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Week Ahead: Uncle Charlie’s Back

Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy staple Charlie Morton got off to a particularly poor start after his offseason was disrupted due to a fractured leg suffered in last year’s playoffs. There were obvious fears of a breakdown due to age (38), but those fears really weren’t reflected by the radar gun.

Still, something was off in April. Morton had a 7.00 ERA in four starts, with 11 walks in 18 innings. At the time, the culprit was clear based on observation or digging into the numbers with Morton struggling to get a handle on his curveball. Slowly but surely, the curveball has come around, and so has Morton’s effectiveness.

The results started to straighten out in May with a 4.60 ERA and 31/11 K/BB in 31.1 innings. However, this month he’s really turned it on with a remarkable 40 strikeouts and four walks in 25 innings, resulting in a 3.60 ERA over four starts. Morton’s home runs are still slightly up for the season, but his K/9 (10.4) and BB/9 (3.1) is getting right in line with his recent history.

Patience is paying off for fantasy managers who didn’t panic when things looked bleak for Morton early in the year, as his numbers and performance are finally starting to regress to the mean. With his recent streak, there are now few pitchers in the game who look more attractive at the moment.

-Regression comes in good ways like what we’ve seen in Morton, but obviously, it can go in a negative direction. Somehow, Michael Wacha has managed to overcome the laws of space and time to this point with a 2.34 ERA over 12 starts despite a very mediocre 6.6 K/9, 3.97 FIP, and 4.39 SIERA. This isn’t to say Wacha can’t be an effective pitcher, as he showed similar improvement late last season with Tampa Bay after trashing his cutter. Still, his current BABIP of .227 simply isn’t sustainable. Like we’ve seen with early top performers like Eric Lauer, Tarik Skubal, and Zac Gallen, Wacha’s time for a blow up is likely to come sooner or later, and a tough matchup at Toronto early next week is one of many risky matchups on the horizon.

-Martín Pérez is in a similar situation as Wacha, though his breakout seems even more remarkable given his lack of historical success. The left-hander is a legitimate Cy Young candidate with a sub-2.00 ERA and only two home runs allowed in 87.1 innings. To Perez’s credit, there is some clear skill improvement here with a career-best 2.2 BB/9 along with a solid increase in grounders (53%). Still, Perez’s 2.6% HR/FB is almost a full 10% below his career norm. With more sinkers and better control, Perez is finally a solid middle of the rotation starter, but it’s clear he’s not as good as the ERA shows this season. He remains a plug-and-play with a two-start week ahead at KC and the Mets, but you shouldn’t take the ERA for granted.

-With Hyun-Jin Ryu out for the season, Ross Stripling is here to stay in the Blue Jays starting rotation. The dejuiced ball is really playing to his advantage this year after experiencing terrible home run issues over the last two seasons. Splitting time between the bullpen and starting rotation, Stripling has a 3.08 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, sporting a BB/9 below 2.0. Throwing more sliders and changeups, Stripling has quietly seen his groundball rate skyrocket (53%), which could be as much to blame for the home run rate improvement as the ball itself. We can’t expect Stripling to continue performing like an ace in the brutal AL East, but the elite control will play in any role. He’s back as a viable fantasy pitcher, especially if you need WHIP help.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, June 24, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

George Kirby: BAL, OAK

Robbie Ray: BAL, OAK

Kevin Gausman: BOS, TB

Sonny Gray: @CLE, BAL

Shane Baz: MIL, @TOR

Jordan Montgomery: OAK, @CLE

Martín Pérez: @KC, @NYM

Decent Plays

Luis Garcia: @NYM, LAA

Jameson Taillon: OAK, @CLE

Frankie Montas: @NYY, @SEA

Michael Wacha: @TOR, @CHC

Tyler Wells: @SEA, @MIN

Paul Blackburn: @NYY, @SEA

Triston McKenzie: MIN, NYY

Ross Stripling: BOS, TB

Devin Smeltzer: @CLE, BAL

Jonathan Heasley: TEX, @DET

At Your Own Risk

Lucas Giolito: @LAA, @SF

Zach Plesac: MIN, NYY

Dean Kremer: @SEA, @MIN

National League

Strong Plays

Zack Wheeler: ATL, STL

Charlie Morton: @PHI, @CIN

Pablo Lopez: @STL, @WAS

Decent Plays

Luis Castillo: @CHC, ATL

Clayton Kershaw: @COL, SD

Adam Wainwright: MIA, @PHI

Eric Lauer: @TB, @PIT

Keegan Thompson: CIN, BOS

José Quintana: @WAS, MIL

Tyler Anderson: @COL, SD

At Your Own Risk

Erick Fedde: PIT, MIA

Chad Kuhl: LAD, ARI

Jerad Eickhoff: @WAS, MIL

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 29: Chris Flexen vs. BAL

Flexen has started to right the ship after a slow start to his season, allowing three or fewer earned runs in five straight starts. Next week’s matchup vs. Baltimore looks like another great chance to keep his streak going, facing an O’s lineup with a .675 OPS vs. right-handers.

Wednesday, June 29: Dane Dunning @ KC

Dunning’s peripherals far exceed his second straight season of inconsistent performance. He’s struggled recently against some mediocre opponents, but another easy matchup is ahead vs. KC (.662 OPS vs. RHP) without Salvador Perez.

Friday, July 1: Brad Keller @ DET

Keller has predictably cooled off after his hot start, but he’s coming off a gem vs. Oakland. Detroit’s lineup has been similarly futile this season, with a .586 OPS against right-handers.

National League

Wednesday, June 29: Andre Pallante vs. MIA

Pallante has quietly been one of the premier groundball pitchers in MLB this season, with an elite 63% groundball rate helping him produce a sub-2.00 ERA so far. That’s likely to regress, especially with his poor strikeout rate (6.1 K/9), but he has another good matchup vs. Miami next week.

Friday, July 1: Adrian Houser @ PIT

Houser has been inconsistent lately, but his matchup couldn’t get much better at Pittsburgh next week. He’s yet to face the Pirates this season, who have a .652 OPS vs. right-handers.

Sunday, July 3: Anthony DeSclafani vs. CHW

DeSclafani’s first start back from an ankle injury wasn’t great, but the overall peripherals remain positive. He faces a White Sox lineup that’s banged up and has been surprisingly anemic against right-handed pitching, with a .657 OPS.

Total Games

American League

5: DET

6: BAL, BOS, CHW, HOU, KC, LAA, TEX

7: NYY, OAK, SEA, TB

8: CLE, MIN, TOR

National League

5: ARI, NYM, SF

6: ATL, CHC, CIN, COL, MIA, MIL, PHI, SD, STL, WAS

7: LAD, PIT

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.

Aaron Ashby: Placed on IL (forearm)

Mookie Betts: Placed on IL (forearm)

Byron Buxton: Day-to-day (knee)

Carlos Carrasco: Day-to-day (back)

Harold Castro: Day-to-day (calf)

Brandon Crawford: Day-to-day (knee)

Zach Eflin: Day-to-day (knee)

Adam Engel: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Ty France: Day-to-day (elbow)

Luis Gonzalez: Placed on IL (back)

Ke’Bryan Hayes: Day-to-day (shoulder)

Dany Jiménez: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Buddy Kennedy: Status uncertain (wrist)

Kevin Kiermaier: Placed on IL (hip)

Manny Machado: Day-to-day (ankle)

Manuel Margot: Out at least two months (knee)

Jeff McNeil: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Austin Meadows: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Tylor Megill: Shut down four weeks (shoulder)

Danny Mendick: Out for the season (knee)

Yadier Molina: Placed on IL (knee)

Yoan Moncada: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Tyler O’Neill: Placed on IL (hamstring)

David Peralta: Day-to-day (back)

Salvador Perez: Out indefinitely (thumb)

Luis Robert: Day-to-day (leg)

Tony Santillan: Placed on IL (back)

George Springer: Day-to-day (elbow)

Zach Thompson: Placed on IL (forearm)

Luke Voit: Day-to-day (hamstring)