With Week 2 of the baseball season wrapped up and Week 3 halfway done, let us take a more in depth at pitchers who have "surprised" and impressed us out of the gate. These are the players that went undrafted in a lot of leagues who are suddenly getting a lot of attention. By looking at their past and present numbers, we will decide who is most likely to keep dominating their opponents throughout the season and who is just having a great April only to have a disappointing May.
Ervin Santana (Sell)
Santana has started the season off strong by going 3-0 and while posting a 0.41 ERA over 22 innings in 2017. His FIP is 2.81 however over that time, so do not expect that low ERA to continue. One of the many concerns I have with Santana is the fact that he only possesses 3 pitches (I am excluding the 2 seam fastball he only throws 1% of the time). I usually like my starters to have at least 4 different pitches, and switch between them when needed.
Another concern is the fact that over his career batters only swing at 28.3% of the pitches outside the strike zone and 9.3% of the time batters miss the strikes they decide to swing at. This means that Santana's K/9 will probably not be above 7 in 2017.
There are some positives for fantasy owners as hitters have only produced hard hit balls 29.1% of the time against Santana over his career. His soft/hard contact on batted balls in 2017 is a very impressive 20.0/21.8 which is extremely good. He also has been very dominant at home while pitching for the Twins as batters have only hit .230/.290/.367 with a 1.0 HR/9 against him. Santana's hot start will come to an end here soon enough, but Santana is a solid pitcher in deep leagues, AL only leagues and DFS leagues when he has home field advantage.
Ian Kennedy (Sell)
Kennedy has been very solid this year as he has posted a 2.37 ERA , with an impressive 0.47 HR/9. I do not expect Kennedy's success to last as his HR/9 in 2015 and 2016 were a high 1.66 and 1.52. Kennedy has also posted a poor soft/hard contact on batted balls of 17.5/32.9 added to an unimpressive 0.90 GB/FB over his career. His low HR/9 in 2017 will most likely sky rocket due to his poor 0.75 GB/FB and 42.6% hard contact on batted balls in this season.
While pitching at home, Kennedy has been very good as batters have only hit .210/.286/.351 with a 1.2 HR/9 over his career for the Royals. Kennedy's likelihood to give up a long ball is the driving factor keeping him off my team in 2017.
Mike Leake (Buy)
Leake made it on my preseason sleeper's list for 2017 as a notable mostly for his 1.90 BB/9 he has posted over his career. I was surprised to see him only 6% owned in ESPN Fantasy Leagues as he is coming off a season in which he had a career best 2.12 GB/FB. He is also posting a very impressive soft/hard contact on batted balls in 2017 of 15.4/17.9. His career soft/hard contact on batted balls is 29.7/16.0, so do not expect a lot of home runs to come from opposing batters.
I feel comfortable saying Leake is on the right track to putting together an All-Star season as he makes hitters have to really work to get a quality at bat. With that being said, do not expect Leake to get a lot of strikeouts in 2017 as he has only caught batters swinging at pitches out of the zone 25.8% and batters only missed 6.1% of the strikes they have swung at. Over his career these numbers are just a little better as he owns a 30.0 O-Swing% and a 7.1% SwStr.
At the end of the day, batters may be able to put the ball in play against Leake but the defense behind him will be able to turn these lightly hit balls into outs.
Tyler Chatwood (Buy)
It is hard for me to tell someone to buy into a pitcher that plays in the most hitter friendly park in the whole major leagues, but Chatwood is a rare exception to the rule.
This season he has a 1.77 HR/9 which should drop down soon closer to his 0.85 HR/9 he posted in 2016. The one thing that is looking up for Chatwood this year is his BB/9 going from 3.99 in 2016 to 2.21 in 2017. The one reason Chatwood made this list is because of his 2.12 GB/FB and 28.6/17.2 soft/hard contact on batted balls he has posted over his career.
Like Leake, fantasy owners should not expect a lot of strikeouts from Chatwood as hitters have only chased 25.6% balls out of the strike zone while hitters have only missed 6.6% of the strikes they have swung at. While pitching for the Rockies, batters have hit .286/.358/.463 against Chatwood when he is pitching at home, but when Chatwood is on the road batters have only hit .231/.318/.334 over the same time frame. Chatwood is a great option on the road, but Chatwood's ability to create soft contact from opposing batters could make him a good pick even when he is pitching at Coors Field.