Jon Gray: Rockies Strikeout machine
Listen, I know it is not easy to roster a Rockies pitcher. Well, you probably want to roster their closer, Jake McGee, but the others are not easy to roster due to the fact that they pitch about half of their games at Coors Field. I am here to tell you today that you need to roster two of their starting pitchers. Call me crazy.
The first starter you should roster is Jon Gray. I stayed up to watch his start vs the Padres a few nights ago, and, after a rough first inning, he thoroughly dominated them. After giving up 2 runs on 3 hits in the first inning, he settled down and was able to shut them down for the next five innings. He gave up just the two first inning runs on 4 hits, a walk and 11 strikeouts in 6 innings or work. He induced 18 swinging strikes while striking out 11 batters, a season high.
His season stats don't look pretty, but if you look under the hood, you see that he is striking out 14 batters per nine innings, while walking just over two batters per nine and inducing ground balls at a 40% rate. His ERA and WHIP are extremely high, as he owns an ERA of 7.98 and a 1.64 WHIP. But his advanced ERA stats show he is pitching much better than his ERA is currently showing. He owns a 2.51 FIP and a 1.68 xFIP. Among starters with 14 or more innings pitched, Gray has pitched just 14.2 in his three starts, his 28.4% K%-BB% ranks third in baseball, ranking behind only Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard.
Granted it is only three starts, but he already owns two starts with 10 or more strikeouts, and I think he will pitch better going forward. He is owned in just 6% of leagues right now, so if you want to make a speculative play, Gray is one to target, or at least keep on your radar.
For more on Gray and the Rockies, make sure you check out Purple Row, SB Nation's Rockies fan site.
The other Rockies pitcher that you need to roster is Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood has been a big surprise this season, and I was THISCLOSE to picking him up in my biggest NL only league yesterday morning, but held off. I was going to add him and drop Jake Peavy, figuring Peavy should pitch well vs the Reds, Right? Wrong!
Back to Chatwood, yesterday he dominated the Padres, shutting them out on 3 hits, a walk and 7 strikeouts in 8 innings of work in the Rockies 2-0 win. The win moved his record to 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA, 3.38 FIP, a 1.12 WHIP and a 27-8 strikeout to walk rate in 37.2 innings. He has given up one run or less in four of his six starts this season, and is available in nearly 90% of leagues right now. Grab him while he is pitching well. If he can keep the ball in the yard, he could be a solid waiver wire pick up going forward. Like Gray, he is a speculative play.
By the way, I did make a move to add him after his start yesterday.
Mets first baseman Lucas Duda has never been considered a top 10 fantasy first baseman, but he does one thing well, and consistently, and that is hit for power. Yesterday, he went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI in the Mets 8-0 win over the Braves. The big day improved his slash line to .258-.299-.528 with 7 home runs, 14 runs scored and 18 RBI. His walk rate is down this season, thus the low OBP, but his strikeout rate is down as well. He still hits a ton of fly balls, but his fly ball rate is down in the early part of the season, so it will be interesting to see if that continues and if it impacts his power totals. He's available in about 20% of leagues right now, which doesn't seem right, as he is a solid power hitter. I guess ESPN has a lot of 10 team leagues?
Duda's teammate Steven Matz had his best outing of the season on Wednesday, shutting out the Braves for 7.2 innings on just 2 hits, no walks and 8 strikeouts. The win moved his record to 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 1.19 WHIP and a 30-7 strikeout to walk rate in 28.2 innings. He's pitching like an ace in the early going, striking out more than a batter per nine, walking just over two batters per game and inducing ground balls at a 55% rate. In my offseason research, starting pitchers who put up stats like Matz is doing right now are top 20 starters, The ineffectiveness of Matt Harvey this season is being offset by the pitching of Matz.
Astros young shortstop Carlos Correa was a top 1-2 fantasy shortstop, depending on what rankings you were looking at, in the offseason, and he had a big night at the plate last night. Correa went 3-5 with a home run, double, 3 runs scored and 3 RBI in the Astros 16-4 win over the Twins. The big night improved his slash line to .276-.388-.469 with 4 home runs, 15 runs scored, 13 RBI and 3 stolen bases in 5 attempts. He has the potential to put up a 30 home run, 20 stolen base season, but is off that pace currently, as he is on pace for 23 home runs and 17 stolen bases. He is showing more plate discipline thus far, as his walk rate is approaching 15%, and he is hitting more fly balls and making more hard contact than last season, so the power should come. Patience is required with every young hitter.
Correa's teammate Jose Altuve is vaulting himself into the top 5 conversation with his performance at the plate this season. Last night, he duplicated Correa's stat line, going 3-5 with a home run, double, 3 runs scored and 3 RBI in the Astros 16 run outburst. He is now hitting .306-.398-.640 with 8 home runs, 13 doubles, 25 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. He currently ranks in the top 10 in slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 46 home runs and steal 58 bases. He won't come close to those numbers, but a 20-25 home run season and 40 stolen bases is in his grasp. That's a top 5 fantasy hitter. Heck, he might be the #1 fantasy hitter if he keeps this up.
Will this be the season where Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy? I certainly hope so, as he could approach a 50 home run season if he can stay healthy. Last night, Stanton went 2-3 with a walk, double, home run, 2 runs scored and 2 RBI in the Marlins 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. He is now hitting .258-.374-.596 with 9 home runs, 15 runs scored and 22 RBI, and is on pace to hit over 50 home runs. Now here is one projection I can get behind, but the health is the huge determinant on whether he can reach that target or not. His hard contact rate is down compared to 2015, so that will have to improve for him to breach the 50 home run level. That said, he is still a candidate to lead MLB in home runs even if he doesn't reach that level.
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