Kimbrel was a player I was down on before 2017, his batted ball profile seemed primed for a blowup season, and I thought fantasy players were drafting him way too early. Well, it's time to eat crow, as Kimbrel has been a freakin' beast in 2017 and is showing no signs of slowing down. He set down two Brewers in the eighth and then once the Sox took the lead in the top of the ninth, came in for the final three outs, all of which were also strikeouts. The unorthodox righty (at least in his stance on the mound) has surrendered just two runs in his 15.2 innings this season, striking out 31 and walking just two, leading to a beautiful 1.15/0.47/0.60 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line. That's right, a 0.60 xFIP this season. The few warning signs that were lit up before 2017 were his increasing walk rate (5.09 BB/9 in 2016) and his severe drop in ground ball rate (29.4 percent in 2016). Both of those issues appear to have been solved, as he is walking just 1.15 batters per nine and back to inducing ground balls 45.0 percent of the time. He's been one of the best closers in baseball to date and there's no reason to expect otherwise right now.
Estrada got the win Thursday, going six innings allowing just two runs on four hits and three walks, while striking out eight. Estrada has been even better than in recent seasons so far in 2017, as he single-handedly tries to prove that you must look beyond simply FIP and xFIP. Estrada has been "begging for regression" for two-plus seasons now, but he clearly is able to do something (whether it's limit hard contact or something else entirely) that allows him to have real success (ERA) while his predicted success (FIP/xFIP) suggests there won't be more to come. Estrada has a 3.12 ERA this season, and once again his FIP (3.43) and xFIP (3.92) are higher, but this year not by as much. That's because he is striking out more batters than ever (9.73 K/9), plus if you're still trying to use xFIP to predict what Estrada will do in the future, I have some really good carpet to sell you. Estrada is pretty clearly in the top tier of pitchers at this point, and his potential as a blind spot for some of the more sabermetric owners out there only drives down his price for those who are able to adjust and see his value.
Devenski had another excellent outing for the Astros, tossing two shutout innings to bridge the gap between Dallas Keuchel and Ken Giles (who very nearly blew the save), as the Astros won an entertaining 3-1 game over fellow fast-starters, New York. Devenski drew some offseason attention with his 1.63 ERA and 23.4 percent strikeout minus walk rate as a reliever in 2016, and he has picked up right where he left off so far in 2017. Devenski has settled right into that Andrew Miller tier of relievers who don't get regular saves but still have a lot of value to fantasy teams. Devenski has two wins and two saves, but it is his 16.43 K/9 and 1.96 ERA that have truly moved him into the Miller Tier. His FIP (1.72) and xFIP (1.11) suggest there is plenty more success to be had ahead, as does his incredible 45.4 percent strikeout minus walk rate. In case you're still skeptical, his ground ball rate is higher and his hard hit ball rate lower than in 2016. Devenski will only bump into a few saves here and there, but he'll still have plenty of fantasy value in 2017.
Thursday may have been the beginning of the end, a perfect warning shot across the bow for owners of Holland, screaming to jump ship before it goes down in a fiery mess. Holland gave up seven runs, but only three were earned. It was still a rough day, as he allowed ten base runners (six hits, four walks) and three home runs. Holland still has a flashy 2.43 ERA, but his FIP (4.73) and xFIP (5.14) are terrifying. Plus, if you just watch this guy pitch, you know he isn't an elite arm. He's striking out just 7.30 batters per nine, and his swinging strike rate (9.1 percent) doesn't suggest that number is going to improve. It's not as if he's some master of inducing soft contact, either, as his 17.6 soft contact rate and 38.2 percent hard contact rate (before last night's start) both rank in the bottom tier of qualified starters this season. There are red flags on top of red flags here right now, I wouldn't even trust him as a streaming option right now, as this most recent start seems like his ceiling going forward. Even if his next start comes as it's projected in a friendly matchup against the Angels, I wouldn't put him in my lineup.
Christian Vasquez ($7)
Vasquez has been strong against righties in 2017, and the Sox are going against one who looks like he may be due for some regression. Vasquez is 16-for-42 off righties this season, good for a .381 average with four doubles and a triple over that stretch. Cobb, meanwhile, has a 3.56 ERA but a 4.47 FIP and 4.24 xFIP. His hard hit ball rate (36.4 percent) is higher than in seasons past, and his worst start of 2017 came against these same Red Sox in Fenway. Vasquez has played just 15 games this season, but when he has been in the lineup, he is hitting the ball hard (career-high 35.0 percent hard hit ball rate) and is elevating the ball more than seasons past. There's no guarantee he'll be in the lineup, but if he is, he is a nice, cheap play to free up some money for big spending elsewhere.
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