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Week Ahead: Two for Ranger

Ranger Suarez

Ranger Suarez

Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

If there is such a thing as year-to-year momentum, Phillies lefty Ranger Suárez hopes that he can continue to build on the momentum he built last season

He pitched in just about every role for the team last season over 106 innings, but Suarez really opened some eyes when he got the opportunity to start games following the trade deadline. He was arguably even better as a starter than he was in relief, posting a 1.51 ERA and 65/19 K/BB in 65.2 innings with a sinker that continued to mystify opposing hitters.

For all of Suarez’s success, he entered 2022 under the radar behind Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in the Phillies starting rotation. His modest 179 ADP in NFBC leagues was far from the elite, and visa issues put him behind the rest of the team’s starting pitchers during Spring Training. In fact, Suarez made only two Spring Training appearances and never got out of the fourth inning, so it’s fair to expect a limited pitch count when he does finally take the mound early next week.

That said, there’s reason to believe patience will be rewarded. Suarez’s improvement last season was due in part to a strong increase in velocity while also nearly trashing his slider in favor of the much more dominant sinker. His 59% groundball rate was among the best in the game, and it hardly declined while in the rotation.

Suarez’s first matchup of the season against the Mets is a tough one, and made even less appealing with what’s likely to be a limited pitch count. However, Suarez did more than enough in his starting role last season to receive the benefit of the doubt in a two-start week that culminates with a favorable matchup at Miami.

-Speaking of second half momentum, Eric Lauer was among the best starting pitchers in baseball after the break last season. Slotting in at the end of Milwaukee’s rotation, he was terrific with a 2.60 ERA and 63/17 K/BB in 62.1 innings. He’s set as the Brewers fifth starter again this season with an uptick in velocity during Spring Training, adding some optimism that he can build on what he showed late in the year. Lauer also has a very favorable two-start week, visiting the Orioles before a home start against the Cardinals.

-Get your popcorn ready for Seattle starter Matt Brash’s season debut next week. The much-hyped right-hander was nearly unhittable during Spring Training with only one run allowed in 9.1 innings and 12/2 K/BB. He had a sizzling 13.1 K/9 between High-A and Double-A last season with a high-90’s fastball and plus slider, and the control improvement in limited innings this spring is what makes him most intriguing after he struggled with walks last year. He has a pair of brutal matchups to get his feet wet against the White Sox and Astros, but the upside is undeniable.

-Can Jordan Hicks make the transition from closer to starting pitcher? He caused a buzz as the closer for the Cardinals by hitting triple digits consistently with his fastball, but arm problems have hindered Hicks over the last three years. We can probably expect Hicks to take something off his fastball if the Cardinals do decide to make him more than just an opener, and he’s scheduled for his first go-around in the rotation against KC next week. With only one inning per appearance during Spring Training, fantasy managers shouldn’t get excited just yet, but a pitcher of Hicks’ pedigree in a starting role is certainly worth following.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 8, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Alek Manoah: @NYY, OAK

Tarik Skubal: BOS, @KC

Decent Plays

Yusei Kikuchi: @NYY, OAK

Aaron Civale: @KC, SF

Nestor Cortes Jr.: TOR, @BAL

Jameson Taillon: TOR, @BAL

Matt Brash: @CHW, HOU

Chris Flexen: @MIN, HOU

Luis Patino: OAK, @CHW

Ryan Yarbrough: OAK, @CHW

Michael Wacha: @DET, MIN

At Your Own Risk

Carlos Hernandez: CLE, DET

Tyler Alexander: BOS, @KC

Taylor Hearn: COL, LAA

Daniel Lynch: @STL, DET

Reynaldo Lopez: SEA, TB

Bruce Zimmerman: MIL, NYY

Paul Blackburn: @TB, @TOR

Adam Oller: @TB, @TOR

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: @BAL, STL

Yu Darvish: @SF, ATL

Clayton Kershaw: @MIN, CIN

Zack Wheeler: NYM, @MIA

Ranger Suárez: NYM, @MIA

Eric Lauer: @BAL, STL

Alex Wood: SD, @CLE

Decent Plays

Dakota Hudson: PIT, @MIL

Elieser Hernandez: @LAA, PHI

Tyler Mahle: CLE, @LAD

Huascar Ynoa: WAS, @SD

Dakota Hudson: PIT, @MIL

Taijuan Walker: @PHI, ARI

Patrick Corbin: @ATL, @PIT

Zach Thompson: @STL, WAS

Austin Gomber: @TEX, CHC

Jose Quintana: CHC, WAS

At Your Own Risk

Joan Adon: @ATL, @PIT

Jordan Hicks: KC, @MIL

Keegan Thompson: @PIT, @COL

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, April 12: Spencer Howard vs. COL

It’s easy to forget Howard is a former top prospect in Philly due to his MLB struggles. There’s certainly risk here, but Howard looked good in Spring Training (9/2 K/BB in 7.2 innings) and Colorado is notoriously bad at hitting on the road.

Wednesday, April 13: Triston McKenzie @ CIN

McKenzie didn’t impress in his Opening Day relief appearance, but his control looked strong this spring after coming around over the final two months last year (3.55 ERA, 57/13 K/BB in 56.2 innings). There’s too much upside here to leave McKenzie on waivers if he’s still available in your league.

Friday, April 15: Reid Detmers @ TEX

This 2020 draftee torched minor league hitters last season (15.7 K/9) and had an incredible 11/0 K/BB in 5.2 innings during Spring Training. With a favorable matchup against the Rangers, Detmers could be rostered in most remaining leagues by the end of next week.

National League

Wednesday, April 13: Nick Lodolo vs. CLE

The seventh pick in the 2019 draft was great in Spring Training after posting a 2.31 ERA and 78/11 K/BB in 50.2 innings between Double- and Triple-A last season. He also posted a groundball rate well above 50% to go along with the great command. There’s plenty to like heading into Lodolo’s first MLB start.

Thursday, April 14: Mitch Keller vs. WAS

Keller showed a major uptick in velocity this spring after disappointing early in his MLB career. We’ll soon find out if the hype was real, but Washington’s lack of lineup depth presents a great opportunity.

Friday, April 15: Zach Eflin @ MIA

Eflin has made a strong recovery from a season-ending knee injury in 2021, and Miami’s roomy confines should help suppress his home run issues. His elite control (1.4 BB/9 last season) makes Eflin rosterable in most leagues.

Total Games

American League

5: HOU

6: BAL, BOS, CLE, CHW, LAA, MIN, TEX

7: DET, KC, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TOR

National League

5: ARI

6: CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIA, NYM, SF

7: ATL, MIL, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS

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.

Nick Ahmed: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Greg Allen: Out indefinitely (hamstring)

Mike Clevinger: Placed on IL (knee)

Tommy La Stella: Placed on IL (Achilles)

Yoan Moncada: Out three weeks (oblique)

Mickey Moniak: Out six weeks (wrist)

Brandon Nimmo: Day-to-day (neck)

Nate Pearson: Placed on IL (illness)

Josh Rojas: Out indefinitely (oblique)

Robert Stephenson: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

LaMonte Wade: Placed on IL (knee)

Taijuan Walker: Status uncertain (knee)

Taylor Ward: Placed on IL (groin)