Generally speaking, I want to avoid using pitchers in their first start back from the DL, which meant I wasn’t going to trust Mike Soroka last night.
Soroka was brilliant in his return from a shoulder injury, limiting the Mets to just one hit in 6 1/3 innings of work. He struck out four and walked one, and had his typical velocity coming off the injury. He didn’t get a ton of swinging strikes or strikeouts, but that’s just picking nits in this instance. Soroka is as talented as they come, and has acquitted himself well in his first taste of the majors, allowing six earned runs in 21 innings, while striking out 19 and walking five. He deserves to be owned across the board, and is the priority pickup today.
At some point, skepticism can become a crutch, a way to avoid processing new information and admitting that maybe — just maybe — you were wrong.
Are we there with Dylan Covey? The 26-year-old was dreadful in 2017, sporting a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings of work for the White Sox, but after another strong start Wednesday against Cleveland, he has lowered his ERA to 2.29 in six starts this season. Is this for real?
To start with, there isn’t much evidence to go on to back up Covey. He has sported a 3.96 ERA for his career in the minors, a career largely defined by mediocrity. However, in 44 2/3 innings in Triple-A, he did manage a 2.42 ERA, and he has carried that over into his major-league run so far. What’s he doing right? Well, Covey has been downright Dallas Keuchel-esque so far, inducing groundballs on a whopping 61.0 percent of his total batted balls.
He seems to have largely ditched his four-seam fastball, in favor of what has been a heavy mid-90s sinker. He has managed strikeout and walk rates right around league average to boot, and combined with elite groundball numbers, make it look at least somewhat sustainable. Covey has never projected to be much more than a No. 4 or 5 starter, but his peripherals actually back up much of his improvement to date. It’s a small sample size, but it’s noting. He isn’t so easy to dismiss.
Ketel Marte was one of my favorite sleepers in the offseason, thanks to his strong plate discipline and a reworked swing that promised more power than he’s shown. So far, that swing hasn’t paid dividends overall, as Marte is actually hitting more balls on the ground than in years’ past but seems to be figuring things out lately. Marte put together another multi-hit game Wednesday, his third in four games, and has raised his OPS from .591 to .714 for the season over the last 15 games. And it’s no coincidence, because Marte is hitting the ball on the ground less than ever recently:
Marte will never be a big-time power hitter, but he has a higher average exit velocity this season than Javier Baez, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Bour to name just a few, so he’s not some slap hitter either. We’re seeing signs of that lately, and I think it could be real.
With starters throwing fewer innings than ever these days and so many teams refusing to stick with one option in the ninth inning, everyone is on the lookout for the dominant middle relievers. Josh Hader is the king of that domain these days, but the likes of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances have made a name for themselves in Fantasy despite their lack of innings or saves. The latest version of this may be, shockingly, Justin Miller, a veteran journeyman with a career 4.45 ERA. Miller doesn’t look drastically different this season than he has in the past — he’s still throwing a mid-90s fastball and slider almost exclusively — but he certainly looks like a brand-new pitcher. Miller has a whopping 19.6 percent swinging strike rate, and has struck out 61.8 percent of opposing batters without a single walk through 10 2/3 innings. It’s a small sample size, but it started in Triple-A, when he struck out 50 percent of the 46 batters he faced. I’m not sure how he’s doing it, but it’s hard to ignore. I wouldn’t, if I needed someone to help in strikeouts and ratios.