Seth Trachtman

The Week Ahead

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Week Ahead: Velocity Matters

Saturday, April 7, 2018


 

With a full week in the books, baseball is in full swing. That means we’ve gone through the full rotations at least once, and can take a look at velocity changes compared to last season.

 

While it’s still very early, and one or two starts certainly aren’t enough to make a final verdict, we can use the early radar gun readings as an indicator for possible growth, decline, or health concerns. Here’s a look at early velocity changes for starting pitchers compared to 2017.

 

Biggest Velocity Increases

Name2018 Vel2017 VelVel Change
Reynaldo Lopez 96.4 94.5 1.9
Daniel Gossett 93.0 91.5 1.5
Kyle Hendricks 86.9 85.8 1.1
Charlie Morton 96.1 95.0 1.1
Andrew Triggs 89.8 88.9 0.9
Blake Snell 94.9 94.3 0.6
Kenta Maeda 92.1 91.5 0.6
Sonny Gray 93.5 93.0 0.5
Brent Suter 86.2 85.7 0.5
Mike Foltynewicz 95.7 95.3 0.4

 

-Reynaldo Lopez jumps out as the biggest gainer. It’s worth remembering that he missed time with a back injury late last season, and his velocity was down more than one mph compared to his 2016 debut with Washington. He’s had just one start, but his average fastball velocity (96.4) was the best we’ve ever seen of him in the majors. A pitcher with a career 3.34 ERA and 9.1 K/9 in the minors, Lopez was an elite prospect when he was traded along with Lucas Giolito and Dane Dunning for Adam Eaton in December, 2016. With truly elite velocity, he should be scooped up in any leagues where he remains available on the waiver wire.

 

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-Daniel Gossett won the fifth starter job in Oakland by default when Paul Blackburn got hurt late in camp, and he really struggled late in camp. Still, we might have something here in AL-only leagues if Gossett can parlay the new-found velocity into keeping the ball in the park. He had a respectable 2.32 K/BB ratio during his rookie season last year, but allowed a horrendous 21 home runs in 91.1 innings. Still, the former second-round pick had a 3.59 ERA and 8.1 K/9 in the minors, including impressive work at Triple-A Nashville last season.

 

-Kyle Hendricks lost significant velocity last season, down two mph. The early signs are good, but the radar gun still isn’t up quite to where it was in 2016.

 

-Charlie Morton is unbelievable. Consider the 34-year-old never even averaged 93 mph on his fastball until 2016. Now he’s seen an increase in velocity again. His average fastball is up a full five mph compared to 2014.

 

-Mike Foltynewicz has seen slight velocity growth over his last three seasons with the Braves, showing elite velocity in every season. Through two starts, he’s been absolutely dominant with 13.1 K/9 and only three walks in 10.1 innings. We’ve known all along that the elite arm is there, but he has yet to post an ERA below 4.31 in his career. Is this the year he puts it all together?

 

-One other significant velocity note that’s not listed. Like Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander showed increased velocity last season, up nearly two mph to 95.2. He’s traditionally started slow and built up his velocity during the year, but Verlander’s fastball velocity has averaged 94.8 mph thus far. That’s a great sign.

 

 

Biggest Velocity Decreases

Name2018 Vel2017 VelVel Change
Matt Boyd 88.1 92.0 -3.9
Kevin Gausman 92.3 95.0 -2.7
Cole Hamels 89.5 92.0 -2.5
JC Ramirez 93.3 95.5 -2.2
Matt Harvey 91.6 93.8 -2.2
Brandon McCarthy 91.0 93.2 -2.2
Trevor Williams 89.8 92.0 -2.2
Julio Teheran 89.2 91.4 -2.2
Michael Wacha 92.9 95.1 -2.2
Robbie Ray 92.3 94.3 -2.0

 

-Matt Boyd allowed only one run in six innings during his first start, albeit vs. the Royals. It’s worth noting the temperature was 40 degrees at game time, which certainly could have adversely impacted his velocity, but nearly four mph isn’t small potatoes. The lefty is coming off a nice spring (26/7 K/BB in 23.2 innings), but there’s reason to watch him closely if you have him in AL-only.

 

-Kevin Gausman takes the mound for the second time today, and I’ll be watching. He’s averaged nearly 95 mph in every season of his career, so the nearly three mph drop off could be a red flag. As usual, he saw limited work in spring training, only throwing 9.1 innings, so hopefully this is just a sign of Gausman ramping up.

 

-The signs that Cole Hamels was approaching the end were apparent last season when he lost velocity, and his K/9 went from 9.0 in 2016 to just 6.4 last season. The strikeout numbers have been very good in the early going, likely because Hamels is turning into a junkball pitcher. He threw his fastball only 36 percent of the time in his first two starts, and the lack of fastballs is reflected in his seven walks in 10.2 innings. While Hamels was very effective in his second start, it was against an Oakland lineup that really struggled vs. lefties last season. Other lefties have survived with his velocity, but there’s still reason to be very concerned.

 

-Matt Harvey presents an interesting case. The former ace has consistently lost velocity, and it was down more than four mph compared to 2015 in his first start. However, Harvey found success in that start and wasn’t terrible during spring training (18/6 K/BB in 20 innings). I’d be nervous about Harvey going forward, especially his strikeout numbers, but that isn’t to say he can’t be a streaming play.

 

-The spring training performance of Julio Teheran was tremendous, posting a 1.40 ERA in six starts with 17/6 K/BB in 25.2 innings. Yet, here we are two starts into the season with Teheran getting clobbered and losing significant velocity. My only source of optimism after last year’s struggles was that Teheran maintained his velocity compared to his previous successful seasons. I don’t own Teheran, and with the early radar gun readings, I’m not about to trade for him.

 

-Robbie Ray’s velocity has been the worst since he was a Detroit Tiger in 2014. That’s a concern because Ray showed inconsistency throughout his minor league career, including 2014 (4.22 ERA and 1.70 K/BB at Triple-A) but came alive again after his velocity gains in 2015 with Arizona. While Ray pitched well against the Cardinals last night, the lefty also walked five in six innings. It’s too soon to panic, but if you can sell Ray for his 2017 price, it’s not the worst idea.

 

Going Twice…

 

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 6, and are subject to change.

 

American League

 

Strong Plays

 

Corey Kluber: DET, TOR

Justin Verlander: @MIN, TEX

Chris Sale: NYY, BAL

Luis Severino: @BOS, @DET

Garrett Richards: @TEX, @KC

Chris Archer: @CHW, PHI

 

Decent Plays

 

Jake Junis: SEA, LAA

Blake Snell: @CHW, PHI

Alex Cobb: TOR, @BOS

Kyle Gibson: HOU, CHW

J.A. Happ: @BAL, @CLE

Jake Odorizzi: HOU, CHW

Felix Hernandez: @KC, OAK

 

At Your Own Risk

 

Francisco Liriano: @CLE, NYY

Doug Fister: LAA, @HOU

Matt Boyd: @CLE, NYY

Carson Fulmer: TB, @MIN

Josh Tomlin: DET, TOR

Miguel Gonzalez: TB, @MIN

Eric Skoglund: SEA, LAA

 

 

National League

 

Strong Plays

 

Noah Syndergaard: @MIA, MIL

Max Scherzer: ATL, COL

Stephen Strasburg: ATL, COL

Carlos Martinez: MIL, @CIN

Zack Godley: @SF, @LAD

 

Decent Plays

 

Tyler Chatwood: PIT, ATL

Jon Gray: SD, @WAS

Miles Mikolas: MIL, @CIN

Johnny Cueto: ARI, @SD

Ivan Nova: @CHC, @MIA

Ben Lively: CIN, @TB

 

At Your Own Risk

 

Julio Teheran: @WAS, @CHC

Joey Lucchesi, @COL, SF

Jhoulys Chacin: @STL, @NYM

Jose Urena: NYM, PIT

Clayton Richard: @COL, SF

Tyler Anderson: SD, @WAS

Homer Bailey: @PHI, STL

 

Streamer City

 

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

 

American League

 

Saturday, April 14: Andrew Triggs @ SEA

Triggs has the talent to be rostered in most leagues but isn’t quite there yet after missing much of last year due to injuries. Seattle’s offense is off to a slow start with 21 runs in six games.

 

Saturday, April 14: Jake Odorizzi vs. CHW

Odorizzi is a no-no against Houston early in the week, but the White Sox present a much more presentable obstacle. While Chicago has scored six runs per game early on, the lineup is weak overall, scoring only 706 runs last season.

 

Saturday, April 14: Marco Gonzales vs. OAK

Gonzales pitched extremely well in his first start of the year after a great spring, while Oakland had the sixth worst OPS in baseball vs. lefties last season.

 

National League

 

Wednesday: April 11: Seth Lugo @ MIA

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Marlins have struggled to hit early this season, especially without J.T. Realmuto. They’re an automatic streaming option for any opposing pitcher, and Lugo looked excellent in his only relief appearance earlier this year.

 

Friday, April 13: Chad Kuhl @ MIA

The Marlins rule continues with Kuhl. He struggled in his first start of the season but has a fair 4.35 ERA in 46 career starts.

 

Sunday, April 15: Ben Lively @ TB

Will the Rays be able to score runs this season after losing Evan Longoria, Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, and Steven Souza Jr.? The early returns aren’t promising (17 runs in seven games), while Lively performed well in his season debut and posted a 4.26 ERA in 15 starts last year.

 

Total Games

 

American League

 

5: OAK

6: BAL, BOS, HOU, NYY, SEA, TB, TEX, TOR

7: CHW, CLE, DET, KC, LAA, MIN

 

National League

 

5: LAD

6: ARI, ATL, CHC, MIA, MIL, NYM, PHI, PIT

7: CIN, COL, SD, SF, STL, WAS

 

The Infirmary

 

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the first week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.

 

Miguel Cabrera: Could return Saturday (hip)

Nelson Cruz: Should return this week (ankle)

Aledmys Diaz: Day-to-day (back)

Lucas Duda: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Adam Eaton: Day-to-day (ankle)

Brandon Finnegan: Could return next week (arm)

Ben Gamel: Should return next week (oblique)

Jedd Gyorko: Placed on DL (hamstring)

Andrew Heaney: Could return next week (elbow)

Phil Hughes: Could return next week (oblique)

Ian Kinsler: Should return next week (groin)

Corey Knebel: Left Thursday’s game (hamstring)

Jake Lamb: Placed on DL (shoulder)

Joe Musgrove: Shutdown for 5-7 days (shoulder)

Wil Myers: Could return April 13 (triceps)

Chad Pinder: Day-to-day (knee)

Drew Pomeranz: Could return next week (elbow)

Eduardo Rodriguez: Will return Sunday (knee)

Matt Shoemaker: Placed on DL (arm)

Anthony Swarzak: Placed on DL (oblique)

Mark Trumbo: Could return next week (quad)

Jason Vargas: Could return next week (hand)

Matt Wieters: Placed on DL (oblique)

Christian Yelich: Day-to-day (oblique)

Mike Zunino: Could return next week (oblique)



You can find Seth Trachtman on Twitter @sethroto.
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