By Chris Cwik, CBSSports.com
Velocity is king nowadays.
In recent years, pitchers who throw 95 mph or higher have increasingly been used in rotations. Stephen Strasburg was one of the first in the trend. He’s been followed by the likes of Gerrit Cole, Garrett Richards and Jose Fernandez.
Earlier this year, Yordano Ventura broke the record for the fastest pitch ever recorded by a starting pitcher, coming in at 102.9 mph. Nate Eovaldi may not get as much coverage as the players previously mentioned, but he’s experienced the biggest breakout of the bunch this year.
Nate Eovaldi, SP, Marlins (57 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: Home against Mets, at Padres
Eovaldi is equipped with a fastball that averages 95.7 mph, third fastest among starters. While he basically just throws two pitches (fastball/slider), he’s been able to increase his effectiveness by pounding the zone this year. His first-strike percentage, which has hovered around 59 percent in the past, has jumped to 68.4 percent this year. When your stuff is this good, all you have to do is get ahead of opposing hitters. Two starts against the Mets and Padres are just what he needs to cement his status as a breakout star.
Players I would start him over: Jered Weaver, Martin Perez, C.J. Wilson (one start)
Jonathon Niese, SP, Mets (51 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Marlins, home against Phillies
Nothing about Niese’s game really stands out. He doesn’t have a high strikeout rate, or overpowering stuff. Despite arm issues in the spring, he’s been surprisingly solid to open the year. The Marlins’ offense has been effective early, but there’s still plenty of reason to be skeptical about a breakout. The Phillies, on the other hand, have struggled. If Niese can turn in a decent start game 1, he should be able to salvage his week with a strong start against Philly.
Players I would start him over: Homer Bailey, John Lackey (one start), CC Sabathia (one start)
Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox (53 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Cubs, home against Cubs, Diamondbacks
There’s something in the water on the South Side of Chicago. Alexei Ramirez, Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo are all hitting way over their heads. Of that trio, Viciedo has actually shown the most growth in his peripherals. He’s walking at a much better rate, and he’s cut down on his strikeouts. He won’t hit over .300 at the end of the year, but can be useful short-term. Playing at home against two struggling pitching staffs doesn’t hurt.
Players I would start him over: Chris Colabello, Marcell Ozuna, Starling Marte
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (62 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Phillies, home against Phillies, Angels
The one area Lawrie has contributed early this year has been power. He dealt with back issues week 5, but still managed to show some signs of life with his bat. Seven games in good hitter’s parks should aid in his quest to raise his average. His .176 BABIP, which ranks as the fourth worst among regulars, is bound to rise at some point. Once that happens, he’ll add average to his developing power.
Players I would start him over: Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Pablo Sandoval
Scooter Gennett, 2B, Brewers (19 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: Home against Diamondbacks, Yankees
There was some uncertainty about Gennett’s role coming out of spring training, but he seems to have quashed those issues. Though Rickie Weeks hit much better in March, Gennett has responded with a solid .300-plus average to open the year, making Weeks an afterthought. He’s a solid bet to give you something every day, as he’s gone hitless in just three games thus far. He seems shockingly safe despite his low start rates.
Players I would start him over: Dee Gordon, Marcus Semien, Jedd Gyorko
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds (58 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Red Sox, home against Rockies
There’s actually plenty of reason to be optimistic about Bailey’s numbers going forward. His walk and strikeout rates have remained consistent despite his early struggles. The biggest culprit has been his 21.9 home run per fly ball rate. That’s going to drop, meaning he’ll be back to normal before you know it. Despite all that, you probably want to sit him week 6. Playing in Fenway is always tough on pitchers, and the Rockies have been a strong offensive club to open the year. Get Bailey back in your lineup week 7.
Players I would start instead: Nate Eovaldi, Alex Wood (one start), Ian Kennedy (one start)
Martin Perez, SP, Rangers (76 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Rockies, home against Red Sox
Perez entered the season with some late-round sleeper appeal, but has exploded into relevance with two complete games. While he’s still a good pitcher, regression is likely coming unless he strikes out more hitters. He also hasn’t given up a home run yet this year, which should change after pitching in Coors Field and Fenway Park this week. The Red Sox are the type of team that should frustrate Perez. His game is built on getting ahead of hitters, and they try to extend at-bats to wear out starters. He’s a good player, but the matchups are less than encouraging.
Players I would start instead: Jonathon Niese, Marco Estrada (one start), Lance Lynn (one start)
Chris Colabello, OF, Twins (79 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Indians, Tigers
Colabello is a pretty big regression candidate. His .379 BABIP doesn’t seem sustainable and his 25.5 percent strikeout rate doesn’t indicate he’s a true .290-plus hitter. Remember, the Twins actually tried to sell his rights to Korea during the offseason, so that tells you what they thought of his skills. He’s been a big help to Fantasy teams left in a lurch in the outfield, but he doesn’t seem like a solid long-term option. Sell if you can.
Players I would start instead: Dayan Viciedo, Khris Davis, Torii Hunter
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals (44 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Padres, Mariners
Just as Butler’s bat is starting to come around, he has to play in Petco and Safeco. Obviously, he’s not going to hit .230 all year, but he has shown some troubling trends. Butler is putting a ton of balls on the ground to open the year, which is one of the reasons he’s still looking for his first home run. His ground ball rate has been trending up for a couple years now, and could signal that the version of Butler who hit 29 home runs isn’t coming back. If you weren’t sitting him already, it’s safe to do so now.
Players I would start instead: Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, James Loney
CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees (76 percent started Week 5)
Week 6 schedule: At Brewers
Despite diminished stuff, Sabathia’s strikeout and walk rates are trending in the right direction. The main reason for his 5.11 ERA is an elevated home run rate. While this wouldn’t be as concerning so early in the year, his home run rate has risen as he’s lost velocity. When he makes mistakes with his stuff now, it gets taken out of the park. Before, he was able to get away with mistakes due to above-average stuff. Playing in the homer-friendly Miller Park won’t help those issues. There are 42 pitchers with two starts in week 6. Find one of them and sit Sabathia this time around.
Players I would start instead: Jose Quintana, Wily Peralta (one start), Ian Kennedy (one start)
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