Ten MLB High Value Pitchers
by Robert Ferringo - 06/08/2007
I don't play fantasy baseball to vicariously relive my Glory Days on the diamond. I don't play fantasy baseball for money. I don't play to have an excuse not to talk to my wife or to talk smack to my friends. I don't play fantasy baseball because Peter Gammons told me I should or because "everybody is doing it".
Nope, I play fantasy baseball because it helps me keep track of what players, particularly young, unknown players, are doing on the diamond. And nowhere does that make more of an impact than helping to find underrated and undervalued pitchers for me to wager on.
Everyone knows how dominant guys like Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy and Johan Santana are. The problem is that it's difficult to get solid value on them because the juice is predominantly in the -190 to -250 range. Then the only way to get on them is to make a run line wager, and that leaves you exposed for those gut-wrenching, mind-grating half-run losses. So the trick is to find guys that have can perform like a top-level starter at a premium price.
Here is a list of 10 guys that I've found have been fantastic hurlers to this point in the season. Some of these guys have been throwing well and not getting run support, something that could change quickly. Others are just straight nasty and can dominate an opponent with two runs or 12. Some of these are names you may recognize, and others you may not. Regardless, you need to get to know them quickly because momentum in gambling is the same as momentum on the diamond: it's only as good as tomorrow's starter:
Justin Germano, San Diego - This reliever-turned-starter has won four consecutive decisions by simply being solid and efficient. He's throwing just 14 pitches per inning and has an E.R.A. of just 1.74. He works with a curveball and a changeup, but only tops out in the high 80s with his fastball. Be careful playing in games where an umpire has a tight zone. If he's forced to throw strikes there's some potential to get rocked.
James Shields, Tampa Bay - This kid is a bulldog, and has outshined teammate Scott Kazmir this year as the ace of the Devil Rays staff. His WHIP is a measly 0.97, which places him near the top of the league for starters. He's thrown at least seven innings in his last nine starts and the Rays have posted Ws in five of his last eight. Keep an eye on some totals plays on Shields, who has seen six of his past eight stay 'under'. But as the season goes on we'll see how much of a toll all of these innings take on his arm.
Chris Young, San Diego - With an E.R.A. of just 2.19, Young has proven to be one of the most undervalued starters in the Majors this season. The Padres have won six of his last nine outings, yet he has still yet to be posted as a favorite of greater than -161. In his four-year career his teams have won 58 percent of his starts (47 of 81), meaning that all he does is give his club a chance to win.
Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore - I could have gone with Erik Bedard here for the O's, but I really like Guthrie's stuff. He has a compact windup and has mid-90s heat, with movement. He is 2-0 with a 1.62 E.R.A. in his last 44.1 innings and since entering the rotation in May he's gone 3-1 as a favorite. Beware: Guthrie's wins have come over Tampa Bay, K.C. and Washington. But he did throw eight strong against the Red Sox and the O's are playing well behind him.
Sergio Mitre, Florida - Mitre has been a hard luck hurler this year as the Marlins have failed to give him any run support. But the Fish have won four of his past six starts - all as an underdog. The L.A. native has been dazzling with that heavy sinker of his, posting a miniscule 1.59 E.R.A. and a 4-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Because of that sinker Mitre is an 'under' machine, staying under the total in seven of his past 10 starts. He did leave his last start early with a sore hamstring, but all indications are that he should be fine.
Joe Kennedy, Oakland - Much like Mitre, Kennedy has been getting somewhere between little and no run support. As a result, you can still get great odds on a guy that - if you toss out a blowup in Baltimore on May 26 - hasn't given up more than three runs once this year. Unfortunately, the A's are just 4-8 in his starts, but again, if they start to score some runs this could be a money pitcher for a few months.
Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh - Of the three lefties that the Pirates employ, Gorzelanny is by far the best of the bunch. He leads the team in wins (six) and E.R.A. (2.53) and has surrendered over three runs just once this season. He has a very tough 10-to-4 curveball and mixes in his changeup masterfully. Unfortunately, the Pirates don't score much to support him so he's still a dicey bet. But if the Bucs can find their bats, and if Z is hurling against a team that struggles against lefties then you can find solid value.
Chad Gaudin, Oakland - The compact righty has a slick slider and good, late movement on his 90 mph fastball. He's won six consecutive starts and Oakland is 9-3 this season when he toes the rubber. Gaudin has been dealing lately, going 2-0 with a 0.95 E.R.A. in his last 19 innings. Lefties can get to him and he can be thick headed and stubborn on the mound, pounding the zone even when he's getting hit. Gaudin has been the anti-Kennedy, getting 5.2 runs of support per game as opposed to Joe's 3.75.
Jorge Sosa, New York Mets - Hats off to Omar Manaya and Rick Peterson for polishing up this gem. Sosa has earned a decision in all six of his starts this year, posting a 5-1 mark with an opponents' on-base percentage of just .268. His heater has been smooth and clocked in the upper-90s, and this former 13-game winner for the Braves is hellish for righties. The problem is that lefties hit .288 against him and he gets into trouble pitching from the stretch with runner's on base.
Fausto Carmona, Cleveland - Judging by the -230 juice he was shackled with against the Royals on Thursday the word is out on Carmona. The former closer (which didn't work out so well) is 7-1 on the season and actually leads the strong Indians staff in E.R.A. (3.29) and WHIP (1.27). The kid has muscled his way into the starting lineup and the Tribe is 8-1 in his appearances. Be wary: he has faced a lot of light-hitting squads so far this season (K.C., Minnesota, Oakland) and got lit for 19 hits and eight runs in 13 innings against Detroit at the end of July.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.