Jeremy Hellickson (SP - TB): Hellickson continues to show some growing pains at the major league level. In his third start of the season on Sunday Hellickson made it 0-3 in the quality start category by allowing 4 ER’s on 6 hits and 2 BB’s over 7 innings. He struck out just 3 and now has a middling 14:9 K:BB Ratio through his first 18 innings. The issues with command are particularly alarming given Hellickson walked just over 2 BB/9 as a minor leaguer. We knew he’d struggle with the HR ball because of his high fly ball tendencies but we figured the overwhelming K:BB Rate would ultimately mitigate some of the HR issues. He’ll get a power-laden Blue Jays in his next matchup, which may be one owners want to sit out. I’m typically not optimistic on rookie pitchers in the AL East, but Hellickson looked like a bit of an outlier coming into the season. I’m still relatively optimistic over the course of this year, but admittedly we’ll need to see improved command for him to meet our aggressive preseason projections. Keep an eye on the BB Rates over the next few starts and in HR hitters parks like the Rogers Centre, it may be best to keep Hellickson reserved until he demonstrates improved control.
Michael Pineda (SP - SEA): Pineda continued his impressive rookie campaign shutting down the Royals over 6 strong innings and picking up his 2nd win of the season. He allowed just 1 ER on 3 hits while striking out 5 and walking 4. This is the first outing Pineda battled some control issues but the walks aren’t particularly representative of his control on the day. He actually threw 62 of his 94 pitches for strikes in the outing. While Pineda’s been impressive early on some of the indicators aren’t particularly encouraging. He’s posted just an 18% GB Rate going into yesterday’s start with a 27% LD Rate. He’s doing a good job at getting batters to chase pitches (36% chase rate) and a good job limiting contact overall (72%) but the contact he has given up has been very hard. This isn’t unusual for a young player, but is indicative of a potential sell high opportunity for owners in redraft formats. The 22 year old is likely to hit some rough patches ahead and while I still believe he’ll be a solid #3 or #4 starter for fantasy owners, his value might not be higher. Once more of those LD’s and FB’s start finding holes or leaving the yard, the production is going to suffer.
Jeff Francis (SP - KC): Make it four for four in the quality start department for Jeff Francis. Francis was the hard luck loser on Sunday as he allowed just 3 ER’s on 6 hits over 6 1/3 innings. Francis only struck out 1, but he didn’t walk anybody and continued to get ground balls, racking up 8 more ground outs in this outing. No free passes and lots of balls on the ground has been the recipe for Francis early season success and while it’s a good recipe long-term I question whether it’s legitimate. Francis has always had above average command (2.89 BB/9 for career) but posted just ordinary GB Rates throughout much of his career (43%). Last year he upped the GB Rate to 47% but even that is pretty far off from the current 57% he’s posted. He’s still giving up LD’s at a high rate (21%) and his FB velocity is down to just 85 mph. If he can maintain the elite GB Rate he’s got a chance at being a decent matchups play and hold AL Only value, but with a very low K Rate (4.67 K/9), there’s far more downside than upside in investing in Francis.
Alexei Ogando (SP - TEX): I mentioned on Sunday morning’s Week 3 podcast that of the three Texas pitchers who look like pickup options early on Ogando was the one I had the least amount of confidence. Besides some of the durability concerns and his transition to the rotation, Ogando’s peripherals early on weren’t particularly that good. A 5.54 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 29% GB Rate, 26% LD Rate isn’t that of a sub 3.80 ERA pitcher let alone one with a 0.00 ERA. I predicted he’d start running into some trouble on Sunday night against the Yankees (not a particularly bold prediction) and that was the case. He served up 3 HR’s which accounted for 5 ER’s in 6 1/3 IP. In total he only allowed 6 hits and 1 BB, but struck out just 1 as well. The Texas defense will hide a bunch of Ogando’s warts, but the defense can’t do much to prevent HR’s and with Ogando’s 44% FB Rate those are going to come in bunches (as we saw on Sunday night). Ultimately he has some matchps value in mixed leagues, but I don’t think he’ll be much more than that. Derek Holland is the Texas SP that intrigues me most, followed by Matt Harrison and then Alexei Ogando, even if their performance early on has been the exact opposite.
Macier Izturis (SS - LAA): Izturis stayed absurdly hot by picking up 3 more hits on Sunday and improving his batting average to a robust .383. A look at peripherals suggests Izturis is benefiting from some extremely good luck early on. He’s walking less, striking out more, and overall has seen his contact rate drop over 7%. Perhaps “luck” is the wrong word as Izturis has posted an incredible 31% LD Rate early on that is supporting a .413 BABIP. While the BABIP isn’t unusually high given the ridiculous LD Rate, it most certainly isn’t sustainable. Izturis’ career LD Rate of 16% suggests this will come crashing down eventually. For the time being the red-hot Izturis has earned more playing time and is a viable option if you’re digging deep and need a hot replacement in the MI or 3B, but with little pop and just adequate speed much of his fantasy contributions are built on good fortune.
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