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Dynasty Dugout: Starting Pitcher Risers and Fallers

Last week was all about the outfielders in Dynasty Dugout. This week we switch away from offense and take a look at the players designed to limit it. You’ll always have the truly elite pitchers that dominate each year, but there are a lot of pitchers who trend up and down each season.

Trending Up

Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox

Ever since Chris Sale arrived in Boston, Rodriguez has become a different pitcher. He’s working at a much quicker pace (similar to Sale) and really attacking hitters. Through 10 appearances (nine starts), Rodriguez has a 2.77 ERA. 1.12 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9. All of those are career highs for the 24-year-old lefty out of Venezuela. He’s also limiting contact well and allowing only 6.7 hits per nine innings.

This is what the Red Sox hoped he’d become when they acquired him from Baltimore for Andrew Miller at the trade deadline back in 2014. The stuff has always been there. Rodriguez combines a mid-90s heater that can touch 97-98, with a developing slider and changeup that are both becoming plus offerings. Having two of the best left-handed starters in the game to learn from can only continue to benefit him going forward. Consider E-Rod a top-40 dynasty league starter with the potential for much more if he continues to pitch to his abilities.

Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates

Talk about a control freak. Through 70 innings this season, Nova has walked just five batters. That’s an insanely low number. It gets even more impressive when you go back to when he was acquired from the Yankees in the middle of last season. Since that trade, Nova has walked only eight batters in 134 2/3 innings.

[the_ad id=”384″]Nova is a classic example of a “pitch to contact” starting pitcher. He’s always over the plate but mixes pitch locations and speeds well enough that hitters rarely make hard contact. That, plus the minuscule walk rate, help keep his ERA and WHIP low. The one area that keeps Nova from being an upper-echelon fantasy starter is his sub-par strikeout rate. Over that same 134 2/3-inning stretch with Pittsburgh, he has amassed only 89 strikeouts. That translates to a paltry 5.95 K/9 rate.

If Nova can ever start missing more bats, he could be a top-25 dynasty league pitcher. At this point in his career, that seems highly doubtful. Nova could become what Mark Buehrle was back in the mid to late-2000s. A solid #4 of #5 starter for your dynasty team, but not more than that. There’s also a chance you could acquire him on the cheap due to his low strikeout rate.

Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

It took a while for this once top prospect to become a productive major league pitcher. Better late than never, though. After debuting in 2012, it took Bundy four seasons to finally make it back to Baltimore. He was a valuable pitcher for the Orioles in 2016, making appearances out of the bullpen as well as starting. This year, however, has been Bundy’s breakout season. Through 11 starts, he has six wins, a 2.89 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

Strikeouts are the one area where he hasn’t been as strong this year. After routinely striking out batters at a high rate in the minors, Bundy hsa only 49 punchouts in 71 2/3 innings this year. That equates to only a 6.15 K/9 rate. The lower velocity might have something to do with that. His average fastball velocity this year is only 91.7 MPH, down 2.1 MPH from last year’s 93.8 mark. His low strikeout totals will suppress his overall value, but this is still a valuable pitcher in all formats. He’s a top-50 dynasty league starter as it stands today and could be even better if his strikeouts rise.

Other Risers in Value

Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers

While I was writing this article, Wood’s breakout season was put on pause when he went on the disabled list with SC joint inflammation in his shoulder. The injury seems minor, but at this point it’s hard to tell how long he’ll be out. Assuming the injury doesn’t keep him out too long, this could be an opportunity to buy low on Wood. There’s always room for an 11.3 K/9 rate on your roster, especially with the low ratios he’s putting up.

Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals

A lot of the same things that I wrote about Nova can be applied to Leake. His strikeout rate is very low, but he mixes pitches well enough to keep batters off balance. This has been by far the best season of his career, so expect some regression as the season goes along, but Leake is still a valuable pitcher that you can probably acquire for not too much. Value him in the same ballpark as Nova.

Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins and Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals

These are two guys whose hot starts I’m definitely not buying into. Pitchers with career ERAs over four don’t all of a sudden transform into fantasy aces in their age-34 seasons. Both of their FIP (Fielding Independent Pitcher) rates are well above their current ERAs. That’s a solid indication that their ERAs should rise soon. Sell now while their value is high before they drop back toward their career norms.


Trending Down

Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox

Watching Pomeranz pitch is about as much fun as getting teeth pulled. After a great start to the 2016 season with the Padres, Pomeranz was acquired by Boston to be a key part of their rotation. To acquire him, the Red Sox had to give up a top-20 overall prospect in right-handed starter Anderson Espinoza. So far the Pomeranz deal hasn’t worked out quite as well as Boston had hoped.

Back on May 21st, I did some research on how many pitches per inning the Red Sox’s four main starting pitchers were throwing. Pomeranz is easily the highest on the team at 19.1 pitches per inning. That high total has kept him from going deep into games and limits his chances to pick up wins and quality starts.

When his ERA and WHIP are low, that is something you can overlook, but that hasn’t been the case this year. In 44 innings, he has a 4.70 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Combine that with the fact that he’s averaging under five innings per start, and this isn’t someone that is going to help your team. Unless he can start working deeper into games, Pomeranz is going to hurt you more than he helps you. As we stand today, he is not a top-50 dynasty league starting pitcher. He’s worth using only against bad offenses right now.

Matt Harvey, New York Mets

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Harvey was flying up the dynasty ranks after the 2013 season, when he posted a 2.27 ERA and a 9.6 K/9 over 26 starts. Many had him penciled in as the team’s ace for the next decade. Now he’s barely even the Mets’ #4 starter.

A lot has happened to the 28-year-old righty over the past few seasons. After missing the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery, Harvey came roaring back with a spectacular 2015 season that was nearly as good as his breakout 2013 campaign. Then the wheels came off. His 2016 season was a disaster that ended after only 17 starts when he needed to undergo surgery to correct Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

A lot of questions surrounded Harvey this spring as to how he would bounce back from the surgery. The answer to that has been not very well. His ERA sits near five, and his strikeout rate has dropped for a fourth straight season. This is clearly not the same pitcher that dazzled the Big Apple back in 2013 and 2015. Dan Plesac broke down Harvey’s struggles last week.

Harvey isn’t worth your time anymore. If you have him, keep him benched until he shows some signs of turning it around.

Other Fallers in Value

Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles- A young Baltimore pitcher has broken out and has become the pitcher everyone thought he could be. Just not the one we all expected coming into the season. Unlike his teammate mentioned above, Gausman hasn’t progressed this year like fantasy owners had hoped. Don’t give up on him, but keep him benched until he figures it out.

Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees- For some reason hitters are making much more contact off Tanaka this season than in years past. His 10.9 H/9 rate is easily the worst rate of his career, as is his 2.4 BB/9 mark. Tanaka is too good of a pitcher to continue to struggle like this. If you can acquire him on the cheap, you should be happy with the move later this season.

That’s all for the pitchers. Have a pitcher that I didn’t cover? Feel free to ask in the comments section below or on Twitter. Thanks for reading and check in next Tuesday for anther edition of Dynasty Dugout.

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