Not all “aces” are strikeout pitchers. Take Mike Minor, for example.
The Rangers lefty is averaging a strong, yet unspectacular 93 mph fastball and has a sub-8.0 K/9 since he moved back to the starting rotation in Texas last year. However, his results since last year’s All-Star break certainly fit the ace criteria with a 2.85 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 75/22 K/BB in 85.1 innings over that time.
Minor’s ERA for the entire 2018 season was above 4.00, but he’s been doing a better job keeping the ball down since his success started in the second half of last year (12 home runs allowed). We certainly shouldn’t overlook his early-season luck in 2019 with a .211 BABIP, 11th lowest in baseball, but provoking softer contact has been a trend for Minor since he came back from injury in 2017 with a sub-.280 BABIP in each season.
He was available in many mixed leagues entering the year, but even the shallowest of leagues had to take the plunge earlier this week when Minor threw his first career complete game shutout.
You’ll find plenty of pitchers with more upside, given Minor’s below-league-average 7.5 K/9 since the start of last season, but there is more than one way to build a 5x5 staff. So far, Minor has proven to be a major asset for fantasy owners who built their team with him, and he has a chance to expand on his early success in the upcoming week with visits to Oakland and Seattle.
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-Carlos Carrasco successfully rebounded from one of the worst starts of his career, when he failed to make it out of the first inning at Kansas City on April 12. He came back five days later to dominate the Mariners with seven scoreless innings and 12 strikeouts. While his velocity has been down slightly early on this year, the right-hander now has an incredible 15.4 K/9 and 3.05 FIP, compared to his ugly actual 7.41 ERA. It’s clear there is no reason, and never was any reason, to panic.
-Kevin Gausman now has a 2.84 ERA in 13 starts since the Braves acquired him late last season. I’ll admit I was still very concerned about him entering the year after a sharp increase in fastball velocity last season, but he started to show some of his former velocity in his third start, and the result was 10 strikeouts in seven innings vs. Arizona. He exceeded the 94.4 mph fastball average from his last outing in only seven of his 31 starts last year, so it remains to be seen if the velocity will hold. One trend we did see after Gausman joined Atlanta was less use of his slider, and he’s taken that to the extreme this year, throwing the pitch only three percent of the time in favor of his two-seamer. The adjustment has seemed to help keep the ball in the park, which has made all the difference for a pitcher who had a 4.22 ERA and 1.3 HR/9 in his career with Baltimore.
-Is it time to pick up Homer Bailey? The former Reds ace has tallied consecutive excellent starts for the Royals, lowering his ERA to a respectable 4.30. He’s missing bats in the process (10.6 K/9), which is great to see after Bailey was 9-27 with a 6.25 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and 6.7 K/9 over the last four seasons while often fighting arm injuries. His average four-seam velocity is 92.9 mph, on par with recent seasons, but Bailey is mixing in his splitter and curveball more than we’ve ever seen. Still, it should be noted that his velocity was down significantly in his last start vs. the Yankees, so fantasy owners shouldn’t get carried away just yet.
-Pablo Lopez was a popular breakout candidate after showing increased velocity during spring training, but he now has a 5.85 ERA through four starts. That might convince some owners to drop him in mixed leagues. If that’s happened in your league, you should stop what you’re doing right now and run to your waiver wire. Lopez’s peripherals are outstanding, with a 23/3 K/BB in 20 innings, along with a 2.85 FIP and 3.33 SIERA. The velocity increase has held, more than one mph better than last year, and Lopez is coming off his most successful start of the year. Miami does apparently have Lopez on a pitch count, limiting him to fewer than 90 pitches in each of his first four outings after he had arm issues late last season, but the profile is simply too good to pass up.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 19, and are subject to change.
Chris Sale: DET, TB
Brad Keller: @TB, LAA
Wade Miley: MIN, CLE
Domingo German: @LAA, @SF
Yonny Chirinos: KC, @BOS
Brad Peacock: MIN, CLE
Spencer Turnbull: @BOS, @CHW
Lance Lynn: @OAK, @SEA
Jake Odorizzi: @HOU, BAL
J.A. Happ: @LAA, @SF
Nathan Eovaldi: DET, TB
At Your Own Risk
Joe Musgrove: ARI, @LAD
Jack Flaherty: MIL, CIN
Jose Quintana: LAD, @ARI
Sonny Gray: ATL, @STL
Pablo Lopez: @CLE, @PHI
Jake Arrieta: @NYM, MIA
Kenta Maeda: @CHC, PIT
Luke Weaver: @PIT, CHC
Trevor Williams: ARI, @LAD
Zach Eflin: @NYM, MIA
At Your Own Risk
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Tuesday, April 23: Ivan Nova @ BAL
The opportunities to use Nova are few and far between in shallow leagues, and his early results haven’t been pretty. However, the veteran right-hander has a 2.37 FIP and has yet to allow a home run. He has a chance to get on track against an O’s lineup that ranks 23rd in OPS vs. right-handers.
Wednesday, April 24: CC Sabathia @ LAA
Sabathia had an excellent return from the IL, and faces an Angels lineup that has yet to touch lefties this season with a league-worst .531 OPS.
Saturday, April 27: Brett Anderson @ TOR
Anderson has groundballed his way to a 2.63 ERA through four starts. That result might not hold for long, but the lefty has another opportunity to perform vs. a Blue Jays lineup with a .603 OPS against lefties.
Wednesday, April 24: Merrill Kelly @ PIT
Kelly has been more than the Diamondbacks bargained for when they signed him out of Japan, at least so far, with a 3.79 ERA and brilliant 1.4 BB/9. He gets a weak-hitting Pirates lineup with a .720 OPS vs. right-handers next week.
Wednesday, April 24: Sandy Alcantara @ CLE
If you can stomach some risk, the erratic Alcantara gets a weak Indians lineup on Wednesday (.602 OPS vs. RHP). It’s been an up and down early season for Alcantara with a 2.50 FIP as a result of zero long balls allowed.
Friday, April 26: Jerad Eickhoff vs. MIA
Eickhoff is a story to pull for after struggling to overcome injuries over the last year. He’s replaced Nick Pivetta in the Phils rotation and gets a very favorable start vs. Miami, 29th ranked in OPS vs. right-handers.
6: BAL, CLE, CHW, KC, MIN, OAK, SEA, TB
7: BOS, DET, HOU, LAA, NYY, TEX
5: SD, SF
6: ATL, CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIA, MIL, NYM, STL, WAS
7: ARI, PHI, PIT
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.
Harrison Bader: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Greg Bird: Out at least one month (foot)
Victor Caratini: Out 4-6 weeks (hand)
Ian Desmond: Day-to-day (leg)
Brian Dozier: Day-to-day (toe)
Marco Estrada: Placed on IL (back)
Lucas Giolito: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Josh Harrison: Day-to-day (hand)
Odubel Herrera: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Chris Iannetta: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Wade LeBlanc: Placed on IL (oblique)
Brandon Nimmo: Placed on IL (neck)
Eduardo Nunez: Placed on IL (back)
Rougned Odor: Placed on IL (knee)
Tyler O’Neill: Placed on IL (elbow)
Dustin Pedroia: Placed on IL (knee)
Freddy Peralta: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Gary Sanchez: Placed on IL (calf)
Tyler Skaggs: Placed on IL (ankle)
Blake Snell: Could return next week (toe)
Christin Stewart: Placed on IL (quad)
Arodys Vizcaino: Out for the season (shoulder)