The Preakness Stakes didn’t work out the way horse racing fans had hoped, as Nyquist’s bid for the Triple Crown ended in a third-place finish in Baltimore. On a rain-soaked track, Exaggerator outran Cherry Wine and nine other horses to win the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes this past Saturday.
There are horses that ultimately etch their names in the record books and there are horses that are just a flash in the pan, whose names we know one year and forget the next. Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was sadly the latter.
Since a starting pitcher who can be counted on to consistently throw many innings is known as a workhorse, and the third leg of the Triple Crown is coming to Belmont in a few short weeks, we’re going to focus on breakout pitchers who are turning into these so-called workhorses early in the 2016 Fantasy season. While none of these pitchers will win baseball’s version of the pitching Triple Crown — leading their league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts — they are, or will have breakout seasons as they begin the transition into their team’s dependable quality starters.
Some of these pitchers have started fast, like Nyquist did, and will likely keep it up, while others are playing the role of Exaggerator — stalking the field, ready for a strong finish and a win down the stretch. Whether these pitchers are already on pace to put up new career bests or are working their way into form, these future aces make for solid Fantasy starters from this point forward.
New Ground for Noah
Since the next leg of the Triple Crown is taking place in New York, let’s start with the best pitcher in New York right now — Noah Syndergaard. Thor was ranked in the Top 50 to start the season, but he looks like a pitcher who could end up competing with Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta for the NL Cy Young award.
Coming into the season, this was a pitcher coming off one pretty good season, where he went 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while striking out 166 batters in 150 innings. Not bad at all for a pitcher with just 24 starts under his belt. Syndergaard looked like he could lead a rotation, but had the luxury of sitting behind two other could-be aces in Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey (deGrom has kept us his end of the bargain and Harvey has not, but that’s another story for another day).
And looking at the Mets’ depth chart, Syndergaard is still listed behind his rotation-mates, despite his 1.94 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 76 strikeouts and just nine walks in 60 1/3 innings. Those are ace-type numbers from a flame-thrower that seems to be getting better with each start. Thor has recorded double-digit strikeouts in back-to-back games without walking a single batter and giving up just one unearned run in 14 innings of work.
That’s impressive, but seems to be coming along with the territory. Syndergaard has gone six or more innings in all but one of his first nine starts (that one was 5 2/3 innings in his first loss of the season on May 1). And since then, he’s tallied four consecutive quality starts, including outdueling Nats’ ace Max Scherzer with seven scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory. If the big righty keeps up this pace — and he should — Syndergaard will rack up a new career high in innings, wins, and strikeouts.
Rodon is the Real Deal
Carlos Rodon was the No. 3 overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft in 2014, and looks to be finding his sweet spot behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. If the White Sox keep up their early-season play and get into the playoffs, those are three pitchers who will be the bridge directly to the bullpen.
Rodon should be owned in more than the 75 percent of leagues he is, mainly because his current numbers (4.47 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) are a bit misleading. Take away his April 18 start where he only lasted one-third of an inning and gave up five earned runs to the Angels, and you’ve got a starter who has lasted at least six innings in every start. Some quality, some not but he’s giving the White Sox length and has many more good showings than bad (six quality starts and six-plus strikeouts in seven of his nine starts).
The southpaw also has 51 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings, keeping him on pace for a strikeout an inning just like he did last season (139 Ks in 139 1/3 innings). The 23-year-old will surpass his innings total from his rookie season and will likely get his ERA down below the 3.75 ERA he put up in 23 starts last year. While Sale is the unquestioned ace of the White Sox staff, Rodon isn’t far behind in the pecking order.
Padres’ Pomeranz Thriving in Petco
Drew Pomeranz is a player I told you to buy in on before the season when he was named the Padres’ fifth starter. The 2010 first-round pick was primed for big season, pitching half of his games in the friendly confines of Petco Park, and he’s pitching more like the ace he was originally drafted to be rather than the swingman he has been turned into over the past few seasons.
In an article I wrote on April 6, I said: “Expect Pomeranz to throw 150 to 180 innings and to match those numbers with strikeouts along with a mid-3.00 ERA and 10 to 12 wins. Not too shabby for a fifth starter with ace potential making half of his starts in a pitcher’s ballpark.”
Pomeranz is exceeding those expectations right now (1.70 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 60 Ks in 53 innings), and should obliterate his previous career high of 96 2/3 innings. The big lefty is a workhorse in the making; his only issue has been run support. In his last five starts, Pomeranz has a total of four runs scored in support of five great outings. He’s lost by the scores of 2-1 and 1-0 twice, while picking up wins in 1-0 and 2-0 games. He’s given up a total of three earned runs while racking up 29 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched during that five-game span. If the run support picks up, Pomeranz’s win total will as well, making him a breakout pitcher to keep an eye on for the remainder of the year.
Still Time to Snag Sanchez
When the Blue Jays lost David Price to free agency, someone in their rotation needed to step up and become the ace they had just lost. Most thought it would be Marcus Stroman, but Aaron Sanchez is the one putting up the ace numbers.
Through nine starts, Sanchez has a 4-1 record with a 3.20 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 59 innings. Seven of his nine outings have been quality starts and he’s struck out at least five batters in all but one start. With a previous career high of 92 1/3 innings set last season, which included just 11 starts, the young right-hander is well on his way to becoming a top-of-the-rotation hurler for years to come.
Sanchez may have started the season as the Blue Jays’ fifth starter, but he has the stuff of an ace and has been carrying the workload to go along with it. Owned in less than 80 percent of leagues, the 23-year-old is a must-add at this point.
Nola’s Making a Name for Himself
Aaron Nola has helped the Phillies get off to a surprisingly good start this season. But his success has been anything but surprising.
The right-hander put up impressive numbers in 13 starts last season, going 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings. His numbers thus far this season are even better — 2.85 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 64 Ks in 60 innings. He’s also had seven quality starts in nine outings, including six straight since April 22. It’s obvious that Nola will eclipse his innings total from last season. He is eating up innings and dominating hitters in the process.
Nola and these other breakout pitchers are putting up big time numbers through the first two months of the season. If you snagged any of them on draft day or picked them up off waivers since, you’ve definitely gotten more than your money’s worth out of these would-be workhorses.