Aces in the Hole: Danny Boy

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 6 streaming options, two great resources are listed below:

Rob Adams presents his Week 6 Stream Team right here.
Derron from sportsporch.com presents his deep league streamer picks 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.

There were no green light options in week 5, but Alfredo Simon was named as the best of the mediocre options, so let’s take a look at how he fared:

Alfredo Simon– Simon put up 2 quality starts, totaling 1 win, 5 Ks, a 3.46 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP over 13 solid innings.

Now, for this week’s featured arm with a slightly different focus:

Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians

Salazar is owned in 79% of Y! leagues and 53.3% of ESPN leagues, but has seen his ownership rates fall due to his recent struggles.

What should Salazar owners do? Danny Salazar was a super trendy breakout pick before the season due to his elite strikeout ability and a miniscule walk rate. In 10 starts last season, he posted a K/BB of 4.33 and a K/9 of 11.25. He also posted an ERA of 3.12 (which seemed to line up with ERA indicators) and a WHIP of 1.13. That is enough to make most fantasy analysts salivate.

The question Salazar owners are asking is what has caused the unsightly ERA and WHIP numbers (5.93 and 1.71 respectively) in the early going, and should owners be ready to abandon ship?

There are a couple of issues in play here for Salazar. First, his velocity is down. In 2013, Salazar’s average fastball velocity was 95.9. So far this year, it is sitting at 93.6. Hitters are much more likely to capitalize on mistakes when they are given more time to react. That velocity decline could be significant if he does not get some of it back as the season moves along.

The second issue is Salazar’s control. His BB/9 thus far of 4.15 is higher than it has been at any point in his minor league career. That could very easily be a small sample size fluke, but his percentage of first pitch strikes is only 55.8% compared to 67.3% last season. The fact that Salazar is working from behind in the count more often makes hitters less likely to chase his secondary stuff outside the zone (O-swing % of 35.8 in ‘13 and 28.9% in ‘14).

The other big problem with Salazar’s control is that he is making too many mistakes in the zone. His slider and changeup are both filthy pitches when located properly, but he has left a few out over the heart of the plate and they have gotten punished. Here are Salazar’s line drive rates and HR/FB for the past two seasons:

2013: LD Rate- 25.8%, HR/FB- 13.7%

2014: LD Rate- 24.4%, HR/FB- 17.1%

Salazar gave up his fair share of hard contact last year too, but the combined effect of the velocity dip and the additional walks have led to the bloated ERA and WHIP numbers. Salazar has never been a model of efficiency in terms of his pitch counts, but until he can improve his command he will not be a reliable fantasy option.

Now for the good news. Despite his struggles, he still struck out 26.8% of the hitters he faced and his XFIP still sits at 3.58. The K’s are down somewhat from last season, as is his swinging strike rate, but he can still strike guys out at an elite level and K’s can get a pitcher out of any jam.

I am worried about Salazar, but I am not ready to rush to judgement. I don’t know what is causing his wildness, but given his track record, owners need to exercise some patience here. The best thing to do right now is to leave Salazar on your bench for a little bit and see if he can start to make some strides with his control. Salazar is NOT a must start in week 7 with 2 starts against the Blue Jays and the A’s.

I would give him at least through the end of May before I thought about dropping him in standard leagues. If you play in a shallow format or if your team is decimated with injuries, then sometimes you are forced to make the tough choice before you are ready to. Just don’t go dropping Salazar for the flavor of the week like Collin McHugh and expect it to pay off.

Two Start Pitchers

There are quite a few rotation questions this week with a couple of pitchers going down to injury and a couple others coming back. There is only 1 green light option this week and all of the yellow light guys look pretty scary to me, so act quickly and go take a Leake.

Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds vs. SD (Cashner), @PHI (?)

Leake is owned 33% of Y! leagues and 15% of ESPN leagues.

Leake will get two starts if the Reds skip the rotation spot vacated by Cingrani next week. Since the Reds only have 5 games, it seems they are likely to go that route.

Pros: Leake pitches to contact, but he doesn’t walk many hitters and he keeps the ball on the ground. His velocity is actually up a little bit this season and he is working deep into every game. Leake’s shortest outing thus far was 6.2 innings. The Padres and Phillies are both among the bottom 6 teams in wOBA vs. righties.

Cons: Leake has given up 6 HRs already this year and both parks he will pitch in are hitter friendly.

Final Verdict: Leake is an outstanding option this week. Use him with confidence.

Mike Leake: Green Light: All Systems Go!

Tyler Lyons, St. Louis Cardinals vs. CHC (Wood), vs. ATL (Harang)

Lyons is owned in 1% of Y! leagues and 0% of ESPN leagues.

Pros: The matchups here are pretty good and Lyons is a solid pitcher. His K/BB rate is near 3 and he does not allow very many HRs. Both of Lyons’ week 7 opponents tend to strike out frequently and they are near league average in wOBA vs. righties.

Cons: The Cardinals will skip Lyons if given the chance, so any rain out will likely eliminate his second start. Also, there is a slight chance (very slight) that Joe Kelly is ready to reclaim his rotation spot by the end of week 7.

Final Verdict: Lyons is a pretty good option, but there is a lot of risk that he gets skipped.

Tyler Lyons: Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants vs. ATL (Minor), vs. MIA (Turner)

Vogelsong is owned in 2% of Y! leagues and 1% of ESPN leagues.

Deep League Special-

Pros: Vogelsong has pitched well at home this year with an ERA under 3, and the Braves and Marlins make for slightly above average matchups.

Cons: Vogelsong is very hittable and could blow up at any time. The Marlins have also been sporting hot bats lately. His HR rate this season has been absolutely off the charts.

Final Verdict: This one may be best served for NL only players. Vogelsong will not earn many ratings above a red light this year, but this might be a decent spot to use him.

Ryan Vogelsong: Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Additional Two Start Options

Yellow Light: Proceed with Caution.

Vidal Nuno, New York Yankees vs. NYM, vs. PIT- Nuno’s minor league numbers are good, but there is not enough MLB data to fully trust him here. These matchups are above average, but Nuno needs to get deeper into games to enjoy them. He has only made it through the 5th once in 3 starts.

Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs @STL, vs. MIL- The Cards matchup is very tough, but Arrieta’s first start against them was excellent. Arrieta is a talented young pitcher who could emerge as a mixed league play if he can reduce his BB rate, but for now owners are better off watching from afar.

Tom Koehler, Miami Marlins @LAD, @SF- Koehler’s ERA looks great, but BABIP regression looms. Koehler is not the worst choice this week, but his matchups are far from ideal.

Red Light: Use at Your Own Risk:

Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers @HOU, vs. TOR- The Astros matchup is enticing, but Lewis’ gopheritis could lead to big numbers against the Blue Jays.

Cesar Ramos, Tampa Bay Devil Rays @SEA, @LAA- Ramos walks way too many hitters. I like the Mariners matchup, but the Angels could really hurt him. Given the control issues, Ramos is not a good option.

Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels @PHI, vs. TB- Santiago’s control issues and high HR rates make him difficult to trust in anything but the easiest of matchups.

Bartolo Colon, New York Mets @NYY, @WAS- I am willing to use Colon against light hitting teams, but not against two playoff contenders on the road. Both of his shellings this year have come away from home.

Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins vs. BOS, vs. SEA- The Mariners matchup looks tempting, but I will never trust Nolasco. The Red Sox kill any potential of a higher ranking.

Bud Norris, Baltimore Orioles vs. DET, @KC- Was already roughed up once by Detroit, so these matchups are not ideal.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Baltimore Orioles vs. DET, @KC- Jimenez is walking too many, his velocity is down significantly and he cannot be trusted against the Tigers.

Brad Peacock, Houston Astros vs. TEX, vs. CHW- Not a good idea to start Peacock against two strong lineups.

Jacob Turner, Miami Marlins @LAD, @SF- Turner has been rocked in both of his starts this year, one of them against the Dodgers. Look elsewhere.

Rotation Questions

Arizona Diamondbacks– To say their rotation is a mess right now would be an understatement. Regardless of who gets a double turn (Collmenter?), owners should stay away.

Chicago White Sox– Sale and Paulino could each be back by the end of next week, so it is difficult to predict what will happen with the rotation right now.

Los Angeles Dodgers– Josh Beckett is not listed here this week because his ESPN ownership rates are up to 41%. Matchups against Miami and Arizona would make him a green light pitcher if he qualified for this list. Go ahead and use him if he is available in your league.

Pittsburgh Pirates– The Pirates have 2 SPs on rehab right now (Rodriguez and Locke) so it is difficult to predict what will happen by the end of next week. Morton or Cole could potentially get 2 turns, depending on how things shake out.

Toronto Blue Jays– Brandon Morrow would have been in line for 2 starts, but is now on the DL. Will Stroman take his place?

Tommy Landseadel

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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