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Twins’ surging rookie Bailey Ober is worth the fantasy baseball risk

Every decision we make in life comes with risk, whether it’s walking across a busy street or getting on an airplane and flying to another country.

But what would happen if you never took risks? You’d never experience some huge moments in life — you know, like winning a fantasy title. Though now is not the time to stock your roster in a willy-nilly manner, a calculated risk can certainly help your cause.

Despite being an intimidating presence on the mound while standing 6-foot-9, weighing 260 pounds and pitching like a top prospect in the minors, the Twins’ Bailey Ober never received the hype that regularly goes along with his type of production. Over four seasons in the minors, he was 18-3 with a 2.41 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, 11.1 strikeouts per nine and just 1.2 walks per nine, and that includes going 8-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 11.4 strikeouts per nine and 1.0 walk per nine over three stops in 2019.

After going 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 11.8 strikeouts per nine in four starts at Triple-A this year, the hulking righty got the call to The Show.

Outside of striking out 26.1 percent of the batters he faced before the Midsummer Classic, there wasn’t much to get excited about over his first eight starts. He was 1-1 with a 5.45 ERA, 37-11 strikeout-walk rate, a 1.36 WHIP, 3.0 walks per nine and .264 opponent average before the break.

Fantasy owners should, however, take notice of what he has done since the All-Star break.

Twins
Bailey Ober
Getty Images

In his first eight second-half starts, Ober is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA, 40-6 strikeout-walk rate and a 1.080 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .247 against him with a .697 OPS (compared to a .851 OPS in the first half). He was 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in July before going 1-1 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in five August starts.

Among pitchers with a minimum of 40 innings pitched since the break, Ober ranks 15th in ERA, 18th in strand rate (82 percent) and has the sixth-lowest walks per nine (1.3). He also ranks 21st in swinging strike rate (12.6).

Ober is far from the perfect pitcher. Opponents are hitting a respectable .254 against him and have hit 15 home runs off him (though just six have come since the break). He has made just two quality starts in his 16 starts (both coming since the break), but he has allowed three earned runs or less (and walked one or none) in every outing in the second half.

Ober’s 4.43 FIP, 4.02 xFIP and 4.44 xERA all show he has gotten slightly lucky, but not to a point at which it would harm your rotation.

Back to good news about Ober, whose fastball averages 92 mph but has a max velocity of 95 mph: His next start will come Monday against Cleveland, which is hitting .237 as a team (and .227 against Ober). Over the final month, he is also lined up to face the Royals and Blue Jays (twice) before finishing off against the Tigers, who are hitting .241 as a team. Outside of the two matchups versus Toronto’s potent offense, these are favorable matchups. That, in addition to his second-half production, makes him a viable rotation option fantasy owners should consider.

Roto Rage understands the risk involved with trusting a rookie pitcher in the final month of your quest to win the fantasy crown. But Ober, who is available in almost 90 percent of ESPN leagues, has made big strides after a lackluster start to his big league career — and they’re happening at the most important time of the season.

Take the leap because, remember, the biggest risks are the ones you never take.

Ober is not the only option available to bolster your rotation. Tampa Bay’s Luis Patino has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five of his past six starts while going 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA, 30 strikeouts, a .220 opponents average and an 11.7 percent swinging strike rate. He has three quality starts in his past six outings, and he is striking out 23.7 percent of the batters he faces this season.

The Astros’ Jake Odorizzi, owned in fewer than 30 percent of ESPN leagues, is 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA, .237 opponents average and 25 strikeouts over his past five starts. He is lined up to face the Mariners, Rangers and Diamondbacks, three of the bottom eight offensive teams in the majors, over his next three starts. Though he took a loss against the Mariners on Wednesday, he limited Seattle to one run on two hits while striking out seven and walking one.

Big Hits

Yasmani Grandal C, White Sox

In his first five games since returning from the IL, he was 9-for-17 (.529) with four homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.989 OPS.

Jordan Romano RP, Blue Jays

Has not allowed an earned run since Aug. 4, going 2-0 with six saves, 19-2 K-BB rate and a .171 opponents average over his past 11 appearances.

Blue Jays
Jordan Roman (r.) celebrates a Blue Jays win.
AP

Kyle Gibson SP, Phillies

Before taking the mound Friday, he was 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA and .188 opponents average over his past two starts. He was 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA and .234 opponents average in his first five starts for the Phillies.

Tommy Edman 2B/SS/3B/OF, Cardinals

Has at least one hit in 31 of his past 38 games — going 44-for-146 (.301) with five homers, 20 RBIs, 27 runs, five stolen bases and a .871 OPS.

Big Whiffs

Jarred Kelenic OF, Mariners

Over his past 12 games entering Friday, he was 8-for-48 (.167) with a home run, three RBIs, one walk, 22 strikeouts and a .434 OPS.

Oakland
James Kaprielian
Getty Images

James Kaprielian SP, Athletics

Has allowed 22 earned runs over his past six starts, going 2-1 with a 6.67 ERA, 11 walks, seven homers allowed and a .267 opponents average.

Teoscar Hernandez OF, Blue Jays

No homers since Aug. 18, going 6-for-50 (.120) with three RBIs, 18 strikeouts, a .170 OBP and .310 OPS in his past 13 games.

Jonathan Schoop 1B/2B, Tigers

Over his past 11 games, he is 8-for-45 (.178) with three RBIs, one walk, six strikeouts, two runs and a .414 OPS. His last homer came on Aug. 4.

Check Swings

  • In four starts since returning from the COVID-IL, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has been masterful, allowing just two earned runs over his past 24 ²/₃ innings (0.73 ERA). He is 4-0 with a 39-4 strikeout-walk rate and .185 opponents average in that span.
  • Despite striking out 22 times and hitting .239 over his past 12 games, the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom homered seven times, drove in 13 runs, scored 10 runs and had a 1.039 OPS. He was the most-added player in ESPN leagues this week. He entered Friday hitting .251 with 25 homers, 50 RBIs and a .878 OPS in 86 games.
  • Outside of his complete game shutout against the Mets on Aug. 8, Zack Wheeler has allowed four earned runs or more in five of his past six starts for the Phillies. He is 3-3 with a 4.81 ERA, six homers allowed, 43-8 strikeout-walk rate and .222 opponents average.
  • Though he hit just .167 and struck out in 30 percent of his at-bats in his first eight games since being recalled, the Rangers’ Leody Taveras stole five bases in that span.

Team Name of the Week

In Case of Emergency, Break Glasnow

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