One of the pitchers I was most interested in coming into this 2015 season was Kansas City's Danny Duffy. The lefty has always flashed a lot of potential and was incredibly dominant in the minors, where he posted a 2.88 ERA and 10.5 K/9 rate, but his emergence in the majors has been slowed by injuries and control problems.
Last year he finally put in a full season at the big-league level, and it was an impressive one; in 149 1/3 innings, Duffy allowed only 113 hits (.209 BAA) and finished with a sterling 2.53 ERA.
Of course, his success was buoyed by an extremely low batting average on balls in play, and came attached to a heavily reduced strikeout rate, so plenty of folks were wondering just what to expect out of Duffy this year, especially with his importance magnified by the departure of James Shields from KC's rotation.
Duffy didn't get very good results in his first start of 2015, coughing up five runs over five innings, but he did notch five strikeouts with no walks. In the coming week he's slated to face a Twins team has been astoundingly inept with the bats in the early going, followed by the A's at home. This should be a good chance to plug him in and get a good look. He's unowned in almost 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
* One southpaw who's not available in quite so many leagues is Scott Kazmir, who is off to a brilliant start. Following a spring in which he posted a 1.00 ERA and allowed only 10 hits in 18 innings, Kazmir came out with a stellar regular-season debut against the Rangers, fanning 10 over seven shutout innings. He goes twice on the road next week but is well worth adding and playing in any league where he's available.
* When it comes to Michael Pineda, we don't have a ton to go on -- he's thrown only 76 innings in the majors since the Yankees acquired him from the Mariners in 2012 -- but I'm ready to designate him a must-start every time out. Pineda was fantastic when he was able to pitch last year, registering a 1.89 ERA over 13 starts, and he looked great in spring training before turning in a strong start to open his 2015 season. He's unowned in about 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues but that likely won't last long. Play him confidently even with two road starts in The Week Ahead.
* Daniel Norris is only 21, but he's got overpowering stuff and is one of our favorite sleeper candidates now that he's claimed a spot in the Toronto rotation. With home starts against the Rays and Braves lined up, I'm comfortable labeling him a Strong Play despite his lack of a big-league track record.
* Brandon McCarthy gave up four runs despite striking out nine over five innings in his first start. If he can keep missing bats -- continuing a trend from last year, when he set a career high -- he'll be staging himself for plenty of success. Maybe we see that play out this week with two starts at home.
* Probably best to avoid Mat Latos at this point.
Anibal Sanchez: @PIT, CWS
Michael Pineda: @BAL, @TB
Scott Kazmir: @HOU, @KC
R.A. Dickey: TB, ATL
Wei-Yin Chen: NYY, @BOS
Rick Porcello: WAS, BAL
Scott Feldman: OAK, LAA
Danny Duffy: @MIN, OAK
Matt Shoemaker: @TEX, @HOU
James Paxton: @LAD, TEX
Jake Odorizzi: @TOR, NYY
Daniel Norris: TB, ATL
At Your Own Risk
Ross Detwiler: LAA, @SEA
Matt Harvey: PHI, MIA
Adam Wainwright: MIL, CIN
Stephen Strasburg: @BOS, PHI
Jacob DeGrom: PHI, MIA
Jon Lester: CIN, SD
Andrew Cashner: ARI, @CHC
Gerrit Cole: DET, MIL
Aaron Harang: @NYM, @WAS
Matt Garza: @STL, @PIT
Brandon McCarthy: SEA, COL
Mike Leake: @CHC, @STL
Shelby Miller: MIA, @TOR
At Your Own Risk
David Buchanan: @NYM, @WAS
Eddie Butler: @SF, @LAD
Jeremy Hellickson: @SD, @SF
Rubby De La Rosa: @SD, @SF
Mat Latos: @ATL, @NYM
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Wednesday, April 15: Trevor Bauer vs. CWS
With his youth, pedigree and proven strikeout capabilities, Bauer is a nice sleeper this year and certainly has an appealing home match-up here.
Wednesday, April 15: Edinson Volquez @ MIN
He's likely in line for some regression after an outstanding 2014 campaign, but Volquez should be able to handle a Twins lineup that has stumbled out of the gates.
Friday, April 17: Nate Karns vs. NYY
Though he's an unproven wild-card, Karns averaged 10.3 K/9 in the minors so he's an intriguing play at home against a Yankees lineup that figures to swing and miss plenty.
Tuesday, April 14: Brett Anderson vs. SEA
There's no doubting the lefty's ability when healthy, and after a strong spring all systems appear to be go. Let's see how he fares at home against the M's.
Tuesday, April 14: Dan Haren @ ATL
Even with his overall performance declining over the past three years, Haren has still averaged four strikeouts for every walk. His proneness to the long ball should be minimized against a fairly weak Braves lineup.
Wednesday, April 15: Dillon Gee vs. MIA
Gee is coming off an excellent spring and is always a fine play in the right match-up. We like his odds at home against the Marlins.
5: CLE, CWS
6: BAL, BOS, DET, HOU, KC, LAA, MIN, OAK, NYY, SEA, TEX
7: TB, TOR
6: ATL, CIN, COL, LAD, MIL, PIT, SD, STL
7: ARI, MIA, NYM, PHI, SF, WAS
You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page but here's the latest on a few prominent players who have been out of action:
Justin Verlander: Out until mid-April (triceps)
Joe Nathan: Out until late April (elbow)
Domonic Brown: Out until late April (Achilles)
Matt Cain: Out indefinitely (arm)
John Jaso: Out until late April (wrist)
Jenrry Mejia: Out until late April (elbow)