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August 16, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitching for 8/16/12

by Paul Sporer

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Another group of incumbents dominate this week’s Value Picks. There is quite a bit of talent sitting on the wire, especially in standard 10- and 12-team leagues, ready to be plucked for the stretch run. 

Incumbent
Derek Holland (Yahoo! 52%, ESPN 27%, CBS 77%)
has been frustrating for the fantasy sect since returning from the disabled list.  He started off with a pair of quality starts, including 7 and 2/3 shutout innings in Seattle in his second start.  Then in three of his next four he yielded exactly six runs.  There aren’t enough innings in a regulation game to make that palatable. 

He looked like the Holland from the second half of 2011 in his latest outing against Detroit, however, during which he outdueled that Verlander guy while allowing just a single run in 7 2/3 on three hits and a walk with nine strikeouts.  Home runs were a big issue heading into that start; he had allowed two, two, three, and two in the previous four starts.  His lone run against the Tigers was a solo shot in the first inning to Austin Jackson, but he settled down and got a lot better with his command in the zone the rest of the way. 

A four-time VPer, Jeff Samardzija (Yahoo! 49%, ESPN 53%, CBS 84%) is definitely one of the more popular pitchers on the cusp between ownership and the waiver wire in shallow leagues.  You can see that CBS leaguers have bought in, though those are generally deeper and single leagues.  The more standard 10-to-12-team mixed formats that you find at Yahoo! and ESPN are still split on The Shark.  It is probably the fact that he still has a 4.06 ERA on the season, but that is because an ugly June pushed it up to 5.05. Fear not; he has been chiseling away ever since.

In fact, Samardzija has allowed more than three runs just once in eight starts since June 27 while posting a 2.41 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, and 3.1 K/BB in 52 1/3 innings of work.  The bookends of this stretch are near-equal seven-inning, one-run outings during which he allowed four hits and struck out 11 in each.  The only difference is that he walked one in the first back in July and three on Monday against Houston. 

Like Samardzija, Alex Cobb’s (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 28%, CBS 47%) 4.08 season ERA is likely keeping fantasy managers away as they scour the waiver wire.  He hasn’t quite put together a stretch like Samardzija’s, but he is in the midst of an impressive four-start streak during which he has gone seven strong innings in each.  He gave up three runs in the first of the four but only one in each of the most recent three.  He has displayed pinpoint control en route to his 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, and 7.0 K/BB (thanks to a 0.96 BB/9) in 28 innings.  Tampa Bay is clicking on all cylinders right now, and Cobb is definitely a major asset to their surge. 

Arriving
Frankly, I’m surprised that this is Mike Minor’s (Yahoo! 43%, ESPN 61%, CBS 74%) VP debut considering how much I like him as a player, but I guess I chose to suffer through his early season struggles by myself instead of inflicting that pain upon y’all.  The problem is that he is usually posting tantalizing peripherals but allowing far too many homers for the results to be any good.  He has curbed the gopheritis of late and, voila: a seven-start run of 2.45-ERA ball across 44 innings.  He is still allowing a homer per nine, but that is a vast improvement for him, as evidenced by the fact that his season mark is still 1.6 HR/9.  Only a rain delay could slow him down, as he has gone six or more innings in six of the seven starts, with the other being a rain-shortened 3 2/3-inning outing.  In addition to the shiny ERA, he also has a 0.96 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, and 4.4 K/BB.  If he is keeping the ball in the park, he is going to be successful.  That sounds obvious, but there are plenty of guys who keep the ball in the yard and still aren’t even league average, let alone fantasy viable. 

AL-only VP
David Phelps (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 16%)
occupied this very spot all the way back in early May, when he was given a brief shot as a starter for the Yankees.  He went back to the bullpen (and mixed in a Fourth of July spot start) after just two abbreviated starts and excelled.  He is now back in the rotation after C.C. Sabathia’s return the disabled list.  Phelps was great in five innings against the Texas Rangers on Monday and remains a solid, underrated option even if he is put back in the bullpen once CC returns.  Of course, he should probably be allowed to hold the fifth starter’s role until Andy Pettitte returns, but we’ll see how the Yankees play it. 

NL-only VP
Mark Rogers (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS7%)
was greeted rudely the Rockies in Coors Field on Wednesday afternoon, which will likely result in a mass exodus back to the waiver wire for him.  Hell, if people are going to dump Mike Fiers after a rough Coors outing (I suffered it firsthand in two mixed leagues), then Rogers doesn’t stand a chance.  Good; that gives you an opportunity to swoop in.  Since his call-up, Rogers has two good and two bad starts.  His two bad ones have come in Colorado and St. Louis.  That is more expected than a sin.  I’m more interested in his 24 strikeouts in 24 innings with just six walks and his 94.5 mph average four-seam fastball. 

Those who aren’t tuned in to the minor league landscape might not realize that Rogers is a two-time top prospect from 2005 and 2006 who has battled through countless injuries and consecutive missed seasons in 2007 and 2008 to get to this point.  And the fact that he’s even in the majors pitching is an upset, let alone that he has maintained elite velocity.  Being a great story won’t earn you any fantasy points, and his minor league numbers aren’t nearly impressive as his MLB peripherals are, but this guy has talent to go with the story and deserves a look, especially if you need strikeouts.

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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Resident Fantasy Geniu... (08/16)
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