Three for The Stretch

Earlier this week, I presented my top 100 starters for the rest of the season. Apart from not slotting two of the game’s biggest talents (including the very best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw), I’m happy with the list. I gave a quick thought or two about each as well, but today I want to highlight three (plus a quick honorable mention) who are lower on the list, but could make a big September impact.

Let’s actually start with the Honorable Mention.

I just want throw a little more love Tyler Anderson’s way. The only reason I didn’t just say it’s a list of four and include him is because I just wrote about him a couple weeks back. Predictably, he was roughed up in the start immediately after that piece (3 IP/4 ER at Philly), but has rebounded nicely in the three starts since. Yes, even including the 5 ER outing against the Cubs. It’s a good example of how a couple of bad pitches can really tank a start, stat-wise.

A leadoff homer to Dexter Fowler and a two-run shot to Addison Russell were the big killers in an otherwise strong seven-inning outing. I was especially impressed with how he notched a 1-2-3 seventh inning (two strikeouts) after a sixth inning that went single-flyout-Russell’s HR-groundout-single (out trying to get a double). Three hits in five plate appearances and a pitch count at 89 by the end, just three pitches away from his per start average, could’ve easily spelled the end of his night, but he was given a chance to bounce back and did so with a breezy 17-pitch inning.

He continues to find success at home with skills supports behind it so I’m not bothered by three of his last five starts being there. His schedule goes v. SF, at ARI, v. STL, at LAD, and v. MIL (this and all the schedules cited are projected, of course).

Before we get to the list, I want to issue a PSA on what I’ll call a “dishonorable mention”. And it’s no slight to Luis Cessa as a pitcher, but rather his schedule. I was going to make this a list of four with the Anderson mention, but cut Cessa from inclusion when realizing that he’s looking at a v. TOR, v. TB, at BOS, at TB, v. BOS, and v. BAL finish.

You’re using him for the Tampa Bay starts at most (thought it’s worth noting that they handed him a 3 IP/5 ER disaster in relief a couple weeks ago). I like the raw stuff and his swinging strike rate portends more strikeouts going forward, but that’s an insane schedule and the season might run out before his 2.2 HR/9 can properly regress (he has a 22% HR/FB rate, too).

SETH LUGO

Eno and I talked about Lugo on a recent podcast and the key point Eno made was that he had excellent spin on his curveball. A few days later, Mike Petriello expounded on Eno’s point, highlighting the fact that Lugo had the best curveball spin rate in Statcast history. Eno mentioned that Lugo’s ugly performance at Las Vegas (6.50 ERA/1.68 WHIP) was likely due at least in part to the fact that he couldn’t maximize the impact of that curveball because of the altitude there.

Prior to that stop, he’d been pretty solid as he made his way up the minor league ladder (3.81 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 351 Ks in 354 IP). He’s not necessarily a true talent 2.60 ERA guy like we’ve seen so far, but his remaining schedule gives him a real chance to fake it for another month: v. WAS, at ATL, v. MIN, v. ATL, at MIA, and at PHI. I’m definitely investing, feeling as though I should at least get a mid-3.00s ERA, good WHIP, and average strikeout rate. Recommendation: MEDIUM-TO-DEEP (12+ teams)

MIKE FOLTYNEWCIZ

I’ve been in the (large) camp who has believed (believes?) that Folty will struggle to find consistent success as a starter and eventually wind up as a flamethrowing late-inning reliever. I’ve softened a little on that bit to the point where I’m comfortable leveraging his raw talent and schedule combination down the stretch. There has still been volatility, so this is no doubt a risky move, especially on a team unlikely to draw many wins, but if you’re looking for quality innings and some strikeout upside, he’s your guy.

Folty still brings it 95+ regularly, but now he’s relying on it less and has yielded better results, especially against righties. His OPS against them is down from .802 to .680, including a halving of his walk rate with the fastball at 5%. The shift in pitch mix has gone to his slider which is nearly 300 points in OPS, down from 1.011 to .713. Lefties can’t touch it with a .136/.167/.227 triple slash and eight strikeouts in 24 plate appearances.

Like I said, though, it’s risky. He’s been slapped by Philadelphia and Minnesota, but he’s also gone eight scoreless against Kansas City and seven scoreless against the White Sox, both on the road, and he survived Coors. He spiked 10 strikeouts in that White Sox game and has at least seven in four other starts.

Recommendation: SUPER-DEEP (15+ teams)

YORDANO VENTURA

As much as I tell others not to read too deeply into second half surges as a carryover for the following year, I still fall victim to it myself at times. I thought we saw some real growth from Ventura after his non-demotion demotion. He was set down to the Triple-A Omaha, but an injury to Jason Vargas had him heading back to Kansas City before even reporting there. From that point on, he put together a 3.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 87 innings of work with 91 strikeouts. Maybe reminiscing on that moment helped him get on track before getting demoted again?

I’m kidding, but he started turning it on this year right around the time one-year “anniversary” of the event. Over his last 10 starts, he has a 3.03 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, only once failing to finish five innings and going more than six innings six different times. This year’s run doesn’t have a similar strikeout surge with just 51 in the 62.3 innings, but he did notch 22 in 19.3 innings over three starts before his worst outing of the run: a 4.3 IP/3 ER dud at Boston.

Ventura doesn’t have a great schedule the rest of the way, but it sets up in a way where you can roster him for a couple weeks and then decided if he’s pitched well enough to take a shot on his last two starts against difficult opponents. He gets Detroit at home this weekend and then goes at CWS, v. OAK, v. CWS, at DET, and v. CLE. His swinging strike rate is up to 10% over these last 10 starts, compared to 8% in his first 15. He’s not as widely available as the others, but check your wires even in deeper leagues just to be sure. Recommendation: SHALLOW (10-teams)

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Emcee Peepants
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Emcee Peepants

My rotation has been decimated by injuries right as the playoffs are starting (McCullers, Wacha, DeGrom, Wright, Snell). Already grabbed Lugo last week. Do you prefer Folty to AJ Cole? Dillon Gee and Holland are also out there.