Considering there has only been one full night of games since I penned the last Top 100, there was more movement than I had figured there would be. I’m not one to rest on my laurels, you see. What the hell does that phrase mean, anyway? Isn’t a laurel like a Christmas wreath? Maybe I’ve just seen Blazing Saddles too many times. Many phrases don’t make sense though, if you think about them. How did “cut the mustard” become a phrase, for example? Nobody has ever cut mustard in the history of time. Unless they’re snorting lines of mustard off of their coffee table, I guess. Even when I freeze my mustard, I put it in an ice cube tray so it’s already separated and I don’t have to cut it before melting it upon my wiener. Think ahead a little, people. Mmm. Um, anyway, there are some pitchers to discuss. Eduardo Rodriguez, a top 30 starter according to last week’s list, is gone for at least a month due to ligament damage in his ankle. Jeff Samardjiza went back on the DL as quickly as he came off it, and I really wish he would just stay healthy but be bland so I can stop writing his confounding name. Carlos Martinez continues to be a headache and is back on the DL again. I don’t rank injured starters, so even though it sounds like a brief DL stint, I’m leaving him off for this week. His last stint was supposed to be a lot shorter than it ended up being, too. Steven Strasburg finally returned to action, but got pounded for six runs in 4.2 innings. He’s probably just kicking off rust, but I eased him in to the back end of the top 20 just to be safe.
- Yefry Ramirez, BAL (SP87) – Don’t look now, but it’s an Orioles pitcher that might actually be worth our time in fantasy. He’s got a three pitch mix – fastball/slider/changeup – that is plenty enough to at least let him remain a starter in the near future. He’s only tossed 23.1 innings with the O’s, but hasn’t been blown up (3.09 ERA/3.63 FIP) and is netting over a strikeout per inning. The 14% swinging strike rate and 35.7% chase rate are incredibly encouraging, although bound to regress a bit over time. His control could be better (3.47 BB/9 w/ O’s, 2.75 at Triple-A), but he has also been adept at limiting hard contact (27%). He also appears to be a pop-up machine, which can help pitchers suppress BABIP. A fly ball pitcher in Camden isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered, but now that Chris Tillman has mercifully been DFA’d, Yefry (such a fun name) has a shot to carve out his own slot in this easily whittled rotation.
- Felix Pena, LAA (+7) – Guys like Jeremy Hellickson and Tyler Anderson were technically bigger movers this week, but I’ve discussed them here recently and I want to talk about someone new. Felix Pena has some pretty snazzy numbers on the year: 26.1 IP (5 GS, 2 relief appearances), 3.42 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 10.94 K/9, 3.08 BB/9. Despite his early success, Pena is looking a lot like this year’s JC Ramirez. He’s 94% fastball/curveball, with the rare show-me change sprinkled in on occasion. The slider is great though, with 26% whiffs and a .125 BAA. He hasn’t pitched deep into any games yet, with a couple of 5.1 IP starts being the deepest he’s gone. Between that and the lack of a deep repertoire, Pena is looking like fool’s gold to me in the long run. Perhaps in the short term he can find some element of success the way JC Ramirez did last year and you can play the matchups, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go with him right now.
- Nathan Eovaldi (+7) – While Eovaldi’s 4.26 ERA isn’t too enticing, he’s actually been a much different – and dare I say, better – pitcher than ever before. He’s scrapped any semblance he’s ever had of his curveball and changeup, instead opting for a new cutter and splitter combo that he’s using around 44% of the time. They’ve been solid despite not getting a ton of whiffs, but his fastball/slider makes up for them. The slider is getting 16% whiffs, which is fine, but the fastball is getting 13% whiffs! That’s more than double the average fastball, and way up from his previous years. He’s also getting pop-ups at double his career rate at 16.7%, which as I mentioned with Yefry Boy is a great way to cheat BABIP death. He’s been done in by the long ball so far, but I think he can pitch closer to his 3.49 SIERA moving forward with a good walk rate and decent K/9.
- Kyle Hendricks, CHC (-10) – Soft tossers like Keuchel and Hendricks have to live on the fringes of the strike zone with plus to double-plus command to thrive. We saw Keuchel struggle earlier this season in that regard, and now we’re seeing it with Hendricks. His 32% hard contact rate is a career worst, as is his 22.5% line drive rate. Neither are bad marks for most pitchers, but for someone like Hendricks who throws an 86 MPH fastball with a 78 MPH changeup as his only other real pitch, he needs to induce soft contact by the boatload. He actually put together two decent starts before his last dud, but I’m not buying a turnaround just yet. His strikeout rate is lower than ever this year (6.81 K/9), making a ceiling-versus-floor gamble with him less potentially fruitful than ever before. I am hereby deducting you one Hendrick, Kyle. You are now Kyle Hendrick, and don’t make me take away the other one too.
- Luke Weaver, STL (–) – Ok so technically he isn’t a faller since he wasn’t on the list last week, but I haven’t talked about him here so now seems like the right time. Weaver has been up and down from the minors recently, but with Carlos Martinez back on the shelf for the time being, he should remain with the team. He’s been a huge bummer overall this year, with a bloated 4.79 ERA over 20 starts. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and people kick the jukebox whenever “Dream Weaver” comes on. The worst part is that whenever I type “Luke” on my phone and the autocorrect is on, it turns it to “Like”, which is so wrong. I DON’T LIKE LUKE WEAVER, PHONE, STOP RUINING MY LIFE!! More like Dislike Weaver, amiright?! I was actually off Weaver coming into the year since he overperformed last season, but now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. His 8.24 K/9 is still decent enough to get his strand rate up from 69% and pitch closer to his 4.11 FIP moving forward, which is a number far more tolerable for mixed leagues. Hopefully the Cards give him the leash to get there.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
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