Never give up on talent. Twins starting pitcher Martin Perez is the most recent example.
The lefty was Baseball America’s 17th ranked prospect entering the 2010 season, but his early career didn’t turn out like many expected. He did have a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts with the Rangers in 2013, though Perez departed Texas with a 4.63 ERA and 1.48 WHIP over seven injury-plagued seasons.
After last season’s results (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP in 85.1 innings), it was a surprise that he even garnered a major league contract this offseason. The Twins apparently saw something in Perez’s profile that was fixable. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson helped adjust Perez’s mechanics this spring, and the early-season results are promising.
Perez’s fastball velocity is up a full two mph from where it was last year, averaging 94.7 mph, and he’s also working in a cutter at the expense of the sinker he became known for prior to this season. While Perez’s groundball rate has crashed, down more than 10 percent from last season, the tradeoff has been a career-high 7.9 K/9. Over his four starts, Perez has a 2.08 ERA and 18/5 K/BB in 26 innings after struggling as a reliever to open the year.
Whether the adjustments are enough to make him playable over the long term for fantasy owners remains to be seen. We’re still dealing with a very small sample size of innings, and his control between starting and relief has been on par with the last few years (3.7 BB/9), which is by no means a compliment. Still, the improvement from what was one of baseball’s worst pitchers last year is undeniable, and he’s worthwhile as a matchup play, like his upcoming two-start week against Toronto and Detroit.
-While there weren’t many warning signs of Perez’s breakout before spring training, the same can’t be said for Marlins starter Caleb Smith. Smith had an impressive 10.2 K/9 and sub-4.00 FIP before a lat injury ended his 2018 season. He’s been even better early this year, pitching like a true ace with 45/9 K/BB in 36 innings with a 2.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Acquired from the Yankees in an under-the-radar trade before last season, Smith showed warning signs that he could succeed in the majors (3.19 ERA, 2.61 K/BB for his minor league career), but what we’ve seen with the Marlins is off the charts. An extreme flyball pitcher, Smith benefitted from the pitcher-friendly confines of Marlins Park last season (3.13/5.18 home/road ERA), and that’s something to be mindful of as he goes on the road for two starts next week. Still, at this point Smith’s success and peripherals put him in the must-start category.
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-A weird schedule quirk has the Reds and Giants playing a four-game series beginning this weekend in Cincinnati, followed by a three-game series in San Francisco next weekend. That means good things for Reds pitchers with the way San Francisco has hit this year. Anthony DeSclafani is a beneficiary of a two-start week, facing the Giants in both outings, with the first start on Monday. He happens to also be on a roll, allowing just one run in his last three starts with 20/5 K/BB in 17.2 innings against formidable opponents San Diego, St. Louis, and the Mets on the road. Home runs are usually the big concern for DeSclafani, but the Giants have a .632 OPS vs. right-handers this season (second worst) and have hit only 24 home runs in 31 games.
-Has Felix Hernandez remade himself at age 33? The former ace has been almost a non-factor for fantasy owners over the last two seasons, but he currently has an AL-best 7.25 K/BB ratio and 1.1 BB/9, resulting in a 4.31 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. King Felix’s fastball has still been sub-90 mph, but he’s clearly commanding it better and also throwing his curveball more often (34 percent) at the expense of his acclaimed changeup. The long ball remains an issue for Hernandez, particularly against the better opponents he’s faced this season, but the control shows reason to be optimistic he can be a streaming option going forward.
-It didn’t happen until the first full week of May, but finally we have our first full week of games at Coors Field this season. The Rox host San Francisco and San Diego for a total of six games next week, so part-time players like Raimel Tapia, Garrett Hampson, and Mark Reynolds will potentially be more viable plays in weekly leagues.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, May 3, and are subject to change.
At Your Own Risk
Jacob deGrom: @SD, MIA
Max Scherzer: @MIL, @LAD
Cole Hamels: MIA, MIL
Stephen Strasburg: @MIL, @LAD
Jon Lester: MIA, MIL
Max Fried: @LAD, @ARI
Hyun-Jin Ryu: ATL, WAS
Anthony DeSclafani: SF, @SF
Caleb Smith: @CHC, @NYM
Walker Buehler: ATL, WAS
Chris Archer: TEX, @STL
Miles Mikolas: PHI, PIT
Madison Bumgarner: @COL, CIN
Mike Foltynewicz: @LAD, @ARI
Tyler Mahle: @OAK, @SF
Drew Pomeranz: @CIN, CIN
Vince Velasquez: @STL, @KC
Merrill Kelly: @TB, ATL
At Your Own Risk
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, May 9: Manny Banuelos @ CLE
Banuelos is here to stay with the White Sox rotation facing more injuries. While I don’t trust the former top Yankees prospect long-term due to his poor control, Cleveland is an extremely favorable matchup with an AL-worst .615 OPS vs. lefties.
Friday, May 10: Trevor Cahill @ BAL
It’s still early, and I’m not ready to totally give up on Cahill despite his 5.93 ERA in six starts given his still strong 2.50 K/BB ratio. Baltimore isn’t the best park to get his long ball issues in check, but the O’s still rank only 21st in MLB with a .711 OPS vs. right-handers.
Saturday, May 11: Jefry Rodriguez @ OAK
It comes as a bit of a surprise, but the A’s have been terrible against right-handed pitching this season with a .671 OPS. Rodriguez is going to have a rotation spot for a while following Corey Kluber’s injury and is a potential matchup play if he’s throwing strikes, as he’s done in his first two starts this season.
Friday, May 10: Adam Wainwright vs. PIT
Wainwright’s components don’t support his current 3.73 ERA, including a career-worst 1.4 HR/9. Still, his good matchup next week against the Pirates (.691 OPS vs. right-handers) is worthy of a look.
Friday, May 10: Jeff Samardzija vs. CIN
Continued diminished velocity and strikeout numbers from Samardzija show a potential ticking time bomb, but he has a very formable second straight matchup against the Reds on Friday. Cincy still has just a .634 OPS against right-handers.
Saturday, May 11: Jason Vargas vs. MIA
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We’ll find out when Vargas (5.75 ERA, 1.72 WHIP) faces the Marlins next weekend. The lefty allowed only two runs in five innings at Miami in his first start of the year, and gets a rematch next week. The Marlins predictably have a .609 OPS vs. lefties, third worst in MLB. This isn’t a great risk if you have a lot to lose, but Vargas has allowed only one earned run in each of his last three starts.
6: BAL, BOS, KC, LAA, OAK, TB, TEX, TOR
7: CLE, CHW, DET, HOU, MIN, NYY, SEA
6: COL, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD
7: ARI, ATL, CHC, CIN, LAD, MIA, SF, STL, WAS
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Cody Allen: Placed on IL (back)
Chris Archer: Could return Tuesday (thumb)
Willians Astudillo: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Chase Anderson: Placed on IL (finger)
Mark Canha: Placed on IL (wrist)
Francisco Cervelli: Day-to-day (wrist)
Alex Cobb: Placed on IL (back)
Jeurys Familia: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Dexter Fowler: Day-to-day (flu)
David Freese: Day-to-day (ankle)
Josh Harrison: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Derek Holland: Placed on IL (finger)
Corey Kluber: Out indefinitely (arm)
DJ LeMahieu: Day-to-day (knee)
A.J. Pollock: Out indefinitely (elbow)
Anthony Rendon: Placed on IL (elbow)
Carlos Rodon: Out indefinitely (elbow)
Juan Soto: Day-to-day (back)
Fernando Tatis Jr.: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Neil Walker: Day-to-day (knee)
Christian Yelich: Could return this weekend (back)
Ryan Zimmerman: Placed on IL (foot)