Dr. James Andrews has been busy this Spring, and the starting pitching corps have been noticeably thinned as we stagger towards opening day. Not only has there been a rash of ligaments exploding, we’re also hearing about a bad back from Clayton Kershaw, a stiff neck from Yu Darvish, balky groins for Francisco Liriano and Homer Bailey, a bum toe from Hyun-Jin Ryu, and a bad everything for Mat Latos . Zack Greinke‘s calf hurts. Matt Moore got hit in the face. Doug Fister strained his latissimus dorsi. Cole Hamels is thrilled to even be able to throw a baseball right now. And then there’s whatever is going on with Mike Minor.
I’ve been playing fantasy baseball since Bush Sr. was wagging his finger and babbling about a thousand points of light and honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen carnage like this before the regular season begins ever before. But maybe that’s just age affecting my noodle. Regardless, there’s a point to all this.
As you might guess, I have a few fantasy baseball teams. Not as many as Eno Sarris, but I also can’t talk as fast either. One league in particular is the Joe-average standard 12-team 5×5 rotisserie style situation. After the draft, I was perusing the waiver wire for any lovelies that somehow got ignored and I was taken by the quality of pitching untapped. Now, it’s not that I’d like to run a starting rotation from the waiver wire — but chances are you’ve got one or more of the rubber arms listed above and you could use some help out of the gate. Well, in my league, these guys are all owned below 40%, and they just might be able to stop the bleeding.
Nolasco barely makes the cut at 39%, but if you got the 2013 version of Nolasco, you would be wise to pick him up. Between the Fish and the Dodgers, Nolasco managed 13 wins, a 3.70 ERA (3.34 FIP) and a darn near 20% strikeout rate. The move to the American League could potentially hurt his strikeouts without passing through a pitcher once every few innings, but Nolasco is a guy who has built his foundation on throwing strikes, being pretty stingy on the long ball, all the while giving the finger to FIP, which seems to think he’s a perennial All-Star. The AL Central isn’t a cake walk anymore, but you could certainly use him in spot start situations when facing the White Sox (that was for you Cwik). Steamer isn’t particularly thrilled about his prospects in 2014, but the other projection systems think he’ll be some respectable version of his old self — and that’s a pretty useful starter who occasionally has stretches of being really great.
Okay, let’s just get the Twins hating out of the way. Nolasco teammate Hughes is owned in just 7% of Yahoo! leagues apparently. No doubt Hughes was all sorts of awful last season, but don’t discount his move from one of the happiest places on earth to hit home runs to one of the stingiest parks out there. For an extreme flyball pitcher with a career 10.2% HR/FB rate, that should pay immediate dividends. Whether he gets his ERA down into a respectable arena remains to be seen, but count me among the many that think this change of scenery is going to do him some good in the counting stats. Put him down for a 4-ish ERA, 1.30-ish WHIP, and maybe a 19-20% strikeout rate and Hughes could be an interesting contributor.
Owned in 20% of leagues is Arroyo who has been good to great in eight of his 10 major league seasons. He’s moving from a homer-friendly park to a homer-friendly park, so who cares. He’s been able to Frisbee-sling his crap up there to miss enough bats and issue so few free passes as to be relevant in almost any fantasy format and there’s not a lot to point to suggesting he can’t keep doing the same thing in Arizona. He’s won double digit games eight times, and most of the projection systems think he’ll do it again, all while pitching to about a 4.00 ERA and 1.25-ish WHIP with few strikeouts — which by the way would be his worst season in three years. There’s no reason to trot Arroyo out there every week, but he’s a lot more usable than most people recognize.
Owned in just 28% of leagues, Quintana pitched to a 3.51 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and a 20% strikeout rate over 200 innings in 2013. Raise your hand if your squad could use that. World beater, probably not, but even if Quintana regresses a little bit as many of the predictors foresee, he’s a lot like Nolasco and Hughes with a goodly dose of more upside.
Over 200 innings in 2013, Griffin managed a 3.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and nearly a 21% strikeout rate. FIP wasn’t particularly thrilled, suggesting his performance was closer to 4.55 than 3.83, but that’s wrapped up in his home run rate, which could conceivably come down to earth in 2014. Of the group, the projection systems like Griffin the most, and he’s owned in the same percentage of leagues as Nolasco at 39%. The worst projection for Griffin is ZiPS which says he’ll pitch to a 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, while striking out 157 over 183 innings pitched. In a 12 team league, that belongs on a roster. Note: Whoops on Griffin also griping about his elbow. Shut down for April at the least. I respectfully invoke takesy backsies.
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