2017 Fantasy Baseball, Week 14 Preview
Before we get going with the Week 14 preview, I need you to cast your minds back a few weeks, all the way back to the Week 10 preview. You may recall that I had to write the piece on the Thursday as I was going away for the weekend.
Remember? No? Well we have a case of déjà vu as once again I’m writing this on a Thursday as I am heading off Friday morning for a long weekend and won’t have internet access for the most part.
If you do recall the Week 10 preview, well done. And secondly, you will remember I offered up 5 Two Start Stars so by the time you make your decision on picking one or more up, at least three of them will be confirmed as having two starts in the week.
What happened? All five ended up with two starts and four of them were excellent pick-ups. In fact, the average game scores for that week was the highest all season. So technically, that was my most successful week of the year (although Week 13 is looking pretty darn good too).
Now we’re going to try and replicate the success from week 10 and offer up five names for Two Start Stars. Just remember to check they have confirmed two starts for the week ahead prior to picking one up.
So without further ado, let’s delve into week 14 and hope we can reproduce week 10 magic.
Two Start Stars
First up is Colorado Rockies’ Jeff Hoffman. It seems most weeks we include a Rockies pitcher to start, not something anyone would’ve guessed at the start of the year.
But other than getting rocked by the Arizona Diamondbacks a couple of starts ago, Hoffman has been very good and week 14 sees both starts at home, against the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox.
Hoffman was a very well-regarded prospect who took his time reaching the Majors, but has grasped his opportunity. He’s only made seven starts as of typing and has a 4.04 ERA. Take away the Diamondbacks blow-up and his ERA would be 2.33.
Now I know that’s fiddling figures to make it look better, but the Diamondbacks were red hot when they faced Hoffman, scoring 30 runs in that 3-game series.
And Hoffman doesn’t face nearly as potent an offense in week 14. Both starts are at Coors Field so there’s certainly some risk/reward associated with picking him. But the Reds and White Sox rank 24th and 26th (respectively) in runs scored in June.
So neither team is expected to rack up the runs against Hoffman and given he’s striking out more than a hitter per inning, Hoffman could be a very nice reward if you do take the risk.
Next up is Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies. A trendy “sleeper pick” in drafts, Nola has had his struggles in 2017 and now finds himself owned less than 50% in most standard formats.
Week 14 sees him face the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres, both at home. So what of Nola? Well, his last two starts saw him yield 3 earned runs over 14.1 innings, striking out 17 in the process (against the Cardinals and Mariners).
Nola has flashed some brilliance which made it easy to see why people were so keen on him in 2017. But the inconsistencies have dogged him and frustrated owners. His last two starts though could be the beginning of getting back into fantasy team’s good graces.
We’ve mentioned the Padres and their poor offense ad nauseam (being the Major League’s lowest run scorers in June). The Pirates are pretty middling on offense; ranking 19th in runs scored and 16th in batting average in June.
This month has seen the Pirates hit the 4th fewest home runs in baseball, yet strike out the 3rd fewest. Nola will need to work hard to get a very good outing against them. But even an average start should be good enough once he ends the week against the Padres.
Third up is Oakland Athletics rookie Daniel Gossett. As I type this, Gossett has just been knocked out of the games at the Houston Astros without recording an out in the 6th inning. Although he entered the 6th having given up just 2 earned runs, he leaves it with a total of 5 to his name.
But that’s against the Astros and I think we can all recognise how good their offense has been.
Before this, Gossett had followed his disappointing debut with quality starts against the Chicago White Sox and none other than the Houston Astros. Week 14 should see him face the White Sox (who he shut out) at home before a road trip to face the Seattle Mariners.
June has seen the White Sox score the 5th fewest runs in baseball and strikeout the 14th most. The Mariners on the other hand have scored more runs than any team not named the Yankees or Nationals in June. They have struck out the 11th most as a team in June though.
The past week has seen the Mariners slip to 10th in runs scored so the bats have cooled off a little. And that may be all Gossett needs to succeed in a pitcher friendly park.
This is another risk/reward pick but if you miss out on Hoffman as your week 14 gamble, Gossett is just one step behind.
Fourth up is Jeff Locke of the Miami Marlins. Locke has made six starts this season and is yet to finish the sixth inning, sporting a 5.52 ERA and finds himself winless. So why am I suggesting him as a Two Start Star?
Well week 14 sees a couple of favourable road matchups, starting with the St Louis Cardinals and ending with the San Francisco Giants.
The Cardinals are an MLB ranked 23rd in runs scored at home this year and have struck out the 7th most in the last seven days (11th most in June). So Locke has some routes to fantasy value in his first start.
Then there’s the Giants, in a hitter friendly park, with a team hitting Austin Slater third in the order. The Giants don’t strike out much but also don’t score much at home, evidenced by their MLB worst rank in runs scored at home.
Two starts on the road against teams who don’t score many runs at home seems like the best chance Locke has of becoming a useful pitcher again. This is pretty much a make or break week for Locke and I’m backing the “make”.
Last but not least is the Washington Nationals’ Joe Ross. As I type this, Ross has gone four innings at home to the Chicago Cubs and given up one run while striking out 4. His previous two starts (against the Mets and Reds) saw him toss 13 innings for three earned runs, striking out 9.
After a horrid start, Ross seems to be figuring things out and draws starts at home against the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in week 14.
Ross’ home ERA is 4.50 compared to a 6.97 road ERA so two home starts certainly seem beneficial. The Nationals are capable of putting up enough runs to secure Ross a win even if he leaks some runs himself, demonstrated by his 4-3 record despite a 5.54 ERA.
The one worry I have, which may seem trivial, is Ross has an ERA of 4.13 in his night games but a 7.13 in day games. Both his wee 14 starts are during the daylight hours.
This selection is more about believing in Ross more than the opponents he’s facing. If wins are your biggest priority in week 14, Ross probably represents the best help of the five. If he can keep his recent form up, he’ll pitch himself into fantasy relevance for the remainder of 2017.
Worthy hitter pick-ups
There doesn’t appear to be a week without the New York Yankees sending someone to the DL and calling up one of their highly anticipated prospects. This week has seen three called up. All of whom could be of use to you in week 14.
Firstly, Tyler Wade. Predominately a shortstop in fantasy, Wade has made himself an asset by his positional versatility within the Yankees organisation. Able to play anywhere in the outfield or around the diamond, he’s likely to see plenty of playing time to fill in gaps over the coming week.
His first two starts for the Yankees has seen him play left field and second base. For fantasy purposes, Wade’s biggest asset is his legs, having racked up 24 steals in 28 attempts in Triple-A this year. Coupled with his .313 batting average, Wade should be able to give you some steals in week 14 and for as long as he stays in the Bronx.
Then there’s his teammate, Miguel Andujar who drove in 4 runs in his debut. Listed as a third baseman, Andujar has a bit more pop than Wade and has been hitting over .300 in the minors this year. Likely to be less valuable in fantasy than Wade, it comes down to positional requirement for your team.
Finally, there’s the exciting Dustin Fowler who will be an outfielder in your leagues. Fowler was MLB’s 98th best prospect heading into this year and he’d have vaulted himself up those rankings with a .293 average in Triple-A to accompany 13 homers and 13 steals this year.
If you need outfield help this week, Fowler could get enough starts and have enough talent to clear the fences a couple of and steal a bag or two.
The Yankees have a pair of 3-game home series in week 14, against the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. Neither opponent has stud pitching to cause much concern.
Depending on what position you need to fill in will determine which of the three “Baby Bombers” you should pick up but all three of them could conceivably be solid fantasy assets for as long as they remain in the Majors.