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To Add or Not to Add: AL Starting Pitchers

It’s hard to believe that there’s only about a week and a half left of the 2013 regular season. Many of you are likely scrambling for wins and strikeouts at the expense of potential destruction to your ratios. As usual, there are a whole bunch of new or returning starters in the American League that may be sitting in your free agent pool. The question becomes: do I pick up the pitcher or not?

James Paxton @ DET (Doug Fister), Thursday

My first analysis of Paxton was published a couple of weeks ago, two days before he made his Major League debut for the Mariners. Despite posting decent, albeit unspectacular, skills at Triple-A and an underwhelming 4.45 ERA, he has begun his MLB career in impressive fashion, allowing just 1 earned run over 12 innings in 2 starts. The strikeouts have been just mediocre, but his SwStk% is just above the league average and his average fastball velocity sits at 95.1 mph. That would rank third among all qualified starters and first among all southpaws. You simply don’t often see that type of velocity from a left-hander.

He has paired that velocity with a sky high 57% GB%. He wasn’t an extreme ground ball pitcher in the minors, so it’s probably just a small sample size issue. However, with any type of ground ball tilt to go along with that 95 mph fastball, he’s intriguing. Unfortunately, his matchup today is against the Tigers, so he does not make for a good add.

Pedro Hernandez @ OAK (Jarrod Parker), Saturday

Hernandez is just another product of the low strikeout assembly line of pitchers the Twins keep churning out. It wouldn’t be outrageous to consider him the worst pitcher in baseball. Besides the inability to miss bats, his control is below average and he doesn’t even generate a strong rate of ground balls. Nothing to see here, move along.

Erik Johnson @ DET (Anibal Sanchez), Sunday

In the pre-season, Marc Hulet ranked Johnson as the third best White Sox prospect; however, the team’s farm system was rather thin so that ranking certainly overrates his future potential. He’s coming off what can easily be considered the best start of his young career when he pitched six scoreless innings against the Twins, while striking out eight batters. Control was an issue for him in his first two starts, which is why his walk rate is still too high, but he hasn’t had that problem since Single-A. His entire skill set and pitch mix scream out “meh” to me, which spells matchup play in deeper leagues. Unfortunately, he’ll also be facing the Tigers in his next outing, so I would avoid him.

Alexi Ogando @ KC (James Shields), Sunday

After missing a couple of weeks with shoulder inflammation and then returning as a reliever, Ogando was slotted back into the rotation and made his first start on Tuesday. He averaged 94.4 mph with his fastball, which is a good sign. Ogando’s peripherals kinda stink so far this season, but you have to think most of that is health related. He’ll face the Royals next, a team I keep recommending streaming against and they keep destroying my recommendations. Opposing Shields will make a win more difficult, but at least the upside is there for a good start. He may have been forgotten in your league and makes for a reasonable add if desperate for wins and strikeouts.

Brandon Maurer @ LAA (C.J. Wilson), Sunday

He’s baaaack. Not that any of you were holding your breath for his return. After getting lit up in the rotation through May, the rookie was demoted to Triple-A where he struggled with his control and posted a 5.21 ERA. He returned at the end of July as a reliever and reentered the starting rotation last week, having made two starts so far. The funny thing is that he got whooped by the Astros, but then pitched a solid game against the Tigers. Baseball is a funny game.

It’s hard to shield your eyes from his gruesome 6.95 ERA, but he does own a much more respectable 4.23 SIERA. His 9.6% SwStk% suggests strikeout rate upside as well. He doesn’t exactly have the most favorable matchup, but again, if you’re desperate, I would strongly consider adding him, doing something fun during the day, and then returning home to see his final line. That way, his performance won’t ruin your entire day as it has the potential to do.