The MLB All-Star Break is behind us, which means time is running out to make significant moves in your Fantasy Baseball standings. In fact, we’re actually past the halfway point in games played, so if you need to climb a few spots to grab a title, there is no time to waste. The smart move is to buy low, so why not focus on five starting pitchers that could make a difference in the second half. No, not all of them will be David Price level, but each one is worth more than his current value on the trade market. Next week, we’ll talk about the sell high players to move before the bottom drops out.
David Price, BOS – It appeared Price was righting the ship with eight straight quality starts, but then he blew up against the Rangers on June 24 and put up a so-so performance against the Rays, despite 10 strikeouts. The following start, Price saw the Rangers again and allowed three runs in eight innings with another 10 Ks. Price’s last start of the break was his best of the season in another rematch, as Price struck out 10 with just four hits and no runs in eight innings.
Seeing 30 strikeouts in three games should get you excited, and if you can still buy low on Price, do it now. His xFIP never climbed over 4.00 on the season. Price has a 21.9 SOBB, which is just a tick over last year (20.0) thanks to a small boost in K% from 25.3 to 27.1. Additionally, Price’s K/9 is up from 9.19 to 10.13, and last year, Price had a 2.45 ERA and 3.24 xFIP. This year? Those numbers are 4.34 and 3.16, and Price’s SwStr% is at a career high 12.9. As you can see, he’s mainly the same pitcher – maybe even a tad better – than his 2015 version.
Michael Pineda, NYY – This isn’t the first time I’ve brought up Pineda. This entire season, Pineda’s xFIP has been lower than his ERA by a significant amount. As of today, it’s 3.34 compared to his 5.38 ERA. Pineda’s SOBB has been great all year as well and sits at 20.9 coming out of the break. As with Price, his SwStr% is a career best and one of the best marks in baseball at 13.9. The last memory in owners’ minds is the rough outing against the White Sox (6.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 Ks), but don’t let that overshadow his 37 strikeouts in four starts (23.1 IP) before that day.
Aaron Nola, PHI – What a rollercoaster ride for Nola owners this year. After two rough starts in his first three, Nola went on a nice run through June 5 where his ERA was 1.68 to go with a 5-2 record and 62 Ks in 59.0 IP. The last five starts have been brutal, as Nola was 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA, lasting less than 4.0 innings in all but one, when Nola went just 5.0. The bright side is that Nola’s xFIP is 3.96 in those starts and he carried a 10.5 K/9 with 21 Ks in 18.0 IP, but the SOBB dipped to 12.5 due to eight walks. Back to the positive, Nola’s BABIP and LOB% are absurdly unlucky. That might not even be a strong enough word, as they are .515 and 43.7! Add in another absurdly unlucky mark with a 25.0 HR/FB mark, and you can see Nola is better than what we saw in June/July. Buy low, wait for him to get on track and smile as you reap the rewards.
Drew Smyly, TB – Like Nola and Pineda, Smyly hit a few bumps heading into the break. Prior to his June 20 start, Smyly had just five starts with more than three earned runs, but those last four starts have all included four-plus runs. In fact, while Smyly allowed four earned runs in each of the last two starts, the run totals were six and seven. In other words, it couldn’t get much worse… especially since Smyly didn’t even strike anyone out the last time out. Nevertheless, Smyly has a 9.7 K/9 and 18.9 SOBB on the season, both of which are great. Again, as with others in this article so far, Smyly has been a bit unlucky with a .313 BABIP and very low (unlucky) LOB% of 63.2. Smyly has a nearly identical SwStr% to last year at 11.3 and most of his other metrics are right in line as well. Smyly’s problem is that his cutter has never been that good, it’s getting hammered this year (1.014 OPS) and now his changeup (even only sprinkled in at 9.5 percent) has a negative run value as well and .835 OPS. He’s also faced some tougher offenses of late, which makes the struggles tougher to overcome. That’s why I’m recommending buying low, but playing the matchups until Smyly adjusts his approach or fools more hitters with at least one of his pitches.
Jon Gray, COL – We have finally hit the point where a Rockies pitcher is “trustworthy” even at home. Gray has a 4.67 ERA, 3.56 xFIP and 18.0 SOBB for the year, and the home/away splits are nearly identical: 4.71 ERA home/4.63 away, 3.07/4.00 xFIP and 21.7/14.6 SOBB. Hold on, they aren’t identical, but they don’t skew how you’d think. Gray has pitched better at home despite the ERAs being about the same. While that supports the Coors Field concern, the ERA is hurt by his first two starts of the season. Since then, Gray actually has a 3.51 ERA at home with only one non-quality start, when he allowed four runs to the Blue Jays but still struck out eight. Gray has a great SwStr% of 12.0, gets ahead of hitters and has even been a tad unlucky with a 65.8 LOB%. Who thought the time would have come, but it’s finally time to trust a Rockies pitcher for all starts.
Streaming Pitchers (Teams to Stream Against with Last 30-day Stats)
Diamondbacks: 19.8 SOBB, 25.6 K%, 97 wRC+
Brandon McCarthy, LAD; Marcus Stroman, TOR
Brewers: 18.4 SOBB, 26.5 K%, 86 wRC+
Anthony DeSclafani, CIN; Jason Hammel and John Lackey, CHC
Rays: 18.0 SOBB, 24.5 K%, 83 wRC+
Chris Tillman, BAL; Tyler Anderson, COL; Athletics potential
Pirates: 17.7 SOBB, 24.7 K%, 88 wRC+
Nationals potential; Brewers potential; Jared Eickhoff and Aaron Nola, PHI