- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Eric Stults is a Useful Spot Start Option

He has thrown 69.2 innings over 10 starts and 15 appearances with a 2.45 ERA, pitches in one of the best pitchers parks in baseball, and yet is owned in just 8% of Yahoo! leagues. So what gives, why isn’t anyone owning Eric Stults?

I picked him up in my standard league where I desperately needed pitching after his start against the Cubs on August 6. Since then, Stults has a 2.03 ERA, despite striking out just 13 batters over 26 innings. He won’t strikeout many, but he also has not walked many, with just 16 walks in 62.1 innings as a starter. It is certainly possible that his luck will run out soon, and that his ERA will begin to match his peripherals such as his 4.78 SIERA or 4.54 xFIP, but grabbing Stults and using him as a spot starter down the stretch at home or against teams with lefty heavy lineups — he has a .350 OPS against vs. left-handed pitchers this year — seems like a quality strategy at the worst.

For instance, Stults has made two starts against the Braves this month, a predominantly left-handed lineup, and has thrown 13.2 innings with eight strikeouts, two walks, and one earned run allowed. Stults faces the Dodgers in Los Angeles this week, where he has posted an “okay” 4.09 ERA for his career in 15 appearances. Considering he had a 4.93 ERA for his career before this season, that number in L.A. looks solid, despite being a rather small sample.

With a more slider heavy approach this year, Stults has managed to avoid the homer ball well. Since he can command his off speed pitches well and continually throw them for strikes, he has avoided relying on his fastball as heavily as he has in the past which has assisted him, in combination with pitching in a pitcher friends ballpark, in avoiding the gopher ball. The Dodgers do not exactly have a lefty-heavy lineup, but two of their top hitters are left-handed. Adrian Gonzalez has a recorded a reverse-platoon split this year, but has been better against righties for his career and Andre Ethier has been atrocious against lefties for some time. This is just one example of a potential spot start for Stults, but owning him and using him sporadically seems like a better idea than running Ubaldo Jimenez out hoping for the best in the most important stretch of your fantasy season.

Stults will regress, but he can still be valuable and is available almost universally. He is far from a rotation saver, but he could be valuable down the stretch run if used appropriately, against teams with good left-handed hitters and in pitcher’s ballparks.