Can we just agree that the first few weeks and maybe even the first month of the baseball season is a Bizarro World in which weird things are happening? From Michael Pineda taking a perfect game into the seventh inning to Jered Weaver earning a quality start in Colorado, it’s been unpredictable. Heck, even a pitcher named Antonio Senzatela is putting up standout performances. By the way, I wouldn’t disrespect that guy, either. His last name ends in a vowel and I hear he’s good friends with Joey Gallina. I’m just saying. In all seriousness, let’s get into the nitty gritty when it comes to pitching.
Hey Doc, I’ve Got This Pain In My Arm
I know, last week I started with mainly bad news, but I thought I’d switch it up. Well, technically I’m delivering good news about a bad situation. What happened to David Price in Spring Training regarding his elbow sucked, but he is making progress. Price threw 35 pitches Wednesday afternoon, and he came away pain free. He’s yet to work on breaking pitches, however, and that will be certainly be a big test in his progression considering the torque it causes on a pitcher’s elbow. Price threw his cutter nearly 20 percent of the time last season, so he obviously needs that pitch. There is no official timetable yet, but late April/early May might be possible without a setback.
Clay Buchholz has been diagnosed with a partial tear of his right flexor pronator mass and is headed to see the devil of Fantasy sports, Dr. James Andrews. Buchholz shouldn’t have been owned in any leagues outside of deep NL-only formats, but what the Phillies do next is intriguing. Nick Pivetta, the 12th ranked prospect in the Phillies organization according to MLB.com, has an ETA of 2017 with solid minor-league production. Last year in 27 starts across Double-A and Triple-A, Pivetta went 12-8 with a 3.27 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 148.2 innings pitched. He struck out eight in his first start this season, too. He’s a name for your watch list.
If you drafted Rich Hill, I’m sorry, but I’m really not. Obviously you listen to FNTSY Radio and you know I wanted nothing to do with Hill for this exact reason. I get it he only missed one start and will return this weekend, but that’s not the point. This blister he has is the world’s worst blister. It’s what limited Hill to 20 starts last season and has already hampered him in 2017. Also, if you’ve ever seen him throw a curveball, it looks like he’s going to throw his elbow out every time he does it. If he strings together a few solid starts, please sell high.
It’s never too early to look at next week’s pitching matchups. When it comes to these players below, please just relax and don’t start them.
Matt Moore is coming off one of the best starts of his career in which he pitched eight innings of one-run ball while striking out five and not issuing a walk. The key to Moore’s success has always been his control. Being a fly ball pitcher, if he can limit his walks, those two-run and three-run home runs turn into solo shots. With that being said, as good as he was in his second start, you should bench him in Week 3. Moore gets the Rockies in Colorado, and while their bats have been quiet so far, that won’t last forever. Also, in two starts against the Rockies in 2016, Moore had a 6.10 ERA. Oh, how did he do in Coors Field? Not too bad. He just allowed six earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched.
This next one is tougher because it’s hard to bench your SP2 or SP3, but Danny Duffy gets the Rangers in Texas next week. In four career starts against the Rangers, Duffy has a 5.31 ERA. In two starts in Texas, he owns an 8.38 ERA. On top of all that, the Rangers as a team have hit lefties very well this season. According to FanGraphs, the Rangers have a .363 wOBA against left-handed pitching, which is the fifth-best in all of baseball. All the signs are there for this to be a terrible outing.
It’s also hard to bench two-start pitchers, especially when they’re upside guys, but you have to pay attention to matchups. First up, Blake Snell gets the Red Sox in Boston followed by the Astros at home in Tropicana Field. This one is a little obvious. Both the Red Sox and Astros are stacked with right-handed power bats and Snell is a fly-ball pitcher. Another youngster with two starts you should avoid is Eduardo Rodriguez. He gets the Blue Jays and the Orioles in Week 3, both on the road. E-Rod has typically pitched better on the road but has terrible career numbers against both teams. Both ballparks also have negative park factors when it comes to pitchers. While Rodriguez and Snell both have upside this season, they have incredible downside, too. Don’t risk these guys blowing up your pitching stats.
While we’re on two-start pitchers
Finally, some good news. Below are a few names you can look to add for two-start weeks.
Amir Garrett is coming off the best start of his young career in which he struck out five Pirates over 6.2 innings to earn his first Major League win. Like most young pitchers, the key to Garrett’s success rests with his control. He had moderate success in minors last season, but at times his walk rate would get the best of him. He didn’t walk any in that win against the Pirates, which was huge for the young southpaw. He has three legit pitches he can use, with a fastball, curve and changeup that should keep hitters off balance. Garrett will see face the Orioles and Cubs in Week 3, which aren’t the greatest matchups, but it’s the first time they’re seeing him.
Joe Musgrove is another young pitcher in line for a two-start week in Week 3, going up against the Angels and the Rays. I like that Musgrove faced the Angels once last season and was dominant in that start. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball, while allowing zero walks and striking out four. The Angels haven’t done much to their lineup in the offseason, either. As for the Rays, they just aren’t that potent offensively, especially against right-handed pitching.
Disclaimer: This following experiment should only be done in deeper leagues
Solely because of matchups, Ariel Miranda is a name I am looking at in deeper leagues next week. Miranda will face the Marlins in Safeco and the A’s on the road. Both environments are favorable for pitchers and neither lineup scares me. This is a risky move, but it’s one I will be making in at least one of my leagues next week.
Patrick Corbin vs. Dodgers, Saturday – It looks like a solid matchup, as Corbin is coming off a great start and the Dodgers have struggled against left-handed pitching. The Dodgers currently have a .278 wOBA against lefties, ranking them 22nd in all of baseball.
Antonio Senzatela vs. Giants, Sunday – He is in play this weekend for multiple reasons. First of all, he’s only allowed two earned runs total in his first two starts while striking out 11 in 12 innings pitched. Second, this start comes at AT&T Park, which is obviously an uber positive park shift from Coors Field in Colorado. Third, nobody on the Giants has seen this guy yet. He has strikeout upside in a good environment if you need help Sunday.
Charlie Morton vs. A’s, Sunday – Morton is in another great situation to succeed on Sunday. Morton will make this start in Oakland where he’ll pitch in a very spacious ballpark against a below-average offense. Not only that, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Morton is a changed man. His velocity is up across the board; we’re talking a 95 mph fastball with an 88 mph cutter. I’ll take that against the lowly A’s every time.
We’re not even two weeks into the season, and we’ve already got closers on the move.
First up with the surprise to absolutely no one, the Phillies have made the change to Joaquin Benoit. After allowing three home runs this season, Jeanmar Gomez was removed from the closer role. Gomez should be dropped in all leagues, while Benoit should be added. The Phillies won’t win many games and Hector Neris is still lurking, but Benoit should be added regardless. If your waivers haven’t run yet, be prepared to spend 25 percent or more FAAB on Benoit.
Rangers closer Sam Dyson has allowed three runs or more in three of his four outings so far this season, so he may be the next example of a pitcher who will no longer be in the ninth-inning role. This situation is tougher, though, because Jeff Banister hasn’t openly named another closer, and there are multiple candidates. Matt Bush was the first choice based on his ability to miss bats, but he is dealing with an AC joint sprain. Jeremy Jeffress has closing experience from his time with the Brewers, but he actually earned the loss Tuesday after Dyson blew the game. The dark horse in all of this is Tony Barnette. Similar to Dyson, however, the problem with Barnette is that he doesn’t miss bats. All three candidates are speculative adds and despite the injury, I would still rank them Bush, Jeffress and then Barnette.
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