Here’s the reward — a return date at Washington next week, this time against Stephen Strasburg.
Although Foltynewicz was a second-tier prospect in his earlier days, not a Grade A arm, we’ve been intrigued for a while. He’s had solid strikeout numbers since landing in the Atlanta rotation in 2015, but the ERAs haven’t been playable — 5.71, 4.31, 4.79. He was a first-round pick in his draft class. Catch him on the right night and you wonder what’s possible; he had seven starts with eight or more strikeouts last year, including 10 at Cincinnati and 11 against Miami.
I don’t blame anyone who’s in prove-it mode with Folty and not inclined to read through, but I get curious when I see 15 strikeouts against three walks through his opening two turns. Mind you, he’s not working deep in those starts: 5.0 innings, 5.1 innings. But when you get it done against the Nationals, you earn a little extra cred.
Foltynewicz is using his change-up twice as often this year, and while 11.2 percent of the time might not sound like much, that’s always an interesting pitch for any right-hander trying to solve left-handed batters. Folty gives up 121 extra OPS points in the platoon disadvantage, a .295/.360/.514 slash for his career. They’ve knocked him for three doubles and a homer this year, albeit it’s with a .211 average and .304 OBP.
I’m stronger on the offensive side of things in the Friends & Family League, so I’m going to let Foltynewicz percolate on my bench for a while, see what he does in the Washington rematch. I will not start him next week, but K/BB ratio is always a good meter for possible pitcher breakouts. If Folty shows one more reasonable turn, I’m open minded to trusting him for the Phillies and Mets in upcoming appearances. There’s some plausible upside for him as he opens his age-26 season.
If you’re on a K/9 hunt like I am, Foltynewicz is available in 83 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Eduardo Escobar is getting first crack at the Minnesota shortstop job, and so far, so good. He’s hitting .438 with solid run production (four runs, one homer, five RBIs), and he’s slotted fifth or sixth in every game. Escobar’s flexibility is handy in Yahoo formats, where he covers second base, shortstop, and third base.
Escobar’s ownership tag is slightly depressed at 19 percent, perhaps because he rarely walks (six percent for his career). He’s yet to draw a free pass this year, and his strikeout clip is out of whack (35.3 percent), though his career whiff rate is a reasonable 19.7 percent. He was a handy player last year, if not a standout — 21 homers in 129 games, an ordinary .254 average. He should maintain deeper-league value until Jorge Polanco (80-game suspension) comes back.
•How long is the fantasy leash going to be with Felix Hernandez this year? The King was sharp in a brief-but-effective win against Cleveland last week (5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K), but that was quickly forgotten when Hernandez got shelled Wednesday at San Francisco (4 IP, 8 R). The Giants ripped three home runs off Hernandez, collected five walks, struck out just once.
Veteran stars deserve extended patience in our game, but Hernandez is no longer in that class. He was a 4.36/1.29 man last year, over 16 starts, and he logged a 3.82/1.32 season in 2016, over 25 turns. Although The King is about to turn merely 32, an age where pitchers should have a lot left, keep in mind this is his 14th MLB season. There’s a lot of mileage on the odometer; this is one story where my heart is invested but my head can’t punch the ticket.
I’m not alone in Hernandez skepticism. Respected industry colleague Chris Liss cut Hernandez in the Friends & Family League after Wednesday’s mess. King Felix gets Kansas City and Oakland next, without Liss in tow. Do you have the stomach for the Hernandez ride this year?
•It’s a good thing the Rays rallied for a surprising opening-day win over Boston, because it might be a while before Tampa Bay wins again. The Rays have lost five in a row since, stumbling to a .196/.263/.270 slash. That’s the lowest slugging percentage and OPS in baseball. Luis Severino (7.1 IP, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K) mowed them down Wednesday.
In leagues where aggressive streaming is in play — most head-to-head formats reward that — Tampa Bay should be in your sights. Heck, I’d be willing to consider some of the mediocre White Sox starters — they draw the Rays next week — or perhaps some Phillies and Rangers after that. Have a long look up and down the Tampa Bay lineup. Who scares you here?
To be fair, I see the deep-league argument for some Tampa Bay sticks. Matt Duffy is a rebound candidate at third base; he was a fun player back in 2015. Mallex Smith hasn’t run yet, but should eventually. Brad Miller has some pop, if you can live with a so-so average. But when I think of this offense, I focus on attacking it, not endorsing it.
Speed Round: Garrett Cooper (wrist) went on the disabled list, which means the Marlins can stop screwing around with Cameron Maybin. The sneaky Maybin is an excellent steals play — for as long as he can stay healthy — and is available in over 90 percent of Yahoo leagues. Have fun with those Maybin puns . . . If you came for the Patrick Corbin party, Dr. Behrens has you covered over here . . . Michael Conforto is ready to go, activated in time for Thursday’s game against Washington. He’ll bat leadoff . . . The Scott Kingery tour heads to right field Thursday; he’s also slotted third in the lineup . . . Robinson Chirinos has a sore wrist, because every catcher is apparently going to break in 2018 . . . Sean Manaea was outstanding for the second straight turn, allowing just one run over eight innings against Texas. He’s carrying a 1.15 ERA, with 11 strikeouts against one walk.