Ready

Yeah, he’s ready, and by that I mean ready for the regular season, and ready to push for a Cy Young award. He struck out 10 guys in five innings of work and filled up the leaderboard with pitch velocity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He had three pitches (four-seamer, slider and curveball) that posted a whiff rate above 40 percent, including a slider that was downright nasty. Go to Twitter, search Tyler Glasnow slider and enjoy the videos you’ll see. If you haven’t drafted yet, go ahead and push him up. Go get him. He’s going to be downright nasty this season, and like I said, health willing, he’s pushing for the Cy Young award.

Puk Looks Sharp

Four shutout innings with three punch outs for Puk against Texas. The potential is obviously there for Puk, but an ill-timed injury always seems to get in the way of Puk taking it to the next level. He hasn’t been the sharpest this spring, allowing five earned runs across 7.2 innings of work, but this most recent outing provides optimism for Puk moving into the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like Puk as much as the next guy or gal, but there are obviously concerns about his durability. As long as his ADP doesn’t move up too much, I’m okay buying in, but with the unfortunate history with that left arm/shoulder of his, I’m wary to push him up too far in fantasy baseball drafts.

Lucchesi behind an opener?

I don’t mind this. After Jacob Barnes threw the first inning, Lucchesi struck out four batters and allowed just one earned run in 4.2 innings of work. The opener would allow Lucchesi to have to record three less outs to earn the all important win, and he’s the ideal guy to operate behind an opener. Here are his career marks when going through the lineup.

-    First Time Through Order: 3.51 ERA and .233 BAA

-    Second Time Through Order: 3.56 ERA and .233 BAA

-    Third Time Through Order: 7.58 ERA and .312 BAA

Hopefully the Mets stick with this, as this is the scenario where Lucchesi figures to be most effective for an optimistic New York Mets squad.

Yankees’ Plan for SP's

Interesting move here by Boone and the Yankees, but can’t say I’m overly surprised.

Since throwing 191 innings in 2018, Taillon has logged just 37.1 innings of work since the start of the 2019 season. He has been working his way back from his second Tommy John surgery, so it’s no surprise that the Yankees want to ease him back into things.

Also, take a look at this:

Those who have drafted Garcia may not be waiting as long as they might have thought to get some stats from him. In the beginning of the year with the Yankees nursing some arms, don’t be surprised to see Garcia get some work. Furthermore, Taillon and Corey Kluber , and others, are far from guarantees with good health, and Garcia seems to be the likely guy that would get the first call.

COVID Issues in Boston

I liked Adam Ottavino to serve as the team’s closer, but the unfortunate news of Matt Barnes contracting COVID-19 likely cements the role for the first few weeks of the season from the former Yankee.

Boston likely won’t release names of those that will have to be held back due to contract tracing, but Ottavino pitched, so he should be in the clear. This is a situation likely to remain fluid, so keep an eye out for this.

San Francisco’s Closer is...

Jake McGee . McGee has eight strikeouts across 6.1 scoreless spring innings and he’s likely to serve as San Fran’s closer, at least to begin the year. People are catching on, and his draft trends chart, per NFBC, is an absolute work of art and perfectly captures the closing situation, especially in fantasy baseball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From undrafted, to just outside the top 200, including a minimum pick just outside of the top 150. McGee will have the opportunity to be a sneaky source of saves, and he very well could be available in your league if you have already drafted.

Statistical Credits:
mlb.com
fangraphs.com
baseballsavant.mlb.com

Updated - 3/27

Amir Garrett

Three innings. Nine outs. Nine strikeouts. His velocity is down, but he had a late start, so we’ll continue to monitor this, but we can’t deny the results thus far. His slider generated three whiffs on four swings, and both of his pitches posted a CSW% of at least 40 percent. He’s ready to go, and he’s quickly becoming a closer I’m actively targeting, and you should, too.

Scott Oberg OUT

Tough break here for Oberg.

 

While it is well documented that I’m all aboard the “Daniel Bard is the closer for the Rockies” train, Oberg was making a push. Through four spring appearances, he allowed just two hits, while posting a 4:0 K/BB ratio. Best wishes to you, Scott!

Trevor Rogers Continues to Deal

Believe it or not, this is the fourth time that Rogers has faced the Astros this spring. This most recent outing was by far his best performance. He allowed just two hits, and walking one, while striking out 10 Astros across 5.2 innings of work. He’s looked excellent this spring, posting a 2.84 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and a 29:5 K/BB ratio.

He’s a name that you’ll want to keep an eye on later in your drafts, especially if any news breaks that he will serve as the team’s No. 5 starter. He’s looked the part this spring, has some prospect pedigree and the Marlins have a great staff already.

Spring training stats don’t matter, for some. The lefty has looked impressive all spring.

Is it Soto in the 9th?

Well, I guess Joe Jiménez won’t be the team’s closer.

 

Is it Gregory Soto time in the final inning for the Detroit Tigers? From a fantasy perspective, that would be great, as Soto was already shaping up to be a solid source of strikeouts for fantasy owners. The strikeouts weren’t there in 2019, but in 2020, he punched out 29 batters across 23 innings of work, thanks to a substantial increase in whifs against his slider.

After posting a whiff rate in the9th percentile in 2019, that mark was up to the 65th percentile in the 2020 season. If the spring is any indication, that mark should rise yet again.

Statistical Credits:
Baseball-reference.com
baseballsavant.mlb.com

3/26/2021

Nick Anderson Update

As mentioned yesterday, small uptick to Diego Castillo and Pete Fairbanks, but understand that Tampa will likely use a committee for the ninth inning. No definitive closer in Tampa, and both Castillo and Fairbanks are worthy additions.

All Smiles for Smyly

Six strikeouts across five shutout innings for Smyly in his most recent outing. Sure, his spring ERA sits at 5.00 after this outing, but in terms of strikeouts, they have been there this spring. He has 12 strikeouts through nine innings of work, which is solid. Last year, he punched out 42 batters in 26.1 innings of work, and in recent years in particular, he’s become more valuable in the strikeout realm.

There’s some volatility here, absolutely, but in the right matchups, Smyly can thrive in 2021.

Dobnak Deals Again

Five innings. One hit. Five strikeouts. Yes, Randy! His spring ERA now sits 0.66 and he has looked excellent.

I have wayyyy too much invested in this Minnesota team. I’m going to get burned, aren’t I?

NO!!! Of course, not. If you’re not taking Dobnak late in your drafts, you’re doing your team a disservice. While mainintaing this strikeout rate might not be the norm for him, it’s encouraging, and he is in a great situation, pitching for the Twins in the American League Central.

Sixto Sánchez Brings the Heat

Take it easy, Sixto!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save some room on the leaderboard for everyone else! He didn’t generate as many whiffs as one would like (11 percent whiff rate), but he induced a lot of contact on the ground. In fact, of the 10 batted balls against him, six of them had a negative launch angle. Sixto Sánchez is a popular upside pick in the middle rounds of drafts, and his 1.13 spring earned run average certainly has his stock trending up.

Kenley Jansen Back?

Two more strikeouts for Jansen! After the strikeouts had dwindled, compared to his elite self, he looks dominant this spring. He’s recorded 12 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work this spring, as the veteran right-hander looks to return to elite closer status.

He’ll get plenty of chances to rack up the saves, but fantasy owners can get a nice value if Jansen returns to an elite status, notably in the strikeout department.

Eduardo Rodríguez - Dead Arm

No more Opening Day gig for the talented southpaw.

A bout of dead arm will keep him off the Opening Day lineup card, but how much time will he miss is yet to be known. Stay tuned.

Nine for Mize

While his spring ERA sits at 8.36, Mize looked good on Thursday, fanning nine blue Jays in just four innings of work. His cutter and splitter both posted 50 percent or greater whiff rates, and his fastball was sitting nearly three miles per hour harder than last year. When he was hit, there was some loud contact, but he used his four different fastballs to keep Toronto on its heels.

It’s been a mixed bag of results for Mize, but the potential is there, as he’s one of Detroit’s more heralded pitching prospects. Again, the results may not be there yet, but the stuff is good, and once it clicks, he can be an ace, both in reality and fantasy. However, at this point, he’s still just a late round upside flier at best.

Statistical Credits:

baseballsavant.mlb.com

baseball-reference.com

3/25/2021

Stephen Strasburg Update

Well, you learn something new every day.

Greg Jewett (@gjewett9 on Twitter) sent this news to me in a DM, and I was flabbergasted. How much stuff in our body do we have that we don’t actually need? If someone could let me know, that would be great, so I can continue to be amazed, dumbfounded and flabbergasted by the human body.

Well, I guess this is a “good rupture” if there is even such a thing. Apparently, whatever it is that Strasburg ruptured isn’t needed. Well, he said he feels fine, and he logged four innings in his return, so that’s encouraging, even if the results were not.He allowed four earned runs on three hits and five walks and recorded just one strikeout. Overall, his health is more important than the results, and he should be okay heading into the season. It seems like fantasy managers dodged a bullet here.

Quick sidebar: In the same game, Jake Odorizzi allowed seven earned runs on six hits and two walks in one inning. Yikes!!

Ian Anderson Got SHELLED

Overall, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and one walk across six innings isn’t horrible. Anderson managed just one strikeout but the Pittsburgh Pirates hit him hard! In 2020, Anderson allowed a barrel rate of just 1.2 percent, and an average exit velocity of just 86.7 miles per hour, good for the 99th percentile and 79th percentile respectively.

Well, yesterday, the Pirates, yes, the Pirates, tattooed him for 13 batted balls over 90 miles per hour, and seven of them were 100 miles per hour or harder!

On the other hand, despite just the one strikeout, his changeup generated eight whiffs on 18 swings, and his curveball generated three whiffs on eight swings. He struggled to put batters away, and when he didn’t miss bats, he was hit very, very hard.

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YES!!!!!!!!

Skubal is a draft crush at mine and he’s looked excellent this spring, outside of the eight walks he’s allowed. However, two earned runs on eight hits with 15 strikeouts against 12 innings is excellent, and he’s always been a guy to post solid strikeout numbers. In 42.1 innings at Triple-A, he recorded 82 strikeouts. In College, he struck out 224 batters across 206 innings. For his minor league career as a whole, he has 212 strikeouts across 145 innings of work.

Pitching for Detroit might not be great for racking up wins, but as long as he can harness his control, at least a little bit, he’s an excellent value pick with considerable upside.

Nick Anderson Struggles

The velocity wasn’t there and nor were the results. Something is up with Anderson.

Anderson allowed two earned runs on four hits and failed to record a strikeout in 0.2 innings of work. Whether there’s something wrong or Anderson was in fact just holding back, it is noteworthy nonetheless. At such a fickle position, he’s a risky selection early, but if you still take the plunge, you might need to hedge yourself and take either Diego Castillo or Pete Fairbanks.

Tejay Antone Role Defined

Honestly, and unfortunately, this news below is not much of a surprise after the injury/setback.

He hadn’t pitched more than three innings in a single outing, this spring and looking back at 2020, he had just four outings where he logged four or more innings. Up until his injury, he had looked excellent and was making a strong bid for a spot in the starting rotation. His average draft position was getting a bit inflated, but he should continue his excellence when he returns.

The team will slowly but surely work him back in, and don’t be surprised if it isn’t long into the season that he emerges as the team’s fifth starter. Furthermore, don’t be surprised if pitches like the team’s third-best starter.

Statistical Credits:
Baseballsavant.mlb.com
mlb.com

3/24/2021

Nick Wittgren Alert

WHAT THE HECK IS THIS!? It’s Karinchak or bust in the Cleveland pen! Well, maybe not. However, let’s clear two things up here:

  1. This does not mean that Wittgren IS the closer and Karinchak IS NOT the closer. It just means Wittgren may see some opportunities early, perhaps in an effort to space out Karinchak’s appearances (has never pitched more than 50 innings in a professional season).
  2. Look at the verbiage. Wittgren could be a closing option. It’s not a guarantee

Now, even with that in mind, it certainly doesn’t ease the minds of those who drafted Karinchak as their team’s top closing option. Karinchak will still deliver plenty of strikeouts and should get the lion’s share of the opportunities, but Wittgren might be mixed in a bit more than we’d like. Wittgren has been solid in the spring, but homers have been an issue since coming to Cleveland (1.52 or higher in each of past two seasons), and his FIP shows he’s more of a 4+ ERA guy.

Minnesota Arm That Deserves More Attention?

I guess I’m all in on an impressive campaign for Minnesota’s Randy Dobnak. His strikeout numbers in the majors have been underwhelming, including a measly 13.5 percent strikeout rate in 46.2 innings last season. However, Dobnak looks like a changed man this spring. Across 8.2 innings, he’s allowed just one run (zero earned) on five hits with an impressive 13:0 K/BB ratio.

He’s reworked his slider a bit to gain more movement on this pitch, and the early returns have been favorable. He’s free in drafts, has awesome facial hair and if the spring is any indication of the regular season, he’s in line for his best season yet. You can see by his draft trends, per NFBC data, that he went from being hardly drafted, to being drafted semi-regularly, to being pushed up above his average draft position!

Logan Webb?

If you’re in deeper leagues or NL-only formats, Logan Webb is a name with which you might want to become familiar. He’s posted a 17:1 K/BB ratio through 11 innings, and punched out seven batters in his first start. Andrew Baggarly also points out a fun statistic from Webb’s spring thus far.

Are the strikeouts legit? Well, he’s never been a big strikeout guy in the majors, and in 94 innings with the Giants between 2019 and 2020, he has a strikeout rate of just 19.8 percent. His repertoire goes five pitches deep and he added a cutter in 2020 that was hit pretty hard. However, it posted a launch angle of just eight degrees and an average exit velocity of just 82 miles per hour with a 17.4 percent whiff rate. There’s definitely room to grow with this pitch, and a five-pitch arsenal should bode well for him. Again, in shallower mixed leagues, you won’t have to enter the Webb sweepstakes, but in deeper formats, or NL-only setups, Webb is a great late round flier that will look to build off his spring success.

Amir Garrett

Maybe he’s over the injury and is just fine. He’s struck out every batter he’s faced this spring and while he was out, I’m hard pressed to say that anyone made a great impression for the ninth-inning role.

He looks ready to go and Cincinnati should give him a few opportunities to close out games this year. In 2019, his whiff rate was in the 99th percentile, and his overall whiff rate went up in 2020. The trend line below is encouraging, and his early spring results corroborate the below graph.

Josh Hader

If you were searching for clarity as to how Milwaukee would use Hader in 2020, you got it yesterday.

With a fastball that lives up in the zone, he’s prone to fly balls and some home runs every now and again, but Hader has also said that he’s working on adding a changeup to his arsenal this year. At the very least, even if it’s just a “show me” pitch that is used here and there, that’s fine. He’s throwing his slider more to keep batters off his fastball a bit more. He should be one of the game’s best closers, but at the very least, I guess you can draft him with a little more confidence.

3/23/2021

Kirby Yates Injured - Jordan Romano Stock UP

Sometimes, drafting a closer early makes you feel dirty. When a closer you drafted early gets hurt, you’re angry.

 

Yates is going to miss some time, so of course, fantasy baseball managers ran, err, SPRINTED to free agency to try to nab up Jordan Romano , who posted a 52.4 percent whiff rate on his fastball in 2020, and a 38.6 whiff rate on his slider. As if you need more validation, he posted six whiffs on seven swings in yesterday’s outing. However, it’s never just that easy. See here from Ben Nicholson-Smith:

 

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Zac Gallen - Forearm

Tough blow here for Gallen’s managers.

 

This is incredibly unfortunate. Gallen posted a 2.75 ERA and 82 strikeouts across 72 innings of work last year, in what was arguably his best year yet as a pro. For his career, he has a 2.78 ERA and he was soaring up boards in fantasy baseball drafts. There’s not enough info yet to see how long he will be out, and when he will resume throwing, but if you’re feeling risky, you can try to steal Gallen later, and take a ride on the wild side. Since the news broke, you can see that some drafts have seen Gallen fall.

Mitch Keller ’s Struggles Continue

This one hurts. He just can’t seem to put it together. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits across 3.1 innings against the Orioles. The Pirates are going to give him every opportunity because the stuff is there, it just hasn’t clicked yet. Keller was an arm I was targeting late in every draft, based on his upside, but it just hasn’t been there whatsoever. He has a 16.20 ERA on the spring and seven of the batted balls against him yesterday had an xBA of .540 or higher, per Baseball Savant.

Furthermore, five balls were hit 99 miles per hour or harder. His slider did generate four whiffs on 13 swings, and his velocity is up (fastball topped at 97.5 mph), but until the results are there, he’s nothing more than a late round flier, whom you likely cannot start unless he gets hot and is performing. Again, this one hurts, because I’ve been a Keller fan for years.

José Leclerc Injury

Yet another injury in the Texas bullpen, this time to José Leclerc .

 

So, where does this put fantasy managers? It seems like there are two big names to watch.

Matt Bush : Current ADP of 744.76 (NFBC data)

Bush has posted a 6:1 KBB ratio through four spring innings and topped out at 95.6 miles per hour in his most recent outing. His curveball generated two whiffs (on two swings), and he needed just 10 pitches. Bush had 10 saves back in 2017, but we haven’t seen him in a regular season since 2018.

Ian Kennedy : Current ADP of 736.11 (NFBC data)

Kennedy has posted four scoreless innings to open the spring with a 4:1 K/BB ratio. Kennedy did have 30 saves back in 2019, but followed it up with a disastrous 2020, to the tune of an 8.83 ERA and 1.79 WHIP.

Looking at you, Matt Bush , to take the job.

3/22/2021

Freddy Peralta , The Starter

I’ll admit, there was a little doubt that Milwaukee would commit to Peralta in the starting rotation. I can put on a front, a facade if you will, and part of that was me attempting to speak it into existence. Well, I think it is happening.

85. That’s how many pitches Peralta through on Sunday against the Mariners. He struck out five batters and walked just one across 4.2 innings of work. He did allow one home run, but overall, he looked damn good. This start now brings him to an impressive 15:3 K/BB ratio across 8.1 innings pitched, with a 1.08 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Expect his ADP to soar, and rightfully so.

On the other hand in this game, did you see James Paxton ? Eight strikeouts? Yes, please.

Rough Day for Cincy Pitchers

Check this tweet out from C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.

 

Rough day to be a pitcher for the Reds. Lorenzen is dealing with what the GM says is a “slight strain” but this considers serious attention. Back in 2018, Lorenzen had a shoulder strain and missed about a month and a half. He was likely only on the radar for NL-only formats, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.

Antone, my guy, unfortunately suffered a setback. It was his first time pitching from the mound since the injury occured, and made it only through but a handful of pitches. Now, it wasn’t what he originally hurt, so this could be a product of overcompensation. Keep an eye out for any details involving Antone.

AL-Only Managers: Keep Rodon on the Radar

Against Arizona, Rodon allowed just one hit while striking out five through four innings of work. For the spring, he’s up to nine scoreless innings with a 10:0 K/BB ratio. That’s impressive, considering he’s a 3.9 BB/9 guy for his entire career, not to mention a 4.14 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. Rodon can suck us in at times, and this could end up being a trap. However, he’s free in drafts, and especially in AL-only formats, he could have value pitching for what could be one of the most lethal offenses in all of baseball.

To add icing on top, his velocities are up, and in yesterday’s outing, his fastball and slider posted whiff rates of 45 percent and 20 percent respectively. Solid.

Alvarado or Neris?

I still think Neris is likely ahead of Alvarado in the saves hierarchy in Philadelphia, but if the gap isn’t closing, then we consider the Phillies clueless. Neris allowed just one hit in an inning of work, but the three outs he recorded came off the bat at 95.6 mph, 97.2 mph, and 101.5 mph. In fact, the expected batting averages on those batted balls that were outs for Neris were .790, .370 and .010. Outside of that last one, sheesh.

On the other hand, Alvarado recorded the five fastest pitches of the day, and the lone hit he allowed had an xBA of .200. Unlucky! Alvarado is throwing harder than last year, and in this outing, his sinker sat, on average, at 99.3 miles per hour, with his cutter coming in at 94.3 miles per hour. What a steal for the Phillies, and if your league values holds, he should be flying up on the board.

Jordan Hicks Update

HE’S BAAAAACCCCKKK!! He recorded two strikeouts in one inning of work, and his sinker topped out at 99 miles per hour. Sure, the velocity is down, but we haven’t seen him in ages! We haven’t seen him since 2019, and he is a darkhorse to be the team’s closer. It might take some time to get there, but if the team is confident that he’s healthy, don’t be surprised if he gets pushed into the closing role. He has the stuff for it, that’s for sure.

If you think you can steal Hicks in your draft, good luck.

His ADP, per NFBC, currently sits at 236, pick as you can tell from the image above, he’s going far before that point.

Matthew Boyd

It was against the Pirates, and their backups’ backups, but Boyd looked good. Five strikeouts over four innings of the work, lowering his Spring ERA to 2.08. He needed 80 pitches to get through four frames, but he looked good.

His slider didn’t quite generate the number of whiffs we wanted to see, but his changeup looked good, posting a CSW rate of 33 percent. Boyd is a tough one to trust at times in fantasy, but outings like this are enticing, and he’s going off the board outside of the top 300 for heaven’s sake!

Gerrit Cole : Fans Eight Birds

Eight strikeouts. He’s ready. Enough said. Draft with supreme confidence

3/20/2021

 

Chris Archer

 

Since leaving Tampa Bay, it was a rough go of things for Archer. Now, he’s back in Tampa Bay and reports are that he could work behind an opener. Check out the words from Marc Topkin:
 


He looked good today, and pitching behind an opener would in theory increase his chances to get some wins, considering he has three less outs to get to notch the W. This will be something to monitor through the rest of spring, as well as into the regular season. Archer is practically free in drafts, and if he can return to how he was before the trade to Pittsburgh, his value could be immense.

 

 

Robbie Ray ’s Spring Dominance Continues

 

Seven strikeouts with just one walk across 5.1 innings pitched and Ray continues to look excellent this spring. Through 13.2 innings of work this spring, Ray has posted a 18:5 K/BB ratio. Command is going to be a big key to sustaining any sort of long-term success for Ray.

In yesterday’s outing, his fastball generated nine whiffs on 25 swings, and his slider posted an impressive 50 percent whiff rate. His fastball velocity was up, too, and it’s getting harder and harder to ignore Ray in drafts. Yes, he can be erratic and could drive fantasy managers insane at times, but right now, he looks locked in and is in a great spot with the Blue Jays, from a fantasy perspective.

 

Gregory Soto Throwing GAS

A sinker that topped out at 100.9 miles per hour yesterday. A slider that posted a 67 percent whiff rate with a top velocity of 91.6 miles per hour. A four-seamer that was only thrown once, but resulted in a swing and miss, and clocked in at 99.3 miles per hour. 

 

Soto is making a strong case for the closing gig in Detroit. This is something to monitor moving forward.

 

Atlanta Arms

Let’s start with Ian Anderson , who is making a case for NL Rookie of the Year in March.

Anderson is looking to build upon his impressive six starts with the Braves last year, when he posted a 29.7 percent strikeout rate and a dazzling 1.95 ERA. He will need to improve upon his 10.1 percent walk rate, but things are looking up there, as he has a 18:3 K/BB ratio over 9.2 innings in the spring.

 

In the bullpen, Will Smith and Chris Martin both pitched clean innings. However, Smith, the likely closer for the team, has struck out nine of the last 13 batters that he has faced. Martin isn’t going to completely get shut out of save opportunities, especially after posting a 1.00 ERA and 6.67 K/BB ratio across 18 innings of work.

 

Smith may get the lion’s share, but Martin should get a couple as well, and the latter is a reliever worthy of rostering as he can help boost ratios. Here are the draft trends of each of these two relievers.

 

As you can see, both are moving up draft boards.

 

Under the Radar Pitcher in Minnesota?

Randy Dobnak has looked excellent this spring. Through 8.2 innings of work (two starts), he’s allowed one run (zero earned) on five hits with a sparkling 13:0 K/BB ratio. Rob Friendman echoes my sentiments exactly on Dobnak’s filthy slider.

His pitches underperformed in 2020. His expected batting average against his sinker was .290, but opponents notched a .338 average. His slider registered a .219 batting average, but an excellent 33.8 percent whiff rate. In 2020, he dropped the usage of his four-seamer, to rely more on his sinker, slider and changeup. Dobnak is a fine arm to target late, as he should be in line for plenty of wins, and has a great defense behind him.

 

3/19/2021

Carlos Carrasco

 

As he was working his way back from some arm soreness, this is certainly not ideal. With this issue, that’s actually being classified as a tear, coming this late in the spring, along with working back from the arm issue, he will likely miss some time. Sure, missing a start or two shouldn’t wipe him from your draft board completely. His average draft position remains pretty early in drafts, but as you can see via his draft trends below, courtesy of NFBC, he’s slipping.

Stay close to the situation, as you could get a nice value, should the inclination of a “tear” sound worse than it really is.

Alex Reyes Slip Up

As an Alex Reyes stan, whenever he pitches, he’s getting put here, good or bad, so deal with it! He needed 28 pitches and couldn’t get out of the inning, but both outs were strikeouts, so that’s encouraging! He also walked two guys, which isn’t encouraging. However, he did generate five whiffs on ten swings, and he could be a nasty reliever if he continues to mix in all five of his pitches at least ten percent of the time. We’ll want to see the velocity jump up a bit, but he did show that it is still there, seeing as he topped out at 97.5 miles per hour yesterday with his heater.

Personally, I’d love to see him use his sinker more. He only used it three times yesterday, but it was in the 95-96 range, and induced two foul balls and a called strike, not to mention with some nasty movement.

In 2020, he used the sinker about 11.7 percent of the time, and it induced an average exit velocity of just 79.1 miles per hour and a launch angle of three degrees. This is a legit weapon for him. Let it work, Alex.

Stroman + Diaz = FILTH

- Stroman: Five innings, two hits, one earned run, six strikeouts

- Diaz: One inning, two hits, one strikeout

Stroman looks nasty this spring and is shaping up to potentially be one of the biggest draft day steals this season. His ADP continues to rise and he’s moving up earlier and earlier in drafts.

This splitter of his gives batters a sixth pitch to worry about, and it induced two whiffs on five swings yesterday. He’s not going to blow batters away with overpowering velocity, but good luck trying to figure out what’s coming with Stroman’s extensive repertoire. The only metaphor I can use here is that watching Stroman pitch feels like he’s using a wiffleball with the way he makes the ball dance and contort all different ways before getting to the plate. He’s dynamic, I’m regretting not having any shares. Well, time to join another fantasy baseball league to make sure I do!

Stroman doesn’t do it with overpowering velocity but closer Edwin Díaz does. His fastball topped out at 100.2 miles per hour yesterday, and while his fastball didn’t generate many whiffs, he got through the inning unscathed. The one hit he allowed was just 87 miles per hour off the bat, so not exactly the hardest hit ball. Diaz is making a case that he should be no worse than the fourth closer off the board, but perhaps the third, or even the second!

Price Wasn’t Right Yesterday

David Price was knocked around a bit in yesterday’s outing. Sure, he allowed just two earned runs, but seven hits allowed and 49 pitches through 2.2 innings is far from ideal. The team is stated that he will likely come out of the bullpen, but the potential for him to get a couple starts here and there and improve your team’s ratios is certainly on the table.

He only generated three whiffs on 26 swings yesterday, but he used four pitches quite regularly and the velocity was in check with the last time that we saw him, albeit slightly down.

Per Baseball Savant, you can see for the most part, he was all around the zone, but there’s simply just too many pitches in the heart of the plate. Price needs to shake off some rust, so we’ll forgive him here.

Statistical Credits:
Baseballsavant.mlb.com
nfc.shgn.com/adp/baseball

3/18/2021

Tyler Glasnow - Slider Alert

I think I have been saying it since 2015, and maybe earlier, but Glasnow is going to win a Cy Young someday. He’s absolutely filthy, and in his most recent outing, against his former team in fact, he generated 14 whiffs on 39 swings, and posted three pitches with a CSW% at or above 26 percent! His fastball, curveball and changeup velocities are up, highlighted by the righty throwing his changeup nearly four miles per hour harder. He hardly uses it, but worth noting.

However, the big story here is a little something sliding. He’s implementing a slider.

 

He generated three whiffs on seven swings with it, and for the most part, he kept it in good spots.

There’s some refining to be done with this pitch, but it has the makings of a lethal weapon to an already electric arsenal.

Sandy Alcantara The Whiff Machine

Joey Lucchesi did some good things for the Mets yesterday, but Alcantara told him to “hold my beer.” Over five innings of work, he allowed just three hits, and struck out a whopping nine batters! Hold on, it gets better. He generated 14 whiffs on 32 swings, and all five of his pitches posted a CSW% of at least 29 percent. Furthermore, he rode his sinker more than his four-seamer in 2020, but in this one, his four-seamer reigned supreme. It will be interesting to see how he mixes these two pitches, but the results from this start were exceptional.

I’m pushing him up boards and actively targeting him as an SP3. This spring, he’s posted 19 strikeouts over 12.2 innings, with a 0.00 ERA.

E is for Excellent

Boston’s Eduardo Rodríguez is looking to be a steal in drafts, especially if he carries this over into the regular season. After posting six strikeouts across five innings of work yesterday, he now has a 2.31 ERA with a 14:0 K/BB ratio across 11.2 innings of work. Durability is obviously an issue with Rodriguez, and outside of the 203.1 innings he threw in 2019, he has yet to top 140 innings in a regular season.

The results this spring have been encouraging thus far and if he continues pitching like this, you don’t have a chance of getting him at his current ADP of pick 221, per NFBC data.

Jordan Montgomery

Want to talk about another potential steal? Let’s head to New York and look at Jordan Montgomery . Not only did he just throw five no-hit innings, but he generated a couple of whiffs with his curveball, and he used his extensive repertoire near perfectly. He commanded the strike zone, and if you’re into spin rates, all of them are up, minus his curveball.

He’s currently the 85th pitcher going off the board, and represents an excellent value in drafts, especially if he can replicate or improve upon last year’s 42.9 percent ground ball rate. He’ll need it in the Bronx.

First Step Back for Chris Paddack

It hasn’t been a great spring for Paddack. He’s allowed five earned runs on nine hits across 8.2 innings with a pedestrian at best 7:4 K/BB ratio. To his credit, this was his first bad outing, but still, it snowballed, and he couldn’t get out of it.

 

 

Yes, the highlight is for Willson Contreras , but Paddack’s changeup here had plenty of movement. Sure, it caught a little bit too much of the plate, but the movement is there. He’s primarily a fastball changeup guy, but he’ll need either his curveball or cutter to develop to give batters a tertiary option of which they need to be cognizant. Opponents hit his fastball to the tune of a .308 batting average, and his cutter generated a whiff rate of 50 percent last year in a limited role. It would be great to see him work that in more in his next outing. I’m not moving him up my board or down my board at all following this start. We’re just monitoring.

Who is the Next Man Up in Philadelphia?

Archie Bradley has been solid this spring, while Héctor Neris has been a bit iffy at times and coming off a bad year. If you asked me right now, I believe Bradley is the closer, José Alvarado is the setup man, and Neris occupies the seventh inning. Alvarado has been amazing this spring, and he’s lighting up the board.

When he doesn’t beat you with this fastball, good luck hitting his cutter.

3/17/2021

Jacob deGrom

From Baseball Savant’s game feed for yesterday’s contest, here are the top pitches from yesterday’s Houston vs New York showdown.

I’m trying not to buy into spring outings too much, but deGrom is making it incredibly hard to not draft him as the first starter. Some will go Gerrit Cole and that’s fine, but his dominance this spring (16:1 K/BB ratio across nine innings) cannot go unnoticed. SP1 folks.

Marlins vs. Nationals

 

Pretty big words here from Mr. Mish! Rogers looked good in this outing, allowing just one earned run on four hits and one walk while striking out five across four innings of work. This Spring, Rogers has posted a 13:3 K/BB ratio across 8.1 innings of work, with a 4.32 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. Rogers wasn’t overpowering in the minors, and even in 28 innings of work for the Marlins last year, he wasn’t exceptional, but he displayed plus strikeout potential, so that could be valuable to some in very deep formats. In shallower leagues you can probably avoid, but if you’re in deeper or NL-only setups, Rogers could be a flier you take late, and hope he continues to develop.

Quick interjection: Washington’s Patrick Corbin walked four batters in 3.2 innings of work. Not ideal, considering that after posting a walk rate of 7.7 percent from 2016-2019, he dropped that mark to 6.1 percent in last year’s shortened season. This spring, he’s walked six batters across 8.2 innings of work.

Minnesota Twins

Against the Pirates of all teams, right-hander José Berríos gets knocked around a bit. He allowed four earned runs on eight hits in four innings of work. Now, the 53 pitches are solid, but just the one strikeout is concerning. He generated just one whiff in the outing (via his excellent curveball), but he should be able to bounce back. He pounded the strike zone and his pitch velocities were within reason from last year’s averages. Berrios displayed his full arsenal, throwing each of his four pitches at least 17 percent of the time, and three of which at least 25 percent of the time, which is right on par with his numbers from 2020. Berrios will be just fine and is a quality SP2 this season.

Also in this game, we saw all three of Minnesota’s potential closers. Alex Colomé got the fifth inning, arguably the most important of the spring innings, with Hansel Robles and Taylor Rogers getting the sixth and seventh respectively. Neither Colome nor Robles recorded a strikeout, and Rogers was the only one to have a clean inning and record a strikeout.

Interesting tidbit: Rogers’ sinker averaged 96.3 miles per hour in this outing, which is nearly two miles per hour above last year’s average. Keep an eye on this. Even if Colome appears to be “the guy” to begin the year, Rogers will be involved, and some added velocity should pay dividends.

Josh Hader Update

It’s been a rough start this spring for Hader, but he looked nasty in his most recent outing. See below, courtesy of Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja):

 

Good luck opposing batters! This spring, we’ve seen the normal for Hader, in that he’s pounding the upper third of the strike zone with his fastball and a nasty slider is giving batters fits. However, he’s allowed two home runs in 2.2 innings of work, and his fly ball tendencies can get him into trouble.

In the tweet above, you’ll see he flashed a changeup. He didn’t throw it in 2020, and hardly ever used it in 2019. This could be an added weapon for him this year, so in his next outing, I’ll be curious if he breaks it out again, or if he continues to ride his fastball and slider.

3/16/2021

From Craig’s mouth, well, fingers I guess, to your ears! Bass went 7-for-9 in save opportunities for Toronto last year and while he may be underwhelming in the strikeout department, he has an opportunity to tally some saves as the Marlins’ ninth inning man. Any uptick in strikeouts would be welcomed for the 33-year-old right-hander and hopefully he can generate more swings out of the zone to further build upon last year’s career-best 11.5 swinging strike rate.

He’s super cheap in drafts, and serving as the closer for the Marlins doesn’t carry the same stench it may have in recent seasons.

Max Scherzer Velocity Update

Scherzer’s fastball velocity looks good and he even topped out at a hair under 97 miles per hour. Now, what he did excellent, other than striking out seven Cardinals across four innings of work, was keep the pitch count down, and dominate with his fastball. His fastball generated eight whiffs on 19 swings, while his slider posted three whiffs on four swings, and his changeup was a perfect 2-for-2. His curveball and cutter left a lot to be desired in the whiff department, but three excellent pitches from the ace is more than sufficient.

He commanded the strike zone, stayed right near it, and was flat out excellent in this one.

Through 8.2 spring innings, Scherzer has a 2.08 ERA, 0.58 WHIP and a 14:2 K/BB ratio.

A Surely to Rise ADP - Who is Domingo Germán ?

German is pretty cheap at the moment, on average going outside of the top 300 picks, but that’s surely going to change. He’s looked solid this spring and he gets the “Yankee” boost. His draft trends, per NFBC data, tell the story.

You can see that he’s going earlier and earlier, and while his average draft position sits at 317, he’s gone inside the top 190 picks three times.

Last time we saw German, which was 2019, his four-seamer averaged 93.4 miles per hour, and his curveball was his put away pitch. Well, in this most recent outing, his fastball averaged 93.1 and topped at 94.2, and his curveball posted a CSW% of 50 percent. Excellent. Also, his changeup generated three whiffs, so that’s encouraging as well. German is an upside arm with one of the league’s best offenses backing him.

Shane McClanahan: Name to Remember

This nasty lefty is someone you’re going to want to keep tabs on. Tampa Bay spreads the wealth among save opportunities for relievers, and he could nab a couple over the course of the season. At the very least, he can really help out your ratios. All he’s done this spring is post a 0.33 WHIP with a 7:0 K/BB ratio across three appearances.

He didn’t overly impress in the postseason last year, but his stuff looks filthy this spring. He costs you nothing in drafts, and in deeper formats, he can be a nice boost to your team’s ratios, especially if he continues this kind of dominance into the regular season.

I think Rob (@PitchingNinja on Twitter) said it best.

 

3/15/2021

Stephen Strasburg

 

Just as I mentioned how good he looked in his last outing, this happened. For Strasburg, the results this spring were far less important than showcasing good health and ability to stay healthy. He came up lame after a pitch and called for the trainers. His ADP was already pushed back due to last year’s injury, and some people, myself included, loved the value we were getting on a fantasy ace after his first spring outing. Now, it seems like we are in the same boat.

Two steps forward, one step back. Well, sort of. Keep an eye on Strasburg moving forward, especially if your drafts are in the coming days.

Sonny Gray /Tejay Antone

Bad news below for Sonny Gray . Sure, it’s only a week, but back issues can linger, or come back. You might want to push him down your board a bit.

 

Also, a darling of this article, Tejay Antone now gets his name without positive remarks. Fortunately, he seemed pretty encouraged that the severity of the injury is minimal, but this is something to keep an eye on as well.

 

One name to keep an eye on for the Cincinnati rotation overall, and if one of the above should miss anytime would be José De León. His 5.63 ERA across eight innings this spring isn’t ideal, but 14 strikeouts is excellent. He’s been knocked around a bit, but he’s dirt cheap and could be a nice source of strikeouts at the very least.

Bard Show in COL

Bard didn’t generate any whiffs, but his average fastball velo was right on par with last year, and he even topped out at 97.8. Solid. It will take a bit to get the velo back, especially with his slider and changeup, but the max velocity on those pitches were on par with last year’s averages. Bard is a guy I love targeting for saves, but I’d love for him to get that launch angle down a bit, especially with his home park. His launch angle trend from last year is going the opposite way I would want it to for 1) a closer, and 2) a pitcher in Coors.

Lance McCullers

New pitch alert!

 

This potential weapon has some nasty cut on it, and he will likely mess with it a bit throughout spring. It will be interesting to see how often he uses it, but this could make righties look foolish and generate a lot of weak contact in on the hands of lefties. We saw a cutter from McCullers mixed in a bit in the 2020 season, and generated a good number of whiffs, so perhaps this is an extension from that, or perhaps the development of that pitch. Or, maybe its another weapon he has at his disposal.

Also, McCullers looked damn good in this outing. Stock up.

LeClerc and Home Runs

LeClerc has only thrown two innings this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits with just one strikeout. However, he has allowed one home run already, and sure, it’s just one, but recent history shows LeClerc has a problem with home runs.

  • 2017 - 1.59 HR/9

  • 2018 - 1.98 HR/9

  • 2019 -  2.08 HR/9

He only logged two innings in the 2020 season. He’s prone to fly balls, but he must keep the ball in the park. As a potential cheaper source of saves, this is worth noting.

3/13/2021

Hunter Harvey - Oblique

It’s been a rough go of things for Harvey since he was drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft.

  • 2014: Injured

  • 2015: Injured

  • 2016: Injured (Tommy John)

  • 2017: Injured

  • 2020: Injured

Harvey has logged just 15 innings at the big league level posting a 3.00 ERA and a 27 percent strikeout rate. He made it just one pitch into yesterday’s outing, before exiting with an injury.

It’s a reported oblique injury for the right-hander, but not much detail has been made available at this time.

Michael Pineda - Overlooked Arm?

Are we sleeping on Michael Pineda in 2021? In yesterday’s outing, he allowed five hits and one earned run across 2.2 innings, but he posted an excellent six strikeouts. All five hits he allowed were singles, so that’s a positive. He threw his slider 19 times, and generated five whiffs. It’s a beautiful sight for those who are rostering or are considering the right-hander, considering his slider in 2020 posted a 46.2 percent whiff rate. In fact, his mark in 2020 with that pitch was a career high!

Over time, his average draft position has remained steady, coming in on average at pick 232. There’s plenty of value to be had for Pineda, seeing as he has strikeout upside, to an extent, a good offense and a slick-fielding defense behind him.

Taylor Rogers vs. Alex Colomé

Sticking in Minnesota, Rogers and Colome, and likely Hansel Robles , will all see save opportunities in 2021, as Rocco Baldelli is committed to sharing the wealth. Colome pitched the fifth inning, allowing one hit and striking out one batter. Taylor Rogers followed up with two punch outs and needed just 11 pitches to retire the side.

Everything checks out with Colome’s velocity, but Rogers’ slider was rather spread out. The southpaw averaged 82.8 miles per hour in 2019 with his slider, and it sat at 81.2 miles per hour in 2020. In yesterday’s outing, it ranged anywhere from 81 to 85 miles per hour! Interestingly enough, the harder he threw his slider, batters made contact.

  • Slider at or above 84 miles per hour: Foul, Ball, Foul, Foul

  • Slider below 84 miles per hour: Called Strike, Called Strike, Swinging Strike

Colome: fastball sat 93-95, cutter was 87-89.6

Rogers: sinker sat 94, and slider ranged from 81-85

Garrett Crochet - Emerging Southpaw?

His role to begin the season is likely in the pen, but he’s a starter long term. He saw time as a 20-year-old in the shortened 2020 season, and he punched out eight batters across six innings. His fastball averaged triple-digits in 2020, and a quality slider that posted a 50 percent whiff rate in 2020.

He’s looked excellent this spring, and looks to be a valuable reliever to boost your team’s ratios. He may not see many saves, but if you’re league values holds, or perhaps it is a “solds” league, Crochet’s elite strikeout potential is worth rostering, especially in deeper formats. Additionally, if you grab starters that don’t rack up strikeouts, Crochet is a nice way to boost those numbers.

3/12/2021

Freddy Peralta - Strikeout Machine

 

Freddy Peralta has been excellent this spring. The strikeouts shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, considering he’s a 31.2 percent strikeout arm for his entire career. Last year, he posted a career-best 37.6 percent mark. Milwaukee is going to stretch him out to handle a larger workload but don’t expect a full starter’s innings total from Peralta. He’s thrown just 192.2 innings in his career, with the most in his career coming back in 2019 when he logged 85 innings of work. Command has been a major issue for him, as he’s a career 4.16 BB/9 mark, but his current average draft position, per NFBC data, is ludicrous. The spring pace isn’t sustainable, but the strikeouts are real, and the upside is certainly there.

Mitch Keller - It’s Time!

This is Mitch Keller ’s year, right? Right? I sure hope so. Sure, the results yesterday were average (two’s across the board, literally), but there were some impressive takeaways.

  1. Launch Angles

In 2020, his launch angle jumped to 14.3 degrees, but yesterday, here were the launch angles of the five batted balls: -45 degrees, -9 degrees, -4 degrees, -2 degrees, 9 degrees. Yes, four of those balls were hit above 97 miles per hour, but still, ground balls are key. Overall, more ground balls, which is excellent, and could lead to an increase of his career 41.1 percent ground ball rate.

  1. Fastball Velocity

After averaging 95.4 miles per hour on his fastball in 2019, that mark dropped to 93.9 miles per hour in 2020. Well, yesterday, the results were excellent. His four-seamer topped at 98.2 miles per hour, and over half of his heaters were above 96. Keller will need the velocity and this was a great sign.

I love targeting Keller in all of my drafts because many buy into 2019’s 7.13 ERA versus 2020’s 2.91 ERA.

Wade Miley - Hamstrung by a Hamstring

The ground ball extraordinaire left the game with an injury, but not many details have been released yet. Miley was a middling fantasy asset, but should he miss an extended amount of time, it means one thing..

Tejay Antone TIME!! If you haven’t drafted yet, watch out, because Antone is going to fly up the draft boards.

Patrick Corbin Velocity

The velocity was down in his recent outing, even compared to his down 2020 year. However, Corbin is a relatively slow starter, so it takes time for him to build up. Look at recent seasons, and how as the season goes on, the velocity picks up, slowly but surely.

On March 12th, I wouldn’t be too concerned about things yet. He had a down 2020 season, but prior to 2020, he had back-to-back years of a sub-3.30 ERA and 200 innings of work. He’s an excellent bounce back candidate and his velocity on March 12th isn’t the kiss of death to any fantasy value.

Statistical Credits:
baseballsavant.mlb.com
fangraphs.com

3/11/2021

Carlos Carrasco - Elbow

It seems like a report like this pops up every year, but whenever “pitcher” and “elbow” are in the same sentence, you can’t help but worry a bit. The Mets have shut him down for a few days, so we’ll have to see how he responds when he returns to throwing, but it’s something to note nonetheless. I’d have a little extra caution if my drafts were in the coming days, since elbow issues can be anywhere from minor to major on the injury spectrum.

Carrasco logged 190 innings or more in both 2017 and 2018, including 200 in 2017, but other than that, he’s routinely been under 150 innings of work. The Mets likely exercise some caution with him, considering he’s thrown just 148 innings of the past two years combined, but a solid K rate and ratios overall will help him on a per-inning basis.

Amir Garrett - Forearm

I don’t like this one at all. Not one bit. Garrett is dealing with forearm soreness, and forearm can tend to be a precursor for a much larger issue at play. He’s yet to appear in a spring training game, and who knows when his first appearance will come. He was a guy I was actively targeting for saves, but perhaps that might not be the case, especially if he gets a slow start to the year.

Tejay Antone? Lucas Sims ? These are guys to look out for to potentially handle the 9th inning duties while Garrett is sidelined. There’s value to be had with the Cincinnati closer and there could be an opening. I liked Garrett to be the guy, but this unfortunate news puts a wrinkle in that hypothesis.

Despite just one save in 2020, Garrett posted a career-best 37.7 strikeout rate and 18.1 percent swinging strike rate.

Forrest Whitley - Sad Face

Tommy John surgery. It’s not what you want for a highly touted prospect who has had some issues in recent seasons. In 2018, he got popped with a suspension and suffered two oblique issues. In 2019, well, he stunk, and then had shoulder issues. The minor league season was cancelled last year, and now he’s out for all of 2021.

This is a tough blow for dynasty owners, and if I had to guess, you’re in a situation where you’re kind of stuck with him at this point, and hopefully he turns on a corner. Best wishes, Forrest!

Spencer Howard - Velo Check

Velo check! All good! He sat around 94 miles per hour with his heater in 2020 and in his most recent outing, he was right on par, routinely around 94-95, and topping out 96.2. If you take a look at his pitches, his velocity actually elevated a bit as he got deeper into the game, which you certainly love to see. His stamina is building up quite nicely, and could carve out a nice role with the Phillies in 2021. 

In shallower leagues, Howard likely isn’t on the radar, but in deeper formats, Howard is a high-upside late-round flier. In fact, despite some solid spring performances, he’s actually slipping in drafts!

I love targeting Howard late, especially if he keeps up the punch outs this spring. He currently has six strikeouts through three innings of work, and even if he opens the year not in the rotation, it won’t be long until he’s there.

3/10/2021

Blake Snell Comments

Very insightful comments from Snell below. Check it out.

 

This will be something interesting to monitor throughout the spring and regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see strikeout totals up, because if pitchers can “dig in” better, in theory, it would create more movement on pitches. Hitting a round ball square is hard enough as is, but sounds like it could become even harder. Hitters probably don’t like the sound of this, but they had their time in the sun.

Stephen Stasburg Sighting

 

Albeit longer innings, Strasburg looked good. Other reports said he looks as normal as normal could be, so that’s encouraging. Results in the spring aren’t as important for some players, and for Strasburg, it’s health over results. He said he’s healthy and he looked good in his debut. It’s all about fine-tuning from here.

Strasburg is an interesting fantasy option this year, considering he can give you top 10 production, but the health concerns have pushed him wayyyyyyy down. I love targeting Strasburg, because you don’t find aces that often outside of the fourth round in 15-team leagues that often. I have a feeling if he stays healthy and there’s solid production, owners will be more comfortable pushing him up the board a little bit. If you drafted early, you could find yourself with a massive value on your hands from the veteran right-hander.

Jonathan Hernández Injury

This injury is a tough blow to the Texas bullpen and for fantasy owners epculating who could emerge as this team’s closer. He was disagnozed with a low-grade UCL sprain, and best case-scenario is that he can get back to throwing in a few weeks. However, yes, UCL issues could always be a precursor for the infamous Tommy John surgery. It’s still early to speculate, but it's a tough blow.

He won five games in 2020 and posted a 3.88 K/BB ratio, and José Leclerc has proven to be a far thing from reliable late in ball games. In 2020 Hernandez’s 85th percentile in whiff rate and 99th percentile fastball velocity didn’t quite sync up with his strikeout rate that was only in the 57th percentile. The strikeouts would have jumped in 2021, as well as his ability to limit barrelled balls (89th percentile) and impactful contact (93rd percentile xSLG).

José Leclerc gets a little added job security as Hernandez likely opens the year on the IL.

Alex Reyes Role Clarity?

The Cardinals are all-in on Reyes being a bullpen arm with a cap of 100 innings for the 2021 season.

In same article, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said:

Personally, I love it. He could find himself getting some save opportunities, on top of a couple extended outings. For the record, as a reliever in 2020, he posted a 3.38 ERA with 25 strikeouts across 18.2 IP. For his career as a reliever, he’s posted 49 K’s across 39 IP with a 3.00 ERA and .176 average allowed.

This should help his durability, so consider me all in on Reyes, assuming his ADP doesn’t go through the roof.

3/9/2021

David Price Return

It seems like Price is going to be a reliever for the Dodgers this season. It’s not a guarantee that he is there, but it seems like that’s where he could start. Here’s what Dave Roberts had to say, "When you're starting or coming out of the pen, the build up is important. But what the build up looks like, there's no certain number that warrants somebody starting a major league game... I can see him pitching in any role we have for him. David, being the pro and teammate that he is, also voiced that. Whatever role that we see is best for the Dodgers in 2021, that's what he wants to do. That's a credit to him."

His fastball reached 94 miles per hour in this outing, which is awesome, seeing as he hasn’t seen that in a few years. After averaging 94.2 miles per hour with his fastball in 2017, the mark dropped in 2018 and then again in 2019, down to just 91.9 miles per hour. There’s a wealth of talent in the pitching department for the Dodgers, and while it would be great for him to start from a fantasy perspective, news of going to the pen could allow him to slip in drafts, increasing his overall value.

Do I think he ends up in the bullpen all year? Absolutely not.

Brady Singer

Singer is an intriguing young arm who is actually slipping in drafts for the most part. He went 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA across 12 starts last year, with a 23.2 percent strikeout rate and 8.7 percent walk rate.

It took him 30 pitches to get out of the first, and the command was a major issue, but he was able to settle back in, and end up striking out five batters across three innings. His command is something to watch, as it got him in some trouble, and through three innings this spring, he’s already walked two and hit two batters. There’s certainly some upside with the 24-year-old righty, but harnessing his command in the spring will provide further optimism for the 2021 regular season.

Trevor Rosenthal Injury

Rosenthal was scratched from his spring debut due to a groin issue, but it’s believed to be not very serious. Here is what manager Bob Melvin had to say about it: "We don't have a target date for him to throw yet, we think it's minor in nature, but you want to be pretty careful with those types of injuries. He's been feeling it the last two days."

It’s March 9th, so you can afford to be cautious now. Rosenthal’s injury opens the door for some other guys to get some looks in the Oakland pen, but assuming that the veteran righty is back in a few days, or perhaps a week, he’s the favorite to be the team’s closer this season.

Tejay Antone: The Spin King?

Look at the RPM from Antone!!

 

 

Through two appearances this spring, Antone has posted eight strikeouts across five innings with a 0.60 WHIP. Excellent. Where Antone will be used this year is interesting from a fantasy perspective. If he’s a reliever, he could post elite ratios and be a valuable source of saves/holds. If he’s a starter, he has plenty of offense behind him to be able to rack up some wins, alongside solid strikeout totals. He could start, and likely should, but manager David Bell had mentioned his gut tells him that Antone is likely in the pen to begin the year.

Regardless, he can be elite on a per-inning basis, and he’s still relatively cheap at the moment.

Wild Ryan Castellani

Ryan Castellani currently has an average draft position of 748.85 in NFBC drafts, so this isn’t exactly worthwhile for fantasy, but more so just an interesting tidbit. He threw 15 straight balls to open an inning yesterday. Ouch. He also hit a batter and allowed three runs.

3/8/2021

Michael Wacha Alert!!!

Wacha was sitting pretty with his fastball in a recent outing. After down velocities in 2019 and 2020, his fastball a couple days ago was sitting in the 94-96 range. That’s excellent!

Tampa Bay seems to have a way with pitchers, and I don’t mean pulling them after four innings of work. Well, they have a way with that, too! Wacha is dirt cheap right now, and if the velocity remains high and he keeps putting up good performances, he’s going to fly up draft boards. Capitalize while you can.

Oh my, Ohtani!

First outing and Ohtani was dynamic. All five outs he recorded were via the punch out, but did surrender three hits and two walks. He made Mitch Moreland look silly with a breaking pitch, and a filthy split-change will give righties fits. His fastball had life on it, and while the overall results may have been subpar, minus the five strikeouts, he emerged healthy and that’s what matters.

Ohtani is the rare dual-eligibility hitter and pitcher and hopefully you selected him before his outing on the 5th. If you look at his draft trends, courtesy of NFBC, he’s moving up earlier and earlier in drafts.

Continue to monitor Ohtani, especially this weekend when he makes his next start. The Angels are going to use a six-man rotation, but that would be good for Ohtani, because it’s something he’s more familiar with, versus the traditional five-man rotation you see in the MLB.

Stroman Hit Hard

His changeup was filthy in his first outing, but the Marlins barrelled him up pretty good. Of the nine balls put in play, four were hit 100 miles per hour or harder, and all but two were above 90 miles per hour. Fortunately, a few were ground balls, so he wasn’t burned by them, but that’s good, because for his career, he’s allowed a launch angle of 1.8 degrees, but 2019 he posted a career high 5.6 degree mark.

He might have gotten hit hard, but as long as they are of the ground ball variety, he should avoid damage. His average draft position, per NFBC data, has been inching up practically all offseason, but while his ADP does sit at 213.73, his minimum pick is 138, so that shows you that there are some people willing to move him up and buy into what he could be this year with the Mets.

Perfect Pressly

A clean inning of work for Pressly, which included three strikeouts and only pitch found the middle of the zone.

Sure, it was no immaculate inning, but he was excellent in this one, and displayed a near equal pitch distribution. Houston should get him opportunities to rack up saves, and while he’s already going early in drafts, this was an excellent outing.

Okay, Robbie Ray

Six strikeouts in 2.1 innings of work is excellent, and his fastball velocity was elevated! In 2020, his fastball velocity was 93.9 miles per hour on average. Well, in this outing, he hit at least 96 miles per hour 15 times, and he even got to 97 miles per hour eight times! Also, when he threw his four seam fastball at least 96 miles per hour, he generated six foul balls, four called strikes, four called balls, and one swinging strike. Not one four seam fastball above 96 miles per hour was put in play!

Additionally, his slider sat anywhere from 87-90 miles per hour, but in 2019 and 2020, that pitch on average was 84.3 miles per hour and 86.5 miles per hour respectively. This is something to watch as well. He threw his slider 11 times and it generated four swinging strikes. HELL YEAH!

3/4/2021

Bad News for Framber Valdez ?

News broke Tuesday that the Astros starter suffered a fractured ring finger on his pitching hand and on Wednesday, when Houston GM James Click spoke to Howard Bender and Jim Bowden on the Fantasy Alarm Show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, he said he was unable to ascertain a timetable as more tests were being run. FOllowing the interview, Jim opined that the initial examination did not go as hoped and with more tests being run, the fear of something more serious grew. That bad news broke today when Jim Heyman of MLB Network Radio reported the following:

We will continue to monitor the situation, but obviously Valdez should be bumped down draft boards for the time being. 

In other news regarding Astros pitchers, one thing Click did mention that should be encouraging, is that their starters will not see innings caps early in the season. Rather than put a firm number (i.e. the 60 inning increase-limit known commonly as the Verducci Effect) on how many innings a pitcher will throw, they prefer to throw their pitchers as they normally would and if a situation should arise later in the year, they will tend to it then. That should mean back-end starters such as Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy should be allowed to throw more than five or six innings should they not have too high a pitch-count in the game.

Blue Jays hurting on the Mound

Mike Wilner of the Toronto Star offered up some injury news regarding the Jays:

Baker wasn't exactly on anyone's radar for this season so the news of possible UCL issues isn't as devastating as what normally could be, but the Pearson injury is bothersome here in the short-term. He'll take a seat until he is back to 100-percent and while that shouldn't put him too far behind, he is going to have to be monitored closely in an effort to keep him from coming back too soon and re-aggravating the injury.

Reds hurler Tejay Antone Remains One to Watch

Antone looked incredibly sharp Wednesday when he fanned five Dodgers in two scoreless innings of work during Cactus League play. He was touching 97-98 mph with his fastball and hit 90 on his sinker-slider as well. The Reds have not yet decided whether he will break camp in the rotation, but he should still remain valuable in fantasy as a home in long-relief this season isn't exactly a death sentence. He could be a major asset for vulturing wins while augmenting your strikeouts and stabilizing your ratios. Antone debuted in 2020 with a 2.80 ERA and 45 strikeouts over 35.1 innings.

3/3/2021

Oh no, Framber

Houston right-hander Framber Valdez has a fractured finger on his throwing hand. Whenever I hear “Fracture” I always think 6-8 weeks. Regardless of whether it is a finger, arm, leg, etc. Six to eight weeks. A more concrete timetable will likely be issued for Valdez in the coming days, but not an ideal start to the spring for a guy that many were looking to make their SP2 or SP3.

Minnesota Right-Handers

José Berríos struck out three batters over two innings of work and only needed 26 pitches to get it done. He mixed in four pitches with near equal frequency, with his curveball and changeup posting a CSW above 40%. His curveball looked excellent and appears to already be in mid-season form.

On the other hand, it was a disastrous outing for Alex Colomé . The overall stat line wasn’t pretty, as he allowed five hits and four earned runs in one inning of work. Now, there are more pressing issues than beyond a bad outing. He allowed five balls to be hit above 103 miles per hour, and a total of six harder than 98 miles per hour. His cutter sat at 87.8 miles per hour, and his fastball was at 92.9 miles per hour. In 2020, those pitches sat, on average, at 89.3 and 94.4 miles per hour respectively. It’s nothing to be overly concerned about here on the third of March, but it will become a thing if this trend continues deeper into spring.

Nick Pivetta Sighting

Forty-one pitches to get through two innings of work isn’t ideal, but the velocity was there for Pivetta, and that’s imperative for the right-hander. Over the past four years, beginning in 2017, his fastball sat, on average, at 94.5 miles per hour, then 94.8 miles per hour, then 94.6 miles per hour, and then down to 92.8 miles per hour in 2020. He threw his fastball nearly 60 percent of the time in this outing, and his minimum fastball velocity was 93.7 miles per hour. He topped out at 96, with an average at 95.1 miles per hour, per Baseball Savant. YES! Bring back the heat, Nick! However, he did only generate one whiff in this outing

3/2/2021

New York Yankees

It took former Pittsburgh ace, Jameson Taillon , just seven pitches to retire the side in his first professional outing since undergoing his second Tommy John surgery back in August of 2019. 

Oh, that’s right. There’s two former Pittsburgh aces in New York now. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen Jameson Taillon on the mound, and he’s now a member of the New York Yankees’ rotation. Obviously, playing for a team that actually spends money helps his potential in the win column, but the 29-year-old righty is far from a sure thing in the Bronx. From 2016-2018, he posted a 0.92 HR/9, but even a fly ball rate around 30 percent could be detrimental in the Bronx.

His fastball peaked at just under 94 miles per hour and his curveball that registered his only strikeout came in at 83 miles per hour. How does that compare for Taillon? Well, his average back in 2019 was 94.8 miles per hour, and his curveball sat around 82 miles per hour. It’ll take some time to get back to full health and throwing with the same velocity, but nonetheless, it was an encouraging first outing for Taillon, and one that should keep fantasy owners watching closely.

On the other hand, Gerrit Cole threw to Gary Sánchez for the first time in a game for quite some time. There were some issues with the two last year, well, issue (singular) I guess. In eight starts pitching to Sanchez, Cole has a 3.91 ERA.

Here’s what Aaron Boone said about it: “He has worked with him a lot here in the early going, whether it’s been in bullpens or live BPs and things like that,” Boone said. “I’ll continue to do that, but it’s not something that I’m like, ‘He’s absolutely with him.’”

Colby’s translation: One bad start, and he could absolutely not be with him.

Tampa Bay Rays

Update: Tyler Glasnow still throws hard

The Tampa-Bay right-hander hit 137 miles per hour in his spring debut. Just kidding, but Glasnow still throws very, very hard and he reached triple-digits four times. However, he did unveil a new pitch that acts as a cutter/slider hybrid. It sat a few miles per hour above his curveball, but overall, it’s something else that batters have to consider. Great. Just another weapon for Glasnow to use in a lethal repertoire that has posted back-to-back seasons with a 30+ percent strikeout rate.

However, in unfortunate Glasnow fashion, the command wenty awry, and he ended up walking a few batters, resulting in an underwhelming stat line overall. However, it’s about the process and not the results, and Glasnow stated he feels great.

“I feel really healthy. Arm feels really good,” Glasnow said. “As long as I keep feeling like this, I'll be good to go.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenley Jansen Nearly Completes Immaculate Inning

It was exactly the outing that Jansen needed to open spring training. He nearly completed an immaculate inning (three strikeouts on minimum nine pitches), and recorded both of his strikeouts via the swing. His velocity has been trending down, and his whiff rates have gone down as well. What he has continued to do is limit hard contact, and the only ball put in play in his first outing was a weakly hit ball to the right-side of the infield. A couple more outings like this, and I fully expect Jansen to start creeping up in drafts, going earlier and earlier.

Every year from 2010 through 2017, he posted a strikeout rate of at least 37 percent. In the past three years, he’s posted marks of 28.4 percent, 30.4 percent and 32.4 percent. This first outing was an encouraging one.

New York Mets

Marcus Stroman : New changeup, who dis?

Take a look at the tweet below, courtesy of Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) of Stroman’s nasty changeup:

Absolute filth right there from Stroman. With lots of arm-side run and downward action, this pitch figures to be a menace for left-handers. He’s used a changeup sparingly in his repertoire in recent years, but has constantly made adjustments. In 2018, his changeup was used 4.6 percent of the time and hovered around 82-83 miles per hour, but in 2019, the velocity jumped to 87 miles per hour. Regardless, each year, the whiff rate hovered around 26-27 percent, but if he can replicate the changeup you saw in the tweet above, that mark is going to go up and up and up!

Chicago White Sox

Lucas Giolito : 4 K’s in two innings

After a career-best 33.7 percent strikeout rate, Giolito came out against the Rangers, punching out Joey Gallo , Khris Davis , Nick Solak and Eli White. He did surrender a home run to Ronald Guzmán , but overall was sharp. Giolito posted a 4.18 ERA across his final 23.2 innings in the regular season in 2020, so a dominant first outing, sans one pitch, was encouraging for those fantasy owners who have or plan to make Giolito their team’s ace.

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