Rest-of-season rankings – With Buehler out, which Dodgers pitchers are dependable?

There is good reason why Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler was one of the top pitchers selected in ESPN average live drafts this season, a second-round choice in most fantasy baseball leagues. Buehler entered the 2021 season with 40 wins in 53 career decisions and a golden 2.90 ERA, coming off a season in which he won 16 games and finished among the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting for a franchise annually contending for a championship. He was a terrific fantasy investment.

Today, there is good reason why Buehler is soon to be among the most dropped pitchers in ESPN standard leagues, as he was placed on the 15-day injured list this past weekend with a flexor strain in his valuable right elbow. It is an injury often leading to Tommy John surgery, and Buehler may not throw again until August, unlikely to rejoin active fantasy rosters until September. The Dodgers hope rest and rehab fix the issue, but fantasy managers are hardly a patient group and, well, optimism is scarce here.

Buehler is the most noteworthy mover in our latest category-based roto rankings, falling outside the top 300 overall, as he may not return to a big league mound this season and, for those in keeper/dynasty formats, be prepared for more bad news. The Dodgers realize that even if Buehler has the popular UCL replacement surgery today, his 2023 would be compromised, so they likely figure waiting a few more months is worth it, in case he can contribute in September and October. We may not see Buehler again until … 2024.

The Dodgers had a rough weekend at home against their rival San Francisco Giants, scoring four runs while losing each of three games. Buehler fell in Game 1, his season ERA rising to 4.02, his WHIP 1.29. It was a cool 1.96 ERA and 1.06 WHIP one month prior. Something may have been amiss all season, going back to 2021 when the league altered its stance on sticky substances, showing in Buehler’s drop in his spin rate, velocity, and ability to generate empty swings. Buehler struck out the side in the third inning Friday but, according to MLB.com, noticed something bothering him after throwing a breaking ball that inning. He left after the fourth inning.

Still, Dodgers starting pitchers lead baseball with a 2.73 ERA, but fantasy managers may want to rethink level of individual investment.

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