by Ray Kuhn
With most starting pitchers making it through the rotation for a fourth time at this point in the season we are beginning to get a baseline of what to expect. Yes the sample size is still small but we are finding a groove, and with any luck the weather will also improve. The same could be said for opposing lineups, and we now have a good idea of which teams to target. With all that in mind here is our options rank for this week:
- Gerrit Cole – Houston Astros – vs. LA Angels; vs. Oakland
- Carlos Carrasco – Cleveland Indians – at Baltimore; vs. Seattle
- Robbie Ray – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Philadelphia; at Washington
- Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – at NY Yankees; vs. Cincinnati
- Rick Porcello – Boston Red Sox – at Toronto; vs. Tampa Bay
- Gio Gonzalez – Washington Nationals – at San Francisco; vs. Arizona
- Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees – vs. Minnesota; at LA Angels
- J.A. Happ – Toronto Blue Jays – vs. Boston; vs. Texas
- Zach Davies – Milwaukee Brewers – at Kansas City; at Chicago Cubs
- Ian Kennedy – Kansas City Royals – vs. Milwaukee; vs. Chicago White Sox
- Steven Matz – NY Mets – at St. Louis; at San Diego
- Kenta Maeda – LA Dodgers – vs. Miami; at San Francisco
- Jake Odorizzi – Minnesota Twins – at NY Yankees; vs. Cincinnati
- Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Cleveland; vs. Detroit
- Vince Velasquez – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. San Diego; at Miami
- Jalin Garcia – Miami Marlins – at LA Dodgers; vs. Colorado
- Chris Stratton – San Francisco Giants – vs. Washington; vs. LA Dodgers
- Chad Bettis – Colorado Rockies – vs. San Diego; at Miami
- CC Sabathia – NY Yankees – vs. Minnesota; at LA Angels
- Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. NY Mets; at Philadelphia
- Brandon McCarthy – Atlanta Braves – at Cincinnati; at Philadelphia
- Tyler Skaggs – LA Angels – vs. Arizona; vs. Atlanta
- Tyler Chatwood – Chicago Cubs – at Cleveland; vs. Milwaukee
- Mike Leake – Seattle Mariners – at Chicago White Sox; at Clevleand
- Jake Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – at Baltimore; at Boston
- Ty Blach – San Francisco Giants – vs. Washington; vs. LA Dodgers
- Chad Kuhl – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. Detroit; vs. St. Louis
- Matt Moore – Texas Rangers – vs. Oakland; at Toronto
- Alex Cobb – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Tampa Bay; vs. Detroit
- Bryan Mitchell – San Diego Padres – at Colorado; vs. NY Mets
- Matt Wisler – Atlanta Braves – at Cincinnati; at Philadelphia
- Josh Tomlin – Cleveland Indians – vs. Chicago Cubs; vs. Seattle
- Tyler Mahle – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Atlanta; at Minnesota
- Marco Gonzales – Seattle Mariners – at Chicago White Sox; at Cleveland
- James Shields – Chicago White Sox – vs. Seattle; at Kansas City
- Jordan Zimmermann – Detroit Tigers – at Pittsburgh; at Baltimore
- Trevor Cahill – Oakland A’s – at Texas; at Houston
- Miguel Gonzalez – Chicago White Sox – vs. Seattle; at Kansas City
- Carson Fulmer – Chicago White Sox – vs. Seattle; at Kansas City
- Sal Romano – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Atlanta; at Minnesota
- Is it really possible for Gerrit Cole to be pitching any better to begin his career in Houston? The move to the Astros has certainly agreed with the right-hander and he is up to 41 strikeouts in 28 innings. Cole has pitched seven innings in each of his four starts in 2018, and even though he only has allowed a combined three earned runs (in two starts) just two of those outings have led to victories. A combined 21 hitters have reached base, 15 hits and six walks, and there is no reason not to expect the good times to continue. Thanks to solo home runs Cole’s strand rate is 100%, and while that along with his .231 BABIP is contributing to his 0.96 ERA, don’t expect Cole to regress too much. Fantasy owners would be perfectly happy to end the season with his 2.36 FIP, and as the Astros’ offense wakes up wins should be more plentiful. Cole’s slider usage (per Fangraphs) has increased from 17.2% to 23.7% and the same can be said for his curve ball; 12.2% to 16.6%. These changes are helping him grow into his potential as an ace.
- After making everyone doubt his Cy Young credentials last season, Rick Porcello is bouncing back in a big way. He has emerged victorious in each of his four starts and the most he has given up in a game is three runs against Tampa Bay. In fact, Porcello has a combined 13 innings of shutout ball under his belt in his last two starts and has a 1.40 so far this season. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that he has walked just one batter. After generating a 39.2% ground ball rate in 2017 Porcello has gotten it up to 49.3% so far this season. The right-hander has a FIP of 1.70, and while his xFIP jumps to 3.30 it is still substantially better than last year’s ERA of 4.65 (with a 4.60 FIP). After throwing his slider 16.7% of the time last season (per Fangraphs), he has increased his usage to 23.5% this season while also decreasing his curve ball usage (15.5% to 6.5%) and relying more on his change-up (15.4% of the time). While I’m not looking for another Cy Young season, I’m willing buy into his early season success.
- Kevin Gausman didn’t exactly get off to a strong start to the season, but he has looked a lot better as of late. The right-hander gave up six runs to the Twins in his first start, but since then has allowed a combined seven runs in 17 innings of work. That has led a 5.57 ERA, but if take away that first start his ERA is a lot more respectable; 3.71 with four walks and 14 strikeouts. The right-hander has given up 27 hits, including nine in his last start, so it hasn’t exactly been easy sailing but I wouldn’t give up on Gausman just yet. As far as opponents go this week is a mixed bag as he faces the Indians followed by a reeling Tigers team. His .328 BABIP suggests that some positive regression is coming as does Gausman’s 4.14 xFIP. However, it would be nice if we saw his 37.7% ground ball rate increase.
- Can we trust Vincent Velasquez? We have always known that the right-hander is talented and has potential, but between inconsistency and health issues he has yet to fully put it together. So far this season he has made each of his starts without incident, and my biggest takeaway is the fact that Velasquez has just five walks. In his four starts he has yet to pitch deep into the game, but after struggling in his first start things have looked a lot better. He allowed seven runs, four earned, on nine hits in 2.2 innings against the Braves, but since then he has gone at least six innings while allowing five runs in total. Overall Velasquez has 24 strikeouts in 21.1 innings, and the one thing to keep an eye on is his 10.1 hits per nine innings. However, that should improve based on his .371 BABIP and 61.6% strand rate. While cautious, I’m moving forward with the right-hander.
- Going into the season, there was some buzz surrounding Chris Stratton, and at to this point he is living up to that hype. Stratton has allowed a total of six runs over his four starts, and in each of his last outings the right-hander has thrown seven innings while allowing a combined six hits and three walks. He has reduced his walks, just 2.59 per nine innings, but he has benefited from a .231 BABIP. I would like to see a pitcher who strikes out just seven batters per nine innings put the ball on the ground more, 32.8%, though a 2.57 FIP does provide some optimism. At the same time, you should keep an eye on his 4.13 xFIP. In most weeks Stratton should be in your starting lineup, and even though he is facing the Nationals and Diamondbacks it should be no different.
- Last season had it’s rough patches for Matt Wisler, but it’s hard to argue with how he started off his 2018 campaign. Facing the Mets he allowed just one run on two hits while not walking a batter and striking out eight. It is a far cry from the 8.35 ERA he put up last season, with a career mark of 5.25 as the right-hander has yet to find success at the major league level. Wisler is available in just about all leagues (8% ownership in CBS), but there is still too much risk involved for me. While he has had some minor league success, one start is not enough.
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