Aces in the Hole: McHuge K rate?

The aces in the hole feature is designed to help readers get a leg up on the opposition by uncovering hidden short-term value on your league’s waiver wire.  This feature will analyze a few possible two start pitchers to target for next week while featuring one starter (not necessarily a double starter) poised to graduate from the streamer ranks.  Only pitchers owned in less than 40% of both Y! and ESPN leagues will be examined in this piece.  If you seek two start options for the current week, click here.  For a close look at week 8 streaming options, Rob Adams presents his Week 8 Stream Team right here.

Since many weekly league owners like to grab next week’s two-start pitchers as soon as line-ups are set for the week before, this feature will serve as an early guide for those looking to gain an advantage.  Rainouts and rotation changes can strike at any minute, so be sure to check back in the comment section for updates.  If your league has a Sunday night line-up deadline, feel free to ask me your SP questions on twitter (@tlandseadel).  I will respond to any question posed before 9 PM EST.

Keep in mind, all of the pitchers analyzed here are high risk options.  Some will pan out, some will not.  I would never advise anyone to start a mediocre two-start option or a streamer instead of a bona fide fantasy ace.  These suggestions may make sense for owners in points leagues and category based leagues that tend to reward quantity over quality.  They are best used to supplement your pitching staff, not to support it.  If your league uses an innings maximum and/or rewards a quality focus, then you might want to set your standards a little higher.

Before we get into anything else, I just want to point out that my Dallas Keuchel feature from last week was a couple days ahead of all the other sites calling him a must add. Remember where you heard it first.

Here is a breakdown on how the recommended options from week 7 fared:

Mike Leake: Leake only got one start this past week due to the return of Tony Cingrani and the unexpected double-header start from Jeff Francis, but his owners can’t complain too loudly.  Leake pitched brilliantly in an 8 inning no decision.  The end result: A 1.13 ERA, .38 WHIP and 5 Ks.

This week’s featured arm happens to be a two start pitcher who is somewhat intriguing as a long-term hold possibility.

Collin McHugh, Houston Astros @KC (Guthrie?) BAL (?)

McHugh is owned in 17% of Y! leagues and 15% of ESPN leagues.

There is a lot of conflicting data with McHugh and quite frankly, I am not sure what to make of it.

McHugh’s 27.2% K rate seems to be somewhat of an outlier when compared to past seasons, but there is a possibility that his elite K rate could be caused by legitimate skill improvement.  McHugh’s minor league K rate usually sat in the low to mid 20s and his career major league K rate is 17.8%.

Although there are no significant changes in his arsenal, he is doing a better job getting ahead of hitters with a first strike rate of 62.4% and his swinging strike rate has skyrocketed to an elite 13.5% so far this year.  A slight increase in his fastball velocity could be helping him. If he is able to keep generating whiffs, he could be mixed league relevant.

There is a chance that this number will drop as hitters begin to adjust.  The lone team that McHugh has seen twice (Seattle) hung 5 earned runs on him with a K% of just 19.1% the second time around.  Additionally, the overall K numbers could be heavily skewed by his first start where he struck out over 54% of the batters he faced.  McHugh has always done a fairly good job limiting walks, so as long as his K/BB rate stays north of 3.0, he has a chance to be fantasy relevant.

Now for the red flag areas.  Home runs have always been a large concern for McHugh in the majors, although he did a fine job avoiding them throughout his minor league career.  He gives up a lot of fly balls, but his 6.1% HR/FB rate is not completely out of line with his minor league history. In both prior MLB stints, however, McHugh’s HR/FB rate has been over 18%. Has he learned how to pitch more effectively at this level, or is he due for some regression?

McHugh’s BABIP of .276 is not supported by his batted ball profile.  The 23% line drive rate suggests a BABIP closer to .300 should be expected moving forward. There is also risk that his BABIP will elevate above .300 if hitters keep squaring him up.

Even though the xFIP looks good right now, I would expect McHugh’s ERA to move closer to 4 as time moves along.  The K rate will eventually determine whether or not McHugh is a fantasy option.  If his K% regresses back near 20%, then he will be a risky streamer play.  If he can keep it near 25% and keep the HRs down, he is a mixed league fixture. I could think of worse ways to use a bench spot, but I am not sold quite yet.

For week 9, McHugh’s matchups are pretty neutral. Ks might be tough to come by, but neither offense is a juggernaut.  I would rank him right in the middle of yellow light territory with Nick Tepesch.

Collin McHugh: Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Two Start Pitchers

This week it is easy to find reasons not to use many of these guys.  There are a couple of options that stand above the rest of the pack, but they each carry more risk than many of the green light options selected in past weeks.

Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox vs. CLE (McAllister) vs. SD (Ross)

Quintana is owned in 37% of Y! leagues and 14% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: Quintana is a very solid pitcher and he has a strong offense supporting him.  He has a K/BB ratio of 3.0 and he generally avoids home runs despite giving up his share of hard contact.  He gets ahead of hitters early in the count and does not beat himself. Quintana has posted a QS in 7 of 9 starts and 1 of the 2 non QS was a 5 inning win where he allowed 2 runs.

Cons: The matchups here don’t look overwhelming, but both offenses are above average against lefties since the start of 2013.  The Indians actives have a wOBA of .324, while the Pads sit at .320 over that span.

Final Verdict: The matchups are not ideal, but they are good enough to use a solid pitcher capable of getting lots of run support.

Jose Quintana: Green Light: All Systems Go!

Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals vs. MIA (Alvarez?) vs. Texas (Darvish)

Roark is owned in 29% of Y! leagues and 16% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: When Tanner Roark gets two home starts, owners need to take notice.  Although there is clearly a small sample size here, Roark boasts a .87 ERA at home in just over 20 innings this year.  Impressively, that is actually worse than his 2013 home ERA (.68 in 40 innings).  The matchups here aren’t ideal, but they aren’t scary either.  The Rangers have been cold lately and although the Marlins have fared well against righties this season, they still rank 2nd to last in wOBA since the start of 2013.

Cons: The Nationals have shown a tendency to skip their 5th starter so that they can get more turns for the 4 horses.  With Gio heading to the disabled list, Roark’s two starts appear to be safe.

Final Verdict: I actually like Roark better than Quintana this week, but Quintana is the better pitcher.

Tanner Roark: Green Light: All Systems Go!

Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays vs. TB (Archer), vs KC (Guthrie?)

Hutchison is owned in 15% of Y! leagues and 3 % of ESPN leagues.

Pros: Coming off his first career shutout, Hutchison figures to be a popular add in the coming days.  He has the K ability and the control that makes him a potential fantasy ace.  His matchups this week are above average also. Although neither team strikes out that much, the Royals lineup is one of the most punchless out there (.116 iso vs righties since 2013).  The Rays are above average in wOBA, but still not a fearsome lineup.

Cons: Hutchison has been pretty terrible at home this season and somewhat inconsistent overall.  In 3 home starts, Hutchison has 1 quality start, 1 epic shelling against the Yanks and a game where he failed to get out of the 5th inning.  When you factor in his extremely low 6.6% HR/FB rate that seems ripe for regression, there is reason to be nervous here.

Final Verdict: I like Hutchison’s potential, but until I see him pitch well and home and show some more consistency I will be hesitant to use him. A bench stash seems like the ideal option here.

Drew Hutchison: Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Additional Two Start Options

Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Nick Tepesch, Texas Rangers @MIN, @WAS – His first start was impressive and he has a track record of solid MLB performance.  He makes a solid streamer option when the matchups are in his favor.  These are neutral.

Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics vs. DET, vs LAA – The matchups here are prohibitive as both lineups are in the top 5 in wOBA vs. lefties, but Milone is historically great at home.  This would be advisable only as a last resort. As you can see, there are not many good options here.

Red Light: Use at Your Own Risk.

Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies vs. COL, vs. NYM – The good matchup against the Mets balances out the bad one with the ROX.  Kendrick does not pitch well at home, however.

Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks vs. SD, vs. CIN – Miley has been better against the rest of the league than he has against the Dodgers, but he has always struggled to pitch at home.  The Padres fare much better against lefties than they do against righties.

Jacob Degrom, New York Mets vs. PIT, @PHI – The matchups look good and Degrom’s minor league numbers are solid. I can’t recommend him without seeing more at the MLB level, however.

Jared Cosart, Houston Astros @KC, BAL – Cosart has the velocity, but he is not able to generate Ks and he walks too many. The matchups here are neutral, but Cosart is not that good.

Zach McAllister, Cleveland Indians @CHW, vs. COL – McAllister is better than his numbers look, but this is not the ideal time to use him.  Both lineups mash right-handed pitching.

Erik Bedard, Tampa Bay Devil Rays @TOR, @BOS – Bedard has been solid, but no. Just no.

Edinson Volquez, Pittsburgh Pirates @NYM, @LAD – Volquez has struggled with command at times and with the long ball.  He has given up 20 earned runs over his last 4 starts.

J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays vs. TB, vs. KC – It would be tough to find a situation where I would be comfortable using Happ.  This is not it.

Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies @PHI, @CLE – The matchups are decent, but look no further than Chacin’s K/BB of .88.  That is enough for me right there.

Brandon Maurer, Seattle Mariners vs. LAA, vs. DET – The matchups against two top 10 offenses are not the best spot to use Maurer.  The impending returns of Paxton and Walker could also bump him from the rotation at any time.

Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City Royals vs. HOU, @TOR – A HR prone pitcher visiting Toronto? No thanks.

Wandy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates @NYM, @LAD – Wandy is serving up HRs at a record-setting pace and he generally pitches poorly on the road.

Rotation Questions

Miami Marlins – Either Eovaldi or Alvarez will get two starts depending on what they do with DeScalfani next week.  Alvarez would make for a yellow light option against the Braves and Nats.

Kansas City Royals – Guthrie will get two starts.  The other will be either Duffy or Ventura, depending on whether or not Duffy gets skipped in week 8.  If he does, he will get two starts in week 9 and could be a yellow light option despite the difficult trip to Toronto.

Baltimore Orioles – Norris appears to be in line for two starts along with Tillman.  He would make for a pretty solid option if this is the case.  Chen’s rotation spot could throw a monkey wrench into the works here. I am not sure what is going on there.

Minnesota Twins – Whoever ends up pitching here can be safely dumped into the red light category with games against the Rangers and Yankees.

New York Yankees – Whitley could be in line for two starts, but Sabathia’s return could take place by the end of next week (seems unlikely though).

Tommy Landseadel

Written by 

Tommy is also known as tlance on the CBS and Sports Hoopla message boards. He has been playing fantasy baseball for 16 years in many different format types and looks forward to helping you with your fantasy baseball questions! You can now follow me on Twitter @tlandseadel