Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Carlos Rodon should look to throw his fastball even less than he is currently

carlos rodon

There’s an obvious trend showing up in Carlos Rodon’s starts: He’s just awful in the first couple of innings. Even before getting tagged for four runs in the first Tuesday, he had a miserable 7.50 ERA in the first inning this season, with the second inning’s 6.00 ERA only marginally better. 

The primary culprit seems to be the fastball, which Rodon tends to rely most heavily on early in games – as Frank Stampfl noted on Twitter, Rodon has allowed an average exit velocity of at least 96.5 mph with his four-seamer in five starts in a row, including 100.9 mph on four balls in play Tuesday. That’s just totally untenable, especially with his whiff rate with the pitch dropping below 20% for the season now.

What makes it so tough to make sense of is that Rodon’s fastball doesn’t really look any different than it did in 2021 and 2022, when it was one of the best pitches in the game. His velocity is right where it was back then, and the movement profile of the pitch is nearly identical, too. But, for whatever reason, the pitch has gone from being a dominant one to a cringe-inducing one. 

And what makes it especially frustrating is that the rest of the arsenal looks better than ever! The slider is still an excellent pitch, and Rodon is throwing his changeup and curveball more than ever, with excellent results on both – including a whopping nine whiffs with the changeup Tuesday, a career-high. Rodon is throwing his fastball less than ever this season, but based on the results, he’s probably still throwing it too much.

The adjustments Rodon needs to make are fairly obvious. Whether he can and will make them is a different question entirely, but we’re reaching an “adapt-or-fade-away” point in Rodon’s career, potentially. I’m not ready to drop him yet, but if I have the option, I’d certainly prefer not to start him Sunday against the Orioles. 

Rodon is not one of my second-half breakout picks, naturally, though there are a few other disappointing starters on that list, which you can read here

Wednesday’s waiver targets

Rece Hinds, OF, Reds (6%) – When Hinds makes contact, good things happen. He’s hit over 900 feet worth of homers in his two career MLB games so far, so it’s pretty clear the power plays against major-league pitching, and it could be legitimately special power. If he makes enough contact. In 77 games at Triple-A this season, he struck out 126 times, 38% of the time, so that’s a massive “if.” But if you want to chase upside and see if he might make just enough contact to be a difference maker, that seems reasonable enough, especially since there might be useful speed here, too. 

Michael Busch, 1B. Cubs (59%) – It’s gone kind of unnoticed since it hasn’t been quite as loud as his April, but Busch has been a pretty awesome hitter again over the past month-plus. He homered for the second game in a row Tuesday and is now hitting .327 since the start of June. That’s come with significantly less power than earlier in the season and with many of the same contact issues, so skepticism is warranted. But given his 1B/3B eligibility, I’ll bet you’ve got a spot in your lineup for Busch. 

Colt Keith, 2B, Tigers (49%) – Keith might just be figuring it out. I wrote about him as one of my second-half sleepers, but he’s already waking up, with four of his eight homers coming over the past seven games and five in his past 14. There’s been an increase in strikeouts along that time, too, but it’s been a tradeoff worth making for Keith, at least so far. There’s 20-homer, 10-steal potential here, maybe a bit more if he keeps pulling the ball like he has been. 

Zack Gelof, 2B, Athletics (54%) – Gelof continues to turn his season around. He went 3 for 4 with four RBI and a couple of runs scored Tuesday against the Red Sox, and is now hitting .257 since the start of June. That’s not exactly Ted Williams stuff, but it’s about as good as we can realistically hope for from Gelof, and frankly, it’s more than enough to make him a viable Fantasy option – he has seven homers and six steals in that span, to that point. He’s a solid power/speed option in any categories league, but especially ones with MI spots. 

Rowdy Tellez, 1B, Pirates (17%) – Rowdy Tellez has been around long enough that we can be pretty sure of who he is. Of course, what he is is the kind of hitter who will occasionally get blindingly hot, and he’s on one of those runs right now. He homered three times in June and has four more already in the first eight games of July, while hitting .352 across both months. He doesn’t play against lefties really and doesn’t do much when he isn’t hitting for power, but he can certainly be useful when he’s locked in like this. 

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