This week’s two-start slate features a pair of Pads, and fireballing Brewer, and a couple of NL Central maybes as we steamroll toward the Midsummer Classic. Just a note: Next week there’s no two-start starters due to the All Star break, so enjoy your break from me. Let’s get right to it:
Andrew Cashner (4.6 percent ESPN/10 percent Yahoo!) – @ARI (.318), v. CIN (.308)
Cashner is the hurler I’m the most excited about this week — hence the top billing — with my appetite perhaps sufficiently whet by his excellent performance in his first extended start. Against the Astros on June 28, Cashner induced 12 swinging strikes as he racked up nine whiffs in 6.1 innings pitched. Strikeouts have always come easy to the young righty, as he’s always brought the heat heat before but never like this season. This year, Cash’s average heater is 98.8 mph, and he’s well above his previous marks across the board with his secondary offerings. That’ll no doubt come down as he prepares to face lineups multiple times, but he will still settle comfortably above average in the velocity department. The walks are a continued reason for pause — in some ways he’s similar to former organizational mate Samardzija in this sense — and he’s only gone over 100 innings in two pro seasons, so he may wear down late in the season, but for now he’s a perfectly reasonable plug-and-play option, even though neither the Diamondbacks nor the Reds are all that salivating of a matchup (though the Redlegs are considerably worse against righties).
Marco Estrada (0.0 percent ESPN/1 percent Yahoo!) – v. MIA (.300), @HOU (.317)
It’s hard for me to get a good read on Estrada. For one, if he’s really this good, I struggle with why he’s only made 16 starts over 77 big league appearances. After all, he’s fanned exactly one batter per inning in his career (and 9.9 per 9 this year), with an awesome 3.1 K/BB, and certainly passable 1.27 WHIP over his career which has spanned 166 innings. My inclination is his struggle with the long ball (1.6 per 9) is what brings him down, but to me that wouldn’t be any more catastrophic than ground ball pitchers with bad defense. In short, I’m sort of surprised he hasn’t been made a full time starter by now by someone. But I digress, as he’s getting that chance now and gets a couple nice matchups, including one against a weak Marlins offense before facing a surprisingly average ‘Stros bunch. By most indications, the strikeouts are for real — even when he was bad he was still whiffing guys by the bunches — but I just can’t help but feel like something else is at play here. I’m sure a Brewers fan can fill me in. Nonetheless, this righty is available in virtually all ESPN leagues and just about all Yahoo leagues, so pick him up and slot him in!
And three more, briefly:
Clayton Richard (9.8 percent ESPN/15 percent Yahoo!) – @ARI (.344), v. CIN (.339)
I initially had Richard in with the other two top guys, but his matchups gave him a downgrade as DBacks and Reds both pummel port-siders. Richard has been a perfectly capable and durable pitcher this year — he leads the NL in starts and carries a 3.77 ERA — but nothing really jumps off the stat sheet. He’s very ordinary in the whiff department (5.4 per 9), WHIP (1.22), and he also leads the senior circuit in losses (8), obviously a testament to the offensive struggle taking place in San Diego. In short — save your jokes, please — Richard is a perfectly capable fill-in but I can’t really see any reason to roster him all season. In other words, he’d be the perfect Minnesota Twin.
Jeff Samardzija (27.3 percent ESPN/38 percent Yahoo!) – @ATL (.318), @NYM (.323)
The Shark ship is sinking fast (10.41 June ERA, .984 OPS allowed in that time frame), as he’s gone from pretty much 100 percent ownership down to otherwise-human levels. Chances are he’s wearing down, but the rates are still relatively nice — WHIP excluded — and there are tons of other fungible options that would be much worse. I’m not suggesting taking a chance on the former wideout, unless of course your other options are Freddy Garcia and Everett Teaford (other two-timers this week).
Jordan Lyles (0.2 percent ESPN/1 percent Yahoo!) – @PIT (.285), v. MIL (.318)
Lyles gets a bad, but perhaps improving Bucs offense before coming home to close out the first half against the Crew. The young righty hasn’t whiffed as many batters as I’d anticipated he would coming out of the minors, but I think he’s a good pickup for this week in extremely deep leagues, considering he’s virtually unowned.