Should Gerrit Cole be inserted into fantasy lineups for his major league debut?
You know the drill by now; it's time to adjust your fantasy baseball lineup for the week.
I would have tossed a gem last week had I told you to start every pitcher on the list. Unfortunately, optimism is not my thing, so don't expect the pessimistic tidbits to dissipate any time soon.
So you could assemble the angry mob after watching R.A. Dickey hurl a beauty on your bench, but at least your slumping ace finally pitched well. That's still a happy thing, right?
A whole new slate of intriguing adventures lie ahead for the new week. We have a fresh slew of slumping stars, soaring sleepers and upcoming youngsters to dissect.
Let's get the party started.
Note: All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of FanGraphs.com.
Yovani Gallardo has lost his strikeout magic this season.
Scheduled Starts: Monday at Miami Marlins, Saturday at Cincinnati Reds
Yovani Gallardo is no stranger to sluggish starts, but he usually rights the ship by now.
Following two straight Aprils that resulted in ERAs above six, his typical limp out of the gate appeared to be business as usual. Actually, his 4.25 ERA was a step up.
Here we are in June, and Gallardo has yet to turn the corner. The 27-year-old has posted a 5.25 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and most concerning of all, a 7.33 K/9 ratio.
This comes from one of the most consistent strikeout sources in baseball. He has hit the 200-punchout plateau in each of the past four seasons, which is solely why we put up with his irregular production and subpar WHIP.
A quick look at his FanGraphs player page may lead some to the conclusion that Lady Luck is to blame. While Gallardo is sporting a.320 BABIP and 66.7 percent strand rate, the plunge in strikeouts is still a serious red flag.
His fastball velocity has lost more than a full mile per hour, and his swinging strike percentage has dipped to 6.7 percent, well below his career 8.5 percent rate.
With all that said, his next start comes against the Miami Marlins, who are essentially a minor league team as long as they are not facing the New York Mets. I'd encourage you to start me if I was facing the Marlins, even though I went undrafted yet again.
His second start against the Cincinnati Reds, however, complicates matters. The Reds rank ninth in runs scored and coerce the most walks in the National League.
In a daily league, use him against Miami before sidelining him. In a league with weekly lineup changes, see if a better two-start option is out there.
Verdict: Start against Marlins, Sit against Reds (Sit in weekly leagues)
Cole was not quite dominating Triple-A before receiving the call-up.
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday vs. San Francisco Giants, Sunday vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Yet another young pitcher will join the MLB ranks this season.
Kevin Gausman arrived weeks ago and Michael Wacha recently made the show, both to mixed results so far. Up next comes Gerrit Cole, the No.1 pick from the 2011 draft.
The 6'4", 240-pound righty's debut will certainly captivate Pittsburgh Pirates fans waiting to see their possible future ace take the mound. Although his potential is bright, the experiences of other rookie hurlers should serve as a cautionary tale.
Inexperienced tossers often battle through ups and downs, making them risky fantasy propositions. For example, look at Wacha, who became an immediate add after seven innings of two-hit ball against the Kansas City Royals only to allow six runs in his next outing.
Cole certainly could shine right away, but his 6.2 K/9 ratio through 68 Triple-A innings is discouraging. That's not good enough for a fantasy starter, and that's against minor leaguers. His 3.3 BB/9 ratio in 200 career minor league innings also is not the best sign.
There's definitely enough talent here to lift him off the waiver wire, but wait before inserting him into your starting lineup.
Maybe Mike Leake isn't completely terrible after all.
Scheduled Start: Wednesday at Chicago Cubs
Looks like I owe someone an apology.
I relentless bashed the Reds three weeks ago for sending down surging rookie Tony Cingrani (who defied the last slide's point of distrusting young pitchers) over Leake. So he has of course been sensational.
Since that rant, Leake has registered a 1.42 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in four starts, which started with seven shutout innings against the Mets when I said to sit him.
Not to turn this peace offering into another sea of insults, but I'm still not sold on the 25-year-old. In an age where strikeouts have never been higher, a 6.48 K/9 ratio won't cut it. His 9.1 HR/FB ratio has also never been lower, and it shows in his 3.75 xFIP.
He's better than I previously awarded him credit for, and he's definitely worth a spot in Cincinnati's rotation. As for your fantasy lineup, you can trust him in the right situation.
He's frequently found himself in such fortuitous circumstances, facing the Marlins, Mets and Pirates during the past month. Now he gets the Chicago Cubs, whom Leake has performed well against this year.
In two previous starts against Chicago, Leake allowed two earned runs on both occasions. Against the 21st-highest-scoring team in the majors, that's a more than reasonable result which should happen again this Wednesday.
Is it time for fantasy managers to take back John Danks?
Scheduled Start: Friday at Houston Astros
Hey John Danks, it's been a while. How are things?
After missing out of the 2012 season recovering from shoulder surgery, Danks made his return in late May. Owners rightfully steered clear of the lefty, and that distance only expanded when he surrendered 10 runs through his first 16 innings.
Eight spectacular innings against the Oakland Athletics has put him back on the radar, but is it still too soon to trust the lefty again?
Revisiting the majors following a year of inactivity, Danks has recorded a 0.96 WHIP, issuing just three walks. Although the Houston Astros have exceeded expectations, they still rank in the bottom half of all prominent hitting categories outside of homers.
Danks, who has never struck out a tremendous amount of batters, is throwing all of his pitches at lower velocity. He needs to show a lot more before regaining relevance in mixed leagues, and Minute Maid Park has yielded more homers than all but two venues this year, according to ESPN's MLB Park Factors.
He could deliver a quality start that's usable in deeper leagues, but pass on him in most formats.
Verdict: Start in AL-only leagues
Jeff Locke is due for a correction after a lucky start.
Scheduled Start: Friday vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The bottom is going to fall out on Jeff Locke eventually, and I want to be far away when that day comes.
With a 2.39 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, everything seems peachy for Pittsburgh's young lefty. The good times, however, are going to cease any second now.
Locke's stats could be used as a template for identifying unsustainable production. He has somehow managed to keep his ERA sparkling despite a 6.57 K/9 rate, 4.18 BB/9 ratio and 3.98 FIP. There's also the matter of his 83.9 percent strand rate; some of those baserunners will begin to find their way home.
During his last start on Sunday, Locke issued seven walks against an aggressive Cubs offense that entered the game with the fewest free passes drawn in baseball. Yet he escaped with only one run crossing the plate, which likely would not happen nine times out of 10.
Usually this is where I would stop and say, "But he faces a weak offense this week, so ride his hot hand for one more start." Nope, Locke's surface numbers are so out of tune with his peripherals that I'd avoid the 25-year-old.
He dared the Cubs to initiate that regression, but they fared to deliver. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a soft-slugging bunch as well, but Locke is due for an eight-run shellacking.
Edwin Jackson deserves better.
Scheduled Start: Friday at New York Mets
On the far opposite end of the spectrum, Edwin Jackson can't catch a break this season. That is before the Mets popped up on his schedule.
If someone offered you a pitcher with a 3.39 FIP, 8.77 K/9 ratio and 52.4 ground-ball rate, you'd take him. At least you should. Then again, that means you just claimed Jackson's 5.76 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.
The 29-year-old must have done something to anger the baseball gods, as he currently bears a .350 BABIP and 57.1 percent strand rate. While his 26 walks through 65.2 innings are a bit too high, Jackson should see better days head his way.
Facing the much-luckier Locke and his Pirates last time out, Jackson allowed one run in seven innings alongside eight strikeouts. If you think the Pirates' offense is bad (it is), wait until you get a gander at the Mets' sorry batting order.
Their .226 team batting average ranks last in the league. Yes, lower than the Marlins. They mustered just one run during Saturday's 20-inning affair, and the odds are that this game will only last nine.
Unlike Jackson, the Mets' hitters have not suffered from bad luck. They're just bad. Brave the ugly surface numbers and play Jackson anyway.
This is the right week to use A.J. Griffin.
Scheduled Start: Saturday at Seattle Mariners
Here's one of those cases I mentioned earlier about a guy whose pending regression will have to wait.
Not that A.J. Griffin has been extremely lucky, but his 3.67 ERA does not match the 4.13 FIP, and he continues to strand an inordinate amount of baserunners.
He's also playing with fire by yielding fly balls on 46.2 percent of his batted balls. Pitching roughly half his games in Oakland masks that deficiency, but he has allowed seven homers in seven road starts.
Then again, this one comes at Safeco Field, so Griffin should be covered this week. Aside from the looming fly-ball concern, he boasts a solid 7.22 K/9 ratio and 2.25 walk rate. Griffin's not bad, but the ERA and 1.14 WHIP are likely to take a bit of a tumble.
Griffin is more of a matchup play than a regular option, so good thing this is an alluring matchup for the righty.