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Bogfella's Notebook: Arms to Avoid

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.


A couple of weeks ago I offered a list of pitchers I felt could jump up and have a very productive second half. This week, I think it's only right to post the flip side of that equation. There will no doubt be good, bad is always a possibility, and the ugly deserve their moment in the sun too.  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 pitchers who could be generating interest, but aren't too likely to generate helpful numbers for your fantasy team:

Some Arms to Avoid in the Second Half:

Lance Lynn (STL) - To be honest, I am surprised Lynn has enjoyed his 2012 level of success this deep into the season. He is really still a two-pitch pitcher who is likely to have issues as hitters figure out his pitch sequencing. As I have stated before, Lynn will probably end up being a better bullpen option, but with injuries and depth concerns, the Cardinals will continue to ask him to start. As the second half moves along, this could result in weaker production, and perhaps shorter outings that would limit the times he has to make it through the opposing batting order. The Cardinals can hit, especially when they are healthy, so he could still collect some wins, but the shorter outings would limit his strikeout potential, and his shallow repertoire could lead to both a rising WHIP and ERA. He has already shown some vulnerability, so his maximum "sell high" window may have already narrowed, but he should still bring back a decent return if dealt soon.

Dan Haren (LAA) - Haren does not have "sell high" numbers right now, but there are probably plenty of owners who would like to take a chance and "buy low" on the Angels workhorse. In fairness, he recently went on the disabled list with back issues - always a serious concern for pitchers - so it is possible his season long malaise is injury related. There is no way to know for certain how long his back has been bothering him. That said, I have watched several innings of his work at various stages of the first half, and he never really did show the command he has always relied upon. He is not overpowering, and he has to keep the ball down while varying locations, something he has not done consistently all year. I am going to speculate that his overall poor performance was not exclusively related to an injury, and even if the back issues are resolved, he could produce lackluster numbers going forward. He still has considerable name recognition, and should command a nice return from an owner hoping it all comes back. Remember, though, Haren has never been known as a second half pitcher.

Matt Harrison (TEX) - He currently shares the major league lead in wins with 12, and he has a very respectable WHIP (1.23) and an excellent ERA (2.87), to combine with a spot in the rotation of the league's top offensive team. So where are the weak spots in his armor? Harrison does not strike out many hitters, he can walk a few more than you would like to see, and that loaded offense is helped by a hitter-friendly home ballpark that is even tougher on pitchers as the summer heat increases (if that is possible this year). Because he is not overpowering, he has to nibble somewhat, and that can contribute to the higher walk totals. Extra base runners, especially in Arlington, can and often will, lead to big, ugly innings. I don't necessarily expect Harrison to implode, but I do see his numbers slipping as the season progresses. He doesn't have the big name advantage, but playing up his first half performance should enhance his value.

A.J. Burnett (PIT) - He has 10 wins for a team that is surprisingly in the hunt for a division title, and he has peripherals to suggest he might be able to keep it up. I'm not quite convinced. Remember, the Pirates were in a similar situation at this point in the season last year before melting in the dog days, and while Burnett has been amazingly productive apart from one incredibly ugly start, he is still a power pitcher trying to adjust to less arm than he is accustomed to having at his disposal. Burnett does appear to be making that transition, but it has been a struggle for him, and there is always a possibility he could fall back into old habits. Most concerning, is his somewhat inflated WHIP (1.30) that is indicative of his vulnerability to hitters when he is not spotting his pitches within the strike zone, and relying too often on a diminished power arsenal. The Pirates are better than they have been, and so is he, but don't expect a huge second half.

Jose Quintana (CWS) - Every year a handful of young pitchers are unexpectedly successful when they arrive in the major leagues. So goes Quintana. In most cases, these pitchers have more deceptive deliveries than especially dominating stuff, and they are more likely to be command pitchers who can stay away from the middle of the plate while not issuing a large number of walks. Quintana has average stuff, and good command, which has helped him get off to a good start, but that average stuff could be problematic as hitters become more familiar with his repertoire. And, pitching in a home run haven ballpark increases the volatility of his offerings. He is better than a lot of young arms who make a big splash, but he will likely be less effective as his tenure at the major league level increases. Good command is his biggest plus, and that might help him avoid any significant meltdowns, but be prepared for rising peripherals.

Michael Fiers (MIL) - One of the most popular "sleeper" adds in the first half, Fiers has made a mark with his very good cutter and a solid change-up - by far his best pitches. The biggest surprise has been his strikeout total of 54 in just under 54 innings. That is not something you would expect from a pitcher with a fastball that generally sits in the upper 80s, and who does not have particularly devastating breaking pitches. However, he does have a deceptive delivery that is difficult for hitters to pick up, and the change keeps them off balance. He did put up good strikeout numbers in the minor leagues, but at this level, hitters are far more likely to catch on to his rather pedestrian stuff. He projects as more of a swing man or long reliever, and it would be surprising to see him maintain his current level of success as he becomes more familiar to the opposition. He has a little better stuff overall, but think 2011's Josh Collmenter, long term. I just don't see the arsenal for wexceptional success as a starter.

Bartolo Colon (OAK) - I am not inclined to project a strong second half for Colon under any circumstances, and the fact that he is a very possible trade candidate reinforces that belief. Wherever he might go, it is very unlikely to be as pitcher-friendly as his current home park, so his prospects for the rest of the season are murkier than ever. He recently returned from a short stint on the disabled list resulting from a slightly strained oblique, but his ongoing health is always going to be a concern. Colon is proof that you can be relatively successful if you throw strikes, and there aren't many pitchers who throw a higher percentage of balls in the zone, but he is also pretty hittable, and the spacious ballpark helps minimize the damage from all those hits. Because he has such good control, it's quite possible he could be reasonably effective if he stays in Oakland, and stays off the disabled list. Unfortunately, both of those "ifs" are something his fantasy owners should keep in mind when trade talks come about.

Endgame Odyssey:

There were a lot of calls for the Giants to remove Santiago Casilla from the closer's role, and move Sergio Romo in - the calls were mostly from Romo owners by the way. A blister was causing some problems for Casilla, but it should be cleared up now, and he should continue to be the primary closer. Casey Janssen owners can rejoice. It was recently announced that Sergio Santos will undergo shoulder surgery, effectively ending his season. Janssen has been extremely productive, and should continue the rest of the way. Heath Bell gets mentioned here often. That's because he's not very good so he is getting a chance to break whatever record exists for being pulled from the closer's role in a single season. Bell is out again, and they are doing the closer-by-committee routine. Look for Steve Cishek to get the majority but not all of the chances right now. I still think Jonathan Broxton is among the most likely closers to be dealt, and I still believe the replacement in Kansas City will be Aaron Crow. Greg Holland and even Kelvin Herrera might be in the consideration set, but Crow fits well in the role. In Boston, Andrew Bailey is again getting close to a rehab assignment. There is no timetable for a return, but mid-August is a possibility, and a healthy Bailey would be a big improvement over an erratic Alfredo Aceves.

Kid Watch:

It's only a matter of time before the Mets give Matt Harvey a call. He's got the stuff to be a fantasy help right away. He doesn't have the ceiling of Zack Wheeler, but he is more ready to step into their rotation. The Cardinals were supposedly ready to offer their top pitching prospect, Shelby Miller, in a deal for a veteran starter. That's both curious and a bit disconcerting. Miller has struggled this year at Triple-A, and he was even put on a "no shake" rule to force him to use a wider variety of pitches. His stock is falling if the Cardinals question his ability to adjust to upper level hitters. Jacob Turner is scheduled to return to the Tigers on Tuesday to take the spot of the injured Drew Smyly. He has a future, but he's probably not ready to contribute to a fantasy team just yet. You might start hearing about a strikeout machine in the A's system named Dan Straily. He leads the minor leagues in strikeouts, and was recently promoted to Triple-A Sacramento with a trip to Oakland not out of the question in the next few weeks. He was once considered a marginal prospect at best, but his mid-high 80s fastball has picked up speed, even touching 94-95 mph at times, and his slider and change have reportedly also improved. I will be curious to see what he has.

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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