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May 24, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitching for 5/24/12

by Paul Sporer

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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.

Look, I understand he is in his mid-30s and came literally out of nowhere last year having not pitched in the majors for four years, but what does Ryan Vogelsong (Yahoo! 54%, ESPN 40%, CBS 67%) have to do to get some love?  Yes, his skills are a tick below last year’s level with the walks up more than the strikeouts are down, but he has given up just three runs in four May starts.  That’s three total runs, not three apiece.  At the very least, he seems like an above average home-only spot starter, but I think there is a case for letting him fly anyway.

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’m a big fan of Anthony Bass (Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 20%, CBS 54%). I did a full breakdown of the Padres hurler Tuesday at my blog with the conclusion being that he is legit—very much so.  He has a true strikeout pitch, marked improvement from 2011, and the most favorable home park aiding him in half his starts.  Usually Padres pitchers are on the radar specifically because of Petco Park, but Bass isn’t just a home ballpark byproduct.  He has real talent that is playing well everywhere. 

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.

Do you know what happens when you remove the worst starts in baseball history from A.J. Burnett’s (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 7%, CBS 42%) line?  He goes from a 4.78 ERA to a 2.06 ERA in a heartbeat.  His 7.9 K/9 and 3.3 K/BB include the start against St. Louis and stand up on their own.  Sure, cherry-picking the best starts (or removing the worst) from a pitcher’s line does skew things, but I’m comfortable doing so for Value Picks because you’ll be plucking him off the wire now. Your team won’t suffer that abomination of a start, and removing an outlier gives a clearer picture of the asset.

While this kind of talk does nothing to console the unlucky owner who tanked from second to sixth in the standings, but Burnett’s stock unnecessarily plummeted with one freakishly bad start.  I am not sure why he is being ignored after subsequently posting three strong starts on the heels of the disaster. 

Baltimore’s surge to the top of the AL East has surprised many, and while it is hard to believe they will stick around, there are aspects of the start that suggest there is real improvement.  One is that some of their young starters have taken a step or two forward skills-wise.  One such hurler is Jake Arrieta (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 8%, CBS 46%), and while his ERA (4.87 after Wednesday afternoon’s outing) screams “waiver wire fodder!!”, his base skills are markedly better than ever before, yielding a 3.30 xFIP.

His strikeout rate is up to 7.8 K/9 while his walk rate is just 2.4 BB/9, nearly half of last year’s 4.6 BB/9.  He has already run through a host of his tougher starts for the season with two against New York and one each against Tampa Bay, Texas, and Boston already out of the way.  He has paid for them with the high ERA, but greener pastures are ahead.  After starts in Toronto and Boston in early June, he and his O’s avoid the AL Beast until the end of July when the team goes to Yankee Stadium. 

Alex Cobb (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 17%) is another in the long line of highly skilled pitchers to come through the system in Tampa Bay. No, he may not be on the level of David Price, Matt Moore, or (perhaps) Jeremy Hellickson, but a lot of teams would have had him as their fourth and maybe third starter on their Opening Day roster. Of course, on the Rays, he was ostensibly their sixth man until the Jeff Niemann injury prompted him to be summoned from Triple-A Durham.

Cobb has seen his strikeout rate surge in the high minors, posting more than a strikeout per inning in 230 innings between Double-A and Triple-A over the last three years.  That is based more on an ability to pitch than it is on pure stuff, though, so he may be a mere above-average strikeout pitcher in the majors.  I would project him more for something in the 6.5-7.0 range, which is still more than usable. 

AL-only VP
Proceed with extreme caution when it comes to P.J. Walters (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 6%); he is a home run machine (2.1 HR/9 rate in his 72 MLB innings) who tends to pound the zone with stuff that is a bit too hittable at times.  That said, he won’t walk many and he misses enough bats to be useful.  I would look to spot start him only at home and at other spacious ballparks, and only if you are desperate for some pitching help. 

NL-only VP
Speaking of home run machines, J.A. Happ (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%) gives up more than you would like to see a pitcher allow (1.6 HR/9), but he has an 8.4 K/9 that stands out, and there are enough matchups in the NL (in the Central, specifically) where he could have some value.  Use sparingly.

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

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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CalledStrike3

Picking up P.J. Walters insures that you get the worst of a reversion to his mean ERA best case scenario of 4.50. He is a nibbler and his slider is flat to LF hitters....its not a matter of if the league catches up to him, but when.

Milwaukee suffered a Pitching injury last night to #5 starter Marco Estrada .... #1 prospect and 40 man roster member Wily Peralta seems to be the logical choice to replace him in the roation, but he is super scuffling at AAA .... a nice NL ONLY sleeper could be Kevin's 3 star 23 year old Tyler Thornburg who has a 3/1 K/BB ratio at AA with a 1.02 WHIP.

An AL only deep sleeper is Bret Cecil, a former relief pitcher in college, who annualy sees his velocity dip in the spring and rebound near summertime. His last two outings at AA have been scoreless ones and the Blue Jays once considered him their #3 starter...Drew Hutchison's ERA is 5 something ...wouldn't take much to see the Lefty Cecil who has a good K rate rejoin the Jays rotation.

KC's Jake Odrizzi has struck out more than 55 hitters in 50 innings between AA and AAA. Kevin has him as a 4-star and KC is shuffling Luis Mendoza and Nate Adcock into their 4 and 5 spots.... Jake is a Super 2 waiting to happen.

Jenry Mejia of the Mets has an 11/2 K/BB ratio in his rehab work. He has started games in the minors but the Mets are talking bringing him up to shore up their bull pen. Mets closer Frank Francisco is allowing opposing hitters to hit more than .310 against him .... these things tend to catch up to closers.



May 24, 2012 01:32 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

Fiers isn't the logical call-up here? A year or two more minor league seasoning than Thornburg. (I don't follow the Milwaukee org. closely, don't really know.)

And Mendoza relieved William Smith last night. Looks like they're hoping Adcock and Smith take those slots, with Mendoza as plan B, no?

May 24, 2012 09:33 AM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

And CS3, what's the over/under on when Jurrjens ends up in K.C.?

May 24, 2012 09:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

I mentioned Walters should be used with extreme caution as a spot starter. Yes, he is going to regress, but that doesn't mean every single one of his starts will be awful. I'm not sure you're arguing anything differently than me with him.

I'd be surprised if Thornburg got a shot over Fiers and even Mark Rogers, both of whom are at AAA. You never know, though. I do like Thornburg overall. In an NL-Only without a minor league roster, he is likely out there, so if there is a reserve roster he could be worth a stash depending on roster size.

When someone has 169 IP at AAA and 390 at MLB yet finds themselves in AA as a 25-year old, he's not a deep sleeper so much as he is a non-entity. I don't see how Cecil is much (any?) different than Hutchison. Sorry.

May 24, 2012 09:50 AM
 
DanDaMan

Paul- do you like Bass more than Volquez?

May 24, 2012 04:20 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Bass

May 24, 2012 09:40 AM
 
npb7768

Deep AL-Only 5x5

Could you please order the following pitchers and indicate which are worth rostering...Thanks...

Beavan
Br Chen
T Hunter
Noesi
R Porcello
J Tomlin

May 24, 2012 08:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Chen, Porcello, Tomlin, Noesi, Beavan, Hunter

May 24, 2012 11:17 AM
 
pobothecat

Paul --- I'd be interested in your take on some deep league names --- Tyson Ross, Alex White, Scott Feldman, Eric Stults. I'm seeing/hallucinating some upside with each. How about you? Thanks.

May 24, 2012 09:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

Not sold on Feldman and I'm hoping they replace him with Ogando while Feliz is out.

Ross definitely has some upside, especially in that park, but there'll be peaks & valleys.

White is a lesser Ross because he plays in Coors which is always dangerous, but I do see some upside with him.

Stults does nothing for me.

May 24, 2012 11:19 AM
 
pobothecat

Thanks for your feedback. My thoughts are similar.

(On Stults --- "does nothing for me" was exactly my reaction. But the Padres have been solid at identifying undervalued arms. There's the park, obviously. And a decent career G/F rate (.70-ish) is, in a VERY small sample this year, Lowe-like.)

May 24, 2012 16:51 PM
rating: 0
 
timber

Is it too late for Felipe Paulino to be a Value Pick?

May 24, 2012 10:45 AM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Paul Sporer
BP staff

No, he's probably still available in some leagues, but he was a VP last week so I didn't include him again this week.

May 24, 2012 11:18 AM
 
ssiegel

Paul, wondering what you think of Lance Lynn's recent struggles. Regression was coming, but where does it end? He tends to lose his composure at times and can't make a pitch. When on, his stuff is nasty. When off, look out!

He has 2 starts next week, decent matchups @ATL and @NYM. Too risky? Would you do him or Harrison (vs SEA and vs LAA)?

Also thinking Fister is a must sit with games vs Bos and NYY?

May 24, 2012 13:43 PM
rating: 0
 
CalledStrike3

Pobo - re Jurjens - Of course he will end up in KC - good thought - the Braves would likely take a Gallon of Gates BBQ sauce in exchange for Jurrjens at this point.

Paul - Thornburg is old for AA @ 23 and throwing the hell out of the ball... its not out of the realm.

In the long run Cecil is not much better than Hutch - I thibnk they are at different points in their career.... Cecil is a decent lefty when he can touch 94 - but every spring his velocity dips 3 ticks or so for some reason. parking him in AA saves him pitching in the PCL. Can't back it up statistically, but feel like over the years relatively few pitching prospects spend alot of time in the PCL .... If you check, Cecil is still on the 40 man roster - so he is part of the big picture for Toronto still.

Luis Mendoza ... he is not pitching the way he did last season - either KC is waiting for him to find a groove, or he is near the end of his thermos of coffee.

May 24, 2012 15:12 PM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article Collateral Damage Dail... (05/24)
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Fantasy Article Value Picks: Relievers... (05/23)
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