Here’s a closer look at two North of the Border starters with ownership rates south of fifty percent..
Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays (owned in 8 percent of Yahoo Leagues)
Seattle’s previous regime decided to shove the former Cal star into the major league bullpen instead of giving him minor league innings to build stamina and sharpen his control, so Morrow has logged just over 100 frames in the minors. Couple that “starter, no reliever, no starter” drama with shoulder, forearm and biceps injuries, and you have a 25 year-old with less polish than some players who’ll get popped in the first round this coming June.
Even so, Morrow piques the interest of fantasy players due to his ability to blow the ball past hitters. In 28 innings this year, the 6-3 righty has whiffed 33 (10.61 K/9). His control is still scattershot (5.14 BB/9), but Morrow should certainly improve upon the 5.46 ERA that he has posted to this point. His xFIP checks in at 3.83, as Morrow has suffered from a high batting average on balls in play (.324). His strand rate (67 percent) could improve a bit as well. Owners in AL-only formats or deep mixed leagues should take a chance on Morrow.
Shaun Marcum, Toronto Blue Jays (owned in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues)
It’s often said that control is the last thing to return for starters returning from Tommy John surgery, but you wouldn’t know it from watching Marcum slice and dice hitters in April. The 28 year-old righty, who posted rates of 7.31 K/9, 2.97 BB/9 and a 4.24 xFIP in 2008, managed 7.41 K/9, 1.85 BB/9 and a 3.43 xFIP during the first month of the 2010 season.
Though his fastball couldn’t tear through tissue paper (86.8 MPH average), Marcum has never relied heavily upon his modest heater. Rather, he comes at hitters with a mid-80’s cutter, a mid-70’s curve and a plus low-80’s changeup.
He’s getting a decent number of swings on pitches out of the zone (27.8 percent, compared to the 26.9 percent average in 2010), with a 73.5 percent contact rate (80.8 MLB average) and a 10.5 percent swinging strike rate (8.3 percent MLB average). There’s little chance that Marcum continues to pitch like a low-three’s ERA hurler, but ZiPS still projects a useful 4.08 FIP for the rest of the year.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.