Julio Teheran (SP-ATL) - Julio Teheran was a popular breakout candidate in 2014 after flashing his ace potential in the second half of 2013. Despite lacking the strikeout rate he showed last year, Teheran has continued his fantastic performance into 2014. On Wednesday, he threw a complete game shut-out in Philadelphia, surrendering just 3 hits and striking out four. He has historically been a flyball pitcher, so his performance on Wednesday was even more impressive since he was pitching in the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Looking critically, through four starts in 2014, Teheran has a K/9 of just 4.18 compared to his 2013 rate of 8.24. His SwSt% has seen a slight drop from last year, but considering that his current rate is still above league average, it's not much of a concern. The strikeouts will increase and he should be able to approach 8 strikeouts per nine. Teheran is quickly developing into a fantasy star.
Cliff Lee (SP-PHI) - Cliff Lee didn't look like an ace through the season's first three games, but he had a chance to redeem himself on Wednesday. Facing the Braves, Lee dueled Braves'starter Julio Teheran for the entire night and each starter pitched a complete game. Lee's only mistake was a solo homerun by the Braves' Evan Gattis in the 4th inning. Unfortunately, one run was all that Teheran would need and Lee was the tough-luck loser after going 9 IP, 11H, 1ER, 1BB, and 13K. Looking a little deeper at Lee's first three starts of the year, his poor performances appears to be driven by bad luck rather than diminishing skills. Going into Wednesday's game, Cliff Lee's BABIP was artificially high by about 50 points, taking into account his 25% line drive rate. His DIPs are also 2-3 runs lower than his season ERA, which also points to bad luck. Regardless, after today's performance, it appears that Cliff Lee has righted the ship and he should continue to provide excellent numbers for your fantasy team going forward.
Johnny Cueto (SP-CIN) - Johnny Cueto was locked in a pitcher's duel with Francisco Liriano for much of the afternoon on Wednesday. Johnny ended up throwing a complete shut-out, giving up just three hits, no walks and striking out 12. He's off to a torrid start to the year but today was just his first win despite a 1.50 ERA and 0.80 WHIP on the year. Cueto has been quite effective while he's been healthy the last few seasons, finishing with an ERA below 3.00 each year since 2011 and a WHIP below 1.10 in two of the last three years. His heavy GB/FB ratios the last few years have allowed him to find success despite pitching in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. Cueto will continue to carry substantial mixed league value going forward.
Evan Gattis (C - ATL)- Gattis started the year slow but is now hitting .556 with 3 HR and 6 RBI in the last seven days. On Wednesday, he drove in the only run of the game between the Braves and Phillies and ended the day going 4-for-4. Unfortunately, he has yet to draw a walk this year and he is still chasing close to 40% of the pitches he sees out of the strike zone. Gattis' HR/FB ratio of 17% in 2013 is elite and in a small sample size in 2014, his 27% rate is out-of-this-world. You can count on seeing regression to this number going forward, but it does appear the power is legit. His poor approach at the plate and his line drive rate around 14% will likely keep his batting average suppressed, but you can find plenty of worse backstop options around the league.
Hanley Ramirez (SS - LAD) - The Dodgers' shortstop was removed from Wednesday's game in the seventh inning after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. After getting hit, Hanley jumped back from the batter's box and threw his helmet down in frustration. When the trainers came out to the field to attend to his hand, he appeared to be in serious pain and yanked his hand away when one of the staff touched the point of contact. While we likely won't know the severity of the injury until tomorrow, a DL-stint is quite possible. The team could decide to call-up Alex Guerrero from Triple-A Albuquerque. Through 3 games, Guerrero has racked up 2 HR and 5 RBI in 10 at-bats. In this scenario, Gordon would likely move to shortstop and Guerrero would slot into second base.
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