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March 18, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Value Picks in the Rotation

by Bill Baer

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Hammel is a mixed bag. His 2009 and '10 were nearly identical, with solid peripherals both years, but he also badly underperformed his SIERA. There is a lot to like about Hammel: good K and BB rates, ground balls, and he does not give up many home runs considering his home ballpark.

However, he has been besieged by a .326 and .328 BABIP in the past two seasons. In '09, fly balls were to blame, which I am inclined to associate with the very spacious outfield at Coors Field. Indeed, his home BABIP was .370 while just .286 on the road. Last year, fly balls still fell in for hits. Compare his fly ball BABIPs of .175 and .162 compared to the NL average of .136 in 2010.

Hammel is barely on the fantasy baseball radar, as he is owned in a meager 0.3 percent of ESPN leagues thus far. SIERA likely overrates him slightly, but given his solid peripherals he is still adequate in deep mixed leagues and is a great target in NL-only leagues. He will be one of the better $1 values around.

A relative unknown, Stauffer turned in an impressive 2010 campaign pitching mostly out of the bullpen. At the end of the year, he had a 6.6 K/9, a 2.6 BB/9, and a shiny 1.85 ERA. His 3.74 SIERA was not quite as flattering, and he did appear to be a bit BABIP-fortunate. However, most of his batted ball luck came on ground balls, which he induced at a 55 percent rate. I smell batted-ball skill here, not just luck.

Stauffer progressed through the minors mostly as a starter and did have limited success in the rotation in '09, but has not pitched a full season as a starter since 2007 with Triple-A Portland. However, the Padres sound optimistic about his conditioning, and his recent performances in spring training are encouraging.

Stauffer will not win you the strikeout crown in your league, but should be helpful in ERA and WHIP. I like him even in deep mixed leagues, but he should really be on your radar in NL-only leagues.

Niemann's 2010 was a tale of two half-seasons. Through July 11, Niemann started 18 games, pitched through 117 innings, and posted a 2.77 ERA with a 6.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. His .242 BABIP helped lead the charge. From July 17 through the end of the season, Niemann posted a 7.69 ERA thanks to a .312 BABIP. Overall, his 4.39 ERA was not far off from his 4.27 SIERA.

One partial (majority) explanation for his struggles is his right shoulder, which was strained and caused a 21-day stint on the disabled list. He is putting that issue in the rearview mirror, as evidenced by his most recent outing in spring training:

Niemann was encouraged with how it went, throwing five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out six and walking one in the 62-pitch outing. He was able to throw his offspeed pitches for strikes, including striking out a batter with a curveball on a 3-and-2 count.

You should be able to pick up Niemann for $1 in almost all formats. If you are scraping the bottom of the barrel, Niemann should be able to keep your boat from rocking.

Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies

In his article on the Phillies' top 11 prospects, Kevin Goldstein wrote about Worley:

Very polished but low on stuff, Worley could end up at the end of the big-league rotation if Joe Blanton gets dealt.

Worley will start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and should remain there for the foreseeable future. In the event that the Phillies trade current fifth starter Joe Blanton between now and the trading deadline, Worley is in line for a promotion. He has the inside track over Kyle Kendrick, who is being considered for a mop-up role in the bullpen.

Worley is very Blanton-ish: no overpowering pitches, no significant ability to miss bats, and slightly above-average control. Last year, spending time between Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley, he posted a 6.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, respectable numbers for a back-of-the-rotation starter. Essentially, if the Phillies trade Blanton, they can replace him with another Blanton.

Worley has appeal exclusively in NL-only leagues. For $1, you can do a lot worse.

Bill Baer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Brian ... (03/18)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Bobby Ab... (03/18)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Pi... (03/21)
Next Article >>
Premium Article On the Beat: Life Afte... (03/18)

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