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It wasn't that long ago that fantasy experts advised waiting on starting pitching, as aces were popping up on the waiver wire every year. A few still are, but the SP landscape as a whole is bleak. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, seemingly every owner in every league is in the market for starting pitching.

Therefore, owners who picked up Jose Berrios or Alex Wood early have secured an advantage. Both are pitching like aces despite lacking any sort of track record. Will they continue to do so, or should their current owners enter the starting pitching market like everybody else?

Ownership rates provided are from Yahoo leagues.

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Jose Berrios (SP, MIN) 85% Owned

Berrios has gone 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA in 2017, helping everyone forget what a disaster 2016 was (8.02 ERA). His underlying xFIP is a far less sparkly 4.52, however, raising legitimate concerns over how good he can be expected to be moving forward. His .230 BABIP against seems low, 81.1% strand rate high, and 7.5% HR/FB favorable. How hard will the regression monster bite?

Let's start with his BABIP. Berrios currently sports a 12% LD%, a number too low to realistically sustain. However, his minor league history suggests some ability to limit the amount of liners hit against him. More liners will produce a higher BABIP, but it might not be as bad as it could be.

Minnesota's outfield defense has been a bigger part of Berrios's BABIP suppression. Berrios is a fly ball pitcher (45.3% FB%), so his outfielders affect him more than most. Centerfielder Byron Buxton has an amazing 10 Defensive Runs Saved already this year, and Max Kepler has eight across two OF positions. The third slot has rotated between a plethora of part-time guys, but none of them have been bad enough to undo the above duo's fantastic glovework. Berrios's .060 BABIP on fly balls and .615 mark on line drives may be sustainable based on the quality of the defenders behind him.

Berrios has not been as fortunate on ground balls, where his BABIP stands at .300 despite an average exit velocity on the ground of 80.2 mph. Third baseman Miguel Sano (-6 DRS) should really be a DH, and Berrios may not fare well on grounders until the Twins use him as such.

Berrios's strand rate is elevated because his fielders catch everything, but a K% surge (17.4% last season, 24.7% this) is helping too. His repertoire is probably too weird to sustain it though. Berrios's best pitch by SwStr% is his fastball (12.9%), a Champ or Chump first. He complements it with a mediocre curve (11.4% SwStr%, 35.5% chase), a poor 2-seamer (4.6% SwStr%, 49.1% Zone%), and a terrible changeup (7.7% SwStr%, 28.9% Zone%). The change accomplishes nothing with such a low whiff rate and Zone%. Most 2-seamers exist to get a pitcher ahead in the count, so a sub-50% Zone% is unacceptable. Berrios is a two-pitch pitcher, and the curve is only meh.

Berrios seems to know this, as he is throwing his heat (30.2% to 39%) and curve (21.6% to 28.7%) more often at the expense of the other two. Berrios has been great at limiting contact quality this year (5.1% Brls/BBE), but expect this number (and his HR/FB) to jump if batters can sit dead red. No fastball is good enough to carry a starting pitcher by itself.

Overall, Berrios has one plus pitch and a strong outfield defense he takes full advantage of. That is not a recipe for an elite fantasy starter, or even a very good one. He's not even a great bet for wins despite playing for a division leader, as Minnesota's -31 run differential is ugly. Sell before everyone figures out what a fluke Berrios is.

Verdict: Chump

Alex Wood (SP, LAD) 90% Owned

Wood has been Kershawian in 2017, going 7-0 with a 1.90 ERA and 2.56 xFIP. His "luck" stats are favorable, but appear more sustainable than what Berrios is doing. His .268 BABIP isn't that low, so regression shouldn't hurt too much. It is easy to believe a 79% strand rate when the arm in question is striking out 29.8% of batters. Wood has also turned into an extreme ground ball guy (66.9% GB% vs. 50.4% career), so an increase in his current HR/FB (6.9%) wouldn't hurt him too much.

Let's start with his BABIP. Wood is currently limiting line drives (13.9% LD%), but lacks any history of doing so (20.8% career LD%). The liners he has allowed have also underperformed by BABIP (.524). These are the only reasons for his favorable BABIP, as grounders and flies are performing at average rates against him. His BABIP will probably go up a little, but Wood's current numbers remain extremely valuable even with the hit.

Wood's K% spike is mostly the result of increased velocity (90.3 mph last year, 92.8 mph this) that holds up even when the change in how velocity is measured is considered. As a result, his 2-seamer is generating more whiffs (7.7% SwStr%, 5.5% career) than it used to. It also gives hitters less time to react to his knucklecurve, whose chase rate has shot up to 47.1% from a career mark of 37.1%. Its 18.8% SwStr% makes it a real put-away pitch when batters chase it so frequently, and Wood can also throw it for a strike when he wants to (46.9% Zone%).

Wood rounds out his repertoire with a decent change (13.7% SwStr%, 46.5% chase, 25.6% Zone%) that could start inducing more swings and misses based on how often batters chase it. Wood should K plenty of batters going forward, stranding plenty of runners in the process. He's also allergic to barrelled baseballs, sporting a Brls/BBE of just 2.6%. This should mitigate the number of homers he allows.

Wood might not finish the year with a sub-2 ERA, but he looks like the real deal. The Dodgers are among the league's batter teams, so he should help with wins too. If you own him, congratulations! You've won the waiver wire lottery.

Verdict: Champ

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