Welcome to another MLB season, and another year of The Week Ahead! Like seasons past, we’ll be looking at the coming fantasy baseball week as we evaluate recent developments, two-start pitching options, streamer recommendations, MLB schedules, and injuries.
The sections in today’s Week Ahead will be briefer, if present at all, as MLB play starts on a Thursday this season, and most starting rotations aren’t set in stone yet. That said, there are still plenty of notes to discuss as another eventful spring training concludes.
Last year’s initial article discussed the potential importance of fastball velocity during spring training, and Zack Greinke’s reported decline in velocity led the way. As Houston Astros Director of Research and Development discovered during his days as a writer, spring training velocity changes can be clairvoyant.
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While Greinke did lose some velocity last season (1.2 mph), he still managed to have a very good year. With the addition of the humidor at Chase Field, the hope was that Greinke could take yet another step forward this season. However, the reports of Greinke’s velocity loss are even more drastic, and he’s also been nursing a groin injury recently.
This is certainly something to watch, and Greinke’s draft position has also lost steam in some drafts due to the negative press. Last year’s velocity loss and subsequent strong year shows that we shouldn’t overreact to this spring’s decline, and the price could be right for the former Cy Young winner. If it’s any indication, the experts in Tout Wars didn’t buy Greinke for much of a discount on Saturday, as he went for $18 in 15-team mixed and $24 in 12-team NL-only.
-Jeff Zimmerman (@jeffwzimmerman) has been compiling spring training pitcher fastball velocities, which is certainly a nice resource when combined with spring training performance. Keep in mind these are small sample sizes, but there are a few pitchers who jump out.
-Amir Garrett was clocked between 95-97 mph on February 25 after averaging less than 92 mph on his fastball last season. It’s no secret that the lefty was terrible in his rookie season for the Reds last year, but he also was nursing a hip injury that required a plasma injection. Garrett’s rookie season opened with only four runs allowed and 21/3 K/BB in 21.2 innings over his first three starts. This spring he’s allowed only two runs in 13 innings with 15/3 K/BB, all but solidifying his spot in the starting rotation. The performance isn’t out of nowhere for the former college basketball player at St. John’s who had a 2.55 ERA in 144.2 innings between Double- and Triple-A in 2016. I’ve taken a flier on Garrett in almost every league possible so far.
-It’s not surprising that Chad Bettis lost velocity last season after undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, but he looked rejuvenated when clocked during his start on March 2. Many fantasy owners are scared off by Rockies pitchers, and for good reason, but Bettis was a decent NL-only option in 2015-16 with a combined 22 wins, 4.57 ERA, and 1.41 WHIP over 52 starts. He could be a nice fill-in in that format again this year.
-Junior Guerra is quietly having a very good spring after a forgettable 2017 season. He has a 3.15 ERA in 20 innings with 16/5 K/BB, and we saw a big velocity uptick on March 20 of nearly three mph compared to last season. Guerra’s velocity declined last season, but he was a surprise performer in 2016 with a 2.81 ERA in 20 starts. Is Guerra back? He might be worth a flier to find out.
-Kyle Freeland has been throwing bullets this spring, showing significantly increased velocity in his three starts recorded by Brooksbaseball.net. The groundball lefty was a viable NL-only pitcher in his rookie season with a 4.10 ERA in 156 innings for the Rockies, but his strikeout rate hasn’t been worth a major investment. With additional velocity and 12 strikeouts in 12.2 innings this spring, maybe things are about to change.
Note: We’ll have “Going Twice…” and “Streamer City” sections here in the coming weeks, but those sections have been omitted this week without set MLB rotations for the opening week.
3: BAL, CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN, SEA
4: BOS, HOU, LAA, NYY, OAK, TB, TEX, TOR
3: ARI, ATL, CIN, COL, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, STL, WAS
4; CHC, LAD, MIA, SF
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 will start the year injured and/or on the DL.
Zach Britton: Hoping to return before midseason (Achilles)
Johan Camargo: Could return in mid-April (oblique)
Wei-Yin Chen: Out until at least late April (elbow)
Michael Conforto: Could return in mid-April (shoulder)
Jharel Cotton: Out for the season (elbow)
Anthony DeSclafani: Out indefinitely (oblique)
Jerad Eickhoff: Out until late April (shoulder)
Jacoby Ellsbury: Could return in mid-April (oblique)
Clint Frazier: Out indefinitely (concussion)
Ben Gamel: Out until late April (oblique)
Luis Gohara: Could return in May (ankle)
Yuli Gurriel: Could be out until mid-April (hand and suspension)
Shelby Miller: Could return by midseason (elbow)
Daniel Murphy: Could return in mid-April (knee)
Jimmy Nelson: Could return in June (shoulder)
Dustin Pedroia: Hoping to return in May (knee)
David Phelps: Out for the season (elbow)
Erasmo Ramirez: Out until mid-April (lat)
Alex Reyes: Could return by May 1 (elbow)
Eduardo Rodriguez: Should return by mid-April (knee)
Carlos Rodon: Could be out until June (shoulder)
Danny Salazar: Could return in May (shoulder)
Jeff Samardzija: Will start year on DL (pectoral)
Ervin Santana: Could return in May (finger)
Dominic Smith: Could return in mid-April (quad)
Steven Souza: Will miss start of season (pectoral)
Mark Trumbo: Could return in mid-April (quad)
Troy Tulowitzki: Out until late April (heel)
Justin Turner: Out until at least late April (wrist)
Jason Vargas: Status uncertain for start of season (hand)
Stephen Vogt: Out indefinitely (shoulder)