Starting Pitcher Barometer, Week 9: Stashin’ Time
Call up season has been insane so far…for the hitters. The pitching side has been largely bereft of impact from the minor leagues. One starting pitcher you might be able to nab in shallower leagues who isn’t a prospect is Andrew Heaney. He’s finally on the mend and struck out 10 batters across 4.1 scoreless frames in a rehab start at Triple-A. He can be an impact starter when he’s on the mound. Briefly, here are some other starters worth a stash.
- Zach Gallen, MIA – Video game numbers over his first 60.1 IP at Triple-A, 1.79 ERA, 11.04 K/9, 1.49 BB/9. His stuff isn’t as overpowering as those numbers suggest, but he should be a worthwhile streamer whenever the Marlins open up a spot in that rotation.
- Dylan Cease, CHW – Hasn’t been as dominant as some expected at Triple-A with a 3.71 ERA, 10.85 K/9, 2.91 BB/9 over 34 IP. He isn’t pitching deep into games and the command and changeup are a concern. High strikeout totals will help him maintain fantasy relevance if he runs into trouble for a few starts.
- Forrest Whitley, HOU – The easy No. 1 starting pitcher in the minors coming into the season has possibly been surpassed by Casey Mize. Whitley has been crushed over 22.1 IP at Triple-A with a disgusting 10.48 ERA and 4.84 BB/9. He’s still getting a ton of strikeouts (11.28 K/9) and most of these problems can probably be chalked up to the insane pitching conditions in the PCL. The major leagues will probably seem like a barrel of rainbows comparatively.
- Casey Mize, DET – Speaking of Mize, there have been rumblings that he could actually see Detroit this year. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick has been insane in the minors, even tossing a no-no in his first start at Double-A. He just turned 22 and has yet to pitch at Triple-A, and with the Tigers tanking, it really doesn’t make much sense to call him up. His ace upside is enough to make him stash-worthy, but I’d rather stash the aforementioned trio.
- Jesus Luzardo, OAK – Was set to make a big impact this season before he was derailed by a shoulder injury. He’s ramping up now and if everything goes swimmingly from here on out he could debut in July.
- Mitch Keller, PIT – The Pirates lack of desire to promote prospects and Keller’s own lack of control have conspired to keep him in Triple-A. His last two starts have been very good, so perhaps the Pirates will look the 23-year olds way sometime in June.
- A.J. Puk, OAK – This one is for deeper leagues. Puk hasn’t pitched professionally since 2017 due to Tommy John surgery but is recovering well. He has huge upside as a lefty with premium velocity and a deep repertoire and could debut at some point over the second half if he doesn’t hit any Brent Honeywell-like road bumps.
Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Tyler Mahle, CIN (+20) – I mentioned Mahle earlier this season since he had dropped his slider and changeup for a curveball and a splitter. The results back then had been enough to place him within the Top 100, but the 4.50 Mar/Apr ERA didn’t have me too excited. He’s put up a 2.31 ERA to this point in May, however, with a 2.99 FIP. A 10.80 K/9 and 1.54 BB/9 in May don’t hurt, either. He still isn’t missing a ton of bats, but his ability to command his pitches helps his stuff play up. He should be universally owned.
- Tanner Roark, CIN (+16) – What’s in the water in Cincinnati? Is it that wild, delicious chili? Because that would be gross. Chili good, water good, chili water bad. No, it’s probably more closely related to new pitching coach Derek Johnson. Roark’s ERA is a very acceptable 3.51 through his first 10 starts, and his 8.77 K/9 is the best of his career. His 4.03 BB/9 is also the worst of his career, but it hasn’t come back to bite him yet. His FIP is a mere 3.16 in fact, largely thanks to a .329 BABIP. He has more than doubled his slider usage this year, but it doesn’t miss many bats. In fact, his 8.2% swinging strike rate is actually lower than it was last year, indicating that his strikeout rate will decline. He also hasn’t given up a homer in May, which is not a trend that will continue all season. His 3.8% HR/FB rate will likely regress to his career 10.2% rate if not higher considering he pitches in one of the most homer-happy parks in all of the land. He’s still a middling streaming option to me. Someone send me some chili.
- Marco Gonzales, SEA (-15) – Marco tossed a ridiculous 45 innings between March and April, racking up five wins and five quality starts. Per usual, he wasn’t getting many strikeouts, but when you’re that consistent and effective, well, that’s all it takes to crack the top 50 this year. May has been crueler to him though, with a 4.56 ERA over 23.2 IP. When you’re only striking out 6.29 batters per nine, you had better provide great ratios. He should still be owned in most leagues, but the low strikeout ceiling caps his overall utility.
- Jon Gray, COL (-31) – No one consistently provides tantalizing K-BB rates while simultaneously posting 4.50+ ERA’s like ol’ Jonny Boy. It’s hard for me to crush a starting pitcher with such a high strikeout floor and so much upside, but 10 starts with a 4.62 ERA is just one too many kicks to the nads for this fantasy analyst. His hard contact, SIERA, and walk rate are all the worst of his career. He’s always capable of rattling off a few great starts in a row, but at this point, I don’t care if I miss them. The bad always overwhelms the good. I’ll see you again when you don’t pitch for the Rockies, Jon.
- Shaun Anderson, SF (SP92) – Largely penned as a reliever long-term, Anderson’s strikeout rate jumped over a K per inning this year at Triple-A for the first time in his career. He immediately gets a great home park to pitch in, but a horrible offense for providing wins. He’s been primarily fastball/slider in his first two starts, indicating a lack of trust in his other lesser pitches. Your best case scenario here is that he outpitches his peripherals and puts up a mediocre season in spite of all logic. Something not unlike what Dereck Rodriguez was able to do in 2018 on the same team, really. Take a stab in deeper leagues, but don’t set your expectations too high.
- Dakota Hudson, STL (SP98) – I’d like to talk myself into there being something here, but I can’t quite do it. Hailing from the northernmost Dakota, I am predisposed to root for a player named Dakota. Hudson has a 3.13 ERA in May with a 3.47 FIP that legitimizes the results to an extent. His walk rate has improved, but the strikeout ceiling is just so low that he won’t really be more than a streaming option in fantasy.
The Top 100 Starting Pitcher Rankings
Fell Off The List
Nathan Dokken is a member of the FSWA and has had his work featured in numerous books and magazines. He has also appeared on many podcasts and radio shows and hosts the Nasty Cast and Fantrax Dynasty Baseball podcasts. His written work can be found exclusively at Fantrax HQ, and his personal thoughts and opinions can be found on Twitter @NathanDokken. For more great analysis check out his full archive.
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