Last week we reviewed some hitters to target in keeper leagues if you’re building a foundation for future dominance. Today we’ll look at some pitchers.
There’s an industry wide aversion to freezing pitchers which I find a bit silly. The rules say you need pitchers. Next spring, you’re going to be looking for undervalued arms. If you have the opportunity to carry over bargain arms, why not do it? I just don’t see the sense in keeping a lesser hitter value over a better pitching value just because he’s a hitter. But yet, that’s what many do.
To quickly review, the premise is there are some pitchers that are likely at a keeper price available on the rosters of teams competing for this season’s championship that are not contributing to the winning effort. Maybe they’re hurt; maybe they are just not pitching up to par. The point is, the team pushing for the title may be willing to sacrifice a bit of their future in an effort to fortify their chances this season. Your job is to make them an offer to pry away these pitchers.
We’re going to use a little common sense and only identify pitchers that have a reasonable chance to be at a keeper price. In other words, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander may be pitching below their normal levels, but chances are they are not at keeper-worthy cost so they won’t be included.
The M*A*S*H Unit
The following are all younger pitchers that are still maturing, but find themselves on the disabled list.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays: Moore was slated to start Sunday but the Ray’s brass is being extra cautious and has postponed his return for a few days. Everything is supposed to be fine, but there is still a shroud of doubt and Moore’s owners have to be growing impatient and frustrated. That’s your opening to snag one of the best young arms in the game that is a few less walks away from jumping to the next level. Remember, before he was the best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw struggled with his control early on in his career.
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays: The window to get Cobb may have closed as he is making his long-awaited return Thursday night, but if he scuffles at all, that’s your angle. Point out how Cobb may need some time to get back to where he was and offer more reliable pitching to help your trading partner win this season.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds: Because he doesn’t rack up the volume of whiffs of other top starters plus the stigma of playing in the Great American Ballpark, Cueto is often undervalued hence a possible keeper. His owners have waited long enough, they no doubt are ready to cash in and get a healthy arm into their rotation.
Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: This poor kid can’t buy a break. Though, if you Google “Clay Buchholz wife” you won’t feel so bad for him. Buchholz was on his way to a career year when a neck injury derailed his season. He’s hoping to return for the Red Sox’ September swoon. His fantasy owner has to be tired of reading how his return keeps being pushed back.
Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino, Kansas City Royals: Duffy and Paulino are both returning from Tommy John surgery and will use the rest of this season to get over the mental hurdle of throwing a baseball in anger along with shaking the rust off. They should both be good to go next spring. Neither will win your league, but both make viable streaming options since Kaufmann Stadium is quite pitcher-friendly. Duffy and Paulino are perfect innocuous perceived throw-ins in a larger deal.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians: Before spraining his right middle finger (insert joke here), Kluber was enjoying a breakout campaign, albeit under the radar since his surface stars were still reflecting a tough start to the 2013 campaign. But Kluber’s 8.6 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 0.9 HR/9 are all better than league average and combined render Kluber elite in terms of skills. Even if there is some give-back next year, Kluber will still possess an outstanding skill set that should translate to a fine ERA and WHIP.
It’s Past Your Bedtime
The following are all young, promising arms that are approaching an innings limit. Admittedly, it is going to be difficult to wrest these hurlers from their owners, but if you sell it hard enough, and offer up ample talent to help down the stretch, you never know.
Matt Harvey, New York Mets: The initial thought was 215 innings cap, but now the word is 200.
Jose Fernandez, Florida Marlins: Seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses.
Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves: Had a few hiccups going into the All-Star break but has righted the ship and is back to early season form.
Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals: Miller is more workmanlike than the others on this list so there is a better chance you can talk his owner into a deal than the previous possibilities.
Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds: As often happens when a pitcher seemingly comes out of nowhere to impress, or makes a larger than expected jump in the minors, there is some regression. Such is the case with Cingrani which may crack the window just enough to come away with a promising keeper.
Under the Radar
The following are all currently pitching, but are in line for a more prominent role next season or simply underappreciated.
Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers: On any other team, Smyly would be in the rotation or closing. Perhaps this is assuming too much, but since Detroit did not make Smyly their closer earlier in the season, that’s an indication they still envision a starting spot for him going forward.
Dan Straily, Oakland Athletics: Straily had enough growing pains early in the season to depress his surface enough that his better than average peripherals are masked. Straily is not Kluber-like, but he’s tier below with a 7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 0.9 HR/9.
Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres: It’s no secret Kennedy will enjoy better numbers in PETCO Park as opposed to Chase Field, but this is the time of the season many owners chase win and strikeouts. While Kennedy quietly fans ample hitters, his wins potential takes a hit with the Friars. It’s not definite he returns to San Diego next season, but he’s worth a speculative grab in case Kennedy ends up there or another itching-friendly locale.
Dillon Gee, New York Mets: Since May 30, Matt Harvey is sporting a 2.56 ERA and 0.95 ERA. Over the same span, Gee is 2.54/1.10. Just sayin’.
Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets: Three Mets, really? Mejia shouldn’t be a primary target, but assuming the Mets continue to use him as a starter, Mejia has a chance to be a nice back-end option, especially at home. Mejia has swing-and-miss stuff, he just needs a chance.
Phil Hughes, New York Yankees: If Hughes lands in a big park with a fleet outfield, he could put up Homer Bailey-like numbers.
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals: The Senior Circuit’s version of Drew Smyly.
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians: The rookie has closer-stuff; all he needs is a chance. And he may get it next season.
Todd has been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997, presently serving as Managing Partner in charge of the Platinum subscription content. Lord Zola, as he is affectionately known in the industry, also contributes to Baseball HQ, DFSEdge, KFFL and the ESPN Insider. Todd is a regular on HQ Radio and a frequent guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports radio. He’s a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR and has won multiple National Fantasy Baseball Championship titles.
Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola
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