Matchups of the Week 7/7: Three Pitchers You Need to Start

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There is a statistical jungle in baseball, filled with so many numbers it’s easy to get lost. You’re a busy person – there’s no time for you as a fantasy owner to go out and discover the statistical gold. That’s where I come in. Every week, I’ll be out there for you, looking through stats and information databases to find the three starting pitcher matchups that stand out from the rest. They won’t always be the best pitchers and won’t always be streamers, but these are my “Matchups of the Week.”

Mike Fiers (#54 on The List) vs. Atlanta Braves (Wednesday July 8th)

I’ve become a creature of habit it seems. This is my third time recommending Fiers and it’s always because of the upside that he brings to the pitching mound. Regardless, no one really wants to own him (owned in less than 25% of ESPN leagues) because none of his other stats look all that great. Fiers only has four wins and possesses seven losses, he walks more than 3 batters per nine innings and has WHIP of 1.41. Those aren’t pretty and I’m not going to dodge the stats – on the surface, Fiers has not been that good. However, the Brewers ace has value to any owner who streams pitchers or completes in very deep leagues because his performance so far has been sort of a fluke. Fiers BABIP is an astronomical .331 that is inflated partially because his GB% has jumped 5 points since last year and both numbers should come down as Fiers didn’t make major changes in pitch selection from last year to this year. Plus, he’s facing an Atlanta Braves team who don’t posses any world-class hitters since Freddie Freeman went on the DL. Without a signature force in the lineup, the biggest power bat the Braves posses is Kelly Johnson who shouldn’t scare anyone. So, for the third time, Mike Fiers should be a solid streamer option for anyone that needs high upside.

Lance McCullers (#41) & Vincent Velasquez (#68) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Friday July 10th & Sunday July 12th)

I’ve recently been reading up on the Triangle Offense in basketball where “automatics” – situations that must be carried out depending on what the matchup is – are the essential part of that offense and it got me thinking of what were the “automatics” in Fantasy Baseball when it comes to streaming pitchers. One could be start any left-handed pitcher against the Rangers when Adrian Beltre is out of the lineup or another could be to avoid every Colorado pitcher at all times. A situation that is soon becoming an “automatic” is to start any young pitcher with high strikeout potential when playing the Rays in Tampa Bay. Well, that situation is coming up this week when two young Astro pitchers with major upside get to pitch in cavernous Tropicana Field, Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez. In the past two weeks, the Rays have been one of the worst teams on offense posting such putrid numbers of .208/.270/.318, a wRC+ of 67, three straight games of having no base runners in the first five innings (the first time that’s been done since 1961), and are striking out at a clip of 27.3% of all plate appearances. It’s insane at just how bad they have been on offense recently, and the Astros and their young pitchers can excel. In his first ten starts as a big leaguer, Lance McCullers has been outstanding. He’s posted a 9.41 K/9 and has been able to generate groundballs at an excellent rate of 47.7%, which comes in handy when the Astros put out a middle infield of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. his FIP is right around 2.72 removes the idea of a fortuitous season, showing that McCullers is showing he’s the real deal. Velasquez, on the other hand, hasn’t been flat out dominant like McCullers, but has pitched well enough to justify the Astros’ aggressive promotion. What has held Velasquez back is his current lack of control – he’s walked his fair number of batters and gotten deep into counts. These long at-bat dramatically raise his pitch counts, limiting how far into games he can go. But, the 23 year old has shown improvements by walking only one batter each in his past two starts and reached the seventh inning in both, something he wasn’t able to do in his three previous starts. Not only that, Velasquez has posted a K/9 above 9 and flashes a plus Changeup to go with his 95 MPH Fastball – all positive signs that dominance is ahead. If either of these two young Astros rookies are available in your league, go out and get them. You won’t be disappointed.

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Nick Pollack

Founder
Founder of both PitcherList.com and PitcherGIFs.com. Washington Post contributor and has worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

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