Trade Targets: 4 Starting Pitchers to Go After and 1 to Avoid
This is a great time of year to make some trades. The All Star break is a natural time for people to evaluate their teams. Many team owners have now realized they are out of contention and may be willing to sell off some of their assets. Other owners who are in contention will want to beef up their squads before the upcoming trade deadline. For all of these reasons late July is historically a time when trading activity heats up. It is one of the best opportunities of the entire year to improve your team. Make sure you get in on the action!
Let’s take a look at some starting pitchers who can be expected to put up better stats in the 2nd half than they did in the 1st half. You should be able to obtain these guys at a bargain price compared to their future production…
Wade Miley — Arizona Diamondbacks
Miley’s season line of 5 Wins, 118 Ks, 4.18 ERA and WHIP of 1.24 isn’t very good. He is playing for one of the worst teams in baseball and they are unlikely to get better any time soon. But there are some good reasons why we should expect better things out of Mr. Miley for the rest of the season. His K-BB% is the best of his career at 15.2%, which is well above his 11.6% career rate — and that is a good thing. His 3.31 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA are both much better than his ERA. His velocity has held steady compared to his career, so there is not a dropoff or red flag there. His 8.39 K/9 is by far the best strikeout rate of his career. In short, his peripherals all indicate he has actually pitched quite a bit better than his fantasy stats indicate. He has been hot of late with a 1.25 ERA in July. Verdict Rest of Season: 8 Wins, 85 Strikeouts, 3.50 ERA, 1.24 WHIP — Top 35 Starting Pitcher
Brandon McCarthy — New York Yankees
McCarthy has been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball. He has an abysmal 3-10 record and a 4.80 ERA despite having excellent peripheral stats. His 2.96 xFIP is nearly two whole runs better than his ERA! That kind of huge gap is almost unheard of. His .346 BABIP is 50 points higher than his career average and won’t continue. His strand rate is also unlucky. McCarthy has upped his ground ball rate to 55.6%, which is excellent and 15% higher than his career average. His HR/FB rate of 18.8% is wickedly unlucky as well. The Yankees porous infield defense won’t do McCarthy any favors (thanks Jeter and Roberts) but we can still expect his luck to revert back to normal soon. McCarthy added a lot of muscle over the offseason and it has improved his arm strength tremendously. His fastball is averaging a robust 93.0 MPH this season, which is is a whopping 2.5 miles per hour faster than his career average. That has allowed him to jack his strikeout rate up and helped his K-BB% shoot up to a very nice 15.2% this year. McCarthy is also moving to a much friendlier ballpark for pitchers in new Yankee Stadium. Add everything together and there is no reason why McCarthy should have such a dismal record and poor ERA. Verdict Rest of Season: 8 Wins, 75 Strikeouts, 3.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP — Top 25 Starting Pitcher
Mike Minor — Atlanta Braves
Minor’s troubles can be traced to the home run ball and an unlucky BABIP. He has allowed 1.51 HR/9 innings despite playing most of his games in a ballpark that doesn’t give up many jacks. This has happened despite the fact he has allowed fewer fly balls than normal for him. It would be a big surprise if his home run rate didn’t decline in the 2nd half. Minor’s .343 BABIP is 47 points higher than his career average, some of which is due to allowing a higher rate of line drives than he usually does. But even taking that into consideration his BABIP should fall closer to .310, meaning he will give up fewer hits in the 2nd half. Minor strikes out nearly a batter per inning while keeping walks low. Those factors combine to yield a good 14.9% K-BB%. His velocity is right in line with prior years. Minor’s xFIP and SIERA agree that his ERA should come in around 3.65 moving forward. Verdict Rest of Season: 6 Wins, 75 Strikeouts, 3.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP — Top 40 Starting Pitcher
Matt Shoemaker — Los Angeles Angels
Prior to this season Shoemaker was a complete unknown. He is a 27 year old rookie who began this season in the minor leagues before getting a chance to pitch in the Angels’ bullpen for 6 games. He has now started 9 games. His ERA is 4.38 despite having a 3.36 xFIP and 3.30 SIERA. His fastball is basically average at 91 MPH, but he uses a solid 4-pitch mix to keep hitters guessing. We should see his WHIP improve as his .333 BABIP falls down to the .290 league average. Playing in a strong pitchers’ park in front of the Angels’ solid defense, there is no reason why Shoemaker’s ERA should remain a full run higher than his xFIP. Given his short track record it is certainly possible that Shoemaker’s peripherals are a small sample size mirage but I don’t think they will erode all that much. You don’t get a 17.4% K-BB% by pure luck alone. He has allowed more than 3 earned runs only once in his 10 career starts, but that one was an 8 run kick to the cajones. He has some talent that has flown under the radar in his lengthy minor league career. He plays for the highest scoring team in the majors, which will help him get Wins whenever he pitches well. Don’t pick him up expecting an ace, but he can contribute to your squad if used wisely in optimal matchups. Not bad for a guy who is unowned in 92% of Yahoo leagues and 76% of CBS leagues. Verdict Rest of Season: 8 Wins, 75 Strikeouts, 3.75 ERA, 1.30 WHIP — Top 45 Starting Pitcher
Now let me turn the tables a bit and highlight one hot pickup to avoid despite his great stats…
Odrisamer Despaigne — San Diego Padres
What is not to like about a guy lighting it up to the tune of a 1.35 ERA and a 2-1 record in his first 4 starts who gets to play half his games in the sport’s best pitcher’s haven? Lots of people have jumped on him lately. He is owned in 42% of CBS leagues already despite being called up to the majors just a couple weeks ago. Despaigne is a 27 year old Cuban defector. He had an open showcase for major league teams during Spring Training but nobody wanted him. The Padres eventually signed him in May for only $1 million, which is a tiny sum for a free agent major league ready pitcher. He is basically a smoke-and-mirrors junkballer similar to a Bronson Arroyo or Livan Hernandez. He throws lots of breaking balls from varied arm slots and release points, constantly trying to keep the hitters off balance and surprised. Looking at the numbers we see he has benefited from a tremendously lucky .213 BABIP and exceedingly fortunate 89.4% strand rate. Neither of those rates has any chance whatsoever of avoiding a drastic crash back to planet Earth. Despaigne has only garnered 12 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. His K-BB% of 4.0% is simply atrocious. The only reason the Padres turned to Despaigne is because of a spate of arm injuries to Andrew Cashner, Josh Johnson, Casey Kelly, Corey Luebke and Robbie Erlin. I don’t think Despaigne is a long term option as a fantasy starting pitcher. If he sticks in the Padres rotation it won’t be pretty. Verdict Rest of Season: 2 Wins, 30 Strikeouts, 5.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP — Not a Top 100 Starting Pitcher
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. We will be happy to help you decide which players to add, drop or trade!