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Fantasy Baseball: 4 Clayton Kershaw replacements to consider


July 20, 2016

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So you’re a Clayton Kershaw fantasy baseball owner. It’s been a bad week for you, with news that Kershaw could miss the rest of the season. At best, he’ll miss a good chunk of time. While you can’t fully replace far and away the best pitcher in baseball this season, there are players available in a good chunk of leagues that will allow you to try to make back some of his production.

Below are four pitchers available in 50% of leagues or more (I utilized my site of choice, Yahoo!, for these figures). While they cannot replace Kershaw, they can help ease the sting of losing him, maybe for the season.

Matt Shoemaker, LAA (50% owned)
Season Stats: 5-9, 4.08 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 110 strikeouts (5.00 K/BB)
Shoemaker is flying under the radar because of two disastrous starts and his low wins total. Excepting when he got tattooed in Boston by one of the best offenses in baseball, he has not allowed more than three earned runs since June 11. His current run of starts include his most recent complete-game shutout of the White Sox in which he had thirteen strikeouts.

The nasty Boston start on July 3 was also the only time in his last ten starts that he has gone fewer than five innings. His season line is skewed from 20.2 innings of 9.15 ERA in March and April. In May (3.28 ERA), June (2.14 ERA) and July (3.86 ERA) he has done much better than his season-long line would indicate.

Aaron Nola, PHI (49% owned)
Season Stats: 5-8, 4.41 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 111 strikeouts (4.64 K/BB)
Nola started off incredibly strong. After giving up seven runs to the Nationals on April 16, he had a string of nine consecutive quality starts, a run in which he had a 1.68 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and K/BB of 5.12. Then the wheels fell completely off and he was left on blocks on the side of the road.

In Nola’s next five starts he managed only 18 innings total, gave up 50 hits/walks/hits by pitches and 27 earned runs. It was horrific and he could not be started. Eventually, a three week stretch saw his ownership dip to less than 50%, as his ERA went from 2.98 to 4.69. Which is the real Aaron Nola? I’m banking on the first guy. Nola’s xFIP (a field-independent pitching stat, an indicator of a pitcher’s talent level) is behind only Kershaw, Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard.

Another reason to ignore that bad five-stretch start: his BABIP (batting average on balls in play, which is basically a measurement of bad-luck hits) was .530. More than half the balls that left the bat went for hits. Go snatch up Nola if his owner gave up on him.

Jon Gray, COL (31% owned)
Season Stats: 5-4, 4.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 103 strikeouts (3.22 K/BB)
There’s a certain bugaboo surrounding Rockies’ pitchers, and with good reason. Coors Field not only has the air-thinning effects of Denver, but is also incredibly spacious, which leads to increased BABIPS (big outfields mean more balls fall for hits).

Enter Gray, who has the strikeout potential to be a sneaky-good pitcher for your squad. His ERA is a bit inflated from a nine-run, 3.1 inning effort May 19 in St Louis, but since then, he has managed a 3.11 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while carrying on at just over a strikeout an inning. The strikeout potential alone makes him worth a shot. If you’re that scared of using him in Coors, you can just start him on the road. If you’re looking for a Hail Mary to replace Kershaw, Jon Gray could be that player.

Blake Snell, TAM (23% owned)
Season Stats: 2-4, 3.11 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 36 strikeouts (1.8 K/BB)

Snell has only 37.2 innings pitched under his belt, as he was called up for one game in April then returned in June to make six starts (so far). In these seven starts, he has allowed three runs or fewer five times, and has nearly a strikeout per inning.

He had his red test last night, as he blaned the Rokies across six innings, nabbing nine strikeouts in the process. He doesn’t get deep into games because of his propensity to give up a ton of walks (leading to the high WHIP), but his looping curveball is a thing of pure beauty. He’s out there in more than three out of every four leagues. The Rays are flat-out bad, so don’t expect a lot of wins out of Snell, but he can definitely provide positive contributions to your fantasy squad.

Ultimately, nobody can replace Clayton Kershaw’s production this season. His owners, and baseball fans, have been robbed of what was destined to be one of, if not the best pitching season of all time. We can only hope his back issues are temporary and that he returns at some point this season. If he doesn’t, it’s not time to panic, there are pitchers out there who are capable of helping you try to recoup some of Kershaw’s value.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com