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Hughes, Niemann & Worley: Waiver Wire

Welcome back from the weekend. Here’s three young-ish starting pitchers that could help your team in the short-term…

Phil Hughes | SP | Yankees | Ownership: 44% Yahoo!, 36.3% ESPN

I was kinda shocked to Hughes’ ownership rates so high after his April disaster and subsequent DL stint, but I guess there are a lot of Yankees’ fans out there. Hughes had his best outing of the season (and second back from the DL) yesterday, holding the Blue Jays to two runs and four hits in six innings. He struck out five and got eight swings and misses out of 80 pitches, six on his fastball. Talk about a new curveball grip proved to something other than the typical new grip nonsense; his yakker had decidedly more yak and kept hitters off balance. There’s a ton of risk here, no doubt about it, but the Yankees will score a ton of runs for Hughes and their bullpen is strong enough to make his leads stand up. Best of all, his next two starts will be at home against the punchless Athletics and Mariners. Matchups don’t get much better.

Jeff Niemann | SP | Rays | Ownership: 5% Yahoo!, 1.4% ESPN

Last night’s brilliant performance certainly gave fantasy owners something to think about, but the reality is that Niemann has been pitching that well since coming off the disabled list in mid-June. Aside from a 3 IP, 5 R stinker against the Astros of all teams, he’s allowed no more than one run and completed no fewer than six innings in his four other starts back. We’re not talking about bad teams, either. Those four starts came against the Brewers, Cardinals, Yankees, and Red Sox. That’s four of the seven best offenses in baseball in terms of wOBA.

Niemann has changed his approach somewhat, throwing 42.4% two-seamers and 29.5% curveballs since coming off the DL, filling in the gaps with his four-seamer, changeup, and slider. From the start of the 2009 season to the start of this year’s DL stint, he was throwing just 15.9% two-seamers and 15.2% curveballs, instead relying on his four-seamer and slider. As a result, he’s getting some more groundballs and keeping the ball in the park. The upcoming schedule works in his favor; following this four game series against the Yankees (in which Niemann won’t pitch), 17 of Tampa’s next 20 games are against the Royals, Athletics, and Mariners.

Vance Worley | SP | Phillies | Ownership: 27% Yahoo!, 39.7% ESPN

The “Fat Joe and the Terror Squad” rotation hasn’t gone 100% according to plan this year. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels are aces of the first order, but Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton have been battling injuries and are currently on the sidelines. Those injuries have opened up a spot for Worley, who’s got a shiny 2.15 ERA on the season despite unspectacular peripherals: 6.79 K/9 and 3.81 uIBB/9. His 0.33 HR/9 and 3.32 FIP won’t look all that great once his 3.4% HR/FB corrects, which it will in his home ballpark.

Worley’s recent minor league track record hints at more strikeout-ability (8.9 K/9 in Triple-A this year), and like the other guys in this post, he’s got a favorable schedule ahead of him. Following Wednesday’s start at Wrigley Field, he’s start at home against the Giants and Pirates before going out west to visit the Giants and Dodgers. The impending homerun correction is scary, but Worley is a decent gamble this late in the year, when the waiver wire is close to dried up.