Pick up Reds’ Nick Lodolo for late-season fantasy baseball boost

Staff report

There’s a little less than three weeks left in the fantasy baseball season, which means you’re looking for any way you can gain an advantage in your quest for fantasy glory — and the waiver wire is brimming with valuable assets who can assist. 

When you look at Nick Lodolo’s stats for the season (4-6, 3.81 ERA), nothing jumps out at you besides his 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings (the sixth-best mark among pitchers with a minimum of 80 innings pitched). 

Though he has been a solid streamer in the right matchups over his first 16 big league starts for the Reds, Roto Rage believes the 24-year-old is worth much more than that down the stretch. 

Since the All-Star break, the lefty is 2-3 with a 2.95 ERA, 75-18 strikeout-walk rate and .213 opponents average in 10 starts. He entered Friday ranked sixth in strikeout percentage (31 percent) for the second half. He was also 15th in the NL in ERA, 12th in opponents’ average and 10th in swinging strike rate (13.1 percent). 

Nick Lodolo
Nick Lodolo can provide a late-season fantasy baseball boost from the waiver wire.
Getty Images

But here’s where things get even more impressive, and even more interesting. 

Over his first three starts this month, Lodolo is 1-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 31-1 strikeout-walk rate and .186 opponents’ average. Not only is he coming off consecutive 11-strikeout performances, but also he had a 1.79 FIP in that span. 

For the month, Lodolo entered Friday with the fourth-highest strikeout rate (42.5 percent), third-lowest walk rate (1.4 percent), 18th-lowest opponents average and 10th-best swinging strike rate (14.8 percent). 

This is interesting not just because he has gotten hot when fantasy owners are looking for an edge, but because his final three opponents line up to be the Red Sox, Brewers and Cubs. Lodolo should be able to limit damage and continue to rack up strikeouts — especially if he continues upping the usage of his curveball, a pitch he has thrown 30.5 percent of the time this year (37.1 percent this month) with a 44.5 percent whiff rate and .149 opponents average (.108 expected average). 

Though the Red Sox entered Friday hitting .265 against lefties, they had the 13th-most strikeouts in the majors as team. The Brewers entered the weekend with the fourth-most strikeouts in the league and were hitting .217 against southpaws, the second-worst mark in the bigs. They also had third-most whiffs against lefties. The Cubs had the sixth-most strikeouts in the majors and were hitting just .236 against lefties (the 10th-lowest mark in the majors). 

Lodolo was the most added pitcher in ESPN leagues this week, but remains more than 65 percent available. If you’re in need of a red-hot arm, the Reds rookie is your man. 

Nick Lodolo
Nick Lodolo is still available in 65 percent of leagues on ESPN.

Here’s a look at some other vastly underowned red-hot players who can give your squad a boost over the final weeks of the season: 

In his first 25 games since joining the White Sox, Elvis Andrus was 32-for-104 (.308) with six homers, 21 RBIs, 16 runs, three stolen bases, a .539 slugging percentage and a .890 OPS. He had nine two-hit games in his first 14 games this month, hitting .350 with five homers, 15 RBIs, two stolen bases and a 1.067 OPS in that span. He was the most added player in ESPN leagues this week, yet remains more than 70 percent available. 

The Rays’ Pete Fairbanks (19.5 percent rostered) has not allowed an earned run since July 22. Over his past 18 appearances (18 innings), he has a 28-2 strikeout-walk rate and .133 opponents’ average. He also has five holds and went 7-for-7 in save chances, including picking up three saves in his past three outings. 

The Guardians’ Oscar Gonzalez (16.5 percent rostered) entered Friday hitting .373 with four homers, 12 RBIs, seven runs and a 1.125 OPS over his previous 13 games. He hit .307 with seven homers, 12 RBIs, 14 runs and a .869 OPS in 39 games from Aug. 2 through Thursday. 

Jose Quintana (35 percent rostered) has a 1.38 WHIP and is striking out just 6.5 per nine while walking 2.9 per nine in his eight starts with the Cardinals, but has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of those outings. He has a 2.93 ERA since joining St. Louis. 

Another Cardinal who can offer some help (with average and runs, especially) is Brendan Donovan (24.3 percent rostered). In 24 games from Aug. 17 through Thursday, he was 27-for-89 (.303) with two homers, nine RBIs, 19 runs, 8-8 strikeout-walk rate and a .789 OPS. It doesn’t hurt that he is eligible at four positions (first, second, third and outfield).

Big hits

Bo Bichette SS, Blue Jays 

In his first 15 games this month, the 24-year-old was 31-for-64 (.484) with seven homers, 22 RBIs, 16 runs, a .984 slugging percentage and 1.499 OPS. He entered Friday with an eight-game hit streak. 

Sonny Gray SP, Twins 

Hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his past 10 starts, going 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 59 strikeouts and .202 opponents’ average. 

Sonny Gray
Sonny Gray
Getty Images

Carlos Correa SS, Twins 

Despite striking out 33 times, he hit .313 in 41 games since Aug. 1 with eight homers, 22 RBIs, 21 runs, 23 walks and a .930 OPS. 

Bailey Falter SP, Phillies 

Was 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA, 22-2 strikeout-walk rate and .209 opponents’ average over his previous five starts before taking the mound Sunday. 

Big whiffs

Juan Soto OF, Padres 

Walked 32 times and struck out 21 times in his first 35 games with San Diego, but hit .202 with three homers, seven RBIs and a .694 OPS. 

JP Sears SP, Athletics 

After going 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA and .241 opponents’ average in his first three starts for Oakland, he is 0-2 with a 8.00 ERA, six homers allowed and .372 opponents’ average and 1.123 OPS over his past four. 

Matt Olson 1B, Braves 

Entered Friday hitting .076 (4-for-53) over his past 15 games. He had one homer, four RBIs, 16 strikeouts, .132 slugging percentage and a .329 OPS. 

Matt Olson
Matt Olson

Corbin Burnes SP, Brewers 

Despite striking out 32 and walking just seven, he is 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA over his past five starts. He allowed six homers in that span. 

Check swings

  • Marlins youngster Edward Cabrera is 1-2 with a 4.98 ERA, 20-11 strikeout-walk rate, six homers allowed and .221 opponents’ average in his past four starts. That came after four straight scoreless starts (22 ²/₃ innings) coming of the IL in August. Despite his struggles, he should remain in your rotation for matchups with the Cubs and MLB-worst Nationals this week. 
  • In his first three starts this month, the Rays’ Jeffrey Springs was 2-0 with a .154 opponents’ average over 14 ²/₃ scoreless innings. He allowed more than three earned runs just twice in his past 20 starts and had a 2.63 ERA in that span. 
  • Diamondbacks righty Ryne Nelson has thrown 13 scoreless innings while striking out 13 and limiting opponents to a .133 average over his first two starts in the majors. He did that against the Dodgers and Padres, and he will face San Diego again on Sunday. It is an impressive start, but that .188 BABIP and 100 percent strand rate should be telling you to proceed with caution. 

Team name of the week

Romine Lettuce

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