Brandon Cumpton & J.A. Happ: Deep League Waiver Wire

Nobody said scouring waiver wire trash bins was going to be pretty, and this week provides a case in point, as we focus on two pitchers whose value is limited to mono league owners.

Brandon Cumpton / SP / Pittsburgh Pirates
1 percent Yahoo / .2 percent ESPN / 7 percent CBS ownership

$7.5 million will buy you a lot of rope in Pittsburgh, especially when you’re the team’s second-highest paid player, but for Wandy Rodriguez, six excruciating starts was enough for the Pirates to swallow his salary and unceremoniously dump him last week. That’s opened up a potential rotation spot for the 25-year-old Cumpton, who pitched well in 30.2 innings last year for the big club and has held his own through three starts so far in 2014, including a six-inning quality start against the Mets on Monday.

If you’re in need of strikeouts, you won’t find them here; a 5.8 K/9 over 468 minor league innings has shrunk to just a 4.8 rate thus far in 2014, though the 6.5 K/9 he posted last year can stand as a best-case scenario. What the sinker-slider specialist does offer is an ability to limit walks, which, together with a .233 batting average against, is responsible for his career 1.03 WHIP. Obviously, less than 50 career major league innings means we don’t have anything near a big enough sample size to bet with confidence, but Cumpton has made eight major league starts and has only allowed more than three earned runs once, so he’s at least demonstrated he can keep his cool against major league hitters. The biggest question facing him right now is whether he can hang on to the Pirates’ fifth spot; general manager Neal Huntington won’t commit publicly to Cumpton as Rodriguez’s full-time replacement, and Jeff Locke and Vance Worley are lurking in Triple-A. But Cumpton has the floor for the time being, and with that opportunity comes value in NL-only leagues.

J.A. Happ / SP / Toronto Blue Jays
2 percent Yahoo / .7 percent ESPN / 10 percent CBS

You know you’re reading a deep league waiver wire column when you see Happ’s name trotted about, but hey, the 31-year-old lefty went 4-1 this month, posting a 3.20 ERA and 8.2 K/9. The fastball velocity has continued its rise over the years, and he didn’t lose any mileage when he transitioned to the starting rotation to take over for Brandon Morrow. On the bad news front, behind this month’s glittering win-loss record and strikeouts is the same mediocre walk rate that’s been an issue throughout his career, he surrendered more than a hit per inning during the month, and if you zoom out to his 2014 season in general, you’ll find an eye-popping 90 percent strand rate, which would be kind of perversely impressive if it wasn’t such an alarming and imminent threat to his fantasy fortunes.

Still, the Blue Jays are on a roll right now — they’ve won seven straight entering Tuesday, and are 12-2 in their last 14 games — and Happ has averaged an 8.4 K/9 since 2012. It’s hard to truly recommend Happ given his troublesome ERA and WHIP issues, but he might be worth a look for win-hungry owners in AL-only leagues so long as the Blue Jays find ways to hand them to him.

Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.

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8 years ago

What I like about Cumpton is the ability to limit HRs. He has only allowed 1 HR in 49.3 career major league IP, and his career minor league HR/9 is 0.5.