|Name||Position||Team||ESPN Own %|
|Chris Flexen||SP||Seattle Mariners||63.8|
|Eduardo Rodríguez||SP||Boston Red Sox||65.1|
|Jameson Taillon||SP||New York Yankees||53.1|
|Jon Gray||SP||Colorado Rockies||40.5|
|Merrill Kelly||SP||Arizona Diamondbacks||23.8|
1. Chris Flexen | SP | Seattle Mariners
Leading off for our pitchers this week is Chris Flexen. No, not Logan Gilbert (I recommended him in last week’s post). Chris Flexen, however, has been pretty dang good himself. He’s 27, doesn’t have a great track record in the majors, and doesn’t necessarily have the underlying metrics to back up his performances this year. He’s also not flashy either, as he’s sporting an abysmal 5.9 strikeouts-per-nine clip as well. That being said, he’s made 17 starts and has a 3.35 ERA and 3.67 FIP. In fact, back on May 21st, he gave up eight earned runs in 1.2 innings of work against the Padres. Since then? Flexen has made nine starts and has a 5-1 record with a 2.15 ERA and a 41-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 58.2 innings pitched. Over his last three starts (against Texas and the Angels twice), he’s given up just two earned runs over 20 innings of work. Flexen has been getting the job done and is a huge reason why the Mariners have turned their season around. His upcoming schedule is a bit murky. He’s going to be making a start early next week against either Houston or Texas (very opposite ends of the offensive spectrum). Following that, he’ll likely make his next start against either the Rays or the Yankees, followed up again with either Texas or the Blue Jays. He’s been too good though not to roster and play for the time being.
2. Eduardo Rodríguez | SP | Boston Red Sox
It’s been a minute, but Eduardo Rodríguez’s name is finally being thrown around again in fantasy circles. After a very encouraging 2018 and 2019, Rodríguez missed all of 2020 with health complications stemming from COVID-19. He’s back now, though, and has a 5.19 ERA in 18 starts so far in 2021. I’m here to say though that the 5.19 may just be a façade. For starters, he’s got a 3.51 FIP and 3.60 Expected ERA. Additionally, his 112-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 95.1 innings is pretty dang awesome. Lastly, his Average Exit Velocity and HardHit% surrendered are both in the 77th-percentile or better. Needless to say, he’s been much better than his 5.19 ERA suggests. He’s starting to see the results, too. Over his last five starts, he’s 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA and a 34-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28.2 innings. The underlying metrics are great, the walks are down (which have been an issue in the past), and he pitches for the Red Sox. What more could you want? Rodríguez might not just be a spot start, but someone you roster the rest of the way.
3. Jameson Taillon | SP | New York Yankees
I remember everyone getting excited to have snagged Taillon later in drafts this year, thinking he’d bounce back and pick up a bunch of wins pitching for the Yankees. Well, things haven’t quite worked out that way. For starters, the Yankees are barely floating above .500. In addition, Taillon has been a bit of a mixed-bag himself. That being said, he seems to be figuring things out. Over his last three starts (against Seattle, Houston, and Boston), Taillon has given up just three earned runs across 18.1 innings of work. Much like many others I have suggested in the past, Taillon seems to be your typical average MLB pitcher. In addition to his boring ERA, Taillon is hovering around the 40-60 percentile range in his Average Exit Velocity, Expected ERA, and Whiff%. Even so, there’s a place on fantasy rosters for average pitchers in good matchups and that’s exactly what we have with Taillon. He’ll make a start against Boston over the weekend, but then will likely follow that up with the Marlins, the Orioles, and the Royals. Pick him up for this stretch and don’t be afraid to dump him after that, as his schedule will toughen up again.
4. Jon Gray | SP | Colorado Rockies
A few weeks ago I recommended Jon Gray, stating that he seemed to be chugging along just fine. Well, fast forward a few weeks and he’s made few more solid starts and here we are again. Consider Jon Gray! In 17 starts now in 2021, his ERA and FIP are down to 3.68 and 3.98 respectively. Over his last four starts (two at home and two on the road), he’s 2-0 with a 2.88 ERA and a 27-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 innings pitched. Most recently, he picked up the no decision at home against the Dodgers, allowing just two earned runs and striking out seven in seven innings. He’s got the metrics to back it up, too. He’s in the 73rd-percentile in HardHit%, in the 69th-percentile in Expected Slugging, and in the 60th-percentile in Whiff%. He’s been good and is worthy of a roster spot. The only knock on Gray is his upcoming schedule is a bit of a mess. He’s starting over the weekend against the Dodgers again, and will likely follow that up with a start in San Diego. He might make a start against Miami, but if not will then likely start against Houston instead (in Houston).
5. Merrill Kelly | SP | Arizona Diamondbacks
Do I feel great about recommending Merrill Kelly? Not particularly. Would anyone feel good picking him up? Probably not. Let me make a case though. First, ignore the fact that he pitches for the Diamondbacks and that he’s 32-year-old three-year MLB vet without a track record of success in the majors. While he does have a 4.46 ERA on the season, his FIP is down at a 3.88, indicating he’s been a little better than his ERA suggests. More importantly though, he’s been pitching too well lately to ignore. Over his last six starts, Kelly is 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA and a 27-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38.2 innings pitched. Sure, he’s not striking out a ton of people, but he’s not walking them either. Opponents are slugging just .349 off of him during that stretch. He shut out the Padres over six innings, pitched seven strong against the Giants, and held the Dodgers to just one run over 5.1 innings as well. I’d take anyone else on this list above Kelly before I take Kelly, but you have to consider anyone that pitches this well over a sustained period of time.