Jeff Mans and I were sitting around the metaphorical campfire, singing “Kumbaya” and talking about baseball, the future of the fantasy business and days of old. He reflected upon his Fantasy Alarm days and then, Eureka! Like a flash of lightning, the thought sprung from his mind… the MLB Weekly Preview. For those of you who have followed his work for years like myself, you know exactly the article of which I speak. A valuable preview which prepared us for our weekly fantasy baseball conquests. A detailed dissection of the weekly matchups is a time-consuming undertaking and, with everything else on his plate as Elite Sports Network is booming, just not possible. But like all good leaders, he delegated the responsibility to me… and I don’t make it a habit of letting people down, Mans nor you, our loyal MLB subscriber.
In the following weekly preview, you will find a game breakdown for all 30 MLB teams (including Interleague play), two-start and overall pitching rankings and the latest IL information to help you dominate this week’s matchup and through the entirety of your seasonal league.
Is MLB Using a Juiced Baseball?
Major League hitters are on pace to hit 6,618 HRs, 1,033 more than last season’s 5,585 and 513 more than 2017’s all-time high of 6,105. Out of 30 MLB teams, THIRTEEN may break franchise records. Furthermore, TWENTY-ONE hitters are projected to top the 40 home run plateau – including Christian Yelich, who is projected for 61 – and THIRTY-SIX players have already surpassed last season’s HR totals. A great example of this is Ketel Marte. After setting a career-high of 14 in 2018, he now owns 20 long balls in 78 games played (316 ABs). I’m not great at math, but that is one home run for every 15.8 at-bats. He certainly is a player on the rise, and a few more HRs could and should have been expected, but to offer perspective, that is virtually equivalent to Mike Trout’s career mark!
Baseballs are flying farther as well. Nomar Mazara blasted a mammoth 505-foot HR on 6/21, tying a Statcast-era record. Last season, only 82 home runs surpassed 450 feet. The number is 84 already in 2019, with a projected total of 178 – an increase of 117 percent.
The epitome of all these factoids is the New York Yankees. A power-packed team, no doubt, but last week, they set an all-time MLB mark with home runs in 28 straight games. The honor of breaking the record went to DJ LeMahieu, who has 12 HRs in 74 games played (301 ABs) and an ISO of .186 (career high). A batter who always packs a wallop (lifetime 30.6% hard-hit rate), LeMahieu’s career mark is 15 taters in 2018.
Study: Astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills did a study on the baseball to determine if the baseballs used by MLB are indeed “juiced.”
This study illustrated:
- Leather used to make baseballs is smoother (using synthetic rawhide now – pitchers can’t get a grip and have been using pine tar for a better hold on the ball. Technically illegal, but umpires have been tolerating the use for the safety of hitters. Nobody wants a pitcher who can’t control the baseball AT ALL, thus drilling hitters and causing major injury)
- Core is more centered
- Seems are flatter
All of these new features reduce drag on the baseball and are the reason why the ball is traveling further. You can really tell the difference by watching outfielders go back on balls that are now leaving the ballpark. Major league outfielders are intelligent enough (item for debate) to know what fly balls they have a chance to catch and how to react. Watching them creep further and further towards the wall only to see it leave the ballpark with mouth-wide-open looks is proof positive the baseball is juiced. I love how it has been inflating home run totals for some of our once power-starved fantasy players, but our high-end pitchers have been suffering, and this makes more of an impact on our teams.
As a baseball purist, it just isn’t right and needs to be looked at this offseason… if MLB executives even care. Chicks dig the long ball, and so do the masses who buy tickets.
WEEKLY REPORT CARD
Logan Allen was my top SP stream for last week, and he did not disappoint (6 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K – QS/W). The 10 total baserunners were a bit alarming and may have elevated your team WHIP, but Allen was able to work around trouble and left unscathed for the most part. Now having pitched two solid starts to begin his MLB career, and posting back-to-back 30+ point games in those formats, Allen appears to have laid claim to a rotation spot on this club. He is worthy to hold onto for our fantasy rotations, as he next squares off against the lowly Giants on 7/1.
We took our last stand this past week with Jake Arrieta. So far, he was hit around by the dumpster fire known as the New York Mets (9 H, 5 ER), yet, Arrieta did get the win since New York’s bullpen SUCKS. He still has one more start against Miami in their building on 6/30. Can he balance out those ratios and reward those owners who begrudgingly placed him in the starting lineup? I sure hope so, as this was the more attractive start of the two. Marlins have scored the 6th fewest runs over the last seven days and carry a slash line of .238/.294/.371/.665 over same timeframe.
Two of the top hitters I was on last week were Shohei Ohtani (8/14, 3 XBH, HR, SB, 3 Ks) and Joc Pederson (5/15, including two doubles and six punchouts). I expected this to be the week of Joc, and he has done adequately with two more games left as of this writing, but I had more grandiose visions of 3-4 homers with multiple RBI. But where Pederson may have let me down, Ohtani has come through in spades. The stolen base was a welcomed treat!
As always, if there are any requests for information I can provide or a player/team you would like me cover, drop a line in our VIP Chat Room or hit me up on Twitter, @Rob_Povia. Happy Fourth of July! #Merica
MLB GAME BREAKDOWN GRID
Last week before the All-Star break; we’ve almost made it to our much deserved rest, and I guess the players have too.
Please excuse me while I go ice down my neck down from the whiplash I received when watching the first game in London. Looking up from laptop many, many times while writing this piece took its toll. So.. many… runs! Did I pass out and wake up during fantasy football season? 17-13 is about right for a London game.
Ok, I’m back… Aaron Judge is in a great position to have a successful week as he rounds back into game shape. With homers in two of his last three games, his honor will be teeing off the following pitchers:
- Jason Vargas (Despite riding his hottest streak since his 2017 All-star season, one would have to figure regression is coming with his 5.06 xFIP. Also swirling in the background, Mets upper brass is not happy with Vargas for his lack of ownership in the incident with reporter Tim Healey and trade rumors are abound.)
- Zack Wheeler (1.25 HR/9, .304 BABIP)
- Ryan Yarbrough (4.62 ERA, 36.5% hard hit percentage; TB Bullpen – 4.85 xFIP, 1.16 HR/9)
- Brendan McKay (Two-way prospect dished 6/29 for his MLB Debut; 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five games with Triple-A Durham but very wet behind the ears. My $ is on Judge.)
- Blake Snell (Not the same pitcher and lost right now with a 5.01 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 1.25 HR/9. Snell’s fastball has had about a 10% decrease in ground ball percentage and about a 10% increase in line drive percentage from 2018 to 2019. Teams are hitting Snell a lot harder and at an alarming percentage, despite little change in velocity. He’ll return once he figures out his mechanical and location issues but not before Judge takes him deep.)
- Charlie Morton (Having a fabulous season, so hopefully Judge has already posted a week’s worth of stats by Sunday. But just in case he hasn’t, Morton’s 3.30 xFIP is higher than his 2.43 ERA. So there’s that, plus Judge does have one home run in four at-bats vs. Morton.
Roll out your Yankee righties! Oh yeah, you knew this. But did you know Brett Gardner is 9/22 vs. Vargas and Wheeler, 11/29 vs. Snell and Morton with 2 HRs and has a new lease on life? If not, see INJURED LIST REPORT below.
Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu and recently surging switch-hitter Leury García make for fine additions to your lineup this week, facing potentially six left-handed starters if Daniel Norris checks out ok to start in the doubleheader against the White Sox. Spencer Turnbull has already been ruled out (again, see IL Report).
Sticking in the AL Central, Minnesota lefty bats must be salivating from the mouth going into this last week before the break. Max Kepler (.562 SLG, .921 OPS vs. RHP this season) is in a smash spot, facing upwards to five RHPs. Switch-hitter Jorge Polanco will have tons of fun this week, and Luis Arraez (11/20 last seven days) finds himself in the starting lineup/ with Eddie Rosario now on the IL (alright, just scroll down to the freakin IL report now and come back when you’re done).
Good week to potentially sit struggling Cardinal bats (i.e. Paul Goldschmidt) with six road games in pitcher’s parks. T-Mobile Park (Mariners) has seen baselines of 0.902 runs, 1.019 home runs, 0.942 singles, 0.876 doubles and 0.771 triples. Oracle Park (Giants) correspondingly has baselines of 0.956 runs, 0.688 home runs, 1.053 singles, 1.048 doubles and triples 1.468.
Juan Soto has been scalding the last seven days, going 7/22 with 3 HRs and a triple. I expect the good times to roll against this hodgepodge:
- Zac Gallen (Gallen has 14 Ks in two big league starts so far and has pitched very well, so this will be a challenging matchup despite LHH/RHP.)
- Sandy Alcantara (3.86 ERA / 4.52 FIP / 5.23 xFIP / 5.51 SIERA, 1.40 WHIP, 33.3% HH)
- Elieser Hernandez (Hernandez has been a great stream for me, but his 1.48 HR/9 and low 36.4% GB-rate can be exploited.)
- Brad Keller (4.32 ERA / 4.93 xFIP, 6.48 K/9, 4.32 BB/9)
- Glenn Sparkman (4.07 ERA / 5.37 FIP / 5.48 xFIP / 5.38 SIERA, 4.88 K/9)
- Jakob Junis (I used to like Junis a lot coming out of Rock Falls, IL, and he has been unlucky this season with a 5.23 ERA and a 4.69 xFIP. However, when you’re trying to justify a pitcher’s performance with these high of numbers, he is most likely trash.
Matt Adams has been tearing the cover off the ball the last seven days when in the lineup (3 HRs, 8 RBI in 18 ABs). I would expect more starts based on his success and right-handed pitching brigade above.
If you need me to tell you how good of a start the aforementioned Mr. Yelich is this week, you have more problems than I can handle. What I will tell you: Eric Thames is too. Seeing more of the playing time at first, Thames has six hits in his last 17 ABs and five of them have gone for extra bases. Six righty starters should keep Thames’ hot bat in the lineup for the majority this week.
Scooter Gennett finally gets to play baseball after being activated off the 60-day IL. Six righties wait to greet him (.499 SLG, .845 OPS vs. RHP last three seasons), and Scooter will return the favor by welcoming them to his HR club. I don’t normally start guys fresh off the IL, but here, I would make an exception.
WEEKLY INTERLEAGUE OUTLOOK
With the fourth of July holiday comes rivalry series. This week, we get the second installments of the Subway Series, Crosstown Series and Ohio Cup. Short 2-game series won’t rock the boat too much but just enough to garner consideration. Yankees will have an opportunity to rest E5, although, Luke Voit’s tight abdomen could have Encarnación see time at first base if Voit misses time. However, DJ LeMahieu could get the call. Jake Bauers will undoubtedly hit the bench. Cubs rotate Baez and Bryant as their DH in away interleague games, and the main benefactor for playing time could be David Bote. Astros and Royals will lose their DH with the latter feeling the loss for three games. My dreams are briefly fulfilled, as we’ll see Jose Martinez in the role he was born to fill.
TOP TWO-START PITCHERS
IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
- Patrick Corbin (MIA, KC)
- Trevor Bauer (@KC, @CIN) – Don’t call it a comeback, because that will surely jinx it.
- David Price (@TOR, @DET)
- Charlie Morton (BAL, NYY)
- Mike Minor (LAA, @MIN)
- James Paxton (@NYM, @TB)
- Jake Odorizzi (@OAK, TEX)
- Dallas Keuchel (PHI, MIA)
- Jack Flaherty (@SEA, @SF)
- Matthew Boyd (@CHW, BOS)
- Adbert Alzolay (@PIT, @CHW)
- Zac Gallen (@WSH, @ATL)
- Griffin Canning (@TEX, @HOU)
- Logan Allen (SF, @LAD)
- Joe Musgrove (CHC, MIL)
- FADE: Ross Stripling (ARI, SD) – Stripling has regained a rotation spot until at least August when Rich Hill is expected to return from yet another injury. However, until he is stretched out, Ross will only pitch a few innings before giving way to another bullpen relegated starter in Julio Urias. For now, leave him on the bench, as these two starts will roughly equate to one with low probability to qualify for the win. Ross even says it himself, “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”
- LAST STAND: Nick Pivetta (@ATL, @NYM) – Up and down season for Pivetta may see some owners in deeper leagues take a shot this week despite challenging road starts. And they could be rewarded, as Pivetta has been better on the road than at Citizens Bank (.269 rBAA, .314 hBAA). I’d much prefer sitting him in Hotlanta in daily/biweekly leagues and take advantage of the Mets feeling bad for themselves, slipping further into the doldrums. There is an equal probability Pivetta gets bombed in both starts (11 runs allowed to ATL & NYM in 16 innings), but stands need to be taken somewhere. Maybe you catch lightning before the All-Star break.
For a detailed breakdown of more two-start pitchers who may be available on your waiver wire, check out Vlad’s FAAB Values!
STARTING PITCHER RANKINGS FOR July 1-7
Heading into the last week before the All-Star break, most of our top options at SP are of the one start variety. Yet, somehow, our two-steppers are pretty balanced #1-15. Both sets of rankings seemed odd to me, so I reentered the data into my model and came up with similar results. I am warning you now… it’s going to be a weird week for pitching, heading towards the half-way point.
Along with Verlander and Sale, the big three from our Nation’s Capital occupy the top-5 this week, inviting cellar dwellers Miami and KC to take a stroll through the Great Lawn. I’m most excited for Patrick Corbin out of the three; not only does he start twice, his best pitch – an 82 MPH slider which generates a high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sliders, according to Brooks Baseball – is going to baffle two ball clubs who are riddled with free swingers (Miami: 26.1% K-rate; KC: 25.8% K-rate).
Jack Flaherty was lit up last time out by the A’s on his home turf, surrendering seven earned runs via three long balls in 4.2 IP. This was anti-split activity, as his trends show a penchant for getting knocked around on the road (6.68 rERA, 3.48 hERA). The good news is Flaherty has two great matchups this week against San Fran and Seattle. The bad news is, they are both on the road. Or is it bad news. Here is where I am going to see if you were paying attention earlier in this article. Were the park factor baselines for runs scored in Oracle Park and T-Mobile Park over or under 1.000? If you need a refresher, or just hit this part of the article up first, go see the GAME BREAKDOWN GRID analysis for the full scoop.
To sum up, I’m rolling Flaherty against the trends because of the excellent matchups and park factors, which makes him my Bold Strategy Cotton Play this week… Like I said earlier, it’s gonna be a weird week for pitching!
Will we see Dylan Cease called up for the White Sox doubleheader on 7/3? 5-2 with a 4.48 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 15 starts for Triple-A Charlotte, Cease could use just a tad more ceasoning, and we’ll probably see a bullpen game… see what I did there?
*Update: Kyle Hendricks will be activated from IL to start 7/2 @PIT. I normally allow 1-2 successful, healthy starts before I throw an SP returning from injury into my lineup (thus avoiding limited pitch counts and/or reinjury during said start). However, I am making an exception for Hendricks because: a) shoulder impingement necessitated rest only with minimal, non-invasive treatment. Despite some reports of a potentially limited pitch count, I feel he will be on a normal count. Also, risk of re-injury is minimal with this type of injury; and b) the matchup is oh so tasty!!!
MLB INJURED LIST REPORT
Besides names that may already be listed, here is the latest injury news on a few of your fantasy studs. I will update early in the week.
- Jordan Hicks (torn UCL) will undergo season-ending Tommy John reconstructive surgery after second opinion verified ligament is torn to the point where surgery is required. He will miss 12-14 months. For replacement options, see Ray Flowers’ Closer Chart.
- Six games after he returned from a lengthy IL stint due to a tear in his bicep muscle, Giancarlo Stanton (PCL strain in right knee) returns to an all too familiar spot after he was hurt during an awkward headfirst slide into third base against Toronto. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman would project only a possible range of time for his return, but it’s looking more like August than it is July. Stanton and his fantasy owners have to be extremely frustrated at this point, and these consistent injuries are tarnishing what could be (and still may be) a hall of fame career. Brett Gardner returns to man left field and is once again fantasy viable.
- Brendan Rodgers (right shoulder impingement) joined fellow middle infielder Trevor Story on 10-day IL, retro to 6/24. The discomfort is being reported as stemming from a throw to first base several days prior, and eventually, the proper recourse was to shut it down and rest the shoulder. What speaks volumes is the incredible infield depth of Colorado. Already on the main club, Ryan McMahon is getting the lion’s share of at-bats at 2B, and the Rockies also have future stud Pat Valaika, who flat out rakes wherever he plays (.339/.372/.661/1.033, 16 HR, .323 ISO, .418 wOBA with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2019), and speedster Garrett Hampson to help up the middle… Story, however, begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on 6/29.
- Eddie Rosario (left ankle sprain) sustained his injury while running the bases on 6/26. MRI was clean, but Minnesota opted to be cautious with their home run leader and placed him on IL. Retro to 6/27, Rosario could technically return before All-Star break, but according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic, he’s much more likely to return after the break. Makes sense. Why rush matters when Twins are in first place.
- Spencer Turnbull (right shoulder fatigue) hit the IL on 6/28 after being removed prematurely from his contest the day prior. Seems as though 26-year-old Turnbull needs to take the All-Star break to rest the shoulder, which has been barking for some time but luckily has zero structural damage after an MRI came back clean. After a hot start to the season, he has allowed 27 runs in 45 innings. In just his second year, and after 89.2 innings, the reprieve may be just what the doctor ordered… literally.
- Marcell Ozuna (finger) came up lame after sliding back to first base on a pickoff attempt. He had X-rays on 6/28 and was being evaluated on 6/29 to determine if there was a fracture. Either way, he is IL-bound and will be out till at least after the break. Tyler O’Neill has been promoted from Triple-A in a corresponding move, and the regular ABs for Jose Martinez should only continue. *Update: Ozuna has multiple small fractures on middle and ring fingers of his right hand. Per FOX Sports Midwest, manager Mike Shildt said Ozuna will be sidelined “every bit of the 10 days and beyond.” Expect Ozuna to be out beyond All-Star break, but luckily, surgery not required.
- Cole Hamels (left oblique strain) left his most recent start after only one inning and has been placed on the 10-day IL. Cubs will assess severity of the injury with an MRI on 7/1. *Awaiting MRI Results
- Khris Davis (hand) was held out of the lineup on 6/28 after his hand began to swell up from taking a fastball off his left paw the day prior. He is currently listed as day-to-day… aren’t we all. *Update: Davis was held out of lineup for third straight game on 6/30. With an off day on 7/1, Oakland is hoping the swelling will have subsided enough for the 31-year-old DH to re-enter the lineup for series opener with Twins on 7/2.
- Xander Bogaerts (left calf strain) left the first London game in the bottom of the seventh inning after coming up lame rounding second base. No word on severity, but should the 26-year-old shortstop miss time, Eduardo Nunez would be the benefactor. *Update: Initial prognosis of strain was premature, as Bogaerts was dealing with cramping due to 92-degree heat and hard surface at London Stadium. He returned to lineup for Game 2 in London, smacking a two-run homer. I would say Bogie is all good!
POV SPECIAL – TOP SP STREAM OF THE WEEK
→ Austin Voth, RH WASH (KC) – Voth has been a nice upgrade for a former POV Special, Erick Fedde, who did well for us back in Week 9 but has subsequently posted a 5.72 xFIP while allowing a .270 average to opponents across six starts. In his first start, facing a tough offense in the Braves, Voth cruised for six four-hit innings, giving up only two runs while striking out seven. His fastball lied in the mid- to upper-90’s, which is a stark improvement from his 91.4 MPH average last season for Washington. His next start wasn’t as smooth vs. a weak-hitting Tigers team in Detroit, which may have others in your league off him. I’m taking the shot he rebounds back at home against KC, who have scored the 8th fewest runs in MLB over the last seven days and have a slash line of .245/.310/.404/.714 overall.
For more streaming options on the mound AND at the plate, visit Vlad’s FAAB Values!
Top Hitter BvP for the Week (minimum 20 ABs)
- Chris Davis vs. Aaron Sanchez – 7/5 (8/24, 6 XBH, 4 HR, 11 BB / 9 K!, .333/.556/.917/1.472)
- Starling Marte vs. Chase Anderson – 7/7 (15/32, 6 XBH, 2 HR, .469/.528/.813/1.340)
- Charlie Blackmon vs. Robbie Ray – 7/6 (19/42, 6 XBH, 5 HR, 12 RBI, .452/.477/.857/1.334)
- Khris Davis vs. Martin Perez – 7/4 (8/21, 4 XBH, 2 HR, 7 BB / 7 K,.381/.533/.762/1.295)
- José Abreu vs. Matthew Boyd – 7/2 (12/24, 3 XBH, 2 HR, .500/.500/.792/1.292)
- Alex Gordon vs. Max Scherzer – 7/4 (14/39, 7 XBH, 3 HR, 9 BB / 8 K, .359/.479/.692/1.171)
- Elvis Andrus vs. Tyler Skaggs – 7/4 (9/22, 2 XBH, HR, 6 BB / 3 K, .409/.552/.591/1.143)
- David Peralta vs. Ross Stripling – 7/2 (8/20, 5 XBH, 2 BB / 2 K, .400/.455/.650/1.105)
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