I took a look at starting pitchers available in at least half of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues. Most guys in that range are either hurt or unproven, but there are some viable options in case the back end of your rotation is still shaky. Here are five guys I would consider.
Britton has been getting some attention of late for his hot start. Through two starts (13.2 innings), he has an ERA of 0.66 and wins over the Rangers and the Rays. Somewhat worrisome may be the six walks to go with eight strikeouts, but Britton is new to the majors this year and is going to get a chance to stick with the major league club.
I like Britton’s stuff. He throws hard, can keep the ball down and has a great changeup that just falls off the radar. I wouldn’t pitch him against great lineups, since they are most likely to be the reason Britton’s ERA floats upward but you’re not going to find a Tim Lincecum or a CC Sabathia on the waiver wire.
The best you can hope for is finding an emerging star (like Madison Bumgarner and Daniel Hudson last year) or a guy who overachieves one year (like Kyle Lohse in 2008). It might be worth living with Zach Britton’s growing pains in 2011 because he has the stuff to be a quality major league pitcher and has more good starts in him for sure.
I’m somewhat perplexed that Sanchez is not more widely owned. He has pitched to a 3.80 ERA in a career of almost 500 innings. He is coming off a season in which he established himself as a big league starter after years of injuries and uncertainty. I imagine some people have panicked after his first two starts; 20 hits in 10.1 innings against Houston and Washington should set off warning signs. His BABIP-against of .487 speaks to catastrophic luck, and he will probably rebound somewhat.
Sanchez is a guy who can get strikeouts. Up until last year, he also was a threat to walk too many, but his 7.25 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9 from last year were livable. He pitches in a large ballpark and the Florida Marlins should score some runs for him. I still think Sanchez is going to be fine. He will win somewhere around 13 games, he will generate more grounders than flies, his fastball velocity is roughly where it was last year. There isn’t really any reason to worry, other than the fact that he has been hurt in the past, but Sanchez absolutely has to be owned in NL-only formats and is worth a look in other leagues.
Guthrie has been reliable for the Orioles since he joined them before the 2007 season. In three of the past four seasons, his innings total has been between 175.1 and 209.1 and his ERA has been between 3.63 and 3.83. Aside from his forgettable 2009 season, Guthrie has earned a look for fantasy owners seeking to fill out a rotation. Though he has proven able to handle his division rivals, he is probably the kind of guy you want mostly for his starts against weak lineups.
Guthrie doesn’t hurt himself with the walk, never having walked more than 60 in a season as an Oriole. His BABIP-againsts have typically been low during his time in Baltimore, despite the fact that he’s now a fly-ball pitcher without great strikeout stuff. He does a fine job making adjustments, generally relying less on pitches that haven’t worked for him in the past. Off to a good start this year, Guthrie’s 0.64 ERA wont last, but it will be interesting to see how many wins he gets with a much-improved Baltimore offense.
A few things work in Stauffer’s favor. For one thing, he is a groundball pitcher, generating 1.76 grounders per fly last year. For another, he pitches in Petco park half the time and, finally, he gets a reasonable amount of strikeouts. He may be worth starting against bad lineups in a deeper mixed league or an NL-only league.
Unfortunately, his own team’s lineup is a bad lineup, so I’d be surprised to see him win 10 games. He’s also never thrown more than 82.2 big league innings in a season, or made more than 14 starts. Stauffer is going to be worse than last year’s 1.85 ERA, as everyone must know or else he’d be more widely owned. He allowed only three home runs in 82.2 innings last year and his .263 BABIP-against is likely to rise, but Stauffer probably is capable of an ERA below 4.00 and somewhere around 150 quality innings. If your league doesn’t have an innings limit and is deep enough, Stauffer is worth a look.
I was high on Travis Wood last year when he came up an pitched well for the Reds in 17 starts. He mainly relies on his fastball, which could be a problem since almost 85 percent of his pitches have been fastballs or cutters this year, but when he’s on, he paints the corners with it and keeps it low in the zone. So far this season, Wood has one good start and one bad one. He beat Milwaukee with seven innings of four-hit ball, walking none and striking out seven. His loss came in Arizona when he allowed six earned runs in six innings on seven hits and two walks.
The impressive thing about Wood has been his K/BB ratio. In his short big league career, he has struck out 7.61 hitters per nine innings while walking only 2.20 per nine. This season he has 11 strikeouts and just two walks. This is important for him to maintain since he needs to limit the damage as a ground ball-neutral pitcher in that ballpark. Wood’s stuff is good enough that he would be an asset to the back end of most rotations and he is probably going to stay in the Reds’ rotation after Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey come off the DL. Wood isn’t an ace-in-waiting, and will occasionally get beat, but he can give you plenty of good starts and should win at least 12 games.