As I promised the other day In my 5th and final segment on Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2014, I want to list some pitchers to keep an eye on this Spring and Summer. Unless you are in a very deep league, these may not be players you would target in your draft, and if not they should not clutter up your draft day cheat sheets. However, you may want to keep an eye on these guys in the early going for a number of reasons.
1. Players coming back from major injuries or seasons lost to surgeries, suspensions and demotions may reclaim their starting rotation spots, if not when breaking camp, then during the season. They could range anywhere from terrible, to spot start worthy, to rosterable, to comeback player of the year candidates.
2. When you get past the top 100 SP in Baseball, remember that there are at least fifty more starting pitchers holding down a rotation spot and taking the mound every 5th day, and probably another 50 to 100 who have MLB experience or who, as prospects, are heading toward that level.
At any given time during the season, many of these pitchers will be called upon to fill in at the Big League Level, or will finish their rehab and prepare to claim their old spot on the hill. If possible, try to keep an eye on some of these pitchers both to see how they are progressing and when they will get the call to rejoin the rotation. If you know more than the rest of the league about some of these guys and also know when they possibly might start again, you have a much better chance of either getting that player before that start to roster him, or keeping tabs on that start or starts so that you can pounce when you want to. If you wait until Roto World, ESPN or your local stations and papers report a good start from one of these guys, chances are someone already beat you to it. As for the more experienced potential spot starters, keep an eye on both their progress, rotation spots and their prior pitching splits. Again, those are probably not pitchers you want to roster, but if you know when to use them and time them right, you will certainly have a leg up on the rest of the league. (I will use the term “Spot Starting”, which is spotting perhaps a start or two a week to augment your stats and reach the league’s start limit, as opposed to “Streaming”, which is a continual churning of your pitching staff as a strategy instead of rostering more than a SP or two. While I don’t play in “streamer” leagues, I realize plenty of owners love them, and these same pitchers we are discussing may even hold more importance to those owners.)
At the very least, if you pick up one of these forgotten hurlers for a spot start after doing all your scheduling and opponent homework, and the player pitches a gem, well then your league-mates will think you are some kind of GUru Spot Starting Savant (GUSSS). It is beyond the scope of this brief article to discuss how to stream or spot start starting pitchers in fantasy successfully. That is a skill learned mostly through experience as opposed to reading a “How To” article, although the more you read the more strategies you will learn. Besides, who is to say I am good at it anyway? Making your league mates THINK you are a GUSSS may be just enough to cause them to alter their own strategies.
The 2014 ALL-REHAB Team: These guys have had prior success at the MLB level, but many of your league-mates may have forgotten about them. Also, your league-mates will surely not have heard any of the various acronyms I will teach you in this article, all of which are nonsense. But they won’t know that when you start dropping them in league strategy or smack talk sessions, “Listen GUSSS, starting that LEPMU might make you look like a real A.R.S.S.” When he goes to Google what you said, he’ll still be clueless, well, unless his search lands him here.
1. Johan Santana – Last season he had his 2nd shoulder capsule surgery. After the first one he threw a no-hitter. The Yankees have kicked the tires.
2. Josh Beckett – He looked terrible in his return from injury last season as velocity issues the last two seasons led to too many long balls and too many fantasy headaches. But, he is only 33.
3. Jaime Garcia – Ooooops – He just got shut down again. Shoulder MRI – “Nevermind.”
One of these next guys could be the next Lirianoesque Epic Proportioned Mythical Unicorn. (LEPMU) C’mon, you know exactly what i mean, they tease us with that first spurt of brilliance, get hurt, and then like (insert name of any vice of abuse here) we keep trying to find that magic again. 4. Corey Luebke – His first 25 MLB starts were fairly amazing, but now he is 29 and coming off of TJ surgery, as is 5. Brandon Beachy, who is at that magical age of 27, and 6. Michael Pineda (shoulder) only 25, who was in my last SP article at #94. All of them are supposedly ready to go and could be able to pick up the magic where they left off. Some people do believe in LEPMU’s, however, so don’t be surprised if all three are rostered by the end of the draft.
7. Josh Johnson – He’s still pretty young (30) and brings his reduced velocity back the NL Padres. Just don’t draft him as a 200k pitcher unless you believe in LEPMU’s. Not nearly as young is 8. Chris Young who says he’s ready to go, again. Like Aaron Harang, Chris Young is one of my long time LEPMU’s., and this is probably the only 2014 article you’ll find that discusses him. But, whenever he makes his 2014 debut I will be banking on him to make me look like a GUSSS, though he could easily make me look like an A.R.S.S. (Awfully Risky Spot Starter).
9. Brandon Morrow – He could’ve been the best of the bunch. And he still could. Do you feel lucky? This guy has been one of the most maddening pitchers to own in recent years, but the allure of seeing him post K rates like Max Scherzer keeps me chasing him. If you ever see me come in last in a league, you can bet Morrow, Harang, Chris Young and BJ Upton are on that team.
10. Edinson Volquez, He’ll be another K machine if he can finally learn to get it over the plate. I blame his parents. They made him a fairly messed up Dude in the head by throwing an N in his first name where it just does not belong.
11. Whatever happened to Tommy Hanson, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Alexi Ogando, Chad Billingsley, Trevor Cahill, and Scott Baker? All of them are under 30 years old and were once top prospects with loads of upside. If McCarthy ever makes it he could challenge Hamels for that top spot among pitchers with the hottest wives. She would certainly get my vote. Anyway, read up on these guys to see where their rehabs are at before draft day.
12. Will we ever see Ryan Dempster again? Do we care?? Only because of the K’s. Could be a fond farewell to Barry Zito as well. Raise your hand if you’ve chuckled every time someone actually drafts him hoping for a return to his 23 Win season. Zito is a perfect example of what is wrong with baseball. If you are 24 and have one great season, some team will give you a 10 year, 9 figure contract before even seeing if that great season is remotely repeatable. But, that is a story for another day.
13. Lucky 13 goes to Matt Harrison. I say lucky because that is what I think of his 18 2012 wins. It will get him drafted though, and like me you want to be the guy who picks next as your queue won’t beep. At this time we are not sure when he will pitch again.
The rest of this little exercise will be a list of some pitchers that I’m going to keep an eye on in 2014. It could be that they are at that magical age 27, or in a new ballpark, or just a pitcher who might make you look like a GUSSS any given week. But, beware. Trying to be a GUSSS without doing your homework will make you an A.R.S.S. more often than not. Are you keeping notes on these acronyms?
Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey – Ya, a couple of ex NY’ers who may like the cold upper Midwest, eh. Also keep an eye on Kyle Gibson & Alex Meyer also of MN eh. They are not stud rookies in the TaiJuan class, ya, but could be good spotters. Willy Peralta could be a good sleeper pick out of Mil. The Cubs may have Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva and maybe even Tom Gorzellany, for those who like multi-position eligibility in pitchers, available for quality spotting, and Jake Odorizzi may blossom in Toronto & Carlos Carrasco in Cle.
The lower Midwest has some interesting youngsters for spotting like Joe Kelly, Wade Davis, Yordano Ventura and Bruce Chen of KC. (Don’t laugh about Davis. He’s a perfect spotter if you know when) and Colby Lewis of Tex, remember him? He is trying to come back from wherever the heck he was.
The entire SP staff of the other Texas Team could be prime spotters in the right situations: Feldman, Lyles, Oberholzer, Cozart, Peacock, Appel, and Keuchel. I realize that is 7, but who knows which 5 will head North……er East. Watch for Peacock in the strikeout category. Colorado has some decent road only spotters in Gustavo Chacin, Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio. (Note: Chacin was just shut down for an MRI, and he is their defacto ace.)
Heading farther West, watch for James Paxton and Erasmo Ramirez of Sea, and Yusmero Petit of SF as SF may need extra help with Hudson, Vogelsong and Timmy not likely to make 32 starts each. Oakland seems to crank out those low-budget money ballers, some of whom I’ve already covered, but don’t forget Dan Straily or Tommy Millone, especially at home. SD is a good pitchers park as well, so be sure to spot Eric Stultz at least when he is home.
Let’s go back East now to wrap up this geography lesson. (And you thought we were talking spot starting). The Mets Jenri Mejia has been teasing us for a few years now. 2014 should be his chance, finally, unless Dice K just won’t go away. Dice K should probably be in the paragraph above with Zito and Dempster. Felix Doubront may not help your ratios, but if he is in Boston’s rotation he can help in K’s and W’s. If David Phelps is in the Yanks rotation, something went wrong, but that doesn’t mean he would not be a good spotter. The O’s rotation is in flux, but some interesting SP may be Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, Jason Hammel & Wei Yin Chen, and down the road a bit, Tanner Roarke in Wash. And don’t laugh, Freddie Garcia could be in the Braves rotation out of Spring Training. As long as they keep tossing him the ball and some cash, he’ll keep showing up on a mound near you.
Speaking of Freddie Garcia, we’ll finish up with a quick list of starting pitchers who could help you if carefully spotting them in deeper leagues. These are veteran 4th and 5th starter journeymen who can help when used correctly. I won’t list their teams, because, to be honest, I’m not even sure where most of them ended up. Seriously. Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Joe Saunders, Joe Blanton, Wilson Alvarez, Kyle Kendrick, Zack McAllister, Jeff Locke, Chris Capuano, Jerome Williams, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, JA Happ and Garrett Richards. There are more, but if you are as bored reading this by now as I am typing it then I think we are all set. (Note: Gavin Floyd is also recovering from TJ surgery in the Atlanta Braves organization. I didn’t list him with the other re-habbers because, well, he was never really all that fantasy relevant in the first place.)
My goal with this little piece was to accomplish three things. 1. To talk about some of the pitchers who I could not fit in my top 100, but who have helped me in the past when I used them correctly. 2. To just remind some of you guys that you can go beyond the top 100 SP no matter what size or format your league is, and if you do your homework, have a better chance of looking like a GUSSS then an ARSS. Now you have the only list you will find of these guys, and I’m not even charging for it. and finally, 3. To give you all some tools and ammo for those heated debates over who is the better Fantasy Owner. Remember, strategically dropping those acronyms like GUSSS, ARSS and LEPMU just might get you some mileage, or at least leave them speechless, or better yet, lead them to this article.
See you soon when I’ll try to sort out the relievers, and show everyone how to be a SCIWG.