Monday, February 19, 2024

Fantasy Baseball: Pitchers To Target for Week of April 18


Baseball season is underway and fantasy managers everywhere are already hating their teams and can’t believe the amount of injuries they’ve had to endure.

If you drafted anyone named Jacob deGrom, Lance Lynn, Blake Snell, Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, Mike Clevinger, Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, or many others, you are probably searching for replacements for your would-be starters in your lineup.

It’s baseball, and it’s April. These things happen.

Luckily, there are many players out there for the taking, but like all things in fantasy sports, you have to act quickly.

Here are some pitchers to target for the rest of April.

Starting Pitchers to target

Jesus Luzardo, Miami Marlins

Luzardo, once considered a top prospect with the Oakland Athletics, saw increased velocity in Spring Training and threw five dominant innings on April 12 against the Los Angeles Angels, striking out 12 men in his five innings of work. He gave up just two hits and walked one.

The career-high strikeout total should have raised your antennas just a bit. He is under 75% rostered in Yahoo leagues at the moment, so go get him.

Josiah Gray, Washington Nationals

Gray has walked five men in just 10 innings of work so far, but he looked good his last time out against the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Gray gave up just one hit and no runs in five innings of work and will have ample opportunity to get innings this year for a Washington team that is thin in its rotation.

Why is Gray someone to target? As recently as 2020, he was considered the top prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers. If you follow the Dodgers and what they’ve routinely done with young players (Dustin May, Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Will Smith, Cody Bellinger, Julio Urias, etc.), that is nothing to scoff at.

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers

Speaking of the Dodgers, Andrew Heaney is the newest member of LA’s rotation this season and has impressed so far. On Sunday, April 17, Heaney struck out 11 Cincinnati Reds in six innings, and has 16 strikeouts in 10.1 innings of work so far in 2022. He is a name most fantasy players will recognize from his many years as an Angel, so don’t be surprised if he was scooped up, or drafted already. But if he’s out there, you should make an aggressive play for him.

Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

Why is a 33-year-old from the Diamondbacks on here? Well, Kelly, like Luzardo, saw increased velocity over Spring Training and has parlayed that into early season success for Arizona. In two starts (9.1 innings) Kelly has yet to allow an earned run and has a 13:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio (K:BB).

Yes, the Diamondbacks won’t be very good this year, but Kelly may be. He is owned in just 26% of ESPN leagues, so he may be out there for you to scoop up.

Garrett Whitlock, Boston Red Sox

Technically, not a starting pitcher (yet), Whitlock has looked awesome in three appearances so far for Boston. He has thrown multiple innings in every outing so far, totaling an 11:2 K:BB ratio with a sterling 1.04 ERA and WHIP of just 0.69.

He may be used as a piggy-back option after starter Rich Hill (who normally goes three or four innings) so there is a good chance Whitlock will see outings of three or four innings of work at least for Hill’s starts, plus additional outings as a long-relief man.

If (and perhaps, when) a Boston starter goes down with injury (cough, cough, Rich Hill) it seems likely that Whitlock would join the starting rotation. Grab him now and put him in your relief pitcher slot for the time being.  He’s out there (just 60% rostered in Yahoo; 49.3% rostered in ESPN).

Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants

Cobb, you guessed it, also saw increased velocity over Spring Training and the 34-year-old was strong in his first and only outing so far in 2022, with five innings of work and 10 strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on April 12.

Cobb gave up four hits and two walks, but oh, those strikeouts. The Giants have recently turned around the fortunes of pitchers such as Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood, so why not take a flier on Cobb in 2022?

You better hurry though, he’s already at 70% roster status in Yahoo leagues.

Carlos Carrasco, New York Mets

He’s not done yet. Carrasco, now 35, once finished No. 4 in American League Cy Young Award voting (2017), and has demonstrated that he can be one of the game’s better starting pitchers, when healthy.

The “when healthy” part, of course, is the key. He appears healthy so far in April, with 13 strikeouts, one earned run, and just two walks issued in 10.2 innings of work. Granted, they came against light-hitting teams in Washington and the Diamondbacks, but if you’re looking for a household name who may be off someone’s radar, Carrasco can be an All-Star for your pitching staff.

Joe Ryan, Minnesota Twins

Ryan, the Twins’ Opening Day starter, has a 2.70 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his first two starts, and looked quite good at the end of the 2021 season (4.05 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 30:5 K/BB ratio in five starts/26.2 innings).

He just threw six shutdown innings on the road against the Red Sox and their tough offense, so Ryan is probably on a lot of owners’ radars and rosters. But if he’s not, he’s a great guy to scoop up.

Nestor Cortes, New York Yankees

Cortes has been one of baseball’s best pitchers so far, and because he’s a Yankee, he won’t be a secret too much longer. He has nine consecutive scoreless innings with a 17:1 K/BB ratio to start off 2022. His 0.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP are about as good as it gets.

On Sunday, he struck out 12 Baltimore Orioles over just five innings. And before you say, “Well, it’s the Orioles, they’re awful” you should recognize that he also looked great against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 12, with five strikeouts, no walks, and just three hits over 4.1 innings.  He is a player to grab now.

Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds

Major League Baseball has a new flamethrower and his name is Hunter Greene. In his most recent start, Greene threw 39 pitches over 100 miles-per-hour, the most ever since pitch-tracking data became available in 2008. He’s the former No. 2 overall draft pick from the 2017 draft, so there is prospect pedigree along with the high velocity.

In his first two starts so far, Greene has shown good control (just two walks over 10.1 innings) and has a solid 4.35 ERA and 1.06 WHIP to go along with the 100 mph bullets.

The Reds aren’t very good, but in the light-hitting NL Central where Greene will do much of his work, he is a player to target for this year, and beyond if you’re in a keeper league.

Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals

While most starting pitchers are easing into their seasons and getting pulled after just four or five innings, Keller has already gone six and seven innings, respectively, in his first two outings and is looking like an innings-eater for Kansas City.

He’s looked good in them, too, with a 1.38 ERA and 0.62 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts and only three walks. He is only 26-years-old and has a 97-mile-per-hour fastball that he routinely uses to put away hitters, so don’t sleep on this Royal.

Hopefully, some of these options are still in the free-agent pool of your leagues and you can scoop them up. If not, a well-placed trade offer may be the thing to attempt. But keep an eye on these pitchers and see if they can continue their positive starts to their 2022 seasons.

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