|NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST|
|L.A. Dodgers||19||10||.655||–||145||98||47||13-2||6-8||0-0||2-2||14-8||7-3||W 2|
|San Diego||16||15||.516||4||146||144||2||9-7||7-8||0-0||2-1||14-11||5-5||W 1|
|San Francisco||15||15||.500||4½||96||116||-20||10-8||5-7||1-1||0-0||11-14||7-3||W 1|
Things are beginning to take shape in the NL West. The Dodgers continue to be the head of the class despite a crippled pitching staff. The new look Padres are hanging on to 2nd Place despite inconsistent performances by their young arms. The geriatric crew in San Francisco is showing signs of life. Arizona remains in the thick of things thanks to their bigs sticks. And Colorado, “are who we thought the were.” There has been hitting aplenty in the wild west, but overall, pitching has been brutal.This week we are going to take a look around the division at a significant pitching development for each team and how it is impacting the team. More importantly, how is this pitching development impacting your fantasy team?
Hazy Shades of Gray in the Rocky Mountain High?
Expectations were high when Tyler Matzek was selected 11th overall in the First Round of the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. It’s nearly impossible to
attract top pitching talent in free agency to Coors Field, so the Rockies are tasked with building through the draft. Matzek never really panned out the way the organization had hoped. It took him five years to make his MLB debut, largely due to command issues. In parts of five seasons in the minors, he averaged a respectable 8.5 K/9, but a shockingly bad 6.0 BB/9. In 2014, the Rockies promoted Matzek due to necessity in the rotation. He started 19 games with 117.2 innings pitched in 2014 for the Rockies. He was able to perform better than any season in the minors with an 8.8 BB% and 1.39 WHIP. This off-season, he was penciled into the rotation with the hopes that he will do enough to keep the team close enough for the offense to win some games. You know your rotation is thin when Kyle Kendrick is your Opening Day starter. The hope was that Matzek could show enough command to keep the team in the game each outing. Unfortunately, Tyler regressed from his rookie campaign to a career low (including minors) 14.7% K rate vs. 18.6% walk rate in 22 innings pitched. You just can’t be in a major league rotation with a negative K-BB% (-3.9%).
This lack of command led to a 4.09 ERA, 1.818 WHIP, 5.98 FIP, and finally a demotion to AAA Albuquerque this week. At the moment, the team depth chart lists only a four man rotation due to off days sandwiching this weekend’s series with the Dodgers. They will need a 5th starter by the end of next week and this should have been the opportunity for top pitching prospect Jon Gray to get a shot. Unfortunately, he has been getting shelled in AAA and is unlikely to be called up until he works out his issues in the minors. Colorado will have to call on a journeyman like David Hall or John Lannan to fill the role. The fact of the matter is there is really no reason to roster any Rockies pitchers in most scoring formats. Dynasty Leagues will certainly roster Gray and fellow rookie, Eddie Butler. However, Butler is really only a streaming option in redraft leagues. The Rocky Mountain “High” continues to be a curse to the Rockies pitching staff.
Bradley “Ball” Control
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been without their best pitcher as emerging Ace, Archie Bradley, recovers from get hit in the face by a line drive. Despite not having any house hold names, the Arizona rotation has remained competitive so that the
team has allowed the 2nd lowest Runs allowed in the division behind the Dodgers. Ultimately, if they want to stay in contention they need Bradley, and they need him to be good. They project him to return next weekend around May 16th. The biggest concern about Bradley going forward is his lack of command. His 5.0 BB/9 is typically a recipe for disaster. It would be nice to see him get this under “control”, however, Bradley is one guy that could get away with being effectively wild. In 20 innings this season, he has a 60% ground ball rate, one extra base hit (0 HRs allowed), and 81% LOB rate. You can get away with a few walks when they don’t score. I’m buying in on Bradley, who is a perfect fit for that ballpark in Arizona. Go out and get him on your roster if you can. He is worth owning in all formats, and could be a key element in a Championship run for your team. He won’t be quite enough to keep the D-backs in contention all year, but his health will likely determine how long they are relevant.
$18 Million Dollar Man
Don’t look now, but the reigning champs have won 7 of their last 10 games and are creeping back into contention in the NL West. The biggest factor in this surge is the exceptional pitching. The club threw four shutouts this week in six games. One of the key cogs to this turnaround is 5th starter and former two-time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum. He was hurt to start the season, but since his return he has pitched well in his five starts on the year. He has a solid 2.40 ERA and 3.36 FIP, due to his ability to keep the ball in the park (1 HR allowed in 30 Innings). He has improved his GB% to 56.3% and LOB% to 78.7%. He’s not worth $18 Million in my book, but if you took a flier on him late in drafts this year, you have been rewarded. Don’t overpay, but I believe he can keep up the productive work. The days of 10+ Ks per game are behind him, but he can bring consistent performances that will help both his team and yours. Add him if you still can.
What the hell is wrong with Andrew Cashner? This was supposed to be the year he becomes dominant and leads me to a fantasy championship. With the improved
Padres lineup, how could he be 1-5 (W-L)? If you play in a league that uses the antiquated “Win” stat category to judge a pitcher’s value, you are probably disappointed in your “Cash” investment this season. If you take a closer look, his record is deceiving and his value should increase as the season progresses. The first thing to note is he has had no help on defense this season. He has given up a staggering 10 unearned runs in six games this season. His control numbers are headlined with an excellent 17.3% K-BB rate. Despite a solid 3.16 ERA, his FIP is pretty high at 4.21 due to his achilles heel…the Home Run. Six balls have left the yard and this is his biggest concern going forward. The lapse in team defense will somewhat correct itself as this was a string of bad luck. His command has been good enough to win. His predictive metrics seem to point to more production (xFIP = 3.43 & SIERA =3.34) and I would be trying to see if you can pick him up cheap off a frustrated fantasy owner.
Land of the “Frias”
Last and certainly not least…the tattered Dodger’s rotation had a pleasant surprise as rookie Carlos Frias gave the team two decent starts in May after Brandon McCarthy went down for the season with Tommy John surgery. This guy was not on my prospect radar so I had to look into him. Frias was signed by the Dodgers as an International Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009. He spent 9 seasons in the minors before debuting in the Major Leagues in 2014 and appearing in 15 games during August and September. Primarily a reliever last year in the Bigs, he did have two spot starts which gave him that first shot this year when they needed a quick fill-in. He has responded this season with very good ratios (2.13 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 3.16 FIP and 3.67 K-BB) giving the Dodgers a chance to let their explosive offense take care of business. His control rate (15.4% K-BB) and LOB rate (88.2%) have mirrored his averages and give no indication that this production can’t continue. That being said, the sample size is extremely small, and I still expect the Dodgers to go out and get another SP or two in the near future. Grab Frias if you can and ride out the production for however long it lasts. I wouldn’t give up too much as I expect him to return to the bullpen before too long. He can be a nice shot in the arm for your fantasy team as he has been for the Dodgers.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday May 10th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. Our topics this week will be the N.L. East and N.L. Central.