Closing Time: Jose Berrios' ridiculous start has him in fantasy circle of trust

Jose Berrios was untouchable Thursday (AP)
Jose Berrios was untouchable Thursday (AP)

Once you cross the 50-percent ownership tag, it’s awfully hard to be the lede in this column. We look for actionable items. We want to discuss players you can add for free, or acquire on the cheap.

But sometimes you have to break the rules. Jose Berrios was that ridiculous in his Thursday start against Colorado.

You probably know the Berrios story by now. He was a ballyhooed prospect before 2016, pedigree to the moon. He went on to dominate in the minors, then throw up all over himself when the Twins recalled him (8.02 ERA in 14 starts). Not everyone is ready for The Show at age 22.

Berrios snuck onto the post-hype clipboards this spring, in part through some impressive moments at the World Baseball Classic. Then he returned to Triple-A and toyed with everyone — 1.13 ERA over six starts. Minnesota called him up on May 12, and he was excellent in his first start, beating Cleveland.

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Berrios only struck out four in the win over the Tribe, but he was in full command of his arsenal Thursday. The Rockies managed two piddly hits, one walk — and struck out 11 times. Have a long look at the absurd video. This is dominance, Wiffle Ball, the type of stuff where you wonder how anyone could get a hit.

The precocious righty is still unowned in 43 percent of Yahoo leagues, so a few of you still have work to do. Maybe there’s FAAB bidding yet to come. Maybe your league has restrictive rules on pickups. The upside is too great to ignore here. This is the type of player worthy of an all-in push.

Berrios obviously won’t be this dominant in most of his starts, but Minnesota pitchers don’t have to fear contact. The Twins grade well in many defensive metrics; they’re first in defensive runs saved, third in zone rating, second in defensive runs above average. If you can keep it in the park, this defense is pretty damn good at turning it into an out.

There’s another lesson to consider here. All I took from Berrios’s 2016 trial was that he wasn’t ready. His ERA, his ratios, his secondary stats, none of it specifically matters. The development curve is different for everybody. The level to which he struggled is not important, or instructive of anything.

Some trickier matchups are on the way — at Baltimore, versus Houston — but I’m not going to sweat it. Neither should you. And although we’re just in it for the numbers, you should also know the last name is pronounced beh-REE-ohs.

Add like a Champion today. Talk like a Champion today.

• Two days ago, Freddie Freeman was an MVP candidate. Today, he’s just another guy caught in the Great Injury Wreckage of 2017. Freeman took a pitch off the wrist Wednesday and it turned out to be a fracture. He’s expected to miss 10-12 weeks.

I tend to be pessimistic about long-term injury cases, especially when it’s tied to someone on a losing club. The Braves don’t have designs on the playoffs this year. If the team is buried in the standings come August, could they decelerate Freeman’s timetable? If you can get something reasonable for Freeman in trade — and I realize that might be impossible in a lot of leagues — I’d strongly consider it. Optimism is not your friend here.

In the meantime, you might need a new cornerman. Here are some widely available names to consider: Brandon Drury (50 percent), Josh Harrison (40 percent), Josh Bell (38 percent, four homers in a week), Tim Beckham (37 percent; Brad Miller now on the DL); Justin Smoak (36 percent, discussed Monday), and Logan Morrison (22 percent, discussed in the archives).

If your search goes a little deeper, note Chris Taylor is playing his tail off in LA (.324, four homers), and Justin Turner might need a DL stint. Justin Bour (14 percent) has a quiet nine homers, and a few lemmings who can’t pronounce his name. Matt Davidson (four percent) isn’t pretty with the average, but he does have seven homers.

Good luck with your point and click.

• We’re still getting used to SunTrust Park in Atlanta, trying to calibrate the new yard. Heck, some websites refuse to accept the Braves actually shifted stadiums.

Julio Teheran? He’s probably not a fan of the new confines.

SunTrust Park is currently the No. 9 offensive park in the majors, for whatever six weeks of data means to you. Teheran is personally responsible for many of those crooked numbers. The Blue Jays conked him for nine runs in three innings Thursday — even Marcus Stroman hit a homer — and Teheran now has a 10.50 ERA and 2.00 WHIP at home.

Teheran’s road starts have been completely different — 0.71 ERA, 1.07 WHIP. But we can’t take those stats at face value. He’s only struck out 18 batters in those four turns — against 10 walks — and his xFIP on the road is a bloated 5.00. This looks like a pitcher who’s been mediocre everywhere, but miraculously lucky on the road.

Teheran’s fastball velocity is down, and that’s in a season where most — due to measuring changes — have velocity increases. His swinging strikes are down. He’s getting plenty of early strikes, but still having problems putting batters away. His HR/FB rate is only mildly up from previous years; that’s not the problem.

Perhaps Teheran will settle in when he cuts his bloated walk rate (4.20/9). But his strikeout rate was always borderline for the innings-capped format, and now it’s under 7/9. Without knowing specifically what ails Teheran, I can’t blame anyone who decides to bench him for a while — or even trade him at a tangible discount. So many red flags here.

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