Jimmy Nelson had 436 major league innings under his belt coming into the 2017 season and was coming off a season in which he led the NL in walks and hit batters. Still, the optimists just knew if he could ever fix those control issues…
Welcome to 2017.
Nelson has been the ace of the first place Brewers, with a 3.45 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and BB/9 (2.2) that is nearly half of what it was last season. Perhaps no stat shows the strides Nelson has made with his wildness more than his two hit batters this season, compared to a combined 30 over the last two years.
This season hasn’t only been about control improvement. Nelson has also shown increased velocity, with a fastball that is up nearly one mph over last season. With the increased velocity and control, Nelson has more than one strikeout per inning after coming into this season with a 7.3 K/9 for his major league career.
It’s worth stating how his breakout success in the majors this season mirrors his breakout at Triple-A Nashville in 2014. Control had also been a major issue for Nelson through the low minors, regularly posting BB/9 rates above 4.0 that ballooned to 5.4 in 83.1 innings at Nashville in 2013. He turned his fortunes around in 2014 at Nashville before his first prolonged major league call-up, posting a 9.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 111 innings in 2014, resulting in a 1.46 ERA.
It certainly looks like Nelson has found himself, especially recently, with a total of three walks over his last five starts (32 innings). Facing two of the NL’s worst three offenses in the coming week in St. Louis and San Diego, his two-start schedule couldn’t be much more favorable.
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-There are plenty of fantasy owners jumping on the Buck Farmer bandwagon after two scoreless starts. Like Nelson, Farmer is a pitcher who has seemingly corrected his control issues this season, walking only three batters in 13 innings thus far after posting a sub-2.0 BB/9 at Triple-A Toledo. It should be noted that Farmer has actually lost velocity this year, which could very well be a case of him sacrificing velocity to throw more strikes. Farmer’s fastball velocity (90.8 mph) and upper minors success (4.17 ERA for his career at Triple-A) isn’t anywhere close to Nelson, so there’s more reason for skepticism here.
-Speaking of pitchers with control issues, Alex Meyer is another arm to watch. He’s allowed only one earned run over his last two starts and has an impressive 10.4 K/9 this season. The former top prospect continues to show elite velocity, averaging better than 96 mph on his fastball, but the control issues remain. Meyer has a horrendous 6.1 BB/9 in 35.1 innings and had a career 4.2 BB/9 in 262.2 innings at Triple-A. This isn’t to say that Meyer doesn’t have AL-only upside, but given the walk rate it’s fair to say his recent run of success can’t be trusted.
-It shouldn’t come as a shock that Mike Leake is seeing some regression. He concluded May with a 2.24 ERA for the year and lasted at least six innings in all 10 of his starts. The streak ended on Thursday when he lasted only five innings at Cincinnati, and Leake has allowed 11 earned runs and 22 hits over his last three starts, spanning 18.2 innings. The ERA is already up to 2.70 as a result of the cold streak, and his FIP (3.56) suggests that it should continue to rise. It should be mentioned that his peripherals are nearly identical to 2016, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Leake’s FIP was nearly a full run lower than his ERA last year, and it was his best career BB/9 and K/BB by a wide margin. There’s reason to think Leake will remain effective this season, but he’s simply not a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher.
-Not many hitters are pitching better than Mike Foltynewicz right now. The Braves starter has consecutive scoreless starts, combining for 14/4 K/BB in 14 innings. It’s been a year of relative consistency for Foltynewicz, who has seven quality starts in 11 outings, but has also allowed five-plus earned runs twice. Like Leake, Foltynewicz’s peripherals are nearly on par with what he produced last season and that includes a FIP of 4.20, just four points below last season. Foltynewicz has still shown home run issues (1.3 HR/9) earlier this season that need to be fixed before he can be trusted in shallow mixed leagues.
-An interesting note about Rockies starting pitching: Colorado’s rotation currently has the ninth lowest ERA in baseball (4.16), which is truly remarkable having played 30 games at Coors Field. Of course, the entire team ERA is fourth worst in baseball at home (4.83), so it’s not as if you should act differently than usual when visiting hitters (like the Giants next week) are at the launching pad. Though, the stat does partially explain how the Rockies are leading the NL West on June 9.
Yu Darvish: @HOU, SEA
Michael Pineda: @LAA, @OAK
David Price: PHI, @HOU
Jason Vargas: @SF, @LAA
Jake Odorizzi: @TOR, @DET
Rick Porcello: PHI, @HOU
CC Sabathia: @LAA, @OAK
Trevor Bauer: LAD, @MIN
Wade Miley: @CHW, STL
J.C. Ramirez: NYY, KC
Buck Farmer: ARI, TB
Adalberto Mejia: SEA, CLE
At Your Own Risk
Joe Musgrove: TEX, BOS
Jharel Cotton: @MIA, NYY
Derek Holland: BAL, @TOR
Kyle Gibson: SEA, CLE
Christian Bergman: @MIN, @TEX
Alex Meyer: NYY, KC
Yovani Gallardo: @MIN, @TEX
Alec Asher: @CHW, STL
Mike Pelfrey: BAL, @TOR
Stephen Strasburg: ATL, @NYM
Jimmy Nelson: @STL, SD
Jacob deGrom: CHC, WAS
Mike Leake: MIL, @BAL
Brandon McCarthy: @CLE, @CIN
Mike Foltynewicz: @WAS, MIA
John Lackey: @NYM, @PIT
Kyle Freeland: @PIT, SF
German Marquez: @PIT, SF
Zack Wheeler: CHC, WAS
Joe Ross: ATL, @NYM
Chad Kuhl: COL, CHC
At Your Own Risk
Ty Blach: KC, @COL
Jerad Eickhoff: @BOS, ARI
Luis Perdomo: CIN, @MIL
Ben Lively: @BOS, ARI
Bronson Arroyo: @SD, LAD
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, June 15: Brian Johnson @ PHI
Facing the lowly Phillies without the aid of the DH, Johnson will try to continue to show that his May 27 shutout wasn’t an aberration. Johnson has a career 2.61 ERA in the minors.
Thursday, June 15: Chris Tillman @ CHW
Tillman has been mediocre enough this year to be dropped in mixed leagues, but he has a favorable matchup coming against the White Sox. Chicago has the worst OPS in the AL against right-handed pitching, and Tillman threw five scoreless innings against the White Sox on May 7.
Friday, June 16: Ian Kennedy @ LAA
Speaking of formerly solid fantasy pitchers worth taking a chance on in a spot start, Kennedy has a 5.33 ERA and has allowed at least four earned runs in five consecutive starts. However, he’s facing a Mike Trout-less Angels lineup that has a .691 OPS against right-handed pitching.
Tuesday, June 13: Ty Blach vs. KC
Despite a 3.64 ERA, I generally don’t recommend Blach given his Kirk Rueter-like 3.6 K/9. Facing the Royals is an exception with a .645 OPS against lefties, the worst in the AL.
Wednesday, June 14: German Marquez @ PIT
Marquez struggled against the Padres last week, but his peripherals remain quite impressive with an 8.7 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9. The Pirates have a .709 OPS against righties, seventh worst in MLB.
Friday, June 15: Eddie Butler @ PIT
It hasn’t been a perfect year for Butler, but he does have a 3.75 ERA in five starts and is coming off a solid start vs. Miami. See German Marquez above for the advantages of this matchup.
6: CLE, DET, HOU, KC, OAK, TB, TEX
7: BAL, BOS, CHW, LAA, MIN, NYY, SEA
5: ARI, MIA
6: ATL, CHC, CIN, LAD, PIT, SD, SF
7: COL, MIL, NYM, PHI, STL, WAS
Here’s some injuries to prominent players over 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.
Adrian Beltre: Could go on the DL (ankle)
Justin Bour: Could return next week (ankle)
Francisco Cervelli: Placed on the 7-day DL (concussion)
Bartolo Colon: Played on 10-day DL (oblique)
Adonis Garcia: Placed on 10-day DL (finger)
Matt Garza: Could return next week (chest)
Kyle Hendricks: Placed on 10-day DL (finger)
Dallas Keuchel: Placed on the 10-day DL (neck)
Kevin Kiermaier: Out at least two months (hip)
Manny Machado: Could miss the weekend (wrist)
Brad Miller: Placed on the 10-day DL (groin)
Mike Napoli: Placed on the 10-day DL (back)
Ivan Nova: Left last start (knee)
Gerardo Parra: Could be out till July (quad)
Danny Salazar: Rehab assignment at Double-A (shoulder)
Hector Santiago: Out indefinitely (shoulder)
Jean Segura: Could return in late June (ankle)
Yasmany Tomas: Placed on 10-day DL (groin)
Devon Travis: Placed on the 10-day DL (knee)
Taijuan Walker: Could return next week (blister)
Jayson Werth: Placed on the 10-day DL (foot)