Triston McKenzie can help your fantasy baseball team down the stretch


Dealing with injuries is part of the sports and, well, life.

Fantasy owners watched Chris Bassitt land on the injured list this week after taking a 100 mph line drive to his face. Anthony DeSclafani left Wednesday’s game early with ankle discomfort and is listed as day-to-day. Those injuries come after a recent COVID-IL stint for Gerrit Cole, long-term or season-ending injuries to stud pitchers such as Jacob deGrom, Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber, and a multitude of ailments to countless other key rotation pieces.

As we head into the final weeks of the regular season, now is not the time to let injuries derail your season. You’ve come too far to let an injury get in the way of your quest. Keep fighting, and make sure your rotation is locked and loaded for the playoffs. If you’re in one of the 25 percent of ESPN leagues in which San Francisco’s Logan Webb is available, grab him now. If not, Roto Rage suggests you check Triston McKenzie’s availability.

The Indians’ McKenzie entered the season as the 26th-best prospect, according to Baseball America. That was after an impressive 33 ¹/₃ inning stint in the majors in 2020 in which he was 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA, 11.3 strikeouts per nine, 0.90 WHIP and 2.43 walks per nine.

Triston McKenzie

Unfortunately, McKenzie didn’t back up those results early on this season. Though opponents were hitting just .188 against him through his first 11 appearances (10 starts), he was 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA, 59-39 strikeout-walk rate and no quality starts before being demoted in June.

Things have changed since he was recalled in July.

Over his past seven starts, McKenzie is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA, 40 strikeouts and a .183 opponents average. He has walked just 1.5 per nine innings after issuing 8.3 free passes per nine in his first 11 appearances. In his first three starts this month (all quality starts, one of which came within four outs of a perfect game), he is 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA, 20-1 strikeout-walk rate, 0.52 WHIP, 0.43 walks per nine and ridiculous .139 opponents average.

Since June 12, McKenzie has lowered his ERA from 6.38 to a still-too-high 5.12. He is moving in the right direction, and his xFIP (4.72) and xERA (4.16) back that up.

Among pitchers with a minimum of 80 innings pitched, McKenzie entered Friday ranked 25th in strikeouts per nine (10.6) and eighth in opponents average (.185). He also had a 12.6 percent swinging-strike rate — the same mark as Yu Darvish, Trevor Bauer Andrew Heaney and Zack Wheeler. He still has the third-worst walk percentage in the majors (13.1 percent) and the 19th-worst home runs per nine rate (1.7). He also ranks in the bottom six percent of the league in exit velocity (91.2 mph).

The 24-year-old still is relying far too heavily on his fastball, throwing it more than 63 percent of the time. Though opponents are hitting just .209 with 52 strikeouts and a 21.3 percent whiff rate against the four-seamer, they’ve also hit 12 homers and walked 15.4 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, opponents can’t touch McKenzie’s slider or curveball. He uses his curveball 18 percent of the time and opponents are hitting .111 against it with a 43.9 percent whiff rate, 17.8 percent swinging strike rate and 6.9 percent walk rate. He throws his slider 16.9 percent of the time and opponents are 7-for-52 (.135) with 47.2 percent whiff rate and an 18.9 percent swinging strike rate.

McKenzie, available in about 50 percent of ESPN leagues, will give up the occasional long ball and may have a few bad innings along the way, but his stuff is dominant. The fact he has found control to partner with his solid strikeout rate makes him that much more appealing. It’s time to bolster your rotation by adding McKenzie.

The Cleveland youngster is far from the only pitcher, available in 45 percent or more of ESPN leagues, who you should consider adding to your rotation.

Over his past eight starts, Cincinnati’s Vladimir Gutierrez has picked up five wins while allowing opponents to score more than two earned runs just once. He has maintained a 3.02 ERA in that span.

Vladimir Gutierrez
Vladimir Gutierrez

In his first start since returning from the injured list, Atlanta’s Huascar Ynoa delivered 5 ¹/₃ scoreless innings while striking out four and walking one. He owns a 2.70 ERA and is striking out 9.7 per nine for the season.

Other options include Seattle’s Tyler Anderson, Washington’s Josiah Gray, Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner, Miami’s Elieser Hernandez and St. Louis’ J.A. Happ (16.1 percent owned), who is 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA and a .190 opponents average in three starts since joining the Cardinals.

Big Hits

Marco Gonzales SP, Mariners

Allowed two earned runs over his first four starts this month, going 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA, 21-4 strikeout-walk rate and .204 opponents average.

C.J. Cron 1B, Rockies

In his first 15 games this month, the veteran went 22-for-53 (.415) with seven homers, 25 RBIs, 13 runs, a .500 OBP and a 1.387 OPS.

Eduardo Rodriguez
Eduardo Rodriguez
Getty Images

Eduardo Rodriguez SP, Red Sox

Went 7-6 with a 5.60 ERA and .283 opponents average over his first 20 starts, but is 2-0 with a 1.10 ERA and .161 opponents average in his past three.

Connor Joe 1B/OF, Rockies

After hitting .241 with no homers, six RBIs and a .627 OPS in the first half, he hit .316 with seven homers, 19 RBIs and a .995 OPS in his first 23 second-half games.

Big Whiffs

John Means SP, Orioles

Though he has walked just four batters in his six starts since the All-Star break, he is 1-3 with a 6.10 ERA and .301 opponents average in that span.

Adolis Garcia OF, Rangers

Entered Friday with 12 hits in his first 66 at-bats (.182) this month. He had four homers, eight RBIs, 25 strikeouts and a .638 OPS.

Zac Gallen SP, D’backs

Over his past 12 starts (with stints on the IL in between), he is 0-7 with a 5.88 ERA, 26 walks, 12 homers allowed and a .271 opponents average.

Mark Canha OF, Athletics

In his first 15 games this month, he is hitting .161 with 11 strikeouts and a .555 OPS. Fun fact: He has been hit by four pitches in that span, and leads the AL with 22.

Check Swings

  • In his first 24 games since the Midsummer Classic, the Yankees’ Tyler Wade has gone 16-for-51 (.314) with nine runs, eight walks and .407 on-base percentage. Most importantly, he has stolen eight bases (six of which have come in his first 14 games this month). If you have the need for speed, he is available in almost 90 percent of ESPN leagues.
  • Rays catcher Mike Zunino, a career .202 hitter, entered Friday with a nine-game hitting streak, going 12-for-31 (.387) with six homers, nine RBIs and a 1.419 OPS in that span. He homered in five straight games from Aug. 11 through Tuesday.
  • Oakland’s Sean Manaea has allowed 15 earned runs over his past 11 innings (three starts). He is 0-2 with a 12.27 ERA, four homers allowed and a healthy .385 opponents average in that span.

Team Name of the Week

Eaton Good in the Neighborhood

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