Although he started the season in the Padres’ starting rotation, Tyson Ross wasn’t anyone fantasy owners should have had on their radar coming into the season. He posted a 6.50 ERA and 4.80 FIP with the Oakland Athletics last year, striking out only 5.65 batters per nine innings and showing a penchant for dishing out free passes.
That sentiment proved true when the Padres sent him to Triple-A Tucson in the middle of April, and when he returned, he was relegated to a low-leverage position in the Padres’ bullpen. He had little-to-no fantasy value.
In late July, though, the Padres transitioned Ross back to the starting rotation, and the right-hander has responded with five wonderful starts. He’s compiled a 1.32 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 36 batters in only 34 innings. He’s holding opposing hitters to a .149/.224/.193 slash line and generating ground balls. Perhaps more importantly, Ross has seen his velocity tick up in recent starts, regularly touching the mid-90s with his fastball.
His recent success has caused many owners to swipe him off the waiver wire. In ESPN leagues, his ownership has spiked almost 20% in recent days, reaching 24.0% as of Friday morning. After all, as we’re all forced to do at times, desperate owners are trying to ride the hot streak.
Is this more than just a fortunate series of starts, though? Is this someone owners can trust heading into the playoff portion of the fantasy season?
As stated earlier, there are positives. His fastball velocity is up. He generates ground balls. His current 10.0% swinging-strike rate is also the highest of his career, which is bolstered by a 24.1% whiff rate on his slider — by far, the highest of his career. Of course, he also primarily throws in Petco Park, which highly benefits any pitcher.
Those aspects of Tyson Ross are very appealing for fantasy owners. At the same time, we have to note he’s sporting a .208 BABIP over his last five starts. That screams regression. Though, to be fair, his BABIP can rebound rather significantly and it still won’t make him an ineffective pitcher. Even a 100-point jump would have opposing teams hitting .249, which is exactly the league average for pitchers this year.
What keeps me skeptical of the right-hander is the fact that his phenomenal five starts have come against teams who have struggled against righties all season.
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The Cincinnati Reds are a solid baseball team, but they haven’t mashed right-handed pitching this year. Even their .314 wOBA against righties only ranks 15th in baseball. And the Reds are the best team Tyson Ross has faced over his last five starts. The Brewers, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Mets have all been below average against right-handed pitching.
This isn’t to say I’m not intrigued by Ross’ recent performance. There are things to like, and owners who are mightily struggling in pitching categories may be wise to pick up Ross and hope he’s legit. I’m just going to hold off on labeling him a strong “buy” until he finds any success as a starter against a batting order that has feasted on right-handed pitching this year. Of course, by that time, he could already be plucked off your league’s waiver wire.
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