10 fantasy players who have shocked this season
Last week, we looked at hitters who have outperformed or fallen short of their MLB.com fantasy player preview. Now, we look at the pitching side of the spectrum, which also features a handful of surprises.
Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros
Preseason projection: 11-11, 3.41 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 147 K
We aren't surprised that Keuchel has pitched well following last year's breakout. What's shocking is that he's thrown like an American League Cy Young Award candidate through 101 1/3 innings. Keuchel should see his ERA rise into the mid-2.00s, at least, but his K/9 rate is up a bit, and his 64.2 percent ground-ball rate (per Fangraphs.com) leads the Junior Circuit.
Sonny Gray, SP, A's
Preseason projection: 13-11, 3.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 184 K
Gray, like Keuchel, had been expected to perform well in 2015. However, his ERA is well beyond any reasonable prognostication. In fact, the A's hurler's 1.60 ERA would represent the second-best mark of any qualified starter in the past 30 years. Some regression will come, but Gray should remain in the thick of the AL Cy Young Award conversation thanks to his ability to tally strikeouts and grounders and limit walks.
Chris Archer, SP, Rays
Preseason projection: 12-11, 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 180 K
The 26-year-old has always had the propensity to miss bats, but not like this. With an 11.3 K/9 rate and the lowest walk rate of his career (2.1 BB/9), Archer has overcome his control woes and taken his swing-and-miss abilities to an elite level. He's not only Tampa Bay's best starter; he's one of the best in baseball.
Shelby Miller, SP, Braves
Preseason projection: 10-12, 3.69 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 160 K
With an ERA hovering around the 2.00 mark, Miller has helped the over-performing Braves stay afloat in the National League East. However, the hurler is a legitimate regression candidate due to his lack of whiffs (6.5 K/9) and unsustainable homer rate (0.4 HR/9). Don't get us wrong; Miller is a quality pitcher, but his ERA is currently outpacing his skill set.
Aaron Harang, SP, Phillies
Preseason projection: 10-12, 4.01 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 135 K
With a 3.24 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, Harang is defying expectations for a second consecutive year. And he's been providing quantity as well as quality, with 89 innings (third most in the NL). But for as good as he's been, Harang may be hard-pressed to maintain his current level of performance. Just look inside the numbers. The hurler has benefited from a career-low .246 BABIP (lifetime .308 mark) and a homer rate that is below his lifetime average despite his calling a hitters' park home in 2015.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, Rays
Preseason projection: 12-11, 3.66 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 189 K
Odorizzi is currently sidelined with an oblique injury, but he should continue his brilliant season upon his return. The hurler is displaying the best control of his career and has upped his ground-ball rate due to the addition of a two-seam/cut fastball, per PITCH-f/x. So despite a slightly depressed K/9 rate, the righty is providing plenty to like. Fantasy owners should expect to see some ERA regression here, but a final mark near 3.00 should be within reach.
Jason Hammel, SP, Cubs
Preseason projection: 11-11, 3.53 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 160 K
Perhaps benefiting from a return to the Cubs and a reunion with manager Joe Maddon, the 32-year-old Hammel is in the midst of a career year. The hurler will likely experience some regression in the walks department, having posted a 1.4 BB/9 rate on the year despite a career 2.9 mark. With that in mind, Hammel is again missing bats at an impressive clip -- as he did during his Chicago tenure in 2014 -- and could complete the campaign with an ERA in the low 3.00s.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals
Preseason projection: 16-9, 2.90 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 233 K
Strasburg is on the disabled list with a trapezius strain, but other factors have likely contributed to his 6.55 ERA. And despite theories from many, the righty's struggles have largely been a mystery. But having retained his strong velocity and solid control during his woes, Strasburg could bounce back upon his return to the active roster.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, White Sox
Preseason projection: 13-11, 3.50 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 206 K
Samardzija is posting a career-low walk rate, but his 7.2 K/9 rate represents his lowest mark in that department since he became a full-time rotation fixture in 2012. Shark has also been hurt by an uptick in homer rate -- an unsurprising fact, given his move to a hitter-friendly home venue. Additionally, he's benefitted little from batted-ball luck, with a .327 mark that exceeds both league and his career norms. Do we think Samardzija will bounce back to some extent? Yes. But without a resurgence in strikeouts, we can't count on a full recovery.
Julio Teheran, SP, Braves
Preseason projection: 13-11, 3.39 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 191 K
After posting an ERA just north of 3.00 from 2013-14, Teheran has struggled to keep that number under 5.00 in 2015. Why, you ask? Well, the righty has always relied on pristine control, and that control has alluded him in 2015 (3.5 BB/9 rate in 2015; 2.4 in career). The 24-year-old has also experienced some poor luck in the long-ball department, so his performance could improve should that metric regress to the mean. But without great swing-and-miss stuff, Teheran will not excel without limiting his walks.