Fantasy Baseball Takeaways: Alex Wood's back in play

Scott Pianowski
·5-min read

I’m the type of person who watches baseball all night, A to Z, and my evening usually ends with a Giants telecast. San Francisco has a lovely home ballpark, and Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are an excellent broadcast team.

Of course, the show becomes a lot more enjoyable when there’s something flashy to watch. And Alex Wood certainly checked that box Wednesday night.

Wood had no-hit stuff against the Rockies, at least for five innings or so. He was getting ahead in the count and burying an unhittable slider to put batters away. Although Wood tired in the middle innings and needed relief in the seventh, his final line would play in any mixed roto format: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. He also scored his third straight win, and as we all know with the shape of 2021 baseball, winning ain’t easy.

Wood’s been mostly effective over his nine-year career, with a few injuries mixed in. You know the deal with pitchers; throwing a baseball with so much torque is an unnatural act, after all.

After a tidy three-year run with the Braves (3.10 ERA) and a strong stint in Los Angeles (note the 2017 All-Star appearance, with a 16-3 record and 2.72 ERA), Wood lost his way the last two years. A back injury wrecked his one season in Cincinnati, and Wood never found his form last year, when he circled back to the Dodgers.

The Giants saw the upside and signed Wood before this season. An upside-driven deal, at that: one year, $3 million. Given that Wood is only 30, maybe there’s some electric slide remaining in that left arm of his. He's reeled off those three wins this month, along with a 1.50 ERA and 0.67 WHIP. He's been around the plate (just three walks), and he's putting batters away (20 strikeouts; CSW rate of 34 percent, a career-best). 

To be fair, Wood hasn't faced the iron of the league. He beat Miami twice (the Marlins sure can pitch; the offense is a mixed bag), and the Rockies are forever a favorable draw on the road. Wood’s next start is a Colorado rematch — in Coors Field. As optimistic as I am with Wood’s 2021 prospects, he’ll be tucked on my fantasy bench next week.

But I feel confident Wood can give us an extended run of fantasy usefulness. I don’t need a full season — heck, I don’t expect that from 85 percent of my starters these days. I just want support arms I can confidently deploy in favorable or neutral matchups. I’ll play it by ear when Wood encounters a nasty draw. I love what he's shown the past three turns, and there’s plenty of back class on his resume.

Wood’s roster tag slid over 50 percent in the last few days, but there’s still time to move in the shallower formats. Just be careful with that Colorado start; the rules are always different there.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 18: Alex Wood #57 of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on April 18, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Alex Wood's comeback is off to a terrific start in San Francisco. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Sneaky pitchers and catchers buoying the Yankees

There are fun fantasy stories with the Yankees — you just have to look past the stars for a moment. No, the offense isn’t clicking yet. No, the team hasn’t really jelled or found its footing — New York is a mere 11-13 into Thursday’s play.

But let’s look for value with the pitchers and catchers. The Yankees boast one of the best bullpens in the majors, and these guys are working with a new backstop.

Non-closing relievers have become more and more important in recent years, as starting pitchers carry less of the workload, and games are won and lost in the high-leverage spots. Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisaga have been outstanding in the opening month, working in a variety of roles. 

Green has a sparking 0.68 ERA over 13.1 innings, while Loaisaga is at 1.23. And both righties are validated by the fundamental pitching stat, the K/BB ratio. Green has 10 whiffs against two walks (you’d like more missed bats, but at least the ratio sings), while Loaisaga’s rolled to 16 strikeouts against just two walks.

Welcome to my personal spell check, kid.

If your fantasy ratios could use some smoothing, both righties are widely available. Green currently rosters at 27 percent in Yahoo, while Loaisaga is at 21 percent.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Bombers have a new catcher. Gary Sanchez has been lost at the plate (.182/.308/.309), and we know he’s not in the lineup for his defense. Kyle Higashioka is a clear defensive upgrade, and he’s been a surprise at the bat (.276/.364/.759, four homers). Aaron Boone might need to make a permanent change.

The pitchers would never admit it publicly, but you usually throw better when you have confidence in your catcher. It’s too early for the Yankees to panic, but sheesh, Sanchez is in a .199/.296/.444 funk since the opening of the 2018 season. This isn’t a slump anymore — this is an ongoing problem. Higashioka is the best catcher on this roster.

If you see the writing on the wall as I do, it’s time to get to the waiver wire. Higashioka has been proactively added this week, but he’s still rostered in a modest 12 percent of Yahoo leagues.