The Phillies shook up their starting rotation by sending struggling right-hander Nick Pivetta to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and replacing him with veteran Jerad Eickhoff on Wednesday. The 26-year-old appeared to be squarely on the precipice of evolving into a true upper-echelon fantasy starter, despite massively underperforming his peripherals last season. He was an extremely popular breakout pick in fantasy circles this offseason, but after posting a dismal 8.35 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, and 16/8 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 innings (four starts), it’s fair to wonder if he’s even worthy of a rotation spot in Philadelphia moving forward.
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Given his prodigious talent and encouraging past results, fantasy owners obviously shouldn’t write off Pivetta completely. There’s still plenty of reason to be encouraged long-term, but there are no guarantees that he ever puts it together. Simply put, we’ve been down this road before with a few notable fantasy starters that have boasted a tantalizing blend of quality stuff, prodigious strikeout rates and sublime underlying metrics. The most prominent example of this phenomenon from the last decade-plus was early-career Ricky Nolasco. Over a four year period (2008-2011), Nolasco posted a bloated 4.41 ERA over 761 innings, yet his FIP (3.62) was nearly a full run lower, during that span. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Deserved Run Average (DRA) metric, the gap becomes even larger. Here are his four seasons by DRA during that period: 3.22, 2.96, 3.30 and 3.70. How is that even possible? Full disclosure: I owned Nolasco for all of those seasons. He’s my ultimate fantasy kryptonite. It still hurts to talk about it.
Nolasco, for a myriad of reasons, never really put it together and became a fantasy ace. Trust me, I lived through that experience. If Pivetta isn’t a carbon copy, he’s certainly the spiritual successor to Nolasco. Let’s go back to the well with DRA to further illustrate the bizarre similarity between them. Per BP’s data, Pivetta had the largest differential (1.37 runs) between his actual ERA (4.77) and DRA (3.40) out of 108 starting pitchers with at least 125 innings of work. No matter how you parse the data, Pivetta is a bit of an albatross. Right now, he’s at a crossroads. Either he’s going to re-invent himself at the minor-league level or he’s destined to gradually fade into obscurity.
The fantasy fallout from the Phillies decision is rather straightforward, especially in re-draft formats. He can be safely dropped in shallow mixed leagues (12-teams or fewer) and is only worthy of a speculative stash in deeper formats (15-teams or more) where his potential upside trumps the low-ceiling contributions of a cromulent veteran in the mold of Rick Porcello, Jhoulys Chacin, Wade Miley, Lance Lynn or Mike Leake. If you’re in the rebuilding phase of a contention cycle in long-term keeper or dynasty formats, he’s a worthy investment simply because his fantasy stock will never be lower. There’s still immense strikeout potential here and this is a buy-low opportunity. If Pivetta can tweak his arsenal to avoid hard contact, there’s still a glimmer of hope that he can be an elite fantasy starter.
Vizcaino Shelved For Season
The Braves struggling bullpen was dealt a major blow on Wednesday when veteran closer Arodys Vizcaino underwent season-ending surgery on his right elbow to repair labrum and remove scar tissue on Wednesday. The oft-injured 28-year-old righty was placed on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation last weekend, but clearly, there was more to it than just that. He’s staring at a lengthy recovery period from the shoulder procedure, and it’s critical to remember that the success rate historically with pitchers coming back from this type of operation isn't the same as Tommy John or similar procedures. Embattled lefty A.J. Minter, who fired a scoreless inning against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, will likely serve as the Braves’ closer for the remainder of the season. Obviously, Atlanta remains a prime landing spot for free agent closer Craig Kimbrel, but they’re likely going to have to meet (or at least come close to) his lofty asking price. Stay tuned.
AL Quick Hits: Francisco Lindor (ankle, calf) will rejoin the Indians on Friday, and could be activated of the 10-day injured list after being evaluated. … USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that the Mets and Phillies are both showing “strong interest” in Rangers starter Mike Minor. … Matt Moore underwent season-ending surgery on Wednesday to repair the meniscus tear in his right knee. … Gary Sanchez (calf) ran on the field Wednesday and appears on track to return from the 10-day injured list when eligible on Sunday. … Giancarlo Stanton (biceps) was able to hit off a machine on Wednesday. … Blake Snell (toe) was able to play catch on Wednesday. … Andrew Benintendi (foot) remained out of the Red Sox lineup again on Wednesday, but is expected to return after missing three consecutive games on Friday. … Mitch Haniger was scratched from the Mariners' lineup Wednesday versus the Indians due to an illness. Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters on Wednesday that Yusei Kikuchi will make one of his first short starts of the season shortly after Saturday's contest with the Angels. … Yoan Moncada had test results come back negative for a possible concussion after being hit in the head by a throw while attempting a stolen base on Wednesday. … Brad Keller and Tim Anderson were both ejected after a benches-clearing incident during Wednesday's game between the White Sox and Royals. … Hunter Dozier swatted a go-ahead homer in the 10th inning to lift the Royals to a win in that contest. … Brett Gardner launched a go-ahead grand slam in the seventh inning to propel the Yankees to a comeback win over the Red Sox. … Aroldis Chapman worked a clean ninth inning to notch his third save. … J.D. Martinez walloped his fourth homer of the season in the loss. … Carlos Carrasco fanned 12 over seven scoreless frames in the Indians’ win over the Mariners … Erik Swanson whiffed five batters over six innings of one-run ball against the Indians in his first major-league start. … Yonny Chirinos struck out five batters over five scoreless frames to pick up his third win of the season in the Rays’ blowout victory over the Orioles. … Brandon Lowe went 2-for-3 with a three-run homer in that one. … Blake Parker picked up his fourth save in the Twins’ win over the Blue Jays … Shin-Soo Choo went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI to lead the Rangers to a victory over the Angels. … Jose Leclerc gave up a run in the ninth inning, but held on to pick up his sixth save of the season in that one. … Dustin Pedroia will stay in New York and visit with a doctor on Thursday after leaving Wednesday's loss to the Yankees with discomfort in his left knee. … Lucas Giolito exited his start Wednesday against the Royals due to left hamstring tightness. … Asdrubal Cabrera (fingers) was taken out for precautionary reasons after jamming his fingers against the Angels on Wednesday. … Athletics placed Marco Estrada on the 10-day injured list with a lumbar strain. … Joey Wendle (hamstring) played five innings in an extended spring training game on Wednesday. He’s expected to play there again on Thursday and could return to the Rays’ lineup this weekend. … Danny Duffy (shoulder) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment Saturday with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. … Tyler Skaggs (ankle) is playing long-toss in the outfield on Wednesday. … Brad Miller has elected to become a free agent after being designated for assignment by the Indians on Sunday and passed through waivers unclaimed. … White Sox optioned OF Daniel Palka to Triple-A Charlotte.
NL Quick Hits: Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters on Wednesday that there's still no definitive timetable as to when Trea Turner (finger) return to the lineup. The 25-year-old shortstop has been out since the beginning of April with a non-displaced fracture of his right index finger. … Jacob deGrom has been diagnosed with strep and will start against the Cardinals on Saturday instead of Friday … Cody Bellinger (knee) went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in his return to the Dodgers' starting lineup against the Reds on Wednesday. … His teammate Justin Turner (ankle, hamstring) remained out of the Dodgers' lineup. … Rhys Hoskins (ankle) returned to the Phillies' starting lineup Wednesday … Jean Segura (hamstring) is expected to avoid the injured list. … David Dahl and Ryan McMahon are expected to be activated off the injured list for the Rockies on Thursday. … Brewers manager Craig Counsell told reporters on Wednesday that the team would have a “long discussion” about keeping righty Corbin Burnes in the rotation after he was lit up for five runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings against the Cardinals. … Marcell Ozuna launched his eighth homer of the season in the Cardinals’ victory. … Jake Arrieta struck out three batters over eight innings and Hector Neris recorded a two-out save for the Phillies in their win over the Mets. … Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez went deep in that contest. … Michael Conforto slugged his fifth homer of the year in the loss. … A.J. Pollock belted a three-run homer to lead the Dodgers to a win over the Reds. … Walker Buehler recorded eight strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings and Kenley Jansen picked up his fifth save in that one. … Sonny Gray struck out a season-high nine batters over six frames in the loss. … Javier Baez clobbered his sixth homer of the season in the Cubs’ shutout win over the Marlins. … Cole Hamels scattered three hits over seven scoreless frames in the win. … Sandy Alcantara surrendered five runs on seven hits and whiffed seven batters over six innings in the loss. … Felipe Vazquez recorded his fifth save in the Pirates’ extra-inning win over the Twins. … Kevin Gausman posted 10 strikeouts over seven innings in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks. … Juan Soto went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Nationals’ win over the Giants. … Gerardo Parra went 1-for-3 with a home run and a stolen base in the loss. … Rich Hill (knee) struck out eight hitters over four innings in a rehab start for Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday … Braves activated C Brian McCann from the 10-day injured list. … Mike Soroka is expected to start for the Braves on Thursday afternoon against the Diamondbacks and Touki Toussaint will be bumped back to start the series opener against the Indians on Friday. … Odubel Herrera was removed from Wednesday's game against the Mets with an apparent leg injury. … Cardinals placed Harrison Bader on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 14, with a right hamstring strain. … Jed Lowrie (knee) is headed to the Mets' spring training complex in Florida and will begin taking live batting practice. … Lonnie Chisenhall (hand) could begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis this weekend. … Mike Montgomery (shoulder) is starting on Wednesday for Low-A South Bend in a rehab assignment. … Carl Edwards Jr. was placed on the seven-day injured list after scraping his right hand at Triple-A Iowa.