On Thursday, it was announced by Nationals manager Matt Williams that Doug Fister would be sent to the bullpen to make room for Stephen Strasburg who is set to return from the DL this weekend. It’s a bit of a surprising move, but it is the correct and smart move to make because Fister has been a bit of a hot mess this season.
Fister has compiled a 4.60 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 15 starts this season and he also had a lengthy DL stint that likely didn’t help matters. And just when you thought his strikeout rate of 5.38 K/9 from last season couldn’t get any lower, he’s stooped down to 5.02 K/9 this season, which is pretty outrageous for a starting pitcher in the National League. If he qualified with enough innings pitched, Fister’s strikeout rate would rank as the 2nd worst in the NL behind Kyle Kendrick (4.69 K/9). As a relief pitcher, Fister obviously would be fantasy irrelevant, and he probably won’t have much success there either. As a free agent at the end of the season, it’s very possible that Fister has made his last start for the Nationals (that is unless/until Strasburg hits the DL again).
With Fister being ousted from the starting rotation, that means that 22-year old rookie Joe Ross will remain in the rotation and he has the true skills to never relinquish his rotation spot again. Ross was featured on The Backwards K a month and a half ago in “I’m the Biggest Ross That You’ve Seen Thus Far,” so check that out for a bit of a review, and he is definitely a favorite here and considered to be one of “my boys.”
Ross, younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross, came over from the Padres in a 3-team trade this past off-season, and he initially stepped into the Nationals rotation to make spot starts when Strasburg first landed on the DL. But when Strasburg landed on the DL a second time, that gave Ross the opportunity to further impress the organization. After another excellent start on Thursday against the Diamondbacks (6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the W), Ross is now 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 47 K/4 BB in 45 IP over 7 starts.
Ross has excelled with a sinking fastball that has generated a lot of ground balls (52.5% groundball rate on the season) and a good slider that has been his strikeout pitch — he likely has received tips on his slider from his big brother who has one of the nastiest sliders in the game. He will also mix in a changeup to help keep hitters off balance. Ross’ combination of heavy groundball tendencies (which also translates to good home run prevention), strikeout per inning ability, and excellent control is a very lethal set of skills that makes him an extremely attractive fantasy pitcher. Ross undoubtedly needs to be owned in all fantasy leagues, yet somehow he is currently owned in less than 50% across all major platforms.
Looking ahead to next season, with Fister and Jordan Zimmermann hitting free agency, Ross should firmly be entrenched in the Nationals rotation and future plans. Also Lucas Giolito, widely considered to be one of the top two pitching prospects currently in the Minors, could be ready to break into the Nationals rotation by the beginning of the 2016 season as well. Max Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Ross, and Giolito would make for a nice rotation that has a great blend of veteran power, tremndous upside, and young appeal.
Now let’s take a look at the rest of Thursday’s short slate of baseball!
Odubel Herrera – 3 for 5, 2 R. Herrera has been scorching since the All-Star break with a .392 AVG, 1 HR, 4 RBI, and 15 R in 16 games, and he has no need to worry about playing time after the Phillies traded Ben Revere last week. Herrera isn’t a super glamorous fantasy player, but he can hit for a decent average while scoring runs and stealing some bases. Plus, he’s eligible at 2B/SS/OF depending on the site. For the season, Herrera is batting .288 with 5 HR, 29 RBI, 41 R, and 9 SB.
Domonic Brown – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R. Brown also benefitted from the trade of Revere since Revere was roaming through all the outfield spots. It’s been a disappointing season so far for Brown, but he hit 27 HR in 2013 and he is still just 27 years old. He’s going to have the opportunity to put up some decent seasons in the Phillies rebuilding years and perhaps he catches fire at the end of this season.
Adrian Gonzalez – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R. A-Gon smashed another home run on Thursday and is now batting .296 with 22 HR, 65 RBI, and 62 R. He just keeps consistently outperforming his draft position year in and year out.
Zack Greinke – 6 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with the W. Greinke finally hit a rare game of regression on Thursday against the Phillies of all teams — though the Phillies can surprisingly be pretty dangerous. He’s still got an unsustainable .236 BABIP and 84.8% strand rate, but Greinke should still be solid even with any potential regression. He was lucky to come away with a win here, but he did help his own cause by smacking the 5th HR of his career. He is now 11-2 with a 1.71 ERA and 0.85 WHIP.
Kendrys Morales – 3 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. With another solid day at the plate, Morales is now hitting .290 with 12 HR, 76 RBI, and 47 R. It’s a bit surprising that Morales is still among the league leaders in RBI, especially since his HR total isn’t anything special. That just goes to show how productive the Royals offense has been this season as they put the ball in play a lot, record productive outs, and make things happen on the base paths. It is a well oiled machine.
Yordano Ventura – 5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Ventura’s bust season continues as the Tigers pounded on him on Thursday. His velocity has been back up in recent starts, but it doesn’t seem to be helping all too much. He now has a 5.29 ERA and 1.34 WHIP and he could be left on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues.
Ian Kinsler – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R. Kinsler has appeared to have found his stroke as he has finally began to pull the ball more after seeing his pull rate dip very low early on in the season. It seems pretty apparent that he is at his best when he is pulling the ball as that is where his power is. Perhaps he’ll end up eventually being affected by defensive shifts because of this, but for now it’s working out for Kinsler. Since July 1, Kinsler is hitting .374 with 4 HR, 19 RBI, 22 R, and 2 SB, and he also has been acting as the Tigers #3 hitter since they traded away Yoenis Cespedes last week (and with the continued absence of Miguel Cabrera). Hitting third in the order is the best spot a player can hit.
Victor Martinez – 2 for 5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Martinez had been in a 9 for 63 slump over the last 16 games with an uncharacteristically high 13.6% strikeout rate before getting the double dong game on Thursday. Martinez can be one of the most dangerous hitters in the game when he’s hot, so hopefully this will get him back on the right side of things.
Anibal Sanchez – 6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. For the better part of the season, Sanchez had been one of the most inconsistent and unpredictable pitchers in the game. Now, Sanchez has just been consistently unimpressive in his last 9 starts with a 5.09 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Start him at your own risk.
Alex Wilson – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K with the W. Wilson worked around some base runners allowed to pitch a scoreless inning and eventually record the win. Wilson appears to be the new closer for the Tigers and he deserves to be owned in any league for saves. He doesn’t have “blow you away” type of stuff, but he could be capable of getting the job done.
Adam Lind – 3 for 4, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Lind continued his assault on right-handed pitching with another beauty of the day at the plate. He’s hitting .289 with 16 HR, 64 RBI, and 47 R on the season, and it’s a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t moved at the trade deadline.
Khris Davis – 3 for 5, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R. Davis has been struggling most of the season, but he’s not gotten a starting role back after the Brewers traded Gerardo Parra. From 2013-14, Davis had the 20th best HR/AB rate in the Majors, so if he can get hot then he could be a cheap source of power off the waiver wire.
Matt Garza – 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the W. Garza has been able to come up with the occasional good start like he did on Thursday against the Padres, but for the most part he has been pretty bad this season with a 4.95 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Pretty much everything in Garza’s peripherals has trended in the wrong direction this season and he’s certainly best left for the waiver wire.
Ian Desmond – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Just when you think Desmond is going to bust out of his season long slump, he falls back into it. Then he teases you with a game like he had on Thursday where he hit a home run. Desmond just has been a huge headache this season and luckily I don’t own him anywhere, so I haven’t had to deal with it. But he’s been quite the bust and not a whole lot should be expected of him from here on. He is hitting .217 with 12 HR, 35 RBI, 48 R and 6 SB.
Josh Donaldson – 2 for 3, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB, 2 BB, 1 K. Donaldson filled up the stat sheet again on Thursday and he is in the midst of doing something pretty special — he currently leads the Majors in both RBI and runs scored. For a full season, that has only been accomplished 20 times in history and the last time was in 2007 when Alex Rodriguez amassed 156 RBI and 143 runs. Donaldson has been fantasy gold this season.
Edwin Encarnacion – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Encarnacion has now homered in back-to-back games and this could be one of his patented home run binges that he has the tendency to go on. It’s been a down season for Encarnacion, but he still has the time and the lineup support to turn things around and deliver the types of numbers we have seen from him in the last few seasons.
Aaron Hicks – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R. Hicks stayed hot on Thursday by mashing his 5th HR since he got recalled on July 3. He’s definitely usable right now, but Byron Buxton is due back soon and that could hurt Hicks’ playing time. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens because there is a decent chance that Hicks still gets significant playing time.
Jason Heyward – 1 for 4, 2 R, 2 SB. Heyward hasn’t been showing much power this season with just 9 HR, but he’s hitting at a respectable clip of a .285 AVG and with 2 swipes on Thursday, he now has 18 SB. His career high in SB is 21 from 2012, so it’s looking pretty certain that he will top that this year. We’re still waiting for the big year where he combines all facets of his potential game into one season, but at least he’s contributing positively this season.
Michael Wacha – 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W. Wacha had been in a mini rut, but he’s now tossed back-to-back games with 7 shutout innings. He’s been very solid this season and after beginning the year with a very low strikeout rate, he’s been a strikeout per inning type of pitcher since May 14. For the season, he is 13-4 with a 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 112 K/32 BB in 132.1 IP.
Jacoby Ellsbury – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Ellsbury is still working to produce since his return from the DL, but he hit one out on Thursday and is now hitting .214 with 4 HR and 0 SB since July 8. The injury that sidelined him for 7 weeks was a knee sprain, so the fact that he has not recorded a stolen base in a month since returning is very concerning. Fantasy owners can hope for the best, but need to be prepared to get very little from Ellsbury in the SB department for the rest of the season.
C.C. Sabathia – 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. It’s been a season to forget for Sabathia, but he did some good stuff on Thursday even though he didn’t log the win. His 3.63 xFIP would suggest that he’s been much better than his 5.34 ERA and 1.41 WHIP would suggest, but regardless, he hasn’t been very sharp this season and can’t be relied upon for most fantasy leagues.
Eduardo Rodriguez – 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K with the L. E-Rod delivered a decent game on Thursday against the Yankees and he now has a 4.17 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He’s got a lot of promise and his future outlook looks pretty good, but some inconsistencies in his rookie season should continue to be expected. He does make for a decent play in most leagues though.
Derek Dietrich – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Dietrich is deserving of a look in deep leagues as he should continue to start regularly against right-handed pitching for as long as Giancarlo Stanton remains sidelined, and he might even take over at third base when Stanton is back. He’s been hitting pretty well with a .275 AVG and 7 HR in 110 AB this season and he is eligible at 2B/3B/OF in fantasy leagues.
Christian Yelich – 3 for 5, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 SB. Yelich slowly, but surely, continues to come around. He’s not big on power at this stage in his career, but he can hit for AVG and steal a decent amount of bases.
Arodys Vizcaino – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K with the SV. Vizcaino logged a save in clean fashion for his first since assuming the closer’s role for the Braves. Save opportunities might be few and far between for Vizcaino with the Braves offense looking pretty weak, but he should be owned where saves are needed. He’s a fireballing righty that has closing type of stuff.
Kyle Schwarber – 1 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Schwarber won’t stay hot forever, but he’s definitely the real deal and should enter 2016 as a top catcher option, presuming the Cubs clear a way for significant playing time for him whether it’s in left field or catcher. He’s now hitting .342 with 6 HR, 18 RBI, 19 R, and 1 SB in 25 games. That’s super elite production out of a fantasy catcher.
Hector Rondon – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the SV. Rondon has now recorded 5 saves in the last 9 days ever since Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that Rondon could have a chance to reclaim the role that he began the season in. I think it’s safe to say that Rondon has indeed reclaimed that role.
Brandon Belt – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Belt hit his 4th HR of the road trip as he has been a bit of a home run machine on the road this season with 12 of his 14 HR coming away from AT&T Park.
Brandon Crawford – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Crawford put up an identical line to Belt and it was also his 4th HR of the road trip. Crawford’s power surge is for real as I’ve stated before — his average distance on HR and flyballs has ranked near the top of the league all season long.
Chris Heston – 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K with the L. Heston has had a nice season, but it’s no surprise that he has enjoyed pitching at home in the friendly confines of AT&T Park more than he has on the road. It seems that in any road park that is hitter friendly, he usually puts up a mediocre or bad game. He now has a 4.45 ERA on the road and 6 of his 7 HR allowed have also come on the road. He may fare better in his next start at home, though it is against the powerful Astros.
Stephen Vogt – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Since the calendar turned to July, Vogt, who had a very nice and surprising first few months of the season, has been a disaster. Entering Thursday, Vogt was hitting just .158 with 1 HR and 6 RBI since July 1. He got on the board on Thursday though with a solo shot. I loved him while he was hot and I believed in him, but perhaps Vogt just isn’t cut out for the rigors of a full season of full-time catching duties. He probably would be better suited as a DH of first baseman over the course of a full season to preserve his body and keep his legs fresh for batting.
Aaron Brooks – 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. Brooks came over to the A’s in the Ben Zobrist trade and he did decently in his A’s debut and turned in very good outing against the Astros on Thursday. Brooks isn’t considered to be a top prospect, but he’s got the look of a finesse, control specialist that could fill a spot in the back of a rotation. Don’t get too giddy over him, but in very deep leagues he can be worth a look.
Jose Altuve – 3 for 5, 2 R, 2 SB, 1 K. Altuve swiped a couple bags on Thursday and surpassed the 30 SB mark for the 4th year in a row. He’s quite the fantasy provider and should continue to be.
Carlos Correa – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. Correa gone and did it again. This…kid…is…ridiculous.