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Breaking down fantasy baseball, betting impact of Freddy Peralta injury

The 2021 All-Star has been diagnosed with a right shoulder strain. What should fantasy managers do without him?

Washington Nationals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The news is on Freddy Peralta’s shoulder injury, and it’s pretty bad.

The 2021 All-Star has been diagnosed with a right posterior shoulder strain, and Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Monday that while the team doesn’t believe the ailment will cost Peralta the rest of this season, he is facing a “lengthy absence” and will miss “a significant amount of time.”

That’s a vague assessment of Peralta’s timetable, but it’s safe to assume he’s going to be sidelined for weeks if not months. It’s obviously a tough blow as Peralta turned in a 2.81 ERA and struck out 195 batters in 144.1 innings last year. But Milwaukee is one of the few teams that can withstand the loss of a quality starter.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Corbin Burnes, remains one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball. Brandon Woodruff, who finished fifth in that Cy Young race last year, hasn’t replicated that success, but he still has a 4-to-1 K-to-BB ratio and an expected ERA (3.63) that’s more than a run lower than his actual ERA (4.76).

But as Woodruff has faltered, Eric Lauer has been there to give the Brewers another ace-type hurler. The lefty has raised his K rate by more than one-third — up to 32.9 percent — from last year, has a 2.16 ERA and is ranked as the No. 10 starter on ESPN Fantasy’s player rater.

It seems like fantasy managers have been slow to notice Adrian Houser, who possesses a 2.98 ERA through 42.1 innings and has done a good job of limiting elite contact with his minuscule 3.2 percent barrel rate. He’s available in 85 percent of ESPN leagues.

Past that, the Brewers are stocked with up-and-coming arms who can fill the void left by Peralta. Left-hander Aaron Ashby, who is scheduled to start Wednesday’s game in San Diego, had a poor outing against the Braves back on May 8, but if you omit that, he has allowed only one earned run in his past 13 innings. That includes a start against the Pirates in which he permitted just one hit over 5.2 innings. Ashby still needs to hone his command a bit, but many of his metrics, such as his 31 percent hard-hit rate and .327 expected slugging percentage, are in good spots. He is worth streaming in deeper fantasy formats.

And if the Brewers need another replacement, they’ve got Ethan Small proving that he needs a tougher task than Triple-A. Small, the team’s top pitching prospect and first-round draft pick in 2019, has posted a 2.00 ERA through 67.1 innings at the highest level of the Minors. This year, the southpaw has recorded 46 K’s and an impressive .149 opponents’ batting average through 32.1 innings. His 21 walks this season are a concern, but when Small does attack the strike zone, he induces a lot of low-damage contact (50.9 percent ground ball rate this year) and can do so with a fastball, curveball and changeup that are all considered plus pitches. Fantasy managers should be ready to pounce once Small is inevitably promoted to the Majors at some point this summer.

Losing Peralta for an extended stretch is a tough break for the Brewers and fantasy managers alike. But Milwaukee’s starting rotation, which has the second-best FIP (3.33) and second-best FanGraphs WAR (4.4), should be able to withstand his absence. And there are multiple arms in-house whom fantasy managers should now go after and utilize while Peralta heals.