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Cheap Starters: Options for Daily Leagues in Week 6

Dan Straily| Oakland Athletics | @ Seattle on Friday

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like Dan Straily has been around for awhile. In reality, he’s still very much a prospect. He made his tenth major league start yesterday and has just over 50 career big league innings. And he’s a good prospect. He displayed good strikeout and walks skills throughout the minors, especially in the upper minors. His BB% was under 8% in stops at A+, AA, and AAA, and his K% was above 30% in about 150 innings of work at AA and AAA.

As is to be expected, Straily’s numbers have been worse than they were in the upper minors but not disconcertingly so. Namely, his BB% is an average 8.3% in 56 innings, and his GB% is about 31% after it sat in the low-to-mid forties in the minors, which is a large reason his HR/9 is 2.31. A quick look at his numbers in three starts this season might make it look like the adjustment period is over, but it should be noted that his season numbers are being skewed by a great start against Houston early in the year.

But the numbers aren’t that far off the projection you could have had for him based on his minor league track record. If he sticks in the rotation, the adjustment period should start waning. He’s widely available (4.9% owned in ESPN), so it might not be a bad idea to grab him while you can. And the start against Seattle on Friday is certainly one you can use him in.

Nick Tepesch | Texas Rangers | @ the Cubs on Monday

I live in Dallas. I go to 15 or so Ranger games a year. I had never heard of Nick Tepesch until the last few weeks of Spring Training. This is probably because Tepesch only made it to AA in mid-2012, and while not overly top heavy, the Rangers had enough pitching depth that Nick Tepesch didn’t make it into a lot of depth chart talk until Martin Perez got injured. But it’s also because Tepesch wasn’t setting the world on fire in the minors. He had a 4.28 ERA (4.10) FIP and a K%-BB% of 11 in 90 innings at AA.

But Tepesch displayed two skills in the minors that have carried over to the majors so far. He walked fewer than 7% of the batters he faced at the three stops he made in the minors, and his ground ball rate was around 55% in 162 innings between A+ and AA. In 28 innings over five starts so far this season, he has walked just 4.4% of the batters he has faced and has a 56.2% GB%, which is the seventh highest rate among starters with 20 or more innings. The strikeouts and ability to miss bats are below average, but with a 15.8% K%, Tepesch won’t kill you in the strikeout category.

Some of his success is a result of fortune. His 81% strand rate will likely regress. But he’s displayed two definite skills, which is more than you can say for almost all pitchers available in as many leagues as Tepesch is (2.7% owned). Wrigley Field isn’t the greatest place to pitch, but the Cubs aren’t the worst team to pitch against either. The Cubs are currently 21st in wRC+ against righties, so Tepesch has a nice matchup tonight in Chicago.

Francisco Liriano | Pittsburgh Pirates | @ the Mets on Saturday

We’ve all been down this road before, but it may be worth taking the road frequently traveled once again, especially if you’re looking for a bargain in a daily league or anyone with a modicum of skill in a deep mixed or NL-only league.

Liriano’s rehab stint has me intrigued yet again. He walked just three batters in 16.2 innings and struck out 17 in 11 innings over two starts at AAA. He’ll strike guys out in the majors whether his ERA is below 4.00 or above 5.00. It will be the walks that determine where in that range he falls.

In his six seasons in which he threw 75+ major league innings, Liriano’s BB% was in the single digits for half of them. Those three seasons were also the only three in which his ERA was below 4.00. It’s by far the most important thing to watch if you take a flier on Liriano. If he sucks and walks a lot of people, cut him quickly. If he sucks, walks a lot of people, and gets some luck, trade him if possible. And if he keeps the walks at a reasonable level, hold on to him.