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August 25, 2011

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 8/25/11

by Mike Petriello

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The first newcomer on this week’s list is, well, me. After nearly two years on the closer beat, I’m shifting over to the starting pitchers as we wish Bill Baer the best of luck in other endeavors, and I have to say, I’m excited for the switch. No more chasing the almighty save or worrying that some poor closer will get lit up at 2 AM ET out in Seattle. Let’s get to the starters on this week’s Value Picks:

Newcomers
Mike Minor, Braves (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 21%, CBS 46%)
Despite flashing some big league skill during a brief 2010 rookie campaign, Minor has found himself spending most of this year bouncing between Atlanta and Triple-A as the club’s sixth starter, making six starts over three separate stints in April, May, and June. On June 21, Minor picked up his first win of the season, striking out eight Blue Jays over eight one-run innings, yet was still sent back down for most of the next two months.

Those days might finally be behind Minor, however, as he’s been outstanding in four starts since being recalled on August 7.  In 22 1/3 innings, the former first-round pick has a tasty K/BB mark of 26/4 with six earned runs allowed over the latter three starts. He has allowed more than a hit per inning in that time, and it could even be argued that he’s been a bit unlucky with a .391 BABIP over his four games.  Fantasy players are noticing as Minor’s ownership rates are up markedly over last week; with Tommy Hanson’s return from shoulder soreness on hold yet again, there’s room in the Atlanta rotation, so Minor should stick for the rest of the season.

Javier Vazquez, Marlins (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN 20%, CBS 48%)
After a tough 2010 with the Yankees, many wondered if Vazquez was done headed into his age 35 season with the Marlins. His velocity with the Yankees was down in the low 80s, and through his first 13 starts this season, he’d allowed 52 earned runs against just 47 strikeouts, good for a 7.09 ERA. I don’t have a number on how many fantasy teams still owned him at that point, but I’m guessing it was somewhat less than the approximately 347 people who showedup to see his start against Cincinnati yesterday.

His next start came against Philadelphia, and he somehow held them to two runs over five. It was the start of something as he ended June by not allowing either the Angels or Athletics to score an earned run. Since that initial stretch of 13 starts, Vazquez has been a completely different pitcher, putting up a 73/15 K/BB in his ensuing 13 starts. That’s quality despite the fact that he’s just 4-3 in that time, and with his velocity back over 90, Vazquez is worth at least a spot start in most leagues.
 

Saying Goodbye
Felipe Paulino, Royals (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 6%)
Paulino has been a steal for Kansas City since they picked him up off waivers from Colorado earlier this year, with one Royals bloggoing so far as to call him the club’s best starter since Zack Greinke (not that guys like Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies have been a lot of competition). Considering the Royals got him for essentially nothing, the value he’s provided has been outstanding.

Unfortunately, you do have to wonder if the magic is starting to wear off somewhat. In four August starts, Paulino has struck out just one more than he’s walked with an ERA north of 5.00.  To be fair, he’s faced the Tigers, Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox in that time—no cakewalk for even the best starter. Still, you can likely find comparable or better pitchers on the waiver wire, and if you must stick with Paulino, be sure to spot him against only weaker opponents.

Blake Beavan, Mariners (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 12%)
Beavan’s rookie season was going just fine until he faced Boston and Toronto earlier this month and allowed three homers in each game, despite both outings being in spacious Seattle. That being the case—well, that and his miniscule 3.8 K/9 rate—it’s hard to recommend Beavan right now, particularly on a team that’s unlikely to slug their way to a few wins for him.

Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 7%, CBS 39%)
Cecil grabbed a lot of attention by going 15-7 last season, but his 2011 has been another story as he spent nearly two months in Triple-A before returning to have a mostly effective July with the Jays. The one issue he’s been unable to resolve, however, is keeping the ball in the park; he’s allowed at least one homer in 11 of his 14 starts, including the last five in a row. That’s a problem under the best of circumstances, and Cecil isn’t doing enough in other areas to make up for it.
 

Sticking Around
Dontrelle Willis, Reds (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%, CBS 14%)
Willis gave us a scare when he left his start on August 14 after just 2 2/3 innings with a sore forearm, but it didn’t seem to bother him on Saturday with six generally effective innings in Pittsburgh. It’s hard to say you can count on Willis for anything at this point, though in eight starts for Cincinnati he’s allowed more than three earned runs just once, and that came in the game he left early. Perhaps as importantly, given his recent past, he hasn’t walked more than three since his Cincinnati debut. It’s not exactly his Florida peak, but it’s certainly good enough for NL-only leagues. Willis’s next start will come against Washington, which makes for a good matchup.

James McDonald, Pirates (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 6%, CBS 36%)
It’s been over two months since McDonald didn’t go at least five innings in a start, and only twice in that time has he allowed more than three earned runs, striking out 53 against 20 walks. The problem with McDonald’s perception is that his season got off to a rough start, allowing 5, 6, and 8 runs in three mid-April starts. Start his season on April 29, and all of a sudden his ERA is 3.29 instead of 4.21. How many leagues do you think a guy with an 8-4 record, 3.29 ERA, and twice as many strikeouts as walks would be owned in? A lot more than the numbers you see above, no doubt, though do beware of the collapsing Pittsburgh team around him.

Brandon McCarthy, Athletics (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 7%, CBS 40%)
As I looked back through Bill’s lists, I noticed that McCarthy had been included for quite some time, and why not? The former White Sox top prospect is finally healthy after years of arm injuries and having something of a breakthrough season for Oakland, in addition to being one of the sport’s most prolific tweeters. McCarthy’s strikeout rate isn’t all that shiny, but he’s found success by limiting the longball and keeping walks to a minimum: just 21 in 125 2/3 innings. He’s been rewarded with five wins in his last six starts, including getting into the eighth inning against the mighty Yankees on Tuesday. McCarthy’s a clear own in AL-only leagues and is a decent add in deeper mixed leagues as well.

Doug Fister, Tigers (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 7%, CBS 62%)
Fister’s pitched four times as a member of the Tigers since being traded from Seattle, and the results have been mixed with two excellent starts, one shortened by rain, and one disaster at the hands of the Orioles. Still, over the 21 2/3 innings he’s been a Tiger, he has a 12/2 K/BB (all of which, oddly, came over the last two outings), and he’s finally away from the league-worst run support which helped him bring a 3-12 record to Detroit in the first place. Fister has a favorable matchup against an inconsistent Tampa offense on Thursday. 
 

AL-only VP
Fausto Carmona, Indians (
Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 15%, CBS 54%)
LikeMcDonald, Carmona’s season looks a whole lot better if you don’t worry about some long-ago difficulties; take out that 10 ER disaster on Opening Day, and his ERA drops by nearly half a run. More pertinent, Carmona’s last four starts have not only been excellent (seven total earned runs allowed), but he’s even increased his generally low strikeout rate to whiff six in each of his last three games. This is not to suggest that he’s suddenly learned a new strikeout skill, just that he’s positioned to be a decent AL-only starter.
 

NL-only VP
Ross Detwiler, Nationals
(Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%)
I have to admit, when I first realized Detwiler had a 2.61 ERA despite slightly underwhelming peripherals, I was a bit surprised. That was with good reason, as it turns out, since he’s carrying an underlying 4.54 FIP, which sounds about right. That being said, the former first-rounder has had four impressive starts since rejoining the rotation this month, in particular holding Cincinnati and Arizona to just one run apiece his last two times out. Since Jordan Zimmermann is just about ready to be shut down for the season, Detwiler should see a few more starts and is a decent play in NL-only leagues.

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

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