The Week Ahead

Week Ahead: Young Pitchers Take Care

by Seth Trachtman
Updated On: August 28, 2021, 2:10 pm ET

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

Following up a 60-game season and non-existent minor league season in 2020, we enter almost unprecedented territory for young MLB pitchers.

Over the last several years, teams have been more mindful of young pitcher workloads to help prevent injuries. It’s debatable how effective those efforts have been, but teams are unlikely to test their luck on young pitchers after an abbreviated season.

The situation creates a difficult scenario for fantasy managers who roster young pitchers down the stretch. There are currently only seven MLB pitchers under age 25 who have thrown at least 100 innings this season at the MLB level in 2021, but most of those pitchers have been key contributors for fantasy managers. The list includes two Tigers (Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal), along with Julio Urias, Trevor Rogers, Luis Garcia, Brady Singer, and Kolby Allard.

Likely playoff teams such as the Dodgers and Astros have post-September workload concerns for Urias and Garcia, but the young pitchers whose teams have nothing to play for might be looking at an even more conservative approach down the stretch as they think about the long term.

Of course, every situation is unique, and each pitcher needs to be evaluated by fantasy managers on a case-by-case basis. For example, Rogers recently sat out several weeks due to a family medical emergency, but the layoff could give him more leeway to pitch well into September.

As for the Tigers young starters, the team has been using a six-man starting rotation that is more comfortable with the pending return of Matthew Boyd. Additionally, Mize hasn’t thrown 90 pitches in an outing since late June. While it’s possible the team will continue to ride out their under-25 pitchers until the end of the year, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they are shut down as we get to the closing weeks of the season.

This is just one more scenario for fantasy managers fighting for a championship to prepare for in what has been an extremely injury-riddled season. Doing what you can to prepare now by adding pitching depth could make all the difference when the season ends.

-Chalk one more up for the genius of the Rays front office. The team shocked many when they traded Willy Adames to Milwaukee for two pitchers early in the year. Adames has gone on to have a breakout year for the Brewers, but Tampa Bay’s return wasn’t too shabby. Drew Rasmussen and J.P. Feyereisen have been key contributors to the Rays injury-plagued pitching staff, and Rasmussen is now a part of the starting rotation. That’s an eye-opening development considering that Rasmussen hadn’t started a game since 2019, but he’s been terrific in the role recently. Rasmussen has allowed only two runs in 13 innings over his last three starts, flinging upper-90’s heat while mixing in his slider. He’s fixed his control issues since joining the Rays, with 33/11 K/BB in 35 innings, and his career 12.5 K/9 in the minors shows real ace upside. Rasmussen is still building up stamina, capping out at 58 pitches in his last start, but he’s become a viable pitcher in fantasy leagues and enters a two-start week.

-Pirates GM Ben Cherington added some former top prospects at the trade deadline, including Bryse Wilson. Wilson was up and down for a contending Braves team, but the 23-year-old’s minor league track record is undeniably great with a 3.09 ERA, 9.1 K/9, and 3.83 K/BB. His opportunity is much improved on the rebuilding Pirates roster, and he’s done a nice job in three starts with the team, posting a 3.60 ERA in four starts. Wilson’s declining velocity and strikeout rate is a concern, but an easy NL Central schedule makes him an interesting pickup down the stretch. He enters a two-start week in which he could be a decent option for the second start at Wrigley Field.

 

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, August 27, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Robbie Ray: BAL, OAK

Chris Sale: @TB, CLE

Shohei Ohtani: NYY, TEX

 

Decent Plays

Bailey Ober: @DET, @TB

Casey Mize: MIN, @CIN

Ryan Yarbrough: BOS, MIN

Nick Pivetta: @TB, CLE

Cole Irvin: @DET, @TOR

Drew Rasmussen: BOS, MIN

Zach Plesac: @KC, @BOS

Corey Kluber: @LAA, BAL

 

At Your Own Risk

Jaime Barria: NYY, TEX

Chris Ellis: @TOR, @NYY

 

National League

Strong Plays

Corbin Burnes: @SF, STL

Walker Buehler: ATL, @SF

Zack Wheeler: @WAS, @MIA

Luis Castillo: STL, DET

 

Decent Plays

Taijuan Walker: MIA, @WAS

Josiah Gray: PHI, NYM

Charlie Morton: @LAD, @COL

Huascar Ynoa: @LAD, @COL

Blake Snell: @ARI, HOU

German Marquez: @TEX, ATL

Alex Wood: MIL, LAD

Johnny Cueto: MIL, LAD

Tyler Gilbert: SD, SEA

Austin Gomber: @TEX, ATL

 

At Your Own Risk

Bryse Wilson: @CHW, @CHC

Jon Lester: @CIN, @MIL

 

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Tuesday, August 31: Jordan Lyles vs. COL

Lyles isn’t much more than a matchup play for fantasy managers, and he’s struggled lately. However, he’s been successful when keeping the ball in the park, and the Rox lineup increases that prospect with a league-worst .614 OPS on the road.

 

Wednesday, September 1: Eduardo Rodriguez @ TB

Rodriguez has been inconsistent enough to be dropped in mixed leagues this season, which is unfortunate considering his ERA metrics are nearly two runs better than his 5.19 ERA. He’s fared well against the Rays lineup this season, which ranks 24th in OPS against lefties despite adding Nelson Cruz last month.

 

Friday, September 3: Tyler Alexander @ CIN

The Reds lineup does most of its damage against right-handed pitching, and Alexander has had a very good month of August with a 2.95 ERA. Cincinnati’s OPS is fifth worst vs. southpaws this season.

 

National League

Wednesday, September 1: Kyle Freeland @ TEX

Without much fanfare, Freeland continues to show his 2018 form with an ace-like 2.64 ERA in 10 starts since late June. He’s a major asset as a road option, and even more so against a weak lineup like Texas that ranks dead last in OPS against lefties.

 

Friday, September 3: Alec Mills vs. PIT

Mills is trying to establish himself as a long-term option for the Cubs. Despite a poor recent outing against the Royals, he’s shown elite control since joining the rotation and has a respectable 4.21 ERA since mid-June. The Pirates lineup gives him another chance for a quality start.

 

Saturday, September 4: Erick Fedde vs. NYM

Fedde is coming off arguably the best start of his season, a 10 strikeout performance at Miami, and is penciled in for a doubleheader against the Mets next weekend. Even with Francisco Lindor back, New York has struggled to hit and rank eighth worst in OPS vs. right-handers (.687).

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our MLB Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don't forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!

 

Total Games

American League

5: CHW

6: BAL, CLE, HOU, KC, LAA, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TEX, TOR

7: BOS, DET, TB

 

National League

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, LAD, MIA, PHI, PIT, SD, STL

7: ATL, COL, MIL, NYM, SF, WAS

 

The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Willy Adames: Day-to-day (quad)

Brett Anderson: Status uncertain (hip)

Tejay Antone: Out for the season (elbow)

Lewis Brinson: Status unknown (thumb)

Zack Britton: Out indefinitely (elbow)

J.T. Brubaker: Placed on IL (thumb)

Dylan Bundy: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Curt Casali: Day-to-day (leg)

Diego Castillo: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Ji-Man Choi: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Anthony DeSclafani: Placed on IL (ankle)

Reid Detmers: Placed on IL

Dane Dunning: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Eduardo Escobar: Placed on IL (hamstring)

Jack Flaherty: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Mike Foltynewicz: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Jonah Heim: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Rhys Hoskins: Out for the season (abdomen)

Spencer Howard: Placed on IL (COVID-19)

Cole Irvin: Day-to-day (hip)

Evan Longoria: Placed on IL (hand)

Jordan Luplow: Placed on IL (ankle)

Kenta Maeda: Placed on IL (forearm)

Ketel Marte: Day-to-day (hip)

Chas McCormick: Place don IL (hand)

Triston McKenzie: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Tyler O’Neill: Day-to-day (back)

Freddy Peralta: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Stephen Piscotty: Out for the season (wrist)

Buster Posey: Day-to-day (knee)

Victor Robles: Day-to-day (illness)

Carlos Santana: Day-to-day (hip)

Trevor Story: Day-to-day (leg)

Tyrone Taylor: Placed on IL (oblique)

Justin Upton: Day-to-day (calf)