Fantasy baseball — Attractive pitching candidates to target this week

Fantasy baseball — Attractive pitching candidates to target this week post thumbnail image

Sixteen games, or roughly 20%, of the Baltimore Orioles‘ home schedule is in the books, and early returns indicate that the park dimension adjustments made during the winter have dramatically impacted how Camden Yards has played.

While the team had hoped pushing the left field fence back to 384 feet and left-center field fence to 400 feet would make Camden Yards a more neutral environment, the venue has played like an extreme pitchers’ park thus far. The stats confirm this, as Camden Yards has the lowest home-run rate (1.4% of all trips to the plate), second-lowest average runs per game (6.81) and lowest isolated power (.104) in baseball. As the deeper outfield fences were all installed in left and left-center fields, it’s also worth noting that right-handed hitters have a second-lowest home run rate at 1.5%, just behind the 1.6% at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, a few things to bear in mind: Park factors often vacillate year over year, and they should never be sternly judged off a fraction of a single season. Additionally, the above statistics aren’t, in fact, park factors, which rather compare a team and its opponents’ production at its home venue to the teams’ performance in road games. It’s merely a quick glance, but even taken in a casual sense, it appears that something different is afoot at Camden Yards in 2022.

That’s why two of Week 6’s most attractive two-start pitching candidates are starters scheduled to take at least one turn at Camden Yards. Yusei Kikuchi (56.9% available in ESPN leagues) of the Toronto Blue Jays is the first. He is well worth a pickup in his own right, but the one profiled below plays for the team that has one of the very best all-around weekly schedules, in part because of a three-game weekend series at Baltimore.


Corey Kluber, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: Kluber was absolutely hammered in his most recent start, serving up eight runs on 11 hits (two home runs) in three innings of work on the road against the Los Angeles Angels this past Tuesday. Nevertheless, Kluber has considerable bounce-back potential in a two-start week, including a home assignment Monday against the Detroit Tigers and Sunday turn at Camden Yards. While his velocity is nowhere near what it was during his four-year span of excellence with AL Cy Young Awards in 2014 and 2017, he has cobbled together a decent four-pitch mix heavy on offspeed stuff, and both his walk (4.8%) and zone rates (47.6%) are his best since 2018, when he finished second in the Cy Young voting. Kluber is now the quintessential matchups-play, hot-streak type, and games against the majors’ two lowest-scoring teams — 30th (2.36 runs per game) and 22nd (3.31) — represent the kind of schedule you must exploit. In fact, it’s exactly the schedule you want from a matchups-based team, one that reins in starters’ pitch counts and is willing to throw anyone out there in the ninth inning with a lead. So this is a perfect week to activate Kluber, lead in the closer-by-committee Andrew Kittredge, and even limited-pitch-count types like Ryan Yarbrough and Jeffrey Springs, each scheduled to start in Baltimore.


It’s not too late to start another free fantasy baseball league. Leagues drafted this week will start scoring fresh the following Monday.


Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies: Rodgers has picked up the pace in a big way this month after a miserable start to the season while battling mild back issues. He delivered multiple hits in each of his three weekend games against the Kansas City Royals, giving him seven multi-hit performances in 11 May contests. He has a .370 batting average, two home runs and 13 RBIs this month and that hot spell has earned Rodgers looks out of the No. 5 spot in the lineup. This bodes well for a six-game week scheduled entirely at Coors Field. While Rodgers hasn’t capitalized upon Coors’ hitting-friendly environment — his career wOBA actually higher on the road (.309) than at home (.305) — he has bumped his average exit velocity to 93.1 mph this month, well above his 88.5 mph career rate. That will play well at Coors, and it’s a big plus for Rodgers and the Rockies’ games against the San Francisco Giants‘ and New York Mets‘ rotations without Carlos Rodon and Max Scherzer.

Alek Thomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Eight-game weeks provide a substantial advantage for hitters, even when four of those games come on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lead MLB in ERA (2.74). That is especially true for a left-handed hitter like Thomas, who often bats low in the lineup. Though Thomas’ early-career returns hints he might move up in the order soon, he has batted .368 (7-for-19) with one home run through his first seven games with the Diamondbacks, flashing similar contact ability to that of his minor-league career.

Statcast grades him in the 94th percentile in sprint speed, meaning he might well chip in some stolen bases and sneak in a few extra runs scored. The Diamondbacks are likely to face five right-handed starters in eight Week 6 games. Thomas started two of the team’s past three games against a left-handed starter, largely because of the ground he can cover in center field.


Week 6 notes:

  • As mentioned in the Forecaster, Yuli Gurriel and the Houston Astros have a favorable all-around schedule. Gurriel is coming off a standout game 2019 World Series rematch against the Washington Nationals this past weekend. He chipped in multiple hits in each of the three games while going 8-for-12 (.667 BA) with two home runs and one stolen base. Each of the Astros’ top seven regular hitters, included Gurriel, needs be locked into all fantasy lineups this week.

  • Despite two impressive no-hitter performances, adding Reid Detmers and Hunter Greene in mixed leagues for Week 6 is a clear “no.” Detmers has the better matchup of the two, a road assignment against a thinner Texas Rangers lineup, while Greene’s faces a loaded, albeit struggling Toronto Blue Jays lineup on the road. Detmers had six days’ rest, but he has proven far more effective on four or five days’ rest (2.82 ERA in four starts) than on six-plus (7.06). Greene, meanwhile, capitalized upon a great matchup, tossing 7 1/3 hitless frames at the Pittsburgh Pirates. But that outing also outlined the ceiling presented by his combination of tough-to-hit raw stuff but inconsistent command. He’s too homer-prone for my liking facing the Blue Jays, but if I’m pressed to choose between the two, give me Detmers (6.4 point projection) over Greene (5.3 points) to come closer to a repeat performance.

  • Jesus Luzardo‘s left forearm strain opens up a spot in the Miami Marlins‘ rotation. Miami’s strategy is extremely fantasy-relevant, with both Edward Cabrera and Max Meyer among candidates for a promotion in the near future. Meyer is the one on turn to pitch Tuesday’s game, having started for Triple-A Jacksonville this past Thursday, while Cabrera wouldn’t be on four days’ rest until this coming Thursday. The Marlins might, however, use Cody Poteet and lean on the bullpen, knowing that a pair of upcoming off days could buy them some time to make a longer-term decision on either prospect (and perhaps Luzardo’s status). Regardless, with the chance that Meyer might make his big-league debut with a home assignment at pitching-friendly LoanDepot Park against the Washington Nationals, he’s well worth the speculative pickup.



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