MLB: New York Mets at Tampa Bay Rays
Kim Klement Neitzel / USA TODAY Sports

Remember all that talk this spring about how the state of pitchers looked worse than it had in years for Fantasy Baseball? That hasn't actually been how things have played out so far this season, and it's made managing Fantasy rosters arguably even tougher than when pitching was so scarce in 2023. Because, suddenly, it seems like there are too many pitchers for Fantasy players to roster. 

That wasn't how this was supposed to play out, especially when a ton of spring and early-April injuries took big chunks out of the position. However, entering play Thursday, the MLB average ERA sat at just 3.97, which would be the second-lowest league-wide mark since 2015. That's more than a third of a run lower than last season's 4.33 mark, for the record.

That's come without an increase in strikeout rate or a significant decrease in walk rate, which means … they're messing with the ball again, aren't they? We can't confirm that, but when you see the league-wide HR/FB rate down to just 10.9%, the lowest mark since 2014, it's hard to come to any other conclusion. 

Scott White wrote about that new landscape and what it's meant for the Fantasy Baseball rankings Thursday, a piece you should definitely check out as he walked through his latest rankings risers and fallers here. I'm not quite ready to draw such sweeping conclusions just yet – I'd like to see some in-depth reporting and analysis of the batted ball data and how the baseballs are affecting the game in 2024 before I do – but I've made plenty of big moves in my rankings, reflected in my latest Trade Values Charts, which you can find here. But, whether you want to take a strong stance or a wait-and-see approach, one thing is impossible to deny: The game isn't quite what we expected it to be so far this season.

Whether that will continue moving forward remains to be seen, but even in an environment where offense is harder to come by than expected, we still need pitching; injuries are still wreaking havoc on the position, and many of you surely still have more spots in your lineup than good pitchers to fill them with. 

Just go add them now!

Christian Scott, Mets vs. SF, Friday (67%) – Scott's poor third start probably slowed whatever momentum was building around him, but I'm still pretty excited about what the young righty is capable of. He's got very good command and stuff that plays up more than you think for a command-focused profile. If he were available in any of my leagues (he's not), I'd be making him a high priority add. 

Erick Fedde, White Sox vs. BAL, Saturday (76%) – Everytime Fedde looks like an absolute must-roster pitcher, he seems to come around with a start that forces us to pump the breaks. That's been frustrating, certainly, and the dip in his strikeout rate in four May starts has especially been concerning. But He's sitting here with a 3.38 expected ERA through 10 starts, with strikeouts being the biggest weakness in his game. We've seen upside in that regard, however, and he's another one I'd be looking to add in any league where he is available, even if he doesn't pitch well this weekend – a reasonable concern, given the matchup. 

Taj Bradley, Rays vs. KC, Sunday (80%) – Like the two ahead of him, Bradley probably would be close to 100% rostered if not for a poor showing in his most recent outing. He has struggled with allowing hard contact early on, especially with his four-seam fastball, which has accounted for all three of his homers allowed. Nonetheless, he has tremendous swing-and-miss stuff across all four of his pitches, and if he can keep the ball in the yard at even a decent rate, there's a ton of upside here, though I think he might also have the lowest floor of the group, given his command struggles. 

Just give us a reason to be optimistic …

Pablo Lopez, Twins vs. TEX, Sunday – Given his 3.14 expected ERA, I really haven't been moved to drop Lopez much in my rankings despite an ERA nearing 5.00 now. He's still getting a bunch of strikeouts and he still doesn't walk anyone, so I don't have too many concerns despite his struggles keeping the ball in the yard to date. Prior to his seven-run shelling in his most recent start, Lopez has allowed just five runs while striking out 21 and walking one in his prior three starts, so hopefully he can get back on track in this one. I'm buying low where possible. 

Justin Verlander, Astros @OAK, Friday – I wouldn't say we're quite at the end of the road for Verlander, whose ability to generate weak contact remains a standout skill that should keep him Fantasy relevant moving forward. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to see upside in his profile, as his strikeout rate has dipped yet again to 18.7%. His whiff rate on both his slider and curveball is below 20%, and if he can't generate strikeouts against the A's – second-highest strikeout rate for any team – it'll be hard to find any reason to be optimistic about Verlander as anything more than a rotation filler. 

Framber Valdez, Astros @OAK, Saturday – In 2023, Valdez seemingly made a tradeoff, generating strikeouts at a career-best rate, but seemingly at the cost of his elite quality of contract prevention. The strikeouts have mostly disappeared this season, and without his elite quality of contact suppression, you see how his ERA has ballooned to over 4.30. Like Verlander, if Valdez is going to have any hope of getting back to last year's strikeout numbers, you'd hope to see it against this A's team.  

Tanner Bibee, Guardians @LAA, Saturday – Bibee gave us reason to be optimistic in his most recent outing, striking out eight in seven one-run innings against the Twins, and he's got a similarly juicy matchup on the way this weekend. It's been a frustrating season for one of the Fantasy community's favorite breakout pitching candidates, but if he takes care of business again – and especially if he racks up whiffs with his slider like he did last time out – it'll be a lot easier to be optimistic moving forward. 

Jordan Montgomery, Diamondbacks vs. MIA, Saturday – While things haven't been quite as bad for Montgomery as for Blake Snell, this definitely isn't the start the Diamondbacks were hoping for, with Montgomery holding a 4.98 ERA through his first six starts. The biggest issue has been a significant drop in his strikeout rate, which mostly seems like a curveball issue – his whiff rate with that pitch has dropped from 37.1% in 2023 to just 19.3% so far. It's a small enough sample size that it's not unreasonable to expect improvement there, though a 1.7 mph drop in fastball velocity makes it harder to bet on. Let's hope we start to see some improvement here. 

Still worth rostering?

Reid Detmers, Angels vs. CLE, Sunday (67%) – For those of us who wanted to believe in Detmers, this season started off so well, with a 1.19 ERA and 30 strikeouts in his first 22.2 innings of work. He's given up at least four runs in each of his past six starts, with his strikeout dropping below 20%. I still want to believe Detmers can be a good pitcher, and his 3.57 xERA gives some reason for hope, but if he gets rocked again here, I don't see any argument for continuing to carry him. 

Kyle Harrison, Giants @NYM, Friday (85%) – I know the results have been fine, as Harrison has a 2.86 ERA since the start of May, but that's pretty much where the positives end, as he has just 18 strikeouts to 14 walks in 22 innings in that span. I get that it's hard to cut bait when the results have been relatively good, but Harrison remains on a knife's edge for me, where if he has even one bad start, it'll be pretty easy to cut him. 

Aaron Civale, Rays vs. KC, Saturday (64%) – If you're still hanging on to Civale, it's because of his 26% strikeout rate since getting to the Rays, and while that's a pretty solid mark, it's hard to justify this kind of roster rate when it's also come with a 5.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He's probably not quite that bad, but there's not many reasons to think he's good, either. He would need an exceptional start here to justify keeping him around at this point. 

James Paxton, Dodgers @CIN, Friday (88%) – In his first start of the season, Paxton struck out five over five innings, and that was the last time he had even as many strikeouts as innings pitched in a start. I know he has a 2.84 ERA and a 5-0 record, but we know neither of those stats are particularly predictive – at least, not nearly as predictive as his 1:1 K:BB ratio, the second-worst mark of any starter with at least 40 innings pitched. Again, we need a very good outing here to justify hanging on to him. 

Braxton Garrett, Marlins @ARI, Friday (46%) – Garrett's ugly early results combined with his velocity being down about 1 mph in his return from a shoulder injury have plenty of you feeling skeptical about him, and given his limited upside, that's not unreasonable. But I'm willing to get him a bit more leash than this after two very solid seasons leading up to this one. There is limited strikeout upside and even more limited win potential with the Marlins backing him up, but I still have a lot of faith Garrett can be a mid-3.00s ERA pitcher when he gets going. A good start against this matchup would make me willing to drop any of Harrison, Paxton, or Civale for him. 

Casey Mize, Tigers vs. TOR, Sunday (49%) – Mize still hasn't figured out the secondary pitches beyond his solid splitter, and that's becoming an even bigger issue with his fastball velocity trending down since the start of May. He has shown almost no strikeout upside in the majors, so if his fastball is regressing, it's hard to see how he could even be decent moving forward. I want to believe Mize has more upside than he has shown, but I just don't see much reason to be optimistic at this point. 

Time to buy in? 

Alek Manoah, Blue Jays @DET, Friday (70%) – As Scott White noted earlier this week, Manoah has now put together consecutive starts where he has more or less looked like the guy who finished as a top-three Cy Younger finisher in 2022, fueled by a significant increase in strike rate. It's just a two-start sample size we're dealing with, but given Manoah's success prior to 2023, it honestly doesn't take much for me to buy back in. One more very good start against a very vulnerable matchup could make him someone who should be 100% rostered after this weekend. 

Chris Paddack, Twins vs. TEX, Saturday (55%) – Even when he was a much-hyped prospect, Paddack never really had a go-to breaking ball to lean on. He might have that now. He's throwing his slider 21.2% of the time so far in May, when he not so coincidentally has a 2.96 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24.1 innings of work. Suddenly, Paddack has a legitimate four-pitch mix, featuring a slider that looks like a putaway pitch, a very good fastball, and a changeup that hasn't been great this season but has been a big weapon in the past. The overall production remains pretty middling, but the trends are very positive here, and another good start against the Rangers could make him a must-add pitcher.