Monday, June 17, 2013

HIRED ARMS: Twenty-Six Deep

Felipe M

We'll quickly take a look at 26 starting pitchers that have received some attention in the past week or so, but are still owned in less than 60% of CBS fantasy baseball leagues.  The following stats are based on the last 21 days of action and are ranked from lowest to highest, on-base% against:

PITCHERS' Performances in Last 21 Days
Player
Owned
GS
IP'd
K
BB
HRA
ERA
WHIP
BAA
OBA
Eric Stults
56%
4
31.0
22
1
2
1.45
0.61
0.167
0.171
Alfredo Figaro
16%
3
20.7
16
1
4
3.48
0.82
0.213
0.221
Aaron Harang
15%
4
26.3
25
4
2
2.92
0.84
0.182
0.221
Jeremy Bonderman
9%
3
18.7
8
4
3
3.86
1.02
0.217
0.257
Dillon Gee
47%
3
21.0
26
3
2
1.29
1.05
0.232
0.259
Jordan Lyles
34%
4
26.7
21
7
2
1.69
1.05
0.210
0.262
Dallas Keuchel
9%
4
25.3
17
4
1
2.13
1.03
0.229
0.262
Jacob Turner
34%
3
20.0
13
7
0
1.80
1.05
0.209
0.269
Miguel Gonzalez
40%
4
26.3
20
7
4
3.42
1.06
0.223
0.272
John Danks
25%
4
24.0
18
4
5
4.50
1.04
0.233
0.274
Kyle Lohse
58%
4
24.7
12
3
7
4.01
1.09
0.258
0.276
Mark Buehrle
35%
4
26.0
18
6
1
1.73
1.12
0.235
0.276
Corey Kluber
51%
4
24.0
22
5
2
1.88
1.04
0.230
0.280
Jeremy Hefner
18%
4
24.0
19
3
3
2.25
1.25
0.270
0.291
Ricky Nolasco
51%
4
25.7
20
9
3
3.51
1.17
0.221
0.293
Bud Norris
53%
4
27.0
22
8
1
2.67
1.26
0.255
0.298
Jason Marquis
53%
4
26.0
19
15
5
3.46
1.27
0.194
0.303
Jose Quintana
56%
4
25.3
16
7
5
4.62
1.34
0.265
0.309
Ubaldo Jimenez
56%
4
23.0
20
12
3
2.35
1.35
0.226
0.320
Tommy Hanson
40%
3
17.7
14
6
2
4.08
1.47
0.282
0.329
Tyler Chatwood
31%
3
15.0
15
5
0
3.00
1.33
0.283
0.333
Wade Davis
20%
4
22.7
23
6
2
3.97
1.46
0.287
0.337
Chris Archer
22%
3
15.0
13
9
3
4.80
1.47
0.229
0.343
Edwin Jackson
23%
3
18.7
19
7
0
3.38
1.50
0.280
0.345
David Phelps
52%
4
18.3
16
11
1
4.42
1.53
0.250
0.354
Hector Santiago
30%
2
15.7
18
14
1
4.60
1.72
0.228
0.375

For the sake of space and time, I will only focus on the top-half portion of this table.  

Eric Stults is a name that comes up every time we review free agent starting pitchers.  He is now owned in 56% of leagues and deservedly so as he's only given up one walk in the last three weeks.  The strikeouts in this span have helped improve his season K/9.  As mentioned before, his Minor League numbers show that he can post respectable strikeout totals.  Whether he can do that this season is still up in the air, but as long as he continues to show impeccable control, his ownership rate should keep rising.  

Alfredo Figaro was mostly being used out of the bullpen for the Milwaukee Brewers.  His Minor League numbers show that he is capable of posting respectable strikeout numbers and keep his walks under control.  What has many experts salivating is that in his last 3 starts, his average fastball was clocked at 95-96 mph.  It remains to be seen if he can continue to pitch with high velocity as a starting pitcher, but Figaro has a chance to boost his ownership rate as he pitches twice in this scoring period against, relatively easy match-ups (scheduled against the Houston Astros on Tuesday and will face Paul Maholm on Sunday).  The big issue here is the number of homeruns he's given up in that span.  Figaro will need to improve that mark if he is to see his ownership rate go up.

Aaron Harang has not seen much of an increase in ownership despite pitching superbly in the last three weeks (except against the New York Yankees) AND being scheduled to start in two games this week against two division foes (Jason Vargas and Dan Straily).  Perhaps owners are wary of Harang's poor record against the Angels this season, but he will face the Oakland A's at home where he has pitched two consecutive shutouts.  Owners might also be cautious of his year-to-date, 1.6 HR/9, but seems to have settled down in the last three weeks.  I am not endorsing Harang as a legit, long-term pitcher, but this is one of those times where taking a calculated risk on Harang might actually be worth it.  

Jeremy Bonderman was once a highly heralded right-hander in the Detroit Tigers' system.  Now, he's a 30 year-old pitcher holding on to, presumably, his last chance at the Majors.  The strikeouts are sorely lacking as it's hard to imagine that his luck will continue to shine down on him (BABIP of .203!) and can get away with an average K/BB.  He's also given up 4 homers already--a red flag.  To his defense, Bonderman might still be trying to find his way around Big League hitters after a three-year absence.  Continue to monitor him unless you want to take advantage of his 2-starts week in this scoring period, then by all means, pick him up.

Dillon Gee was one of those pitchers we were hoping to see bounce back some time during the 2013 season.  Looks like he has finally found his groove as he's pitched extremely well in his last three starts.  We didn't peg Gee as a dominant hurler in terms of strikeouts, but we've always liked his control.  It's his command and the longball that have been issues for Gee this season, but it looks like those issues have been fixed.  He's due up for two starts this week facing a steady Tim Hudson and dangerous Cole Hamels.  This may not be the week to pick up a player like Gee, but no doubt there will be owners who want to take advantage of his scheduled, two starts this week.

Jordan Lyles has been a top prospect for the Astros for a long time and looks to be finally pitching up to his potential in his last 4 starts to see a spike in ownership in the last 3 weeks.  Matter of fact, Lyles has pitched decently enough to garner attention as a serviceable starting pitcher (41 Ks, 16 BBs, and a 1.32 WHIP in 51.7 innings pitched).  He'll take the ball twice in this week: against the already mentioned Figaro and Chicago Cubs' ace, Jeff Samardzija.  Too much risk for my taste, but I can understand owners wanting to pick him up as a--at the very least--short-term solution in their pitching staff.

Dallas Keuchel is another Astros' pitcher that has their fanbase hopeful for the future.  He's struggled with command issues all season long, but in his last 4 starts, he seems to finally be putting things together.  The strikeouts won't overwhelm you, but his control in his last 4 starts has been undeniable.  Unlike his teammate, Lyles, Keuchel's ownership rate might stall this week as he only gets one start and it's against an unfavorable matchup in Matt Garza.  Keuchel's progress is worth monitoring because of his control, but looks to be a pitch-to-contact pitcher.

Jacob Turner, like Bonderman, was a highly touted pitching prospect for the Tigers.  Although scouts marveled at his control, his lack of high strikeouts was concerning.  In his first three starts of the season, Turner has only shown adequate control, but once again his lack of strikeouts is very discouraging.  His WHIP is a result of plenty of luck (BABIP of .255), and might be due for a shelling very soon. He will pitch twice this week, but his chances in those starts are mixed with Patrick Corbin and Barry Zito scheduled to face off against the 22 year-old Turner.  Turner is worth monitoring because of his pedigree and his reputation as a control artist, but he needs to show he can strikeout Big League hitters if he is to be entrusted a fantasy baseball roster spot.  

Miguel Gonzalez pitched well enough to be a serviceable starting pitcher in 2012 and has worked his way this season to match his ERA, WHIP, K/9 and BB/9 from last year.  Gonzalez is once again an adequate choice in your rotation, but the homeruns will always be a concern because he pitches most of his games at the bandbox that is Camden Yards.  

John Danks is attempting to come back from injuries and has pitched fairly well considering the circumstances.  Would like to see his K/9 eventually climb above 7.0 before I begin to universally recommend him in all leagues (though I have him on my own team, currently).  He's done a great job in keeping his walks under control and that should help avoid unnecessary stress on his rehabbed arm.  The red flag comes in the form of his ERA and the homeruns allowed.  However, Danks is worth keeping an eye on based on history and should improve as he begins to find his groove after a long layoff.

Many fans were questioning why Kyle Lohse went so deep into the offseason before a team finally signed him to a deal.  Many fantasy owners rejoiced as they quickly made Lohse into a pitcher that was owned in 85% of leagues to kick off the season (and went as high as 89%).  Presently, owners are realizing what I've known for years: Lohse is nothing but a pitch-to-contact pitcher with mediocre strikeout totals that was fortunate enough to be a on very good team the last couple of seasons.  He does have the ability to limit his walks, but it's very alarming to see that he's given up 7 homeruns in his last 4 starts.  A flyball pitcher to begin with, Lohse is posting a Homerun/Flyball rate of 10.1% (career high).  I would continue to avoid him.

Just when I thought it was safe to forget about Mark Buehrle, he shows up on this list.  Looking more like a batting practice pitcher all season long, in his last 4 starts, he's posted a H/9 of 7.96.  Coupled with typical Buehrle control and you get a pretty good WHIP in that span.  I can't see him being a long-term solution for the rest of this season, but if he continues to be this hot, then I can't really criticize owners that want to use him while he's pitching this well, especially in favorable matchups.

Besides Stults, the best pitcher available right now is Corey Kluber.  This 4-game stretch is not an anomaly either; he's posted great numbers all season long.  He can rack up the strikeouts, he has great control, and he's done all of this despite posting a BABIP of .330.  Yes, his season-long H/9 of 9.0 is high, but it really hasn't hurt him up to this point because he has the ability to strikeout hitters and not depend so much on his defense to bail him out.  

Other pitchers worth your time (either on your roster or to continue to monitor):
  • Jeremy Hefner
  • Tyler Chatwood
  • Edwin Jackson
  • Ricky Nolasco

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