Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 25


Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

We're looking at two sides of the same game this week. Johnny Cueto has had a nice pair of starts in his return from Tommy John surgery, while Elieser Hernandez carved up Cueto's Giants on Sunday for nine strikeouts.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/16/2019. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers widely available that could be useful in fantasy, whether they have been recently added by a ton of teams or are still sitting on waivers.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins

8% Owned

2019 Stats (prior to this start): 77.1 IP, 5.24 ERA, 5.76 FIP, 15.3% K-BB%

09/15 @ SF: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

At first glance, Hernandez looks like nothing more than a roster filler for one of baseball’s worst teams, but the young right-hander came to play on Sunday. He posted a career-high nine strikeouts over five innings, and his only blemish was a solo home run to Mauricio Dubon. While Hernandez’s surface stats and underlying metrics don’t look too impressive, the Miami hurler has made a few tweaks to his game that are at least worth a look.

Hernandez wields a rather basic three-pitch arsenal, with a mediocre 90.6 MPH four-seamer, a slider, and a changeup. The slider has been his best this season, and Hernandez has made huge strides with his breaking ball that aren’t obvious given his poor overall results. Hernandez has reinvented the pitch to be a slower, more sweeping slider. He lost seven inches of drop but gained five inches of break and 200 RPM on his spin rate. He’s also been able to command the pitch better, keeping it away from right-handed batters and off the plate with more consistency. Below is a Brooks Baseball heatmap comparison of Hernandez’s slider location between 2018 (top) and 2019 (bottom).

The results on Hernandez’s slider have been much better as well, as batters have mustered a meager .152 AVG and 81.4 MPH average exit velocity against the pitch. Hernandez’s swinging strike rate has improved to 17.7%, a 3% jump from last season, despite his chase rate sitting at an underwhelming 27.9%, a 5% drop from last season. His increase in break and spin have allowed made the zone-contact rate on Hernandez’s slider plummet from 89.7% in 2018 to 69.8% in 2019. Owners may wonder how Hernandez has managed to increase his strikeout rate 8% despite no noticeable improvements in results, and the answer is a reworked slider that excels at inducing whiffs.

Now that we know how Hernandez improved his strikeout rate, we’re stuck with the mystery of why the heck nothing else has improved? Only Hernandez and Drew Smyly have the unique combination of a K/9 above 9.0 and a FIP above 5.50. A poor fastball is the culprit in Hernandez’s case. His four-seamer putters in at about 90.6 MPH on average, and batters have destroyed the pitch for a .297 AVG and .581 SLG. Hernandez has definitely been a little unlucky with the pitch, as Statcast projects a .251 xBA and .448 xSLG against his fastball. His 4.44 SIERA is by far the most favorable of the ERA estimators for Hernandez as well, but we should be hesitant before buying into these metrics for Hernandez. Sure, his fastball may have a .336 BABIP against, but the pitch also has an 89% zone rate and 21% line drive rate against. Those numbers are not conducive to positive batted ball results, and even with an inflated fastball BABIP Hernandez still has a .263 BABIP against overall. On the bright side, Hernandez averaged 91.4 MPH with his fastball in this start and got nine swinging strikes with the pitch. It would be easier to peg Hernandez as a pitcher to watch and see whether these velocity gains stick, but with the season nearing a close, owners are probably better off avoiding this type of risk.

Verdict:

Hernandez reinvented his slider to great success, but his fastball performance has been too atrocious this season to warrant using him in mixed leagues. Perhaps Hernandez could be a 2020 deep sleeper if his velocity gains are permanent, but there isn’t enough time for him to make an impact this season.

Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants

50% Owned

09/10 vs. PIT: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
09/15 vs. MIA: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K

Cueto has put up two scoreless starts in his first two outings since returning from Tommy John surgery, and while those starts came against two of the worst offenses in baseball, the familiar face has certainly garnered fantasy interest in these final weeks. Prior to having surgery, it looked like the 33-year-old Cueto was exiting his prime. He put up a 4.52 ERA in 2017, and while his 3.23 ERA in 2018 looks like an improvement, his 4.71 was an even farther step backwards. Of course, it’s hard to know how much of his performance over both of those seasons was impacted by his UCL injury, because Cueto’s dip in velocity and performance coincided with the time period where we expect a traditional age-related decline. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, but the question for Cueto isn’t what caused his diminished performance, but whether he can return to fantasy relevance.

The most encouraging thing for Cueto is increased fastball velocity compared to 2018. Cueto was firing his four-seamer at just 89.4 MPH last season, but he averaged 91.6 MPH in his first start back and 90.9 MPH in his second start. Obviously, we can’t expect Cueto to ever regain his peak velocity, but he’d be a much better position for success if he can keep his velocity above 91 MPH. He averaged 91.5 MPH with his fastball in 2016 and posted a 2.73 ERA, 2.96 FIP, and 4.40 K/BB ratio. Of course, there’s more driving Cueto’s potential success or failure than his velocity. He’d never been a velocity-focused pitcher anyway, taking a more rounded approach.

If one was being especially critical, they could classify prime Cueto as a highly successful junkballer. Cueto used his deep five-pitch arsenal and variety of throwing motions to keep batters guessing, and Cueto sustained great results despite average stuff. Cueto’s changeup was his closest thing to a dominant pitch during his prime, and Cueto has an 18.4% SwStr rate and .212 AVG against with the pitch all time. He’s only thrown 31 changeups this season, but Cueto does have similar drop and spin with his curveball this season compared to years past. He has lost a few inches of break, but this is far too small a sample size to judge whether this loss in movement is permanent. Cueto’s .091 AVG against and 22.6% SwStr rate with the pitch are encouraging, and should Cueto maintain results within this range the changeup should continue to be a plus pitch for the veteran.

Outside of the changeup, Cueto’s arsenal looks suspect. His slider has lost six inches of drop over the years, and outside of his changeup none of Cueto’s pitches have a SwStr rate above 5.4%. This is the problem with a pitcher who gets by despite underwhelming stuff. When injuries and father time comes after him, he can’t transition into a crafty veteran. He spent his prime pitching like a crafty veteran, and now there’s nowhere to go. Cueto’s ownership has already shot up to 50% thanks to two scoreless starts and his name value, but this is one owners should ignore on waivers. His final two starts are in Atlanta and against the Dodgers. Hopefully, you’re opponent jumps on the familiar face and spotless ERA, because there is more bad than good in this profile these days.

Verdict:

Cueto’s changeup is still strong, but the rest of his arsenal lags far behind. He doesn’t have the stuff to replicate past results, and his craftiness will only get him so far at age 33. His next two matchups are against the Braves and Dodgers, two opponents who are a little more formidable than the Pirates and Marlins. This is one to pass over for the final two weeks.

 

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice




More Recent Articles

 

Running Confusion: Fantasy RB Uncertainty in Philadelphia

When the Eagles signed Jay Ajayi before Week 11, many fantasy players became more intrigued about the Philadelphia backfield. Jordan Howard was dealing with a shoulder injury, Darren Sproles was done for the year, and Miles Sanders seemed to be unreliable. Could Ajayi really come off the street after no preseason and 10 weeks of... Read More


Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Jarvis Landry, Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarbrough

The last couple weeks I have been picking the perfect busts in this column. Unfortunately, they have been for the busts AND the booms. It is time to stick my feet back in the stirrups in the saddle and ride fantasy footballers to playoff berths in their leagues and hundreds of dollars in their DFS... Read More


Fantasy Football Mailbag - Q&A for Week 12

This article's content may vary week-to-week, but generally, it will be answering questions fielded from either the @RotoBallerNFL twitter account or my personal one (@RotoSurgeon). This week, the focus is on start/sit questions, and there were plenty. Every week, many of us struggle with which quarterback to start, or who to flex, and I am... Read More


Week 12 Busts? Players To Consider Avoiding

Heading into Week 12, let's take a look at a list of the players used the most around the league at their positions. At running back, Dalvin Cook leads the league with 214 rushing attempts, followed by Nick Chubb (201), Chris Carson (200), Christian McCaffrey (199) and Ezekiel Elliott (194). Austin Ekeler and McCaffrey are... Read More


Quarterback Start/Sit Advice - Week 12

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the quarterback position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit in order to give you the best advantage to win your weekly matchup. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube... Read More


Tight End Start/Sit Advice - Week 12

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the tight end position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit in order to give you the best advantage to win your weekly matchup. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on... Read More


Running Back Start/Sit Advice - Week 12

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the running back position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit among those in RB3 or flex consideration. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest... Read More


Wide Receiver Start/Sit Advice - Week 12

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano break down the wide receiver position to help with tough fantasy football lineup decisions for Week 12 of the 2019 NFL season. They decide who to start or sit among those in WR3 or flex consideration. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest... Read More


Week 12 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


Week 12 Stream Team - Free Agent and Bye-Week Streamers

Now that the bye weeks are in full swing, streaming becomes a more viable and almost necessary strategy. Knowing who to add and when to start them could be the ultimate difference-maker in a weekly matchup. Making the right streaming decisions throughout the season could easily be the difference between missing the playoffs and having... Read More


Wide Receiver Snap Counts and Target Trends - Week 11 Analysis

Wide receivers are essential components toward your ultimate goal of securing league championships. As the season unfolds, an expanding collection of tools are available that can provide you with an extensive level of knowledge. Those results provide the foundation for this weekly statistical breakdown of the wide receiver position, which is designed to help you fulfill... Read More


Buys and Sells - The King's Deadline Trade Targets

This is your last chance to improve your fantasy football team in a highly impactful way this week. That’s because the trade deadline is here in most leagues. You may only have a day or two left to make a significant move as you read this. So stop playing around and get serious. Don’t waste... Read More


The Tape Tells All - DeVante Parker Fantasy Analysis

Welcome to another edition of "The Tape Tells All," where I break down some film of an NFL's player performance and try to draw some fantasy football conclusions from that film. This week, I'm looking at Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker. Parker's been trending up for weeks, but remains incredibly undervalued and underowned for... Read More


NFL Survivor Pool Picks (Week 12) - Targets and Avoids

Sunday was one of the worst Sunday's Vegas has had all season and remaining entrants in survivor pools nearly had the same fate. However, the Vikings rallied from a 20-0 halftime deficit, the 49ers scored late, and the Cowboys win was much narrower than it should have been. The Saints, Bills, and Ravens took care... Read More


Colts Conundrum: What To Do With Marlon Mack Hurt

Hello, my name is Eric Samulski, and I spent all my FAAB on Brian Hill last week. Phew! I’m glad we got that out of the way. Now that that’s on the table, we can talk honestly about this week's biggest running back decision: How the Colts will replace Marlon Mack, who just underwent surgery on... Read More