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Week Ahead: Ashcraft Red Alert

Graham Ashcraft

Graham Ashcraft

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a rookie in the Reds rotation taking Cincinnati by storm, and his name isn’t Hunter Greene or Nick Lodolo.

Graham Ashcraft has been spectacular in his first three MLB starts, allowing only three earned runs in 17.2 innings. He’s already helped turn the Reds’ fortunes around after an atrocious start to the season, and is at least giving fans brighter expectations for the remainder of the season.

Despite his status as a former sixth-round pick in 2019, Ashcraft’s stuff looks upper echelon. He primarily works off an upper-90’s sinker that has produced an elite 63% groundball rate so far and 71% over his 32.2 innings at Triple-A earlier this season.

The biggest concern for Ashcraft at this point has been his inability to miss bats, without only one offspeed pitch. His slider has produced only a 25% whiff rate so far, which isn’t good enough when his cutter and sinker aren’t missing many bats. There’s reason for concern if the right-hander’s strikeout rate doesn’t pickup, but a career 10.0 K/9 in the minors does provide reason to expect improvement.

Either way, the fastball velocity and groundball rate already rank in the top 10 among MLB starting pitchers, providing more than enough reason to give Ashcraft a look in fantasy leagues. An upcoming two-start week against the Diamondbacks and Cardinals is just another bonus for those in weekly lineup leagues.

-Patience is paying off for fans of Cristian Javier. He’s had another opportunity as a regular starter this season after being pulled from the rotation early last year. The results we’ve seen in Javier’s six starts have been the best yet, and arguably the best of any pitcher in Houston not named Justin Verlander. He has a 3.34 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 35/13 K/BB in 29.2 innings as a starter, doing an elite job missing bats again. An extreme 55% flyball rate is still a concern for the long ball, but Javier has done a fine job keeping the ball in the park to this point.

-Konnor Pilkington is becoming another name worth watching in Cleveland. The left-hander had his best outing of the season on Wednesday, throwing five scoreless innings against the lowly Royals lineup. The level of difficulty for that matchup wasn’t top tier, but it also wasn’t the first bit of success we’ve seen from Pilkington as a pro. He dominated at Double-A last season with a 3.04 ERA and 10.7 K/9 in 100.2 innings. With two more favorable matchups against vs. Texas and Oakland next week, Pilkington could be on the radar as a pickup in deep leagues.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, June 3, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Michael Kopech: LAD, TEX

Nestor Cortes: @MIN, CHC

Cristian Javier: SEA, MIA

Garrett Whitlock: @LAA, @SEA

Decent Plays

Robbie Ray: @HOU, BOS

Corey Kluber: STL, @MIN

Jon Gray: @CLE, @CHW

Cole Irvin: @ATL, @CLE

Michael Wacha: @LAA, @SEA

Cal Quantrill: TEX, OAK

Konnor Pilkington: TEX, OAK

Noah Syndergaard: BOS, NYM

Bailey Ober: NYY, TB

Ross Stripling: @KC, @DET

At Your Own Risk

Brad Keller: TOR, BAL

Daniel Lynch: TOR, BAL

Kyle Bradish: CHC, @KC

National League

Strong Plays

Kyle Wright: OAK, PIT

Carlos Rodón: COL, LAD

Decent Plays

Blake Snell: NYM, COL

Dakota Hudson: @TB, CIN

Carlos Carrasco: @SD, @LAA

José Quintana: DET, @ATL

Graham Ashcraft: ARI, @STL

Adrian Houser: PHI, @WAS

Madison Bumgarner: @CIN, @PHI

Ranger Suárez: @MIL, ARI

At Your Own Risk

Trevor Rogers: WAS, @HOU

Hunter Greene: ARI, @STL

German Marquez: @SF, @SD

Streamer City

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

American League

Wednesday, June 8: Alex Faedo @ PIT

Faedo has made the most of his opportunity in the rotation with a 3.09 ERA in six starts. His inability to miss bats (5.9 K/9) is a concern, but the former first-round pick has another fruitful opportunity against a poor Pirates lineup he already fared well against a month ago.

Thursday, June 9: Bruce Zimmermann @ KC

Zimmermann has come down to Earth lately, with the long ball being a huge culprit again. Still, his sub-2.0 BB/9 shows nice ability, and KC has only 35 home runs this season, fourth fewest in MLB.

Friday, June 10: Zach Plesac vs. OAK

Plesac hasn’t been worthy of rostering this year with a 4.93 ERA and 2020 breakout season that’s all but forgotten. His ERA metrics match the poor results, but Oakland’s lineup is a chance to get on track with a league-worst .588 OPS vs. right-handers.

National League

Wednesday, June 8: JT Brubaker vs. DET

Spot starting head-to-head starters is a viable option when the Pirates and Tigers lineups are taking part. Brubaker faces the aforementioned Faedo and a Detroit lineup with a .599 OPS vs. right-handers. The Pirates starter is looking like a viable pickup, in general, after posting a 2.63 ERA and over one strikeout per inning in May.

Wednesday, June 8: Mike Minor vs. ARI

Minor will be tossing his second start of the season against an Arizona lineup that has been futile against southpaws. The Diamondbacks have a .617 OPS, second worst in MLB.

Friday, June 10: Spencer Strider vs. PIT

Strider’s elite stuff is worth a look in any event but especially against the aforementioned Pirates. The right-hander has spent most of the season in the bullpen, but his 13.8 K/9 is impressive in any role.

Total Games

American League

5: DET



National League

5: CHC



The Infirmary

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 NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

BrIan Anderson: Placed on IL (back)

Tim Anderson: Placed on IL (groin)

Matt Barnes: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Anthony Bender: Placed on IL (back)

Humberto Castellanos: Placed on IL (elbow)

Garrett Cooper: Day-to-day (abdomen)

Willson Contreras: Day-to-day (ankle)

Carlos Correa: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Brandon Crawford: Day-to-day (illness)

Alcides Escobar: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Wander Franco: Placed on IL (quad)

Nolan Gorman: Day-to-day (back)

Sonny Gray: Placed on IL (pectoral)

Zack Greinke: Placed on IL (forearm)

Robbie Grossman: Placed on IL (neck)

Bryce Harper: Day-to-day (forearm)

Kyle Lewis: Placed on IL (concussion)

Royce Lewis: Placed on IL (knee)

Francisco Lindor: Day-to-day (finger)

Evan Longoria: Day-to-day (shoulder)

Wade Miley: Placed on IL (elbow)

Brad Miller: Placed on IL (hip)

Wil Myers: Day-to-day (knee)

Tyler Naquin: Out at least one month (quad)

Omar Narvaez: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Anthony Rendon: Placed on IL (wrist)

Hyun-Jin Ryu: Placed on IL (forearm)

Jean Segura: Out 10-12 weeks (finger)

Kevin Smith: Day-to-day (knee)

Drew Smyly: Out at least four weeks (oblique)

George Springer: Day-to-day (illness)

Jonathan Villar: Placed on IL (mouth)

Joey Wendle: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Brandon Woodruff: Placed on IL (ankle)