Who Is Popping Out Of Your Fantasy Cake?
With baseball's looming trade deadline this close, by the time you read this starting pitchers like Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Ian Kennedy might be hopping a flight to join their new teams as general managers hope to put the final touch on their rosters in order to make a final push for the playoffs. Kind of gets you in the mood to start wheeling and dealing in your owning respective fantasy league, doesn’t it?
If you’re looking to make a move and trade for that starting pitcher who can be the icing on your fantasy cake (my fantasy cake actually has a voluptuous brunette jumping out of it, but I digress), or unload that pitcher who still has name recognition and can be traded for a bat or a closer that can help solidify your team, I'm here to help. I’ve identified another four starting pitcher sleepers this week, or buy low candidates. In addition, as I usually do, I’ve also identified another two starting pitchers who still have some value but should be on the trading block before that value decreases too far.
Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers To Buy
Jacob deGrom is another “star in the making” type of young pitcher developed through the New York Mets minor league system and he seems to get better with every start.
With an 8.59 K/9 rate, 2.79 ERA and 11.4% swinging strike rate, deGrom and his mid 90s fastball can help your fantasy team now. He has had seven consecutive starts in which he has given up three or fewer runs and has notched seven or more strikeouts in five of those outings.
The Mets are expected to shut him down once he reaches 185 innings pitched, but since he has only pitched 87 innings thus you should be able to squeeze out enough starts from him to get you through the playoffs in your fantasy league. If you are in a keeper league, deGrom is definitely someone to focus on. He appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Matt Garza will never be more than a mid-to-late round draft pick in your fantasy league, but at this time of year when pitching prospects are low and you need a starting pitcher on your staff who can put together a quality start you need to take a look at Matt Garza. Although his numbers aren’t phenomenal - 7-7 won/loss record, 3.73 ERA to go along with a very good a 1.17 WHIP - he is precisely the kind of buy low type of pitcher that can help your team down the stretch.
After a rough start Garza has quietly put together a nice season. He has given up more than three runs in just three of his last 16 starts. He’s lowered his LD% to 18.6%, and on average 70% of line drives tend to fall in for hits. He also boasts an above average first strike percentage of 64.2%. His 6.0% HR/FB rate is the lowest of his career, a difficult feat considering he makes half of his starts within the hitter friendly Miller Park. Garza may still throw a clunker or two, like his 5 runs over .1 inning start against the Nationals on 7/19, but overall he is a veteran pitcher who should provide you with several quality starts as the season winds down. And what fantasy baseball owner doesn’t need that?
After a very slow start the Tampa Bay Rays are hot and making a serious run at a division title in the weak AL East. If they do finish in first it will be on the strength of their starting pitching. Fantasy baseball owners need to buy some Tampa Bay starters asap. David Price may be too expensive at this point, but a guy like Alex Cobb is someone that you should definitely consider. With six straight quality starts, in which he has won five games, Cobb can fit in as the final piece of the puzzle to your starting pitching fantasy roster.
His saber stats reflect a pitcher that is poised to finish the season strong. He’s got a great LD% of 14.8%, while the MLB average for starting pitchers is 20%. His swinging strike rate stands at a very impressive 11.3%. Anything over 8.5% is very good for a starter. He also has an excellent 58% ground ball rate which means he’ll keep the ball in the park. If your starting pitching needs a boost go with the hot hand being played in Tampa, go and get Cobb. That also leads me to my last pick for a pitcher that you should be buying.
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays
Yes you guessed it, we’re going to stay in Tampa and talk about young Jake Odorizzi. On 6/5 Odorizzi’s ERA stood at a lofty 5.31. It currently stands at a very respectable 3.80. Odorizzi will help you roto-leaguers in the strikeout category with his 129 Ks in 113.7 innings pitched. He’s been able to keep hitters at bay by juxtaposing his 90 plus MPH fastball against the movement from his splitter and slider.
His swinging strike rate, which has never been above 6.9% in his professional career, is at 10.1% this season. His SIERA, an ERA stand-in designed to measure how well a pitcher actually performs, is at 3.38, which is considered well above average for a pitcher. Odorizzi is another young pitcher who seems to be hitting his stride as the season progresses and could be a good addition to your roster for the rest of this season. Again, if you play in a keeper league, he could help you for years to come!
Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers To Sell
One of my fellow fantasy baseball owners recently posed the following question in the league group chat in regards to R. A. Dickey: “Is this clown officially a one year wonder yet?” Someone in our league shot back using his best Joe Pesce imitation “what do you mean is he a clown, what do you think he’s here to amuse you?”
We all enjoyed a few laughs, but the truth of the matter is that if you drafted Dickey this season you have not been amused. He is nowhere near the pitcher who was 20-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 2012. It’s getting late in the season, and it’s crunch time. Dickey, like most knuckleballers, is just too unpredictable to keep on your fantasy roster if you want to try to make a real run at a playoff spot in your league.
When a knuckleballer is on and has his “A” stuff, he is nearly unhittable. But Dickey has had too many starts this season, and last season for that matter, where he hasn’t had his best stuff. If you compare Dickey’s stats from this season to his career 2012 year you’ll find that his swinging strike rate and K% are down, his BB% is up and he is yielding fewer ground balls. Those are all bad signs for any pitcher, but especially for a knuckleballer like Dickey. Do yourself a favor, use his last brilliant one run seven inning performance against the Red Sox, and call the local circus and trade this clo... uh I mean pitcher as fast as you can! Trade him on the heels of a great start, because you know another clunker is probably right around the corner.
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
As one of the best pitchers in the game since his 2008 breakout season, it appears that injuries have finally caught up to Cliff Lee. Lee’s velocity has steadily declined since 2012 when his fastball was clocked at an average of 91.7 MPH. This season, Lee’s average velocity on his fastball has fallen to 89.3 MPH. His lower velocity levels have forced him to have to practically abandon the use of his cutter, which has been his out pitch, and rely more often on his change-up. It’s just not cutting it.
He has spent a bunch of time on the DL this season nursing an elbow injury, and he hasn’t been effective since his return to the Phillies starting rotation on 7/21. Batters have been feasting on his pitching this season to the tune of a .300 BAA, and he has given up a robust 99 hits in just over 78 innings pitched. As this is being written, he is pitching for a bad Phillies team, and his skills have obviously deteriorated. It would make sense to put Cliff Lee on your own trading block and see what you can get back.