Welcome to week 4 — the week where all the data finally makes sense and the futures of every player become written in stone! Not really — that’s kind of the wonky thing about baseball — it might take years to make effective predictions about player performance (see Greinke comma Zack). For me, May is where I start to vaguely pay attention to baseball again because the stats are meaningful again. DFS becomes a bit more predictable, and the rest of us fantasy ballers (Grey’s mom’s word) are ready to spew out meaningful and actionable takes. Like, “Sit that clown Lucas Giolito! I kid, I would never bad-mouth a White Sox player [stares at Dylan Cease].
Let’s learn about some interesting players!
News and Notes
Mike Clevinger: After returning from Thomas John surgery, Sir Michael Clevinger — the gunslinger for the Christian Fathers — will be making his vengeful return against his former nation on Tuesday. Cleveland, beware. Fantasy managers: You do you. He’ll probably get 3IP, maybe 5 if he’s really efficient, but generally speaking, pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery have a slow ramp-up to their pitching duties. That ramp up? Not great for most fantasy formats. So, make it your own call and see what happens.
Carlos Rodon: I’m not saying “I told ya so” because Rodon only had a solid 15ish outings in his arm last year, but for 2022, Rodon is slicing through batters and looking like the beast his therapist told him he is. Hopefully, that therapist isn’t one of those primal scream practitioners.
Jesus Luzardo: We’d love to say that he’s risen again — I mean, it is Easter season — but Luzardo is leading the Confidence leaderboard in the “true skills look awesome but baseball card stats look crap” metric. Luzardo’s K/9 is right there with Rodon (and that’s also one of the tops in the league so far) and Luzardo has a 1.32 FIP to a 3.77 ERA. So, grab your followers and get walking through the desert and pick up Luzardo if he’s available, or maybe trade while his value is “low” with that 3.77 ERA.
Clayton Kershaw: All over the news as the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout leader, surpassing [checks notes} Fernando Valenzuela + Hideo Nomo + Kenley Jansen + Rich Hill. Whateva. You cool cats and kittens knew that I was way higher on Kershaw in the pre-season than every other ranker. Something, something, forearm tightness. Oh wait, let’s see how this goes. For the meantime, enjoy the ride and hope that the LA Baseball Team knows how to do workload management, just like another LA team: Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Trevor Bauer: Gonezo. Told ya.
Eric Lauer: Back into small sample-size territory! Lauer was pretty meh last year, but this year he’s lights out. My system loves him because he’s racking up innings and his FIP is, quite literally, sitting at my cutline threshold. Ya see, early in the season, there are a ton of outlier numbers, like all these negative value FIP numbers. The pitcher is somehow gaining runs for their offense! What a game! All of those numbers are going to inflate over time; no pitcher will finish the year with a -0.93 FIP. Ain’t happening. Don’t screenshot this and tag me in #badtakesexposed. I’ll get to those later. Lauer’s FIP is happy at 2.50, which is my somewhat arbitrary early-season cutline, thus he’s jumped into the first tier of pitchers. If his FIP was, say, 2.51 — like, he hit a batter or pitched one out less — he’d be in tier 2. Whatever. Buy Laurer. B’Laurer. Sounds like a character in my upcoming Klingon sci-fi saga.
Casey Mize: Ligament sprain. You know what a sprain is, right? [10 minutes of audience silence] Let me quote the Mayo Clinic: “A sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments” [throws up]. Yeesh, fantasy baseball is super gross. So, you know what happened with Dinelson Lamet? Remember him? No? OK. He was a top ten pitcher in 2020 before he got the sprained elbow all the kids are talking about. Remember Zac Gallen? No? He was [checks notes] a pitcher before he also got the sprained elbone. Casey Mize: a pitcher you’ll be remembering in 2023 because the sprained elbow ligament usually winds up in either A) middle reliever mode, or B) Tommy John. We wish you the best Mr. Mize, but fantasy managers can easily move onwards (just, not like the Pixar film with the semi-decapitated dad. Yeesh).
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Yikes. He should be returning vaguely soon, but I wouldn’t toss him in the starting lineup when he does. Forearm inflammation is typically bad news (don’t read my Kershaw blurb above), so I’m fine dropping Ryu or letting him lament on the bench while he heals.
Julio Urias: His FIP is nearly double his ERA, his BABIP is .170, and he’s walking 4 batters per nine. This is Jack’s complete lack of surprise. Sorry, my name’s EE-Double-ya-bee. I’m not saying “sell high,” but I am saying, “Don’t be surprised if the next couple outings look like Dippin Dots — expensive and ugly.”
German Marquez: Guy whose fantasy value is tied to Ks ain’t striking anybody out. Drop and move on; come back later if he figures it out.
Robbie Ray: The namesake of this article had a tough start to the year but bounced back with a 2 start week, tossing 11IP with 13K, 5BB, and a 2.03 FIP (which was way better than his 4+ ERA). The K/9 is back above 10 and now we just gotta move those BB/9 down and we’re good to go. Hold the line.
Josh Fleming: Well, this is a weird one. 2IP, 7 runs allowed…but NONE of them earned. I mean, what are we supposed to do about that? And the guy finishes with a 9 K/9 in that weird sample size. Again, I’m not here to ballyhoo the Roleless Rob, but there’s your Josh Fleming hype follow-up.
MacKenzie Gore: Was so bad last year that the Dads refused to call him up, but in 2022, one of baseball’s top prospects has already broken into my top tier. Hey NSA! Stop Googling “broken in”. Or maybe we need that government web traffic. ENYWHEY. Gore K’d 10 in 5 IP this last start and has 20K in 15IP on the year. Seems like his 2021 case of the yips/injury is gone (Gore’d? hmm) and we’re getting pure prospect freshness on the mound. Let him start from here on out. Speaking of wonky stats, Gore’s 2.51 FIP puts him that .01 points above my cutline, so if he had a 2.49 FIP, for example, he’d be up by Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes.
Lucas Giolito: So why is Giolito in Tier 3? Beats me, let’s find out. In short, my system is concerned about the quality of hits against him (again, small sample size). So far, Giolito’s allowed a 13% barrel rate, which is about TWICE his career norm. Most notably, his “medium hard” [hehe] hit rate has taken a 10% jump, and only 10% of balls are considered weakly hit. This has produced a .357 BABIP, most of which isn’t luck-driven. Since the StatCast era emerged, us “baseball analysts” came to realize that BABIP is not a catch-all for pitcher luck; in fact, it’s heavily influenced by medium and hard-hit balls. If you smash a ball in play, it’s hard to catch it, right? Thus, the high batting average. This is combined with Giolito’s “lucky” 92% left-on-base percentage, which indicates we’ve got some regression coming, and that’s why my system is concerned. On the whole, Giolito’s K-rate is insane and his CSW% is above 35%, which bodes well. If he can limit the hard contact, I envision him jumping ranks very quickly.
Always do a sanity check. I’m providing free data that quite literally has a better or higher correlation to fantasy efficacy than many sites that charge an arm and a leg and don’t answer your questions. That said, I’m human and make mistakes; I also submit the article on Sunday so there’s a bit of lag. The source of this data is none other than Razzball itself. So, if you are winning money or having a great time reading the articles, please consider a subscription to the site or drop me a line in the comments and let me know I’m not wasting my life away for naught.
Here’s how to use the list:
- Tier: 1=best, 2=everybody else for 12 team consideration, 3=deep league/dynasty/best ball/tournaments/DFS, 4= you do you.
- Name: Player name
- Confidence: The overall score my system outputs. The higher the score, the more confident I am in using the player. As always, we’re in small sample size territory, so this ranking will get better as the season goes on.
- Own%: This is the rostership % of the player in Razzball Commenter Leagues, run on Fantrax. This may vary depending on site and format for readers.
- L30$/G: This is how valuable the player has been over the past month. Players with high confidence who have low or negative $/G are “buy low” candidates. Shohei Ohtani has been blistering with his true skill stats, but his roto stats (like a 4.40 ERA) aren’t valuable. This indicates we should expect Ohtani to be much more valuable soon. Spot starters/Roleless Robs will have a lower $/G because they play in more games. Michael King, for example, has pitched in twice as many games as the other top P.