Emmanuel Clase (RP-CLE) earned the save against the Tigers on Friday evening, as he tossed a clean ninth inning in which he struck out a pair. The 23 year-old threw 14 total pitches, 11 for strikes. This is the first save that Clase recorded this season, and he had not earned a hold before Friday evening either. But he's been dominant on the mound, as he has yet to give up a run through his first 3 appearances (3 innings pitched) while fanning 5 and walking none. He also hasn't allowed a single base hit. On Friday night, Clase sat at 99-101 with his cutter while tossing a pair of sliders that registered at 91 and 92 mph. Cleveland was off yesterday, so it is interesting to say the least that Terry Francona went with Clase instead of presumed closer Nick Wittgren against the Tigers. Clase is definitely worth adding if he's available in your league.
Andrew Heaney (SP-LAA) tossed a gem against the Blue Jays on Friday evening, as he completed 6 scoreless innings in which he fanned 9 and walked 2 while scattering 3 hits. It was a nice recovery from his poor initial outing against a loaded White Sox lineup in which he was battered for 7 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 over just 3 innings pitched. In this one, the 29 year-old mainly worked at 92-93mph with his heater while mixing in his breaking ball and changeup. Heaney tossed 64 of his 93 pitches for strikes and maintained his velocity until he left the game. He lines up for a touch matchup at home against the Twins next week, but I think that his fantasy owners have to run him out there given this most recent performance.
Zach Plesac (SP-CLE) was dynamite against Detroit on Friday evening, as he tossed 7 scoreless innings in which he scattered 3 hits and walked none while striking out 6. The 26 year-old has started the campaign strong, as he now owns a 1.38 ERA, 7 K/9, and 1.4 BB/9 through his first 2 starts (13 IP). His 3.75 xFIP points to a .243 BABIP and 82% strand rate suppressing his ERA while he has also not yet allowed a single homer on the campaign. But Plesac has helped to make his own luck despite the low strikeout rate to date, as he induced lots of grounders in Friday's outing against the Tigers (59% of batted balls). And while the K/9 isn't exactly impressive overall, it is encouraging for fantasy purposes that he dialed it up a bit more in this latest outing. He lines up for a challenging start on the road against the White Sox next week but I think you have to follow the fantasy maxim "start your studs" here.
Corey Kluber (SP-NYY) lasted just 2.1 innings against Tampa Bay on Friday as he surrendered 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while fanning 3. He threw 39 of his 62 pitches for strikes and did not give up any homers. The 34 year-old now owns a 5.68 ERA, 11.4 K/9, and 7 BB/9 through his first two starts of the 2021 campaign (just 6.1 IP). His 5.19 xFIP indicates that an absurd .500 BABIP and a suppressed 62% strand rate are inflating his ERA a bit, but the lack of major disparity between the ERA and xFIP reflects that he just hasn't been good. The control issues that began in 2019 have continued in 2021 while his velocity remained down - he sat at just 89-91mph with his four-seamer and sinker while leaning heavily on a cutter that clocked about 87mph. Kluber lines up for a start on the road against Toronto next week and I can't recommend that you start him against that lineup. At this point, he has to earn his fantasy owners' trust.
Rich Hill (SP-TB) earned the W against the Yankees on Friday after giving up 4 runs on 4 hits and no walks while striking out 7 over 6 innings of work. He threw 61 of his 83 pitches for strikes while allowing one longball. The 41 year-old has now made 2 starts (10 innings pitched) in 2021 and he owns a 7.20 ERA, 9.9 K/9, and 1.8 BB/9 so far. His 3.71 xFIP points to a very unlucky 37% strand rate inflating his ERA. In this one, Hill mainly mixed up an 86-88mph fastball with his 72-mph curve, although he occasionally threw in a cutter and slider. Given the gap between his ERA and xFIP, I would expect his ERA to come down significantly over the next couple of outings. He lines up for a promising matchup with the Rangers at home next week and I would start him with little hesitation.
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