The Tampa Bay Rays seem to win every trade, but there’s a chance the tables turned last season when they traded pitching prospect Joe Ryan for Nelson Cruz.
Ryan has made Tampa Bay regret the move so far, earning the Opening Day start and picking up where he left off last season with a 1.17 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in four starts. The great 4.17 K/BB ratio doesn’t quite match his 6.00 K/BB from last season, but is still in the upper echelon of MLB starters. Through nine MLB starts, Ryan now has a 2.72 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 spanning nearly 50 innings.
He was absent from most of the top prospect lists, but Ryan was worthy based on just the numbers before he was sent to Minnesota with a career 2.67 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9 in his minor league career. In a baseball world where velocity is all the rage, Ryan gets by on a deceptive fastball that has drawn a 31% whiff rate in spite of average 92 mph velocity, along with a great slider.
The concern with pitchers like Ryan who rely more on deception than pure stuff is that opposing hitters will figure them out after seeing him more often, but Ryan has been seemingly untouchable even after facing the Cubs, Guardians, and Tigers twice in his brief career.
Entering a two-start week when the matchups couldn’t be more favorable with Baltimore and Oakland ahead, Ryan is a must-start as arguably the AL Rookie of the Year favorite and an early candidate as one of the best picks of 2022 fantasy draft season. The brilliant peripherals spanning two seasons show Ryan is anything but a fluke.
-Is it time to hit the panic button on Charlie Morton? The 38-year-old has been terrible through four turns in the Braves rotation, allowing 14 runs in 18 innings with 15/11 K/BB. The good news is that his velocity has remained on par with last season, which is very important considering his late-career surge was due in large part to increased velo. Otherwise, Morton’s curveball has been hit hard despite a strong whiff rate (32%) and spin rate that is in line with previous seasons. Perhaps the disrupted offseason after suffering a fractured leg in the playoffs is wreaking havoc, but Morton’s continued great stuff gives reason for fantasy managers to stand pat heading into a two-start week.
-Cardinals fans and fantasy managers shouldn’t get discouraged by Steven Matz’s early struggles. He has an ERA above 6.00 after four starts, but the peripherals look great. The lefty has an elite 11.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 2.05 FIP, but an especially high line drive rate (45%) has made him very hittable. The good news is that the line drive rate should regress sharply. Matz’s career average is 21%, and no qualified starting pitcher had a rate above 26% last season. There’s no reason to doubt Matz as he enters a two-start week.
-Bruce Zimmermann has become Baltimore’s ace now that John Means is out for the year, befuddling hitters with a low-90’s fastball and plus changeup. He has a decent minor league track record, but home runs have been a big issue in the majors before this season. The lefty has benefitted from a roomier Camden Yards as much as anyone, and kept the ball in the park in both of his starts against the Yankees. There’s reason for some skepticism, but a career 8.3 K/9 in the majors and 9.2 K/9 in the majors shows Zimmermann is more than smoke and mirrors and worthy of a look if he’s still available in any leagues.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, April 29, and are subject to change.
Joe Ryan: @BAL, OAK
Patrick Sandoval: @CHW, WAS
Alek Manoah: NYY, @CLE
Dylan Cease: LAA, @BOS
Jordan Montgomery: @TOR, TEX
Drew Rasmussen: @OAK, @SEA
Michael Wacha: LAA, CHW
Bruce Zimmermann: MIN, KC
Michael Pineda: PIT, @HOU
Zack Greinke: @STL, @BAL
Zach Plesac: SD, TOR
Jake Odorizzi: SEA, DET
At Your Own Risk
Marco Gonzales: @HOU, TB
Chris Flexen: @HOU, TB
Tyler Wells: MIN, KC
Ross Stripling: NYY, @CLE
Ryan Yarbrough: @OAK, @SEA
Pablo Lopez: ARI, @SD
Zac Gallen: @MIA, COL
Brandon Woodruff: CIN, @ATL
Chris Bassitt: ATL, @PHI
Trevor Rogers: ARI, @SD
Ranger Suárez: TEX, NYM
Charlie Morton: @NYM, MIL
Steven Matz: KC, @SF
Carlos Carrasco: ATL, @PHI
Dakota Hudson: @KC, @SF
German Marquez: WAS, @ARI
At Your Own Risk
Bryse Wilson: @DET, @CIN
Vladimir Gutierrez: @MIL, PIT
Erick Fedde: @COL, @LAA
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, May 5: Chris Archer @ BAL
Archer’s early results have been mixed with a poor 1.67 K/BB ratio, but he’s found good fortune with a .226 BABIP. Now he has good luck with his next matchup, as the O’s have scored only 59 runs in 19 games after moving back the fences at Camden Yards.
Friday, May 6: Chris Paddack vs. OAK
We’re getting to the point that Paddack is becoming a must-add with a beautiful 3.68 ERA and 1.70 FIP over his first three starts. Now is the time to take the plunge if he’s still available against an Oakland squad that has 72 runs despite a lineup that looks pedestrian, on paper.
Friday, May 6: Carlos Hernandez @ BAL
Hernandez’s talent outshines his peripherals, with a fastball that averages better than 95 mph and a plus curve that he’s thrown more often this this season (31%). While there’s risk here for a pitcher who has fanned only 8% of opposing batters, Baltimore is an opportunity to right the ship.
Wednesday, May 4: Elieser Hernandez vs. ARI
Hernandez has been the sore spot in an otherwise spectacular Miami starting rotation, as a direct result of six home runs allowed in 15.1 innings. The command remains on point with a 3.75 K/BB ratio, and Arizona has been the worst offense in the NL with 60 runs in 20 games.
Thursday, May 5: Adrian Houser vs. CIN
Houser’s game isn’t pretty if you’re looking at K/BB, and his groundball rate has been down significantly so far. Still, there’s reason to believe he can bounce back with a career groundball rate above 55%, and the Cincinnati lineup is there to help with only 59 runs in 19 games.
Saturday, May 7: Zach Davies vs. COL
Colorado is notoriously poor offensively on the road, and that’s the case early this season with 28 runs in nine games. Davies has continued to struggle this season but provides enough upside as a streamer with his increased velocity and 50% groundball rate.
6: BOS, CLE, CHW, DET, KC, NYY, OAK
7: BAL, HOU, LAA, MIN, SEA, TB, TOR
5: CHC, LAD
6: ARI, COL, MIL, PHI, SD, SF, WAS
7: ATL, CIN, MIA, PIT, STL
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.
Cavan Biggio: Placed on IL (COVID-19)
Kris Bryant: Day-to-day (back)
Ji-Man Choi: Day-to-day (elbow)
J.D. Davis: Day-to-day (foot)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.: Day-to-day (foot)
Eloy Jimenez: Out 6-8 weeks (hamstring)
Steven Kwan: Day-to-day (hamstring)
Nick Lodolo: Placed on IL (back)
J.D. Martinez: Day-to-day (groin)
Adalberto Mondesi: Out for the season (knee)
Ryan Mountcastle: Day-to-day (neck)
Wil Myers: Placed on IL (thumb)
Kevin Newman: Out 3-5 weeks (groin)
Bailey Ober: Day-to-day (groin)
Joc Pederson: Day-to-day (groin)
Luis Robert: Day-to-day (groin)
Brendan Rodgers: Day-to-day (back)
Eddie Rosario: Out 8-12 weeks (eye)
Miguel Sano: Day-to-day (knee)
Mike Zunino: Day-to-day (biceps)