Toe the Rubber: Week 5

Hello and good morning everyone! This past week in baseball was fairly uneventful on the pitching side of things. You could argue the highlight of the week was Nick Kingham’s debut for the Pirates on Sunday. It’s never a bad thing when you begin your big-league career with 6.2 perfect innings of work. I’ll take the blame for the perfecto being broken up as the single came mere seconds after I mentioned to a buddy, “hey, this guy is looking to go perfect through 7.” Sorry Nick, and Pirates fans everywhere.

A couple other prospects made appearances this last week only to be sent back down, Walker Buehler and Jack Flaherty. Buehler doesn’t seem to be in the mix with the Dodgers at the moment, so his immediate demotion isn’t surprising, but the Cardinals not keeping Flaherty up raises an eyebrow. Flaherty could be the better prospect out of the three mentioned so far, but if the Cardinals keep shipping him back and forth from Nashville it’s only going to diminish his value. If you’re a Flaherty owner don’t give up just yet, but keep a steady eye on what the Cardinals are doing. We all know Matheny is somewhat clueless when it comes to his pitching staff.

Reynaldo Lopez or Aaron Sanchez?

Last week I had a reader pose the question on who to roster, Reynaldo Lopez or Aaron Sanchez. A quick response on my end warranted Lopez as the better option to have, but I’ll break that down today to see if that’s really the case.

To start with, let’s take a look at their numbers as we sit today:

Player A 6 37.2 5.97 4.30 .273 75.8% 4.06 4.82 1.91 68.4%
Player B 5 30.1 7.42 4.45 .232 86.2% 1.78 4.51 0.73 34.2%

When looking at the table above there are some differences, but if you factor in the expected regression for Player B they’re essentially the same, yet there’s a 34% difference in ownership. If you have two pitchers walking over 4 guys per 9 innings, wouldn’t you want the player striking out more batters to help offset that? I know I would, but the people playing fantasy baseball on ESPN seem to have a different mentality.

It’s probably not too difficult to figure out Player A is Aaron Sanchez and Player B is Reynaldo Lopez. The difference in ownership could largely be chalked up to experience. Aaron Sanchez has been in the big-leagues and he’s had success. Unfortunately, when looking at his major league stats, the success seems more like a fluke than his numbers from this season.

2015 66 3.55 14.9 13.2 1.44 80.4 2.6
2016 192 3.00 20.4 8.0 1.17 76.9 2.2
2017 36 4.25 14.4 12.0 1.72 71.4 1.7
2018 37.2 4.03 15.4 11.1 1.35 75.8 1.9

Perhaps you can break it down to small sample size in the three seasons that aren’t 2016, but for whatever reason you can come up with, Aaron Sanchez just hasn’t been that good. Yes, last year was injury-plagued, but in the same amount of time last year and this year his numbers are almost identical. Perhaps this year’s version of Sanchez is the real him.

To finish out the debate, let’s take a look at Reynaldo Lopez’s numbers:

Minors 428.2 3.34 22.6 8.03 1.15 70.5 1.5
2016 29.1 5.52 22.5 10.1 1.70 63.3 1.0
2017 47.2 4.72 14.5 6.8 1.32 64.6 0.6
2018 30.1 1.75 19.7 11.8 1.22 86.2 0.7

Now that we have both sets of numbers out there I stand by my decision last week when telling our reader to dump Sanchez for Lopez. Sanchez seems to have his “career year” in his mirror and Lopez is heading towards his. Lopez profiles as having much more upside and a higher floor given the strikeout numbers. Sanchez profiles as a guy who’s going to limit damage based on the number of ground balls he induces. It could just be my own personal preference, but give me the guy with the potential to K 10 guys every time out rather than the guy that might record 15 ground ball outs.

Something Snell’s

Prior to 2016 Blake Snell was a highly regarded prospect in the game, a consensus top-20 option. Being a first-round draft pick and striking out over 10 per 9 during his first four years in the minors will get a guy that kind of attention.

Through his first 6 starts of the season Snell is showing the prospect pedigree he was tagged with only two seasons ago. With a K/9 of 10.35 and a BB/9 of 2.78 there is a lot to like going forward. As I mentioned above, the strikeout numbers have always been there, so that’s not a surprise and is something that’s come to be expected. One of the shockers in the early going is the lack of free passes being issued. 2.78 may seem like a larger number in terms of walks, but when you consider his BB/9 number has been above 3.00 his entire minor league career, except for a 9-game stop in Durham in 2015, it’s miniscule.

One area that some regression may be expected is in the strand rate. Right now Snell is stranding 80% of the runners he allows on base. That number could be expected to drop somewhere closer to 72% by years end, but that won’t hurt the other numbers too much so don’t worry about that. The difference in his ERA and FIP is only 0.40 (2.52 to 2.92); that also suggests Snell is legit and not simply lucking into success through the first month of the season.

Blake Snell seems to be the real deal in Tampa Bay and should be the ace they expected him to be. He’ll fill the shoes David Price left vacated and Chris Archer can’t fill. The only thing that would keep me slightly hesitant on Snell is the competition in the AL East, but he has dispatched the Red Sox rather easily twice this season which helps put that to rest.

Snell is currently the 11th ranked SP in ESPN leagues. He’s not a top 20 arm for me at this point, but he could find his way there by seasons end, if not the all-star break. He’s only 84.3% owned, which is another eye-popper. Snell is a must-start right now. He has given up 10 earned runs, 5 of them in one start! The floor his high with Snell. Don’t hesitate to throw him out there regardless of the matchup.

What’s HAPPening in Toronto?

If someone walked up to me today and told me J.A. Happ was a top-15 SP in fantasy baseball I’d probably laugh in their face. Believe it people, he’s currently ranked 12th! Without looking at any numbers I’d tell you right now not to trust him any farther than you can throw a baseball, and if you’re like me your arm is shot and that probably won’t go real far. But, if I went off just my gut this article would be about ten sentences long.

When looking at Happ’s first month of the season it doesn’t appear to be overly spectacular. He’s averaging 6 innings a start. He’s carrying an average ERA of 3.50 with a typical BABIP and strand rate of .296 and 79.1% respectively, though I guess the strand rate could be a bit on the high side. The eye-popper comes when you get to the K/9 number of 12.5 and a BB/9 of 1.75. His strikeout rate is the highest it’s ever been (previous high of 8.96 in 2012).

To be fair to Happ his K/9 has been on the rise since his brief stint as a Pirate in 2015, so perhaps he has figured something out with his pitch arsenal. Looking at his arsenal in recent years he has changed the usage of his breaking pitches up a bit. He seems to be relying on his slider and changeup more frequently than his curveball over the past two seasons, which could be directly related to the uptick in strikeouts.

Let’s go back to one of my first comments, about not trusting Happ. It’s funny how being in different parts of the country can cause you to forget about players in other portions of the country. Remember back just two short years ago, Happ was a 20-game winner, so clearly he’s doing something right on the mound, regardless of what people think – the same can be said about Rick Porcello. The fact that Happ has a FIP lower than his ERA, albeit only by 0.08 points, suggest a good season the rest of the way for him. No, I don’t believe he’ll be anywhere close to a top-20 pitcher at season’s end as he’s got guys like Strasburg/Sale/Berrios/Martinez/Greinke behind him yet, but if he maintains his K/9 rate there’s nothing keeping him from being a lock in the top 30 come September.

Good thing we don’t just go with immediate reaction. You never know what you’ll find the deeper you dig.

Most Added

  • Nick Kingham, SP, Pirates             +23.9 to 24%
  • Jarlin Garcia, SP/RP, Marlins        +22.1 to 41.8%
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP, Dodgers            +20.8 to 79.1%
  • Hunter Strickland, RP, Giants      +18 to 69.2%
  • Miles Mikolas, SP, Cardinals         +16.9 to 43.1%

After the debut Kingham had on Sunday I’m not shocked to see he tops the most added list. I’m not sure he’s anything to get overly excited about quite yet as K/9 numbers don’t seem to be something sustainable as his previous two years in the Pirates system have seen him put up a K/9 just over 7.00. Sure, he should probably be owned in more than 24% of leagues, eventually. For now, Kingham is a deep league stash or a guy you’ll want to keep tabs on. I’ve never been one to jump on a guy immediately following one start, but don’t forget to click that “watch” button next to his name.

Jarlin Garcia doesn’t really contain much value, except for being SP/RP eligible. He’s had a great start to the season, but his numbers from last year and even throughout his minor league career don’t suggest that’s something he’ll maintain. If the Marlins work him into being one of the new “hybrid relievers” he could gain value in points leagues, but with his ERA being three full points better than his FIP I fear the regression is going to come soon and hard.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is back to being the guy the Dodgers originally signed. He’s been one of the few bright lights in LA during the first month of the season. At nearly 80% owned that feels a bit high, but given the production he’s supplied through his first 5 starts I can’t argue with it. I wouldn’t want anyone else around that ownership number instead of Ryu. If he’s available on the waiver wire in your league snatch him up before it’s too late!

Hunter Strickland should probably be owned in more than 70% of leagues. He’s done a fine job closing games for the Giants, amassing 7 saves thus far. He does have 2 blown saves, but he’s vulture out a win in both of those situations. Mark Melancon doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to returning so the job is Strickland’s for the foreseeable future. If you’ve got a guy like Colome or Vizcaino, dump them for Strickland if you can.

Miles Mikolas is only 43% owned. Yes, his K/9 is a bit low at 7.3o, but his walk rate, or lack thereof, makes up for that. He’s got a WHIP of less than 1.00! He seems very comparable to Ryan Vogelsong when he returned from Japan in 2011. If that’s any indication to how the rest of the season goes for Mikolas you need to jump on board now. I mean c’mon, Chad Bettis has a higher ownership (53.7%) than Mikolas. Other notable names with higher ownership that I’d want Mikolas over include Danny Duffy, Felix Hernandez and Tanner Roark.

Lines of the Week

  • Ivan Nova vs DET: 8 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, ND
  • Corey Kluber vs SEA: 8.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K, W
  • Josh Hader @ CIN: 2.2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, SV

If you have questions about a pitcher not listed today, or just simply want me to evaluate someone on your roster you’re having trouble deciding what to do with, mention it in the comment section below. Hit me on Twitter @KennyGarvey with any questions you may have as far as pitchers to start or sit, or pitchers you’re thinking about adding (or dropping). I’m always ready to strike up a conversation with readers! Good luck in your match-ups as the week finishes up, and catch you next week!


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