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June 21, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 6/21/12

by Paul Sporer

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Plenty of new names in this week’s Value Picks as well as some returning names in some new categories.

Last Chance
I meant to recommend Doug Fister (Yahoo! 59%, ESPN 70%, CBS 86%) last week when his percentages were a good bit lower, but I forgot to write it down when I thought of him. Now he has six shutout innings added to his ledger in his return from the disabled list, and he is quickly being scooped up. That said, he is still around in more than 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 30 percent of ESPN leagues, numbers which are way too high. The Tigers appear to have tapped into a reservoir of Fister’s talent that has yielded more strikeouts, resulting in a 7.1 K/9 as a Tiger in 111 innings compared to his 5.2 K/9 in 378 with Seattle.

Matchup Play
Left-handed batters have long plagued Justin Masterson (Yahoo! 45%, ESPN 45%, CBS 71%), which is why many were concerned that he would never really make it as a starter. His breakout season in 2011 quieted the critics some, but the gains were mostly against righties. He’s still dominating righties this year but not quite to the extent he did last year. Lefties, meanwhile, have jumped back over an 800 OPS against him, creating some maddening ups and downs.

In his three worst outings (8 ER at Seattle, 6 ER at Boston, 7 ER vs. Kansas City), lefties went 24-for-65 (.369) with 21 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Admittedly, it wasn’t all done against Masterson, but you get the point. Those teams ran out seven, five, and four lefties, respectively.

If you want to roster Masterson in shallower mixed leagues where he is still available, make sure you have a reserve roster so you can pick your spots. Any team trotting out four or more lefties should be avoided. On Wednesday, for instance, he crushed the Reds, who feature just two lefties. While both are prominent (Joey Votto and Jay Bruce), it is much easier for Masterson to traverse the lineup and work around them.

Get the Jump
VP favorite Felipe Paulino (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 7%, CBS 50%) is headed back from the disabled list soon (scheduled for Monday, June 25), so now is the time to jump back on board before he hits everyone’s radar a la Fister. Paulino was masterful in his seven starts before hitting the disabled list (or re-hitting since he started the season there) with a 1.67 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and 2.6 K/BB in 38 innings of work. He’s a perfect replacement for those of you who unfortunately just lost Brandon Beachy for the remainder of 2012.

Staying Put
Garrett Richards (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 15%, CBS 41%)
appeared two weeks ago as an AL VP and has been solid in his two starts since. Now Jerome Williams is headed to the disabled list, essentially giving his spot to the returning Jered Weaver and allowing Richards to stick around for now. Richards has had some issues with walks, allowing nine in his last two starts, but he is missing bats at a solid clip (7.3 K/9), so he gets a VP vote of confidence.

Arriving
As a 27-year old rookie, Michael Fiers (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 6%) feels like a journeyman minor leaguer finally getting his shot, but he was drafted into pro ball at age 24 (out of a place called Nova Southeastern University, alma mater of J.D. Martinez too), so it hasn’t really been an arduous journey to the bigs. Fiers has always been old for his level, but he has also excelled everywhere, posting a 4.0 K/BB or better at each stop before reaching Triple-A last year, where he still had a 3.1 K/BB in 65 innings. He was also 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, earning him a brief two-inning sip of coffee with the Brewers in September.

Fiers pitched pretty well in his second tour of Triple-A this year despite an elevated ERA (4.42) and got the call back to the majors at the end of May, where he has been sharp in four starts. Oddly his two worst outings have come against his easier opponents; both Pittsburgh and San Diego popped him for four runs, though he managed 14 of his 22 strikeouts against them in 11 innings. He sandwiched those outings with a pair of a seven-inning, one-run road outings in Chavez Ravine and Target Field. He isn’t walking anybody (1.4 BB/9), which is keying his success and resulting in a 5.5 K/BB in his 25 innings.

He is more of an NL-only option, but deeper mixed leaguers should also find a spot for him. Plus, we have two NL-only types this week, so slotting Fiers in the “Arriving” category was the way to squeeze both in.

NL-only VP
This would also qualify as a “Returning” option as Ross Detwiler (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN 7%, CBS 12%) made the VP list in my debut column here at BP. He was just placed back in the rotation for Chien-Ming Wang, a switch that never should have happened in the first place. He hasn’t made a start yet, so you can get the jump on him before he puts together a sharp outing and catches the eye of your leaguemates.

Depending on league size, you may have held onto him while he was in the pen and enjoyed his 13 innings of 1.35-ERA ball with 10 strikeouts and a vulture win, but most relievers who aren’t in line for saves end up on the waiver wire, so make sure you check to see if Detwiler is out there. Like Fiers, Detwiler has deep mixed league viability too.

AL-only VP
The Texas Rangers just keep producing talent, and while Justin Grimm (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 1%, CBS 10%) hasn’t drawn the headlines within their organization, he is yet another quality arm ready to contribute. With Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando both hitting the disabled list, Scott Feldman simply not being effective, and Roy Oswalt only able to fill one of the two spots that leaves open, Grimm got a spot start on June 16 and performed well enough to stick around in favor of Feldman.

After a breakout 2011 across Single- and High-A, Grimm got even better in Double-A this year, posting a 1.87 ERA and 1.03 WHIP across 77 innings before skipping Triple-A altogether en route to Arlington. The biggest difference in his 2012 performance is the huge cut in his walk rate from 3.1 BB/9 a year ago to just 1.6 this year, resulting in a 4.8 K/BB. He kept that going in his MLB debut, walking zero Astros in six innings of work.

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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