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July 26, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 7/26/12

by Paul Sporer

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This time next week, the trade deadline will have passed and we could have some new roles opened up for guys. This week’s VP includes some speculation that could be wiped away by trades, so stay tuned.

Arriving
I have fallen for Carlos Villanueva (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 13%, CBS 46%) on more than one occasion, so forgive me for not diving headlong this time around and waiting a bit to include him here. He has always been a major league talent; that isn’t the question. The question is whether or not he can withstand the rigors of starting on a long-term basis. It has only been four starts, so we still don’t have that answer, but you can’t wait 10-12 starts because you will miss out on these kinds of guys.

In nearly equal samples this year, both small, Villanueva has actually been much better as a starter. He has a 2.31 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, and 3.3 K/BB in 23 1/3 innings in the rotation and a 3.24 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, and 1.7 K/BB in 33 1/3 innings as a reliever. The Jays have an offense potent enough to back him, so he carries some nice win potential too.

Josh Collmenter (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 10%, CBS 18%) started the season in the rotation and performed horribly, costing him his job and allowing for the emergence of Wade Miley. He went to the bullpen and excelled (1.45 ERA and 18 Ks in 18 2/3 innings) from May through mid-June. Trevor Bauer didn’t take off as planned, creating an opportunity for Collmenter to get back into the rotation, and he has excelled. Since June 22, he has four starts and two long-relief appearances to cover implosions by Bauer and Daniel Hudson.

The numbers in that span have been excellent: 1.55 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, and 3.0 K/BB in 29 innings. The big difference in this year’s Collmenter is that he is missing bats at an above-average clip. Even in the ugly sample that started the season, he still had a 7.9 K/9. Meanwhile, the walks are up from last year’s awesome 1.6 BB/9, but he is still toting a sharp 2.2 BB/9, so I’m definitely buying in on Collmenter much more this time around.

Returning
I was clamoring all year for Alexi Ogando (Yahoo! 31%, ESPN 5%, CBS 23%) to rejoin the rotation in Texas, where he flourished a year ago. When he finally got inserted into the rotation, however, he promptly got hurt after three shutout innings. With their rotation in flux as they deal with injuries and lack of performance, the Rangers have said they could put Ogando back into the rotation again soon. The team has also been rumored in just about any trade involving a starting pitcher, so things are very unsettled there outside of Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison.

I think Derek Holland will hold a spot, while Roy Oswalt should be given a decent leash, leaving a spot that could be filled by Ogando, via trade, or with youngster Martin Perez, who looked good in his latest outing against the Boston Red Sox. As with the last time Ogando was a VP, even if he doesn’t end up starting, he can be a valuable asset in just about any format.

Ross Detwiler (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 18%, CBS 38%), another Sporer favorite, really never should have been lifted from the rotation, but I guess the Nats wanted to see if Yankee-version Chien-Ming Wang was still a thing. He very much wasn’t in his short sample; his control completely abandoned him (5.3 BB/9), so Detwiler is back. Detwiler was great out of the bullpen, including a huge 3 2/3-inning outing after a failed Wang start, and he has been strong in his five starts since returning to the rotation.

He has a 2.35 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, but the strikeout rate has been lacking at a meager 4.7 K/9. At least he isn’t walking anybody (1.8 BB/9) to balance it out, though. We know pitching coach Steve McCatty doesn’t care about strikeouts, but 4.7 still leaves something to be desired. If you need ratios more than strikeouts, however, Detwiler could very well be your guy.

NL-only VP
Lucas Harrell (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 1%, CBS 30%)
was found in this space back around the Fourth of July. He was actually coming off of a rough start on July 3, during which he gave up five runs in five innings, but the nine strikeouts stood out and gave him 25 in his last 21 innings. Since that first appearance, he has strung together three great starts, yielding a 1.42 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, and 2.0 K/BB in 19 innings of work. Playing in Houston leaves him well off most fantasy radars, especially as the ‘Stros trade away everything not nailed down, but Harrell is a sneaky option who could help some teams down the stretch.

AL-only VP
This is about as far off the radar as you can get, but Brett Anderson (Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 0%, CBS 11%) is back pitching in the minors and made his first rehab start last Saturday at High-A. He is still a ways away, and the A’s likely won’t feel compelled to rush him back. The 24-year-old lefty was developing into a pretty strong pitcher before succumbing to injury last year. With his name value and potential, he will get scooped up quickly if he starts making noise in the minors, so jumping the gun now could yield a Ben Sheets-like prize. If you have a free DL spot you can finagle him into as he works his way back, you could reap some nice benefits.

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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