I almost wish I could have done this article a day later this week. Instead, it will be next week when we discuss our familiar faces in new places. The trade deadline has already provoked a few deals, including Taijuan Walker taking flight and chugging buffalo sauce for the Jays. I’ll discuss him in a moment. A moment, I said! Don’t scroll down yet! Jeez, the attention span on people these days. I have more intro left before Taijuan time.
I finally dropped Zach Plesac off the list as it seems that Cleveland is actually committed to
manipulating his service clock punishing him for his dumbassery. However, if they do send away Mike Clevinger, as is rumored, he could be back up shortly. Adam Plutko is not the answer. I considered leaving Walker Buehler off the list since he’s on the IL, but it sounds like the blister won’t keep him out long. Notably vacating the list, however, is Jon Gray. He isn’t hurt, but he just isn’t missing bats anymore. It’s hard enough to trust any Rockies pitcher (hence my Senzatela ranking despite his 3.32 ERA) let alone a starter with a sub-6.00 K/9 (hey, Senzatela fits again). Gray’s velo is down two ticks and I just can’t fathom starting him unless we’re talking 18+ team mixers.
The Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Taijuan Walker, BUF (+21) – Walker’s peripherals still aren’t great (4.63 SIERA, .225 BABIP, .315 xwOBA vs current .279 wOBA) but he has been getting it done so far with a 3.27 ERA. His average exit velocity is a career-best 87.1 MPH and he has limited the barrels to 5.3%. His cutter/slider usage has been bumped up to 23% on the year and has been excellent, earning a .186 xwOBA. Despite that, his SwStr% is just 7.2%. Without a high strikeout upside, it’s hard to have confidence starting him. He gets a moderate boost on the list but is still on the outside of where I prefer to pull my streamers from. Moving to the AL East isn’t going to help, either. At least he’s got a cool name.
- Tyler Mahle, CIN (+30) – I’ve dropped plenty of acid in my day, but today I’m hooked on Mahle! Drug puns are good, right? People love them. Although drugs themselves are still quite bad. In any case, the only candy I want to snort up my nose is Mahle’s sweet, sweet 12.52 K/9 and 3.91 ERA over 23 IP. His last start was a head-turner, in particular, carving up the Cubs for 11 K’s. As you can see in his pitch mix chart, Mahle has switched it up a lot as he tries to find the right mix of breaking balls. This year he has opted for a four-seam/slider/splitter approach. His slider nets 2,687 RPM this year with a tasty 46.3% Whiff%. He’ll continue to be homer-prone and hasn’t had the control he displayed during his time in the minors. That said, the K% bump has him deserving of a parallel bump on the list.
- Corbin Burnes, MIL (+20) – It burns when I pee, but nothing stings when I start Burnes! Coming off an absolute disrobing of the Pirates in which he struck out 10 over six shutout frames, Burnes gets a bump up the tiki pole. His role was in relative flux to open the season, but he has made three straight strong starts (16.1 IP, 2.20 ERA, 12.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.98 WHIP, 1.55 FIP). His control is still a question, and there will still be blow-ups. Still, his swing-and-miss stuff is truly elite. The addition of a new cutter has helped keep batters off-balance, although by results (.362 xwOBA) the pitch itself isn’t great. Still, the spin rates and velocity are incredible. It’s enough to push him into the top 40.
You know what, there are a lot of fun Risers this week. There are also a lot of intriguing Newcomers. This week’s Fallers aren’t super fantasy-relevant, so let’s just go full steam ahead on the U.S.S. Positivity this week! AVAST!!!
- Dane Dunning, CHW (SP51) – Dunning debuted a week ago but I wasn’t sure he’d stick around. After his latest start (in which he posted five shutout frames against the Royales With Cheese, walking one with seven K’s) it’s hard to imagine him not sticking around. Dylan Cease has been far more volatile in that same rotation, and Dunning is a former first-rounder himself. Dunning had a strong 48% CSW on his slider – easily his best secondary – and has been able to locate his fastball as well, helping it play up from mediocre velocity (91 MPH). He enters the Streaming Zone along with these next four Newcomers.
- Ian Anderson, ATL (SP55) – The third overall pick in 2016, Anderson debuted against a stout Yankees lineup. He kept their bats silent, however, lasting six innings with just one run allowed, one walk, and six K’s. The Bombers didn’t even land a hit until the sixth inning. His changeup has great movement, and he was able to locate it well below the zone. When the mid-90’s heater and changeup are working, he doesn’t really even need the curve, but it can miss bats as well. He will have frustrating starts where his control fails him, but he is immediately stream-worthy.
- Sandy Alcantara, MIA (SP59) – Whereas Ian Anderson shined in his debut, Alcantara looked rough in his return from the COVID IL. He gave up eight runs (five earned) in just four innings with two walks and as many strikeouts. Frankly, it was foolish of me (and, assumedly, a few others out there in Fantasy Land) to have little trepidation after a month-plus layoff. Still, I’d expect much better results moving forward. With a heater that sits around 97 MPH on average as well as some strong offspeed stuff, he’s a guy I’m hanging on to in deeper mixed leagues.
- Zach Eflin, PHI (SP65) – I didn’t imagine there was any Eflin way I’d be ranking this guy inside the 2020 Top 100. Yet, after a 26.1% K-BB% through five starts (26.1 IP), here we are. Even without overpowering raw stuff, Eflin has earned a 90th percentile xwOBA, and 91st percentile xERA and xBA. He’s dropped his four-seam usage in lieu of more sinkers, which is earning him plenty of ground balls (three degree LA). If his defense can help him out a bit more (.365 BABIP) he can continue inching closer to his 3.17 SIERA from his current 4.10 ERA.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
Fell Off The List
Zach Plesac (optioned), Alex Cobb (performance), Brady Singer (performance), Alec Mills (performance), Jon Gray (performance).