Fantasy Baseball: Week 14 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

Fantasy Baseball: Week 14 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown

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    Two weeks remain before the MLB All Star break, but most teams have already hit the halfway point of their season.

    Monday also marks the end of June, concluding the third month of another marathon season. This gives fantasy baseball owners another three months to polish off a championship run. While some managers feel helplessly stuck down the standings, there’s ample time to make a push.

    By this point, gamers have undoubtedly been irked a few times by watching a pitcher on the bench toss a beauty or a trusted companion implode in the starting lineup. It’s an infuriating and inevitable part of the game, but one we can attempt to limit with some diligent research.

    Let’s go back to the weekly grind with this week’s lineup examination.


    Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.

Deep-League Streaming Options

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    Brandon Workman, Boston Red Sox: Wednesday (7/2) vs. Chicago Cubs

    Brandon Workman has a 3.60 ERA through six starts, and only the San Diego Padres yield a lower on-base percentage than the Chicago Cubs. He has also compiled higher strikeout rates in the minors and a brief MLB stint last year, which would help make him more mixed-league relevant.


    Hector Santiago, Los Angeles Angels: Thursday (7/3) vs. Houston Astros

    With a 2.35 ERA in his last three starts, Hector Santiago is an intriguing play against the low-contact, strikeout-happy Houston Astros. The 26-year-old will need to sustain his recent command (three walks in his last 18 innings) to become more than a deep matchup play.


    Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins: Friday (7/4) vs. New York Yankees

    The Los Angeles Angels provided a well overdue correction course to Kyle Gibson’s numbers, breaking his 21-inning scoreless streak with a seven-run shellacking. Anyone who rolled with a pitcher brandishing a 4.84 K/9 rate in a shallow league learned his or her lesson the hard way, but his 55.5 ground-ball rate could help him weasel out a quality start at home.

Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves

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    Scheduled Starts: Monday (6/30) vs. New York Mets; Sunday (7/6) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

    With Gavin Floyd out for the season after a brief return, the Atlanta Braves are forced to upgrade their rotation by inserting Alex Wood.

    Few teams exert this much resistance against a young, high-quality arm, but the Braves refuse to accept the gem they have in 23-year-old Alex Wood. After spending a month in the bullpen and two weeks trapped in the minors, he again made his case for a permanent rotation spot by tossing seven shutout innings against the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

    Wood now has a 3.07 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 4.19 K/BB ratio this season. As a starter, he holds a 2.60 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, giving him a 3.08 ERA and 102 strikeouts through 108 career innings in the rotation.

    The Braves may be trying to limit his workload, but transferring him back and forth from the rotation and bullpen like a Ping-Pong ball isn’t doing him any favors. For a team with playoff aspirations, it also makes sense to utilize someone who is currently its second-best starting pitcher behind Julio Teheran.

    Wood will enjoy two starts at home, where he wields a 2.84 career ERA, against the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks would be scarier if not for the NL’s lowest walk rate, and the Mets still rank 22nd in runs scored despite a recent hot stretch.

    If your league is late to the party, add Wood now and insert him into the lineup this week.

    Verdict: Start

Jesse Hahn, San Diego Padres

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    Scheduled Starts: Monday (6/30) vs. Cincinnati Reds; Sunday (7/6) vs. San Francisco Giants

    Riding a no-name Padres pitcher to resounding success is a national pastime as American as apple pie and, well, actual baseball.

    As a member of the Tampa Bay Rays farm system, Jesse Hahn hadn’t pitched above Single-A before 2014. Yet a 2.11 ERA through 38.1 innings at Double-A was enough for the Padres to vault him up to the majors, where he has promptly answered the call.

    In four starts, the 24-year-old has notched a 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 27 strikeouts through 22.2 innings. There’s nothing typically overpowering about the righty, who didn’t sniff any preseason top prospect rankings. He didn’t amass as many strikeouts against inferior minor league pitching, so the gigantic strikeout rate is likely a product of a soft schedule and small sample size.

    Still, there are some positive signs for sustainable success. He’s inducing ground balls at a promising 52.7 percent rate, and he has a sharp curveball to thank. Also, this is a Padres pitcher, and he gets two starts this week at home.

    The Cincinnati Reds will be dangerous once again when Joey Votto and Jay Bruce pick up the slack, but both sluggers are faltering with below-average contact and meddling power at the moment. For now, they’re a welcome opponent.

    The San Francisco Giants are a tougher draw, but they sport a .688 OPS against righties compared to a .730 mark versus southpaws. Give Hahn the two-start week to prove his worth going forward.

    Verdict: Start 

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

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    Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (7/1) vs. St. Louis Cardinals; Sunday (7/6) at San Diego Padres

    “Go ahead and give [Tim] Lincecum a seat this week. I wouldn’t blame you for dropping him either.”

    Luckily, I did not write that sentence last week on the dawn of the two-time Cy Young winner’s second career no-hitter against the paltry Padres. The earlier advice pertained to an outing two weeks ago against the Diamondbacks, which he ended with four runs surrendered through six innings.

    So at least half of that advice was sound. Dumping him before reaping the rewards against baseball’s worst offense, not so much.

    This is where you probably expect me to eat crow and backpedal on my disapproval of The Freaky Franchise. Sorry, that’s not going to happen. He still holds a 4.42 ERA and the lowest strikeout rate (8.15 K/9) of his storied, yet inconsistent career.

    Devouring a team whose collective average teeters around the Mendoza line—when considering Mario Mendoza hit at a career clip of .215—doesn’t erase all concerns. It does, however, give the former ace another week of utility since he gets the chance to feast on weak prey again.

    Not only does Lincecum get the Padres again, but he gets them at Petco Park this time. Victor Zambrano could pop back up in the majors for a day, and I’d consider playing him at Petco against the Padres.

    Stomach a potentially problematic matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals to enjoy the sweet prize waiting over the weekend.

    Verdict: Start

Dan Haren and Josh Beckett, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Haren's Scheduled Starts: Monday (6/30) vs. Cleveland Indians; Saturday (7/5) at Colorado Rockies

    Beckett's Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (7/1) vs. Cleveland Indians; Sunday (7/6) at Colorado Rockies

    Let’s group teammates Dan Haren and Josh Beckett together since they face the same dilemma: Are they worth using during two-start weeks when the second game takes place in Coors Field?

    For what it’s worth, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke make the other two starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers during their four-game series against the Colorado Rockies, but those two aces have earned the benefit of the doubt. Haren and Beckett are eons away from those hurlers on the pitching hierarchy.

    The first start for each veteran comes against the Cleveland Indians, who aren't exactly an easy matchup either. They ranked eighth in runs scored, and Carlos Santana is scorching hot after a horrific start to the season.

    Let’s start with Haren, whose sitting will draw less guilt from managers. He has a 5.20 ERA in June, and opponents have generated a .518 slugging percentage against him during those five starts. While his ERA continues to climb, currently inflated to 3.83 with a 4.52 FIP, his strikeout per nine innings rate has plummeted to a career-low 5.98.

    Even without the trip to Coors, Haren would warrant a rest this week.

    Beckett, on the other hand, presents a tougher decision. The 34-year-old has fired 14 straight scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.11. He has allowed just five earned runs during June, and this isn’t the first time he has dominated on the heels of a disastrous season.

    Yet his fortuitous .231 BABIP, below his .289 career rate, along with his 88.4 percent strand rate and 3.77 FIP all point to an eventual decline. Battling the Rockies at Coors Field, where they hit .326/.376/.526, is the perfect time to produce that premonition.

    Verdict: Sit

Ervin Santana, Atlanta Braves

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    Scheduled Start: Friday (7/4) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

    Earlier in the slideshow, I endorsed Alex Wood as Atlanta’s second-best starting pitcher. Mike Minor has struggled since making his 2014 debut in May, Aaron Harang has expectedly fallen back to earth and Ervin Santana hasn’t lived up to a phenomenal start.

    Considering the 31-year-old left April with a 1.95 ERA and 31-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, matching that output was a tall order. Santana has since allowed 37 earned runs in 68 subsequent innings to skyrocket his ERA to 4.05.

    His 3.27 FIP suggest better days aree ahead, and he should at least return his ERA safely south of 4.00 if he maintains his highest strikeout rate (8.09 K/9) since 2008. His career-high 26.1 percent line-drive rate, however, is the biggest signifier of his latest shortcomings.

    Some stark splits explain his downfall. While he has baffled righties with a .202/.265/.291 opposing slash line, lefties are decimating him to the tune of .319/.372/.552. Fortunately for Santana, Arizona does not roster any threatening lefties, even though Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra are capable bats.

    Santana is far from a lost cause despite his recent turmoil. He’s hardly a must-start in standard mixed leagues, but streamers looking for a spot starter could do far worse.

    Verdict: Start

Bartolo Colon, New York Mets

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    Scheduled Start: Saturday (7/5) vs. Texas Rangers 

    How is a strike-thrower with an 89 mph fastball so unhittable at times, only to get crushed after winning over everyone's trust.

    Bartolo Colon’s contact-inducing magic appeared to run out early in the season, as he held a 5.84 ERA after eight starts. In his following eight starts, however, he has revived that spark with a 2.21 ERA, going at least seven innings in six of them.

    The 41-year-old continues to pound the strike zone and dare hitters to do something about it. Through 106.2 innings, he has issued just 15 free passes, giving him the lowest BB/9 ratio (1.27) among all qualified National League starters.

    Yet he’s also accumulating strikeouts now, generating 79 for a much improved K/9 rate (6.67) over last year’s 5.53 mark. Last week, he allowed one run and recorded eight punchouts through as many frames against his former team and baseball’s best offense, the Oakland Athletics.

    But then the Pittsburgh Pirates lit him up for five runs Sunday.

    Colon either blanks his opponents or gets stomped to a cavalcade of runs, making him a risky play. Looking at his splits, Queens has served as a save haven so far.

    Fantasy managers must break the habit of shying away from the Texas Rangers, especially away from Arlington. Although their .269/.325/.397 slash line is shockingly better than their home production, Colon has greatly enjoyed the spacious Citi Field, registering a 2.11 ERA as opposed to a 5.06 clip on the road.

    With Prince Fielder hurt and Shin Soo-Choo struggling to churn out any power, the Rangers are relegated to an average offense that shouldn’t scare owners eying Colon.

    Verdict: Start