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July 20, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 7/19/12

by Paul Sporer

Get the Jump
In shallower 10- and 12-team leagues, you will often see teams cut solid but non-quite-star level guys once they hit the DL.  It is a product of lots of injuries, limited DL spots, and tight rosters.  You’re going to give Giancarlo Stanton your DL spot well before Brandon McCarthy (Yahoo! 45%, ESPN 50%, CBS 73%), and with good reason, but that leaves opportunity for others to snatch the McCarthys and Doug Fisters of the world when they are headed back.  McCarthy is on the road back and has said he hopes to avoid a rehab stint before returning.  Those desperate for ratio help have a great chance to capture value here and hit a potential home run. 

Last Chance
With seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week, Michael Fiers (Yahoo! 45%, ESPN 50%, CBS 73%) has now held his opponents scoreless in three of his last four outings.  Miami’s two runs in his 7 1/3 innings account for the other start.  It should be noted that a) that is still awesome, and b) he had nine strikeouts against just a single walk in that outing too.  Speaking of strikeouts, even with just four in his outing versus the Cardinals, he is still toting a strikeout per inning rate and fanning a quarter of the batters he faces.  He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but it works, and when you watch him for a start, it’s hard not to be convinced. 

Incumbents
It is rare for someone to hit the VP list in back-to-back weeks, but sometimes we have to drill the point home.  Such is the case with Zach McAllister (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 5%, CBS 32%); only CBS leaguers have taken advantage of him, boosting his ownership level 16 percent this week.  He has a nice 2.31 ERA since he recall from the minors, and while that may be susceptible to some inflation, I love the 24 strikeouts and eight walks in that same period spanning 23 1/3 innings. 

I threw Marco Estrada (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 5%, CBS 31%) your way over two months ago on the heels of two of his worst starts, just as he entered the rotation.  He’s another Brewer who doesn’t overpower hitters, instead pounding the zone with quality stuff while missing plenty bats and limiting free passes in the process.  His penchant for the zone leaves him susceptible to the long-ball, which has bit him hard this year (1.9 HR/9) and has kept his 4.13 ERA higher than you would expect for someone with a 10.5 K/9 and 6.0 K/BB.  Susceptible or not, even his 17.6 HR/FB rate is on the high side.  Even if that doesn’t come down closer to league average from here on out, his strikeouts and WHIP (1.04) give him value.

Arriving
Is it just me or does a random guy or three pop up in Oakland every year?  Travis Blackley (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 2%, CBS 13%) is one such example for 2012.  He started the year with San Francisco, and if he had stayed there, he could’ve been Ryan Vogelsong 2.0—a guy who comes almost literally out of nowhere after several years of not pitching in the big leagues to be quite effective as a starter.  He is light on strikeouts but even lighter on walks, which is a strategy that can definitely work, especially in that ballpark.  With a 3.54 ERA and 1.18 WHIP on the road, he isn’t just a product of O.Co.  I would pick my matchups, but proper deployment can get you some solid mileage out of him.

After another eight innings Wednesday, Clayton Richard (Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 23%, CBS 51%) extended his NL lead in innings, pulling nine ahead of Matt Cain (albeit in two more starts). The takeaway is that Richard is logging big-time innings; whether he is first or fifth isn’t really relevant.  Piling up innings of that 1.18 WHIP has plenty of value, even if the 3.83 ERA doesn’t improve into something a bit more special. 

His 5.0 K/9 won’t make you rush out to roster him either, but you’re buying into the logged innings of WHIP and the fact that he goes deep into games, yielding decisions and improving his chances for wins.  Wins will be scant with a team like San Diego, but he has logged 17 decisions in his 20 starts, seven of them wins.  He has also been rumored in trade talks, so he could go to a contender and possibly put himself in position for more wins.

NL-only VP
Pickings are slim, but if you’re desperate and don’t think you would be better served by a high-strikeout middle reliever, then Kevin Correia (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 3%) could bring you some value.  He definitely takes advantage of PNC Park and is in the midst of posting the second-best WHIP of his career at 1.27.  The fact that the Pirates are succeeding makes a move like this more palatable, too, because you could sneak in a few wins.

AL-only VP
Immensely talented, but struggling just as immensely to harness it, Zach Britton (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%) teases and tantalizes in the minors but then seemingly falls flat once in the majors.  It has been the same story in his virtually nothing sample this year (four innings), during which he walked six with just a single strikeout.  He has a devastating sinker and filthy slider… the only problem is they are usually devastating his ratios and filthily hanging over the fat part of the plate. They just aren’t at or really anywhere near peak performance nearly enough.

“Wow, Paul, sweet endorsement, let me cut that Mork Trite outfielder for him right away.”  I know, it’s not the firmest backing of a guy in VP history, but when we’re talking about league-specific VPs, the pickings are Lohan-thin, and you’re usually in a desperate Lohan situation.  He still has home run potential… it’s just matter of whether it’s a figurative home run for your team or a bevy of them being yielded by Britton himself.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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