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The Week Ahead

The Week Ahead: Velocity Blues

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The first week of May is a good benchmark for fantasy owners to make tough drop’em decisions. One of those decisions in 12-plus team mixed leagues is what to do with Hisashi Iwakuma.

 

He’s coming off a career-worst 4.12 ERA and 1.33 WHIP last season, and the results early this season have been similar. The Mariners starter has a 4.35 ERA and 1.26 WHIP through six starts, contributing almost no mixed league value to this point.

 

More worrisome is Iwakuma’s command. He has an awful 4.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, both by far the worst of his career. The numbers continue to look dire, with seven homers allowed in 31 innings and a horrendous 6.30 FIP.

 

So what’s the problem? Iwakuma has experienced extreme velocity loss over the last two seasons, and his drop from last season (87.8 mph) to this season (85.0 mph) is one of the biggest decreases in baseball. This is a major red flag for a pitcher who has experienced past shoulder issues. Remember, his contract with the Dodgers last offseason was canceled due to a failed physical, and the A’s also failed to sign him in 2011 due to physical issues.

 

It sounds cruel to say that a ballplayer is “finished” but the warning signs here are rampant.

 

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-I’ve already expressed my undying love for Charlie Morton in this spot earlier this season, and he’s recently been paying dividends for fantasy owners. The peripherals show a legitimate ace, with a 10.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, though Morton hasn’t been the extreme groundball pitcher that he was earlier in his career. The tradeoff has been a strong velocity increase, even above what he showed in Philadelphia last season. Morton has averaged 95.4 mph on his fastball, compared to 92 mph in 2015. He should be owned in all leagues at this point.

 

-Mike Clevinger could be worth a look in AL-only leagues, and even deep mixed leagues. He struggled in 17 appearances with Cleveland last season, posting a 5.26 ERA, but as usual, he’s been dominant at Triple-A Columbus early this year. He has a 9.6 K/9 and 1.50 ERA in six starts, and is set to take over Corey Kluber’s (back) rotation spot. Clevinger’s career 8.7 K/9 and 3.28 ERA in the minors, along with plus stuff, make him intriguing.

 

-It’s always a good week for hitting when the Rockies have seven games at Coors Field, as is the case next week. Of course, they’ll be facing NL powerhouses Chicago and Los Angeles, but it’s certainly a week you’ll want your Coors Field hitters in the lineup, regardless.

 

-Robbie Ray continues to be one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball, now leading the NL with a 12.1 K/9. Most importantly for fantasy owners, his ERA is back down this season through six starts (3.47), and his FIP (3.26) shows an even better performer. As usual, Ray is having some trouble with his control, but the early returns have been strong for a pitcher whose advanced metrics showed big upside last season.

 

-Steven Wright’s season-ending knee surgery holds significance for Drew Pomeranz, who will certainly keep his rotation spot when David Price returns. Pomeranz had elbow issues last season and flexor tendon problem this spring, but it appears he’s healthy now. He has a dominant 11.3 K/9 and 3.78 K/BB ratio through five starts, and his velocity has seen a slight rebound after decreasing as a starter last season.

 

Going Twice…

 

American League

 

Strong Plays

 

Justin Verlander: @ARI, @LAA

Charlie Morton: ATL, @NYY

Masahiro Tanaka: @CIN, HOU

 

Decent Plays

 

Nate Karns: @TB, BAL

Marcus Stroman: CLE, SEA

Hector Santiago: @CHW, @CLE

Sonny Gray: LAA, @TEX

Drew Pomeranz: @MIL, TB

Hisashi Iwakuma: @PHI, @TOR

Kevin Gausman: WAS, @KC

Blake Snell: KC, @BOS

Matt Andriese: KC, @BOS

Ricky Nolasco: @OAK, DET

A.J. Griffin: @SD, OAK

Mike Clevinger: @TOR, MIN

 

At Your Own Risk

 

Ubaldo Jimenez: WAS, @KC

Mike Pelfrey: MIN, SD

Casey Lawrence: CLE, SEA

Alex Meyer: @OAK, DET

Nick Martinez: @SD, OAK

 

National League

 

Strong Plays

 

Max Scherzer: @BAL, PHI

Jacob deGrom: SF, @MIL

Robbie Ray: DET, PIT

Carlos Martinez: @MIA, CHC

 

Decent Plays

 

Gio Gonzalez: @BAL, PHI

Jameson Taillon: @LAD, @ARI

Ivan Nova: @LAD, @ARI

Jake Arrieta: @COL, @STL

Jeff Samardzija: @NYM, CIN

Adam Conley: STL, ATL

Julio Urias: PIT, @COL

Alex Wood: PIT, @COL

 

At Your Own Risk

 

Luis Perdomo: TEX, @CHW

Matt Moore: @NYM, CIN

Antonio Senzatela: CHC, LAD

Kyle Freeland: CHC, LAD

Jered Weaver: TEX, @CHW

Wily Peralta: BOS, NYM

Rookie Davis: NYY, @SF

 

Streamer City

 

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

 

American League

 

Tuesday, May 9: Matt Andriese vs. KC

It’s becoming a rule of thumb to use pitchers against the Royals, who have scored only 78 runs in 27 games this season. Andriese seems like a fine play with a 3.09 ERA through six starts.

 

Wednesday, May 10: Jesse Chavez @ OAK

Chavez faces his former team at the roomy Coliseum. That’s an important point for Chavez, who has allowed 1.3 HR/9 for his career and 1.5 HR/9 this season, but that rate is just 0.7 in his career pitching at Oakland.

 

Thursday, May 11: Martin Perez vs. SD

San Diego’s .580 OPS vs. lefties is the worst in the NL. It really hasn’t been pretty for Perez so far this season, with an atrocious 1.83 WHIP, but if you were ever going to use him then this matchup is the time.

 

National League

 

Tuesday, May 9: Zack Wheeler vs. SF

It’s not surprising that Wheeler has been inconsistent early this year after all the arm issues he fought through over the last two seasons. He gets some relief after facing the high-powered Nats offense twice, facing a Giants offense that has the worst OPS vs. right-handed pitching in the NL.

 

Thursday, May 11: Clayton Richard @ TEX

While it doesn’t look like a great matchup at first glance for Richard, Texas has the second lowest OPS in baseball vs. lefties (.562). Richard also has the second highest groundball rate in baseball (64 percent).

 

Friday, May 12: Trevor Cahill @ CHW

It’s time to take a closer look at Cahill if he’s available in your league. His cutter has continued to work, like it did in Chicago starting late in 2015, resulting in a 11.1 K/9 and 3.60 ERA. Meanwhile, the White Sox are dead last in OPS vs. right-handers (.615).

 

Total Games

 

American League

 

6: BOS, CHW, CLE, DET, HOU, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA

7: BAL, KC, LAA, TB, TEX, TOR

 

National League

 

5: ATL, PHI

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, MIA, MIL, NYM, STL

7: COL, LAD, PIT, SD, SF, WAS

 

The Infirmary

 

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.

 

Greg Bird: Could return in late May (ankle)

Welington Castillo: Expected back May 11 (neck)

Sean Doolittle: Could return in late May (shoulder)

Adam Eaton: Out for the season (knee)

Dexter Fowler: Could be headed to DL (shoulder)

Cole Hamels: Could be out two months (oblique)

Marco Hernandez: Out indefinitely (shoulder)

Nate Jones: Out until mid-May (elbow)

Ian Kennedy: Could return in mid-May (hamstring)

Corey Kluber: Could return in mid-May (back)

Hyun-Jin Ryu: Could return in mid-May (hip)

Aaron Sanchez: Could return next week (finger)

Tyler Skaggs: Out 10-12 weeks (oblique)

Marcus Stroman: Status uncertain (elbow)

Noah Syndergaard: Could miss three months (lat)

Chris Tillman: Will make his season debut on Sunday (shoulder)

Edinson Volquez: Out until mid-May (blister)

Tony Wolters: Out indefinitely (concussion)

Steven Wright: Out for the season (knee)