Last week I preached patience, saying the early part of the season is very bizarre. I stand by those sentiments and there are still a bunch of weird things happening as you read this. The Marlins had a few combined no-hit bids go rather deep into games, Jason Vargas looks like Clayton Kershaw, and the weirdest of all: Rich Hill still has a blister (oh, I’ll get to that later). With all that being said, there is an oddity that has my attention, early or not. With that I ask . . .
Is it too early to worry?
When it comes to Kyle Hendricks, the answer is yes and no. Through three starts, Hendricks owns a 6.19 ERA after allowing 11 earned runs in 16 innings pitched. Here’s why you should worry, though. His average fastball velocity sits at 85.7 mph, whereas his career average is 87.9 mph. This is especially worrisome in a season in which velocity is actually up across all of baseball. As a result, his lack of velocity has led to a monstrous 44.1 percent hard-hit rate against him. On top of all that, he’s missing bats less than usual while working more. Here’s why you shouldn’t worry. Hendricks is still producing a ton of groundballs, 51.5 percent of the time, while his strand rate sits at just 62.5 percent, well below his career average. Keep this in mind. Hendricks did get off to a slow start last year as well, evidenced by his 3.91 ERA in April. If you want to buy low, feel free. On the flipside if you own him and are worried, sell him after he puts together a few good starts. As an owner myself, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried.
I’ve got a boo boo on my finger
Blisters are taking the Fantasy Baseball world by storm. First Rich Hill, and now Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez’s blister was so bad he underwent a medical procedure to remove part of his fingernail. He’s not expected to miss much time but we’ve seen blisters linger for a ridiculous period of time. Sticking with the Blue Jays, J.A. Happ has also landed on the DL because of elbow inflammation. An MRI has ruled out anything serious but still … elbow, yuck! As a result, it looks like Mat Latos and Nando Di Fino favorite, T.J. House, will occupy those rotation spots. The two should be considered in AL-only formats if you need innings.
Last week I professed my hatred for Rich Hill in Fantasy baseball because of this very reason. At this point in time, there are only a handful of things in life that are worse than Hill’s blister. I’m not going to elaborate on that list but you get the point. On top of everything, the Dodgers announced Hill is now expected to miss an “extended period of time”. Oh, and when he does return from all this, he might even be used out of the bullpen. If you have a DL spot, it’s fine to stash him but in shallower leagues I’d cut bait on this headache. Alex Wood will replace Hill and has decent upside. He should be added in 14-team leagues or deeper.
The bench is where they belong
There aren’t as many prominent names you should keep on your bench in Week 4 but here are a few names you should consider.
John Lackey has been up and down so far this season. I love that in his two his starts, he’s had seven or more strikeouts while maintaining a 49 percent groundball rate. What’s doomed Lackey are the walks and the home runs. He’s allowed six walks through three starts so far and allowed three home runs in his latest game against the Brewers. In Week 4, Lackey gets the Red Sox in Boston. The Red Sox ranked sixth in wOBA against right-handed pitching and sixth in wOBA at home this season. Couple that with the early struggles and Lackey is my “bench of the week.”
Jerad Eickhoff continues to be an underrated pitcher for Fantasy purposes but Week 4 is not one of those times. Eickhoff has registered a quality start each time he’s gone out this season but that’s because he hasn’t faced the Dodgers in Los Angeles yet. According to Fangraphs, the Dodgers are first in all of baseball with a .356 wOBA against righties. On top of that they rank fifth in the league at home. If you’re in a 14-team league or shallower, look for a different option.
I get that Jaime Garcia is coming off a solid start against the Padres but he shouldn’t be owned anywhere, especially in Week 4 when he gets the Brewers in Milwaukee. Garcia has a 4.67 ERA so far with a 6.19 FIP and a 5.20xFIP. He doesn’t generate strikeouts anymore and is walking a ton of batters. If you needed anymore convincing, the Brewers absolutely crush left-handed pitching in the hitter-friendly Miller Park. Don’t do it, not even in NL-only.
One of my mottos for starting pitchers is “if you can’t start a pitcher on a double start, they probably aren’t worth owning”. That might be the case for Tyler Anderson. He has a 7.32 ERA and will welcome the Nationals to Colorado followed by the Diamondbacks in Arizona. No thanks.
While Tyler Anderson is a two-start pitcher to avoid, below is a list of guys you can look to add for Week 4.
Remember when I mentioned Jason Vargas has looked like Clayton Kershaw? I wasn’t lying. Vargas has been lights out, allowing just one earned run on the season in 20.2 innings pitched. Entering his Wednesday start against the Giants, Vargas had a 9.22 K/9 with just 1.32 BB/9. His start against the Giants was no different. He ranked up nine strikeouts to go along with eight groundball outs. He also had a whopping 14 swinging strikes out of 61 total strikes, good enough for nearly 23 percent. Whatever he’s doing, he’s locked in. Not only should he be added for his two-start week, should just be added in general. Vargas will face the White Sox in Chicago and the Twins in Kansas City, both great matchups.
Chad Kuhl has impressed in his first three starts of the season. He’s joined in on the league-wide velocity increase, seeing his sinker jump to 94 mph while his slider is at 88 mph. His swinging strike rate is also way up at 12.5 percent, which has helped his strikeouts. If he can improve on his walks, he could be even better. In Week 4 he will face the Cubs and the Marlins. The Cubs haven’t been great against right-handed pitching thus far while the Marlins are mediocre.
I’ve long been a Jesse Hahn fan, waiting for him to put it all together. Maybe he’ll never live up to his prospect pedigree but he’s been serviceable through three starts. Hahn has gone six innings in each of his appearances, having allowed three runs or less each of those games. He’s flashed a new pitching repertoire, which includes a 94 mph sinker he’s now throwing 28 percent of the time. Before this season, he’s never used a sinker before. His two-start week consists of the Angels and the Astros. The Astros matchup is worrisome but they do tend the strikeout a decent bit.
Weekends are for streaming
I can’t believe I’m writing this but …
Wily Peralta vs. Cardinals, Friday – Peralta has allowed three runs or less in each of his starts while striking out 13 over 17 innings pitched. He’s thrown the ball well and the Cardinals have been dreadful. Against right-handed pitching, they own the fourth-worst wOBA this season at just .276.
Dan Straily @ Padres, Saturday – I mentioned a Marlins no-hit bid earlier. Straily was part of the reason for one of them as he’s coming off 5.1 innings of no-hit ball against the Mets. He will get the Padres in San Diego Saturday, as they have struggled against righties and at home so far.
Jordan Montgomery @ Pirates, Sunday – Montgomery has been great for the Yankees, especially from a strikeout perspective. He currently owns a 14.1 percent swinging strike rate, which has led to 9.28 K/9. He’ll see a positive park shift in PNC Park against a Pirates team that has been abysmal against lefties. Also working in Montgomery’s favor is that the team lost Starling Marte to suspension.
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