A few pitchers are surging on our most added/dropped list of late, meaning many fantasy managers are already jumping on board with these arms. However, they're all still available in over 60 percent of ESPN leagues. Which one do you prefer from this point forward ... Tyler Anderson, Jordan Zimmermann, Nathan Eovaldi or Wade LeBlanc?
Tristan H. Cockcroft: We talked about this one a little bit on the Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast today, and I've bounced back and forth a few times on two names: Anderson and Eovaldi. I can't make a case for Zimmermann, whose lengthy history of mediocre strikeout rates and merely a slim boost in his swinging-strike percentage has me skeptical he's back to being trustworthy, nor can I for LeBlanc, who has a low strikeout rate, high fly ball rate and pitches in a tough division (4.6 runs per game for the division). Anderson's command rates -- strikeouts and walks, specifically -- intrigue me, but I can't lock him in because of Coors Field, which is going to be a problem for any pitcher who isn't elite at missing bats.
So it's back to Eovaldi for me, mainly because he's the one most likely to slot in for every one of his starts for the foreseeable future. His injury history is a bit scary, but he has stepped up his game this season, leaning heavily upon a cutter that has been rather effective (4.1 runs above average, per FanGraphs) while maintaining his 97 mph fastball velocity and quality of his strikeout-inducing splitter. If I knew he'd stay healthy enough to make another 12 or so starts while remaining a Tampa Bay Ray, calling their extreme pitchers' park his home, he'd be the obvious choice. Even with the risk he gets hurt or traded into a worse situation, I'd put him atop this quartet.
Eric Karabell: The only pitcher here I really trust is one I would only trust half the time. Anderson has good numbers when he is not pitching at Coors Field and by the way, that is not always the case for Rockies pitchers. Anderson gets strikeouts and if you must use him for home games, you run some risk. Then again, Anderson has quality starts in half of his eight home starts this season.
Eovaldi has obviously been terrific of late against the sputtering offenses of NL East clubs, but I would be careful here. I do not trust he stays healthy or effective, but for the Rays' sake, they should trade him while he is hot. I will not consider Zimmermann, despite his recent performance, and LeBlanc probably deserves more credit than he is getting, but that K rate and FIP tells us this is mainly a mirage.
AJ Mass: LeBlanc started the season in the bullpen, only to be slowly stretched out into a starting job beginning May 3 when Erasmo Ramirez went on the disabled list with a lat injury. At the time, his ERA was 4.61, with a .296 BAA in five multi-inning appearances.
Since then, however, he has started 13 games, with a 5-0 record (Seattle is 10-3 in his starts), a 3.15 ERA and a .235 BAA. While Ramirez is getting close to a return to the mound, LeBlanc just signed a one-year contract extension for 2019 on July 3. He's not leaving the Mariners rotation anytime soon.
Zimmermann and his amazing 24-1 K/BB ratio since coming back from the disabled list on June 16 (4 GS, 1.80 ERA, .193 BAA) is certainly tempting. If his curveball continues to shine, he may well be able to recapture his former glory. So far this season, opponents are batting just .100 against the pitch, compared to .372 during his disastrous 2017. However, I think I'll go with the overall more reliable option in LeBlanc.
Nate "Captain Eo" Eovaldi has looked stellar recently, but is coming off a two-year layoff due to Tommy John surgery. I have to be concerned about durability down the stretch. Meanwhile, Anderson has those Coors Field starts to contend with, so call me skeptical there as well.
Kyle Soppe: Call me a prisoner of the moment ... I don't really care: It's Eovaldi. I want upside if I am flirting with this tier of pitcher and it's going to be tough to argue against Eovaldi on that front. In his three victories this season, all Eovaldi has done is pitch 19 shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 22 batters. Forget streaming options, it's hard to find that sort of upside among universally rostered starters.
No, not every start is going to be at that level, but I like his current form and with the Marlins/Orioles his likely first two opponents coming out of the All-Star break, I'm using Tristan's term and "juicing this orange" as long as I can. Maybe he flames out, but his elite level of deception (top 10 in chase rate this season among the 214 pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched) is worth rolling the dice on in this high-reward, low-risk spot.