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September 20, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitching for 9/20/12

by Paul Sporer

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The season is almost over, you guys! Is everyone as upset by that as me? There is some good news, though. First, we still have the playoffs immediately after the regular season, and they should excellent again this year. Second, we still have a couple weeks left in the regular season, and if you are in the thick of a fantasy pennant chase, these will be extremely fun, tension-filled weeks and give you a chance to over-manage the hell out of your squad. Lastly, even when the games on the field end, the hot stove burns hot enough to make baseball a year-round sport.

Let’s see what the wire is offering us in terms of Value Picks on the mound.

Returning
An ugly six start run from July 31 to August 26 left Homer Bailey (Yahoo! 35%, ESPN 48%, CBS 76%) with a 4.24 ERA which still would have been a career-best had the season ended, but it severely dented the chances of his first sub-4.00 ERA season. He has rallied with a September surge, however, that has him on track to put a nice bow on his breakthrough season. He has a 1.29 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 26 strikeouts, and six walks in 29 innings across four starts pushing, his season ERA down to 3.82.

All told, Bailey is poised to set career highs all over the board. Note that he did get fat on weaker competition in September, however, facing the Astros twice plus the Cubs and Pirates once apiece. Don’t fret, though; he has the offensively-challenged Dodgers and then the Pirates again to close the season.

Arriving
Travis Wood (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 13%, CBS 29%)
could be a strong mid-rotation pitcher if he could curb his home run issues—difficult to do as an extreme fly ball pitcher. Even with his hideous 1.5 HR/9 rate, though, he is a solid back-end option with a 4.25 ERA in 140 innings of work. He has outings of five, four, and three home runs as well as a pair of two-homer outings, so they tend to come in bunches when Wood is on the mound. It shouldn’t be a surprise that when he finally strings together 30 homerless innings, he is able to post a 1.80 ERA. That is the current streak he is riding, dating back to the third inning of his August 28 outing and stretching through four September starts.

Though his sample is small, Jacob Turner (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 8%) has had home run issues that would make Wood laugh (would make Wood?). He has a 2.0 HR/9 in his 36 1/3 innings of work, though it’s down from 2.9 in 12 1/3 innings with Detroit (stop laughing… Wood) to 1.5 in 24 with Miami. More importantly, his peripherals are exponentially better in Miami (from 1.0 to 5.7 K/BB), which is why he has been able to enjoy some success despite the continued gopheritis.

Turner is definitely in a growth phase, and this is a perfect setting: a non-contending team late in the season. This experience will bode well for him come 2013 and beyond. I think we are getting a glimpse of the guy that Turner can be as he totes a 6.4 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 with Miami. He won’t be able to maintain a 3.75 ERA with a 1.5 HR/9, but I suspect he will work on that problem area and figure out how to work in zone without getting destroyed. I’m bullish on Turner not only for the remainder of the season but going into next year as well. If you can make offseason trades in your league, he is a worthy target for NL-only teams.

Some of the best late-season guys are the second-level prospects on also-ran clubs. The games still matter to those players, especially because the rosters are usually littered with youngsters looking to make an impression that will aid them in landing a 2013 spot in March. One such arm is Erasmo Ramirez (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 2%, CBS 5%) in Seattle. Oddly enough, he earned one of those 25 coveted spots back in April and did great work out of the bullpen through early May.

He came up again in June for a four-start stint and held his own but then went back down until September. He is hoping this audition can show the Mariners enough to win that spot next spring and hold it all year. In 16 innings spanning two starts and a relief appearance, he has a 2.25 ERA and 0.69 WHIP with 14 strikeouts and just one walk. Maybe if the M’s had kept Ramirez up in a hybrid role all year and started Hisashi Iwakuma from day one, they would be better than their 70-78 record.

NL-only VP
Shutting down Mark Rogers due to injury concerns was a wise move by the Milwaukee Brewers, especially since they probably thought that they were all but out of it. All of a sudden, though, they are in the thick of the race, and thankfully Wily Peralta(Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 6%, CBS 10%) has been there to pick up the slack left by the shelved Rogers, who was pitching pretty well. In three starts this month, he has a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP across 20 innings, going six or more each time out. He only has 12 strikeouts (5.4 K/9), but a hefty 55 percent groundball rate allows him plenty of leeway when his defense turns the rollers into outs. A top prospect in a thin system, Peralta might have been overlooked by some because of the lack of depth, but Kevin Goldstein had him 92nd overall on his top 101 this preseason.

AL-only VP
This is my 22nd edition of Value Picks here at BP, and Jake Arrieta (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 8%) last appeared in the fifth edition. Back then he had an ugly 4.87 ERA, but his component skills portended future success and indicated he was pitching his best ball as a major leaguer. Since then, he has a 7.21 ERA in 48 2/3 innings of work, yet he continues to miss bats at an impressive clip with 49 strikeouts (9.1 K/9). He also has just 17 walks (3.1 BB/9), good for a 2.9 K/BB rate.

He even stemmed the tide on his horrendous home run rate (1.3 thru May 23 when he first appeared), carving it down to 0.9 since late May. He has just been far too hittable (10 H/9), so he needs to work on his command within the zone. He is only working long relief right now, but he gets a couple innings per stint and has a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 September innings. The O’s are handling him well by allowing him to work in short stints and improve his command.

He could give you some key clean innings down the stretch, but I mostly wanted to bring him up to mention how much 2012 has actually been a growth season despite what the surface numbers might suggest. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up on sleeper lists next spring (mainly because I am sure to put him on one, but I am also referring to those not commissioned by me).

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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Fantasy Article Value Picks: First, Th... (09/20)
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