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August 9, 2012

Value Picks

Starting Pitchers for 8/9/12

by Paul Sporer

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After last week’s look at a host of injured arms working their way back, today we jump back into the pool of healthy guys who are putting up useful numbers and could soon be doing so for your fantasy team. In fact, today’s pool is filled with guys we have already seen in VP, but they deserve another mention given their recent work.

Incumbents
Joe Blanton (Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 16%, CBS 62%)
is making his third appearance on VP; that strikeout-to-walk ratio just keeps me intrigued. I’ve stuck it out with him in one in NL-only league, and the dividends are finally headed my way. The trade to LA isn’t a massive benefit, but with home runs being his biggest issue, it certainly doesn’t hurt. His MLB-best K/BB ratio is powered by the NL’s best walk rate, but he has been a strikeout force since June, notching fewer than six just once in 11 outings, culminating in an 8.4 K/9 in 77 innings. The suppression of home runs will be the key to his success, but his WHIP and strikeout rate bring value even as he works on the ERA.

Did you laugh during last year’s spring training when the Yankees brought Bartolo Colon (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 18%, CBS51%) on board? I did. He was an injured pitcher who didn’t see the majors in 2010 and wasn’t particularly special in his four injury-riddled stints from 2006-2009. Whoops. He wore down a bit late in the season but still deserved a better fate with his ERA based on how he was pitching. I bought in this year when he went to Oakland; the skills he showed in 2011 combined with that ballpark were good enough for at least a carbon copy of 2011. The strikeout rate has come down significantly, but so has the walk rate, yielding the AL’s best K/BB rate as well as a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 139 innings. Durability down the stretch it the only real concern here.

Catch Erik Bedard (Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 11%, CBS46%) on the right night and you’ll think he is an upper-tier pitcher with a strong swing-and-miss arsenal led by a devastating curve, but catch him on an off night and you’ll wonder if he still has any Triple-A options. The perfect example of this would be his last two starts: eight earned runs in 4 1/3 on July 30 followed by seven shutout innings on August 6. The strikeouts have been there all year (8.5 K/9), but he will need to be “good Bedard” for the bulk of the remaining two months if he hopes to get his ERA (4.53), WHIP (1.40), and walk rate (3.8) to more respectable levels. Even with that eight-earned-run dud on his ledger, he still has a 3.60 ERA in his last four starts with 27 strikeouts in 25 innings. Even the eight walks (2.9 BB/9) during that stretch is an improvement. As with Colon, durability is a looming concern.

Chris Tillman (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN 11%, CBS 40%) debuted in VP right after his season debut during which he fanned seven in 8 1/3 shutout-ish innings (shutout-ish because he allowed two unearned runs) in Seattle. He returned to the majors after the All-Star break and was obliterated in Minnesota, allowing seven runs in two-thirds of an inning, but only one was earned, saving his ERA. He has been great in the four starts since, however, as he essentially fills in for the fallen Jason Hammel. Over that period, he has posted a 2.88 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 25 innings with a 6.1 K/9 and 2.8 K/BB. The pedigree and talent are there; are they finally manifesting in the majors?

NL-only VP
Jason Marquis (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%, CBS10%)
has reinvented himself in San Diego, and it hasn't just been Petco Park either. He is toting career-best strikeout and walk rates, though home run issues say he is probably still best utilized as a matchup play against light-hitting clubs or as a back of the rotation arm in NL-only leagues.

AL-only VP
Franklin Morales (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 6%, CBS 18%)
has returned to the rotation, hopefully for good this time. He has been excellent in that role this year with a 3.06 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, and 3.2 K/BB in 32 innings of work across six starts. Even with just 52 innings in all of 2011, sticking in the rotation the rest of the year shouldn’t leave him with too large of an inning count, though he is already 11 innings over last year’s total. The former blue-chip prospect that the Red Sox simply purchased from the Rockies has rediscovered the talent that earned him those early career accolades.

His 95 innings with the Sox over the last two years have been markedly better than anything he ever did in Colorado, which speaks highly of the coaching in Boston or poorly of their Colorado counterparts. It’s probably a mixture of both, but the latter gains steam as multiple Colorado castoffs continue to succeed. Regardless of where credit and blame belong, I just hope Bobby Valentine has the sense to let Morales toe the rubber every fifth day, especially if Aaron Cook is the alternative.

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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