At this time last year, Brewers’ right-hander Freddy Peralta was a relative unknown. Regarded as a fringe pitching prospect, he was preparing to start on Opening Day for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. A month later, he burst onto the fantasy radar with a dazzling, 13-strikeout debut against the Rockies. Before he could truly establish himself, a mix of lackluster control and gopheritis relegated him to a relief role by the end of the season. Now, he’s firmly entrenched in the Brewers’ starting rotation and dominating opposing lineups at the major-league level. It’s time for fantasy owners to start paying attention.
The 22-year-old right-hander was completely dominant in his second start of the season on Wednesday, scattering two hits over eight scoreless innings in a road win over the division-rival Reds. He struck out 11 batters and did not issue a walk, which is extremely impressive considering his omnipresent control issues last year. Eight of his 11 strikeouts came on his fastball, which generated an eye-popping 15 swinging strikes on 84 heaters. Simply put, Peralta is a bit of an extreme outlier in terms of his limited repertoire. He relies primarily on two pitches, a low-90’s heater, which he throws more than three quarters (77%) of the time, and an upper 70’s curveball. The lack of a third pitch casts some doubt on his ability to succeed long-term at the highest level. However, it’s that shadow of doubt that creates a buying opportunity in shallow (and even deeper) mixed leagues.
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It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Peralta to thrive at the big-league level relying almost exclusively on his fastball, especially if he continues to locate with pinpoint accuracy like he did against Cincinnati. His ability to generate a staggering amount of vertical movement and consistently generate swinging strikes with his heater rank among the game's elite. Per Baseball Prospectus’ PITCHf/x leaderboards, he generated the 15th-best rate of whiffs-per-swing (27.04%) out of 175 starting pitchers (minimum 200 four-seam fastballs) last year.
Consistency is the key ingredient to long-term success for Peralta. The sophomore sensation struggled mightily in his season debut against the Cardinals, walking four batters and yielding four runs over three innings. The two-start sample size is a microcosm of his career so far. When he’s on, he’s virtually unhittable. When he’s missing his spots, look out. Unlike the vast majority of young starters, he isn’t a jump to hyperspace away (in terms of necessary adjustments) from mixed-league relevance. If he marginally improves his fastball command, which he’s shown the ability to do sporadically, not consistently, he’s poised to rapidly evolve into an elite strikeout artist and a potential fantasy ace. It may not happen overnight, but the talent is there. From a fantasy perspective, the collective breakthrough of the Brewers’ young trio comprised of Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff is one of the most compelling early-season storylines to monitor moving forward.
deGrom deOminates Fish
Jacob deGrom struck out a career-high 14 batters over seven scoreless frames in a win over the Marlins on Wednesday. He allowed just four baserunners (three hits and one walk) and only one runner in scoring position over seven dominant innings of work. He also helped out his own cause with a towering solo homer off Trevor Richards in the third inning. After a frustrating Cy Young winning season in which the Mets’ offense offered a microscopic amount of run support last year, they’ve backed him with eight runs, leading to a pair of victories so far. The 30-year-old right-hander inked a five-year, $137.5 million extension last week and has now thrown 13 innings without allowing a run through his first two starts to kick-off the 2019 campaign. According to Baseball-Reference, deGrom is one of four modern-era pitchers to begin a regular season with back-to-back starts with 10-plus strikeouts and fewer than one walk. Are you not entertained?
Boyd Befuddles Injury-Riddled Yankees
Matthew Boyd struck out a career-high 13 batters over 6 1/3 frames to propel the Tigers to a win over the injury-depleted Yankees on Wednesday. He gave up one run on five hits and also walked three batters. No matter how you slice it, Boyd was brilliant in this one. He generated a surreal 26 swinging strikes in Yankee Stadium, including 13 on his 41 sliders. The 28-year-old southpaw has gotten off to a tremendous start, whiffing 23 batters over his first two starts. To put those numbers in context, according to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, that figure represents the fourth-most (including deGrom, who has 24 to open this season) by any starting pitcher through two starts to open a season in the last two decades. Fantasy owners should expect some regression in the whiff department over the next few months, but if he continues to rely heavily on his slider, it wouldn’t be shocking if he struck out more than a batter per inning this year. He’ll look to keep his early-season momentum rolling when he faces the floundering Indians in his next start on Wednesday.
The Nationals officially placed superstar shortstop Trea Turner on the 10-day injured list with a non-displaced fracture of his right index finger on Wednesday. He was struck on the right hand on a fastball by Phillies starter Zach Eflin while attempting to lay down a bunt in his first at-bat on Tuesday night. It’s a devastating loss for fantasy owners that invested a first or early-second round selection on his potent power/speed combo in drafts this spring. The 25-year-old speedster was off to an electrifying start, hitting .357/.400/.857 with four runs scored, two homers, four RBI and four stolen bases in four games. As of press time, there is no timetable for his return. However, fantasy owners should expect him to miss at least a few weeks.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Wednesday morning that he is not prepared to call up top shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom, which means that Wilmer Difo will step in as the everyday option until Turner comes back. The central question for fantasy owners is what will happen with the highly-desirable second spot in the lineup, previously occupied by Turner. So far, it appears as though veteran second baseman Brian Dozier, who went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts against the Phillies on Wednesday, will be given the first crack. However, the far more intriguing option would be 21-year-old phenom Victor Robles. If he gets an opportunity towards the top of the order, it would boost his counting stats, provide more opportunities to showcase his blazing speed and cause his fantasy stock to rise exponentially. Let’s see what happens, but if the Nationals are looking for a spark, they should unleash Robles.
AL Quick Hits: Thursday's game between the White Sox and Mariners was postponed due to inclement weather in Chicago. … The Indians have signed manager Terry Francona to a two-year contract extension that will run through the 2022 campaign. … Troy Tulowitzki departed Wednesday's game against the Tigers early and has been diagnosed with a low grade strain in his left calf. … Byron Buxton was held out the Twins' starting lineup Wednesday at Kansas City after suffering a rib contusion and a sore back when he crashed into the outfield wall on Tuesday night. … Tim Anderson (paternity leave) is expected to return to the White Sox’ lineup on Thursday. … Steve Pearce (calf) is set to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Thursday. … Randal Grichuk clobbered a pair of solo homers in the Blue Jays’ win over the Orioles on Wednesday. … Shane Greene notched his fourth save of the season against the Yankees. … Charlie Morton scattered four hits over six shutout frames in a no-decision against the Rockies. … Carlos Rodon allowed an unearned run over six innings in a win over the Indians. … Corey Kluber was lit up for six runs (four earned) over 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the White Sox. … Leury Garcia collected four hits and Yoan Moncada slugged his second long-ball of the year in that contest. … Blake Parker converted his second save of the year in the Twins’ victory over Kansas City. … Willians Astudillo notched three hits in the win. … Alex Gordon went 2-for-4 with four RBI in the loss. … Matt Shoemaker tossed seven scoreless innings in a win over the Orioles. … Jonathan Loaisiga yielded one run with four strikeouts and three walks over four innings in a spot start against the Tigers. … Yankees reinstated CC Sabathia from suspension and placed him on the 10-day injured list with a heart condition. … Jason Kipnis (calf) is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday with Triple-A Columbus. … Mariners optioned RHP Nick Rumbelow to Triple-A Tacoma.
NL Quick Hits: Thursday's scheduled game between the Cardinals and Padres has been postponed due to heavy rain in the forecast. … Cubs signed utility infielder David Bote to a five-year, $15.003 million contract extension on Wednesday. … Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to throw four innings or throw 60 pitches on Thursday in his rehab start for Triple-A Oklahoma City. … Marcell Ozuna was scratched from the Cardinals’ lineup Wednesday with right side tightness. … Corey Dickerson was held out of the Pirates' starting lineup Wednesday due to a sore right shoulder. … Jeff McNeil was sidelined from the Mets’ lineup with a “banged up” knee on Wednesday. … Michael Taylor (hip, knee) is now set to begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday at Double-A Harrisburg. … Jeremy Jeffress (shoulder) is set to begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday at Triple-A San Antonio. … Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters that Anibal Sanchez is dealing with a bruised hip flexor that he suffered during Wednesday's start against the Phillies. … Brandon Morrow (elbow) will throw one more bullpen session before facing live hitters. … Gregory Polanco (shoulder) is playing seven innings in extending spring training games. … Jake Lamb left Wednesday's game against the Padres with an apparent injury and has been diagnosed with a left quad strain. … Manny Machado went 1-for-2 with a two-run homer -- his first long-ball of the season -- and a pair of walks in the Padres’ victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday. … Joey Lucchesi fired five scoreless innings with six strikeouts to pick up a win in that one. … German Marquez struck out seven batters over seven scoreless frames in a no-decision against the Rays. … Bryce Harper reached base safely in all five plate appearance in the Phillies' loss to the Nationals. … Juan Soto went 3-for-4 with a three-run homer -- his first round-tripper of the season -- while teammate Anthony Rendon collected three hits, including a solo homer, in the Nationals’ victory. … Jameson Taillon surrendered one run on three hits over seven innings in a no-decision against the Cardinals. … Pete Alonso went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in a win over the Marlins. … Enrique Hernandez went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a pair of runs scored in the Dodgers’ win over the Giants.