It’s the second “official” day of the MLB season. Another name for it is Overreaction Friday.
And if you want to wager on any of those outcomes, I have a bridge to sell you.
Still, the early stats aren’t completely meaningless when there are clear, underlying reasons to explain them. Enter Chris Sale.
The Red Sox new $145 million man was bombed by the Mariners last night, allowing seven runs and only recording nine outs. He also allowed three home runs at Safeco Field.
Usually, one bad start at the start of the season is nothing to get excited about, but based on the radar gun readings, this could be different. Sale’s velocity was down significantly late last season after returning from a shoulder injury. Yesterday, his average fastball was 92.2 mph, 2.5 mph less than last year’s average, and it certainly showed in the results.
That’s seemingly bad news given his recent history, but there’s also a reason to just pass it off as a slow start. Sale’s average fastball velocity over his first six starts before May last year was 92.3 mph, basically the same as what we saw last night. In fact, during his April 15 start vs. Baltimore, the lefty didn’t even average 90 mph.
In other words, while there definitely is reason for concern, it’s clear based on last year’s early velocity readings from Sale that we need to pump the brakes a bit before pushing the panic button.
-Throwing seven scoreless innings against the Tigers lineup isn’t exactly Hall of Fame worthy, but there’s reason to be encouraged with Marcus Stroman’s results after a great spring. He suffered through shoulder issues last spring and early last season, but is coming off a great spring in which he had 13/1 K/BB in 12.1 innings with only three runs allowed. The Jays groundball pitcher understandably came at a discount after throwing only 102.1 innings last year, but he had back-to-back 200 inning campaigns in 2016 and 2017, finishing eighth in the AL Cy Young race in ’17 with a 3.09 ERA. He’s heading into a very favorable two-start week, and has shown enough reason that he shouldn’t be on mixed league waiver wires any longer.
-Matt Strahm was one of the big stories of spring training with 25/5 K/BB and only five runs allowed in 20 innings to crack the Padres rotation. Many have been intrigued with the lefty since he was promoted by Kansas City in 2016, but he’s had bad luck with health since then. However, he had a 10.1 K/9 last year, mostly out of the pen and features an interesting four-pitch mix. While control has been an issue for him at times, Strahm has never failed to fan at least a batter per inning at any level in his pro career. He’s listed as a “Decent Play” for next week, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he works his way into “Strong Play” territory soon.
-Drew Pomeranz is a pitcher I’ll be keeping a close eye on this April. He’s just one year removed from going 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA and 9.0 K/9 with Boston, but he floundered last year due to arm trouble. There might not be a more favorable environment for him to rebound than San Francisco, and the results were mostly good this spring with 15 strikeouts and five runs allowed in 16 innings. Pomeranz lost significant velocity last year, averaging only 89 mph, two mph below his 2017 average. That loss in velocity and injury issues shouldn’t have been shocking given his history. Still, if he’s healthy and can show renewed velocity, Pomeranz has a chance to make a big impact again.
-Brad Peacock earned the Astros fifth starter spot this spring with 14/2 K/BB and five runs allowed in 16.1 innings, holding off youngsters Josh James, Forrest Whitley, and Framber Valdez. There should be questions about whether he can remain in the rotation all year given that level of elite, young competition, but Peacock is worthy until further notice. A former top prospect in Washington, Peacock has been a different pitcher since finding health in 2017, when he went 10-2 with a 3.22 ERA and 10.9 K/9 in 21 starts over 111.2 innings. Those numbers won’t be easy to duplicate, but even the possibility sounds like something you want on your roster.
-If you’re new to the Week Ahead, you’ll notice the three categories of two-start pitchers in the “Going Twice…” section below. With the regular season starting on a Thursday, most teams will be on the backend of their starting rotations at the start of next week. That means some of MLB’s worst starting pitchers will be making two starts, creating great opportunities for your hitters but not so much if you’re looking for two-start pitcher finds.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, March 29, and are subject to change.
At Your Own Risk
Clayton Richard: BAL, @CLE
Mike Fiers: BOS, @HOU
Yonny Chirinos: COL, @SF
Ivan Nova: @CLE, SEA
Shelby Miller: HOU, @LAA
Tyson Ross: @NYY, KC
Chris Stratton: @SEA, TEX
Aaron Brooks: BOS, @HOU
Homer Bailey: MIN, @DET
David Hess: @TOR, NYY
At Your Own Risk
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Wednesday, April 3: Matt Shoemaker vs. BAL
Shoemaker is healthy at the moment, and his second start of the season comes at home against an O’s lineup that might just be trying to lose. They finished 25th in OPS against right-handers last year, and are currently without 2018 contributors Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, and Manny Machado, to name a few.
Thursday, April 4: Jake Junis @ DET
Junis’ excellent control should be on full display against a Tigers lineup that probably didn’t get any better in the offseason and posted a .666 OPS against right-handers last year. For what it’s worth, Junis has a 3.12 ERA in 49 innings during his brief career vs. Detroit.
Saturday, April 6: Mike Leake @ CHW
The White Sox have some exciting young talent, but the only major additions vs. last year were Eloy Jimenez and Yonder Alonso. They had a .702 OPS vs. right-handers last season, 24th in MLB, so it’s one of Leake’s more favorable matchups of the year.
Monday, April 1: Adam Wainwright @ PIT
Wainwright is rarely a recommended play, but the Pirates lineup isn’t exactly scary right now without Gregory Polanco and hoping the new infield that includes Adam Frazier, Jung Ho Kang, and Erik Gonzalez will hit. To Waino’s credit, he also had a strong spring with 11/3 K/BB and four runs allowed in 14.1 innings.
Friday, April 5: Bryse Wilson vs. MIA
Wilson has a chance to be a popular pickup if he can carve out a regular spot in the Braves rotation, as the top prospect is coming off a strong spring after posting a 3.44 ERA and 10.2 K/9 between three minor league levels last year. For a pitcher used to pitching against minor league lineups, the Marlins will feel familiar.
Sunday, April 7: Kyle Wright vs. MIA
Wright gave up a lot of runs in spring training, but the 20/4 K/BB in 16.2 innings could be more significant. The fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Wright posted a 3.46 ERA and nearly one strikeout per inning between Double- and Triple-A last year, and the Marlins present a very favorable opportunity.
5: CHW, KC, MIN, SEA
6: BAL, CLE, DET, HOU, LAA, NYY, TB
7: BOS, OAK, TEX, TOR
5: PHI, STL, WAS
6: ARI, ATL, CHC, COL, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PIT, SD, SF
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Dellin Betances: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Lonnie Chisenhall: Out 4-6 weeks (hand)
Alex Cobb: Could return this week (groin)
Carlos Correa: Day-to-day (neck)
Danny Duffy: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Matt Duffy: Out indefinitely (hamstring)
Mike Foltynewicz: Could return this week (elbow)
Scooter Gennett: Out 8-12 weeks (groin)
Jedd Gyorko: Placed on IL (calf)
Andrew Heaney: Out indefinitely (elbow)
Aaron Hicks: Placed on IL (back)
Rich Hill: Placed on IL (knee)
Jon Jay: Placed on IL (hip)
Clayton Kershaw: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Jason Kipnis: Placed on IL (calf)
Corey Knebel: Could have season-ending surgery (elbow)
Francisco Lindor: Placed on IL (ankle)
Jordan Lyles: Placed on IL (hip)
Carlos Martinez: Out indefinitely (shoulder)
Matt Olson: Out 4-6 weeks (hand)
Steve Pearce: Placed on IL (calf)
Dustin Pedroia: Placed on IL (knee)
Luis Severino: Could miss all of April (shoulder)
Steven Souza: Out for the season (knee)
Michael Taylor: Out indefinitely (knee)
Justin Upton: Placed on IL (toe)
Alex Wood: Placed on IL (back)