One of the most significant changes for a pitcher during the regular season, is a change of venue. A trade can positively or negatively impact that pitcher's fantasy value, either by moving to a more friendly (or more volatile) home park, or by joining a team in a pennant chase, or by moving to a team that is looking to the future, and anxious to see what they can expect from their new young arm. The Notebook forum is now open for business. Always remember, knowing what a guy has done is not nearly as useful as knowing what he is likely to do going forward. So, let's get started with this week's edition by taking a look at a few recent performances; some good, and some bad with a focus on a couple of pitchers who have already been mentioned in trade rumors.
Some Arms Who Have Made Us Take Notice:
Matt Garza (CHC) - He's probably right at the top of the trade bait food chain, and is likely getting a lot of attention from teams desperately in need of starting pitching - and with all the injuries this season, that is a long list. Garza is a true front of the rotation starter, and those don't come available every day. He has top tier stuff featuring a mid-90s fastball that can touch the upper 90s, and a full repertoire that is quality from top to bottom. The Cubs have stated that they would like to extend his contract, but they have so many needs, if a team offers a package of blue chip kids, it would be hard for them to say no. He's now made five straight quality starts, and that's even more impressive when you consider that he has to be extremely careful if he wants to keep the offensively-challenged Cubs in the game. Unlike some other pitchers who might change teams in the next few weeks, he is a plug and play for virtually any fantasy team no matter where he is pitching. He keeps the walks down which contributes to a good WHIP, a potentially low ERA, and he is capable of ringing up about a strikeout an inning.
Recommendation: The chances are probably better than 50/50 that he changes uniforms in the next month or so, and if it happens, his value could spike in a hurry. It could be dangerous to acquire him in an NL-only league since there is no guarantee he would be dealt to a National League team, but his price tag is not likely to go lower than it is today, so now is the time to jump in mixed formats.
Joe Saunders (ARZ) - Saunders is more or less the antithesis of Garza. He's left-handed, his fastball is never going to push the mid-90s, let alone the upper 90s, and he is a finesse pitcher who relies exclusively on command, and mixing up pitches to keep hitters off balance. Like Garza, he doesn't walk many batters, but his stuff makes him far too hittable, far too often. He is mentioned here because rumors were circulating that the Diamondbacks have been actively shopping him, presumably to make a hole in their rotation for Trevor Bauer. Unfortunately, a sore shoulder landed Saunders on the disabled list, and created the opening without a trade. The time off is likely to delay any deals as teams will want to see if he comes back healthy, but if that happens, the trade talk will probably resume shortly thereafter. He is the type of pitcher who will be most valuable if he lands with a team that plays in a pitcher-friendly environment, and fields a lineup with a solid infield defense. He's not a strikeout pitcher, and needs double plays and fielding gems to help him avoid big innings.
Recommendation: There is a good chance he will be back relatively soon if he Arizona management is to be believed. However, Saunders is little more than a back-of-the-rotation fantasy option at best, and could potentially be an even riskier play if he ends up in a less friendly home park. Watch for a deal, but don't necessarily jump unless you are really desperate, or the situation he lands in is very favorable.
Jair Jurrjens (ATL) - At one time, earlier this year, Jurrjens was considered a likely trade candidate. His contract is getting more expensive, and the Braves had several promising kids they hoped would be able to step in. It hasn't worked out that way, at least so far. Jurrjens was horrible early on, and the promising kids remain promising, but not so accomplished. Now, Jurrjens is back, and his return was extremely encouraging. Last season, he got off to a blazing start, then a knee injury, his second in as many years, sent him into a tailspin that would eventually land him on the disabled list for the second half of the season. Legs are as important to a pitcher as his arm - without a solid base there is no drive, pitches flatten out, velocity diminishes, and nothing works as it once did. Perhaps most importantly, leg injuries often lead to unintentional changes in mechanics and delivery that can last beyond the end of the injury. That can cause long term struggles, and that is likely what happened to Jurrjens. However, if everything is back in synch, he could again be a very useful fantasy pitcher.
Recommendation: His velocity was up somewhat, and more notably, his pitches had crisp movement in that first start against a tough Boston lineup. I would be inclined to take a chance with him, albeit there is risk involved, and I think other teams in need of starting pitching may think the same way if the Braves are willing to deal him.
Kevin Correia (PIT) -. It seems like Correia's last, and really only, decent season, 2009 in San Diego was a very long time ago. So far, the first part of 2012 has been better than most (4.03 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP), making him potentially attractive to teams with a severe shortage of arms. The Pirates need a spot for Jeff Karstens who is returning from the disabled list. Initially, the Pirates will just move their starters back a day, move Brad Lincoln to the pen, and insert Karstens into the rotation, but there have been rumors of trade talks involving Correia to perhaps make that a short term fix. Correia has mediocre stuff, and is unlikely to improve regardless of where he might end up - even San Diego didn't help much in 2010, and it doesn't get much better than that. He may offer some appeal to a major league team in desperation mode, but a likely poor ERA and very low strikeout totals should eliminate him from most fantasy consideration.
Recommendation: The fact that the Pirates are looking to move him to make a spot for Karstens, no ace-in-waiting, should be a major warning sign. In very deep leagues, or NL-only leagues (assuming any trade puts him in an NL city) might you might take a look, but would need a lot of team/park help.
Danny Hultzen (SEA) - With Bauer likely to make his MLB debut later this week, a lot of attention will turn to Hultzen, who is probably the next most anticipated arrival on the big league mound scene. He and Bauer have similar upside. In fact, I had Hultzen ranked slightly ahead of Bauer and at the top of the 2011 draft class. A lefty with all the tools, he had been dismantling the minor leagues at Double-A Jackson, and now after a recent promotion, despite struggling in his first outing, he is very likely to get it done at Triple-A Tacoma too. He is mentioned here, not because he is likely to be traded - far from it - but because a Seattle teammate, Jason Vargas, has surfaced in trade talks. Should Vargas be moved, the chances of Hultzen arriving sooner would dramatically improve. As it stands, the Mariners have no real motivation to bring him up before rosters expand in September. Given the friendly pitching environment in Seattle, and his more refined command of the strike zone, he could be an even bigger fantasy asset when he arrives.
Recommendation: As I mentioned, I had him ranked slightly ahead of Bauer and ahead of Gerrit Cole among pitchers coming out in the 2011 draft. His stuff is on a par with those two, although he doesn't have the raw power of Cole, so he got the top spot based on him being closer to stepping into a major league rotation.
The Nationals continue to say that Drew Storen will be back around the All-Star break, but there is a good chance he will come back as a set-up man for Tyler Clippard, who will continue to close as long as he remains effective. Storen is still a good bet to close again before too long. The Twins' Matt Capps had a setback in his first appearance after taking a week off, and is now on the disabled list with a nagging sore shoulder. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton will likely share closing duties until he returns. Boston accelerated the rehab of Andrew Bailey, but he suffered a sore arm and they have back off a bit. Luckily it had nothing to do with his surgically repaired thumb, and it is being considered a minor setback. Frank Francisco joined the list of injured closers when the Mets put him on the DL over the weekend with a sore oblique. Bobby Parnell is the likely benefactor, and he is the guy the Mets would love to see take the job and run with it. He's worth a flier. The Tigers' Jose Valverde strained his wrist and has missed a couple of games. He is expected back soon, but if the problem lingers, Joaquin Benoit will likely be the fill-in. In St. Louis, Jason Motte hasn't been exceptionally sharp lately. He's not in any imminent danger of losing the closer's gig right now, but he needs to get back on track fairly soon.
It sounds like the day is nearly upon us. Trevor Bauer is rumored to be in line for a start on Thursday in place of the injured Joe Saunders. A lot of kids are risky plays when they get that first call, but Bauer is worth the risk right out of the blocks. His command is still a bit shaky, which could lead to a few walks, and a potentially short outing. However, he has the swing and miss stuff to generate strikeouts and hopefully avoid big innings. It's probably time to break the FAAB bank. The Tigers starters are getting healthy, but Jacob Turner could yo-yo between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo as long as he can stay reasonable effective. He could use more time in the minors, but would be a nice long term add. In Milwaukee, Tyler Thornburg made his major league debut last week, and was greeted with four Blue Jays' home runs in less than six innings. He was pitching well until the sixth when the heart of Toronto's order went back-to-back-to-back. He showed some real positives, but will need to trust and mix in more off-speed stuff.
Again, is there a pitcher you would like to see analyzed in an upcoming Notebook? Throw the name out and I'll see what I can do. In fact, I would like to remind readers to check back often as each week's Notebook will feature updates in the comments section on evolving mound situations. And, as always, keep in mind this is an interactive forum, so your comments are always appreciated. I will respond to any comments or questions as soon as possible. Thanks!
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