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Mound musings: Borderline pitchers

Mound musings: Borderline pitchers
At this point in the season, you should have a pretty good idea where your fantasy team stands.

In non-keeper leagues, it's time to assess your team's strengths and weaknesses and, if necessary, make trades and waiver pickups to improve your position. In keeper leagues, championships stand forever, so if you have a chance to win it, then focus on this year and worry about 2009 in 2009.

If your team is hopeless, it's time to take a page from the Billy Beane handbook and SELL, SELL, SELL. If you're like me in most of my leagues, you're scouring the waiver wire daily for those two-start starters and late-season pickups that can give your team a boost.

I'll list and analyze a few pitchers who are available in the 12-team Tout Wars Mixed League. My pitching is actually pretty solid, thanks to finds like John Danks and Matt Garza (wish I could say the same about my bats … thank you Ryan Garko, Alex Gordon and others). Thus, I probably won't be bidding on any of these pitchers, but when players like Tim Hudson (elbow) go down and others like Jered Weaver (knot in shoulder) look questionable, you should quickly evaluate possible replacements. Here are a few pitchers I'm watching in Tout (Francisco Liriano is already rostered):

American League

Vicente Padilla, Texas - At least you know Padilla will have run support. Beyond that, you'll have to deal with him allowing 15 runs in two starts, then blanking the Twins over seven the next time out (from your bench most likely). Padilla won't help if you're looking to make a move in ERA, WHIP or strikeouts, but for wins, take a flier and play the matchups.

Recommendation: spot in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.

Luke Hochevar, Kansas City - The bad: a 5.38 ERA, 60:42 K:BB and zero consistency. The good: he's a former No. 1 overall who is gaining valuable experience. Hochevar's strand rate is quite low at 64 percent, so it's certainly possible we'll see his ERA in the high fours by year's end, but until we see two or three quality starts in a row, his value is limited to keeper leagues only.

Recommendation: own in all keeper leagues, monitor in year-to-year formats.

Garrett Olson, Baltimore - Perhaps his impressive start Sunday against the Angels was the start of something, but only the woefulness of the Baltimore rotation as a whole has kept Olson starting this year. Olson doesn't have the stuff to be more than a No. 3 or 4, but he's been far worse than that this year. Unless we see a couple very good starts in a row, consider Olson's value limited to deeper keeper leagues.

Recommendation: own in deep keeper leagues, monitor in year-to-year formats.

Jarrod Washburn, Seattle - Washburn's value shoots up a bit if the trade to the Yankees goes through. Fortunately for the Mariners, Washburn has been on quite a roll heading into the trade deadline, posting a 2.44 ERA in his last nine starts, though he's still not striking out batters. Washburn hasn't been much of a fantasy option since leaving the Angels after the 2004 season, and with a career K/9 of 5.4, fantasy owners can't tolerate a mid-4.00 ERA and the lack of run support Seattle gives its starters.

Recommendation: start in AL-only leagues, spot in mixed leagues.

Jeremy Sowers, Cleveland - Sowers rated as one of baseball's better pitching prospects back in 2005, but a low strikeout rate has caught up to him at the upper levels. Even after an impressive eight innings against the Twins last time out, his ERA still stands at 5.09, and the K:BB is just as ugly at 34:23. Fortunately for Sowers, CC Sabathia is gone and Jeff Weaver doesn't appear to be an option, but regardless, he could soon be passed by another left-hander, prospect David Huff.

Recommendation: spot in AL-only leagues, monitor in deeper mixed leagues.

Kenny Rogers, Detroit - I thought Rogers was toast when he opened the year with a 7.66 ERA through five starts, but since then his ERA is a respectable 3.92. Of course the K:BB (50:49) remains poor, but you've never drafted Rogers for his strikeout ability. Rogers offers a handful of wins and won't kill your ERA, but he's of little fantasy use these days.

Recommendation: spot in AL-only leagues.

Zach Miner, Detroit - Back-to-back wins as a starter after spending all year in the bullpen should get Miner back on your radar. Miner now has a 1.72 ERA since an awful April, so combined with the Tigers' potent offense, he may have some value the rest of the way. Just consider, though, Miner has had zero success as a big league starter, and with a 29:28 K:BB this year, it's entirely possible he'll start getting exposed as the borderline pitcher he probably is.

Recommendation: start in AL-only leagues, monitor in deeper mixed leagues.

Clayton Richard, Chicago White Sox - An 82:20 minor league K:BB got Richard the call over Lance Broadway, but Richard's stay in Chicago is expected to be temporary with Jose Contreras (elbow) due back soon. A 9.35 ERA in two starts won't help his cause.

Recommendation: worth picking up only in the deepest of keeper leagues unless a rotation spot opens up unexpectedly.

Matt Ginter, Cleveland - Even with Fausto Carmona back, it appears Ginter will stick as the team's No. 5 starter. Ginter, though, is 30 with a 5.46 career ERA and had allowed more hits than innings pitched in Triple-A this year, so expecting him to maintain a 2.45 ERA much longer is futile. There may be some short-term value to be had, but I'd be nervous starting him against an offense with a pulse.

Recommendation: monitor in AL-only leagues.

Scott Richmond, Toronto - Most recently of the Independent Northern League, Richmond is getting a shot as the Jays' No. 5 starter. The 28 year-old doesn't look like much of a prospect, but after putting up a 4.92 ERA in Double-A this year, Richmond had a 2.53 ERA and 31:6 K:BB in 32 innings in Triple-A. Go figure. We have to think the Rays will present a whole new challenge for Richmond as he gets the nod on Wednesday, so avoid unless he surprises.

Recommendation: monitor in AL-only leagues.

Dennis Sarfate, Baltimore - OK, so he throws hard, but pardon my pessimism over a reliever with a 7.3 BB/9 being converted to a starting pitcher. At least he only has to make his starting debut in Yankee Stadium. This one could get 1-8-7-7-3-0-type ugly quickly.

Recommendation: monitor in AL-only leagues.

Paul Byrd, Cleveland - Byrd has won his last two starts, allowing just one run over 13 innings. I wouldn't rush to acquire him until after the trade deadline, as the rumors of a deal to the Rockies is troubling for his fantasy value.

Recommendation: spot in AL-only leagues, avoid if traded to Colorado.

Dallas Braden, Oakland - Braden, and not the more deserving Gio Gonzalez, replaced Rich Harden in the rotation and so far, reviews are mixed. He struck out seven last time out, but that was against a subpar offense in Kansas City. Before that he held the Rays to one run over five innings, but walked four. Being 24, left-handed and the owner of a 2.36 Triple-A ERA this year, Braden isn't without value, but temper your expectations.

Recommendation: spot in AL-only leagues, monitor in deeper mixed leagues.

National League

Chris Carpenter, St. Louis - I imagine there's going to be quite a bit of FAAB thrown Carpenter's way this week. The 2005 NL Cy Young winner makes his triumphant return to the Cardinals' rotation on Wednesday after missing the last 12 months after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Carpenter is returning on the low side of the normal 12-18 month rehab schedule, so expecting much more than a five-to-six innings pitcher with command issues seems unwise. Carpenter had just two rehab starts, but the Cardinals are trying to keep up with the big-ticket acquisitions of their NL Central competition, so let the dice roll.

Recommendation: start in all leagues.

Barry Zito, San Francisco - Just when Zito had begun resembling a major league pitcher (3.64 ERA in five starts), he lays another stinker Sunday against the Diamondbacks (five innings, six runs, six walks). If this piece had been written prior to Sunday, I might have recommended Zito to NL-only leaguers, but I can't ask you to take a flier on a pitcher who is 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA and 71:68 K:BB.

Recommendation: monitor in NL-only leagues.

Anibal Sanchez, Florida - After tossing a no-hitter the year before, Sanchez missed most of 2007 after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum. The success rate for pitchers returning from that surgery is spotty at best, so keep an eye on Sanchez's velocity early on. Sanchez will return Thursday after five rehab starts (2.89 ERA, 25:10 K:BB in 28 innings). For now, buy in NL-only leagues and all keeper formats, but 12-team mixed leaguers probably have better options for now.

Recommendation: monitor in NL-only leagues.

Chris Volstad, Florida - For a 21 year old with a 56:30 K:BB and 5.5 K/9, I wasn't overly optimistic on Volstad's prospects as a member of the Florida rotation. However, he's acquitted himself nicely, spinning three consecutive quality starts against the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs. Volstad isn't striking guys out at a rapid clip (6.0 K/9), but if he can keep his G/F anywhere near its current 2.67, he'll have some success.

Recommendation: start in NL-only leagues and spot in deeper mixed leagues.

Mike Hampton, Atlanta - No setbacks after his first start since 2005, but six runs over four innings isn't quite what the Braves were looking for. Since it had been so long between major league starts, we'll cut Hampton a little slack, but hold off on activating him until we see a good start or two.

Recommendation: monitor in NL-only leagues.

Yusmeiro Petit, Arizona - Micah Owings' struggles and Max Scherzer's balky shoulder have opened the door (at least a crack) for Petit, who allowed just two runs on five hits over 11 innings in two starts. For Triple-A Tucson, Petit had a 4.80 ERA in 11 starts, though focus instead on the sterling 67:8 K:BB. Petit was once a former top prospect in the Mets' organization, and he's still just 23, so there's some upside here. It appears Scherzer is running out of time to return as a starter this year, so Petit could get a long look.

Recommendation: start in all NL-only leagues, spot in deeper mixed leagues.

Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia - After going 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie last year, Kendrick was thought of by many as a solid No. 3 entering 2008. We knew better. Those numbers also came with a very low 3.6 K/9 and some luck on balls in play (.279). Not surprisingly, Kendrick has struggled this year with a 4.70 ERA, but the often-prolific Phillies' offense has his record at an acceptable 8-5. It's likely he'll continue his pattern of stringing together two or three solid outings and then allowing six or seven runs.

Recommendation: spot in NL-only leagues, monitor in deeper mixed leagues.

Colin Balester, Washington - Balester has the upside of a No. 3 starter, but at age 22, he's probably not quite ready, having finally notched his first quality start in five attempts on Tuesday. The Nationals are playing for the future, so Balester may get an extended look despite his struggles. Balester's Triple-A numbers were nothing special this year either (4.00 ERA, 7.3 K/9), so it may be a year or two before he blossoms.

Recommendation: spot in NL-only leagues, pick up in deeper keeper leagues.

Lightning round

Jason Marquis, Chicago Cubs - Great offense behind him, but I've been burned here too many times.
Brandon Backe, Houston - Don't go there.
Odalis Perez, Washington - Worst Opening Day starter in baseball history? He's right up there with Jose Lima of a few years ago.
Zach Duke, Pittsburgh - I still can't get his rookie year out of my head, but there's nothing this year to suggest he'll have value this or any other year.
Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado - He's due for a blow-up considering he's allowed just two runs in his last two starts.

Article first appeared 7/30/08

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: July 30, 2008

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