We are close to the end of the first half. Some pitchers have performed surprisingly well, and others have failed to live up to expectations. In fantasy circles, it's important to identify guys who can make an impact going forward. While some pitchers are known as "second half guys," some of these are just tossing hints at a bright tomorrow. 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 nine pitchers - seven starters and two relievers - I feel could have a big second half. We'll call them the "Bogfella Nine." Some would be trade targets, some might even been waiver wire residents in shallow leagues, but all might have something to say in July, August and September:
Some Arms Who Could Make It Happen in the Second Half:
Matt Moore (TB)- Yes, he's been a big disappointment so far this season based on all of the preseason hype. Put me squarely in the big believers column. Moore has shown all the stuff he was advertised to have, he just hasn't consistently commanded the zone with that stuff. He's young, he's left-handed, and he pitches in a rugged division - all viable excuses for less than anticipated results, at least so far. Add to that he is a notoriously slow starter who has scuffled a bit at every new level of professional ball, and he becomes perhaps the best "buy low" candidate out there. His adjustment period doesn't typically last this long, but the jump to the major leagues is vastly different. In keeper/dynasty formats his value skyrockets. He is a true #1 talent, and I will gladly take my chances on him showing it sooner, rather than later.
Derek Holland (TEX)- Let's see, young, left-handed, pitches in a tough ballpark, and you can also scribble in suffered from nagging injuries. I see a trend here. Holland was spectacular during the second half of 2011, and many, including myself, looked for him to continue that momentum into this season. He contracted a virus that caused him to lose weight, and eventually contributed to weakness in his shoulder. Those problems lead to a stint on the disabled list where he has built up his strength. Currently, he has had two rehab appearances, and is expected to return in early July. Interestingly, teammate Josh Hamilton also missed time in June with a virus. He returned sooner, but wasn't himself the first couple of weeks back. Hopefully Holland will be a full strength when he is activated. If he is, look for him to re-establish himself as one of the better young southpaws in the game. He doesn't have Moore's ceiling, but he can be a very effective pitcher in your fantasy rotation.
Tim Lincecum (SF)- I purchased Lincecum in my home keeper league before he had ever thrown a pitch for the Giants. In my opinion, at the time, he was the best pitching prospect in baseball - and perhaps the best to have come along in several years. Two Cy Young's and an extended stretch of ineffectiveness later, many are willing to write him off. I have to assume the struggles are mechanical. The Giants would not risk long term injury if there was any hint of a physical injury. Lincecum has a slight build, and more importantly, an unorthodox delivery that has to be difficult to repeat at times, and nothing is more critical to a pitcher than repeating their motion and release point on every pitch. He has shown a few flashes of the old "Freak" but they haven't lasted long, sometimes fading within the same game. Folks, Lincecum is too good to be this bad. It's worth noting that a lot of fantasy gurus have tried to acquire him in their leagues without success. It seems many of his owners are really reluctant to give up.
Ian Kennedy (ARZ)- It would have been wishful thinking to expect Kennedy to repeat his 2011 numbers, but not so speculative to believe his results this year would be better than they have been. A 4.20 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP are both a bit high to be sure. He is not an overpowering pitcher, and he relies on pinpoint command along with an exceptional "feel" for pitching. That's what sets him apart in my book - always appearing to have a plan. Kennedy reminds me a bit of Greg Maddux who was typically about 2-3 pitches ahead of the hitter in the guessing game. He's not to that level yet - how many pitchers are after all - but he is headed in that direction, and it bodes well for ongoing success. His home ballpark is a dangerous place to pitch, but I believe he will keep hitters off balance often enough to minimize any damage.
Gavin Floyd (CWS)- With Floyd, it's an easy evaluation. Keep the ball in the park and good things happen. In games where he has allowed a home run, his ERA is 9.32, and in games where he hasn't, its 0.73. According to my advanced metrics, he just needs to allow fewer home runs. He doesn't walk many hitters, he has a solid, if not superior, strikeout rate, but 17 home runs allowed in 95 innings is not going to help your results. While he does pitch in a home run friendly ballpark, I do think he can reduce the number of game wreckers he allows. His home run rate is considerably higher than his career rate (it's usually around 1.00 and this year it's 1.60 per nine innings), so look for that to normalize in the second half, likely making him a much more reliable option in most match-ups. He is relying more on his fastball and cutter this year, and mixing in more off speed stuff would be in order to help keep batters off the hard stuff.
Ross Detwiler (WAS)- Yes, the Nationals were obliged to give Chien-Ming Wang an opportunity in the rotation when he came off the disabled list, but Detwiler was then, and is now their best option as a fifth starter. We find ourselves back to that analysis of he's young, he's left-handed, etc. Detwiler doesn't have the ceiling of Moore, and isn't quite as developed as Holland, but he doesn't pitch in a rugged division (compared to the AL East), and he does a lot of his work in a relatively pitcher-friendly environment. I really don't see his ERA (3.30) dropping, but he may be a bit forgotten in some leagues, and I do expect his WHIP (already a very good 1.18) to potentially improve with a better walk rate, and a slightly better strikeout rate. Detwiler has excellent stuff, and he is still learning to use all of it. Right now, he is best suited to a six inning starter role, but hopefully the Nationals can score enough runs early to net him some wins.
Rick Porcello (DET)- This choice might send a few readers running for cover. Porcello has seemingly been around a long time, but he's the prototypical Tigers mound prodigy. He's 23 years old, and he's been in the major leagues for three and a half seasons. So, why does he get a ticket to the ball? His stuff has always been very good, but not too surprisingly, he has had to learn the major league ropes. He still gets too much of the plate at times, but that is steadily improving as his declining home run rate and improving ground ball rate would suggest. He is more of a pitch to contact guy, but the strikeouts are gradually coming too. My biggest concern would be the highly-suspect infield defense in plays in front of, but I am banking on the offense making up for it.
That's our seven-man starting rotation, now let's look at a couple of relievers. It's more difficult to project roles in a major league bullpen, so rather than select closers already holding the fulltime role, I decided to choose a couple of guys who could flourish in the second half if they get the opportunity:
Aaron Crow (KC)-I am going against the more common idea that Greg Holland would step in if Jonathan Broxton were to get hurt or traded. I really do believe one or the other will happen in Kansas City before long, but I think I would take Crow in the ensuing closer shuffle. I love Crow's stuff, I like his demeanor on the mound, and the Royals seem hesitant to move him into the rotation, something is unlikely to happen this year, even if they are considering it for the future. Further, Holland is ideally suited to a 7th or 8th inning role where he can pitch longer if needed. Keep that "opportunity" token close at hand. Crow's chance might come sooner than you think.
Drew Storen (WAS)- When Tyler Clippard sets him up, Storen is one of the most effective closers around. He has missed the first half of the season, but should be back in Washington in the next couple of weeks. The Nationals have said Clippard will continue to close, and at least initially, Storen will serve in a set-up role. Quite simply, he has too much value to remain in that job for long. The Nationals still want a true centerfielder, and they have had their eye on Minnesota's Denard Span since last season. They could do much better than Span if they are dangling Storen, but if he stays, he should soon step back into the end game, moving Clippard back to the more versatile set-up role he has thrived in, and if he is dealt, he should be finishing games in another city - either way, he fits on the Bogfella Nine for the second half.
Bench: These are a few pitchers I'll put on the staff who could only be used in the event someone lands on the disabled list. Shelby Miller (STL), Casey Kelly (SD), Charlie Furbush (SEA), Kris Medlen (ATL), Bobby Parnell (NYM), and Andrew Bailey (BOS).
The Mets say Frank Francisco will resume duties as the closer when he returns from a sore oblique. Don't be surprised if Bobby Parnell is getting opportunities too. He is the future there, Francisco is a placeholder. The Padres are already listening to some teams interested in Huston Street. He has done a great job, but he is fragile, and San Diego would like to cash in on his success. The performance of Tom Wilhelmsen in Seattle is making Brandon League more expendable. Once he is healthy, the chance of him staying with the Mariners is low. In Toronto, Sergio Santos is not really making much progress with his sore shoulder. Casey Janssen has done very well filling in, and it's beginning to look like it could be a most or all of the season thing. Andrew Bailey is moving forward in his rehab and could join the Red Sox sometime in July. He should be back in the closer's role very shortly after his return.
The Rangers top pitching prospect, Martin Perez, got his first taste of the big leagues, and while the results were generally good, he showed there is still work to do with refining his command. A great arm, but probably not ready to help a fantasy team. The Orioles say it's possible Dylan Bundy could get a look late in the season. They aren't likely to overdo it so his fantasy value for 2012 is probably limited. The Cardinals put their big gun, Shelby Miller, on a "no shake" program where he is not allowed to shake off his catcher (or bench). He was overusing his fastball and they want him to mix in more secondary stuff. First results were positive, so he could be back on track for an appearance with the big club sooner rather than later. Seattle's Danny Hultzen has struggled a bit since being promoted to Triple-A, but have no fear, the struggles probably won't last. I still expect to see him in Seattle by season's end.
Again, is there a pitcher you would like to see discussed 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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