It’s been a rough year for the Rangers starting rotation, to say the least. They currently rank dead last in ERA (5.48), but not all of their offseason rotation moves have been disastrous.
In particular, the team’s three-year, $28 million agreement with Mike Minor is finally starting to pay dividends. Minor returned from a two-year absence from MLB due to injury in 2017 to pitch as Kansas City’s setup man, posting a 2.55 ERA and showing increased velocity. That was enough proof for Texas to sign him as a starter this offseason, a role he served in the first five seasons of his career with Atlanta.
Overall, the numbers are somewhat mediocre for Minor to this point. His 4.33 ERA trails the AL league average and is a direct result of 22 home runs allowed in 135 innings. As a starter, the lefty has been picked on by opposing managers after holding lefties to a .431 OPS last season, facing right-handed hitters more than 80 percent of the time this year.
Still, not all of the results have been bad. Minor has a very solid 1.11 WHIP as a result of his 2.1 BB/9, and he’s been cruising over the last three months. Since the start of June, Minor has eight quality starts in 13 outings and has posted a 3.21 ERA with 59/17 K/BB in 75.2 innings. Even better, during his four starts in August, Minor is 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA.
As for Minor’s velocity, some of his increase has held since his return last season. Averaging nearly 93 mph on his fastball, Minor’s fastball velocity is well off where it was last season but still the best we’ve ever seen from him as a starter.
Minor had only one season with a sub-4.00 ERA as a starter in Atlanta, but has a chance to tally his second as a starter if his success continues into September. He opens a two-start week against an Angels lineup that has been weak vs. lefties (fourth worst OPS), followed by an Oakland lineup that ranks in the top 10.
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-It’s been a year of ups and downs for Jake Junis, but the Royals starter has been coming around again lately. He threw his first career complete game in his last start and finished August with a 2.95 ERA and 38/8 K/BB in 36.2 innings. Junis also started the year well, with a 3.61 ERA through May, but he has bombed in June and early July before going on the DL with a back injury. The long ball has skilled Junis’ ERA this season (4.53), but his command has been very impressive with 8.5 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 to this point. Fantasy owners should obviously be cautious in tough matchups, like his first one next week vs. Cleveland, but Junis is definitely worth owning again.
-Trevor Williams has been a revelation over his last eight starts. During that time, he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start and has five scoreless outings. The Pirates starter is 5-2 with a 0.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 30/16 K/BB in 48 innings over that time. The mediocre command should make fantasy owners skeptical, as should a .251 BABIP that’s sixth best among starting pitchers this season. That said, it’s difficult to bench Williams when he’s on a roll like we’ve seen recently, especially with favorable home matchups vs. Cincinnati and Miami next week.
-At the very least, Cody Reed is an arm worth watching as he closes out the season in the Reds rotation. One of the centerpieces of the Reds Johnny Cueto trade with KC back in 2015, Reed hasn’t developed as hoped over the last few years after posting a 2.41 ERA in two minor league levels during 2015. However, he’s fared well in the majors so far this season and had a 2.95 ERA with nearly one strikeout per inning at Triple-A this year. His control has returned after struggling last season, and Reed also has shown some groundball ability early on in the majors (55 percent groundball rate). Even with an easy two-start week ahead against Pittsburgh and San Diego there is some risk here, but the former top prospect could prove to be a viable spot starter with a career 3.57 ERA and 8.6 K/9 in 285 career innings at Triple-A.
-It’s difficult to have a much easier schedule than what Vince Velasquez faces in his two-start week coming up. He heads to Miami and then Flushing to face the Mets, two teams in the bottom 10 in OPS vs. right-handers. Like the rest of the Phillies rotation not named Aaron Nola, Velasquez has had an inconsistent season but has a 2.66 ERA since the start of July and has an ace-like 9.9 K/9 for the season. Perhaps most notably, the oft-injured Velasquez will most likely be setting a career high in innings pitched this week.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, August 31, and are subject to change.
Mike Clevinger: KC, @TOR
Mike Minor: LAA, @OAK
Dallas Keuchel: MIN, @BOS
CC Sabathia: @OAK, @SEA
Trevor Cahill: NYY, TEX
Alex Cobb: @SEA, @TB
Jake Junis: @CLE, @MIN
Reynaldo Lopez: DET, LAA
At Your Own Risk
Michael Fulmer: @CHW, STL
Adam Plutko: KC, @TOR
Ryan Borucki: TB, CLE
Thomas Pannone: TB, CLE
Jalen Beeks: @TOR, BAL
Jacob deGrom: @LAD, PHI
Jack Flaherty: @WAS, @DET
Mike Foltynewicz: BOS, @ARI
Cole Hamels: @MIL, @WAS
Madison Bumgarner: @COL, @MIL
Trevor Williams: CIN, MIA
Vince Velasquez: @MIA, @NYM
Alex Wood: NYM, @COL
Joey Lucchesi: @ARI, @CIN
Zack Godley: SD, ATL
Sean Newcomb: BOS, @ARI
Matt Harvey: @PIT, SD
Mike Montgomery: @MIL, @WAS
Jose Urena: PHI, @PIT
At Your Own Risk
Gio Gonzalez: STL, CHC
Zach Davies: CHC, SF
Cody Reed: @PIT, SD
Jefry Rodriguez: STL, CHC
Tyler Anderson: SF, LAD
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Wednesday, September 5: Framber Valdez vs. MIN
Valdez has fared well in his first two MLB starts for the Astros and gets another favorable start against a Twins lineup that hasn’t hit lefties well this year (.683 OPS).
Friday, September 7: Stephen Gonsalves vs. KC
Gonsalves had a bit more success in his second MLB start, despite poor control. More notable is his dominant minor league track record (2.46 ERA), including success between Double- and Triple-A this year. And let’s be honest, the Royals aren’t far from a Triple-A lineup at this point, ranking dead last with a .651 OPS vs. lefties.
Saturday, September 8: Ryan Yarbrough vs. BAL
Yarbrough continues to do a nice job in the starter/post-opener role for the Rays. He’s thrown at least four innings in seven of his last eight outings (only one actual start), winning four games with a 4.11 ERA. Baltimore is the worst team in baseball vs. lefties (.661 OPS).
Wednesday, September 5: Nick Pivetta @ MIA
Pivetta has been an inconsistent headache for fantasy owners again this season, posting a 4.76 ERA despite his 10.7 K/9 and 3.61 FIP. He might have been dropped by a frustrated owner in your league, but has a very favorable matchup at Miami this week.
Friday, September 7: Anthony DeSclafani vs. SD
DeSclafani should probably be picked up if still available in your league. The oft-injured right-hander looked healthy in August, going 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA and 27/10 K/BB in 34.1 innings. He gets the light-hitting Padres next week, last in OPS vs. right-handers (.660).
Saturday, September 8: Ivan Nova vs. MIA
Nova is usually a mediocre option for mixed leagues due to his low strikeout rate and inability to keep the ball in the park, but he also gets to feast on the Marlins lineup this week (.671 OPS vs. right-handers).
6: BAL, BOS, CHW, DET, HOU, KC, LAA, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX
7: CLE, TOR
6: ARI, COL, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, SF, STL
7: ATL, CHC, CIN, WAS
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.
Brett Anderson: Placed on DL (arm)
Steven Duggar: Likely out for the season (shoulder)
Bartolo Colon: Placed on DL (back)
Marco Gonzales: Placed on DL (neck)
Jedd Gyorko: Placed on DL (groin)
Josh Harrison: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Kelvin Herrera: Out for the year (foot)
Jason Heyward: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Jose Iglesias: Placed on DL (abdomen)
Sean Manaea: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Andrew Miller: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Mitch Moreland: Day-to-day (knee)
Charlie Morton: Placed on DL (shoulder)
Manny Pina: Day-to-day (mouth)
Jorge Polanco: Day-to-day (leg)
David Price: Day-to-day (wrist)
Albert Pujols: Out for the season (knee)
Clayton Richard: Out for the season (knee)
Eddie Rosario: Day-to-day (quad)
Jean Segura: Day-to-day (foot)
Mallex Smith: Played on DL (illness)
Eugenio Suarez: Day-to-day (back)
Mark Trumbo: Out for the season (knee)
Matt Wieters: Day-to-day (back)
Kolten Wong: Placed on DL (hamstring)