Happy Wednesday. I'm Chris Towers, filling in for Dan Schneier this week on the FBT newsletter, and I have a few pitchers I am genuinely worried about today. We'll get to that and the rest of what you need to know about from around the league.
We're at the point of the season where it might be getting harder for you to stomach "it's still early" as an explanation for why your superstar players are struggling. In fact, I know we're well past that point for many of you, because we're hearing it from you.
"Can you put Julio Rodriguez on Wednesday's Worry-O-Meter?"
I'll be honest: I'm not too worried about Rodriguez. He's not a zero on the meter, because we don't have that long of a track record of him playing at an elite level. But I don't really see too much in his profile to be concerned about. He's hitting the ball about as hard as he did last season, with a similar batted-ball profile, and his expected wOBA on contact is actually slightly higher than it was last year. Things aren't perfect – he's whiffed on half his swings against offspeed pitches, an alarming mark – but there aren't enough red flags here for me to jump off a first-round caliber player.
But there are plenty of worries out there.
Max Scherzer – 6
This doesn't mean I'm saying you should drop Scherzer. But how could you not be concerned about Scherzer at this point. He was scratched from Wednesday's scheduled start due to neck spasms, and has also talked about how he is still dealing with lingering issues from the scapula injury that cost him a start back in April. Scherzer's velocity is down about 1 mph from last season, and his whiff rate is down on pretty much all of his pitches. I'm not going to write Scherzer off anytime soon – we've done this, "Is this the end for Max Scherzer?" dance before and he's bounced back, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried right now.
Alek Manoah – 5
To be clear, there's nothing in Manoah's numbers that suggest better days are ahead. His 4.83 ERA is ugly enough, but his 6.70 expected ERA suggests he's actually been lucky to get the results he's had. Tuesday, he gave up three earned runs in 4.2 innings of work, with four walks to just one strikeout – the fifth time he's had at least four walks this season, the same number he had all last season. Manoah's velocity is down 1.2 mph from last season and he's giving up a lot of loud contact with all of his pitches, so there really isn't even an obvious culprit there. I've seen it suggested that Manoah is struggling with the pitch clock, and that might be part of it – and that's actually an explanation I'd like to be true, because it would suggest a somewhat straightforward path to fixing him. Right now, Manoah just looks broken, and I can't tell you when he'll fix it. I do believe he will, so I'm trying to buy low, but he certainly can't be ranked as a top-25 SP right now.
Brandon Pfaadt – 8
It's a lot easier to have a long rope for the likes of Scherzer and Manoah, who have pitched at an incredibly high level in the majors before. Pfaadt came to the majors with plenty of hype, but he's unproven above Triple-A, so he doesn't get that benefit of the doubt. Especially not after allowing 13 runs on six homers in his first two starts. I'm not writing Pfaadt off at all, but maybe the 1.5 HR/9 he allowed in the minors wasn't just the result of pitching in some tough environments. The stuff here is good, but perhaps not elite, and it might give him a relatively slim margin for error. You can still thrive in the majors that way – Shane Bieber is one example of a pitcher who overcomes getting hit hard by doing everything else at an elite level – but Pfaadt has to prove he can do that. I'd like to not drop him, but I can't start him right now.
Jack Flaherty – 10
Maybe it isn't fair to give Pfaadt a pass if I'm going to bury Flaherty, but I just think we've seen enough from Flaherty at this point to know it isn't going to happen for him. Injuries are the worst. They've sapped Flaherty of what once made him special, and he just hasn't figured out how to adapt to throwing in the low-90s. Monday against the Cubs, he walked five and struck out just three while allowing three runs in five innings, with his fastball velocity down to 91.9 mph. Flaherty now has three starts with more walks than strikeouts in eight trips to the mound, with 27 walks to 39 strikeouts in his 39.1 innings. I just don't have any faith left here.
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Get him on your radar
Elly De La Cruz didn't make Scott's most recent Prospects Report column, but I think he might crack the list this week. Just a hunch, but the big Reds shortstop prospect has been red hot lately, having homers in three straight games, including a dominant performance Tuesday. De La Cruz went 3 for 4 with two homers and two walks (including one to walk it off with the bases loaded), which is impressive on its own. What really stands out, though, was that De La Cruz had three different batted balls hit at least 116 mph in the game. Not only has no player ever done that in the StatCast era, but no team has ever done it.
De La Cruz got off to a rocky start, with 18 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances in April, but he's got just seven in 34 PA since the calendar turned to May. He's a top-10 prospect and he's already on the 40-man roster, and De La Cruz has 13 homers and 21 steals in 63 games between Double-A and Triple-A dating back to last season. De La Cruz might need some more time in the minors, but if he keeps this up, he's going to have an opportunity to make an impact this summer.
- Jordan Diaz, 2B, Athletics – If you hit three homers in a game and you're widely available, you're going to be in the waiver-wire section. That's the rule. In Diaz's case, it helps that he's also just 22 years old and has a high-.800s OPS with some pop in the high minors.
- Clarke Schmidt, SP, Yankees – Schmidt carried some post-hype sleeper appeal into the season, and he's starting to live up to it with 27 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA over his past four starts.
- Louie Varland, SP, Twins– I might like Varland more than Schmidt, actually. He's been pretty productive in the high minors (3.18 ERA with 171 strikeouts in 141.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A), and that was largely before a velocity spike. I think the stuff here might be legitimately good, and I'm looking to add him where I can.
- Casey Schmitt, 3B, Giants – Schmitt was a fringe top-100 guy coming into the season, though he hasn't shown much over-the-fence pop in the high minors, with just five homers in 65 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He homered in his MLB debut Tuesday, however, and is worth a look in deeper leagues. Playing time questions probably take him out of 12-team consideration unless you have a roster spot to play with.
News & notes
- The MRI on Mason Miller's right elbow came back clean. He's expected to try a side session Friday and the belief is that he'll avoid the IL at this point. That's excellent news.
- Jacob deGrom (elbow) has been limited to playing light catch so far, and manager Bruce Bochy told reporters deGrom could return in "another 2-3 weeks." I'll take the over, personally.
- Luis Severino (lat) will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Wednesday. He remains worth stashing, though there is obviously a ton of risk here.
- Carlos Rodon was given a cortisone injection Tuesday and could throw off a mound as soon as this weekend. The back is a bigger issue than the forearm at this point, and he's gotta show he can put that issue behind him before he gets back on the mound.
- Kyle Schwarber left Tuesday with a left foot contusion. X-rays were negative, so hopefully this is just a minor issue.
- Starling Marte has been dropped to sixth in the Mets order as he's batting just .213 on the season. The 34-year-old has taken a step back with his quality of contact metrics, but I'm not ready to give up on him.
- Tyler O'Neill could begin a rehab assignment next week. He's on the IL with a lower back strain.
- Nick Lodolo's next start has been pushed back from Thursday to Saturday due to left calf soreness.
- Lance McCullers threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Tuesday. He reportedly hit 91.6 MPH during the session, down from the 93 mph he averaged last year.
- Andres Muñoz underwent a PRP shot in his shoulder last week, and won't be ready to go on a rehab assignment until the end of the month.
- Noah Syndergaard left his start Tuesday with a cut on his finger. Dave Roberts said they'll see how Syndergaard's finger responds before deciding his status for his next start.
- Mauricio Dubon left Tuesday's game with left hamstring discomfort.
- There's a good chance that Yoan Moncada returns this weekend. He's on the IL with a back injury.
- Ranger Suarez is set to make his season debut this weekend in Colorado. He had a 3.65 ERA and 1.33 WHIP last season and can be useful for Fantasy, though a lack of whiffs likely limits the upside.
- Ramon Urias was placed on the IL with a strained left hamstring for the Orioles. They've got a bunch of middle infield prospects in the high-minors, but I'd be pretty surprised if they called any of them up here. We'll keep an eye out in the coming days just in case.
- Oswald Peraza was placed on the IL with a right ankle sprain, retroactive to May 6.
- Brandon Crawford hopes to return this weekend. He's on the IL with a right calf strain.
- James Paxton will make his Red Sox debut Friday against the Cardinals. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2021 and hasn't pitched well in the majors since 2019, so we're definitely taking a wait-and-see approach here.
- Gary Sanchez signed a minor-league contract with the Mets, though with Francisco Alvarez starting to establish himself as a lineup mainstay, I'd be pretty surprised if Sanchez became a contributor in Queens.