As we pass the 75 percent mark of the 2012 season and approach the homestretch, the list of injured players only continues to grow. Finding suitable replacements at this point in the year can be difficult, so I thought I’d look today at six pitchers who may be better than their ERAs indicate. For fantasy teams in need, no stone should be left unturned. Whether you’re looking for permanent roster replacements or just spot-starters to pad your win and strikeout totals, these guys are all worth considering, especially when they have favorable match-ups. Keep in mind that these players are best used in deeper leagues—don’t pass up Anibal Sanchez for Justin Germano just because he’s on my list—but some may at least warrant consideration even in medium-depth mixed leagues.
Marco Estrada | Milwaukee Brewers
Estrada has one of the largest differentials between his surface stats and peripherals in all of baseball, and that’s going to correct itself going forward. He’s a fly-ball pitcher, but his strikeout rate remains excellent (8.7 K/9), and he’s made big strides with improving his control this season (1.9 BB/9). He has a good offense supporting him for wins, and at just 5 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, one could make a case that Estrada is most valuable unowned pitcher in fantasy baseball right now.
Alex Cobb | Tampa Bay Rays
I’ve discussed my love for Cobb before, and while he’s had some rough patches this year, his peripherals are very good and he’s been better lately (his Saturday start against the Angels notwithstanding), and he can still be quite valuable to you. Of course, he could be out of the rotation when Jeff Niemann (now rehabbing) returns, so his situation bears watching if you take the plunge on him.
Justin Germano | Chicago Cubs
Germano is more of a gamble than Estrada or Cobb, but in deeper leagues, sometimes a gamble is the best you can hope for. His being a Cub means you will want to look elsewhere if wins are your top priority, but Germano can be serviceable enough in the other categories. He has terrific control to help your WHIP and has enough stuff (despite an 87-mph fastball) to be average-ish with strikeouts.
Mark Rogers | Milwaukee Brewers
Like Germano, Rogers is a big risk, but in a different sense. Rogers has been absolutely phenomenal since joining the Brewers’ rotation, peripheral-wise (9.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), but those peripherals look incredibly out of place when you realize what he did at Triple-A before the call-up (7.0 K/9, 4.6 BB/9). It seems unlikely he’ll be able to keep up this kind of production, but he does have enough pedigree and stuff where it’s not completely implausible. In a deep league, it may well be wiser to ride Rogers out than to settle for someone boring (and potentially just as bad as an imploding Rogers would be) like Kyle Kendrick or Armando Galarraga.
Hisashi Iwakuma | Seattle Mariners
Iwakuma is in a similar boat to Germano in that he won’t have much offensive support and doesn’t have the strikeout upside of an Estrada or Rogers, but he does have a good home park, a quality defense behind him, and enough skills that you should take notice. He has an absolutely filthy splitter and an arsenal built for groundballs, with enough stuff to generate a league-average rate of strikeouts. Finding the zone is the primary concern. As a reliever this year, his BB/9 was 4.5; he’s managed to lower it since joining the rotation (3.2 BB/9), so if he can keep up that kind of pitching, he’ll be a valuable add.
Drew Pomeranz | Colorado Rockies
Pomeranz is a tentative addition to this list. Despite the return of Jhoulys Chacin, the Rockies have said they’ll continue to employ the four-man rotation that is the enemy of every fantasy player. Word is they may skip Pomeranz’s turn every other time through the order in order to limit his innings, which on the surface sounds like a value-destroyer, but here’s my theory: if Pomeranz isn’t pitching on short rest during his appearances, the team may allow him a longer leash than the 70-80 pitches that have been his custom of late. If he’s given a normal workload on a per-start basis, he could be in line for some wins if he can get past the fifth inning and has the Colorado offense supporting him. That would make him a perfect deep-league spot-start candidate. Watch his start on Friday against the Cubs to see how he’s used (or, heck, pick him up for the start; it is the Cubs, after all).