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May 17, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 5/17/12

by Paul Sporer

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Pitchers are starting to drop to like flies, making Value Picks even more important as they move from luxuries to necessities as replacements.  Cory Luebke has a partially torn UCL, Jeff Niemann suffered a broken leg and hit the 60-day disabled list, Danny Duffy is likely set for Tommy John surgery, Vance Worley joined the DL ranks with elbow inflammation, and Joe Wieland (hardly a mixed league stalwart five minutes into his career), went down earlier this month with an elbow injury of his own. 

The deeper we get into the season, the more our teams will be subject to the vagaries of pitching injuries.  Hopefully you can take some solace in the availability of this week’s Value Picks on your league’s waiver wire, giving you an opportunity to plug any holes incurred recently. 

Last Chance: Time to get on board with these arms before they are snapped up in your league.  These entries are becoming less available with each passing start and find themselves on rosters in 30-plus percent of the leagues at two of the three outlets and over 50 percent at one or more of them. We won’t necessarily have options in this field each week.

After tossing a gem on Tuesday—his fourth straight strong outing—Ervin Santana (Yahoo! 64%, ESPN 55%, CBS 87%) was likely snapped up in several leagues overnight.  Nevertheless, he is still underutilized at two of the three outlets, and you could make a reasonable case that he should be on 100 percent of eligible rosters meaning. 

The simple fact was that Santana’s insane home run rate (10 allowed in his first four starts) simply wouldn’t stay that high.  Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t allowed a long ball in his four subsequent outings, going seven-plus in all four while posting a 2.10 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with a 6.9 K/9 and 2.3 K/BB in 30 innings.  If you are in one of the leagues where he remains available, hurry up. 

Would you be interested in a starter with an 8.5 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB in 43 innings of work?  Of course you would be, but since Bud Norris (Yahoo! 47%, ESPN 62%, CBS 70%) plays for Houston and has a slightly below average ERA of 3.95 (yielding a 95 ERA+), he doesn’t get the respect his numbers merit.  Wins would be a commonly-cited reason why you should pass on Norris, but he has three already, putting him on pace for 13—not that this pace will necessarily continue. You simply can’t predict wins, and while better teams are definitely more likely to register wins for their starters, the Astros will still win about 65 games, and Norris could reasonably end up with 12-14 of them if he continues to pitch like this. 

What more does Edwin Jackson (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 57%, CBS 78%) have to do to get some respect?  Just 16 percent of Yahoo! leagues find him and his 3.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 7.8 K/9 useful?  Not to mention the fact that he has a career-best 1.9 BB/9, yielding a killer 4.2 K/BB in 44 innings.  I’ve long been a proponent of Jackson, and I remain steadfastly in the driver’s seat of his bandwagon this year. 

In Case You Missed It: These pitchers were profiled in this very space recently, usually within the last week or two. While they have continued to excel, their availability remains high.  With six-to-nine names mentioned each week, some can fall through the cracks, so this is an opportunity to highlight someone a second time so you can get the jump on your leaguemates. 

I included Felipe Paulino (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 3%, CBS 16%) in last week’s VP, but he was seemingly unspectacular against the White Sox in Chicago, going five-plus while allowing four runs on seven hits; however, he struck out six and walked just one.  Then on Wednesday night against Baltimore (fifth-highest OPS in baseball, by the way), he mowed down the Orioles for seven scoreless innings, yielding just five hits with nine punch-outs and just two walks.  He now has a 10.1 K/9 and a 4.2 K/BB in his 19 innings of work.  In case you missed it, it is time to scoop up Paulino. 

Widely Available: These arms are sparsely-rostered at most outlets despite possessing the talent and statistics worthy of a spot.  Because of the league type each outlet predominantly caters to, you will often see these guys more available at ESPN and Yahoo! than CBS, but roughly 35-45 percent availability at CBS qualifies as widely available.  We should have three-to-six arms in this category in a given week.

You couldn’t script a better pair of opponents for a major league debut than who Christian Friedrich (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 8%, CBS 42%) got to face in the Padres and Giants, both in their pitcher-friendly home ballparks.  He responded even better than you might expect, going 13 innings and allowing just two runs on 11 hits and two walks with 17 strikeouts.  This former blue chip prospect was on the verge of going bust before this year’s resurgence that started at Triple-A (3.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in 30 IP) before reaching the majors.  The schedule stays favorable for him this weekend with a battle against Seattle.

When is a seven-inning outing during which you allow four runs on nine hits a good one?  When you’re a  soft-tossing lefty in Texas facing the white-hot Rangers.  Tommy Milone (Yahoo! 37%, ESPN 23%, CBS 75%) “held” Josh Hamilton to a 2-for-4 night and actually K’d him out for one of his four strikeouts.  Even with his modest outing on Wednesday night in Arlington, his WHIP is still a very strong 1.12 in 51 innings.  He is a strong matchup play, especially at home. 

AL-only VP
Scott Diamond (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 7%, CBS 19%)
is a supreme control artist with solid strikeout rates, so it should come as no surprise that the Minnesota Twins scooped him up in the Rule 5 draft as soon as the Atlanta Braves made him available.  They were no doubt fearful that one of the 11 teams picking before them would snatch up the prototypical Twin, but they got lucky. 

Diamond, still just 25 years old, can succeed with the control-first model that so many Twins pitchers before him have used en route to sustained careers.  After two outings, he is off to a great start, shutting out the Angels and Blue Jays for seven innings each with 10 strikeouts in his 14 innings. And, of course, he’s walked just one.

NL-only VP
Brad Lincoln (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%, CBS 2%) is a former top pick (fourth overall in 2006) who has done little to justify his selection in 100 innings of major league work split between 2010 and 2011.  Neither sample was large enough to pass judgment on the 27-year old, but he does have a minor league track record lengthy enough to suggest he should be able to have success as a big leaguer.  In 279 innings at Triple-A, he had a 7.4 K/9 and 4.2 K/BB.  The 4.19 ERA wasn’t particularly special, but the peripherals and 1.20 WHIP suggested he was pitching pretty well. 

After seven strong outings out of the bullpen, he got a turn in the rotation on Monday and went six strong innings against the Miami Marlins en route to his third win of the season.  It is time for him to match the hype that comes with being a fourth overall pick.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (05/17)
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