Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay Rays (11% Yahoo!, 6% ESPN, 44% CBS)
Niemann thrust himself onto the fantasy baseball map with an eight-inning masterpiece against the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. He allowed only two hits and two walks while striking out ten, continuing a trend of good pitching since joining the rotation on June 20. He has gone at least six innings and allowed one run or fewer in four of his five starts since with an ugly start against the lowly Houston Astros smudging his report card.
The ten-strikeout performance was certainly uncharacteristic of the right-hander and should not be expected going forward. He did show an ability to miss bats in his minor league career but has averaged only 6.5 per nine in his MLB career, spanning 433 innings to date. Still, he is slightly above average overall with enough strikeouts to make him useful in very deep mixed leagues. Be wary of his opponents, however, who will mostly come from the AL East (which houses three of the four top offenses in the AL).
Rubby De La Rosa, Los Angeles Dodgers (6% Yahoo!, 3% ESPN, 24% CBS)
De la Rosa has been quietly excellent since joining the Dodgers' starting rotation on June 7. He had severe control problems at first, walking 15 batters in his first 20 innings spanning four starts. In his four starts since, however, he has maintained his impressive strikeout rate while significantly cutting down on the free passes, issuing only seven in his last 25 innings. As he is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning, I think he provides enough value to be looked at in mixed leagues. He definitely becomes a mixed league option if his improved control turns out to be sustainable.
Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox (25% Yahoo!, 24% ESPN, 66% CBS)
It’s been a short stint for Buehrle in Value Picks. His ownership rates are just a bit too high for further consideration on the list. Since the start of May, Buehrle has a 2.62 ERA in over 89 innings of work, turning his season around quite nicely after a rough April. He’s likely available in most shallow mixed leagues, but he is not a good fit there. In AL-only and deep mixed, he is worth a grab if you can find him.
Carlos Villanueva, Toronto Blue Jays (15% Yahoo!, 4% ESPN, 30% CBS)
Villanueva was roughed up by the New York Yankees in his last outing, allowing five runs in six innings. Things will not be any easier for Villanueva in his next start as he is slated to face the Texas Rangers, who currently rank third in the American League in runs scored per game. Additionally, the Toronto right-hander does not have any special skills; he is average all the way around, judging by the factors most within a pitcher's control. His 4.22 SIERA tells a similar tale. The conservative play is to sit Villanueva for his upcoming start, but afterwards, he should be a decent enough play in deep mixed leagues.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics (5% Yahoo!, 3% ESPN, 24% CBS)
McCarthy failed to make it through the sixth inning in his most recent start against the Detroit Tigers, but he performed well anyway as he struck out four and walked only one. The right-hander has looked good after a six-week stint on the disabled list, and on the season, he has a 3.90 SIERA, which matches up almost exactly with his 3.84 ERA. He combines stellar control with just enough ability to miss bats, and that combination has made him one of the more surprising performers in the AL this year, a target for all mixed leagues.
Felipe Paulino, Kansas City Royals (2% Yahoo!, 0% ESPN, 7% CBS)
Paulino continued his run of good pitching, striking out eight Minnesota Twins in seven innings of work on Sunday. A three-run home run by Jim Thome made his final line look uglier than necessary, though, and owners of Paulino should only be encouraged by his most recent performance. His strikeout rate has been phenomenal, averaging nearly one per inning since joining the Royals in late May. I said it last week, but Paulino may be the hidden gem of the year in fantasy baseball considering the dearth of talent left in most leagues. His strikeout rate makes him a decent mixed league target.
Chris Capuano, New York Mets (16% Yahoo!, 9% ESPN, 43% CBS)
Capuano was not able to get through the eighth inning in his last start against the Florida Marlins, but for a pitcher whose career has been besieged by injuries, it’s probably best not to push him too far. This was the first time he had gone into the eighth this year—certainly a good sign.
Capuano, managing to stay healthy, has had a renaissance season, averaging 7.5 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings along with a 4.16 ERA and 3.87 SIERA. For players who missed out on solid pitching in the draft, Capuano has provided great value in most formats. He is certainly mixed-league worthy; as he continues to perform well, however, he will become harder and harder to find.
Chris Narveson, Milwaukee Brewers (13% Yahoo!, 7% ESPN, 35% CBS)
For case number 1,493,971 in the matter of "Wins Don't Matter", Narveson shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks through seven innings on Wednesday but did not earn a win. He struck out four, walked none, and allowed just four hits in what was a masterful performance and one indicative of the pitcher he could be… as opposed to the pitcher he has been: inconsistent with a smattering of excellence.
The lefty is comparable to Capuano, though his walk rate is higher at 3.4 per nine innings. Narveson has a 4.01 SIERA which, along with his above-average strikeout rate, points to a capable starter in mixed leagues. There have not been very many studies on pitcher volatility—though Bill Petti has been tackling the subject recently at Beyond the Box Score—but Narveson's career is the epitome of "volatile". His inconsistency may be a real trait as opposed to sheer randomness, so take heed if you go hunting for him in your league.
Doug Fister, Seattle Mariners (15% Yahoo!, 9% ESPN, 36% CBS)
Case number 1,493,972 in the matter of "Wins Don't Matter": Fister has not earned a victory since May 30. Over that period, he has posted a 3.12 ERA with a 2.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The impotent Mariner offense has been depressing Fister's value, unfortunately, which may explain the relatively low ownership rates. I continue to vouch for Fister and would be happy to graduate him from Value Picks, but it hasn’t happened yet. You have heard the axiom to never chase wins in fantasy baseball, but it seems as though you can avoid players who are significantly unlikely to earn them, as is the case with anyone pitching for the Mariners.
Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals (1% Yahoo!, 0% ESPN, 11% CBS)
Duffy made his Major League debut in mid-May. His trek through the American League for the first time has been quite bumpy, but he has shown marked improvement over his last six starts. Since June 14, he has posted a 3.89 ERA with a 3.1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just under 35 innings. In four of those six starts, he went at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs.
His numbers are a bit skewed, however, by a nine-strikeout performance against the St. Louis Cardinals; he did not make it through the fourth inning. Additionally, his recent competition has not been very tough, so he is not quite as good as he has looked recently. Still, he makes a good gamble for AL-only leaguers.
Juan Nicasio, Colorado Rockies (2% Yahoo!, 1% ESPN, 17% CBS)
I was never a strong believer in Nicasio, even as he twirled some gems (including seven shut-out innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in his big league debut). However, his July has been quite excellent, a disappointing start against the Atlanta Braves notwithstanding. The month started with eight shut-out innings against the Kansas City Royals, then the clunker against the Braves, followed by seven shut-out innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, and finally seven innings of one-run baseball against the Braves on Wednesday.
The right-hander has shown good control (2.2 BB/9), a slightly above-average ability to miss bats (8 percent swinging strikes), and a slightly above average ground ball rate (48 percent). The three combined are a good cocktail of abilities when pitching in Coors Field. Nicasio is worth looking at for some spot starts in NL-only leagues.