Can one of the league's hottest pitchers keep it up?
I’m flipping the script a bit this week. Y’all brought interesting names to the table in the comments section last week, and while I normally choose an individual player on whom to focus based upon your suggestions, I felt the need to go off the board. Quite simply, it’s because right-hander Jake Arrieta laid waste to Major League Baseball last month. He wasn’t talked about enough in fantasy circles, but after flirting with no-hitters in back-to-back outings, he’s on the tip of every fantasy owner’s tongue.
Through 39 2/3 innings in the month of June, Arrieta compiled a 0.92 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only six walks. He’s gone four consecutive starts in which he’s thrown at least seven innings and struck out nine. Fantasy owners have taken notice, too, as the 28-year-old hurler is now owned in 83.5 percent of ESPN leagues (as of Monday evening). It’s a number that has increased dramatically in the past couple weeks, and owners have begun to ask whether Arrieta is someone to simply plug-and-play while he’s scorching hot, or if this breakout is something more permanent.
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Jake Arrieta's breakout season continues, two games last beyond the 13th inning, plus more from a wild Tuesday and what to watch today.
The Tuesday Takeaway Jake Arrieta entered Tuesday coming off a trio of superb outings over which he allowed just one run and 10 hits with a shiny 27-to-2 K:BB ratio in 20 innings of work. The 28-year-old right-hander continued his breakout campaign by flirting with perfection and twirling seven outstanding innings against the Reds.
Scouts' takes on Andrew Cashner, Freddie Freeman, Burch Smith, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
A look at five pitchers who could be in line for save opportunities in future years.
Joe Borowski, Brandon League, Todd Jones, Kevin Gregg, Frank Francisco, Billy Koch. No, I’m not working on a baseball version of We Didn’t Start The Fire (that you know of). These are all relievers who have ascended to the closer role, whether they deserved it or not. They acquired the closer mystique that allowed them to beef up their earnings and hold on or land jobs long past when they should have. To be clear, I’m of the mind that it’s often helpful to have a Gregg or a Koch at the back of the bullpen—someone who is competent enough to finish most games and allows the use of a more efficient or dominant reliever, a fireman, to enter into the higher-leverage situations.
That opinion belongs to the baseball analyst in me, though, not the fantasy analyst. As a fantasy owner, I’d rather see the most talented bullpen option in the closer role because then I don’t have to roster nincompoops who destroy my ERA and WHIP, all while chasing the dragon save. Of course, being blocked by an incompetent colleague is not the only reason that pitchers get denied coffee. Injuries, a couple of poorly timed blow ups, or a lack of experience can also cost a reliever a shot to use SemiSonic as his entrance music as well. The point of this article, then, is to shine a spotlight on some guys who would be closers, but for a minor flaw, be it in their game or their situations. These are players who could be elite-level fantasy closers if they are presented with the opportunity. The key is identifying them before the opportunity arises.
A look at players who might be available to help your fantasy team, depending on the format in which you play.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, San Diego Padres
A June groin injury followed by an awful July caused a number of standard mixed-league owners to run for the exits, as Gyorko is only owned in about 29% of ESPN leagues. If he’s available in your mixer, snatch him up. Even without taking the injuries into account, since May, Gyorko has been an offensive force. His ISO in May, June, and August has been no lower than .242. In other words, Gyorko is a legit source of power at a middle infield position. Unless you’re in a points league that penalizes severely for hitter strikeouts, there’s no way Gyorko should be a free agent. —Mike Gianella
Notes on 11 prospects, including Jake Arrieta, whom the Cubs acquired from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman deal earlier this year.
Pitching Prospect of the Day: Jake Arrieta, RHP, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa): 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K. This has to be a very positive sign for the Cubs. Arrieta was acquired from the Orioles for Scott Feldman with the thought that he may benefit from a change of scenery, and performances like this one keep that hope alive.
Position Prospect of the Day: Victor Roache, RF, Brewers (Low-A Wisconsin): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI. Roache has the raw power and arm strength to handle right field. The problem that scouts keep noting in conversations is that his hit tool may not be major-league quality.
Which two-start pitchers are worth using in your fantasy league this week?
I have no idea what Gavin Floyd’s problem is, but I thought the Minnesota matchup would be the easier of his two this week. Hopefully he doesn’t make things worse in his start against Cleveland. Meanwhile, Felipe Paulino remains excellent and started the week off with a gem in New York. Looks like I had last week’s AL “starts” in reverse order; it should have been Paulino, Jerome Williams, Floyd, Hiroki Kuroda.
Mike Minor has a long way to go before earning another “consider” recommendation, let alone a “start.” His home run issues are just painful at this point. At least Chris Capuano rewarded my confidence in him over guys like Bud Norris and Mat Latos (both of whom I like immensely) by pitching a gem to start the week in Arizona.
A.J. Burnett, Jake Arrieta, and Alex Cobb for the crux of this week's VP rotation
Last Chance: Time to get on board with these arms before they are snapped up in your league. These entries are becoming less available with each passing start and find themselves on rosters in 30-plus percent of the leagues at two of the three outlets and over 50 percent at one or more of them. We won’t necessarily have options in this field each week.
A few young starters have dazzled us early, but some similar starts last season proved to be false ones.
A pitcher's first start of the year often seems like a momentous event. It's not the first time most fans will have seen him in the past month, but it is the first time his performance will count for anything more than tea leaves. For young pitchers, especially, the first start sets the bar for the expectations game fans and media types like to play with young and unproven players.
With the plodding morass of spring training behind us, our interest in Real Baseball reaches rabid heights for the first week or two of the season, before we settle into the jogger's pace that takes us to the All-Star break. However, the increased importance we assign to early-season starts doesn't make them reliable barometers. They're certainly no more worthy of consideration than any other individual start over the course of the season just because they're the only data point available at the end of the first week. So before we write too many more breathless words about Jake Arrieta, Jeff Samardzija, and others, let's revisit the good first impressions some young starters made last season and look at how things ended up for them.