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Last Minute Pickups: AL Starting Pitchers (Part 2)

For those of you in the midst of a long term rebuilding project, the last few weeks of the season provide a great opportunity. I’ve been able to mine the waiver wire with modest success lately, making small upgrades in some positions and patching holes in others. You might hit a homerun with one of your last minute pickups, but you shouldn’t expect to. It’s all about incremental improvement,

If you’ve been reading my sporadically posted ramblings over the past few months, you’ve probably noticed that my primary focus is on pitching prospects and pitchers in general. I feel that my experience as a mediocre high school pitcher gives me some insight into what makes a successful MLB starter, so it’s fitting that I’ve been tasked with following up Mike Buttil’s piece on AL starting pitchers to target in the final days of the season. Taking a cue from Mike, I chose pitchers who were owned in less than 15% of ESPN leagues.

Matt Harrison|TEX (11.4%)

Remember Matt Harrison? You know, the guy the Rangers gave a five-year, $55 million contract to after he posted a 3.29 ERA (4.03 FIP) in 213 ⅓ IP during the 2012 season. He made just two starts in 2013 before hitting the DL with a herniated disk in his back that required two surgeries. Most recently, he was shut down for the remainder of the season due to a problem in his right (non-throwing) shoulder.

It’s a risk, but I recommend taking a chance on Matt Harrison. (I’ve already rostered him my own 20 team dynasty league, so I’m putting my money where my month is on this one.) The Rangers medical staff has indicated that they believe Harrison will be ready for spring training. If he can come anywhere close to returning to the form that allowed him to pile up 7.7 fWAR in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Matt Harrison will be a very valuable member of any team’s pitching staff.

Hector Santiago| CWS (3.3%)

Santiago joins Jose Quintana, who appeared in Mike Buttil’s list yesterday, on the list of pitchers to target going into the offseason. After compiling a 3.56 ERA (4.44 FIP) in 34 appearances (23 starts), I believe Hector Santiago has earned his place in the White Sox rotation going into next season. I’d like to see him cut down on the walks next season (11.0% walk rate in 2013), but the 20.9% strikeout rate (or 8.29 K/9 if that’s how you choose to get down) inspires confidence. Santiago was also RP eligible this season at ESPN, but it remains to be seen if the 11 relief appearances he made will be enough for him to retain that eligibility.

David Phelps|NYY (1.1%)

I never promised you romance. David Phelps won’t exactly set your heart aflutter, but sometimes pickings are slim in a deep dynasty league. I own David Phelps in a dynasty league and that doesn’t keep me up at night. In 12 starts this season, Phelps made a pretty good case to join the Yankees rotation next season following the departure of Andy Pettitte. His FIP (3.80) was over a point lower than his ERA (4.93), which indicates a bit of bad luck. He carries the same strikeout rate as Santiago (20.9%) with less of the walk rate risk (8.8%). There is plenty of risk here, however. The Yankees could always make a move to acquire a proven starting pitcher, and that would almost certainly displace Phelps, whose position is already tenuous. Phelps also hit the DL with elbow stiffness this season, but I haven’t seen anything to indicate he won’t be ready for spring training. His borderline pretender’s claim to the Yankees rotation is responsible for the bulk of my concern, but if you’re as desperate for starting pitching as I was when I picked him up, David Phelps is a reasonable player to take a chance on.

Ryan Potter also writes for Beyond the Box Score and co-hosts a weekly podcast, Born on Third, with fellow TDG contributor Craig Goldstein. You can find him on Twitter @80GradeWant.

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