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Buy and Sell: Starting Pitchers for Week 12

Are you still looking to make a trade for that missing piece of your fantasy baseball starting pitching lineup? Or maybe you’re flush with starting pitching, and are hoping to get real value for the pitcher on your roster who is obviously performing way over his head and due for a slump. Have no fear, because I’ve found another four starting pitcher sleepers that you should be able to trade for without having to sacrifice too much. I’ve also identified another two pitchers who are due for a bit of a downturn and should be traded while their value still remains high. Check out my latest picks for starting pitching sleepers who can be bought low and sold high.


Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers To Buy 

Yordano Ventura, (Kansas City Royals)

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals

As a Yordano Ventura fantasy baseball owner, when I heard that he left a game due to elbow discomfort, visions of ulnar collateral ligament damage and Tommy John surgery quickly danced in my head. I and all other Ventura owners breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was revealed that he was only going to miss one start.

I didn’t truly believe the good news until I read the box score of Ventura’s comeback start and saw that he had given up just one run in seven innings. I’ll bet there are still some anxious Ventura owners who are waiting for the other shoe to drop and are expecting that Ventura will soon land on the DL. Swoop in and take advantage of that fearful co-owner who had to sit Ventura for over a week, and negotiate a good deal for yourself.

Trade for him now and you just may buy yourself a bargain. What you’d be getting is a 23 year old right hander who has a fastball that regularly reaches the mid 90s and can still top out at over 100 MPH. You’d be trading for a pitcher who has a changeup that is keeping hitters off balance to the tune of a measly .177 batting average. Ventura has also recorded an exceptional 11% swinging strike rate, much better than the 8.5% expected from the average starting pitcher. In addition he has compiled an outstanding 3.44 SIERA, an ERA stand-in designed to measure how well a pitcher actually performs. Take advantage of the short window of opportunity you may still have, where you might find a fantasy baseball owner willing to trade you Ventura at a discount. It won’t last.


Henderson Alvarez, (Miami Marlins)

The Miami Marlins have raised some eyebrows as they have come out of nowhere to battle for the top spot in the NL East. With young superstar Jose Fernandez’s season cut short with the need for Tommy John surgery, the Marlins have had to rely on a crop of young talented pitchers to help keep them in the hunt.

One of those young pitchers, Henderson Alvarez, has caught my attention as a pitcher to buy. I am sure there are some baseball fans who still don't know who Alvarez is, but with five consecutive starts in which he has given up two or fewer runs (notching a 0.81 ERA during that span) and an overall 2.55 ERA, fantasy baseball managers need to familiarize themselves with him rather quickly if they haven't yet. Earlier in his career Alvarez had trouble keeping the ball in the park, but he has since lowered his career high HR/FB rate from an awful 18.1% to an outstanding 6.3% rate. Alvarez has also displayed much better control this season dropping his BB/9 rate from 2.37 last season to 1.84 this season.

Although he’s got great velocity that includes a fastball regularly clocked in the mid to upper 90s, he doesn’t have the type of strikeout rate that you would expect. Even his change, which he throws just about 23% of the time this season compared to 12.3% last season, has been clocked at 90 MPH. Alvarez gave his fantasy baseball owners a scare when he was taken out of a recent game with a hip strain, but came roaring right back in his next start with a seven inning effort in which he gave up just two runs. With three complete game shutouts to his credit so far this season, and a name that some people don’t recognize, Henderson Alvarez is an effective young pitcher you should consider dealing for. Lucky for you, he can probably still be bought low.


Jon Niese, (New York Mets)

By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsJon Niese represents the classic case of a very good pitcher who is neglected by fantasy baseball owners because he plays for a non-competitive team. His won loss record of 3-3 is not impressive, but his 2.54 ERA and 1.13 WHIP definitely are. What helps make Niese so effective is the fact that he is giving up fewer walks. He’s lowered his BB% from 11.6% in his major league debut season to its current rate of 6.4% this year. In that debut season, his batting average against was .328. And this season opposing batters have just a .232 batting average against him.

If you’re looking for consistency, Niese is your man since he hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his 13 starts this season. That’s a feat that not even Adam Wainwright or Clayton Kershaw can lay claim to.

Admittedly pitching for the New York Mets makes it difficult for any pitcher to accumulate many wins, and Niese won’t have many games in which he records double digit strikeouts. He will however provide you with a dependable starter, and should be considered a valuable bargain in any league format.


Doug Fister, (Washington Nationals)

Over the course of his career Doug Fister has slowly and surely developed into a solid pitcher, and his recent success after his move to the NL should make him even more of a long term buy option. Slowed by injuries this season, Fister didn’t make his first start until May 9th . Since then he has given up two or fewer runs in six of his eight starts. He missed more than a month of the season and has still managed to accumulate five wins to go along with his 3.08 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

With a 63.1 first pitch strike percentage, Fister has done a good job of getting ahead of batters. He’s got a sparkling 16.6% line drive rate (the league average is 20% and fewer line drives mean fewer hits given up), and he has compiled an excellent SIERA of 3.69. Fister has continued to fool opposing hitters. He has compiled an above average 33.8 O-Swing%, which is a stat that represents the percentage of his pitches that opposing batters are swinging at that are outside of the strike zone. If you are in the market for a starting pitcher, it would be in your interest to seek out a deal for Doug Fister. He will help you in the wins, ERA and WHIP categories, and he may be able to be bought relatively cheaply still.


Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers To Sell

Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics

By Terry Dobbins from Rockville, USA (Sonny Gray) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

With a 6-3 won/loss record, 2.93 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, Sonny Gray has been a major contributor to the overall success of the first place Oakland Athletics. So why is he on my list of pitchers who should be sold?

As recent as May 22, Gray’s ERA stood at a remarkable 1.99. Since then it has risen almost a full run. In his last five starts, Gray has pitched to the tune of a 4.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. Make no mistake about it - Gray makes his living pitching half of his games in a very pitcher friendly ballpark and his supporting cast is top notch. I am not predicting that his season will fall apart.

Gray is a heck of a talented pitcher, but I do believe that his season’s numbers will level off a bit - and when that happens it will hurt your team’s bottom line. If you need to trade a pitcher like Gray, trading him while his ERA is under three makes him a lot more valuable than offering him up once his ERA moves a little higher.


James Shields, Kansas City Royals

When you look at James Shields’ overall season numbers, there is no denying that he is in the middle of another good season. With an 8-3 won/loss record, 3.50 ERA and 81 strikeouts in just under 98 innings, Shields is one of the top pitchers in the AL. With that kind of a reputation, it may be a good idea to put him on the trading block as soon as possible.

Why? Well for starters, since May 2, James Shields has had four starts in which he has given up four or more runs. If you are looking for a smaller sample size, in his last five starts Shields’ ERA is a horrific 5.34 and his WHIP is a simply unacceptable 1.68. Shields is obviously still a fine pitcher but he is obviously going through a rough patch. His owners just hope it’s a rough patch, and not the start of something more serious.

But some of Shields’ stats demonstrate some troubling trends. For instance, Shields’ HR/FB rate has ballooned to 12% this season as compared to last year’s rate of 8.6%. His swinging strike rate has gone down in each of the last three years. In 2012 it was 10.9%, and it currently sits at a more pedestrian rate of 8.8%. I don’t want to read too much into these trends, but if you own James Shields, are sitting on an abundance of starting pitching, and need a hitter or a reliever - Shields is someone who I would offer as trade bait. He still commands respect in the open market, which would allow you to still get good value for him.


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