Back on June 18th, we hit the waiver wire in search of some arms and came up with six names to consider. We’re headed back to the wire again, but first let’s check in on the six pack of guys recommended last month.
|Since June 18th||IP||ERA||WHIP||K%||BB%|
A mixed bag of results with DeSclafani and Young really plummeting, Latos and Hahn (injured, unfortunately) pitching really well, Hendricks holding a great WHIP with a passable ERA and Gallardo giving a strong ERA to counter his god-awful WHIP. Of course, if there wasn’t a good bit of risk tied to these guys, they wouldn’t have been on the wire in the first place.
Let’s see if we can find some more gold or at least a bunch of cool silver. The threshold these guys have to pass through to be included is to be on rosters in fewer than 50% of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues. I don’t have a firm baseline for CBS leagues mainly because I don’t think they have a place where you can scroll through players with all the ownership rates right there, so I get my pool of potential pitchers by scouring ESPN/Yahoo! roster rates and then check the rates on CBS. If someone is north of 75% at CBS, I usually pass (although Gallardo was 77% there in June’s waiver piece), but ideally they are at 65% or lower there.
Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS (42% ESPN, 32% Yahoo!, 72% CBS)
Rodriguez has had an interesting first 11 starts in the big leagues. He’s allowed 29 earned runs, but 22 have come in just three starts (total 10 IP) leaving him with a dazzling 1.23 ERA in his other 51.3 innings this year. To me, this is a feature, not a bug. I’d much rather have a guy who is dominant more often than not with a few duds that need to be ironed out than someone who is almost always in that baseline quality start range – 6 IP/3 ER – sometimes being a little better and sometimes being a little worse.
Sure, these two profiles wind up at the same low-4.00s ERA, but the Rodriguez path shows a helluva lot more upside as a couple tweaks (like not tipping pitches in Rodriguez’s case) could start erasing those 6-7 ER outings and all of a sudden we’re looking at a mid-3.00s or better ERA. The guy Rodriguez has been in his eight good starts, during which he is 5-0, points to a star-in-the-making. His youth and inexperience is evident in the failures.
I mentioned earlier that pitch-tipping was a problem back in June. NESN highlighted it after a particularly tough outing against the Orioles. It could’ve been in play for the massacre in LA against the Angels when he lasted just 1.7 innings and allowed seven earned runs. That start came on a Monday afternoon after a Sunday night rainout. I mention that because it could’ve played a role as well. Getting thrown off the routine can be tough for seasoned vets, let alone green rookies.
This is a growth stock that I really like for the long-term, but am willing to invest in for the rest of this year as well. There could be some more bumps in the road, but if his worst outings or more like 5-6 IP/4-5 ER, then he will easily be a plus asset from here to the finish line.
Chris Tillman, BAL (38%, 46%, 61%)
I’ve been a long-time Tillman backer, but I started moving away from his this year as he couldn’t seem to go more than couple of starts without getting his face caved in which in his case simply meant “face Toronto”. He faced his division foes three times within his first seven starts and had a 6.34 ERA to show for it with 19 of his 27 ER coming from Jays bats (2.91 ERA in his other 24.7 IP). He avoided them for his next six starts, but wound up in Canada again on June 21st and was drubbed yet again to the tune of 6 ER in just 1.3 innings.
Since that start, he has allowed just 5 ER in 32.7 innings spanning five starts. He’s also registered a 22% strikeout rate, 5% walk rate, and 0.95 WHIP during this recent run. He might be having his season yet if he just played in a different division that didn’t include the league’s most fearsome offense.
Tillman doesn’t have the upside of many of the others on this list, but he has a solid floor when he isn’t facing Toronto and sometimes you just need some solid-if-unspectacular innings for the backend of your rotation. Tillman entered the 2015 season on the heels of 413.7 innings of a 3.52 ERA and 1.23 WHIP so maybe he won’t maintain a 3.00 ERA against non-Toronto teams, but even a mid-3.00s has use in a lot of leagues.
Unfortunately the Os do have two more series against the Jays, both in September. If the rotation holds as is, Tillman’s spot will only come up in one of them (the September 4-6 series). I don’t care if he’s on a 50-inning run of 2.00 ERA when that comes up, I’d sit him for that start.
Kyle Gibson, MIN (31%, 29%, 64%)
Gibson has had an interesting season. He carried a 2.61 ERA through May, but the skills made it really tough to believe in with just 30 Ks and 21 BBs in his 62 IP of work through the 10 starts. He and Mike Pelfrey were the Regression Twins and while I knew Gibson had more talent than Pelf, it was hard to see him continuing anything close to that kind of ERA with his 4.36 FIP. Whether you like FIP or not, it wasn’t hard to see that Gibson was over his head with these skills.
He opened June with a 9-strikeout effort against the Brewers, but with 5 ER in seven innings, the outing wasn’t seen as anything special. He followed it up with a three-game losing streak during which he had a 4.76 ERA and it seemed he was getting the regression he deserved, except for the fact that his 22% strikeout rate (16 Ks in 17 IP) in those three starts (25% if you add in the 9 v. MIL) was light years better than the 12% rate he had through the first 10 starts.
After the three-game losing streak, he ripped off four straight wins with a 1.30 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 27.7 innings with the same 22% strikeout rate we saw in the losing streak as well as a strong 7% walk rate. Unfortunately the strikeouts haven’t brought sustained success for Gibson as his most recent work includes back-to-back 6 ER outings.
He was pretty unlucky in Anaheim as 10 singles and some shoddy bullpen work left him with a 5 IP/6 ER dud despite 6 Ks and 1 BB. The bullpen screwed him again in his most recent outing against the Yankees, but it wasn’t all their fault. He allowed a solo shot to Chase Headley in the fifth inning and the sixth inning started 1B-BB-BB-K-1B-1B with three runs coming in on the last two singles (including a two-run single by Headley). Ryan O’Rourke came in and gave up Gibson’s last two runs leaving him with a 5.3 IP/6 ER nightmare.
Even with the worse results, I still prefer the most recent Gibson to Mr. Smoke & Mirrors from earlier in the year. I don’t need an elite strikeout rate to have some interest in Gibson thanks to his 54% groundball rate. A slightly-above-average 20% or so rate will be just fine as long as he’s limiting walks and keeping the ball down.
Patrick Corbin, ARI (28%, 20%, 56%)
Corbin’s return from Tommy John wasn’t as anticipated as Matt Harvey’s or Jose Fernandez’s and it really shouldn’t have been if we’re being honest, but it was almost completely off the radar despite the fact that he had 208.3 innings of a 3.41 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 21% K rate, and 6% BB rate the last time we saw him back in 2013. He was being lumped in with the likes of Matt Moore and Ivan Nova despite having done much more than either at any point in their major league careers.
He’s only four starts into his return, but the results have offered a lot of hope. His 3.68 ERA and 1.05 WHIP are perfectly usable, especially when paired with a 26% K rate and 3% BB rate – both career-bests. His 52% GB rate is also a career-high. Of course, we are just 22 innings into the return so these aren’t exactly owned skills just yet.
The Mets touched him up for three homers (including a 2-run shot by the aforementioned Harvey) and the Giants and Brewers each got him for one so he is toting a 2.0 HR/9 right now, but something tells me the 24% HR/FB rate won’t last and he should be able to bring down that HR rate the rest of the way. Now with any Tommy John return, you’re going to get a dud or two so I don’t expect perfectly smooth sailing the rest of the way, but I think we’re talking more upper-3.00s like the ERA he currently has as opposed to something in the 4.00s which would make him unrosterable in most formats.
I think there is still skepticism around Corbin’s 2013 and when paired with a TJ surgery, it’s easy to just dismiss him, but I think that breakout season was legitimate and with his surgery coming in late-March of last year, he had about 15 months for recovery. I’d definitely be eyeing Corbin in keeper leagues, but there is redraft league intrigue thanks to the pumped up strikeout rate and fast start for him.
Nate Karns, TB (26%, 25%, 63%)
Whenever I bring up Karns positively, someone is usually quick to point out what he doesn’t do. “Well yeah, but he’s a six-inning max guy.” Yeah, so? The Rays have found a way to maximize Karns’ skills by limiting how often he goes through the lineup a third time and it’s yielded big results. His .833 OPS the third time through a lineup (112 BF) is the 70th among the 91 starters with at least 100 third-time-through batters faced. Compare that with his .653 the first time (51st out of 126) and .567 the second time (15th out of 125) with the same 100 BF threshold.
The Rays seemed to zero in on Karns’ third-time-through issue after April. He had an .892 OPS in those situations during his five starts totaling 26 batters faced and since May 1st, his 84 third-time-through batters faced is sixth-lowest in baseball (and the results haven’t been much better w/an .837 OPS). The result has been a 1.40 run drop in ERA. He had a 4.76 at the end of April and now sits at 3.37 for the season thanks to a 2.91 ERA (26th-best) since May 1st.
If you desperately need wins, Karns might not be the pickup for you. That is the one category where his limited workload can have a major impact, especially since the Rays don’t have a great offense, either. Even with that excellent ERA since the start of May, he is just 5-4 with six no-decisions.
Joe Ross, WAS (26%, 17%, 39%)
This is the most speculative of the bunch because Ross doesn’t have a guaranteed spot for much longer with Stephen Strasburg working his way back from an oblique injury, but Doug Fister isn’t doing anything to suggest he should have a guaranteed spot ahead of Ross. Ross, a rookie acquired in the mega three-team deal with San Diego and Tampa Bay, is the younger brother of Tyson and looks like a more polished version of big brother so far.
Ross the younger has put up a 3.03 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 26% K rate and 2% BB rate in his first 32.7 major league innings through five starts. Those sharp skills and a 52% groundball rate have helped him outrun a shaky 67% LOB rate, though the trouble with stranding runners is why his ERA doesn’t match the other skills we’ve seen and looks high compared to his 1.85 FIP. As the book gets thicker on Ross, he may not mow down the league quite as easily, but a 14% SwStr rate and 24% K-BB% suggest that even a lesser version of the guy we’ve seen so far will still be very good.
As I mentioned, his spot in the rotation isn’t guaranteed once Strasburg returns, but do they really need to keep Fister’s 4.50 ERA and 12% K rate in the rotation? They will probably justify it as a protective measure for Ross, who has a career-high of 122 innings as a pro. Using the +20% method that Eno and I use as shorthand to guess a young pitcher’s innings, he’s got ~146 in the tank for this year and he’s used 109 between the minors and majors.
We can worry about him losing his spot and innings limits later. For now, just roster this stud-in-the-making.