Last week we looked starting pitcher velocity changes and possible future implications. While this article typically looks more at starters and their impact for the coming week, looking at velocity gain and loss is also a worthwhile exercise for relievers.
Now more than ever, relief pitchers have value in fantasy baseball. Consider last year only 15 starters reached 200 innings, while 28 relievers had at least 70 innings. With teams starting to experience with six-man rotations (Angels and Texas), pull their starting pitchers before they face the opposing team’s batting order for the third time (Philadelphia), or go to bullpen starts two out of every five days (Tampa Bay), the number of starting pitcher workhorses could continue to decrease.
At the same time, 47 of the top 250 players in fantasy baseball last year were relief pitchers, including plenty of non-closers. Simply put, relief pitchers can help you regardless of their role.
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2018 RP Velocity Increases
|Name||2018 Vel||2017 Vel||Vel Increase|
-You’ll notice three closers in the top 10 increases. Edwin Diaz still hasn’t allowed a hit or walk in five innings (though he has hit two batters), and Roberto Osuna also has a 0.00 ERA. Meanwhile, Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino has been wild (six walks in 5.2 innings). A.J. Minter was a popular investment this spring given Vizcaino’s history of injuries and erratic control. It’s too early to panic, but Vizcaino’s velocity increase is relatively minimal, so the lack of control would seem to far outweigh that positive sign.
-Could Oliver Drake be the next man up for saves in Milwaukee? Matt Albers seems to be the guy at the moment given Jacob Barnes’ struggles, but the big right-hander hasn’t exactly been lights out in his save chances, either. Drake has struggled with his control again this season but has a career 10.0 K/9.
-After struggles with his effectiveness and velocity last season, it’s good to see John Axford’s fastball bounce back so far. The former closer could emerge as the next man up in Toronto if something happens to Osuna.
-Jose Alvarez has quietly posted a 3.65 ERA over the last three seasons for the Angels and is off to a very nice start. The Angels also had some unrest at closer early on, though it doesn’t seem like Alvarez is in that conversation yet.
2018 Velocity Decreases from Fantasy-Relevant RPs
|Name||2018 Vel||2017 Vel||Vel Decrease|
|Seung Hwan Oh||90.9||92.9||-2.0|
Note that a few relievers without past fantasy relevance were omitted from the velocity decrease table above.
-Craig Kimbrel’s velocity loss hasn’t really been publicized because he still hasn’t allowed a run, but his current average velocity is his worst since his rookie season. It seems like he can still get by on 96 mph just fine, but the control he found last season (1.8 BB/9) hasn’t been there early this year. Apparently, that’s for good reason.
-On the other hand, there has been a buzz about the loss of velocity from fellow elite closer Kenley Jansen. He’s insisted the issues are mechanical and now has three consecutive scoreless appearances, but the velocity hasn’t completely rebounded yet.
-Tommy Kahnle saw a sharp velocity increase last year, but it’s gone the opposite direction this year. It’s no wonder he’s struggled so much early in the year and thrown his fastball only 45 percent of the time, in favor of his changeup. It’s reasonable to wonder if he’s hiding an injury.
-Sam Dyson failed to earn the closer job in Mark Melancon’s stead after a terrible spring, and that’s carried over to the regular season. Not only is Dyson far away from claiming the closer role from Hunter Strickland, but he’s probably closer to a DL stint or DFA with four earned runs allowed in 4.1 innings.
-Alex Claudio didn’t carry the closer job over to this year after finishing with 11 saves last season, and he’s been very hittable early on (11 hits in 7.1 innings). If you drafted Claudio hoping for some saves, he’s safe to drop at this point.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 13, and are subject to change.
Masahiro Tanaka: MIA, TOR
Dallas Keuchel: @SEA, @CHW
James Paxton: HOU, @TEX
Sonny Gray: MIA, TOR
Lance McCullers: @SEA, @CHW
Blake Snell: TEX, MIN
David Price: @LAA, @OAK
Danny Duffy: @TOR, @DET
Aaron Sanchez: KC, @NYY
Kevin Gausman: @DET, CLE
Marco Estrada: KC, @NYY
Ian Kennedy: @TOR, @DET
Kyle Gibson: CLE, @TB
Andrew Cashner: @BOS, CLE
Yonny Chirinos: TEX, MIN
At Your Own Risk
Daniel Mengden: CHW, BOS
Martin Perez: @TB, SEA
Jordan Zimmermann: BAL, KC
James Shields: @OAK, HOU
Patrick Corbin: SF, SD
Jacob deGrom: WAS, @ATL
Aaron Nola: @ATL, PIT
Luis Castillo: @MIL, @STL
Mike Foltynewicz: PHI, NYM
Brent Suter: CIN, MIA
Nick Pivetta: @ATL, PIT
German Marquez: @PIT, CHC
Brandon McCarthy: PHI, NYM
Hyun-Jin Ryu: @SD, WAS
Jon Lester: STL, @COL
At Your Own Risk
Adam Wainwright: @CHC, CIN
Luis Perdomo: LAD, @ARI
Caleb Smith: @NYY, @MIL
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Tuesday, April 17: Yonny Chirinos vs. TEX
The Rangers have been killed by injuries in recent weeks, now without Delino DeShields, Rougned Odor, and Elvis Andrus. The team has just a .655 OPS. Chirinos has a limited pitch count but has yet to allow a run in three appearances (14.1 innings).
Friday, April 20: Francisco Liriano vs. KC
Likely to start one of the games of the doubleheader, Liriano is off to a sizzling start (2.13 ERA in two starts) and facing a Royals lineup that has a .631 OPS vs. lefties.
Saturday, April 21: Daniel Norris vs. KC
See Liriano above. Norris is another lefty and likely to get a spot start due to a doubleheader, and while he’s allowed five runs in 6.1 innings, he has nine strikeouts.
Tuesday, April 17: Junior Guerra vs. CIN
Guerra struggled last season after his breakout 2016, but he’s looked good so far this year. He pitched well against the Cardinals earlier this week after posting a 3.15 ERA and 16/5 K/BB in 20 innings this spring. It’s probably too early to go all-in, but his next matchup vs. Cincy is favorable.
Friday, April 20: Miles Mikolas vs. CIN
The Reds have some talented hitters, but they’ve struggled to get going on offensively so far with the fifth worst OPS in MLB. Mikolas has allowed eight runs in his first two starts, but he has a 10/0 K/BB in 12 innings and will be pitching at home.
Saturday, April 21: Brent Suter vs. MIA
It’s not shocking to anyone that Miami’s offense has struggled, with 39 runs in 12 games. Suter is coming off a very good start against St. Louis and has a viable career 4.07 ERA in 19 starts.
5: CLE, MIN
6: CHW, LAA, NYY, OAK, TB, TEX
7: BAL, BOS, DET, HOU, KC, SEA, TOR
6: ARI, CHC, CIN, COL, LAD, MIA, SD, SF, STL, WAS
7: ATL, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT
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.
Elvis Andrus: Out 6-8 weeks (elbow)
Charlie Blackmon: Day-to-day (quad)
Xander Bogaerts: Placed on DL (ankle)
Welington Castillo: Day-to-day (knee)
Lonnie Chisenhall: Placed on DL (calf)
Travis d’Arnaud: Could be out for the year (elbow)
Brandon Drury: Placed on DL (migraines)
Adam Eaton: Placed on DL (ankle)
Doug Fister: Placed on DL (hip)
Alex Gordon: Placed on DL (hip)
Ryon Healy: Placed on the DL (ankle)
Manuel Margot: Placed on DL (ribs)
Brad Miller: Placed on DL (groin)
Kendrys Morales: Placed on the DL (hamstring)
Rougned Odor: Placed on the DL (hamstring)
Manny Pina: Day-to-day (calf)
Chad Pinder: Placed on DL (knee)
Kevin Plawecki: Out 2-3 weeks (hand)
Boog Powell: Will miss several weeks (knee)
David Price: Next start pushed back one day (hand)
Hanley Ramirez: Day-to-day (wrist)
J.C. Ramirez: Out for the season (elbow)
Colby Rasmus: Placed on DL (hip)
Anthony Rizzo: Placed on DL (back)
CC Sabathia: Placed on DL (hip)
Scott Schebler: Placed on DL (elbow)
Eugenio Suarez: Out indefinitely (thumb)