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Mound Musings: Starters for the Stretch Run

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

As we wind down the regular season, I'm sure that at least a handful of readers are still competitive in one or more leagues. To help facilitate a strong finish, here are a handful of starting pitchers who may be available in a variety of league formats down the stretch.

10-TEAM MIXED LEAGUES

These leagues are typically shallower than I prefer, but mine is full of ex-coworkers, so I really just play for the smack talk and such. Here are a few pitchers sitting on that waiver wire:

Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -
It's unfortunate for Nolasco that the Marlins don't play the Nationals again (shutouts in each of his last two starts against them), but he still shouldn't be unowned even in this format. Nolasco's last three starts: 25 innings, one run, 16:1 K:BB. Yes, he's frustratingly inconsistent, but I'll probably go ahead and add him in this league. This likely means I'll be cursing his name after his next start.

Chris Archer (TB) -
Archer is admittedly a risk, but his 11-strikeout effort over seven innings against the Rangers is a pretty impressive line for the ex-Cub prospect. After posting a 4.4 BB/9IP in Triple-A this year, Archer now has a 1.9 mark in three big league starts (18.2 innings). He's had issues with his control throughout his pro career, so I'll remain skeptical for now that he's truly made THIS big a leap as a big leaguer. Still, his stuff is excellent, including a fastball that averages just north of 94 mph. Those guys are worth rolling the dice on if you need pitching.

Shelby Miller (STL) -
We now know who is going to get a start in place of Jake Westbrook (oblique), and that is Lance Lynn, but if Lynn should falter, Miller is a viable Plan B. In five relief innings for the Cardinals, Miller has fanned seven batters, showcasing an excellent curve and a fastball that sits in the 91-94 mph range. He probably opens the 2013 season in the rotation, but that's far from certain at this point. What is certain is that he could be a solid spot starter this year given the opportunity.

Marco Estrada (MIL) -
After failing to strike out more batters than innings pitched in six straight games, Estrada has done this in his last five starts - 1.51 ERA, 38:6 K:BB in 29.2 innings. That is an impressive turnaround, though two of the games have come against the Cubs. That a starter with a 125:25 K:BB in 119.1 innings is available in this league just shows you how shallow it really is.

Dan Straily (OAK) -
Subbing for Brandon McCarthy Tuesday, Straily recorded a quality start with eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings against the Angels. He now has a 3.42 ERA and 20:5 K:BB in 23.2 innings, and given his minor league 190:42 K:BB in 152 innings this year, his status has risen considerably. The 23-year-old Straily has a bright future and should be owned in most formats.

Wily Peralta (MIL) -
Peralta has allowed 17 base runners in 12 innings in his two starts for the Brewers, but they were still both officially quality starts, so that's something. He has done a great job generating ground balls (2.9 G/F), and considering his 1.9 G/F in Triple-A, it's safe to say he has groundball tendencies. He also has bouts of wildness given his 4.8 BB/9IP for Triple-A Nashville, but if he can limit the free passes, there's a lot to like here, including a fastball that averages 95.5 mph.

NL-ONLY LEAGUES

Here are a few starting pitchers available in my 10-team NL-only league:

Wily Peralta (MIL) -
See above.

Andrew Cashner (CHC) -
Cashner is healthy once again, and in his first start since rejoining the Padres rotation, Cashner held Arizona to two runs over five solid innings with a 5:0 K:BB. He's averaging a whopping 98.1 mph with his fastball, though that includes 27 relief outings in which he threw harder than he has as a starter. Cashner's ceiling remains high, though given his injury history, his potential to reach that ceiling appears limited. For the rest of this year, though, he could have plenty of value if he can actually stay healthy.

Collin McHugh (NYM) -
Off my radar until recently, McHugh averages just south of 90 mph with his fastball, but he still had a solid 135:46 K:BB in 148.1 minor league innings this year, and he's fared well in the big leagues with a 14:3 K:BB in 15 innings. McHugh has struggled in his last couple starts (8 IP, 6 ER), but he could be a decent streaming option in deeper formats.

Alex White (COL) -
A 57:43 K:BB in 88.2 big league innings is just awful, but is there hope for the former first-round pick? White is part of the Rockies rotation that is limited by a 75-pitch count, but he's allowed just one run over eight innings in his last two starts, so given that and his prospect pedigree, he's worth monitoring, at least.

Andrew Werner (SD) -
Werner rode a 110:31 K:BB in 126.1 minor league innings to a promotion to the big leagues where his 86-89 mph fastball has resulted in a 2.59 ERA and 23:8 K:BB in 24.1 innings. The southpaw does a good job generating groundballs, and with his control, there's an opportunity for some success in deeper formats.

Jeff Locke (PIT) -
Locke was a key component in the Nate McLouth deal, so perhaps there will still be a payoff for the Pirates after all. Lock has shown nice improvement this year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 131:43 K:BB in 141.2 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. He's pitched in 15 innings (two starts, two relief appearances) for the Pirates, posting a 4.11 ERA and 13:1 K:BB in 15.1 innings. He's a former second-round pick, giving him upside.

Chris Young (NYM) -
He won't go deep into games, so his effect on your ratios might be minimal, but Young has been pitching fairly well lately. Young has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his last five starts with a decent 25 strikeouts in those 28 innings. His next start is in Milwaukee where he has had some success in his career, so if you need a short-term solution, he could be an option.

AL-ONLY LEAGUES

I'm not in an AL-only league, but here are a few starting pitchers who could be available:

Zach Britton (BAL) -
First off, it's simply amazing that the Orioles are tied for first place heading into Thursday's action. This is a team that ranks 23rd in the league with a 4.61 starters ERA. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Jason Hammel all have at least 11 starts and a starter's ERA of 4.09 or better. They also have Joe Saunders, who might be their ace, but the pitcher with the real upside (in addition to Tillman) is Britton. Britton has been up and down, but he recently had a line of 8-7-1-1-0-10 against the White Sox; he also allowed five runs in just 3.1 innings last time out against the Yankees. He's not a soft tosser, averaging 92 mph with his fastball, and mixing in a propensity for inducing groundballs, Britton is certainly intriguing.

Ivan Nova (NYY) -
Nova will replace Freddy Garcia in the rotation. He appears to be beyond the shoulder injury that has set him back recently, but he comes back to a 4.92 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, numbers that are significantly down from last year's 3.70 and 1.33. A 1.4 HR/FB rate has killed Nova's ERA this year, so the key will be his GB/FB rate. If that comes in strong in his next start, I'll have a little more confidence.

Jason Hammel (BAL) -
He's back, but now his knee appears to be hurt again. If he's out for any length, obviously don't pick him up.

Ricky Romero (TOR) -
This might be crazy talk given Romero's 5.85 ERA this year and horrible performance last time out (1IP, 8 H, 7 ER), but he had nine days' rest before his next start (Sept. 12). According to our Romero player notes, he's historically performed better given extra rest, so as long as there isn't an underlying physical issue, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him come out and pitch well. I'm just not sure I'd want to be the one to take that chance, but if you're desperate

Jose Quintana (CHW) -
Quintana has a 3.52 ERA, so he might not be available, but it's possible that owners cut bait after his ugly start on Sept. 4 - 1.1 IP, 7 ER. Quintana followed that by holding a tough Tigers offense to one run over 7.2 innings on Sept. 10, so he could be poised for a strong finish. Just realize that a pitcher with a 5.3 K/9IP is going to take his lumps now and then.

Hector Noesi (SEA) -
Noesi is best known for being a part of the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade, but he's been a complete bust for the Mariners this year. I put little stock in W/L record, but it's fun to note that between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle this year, Noesi is 4-17. He has allowed a whopping 20 home runs in 98.2 big-league innings with a mediocre 61:35 K:BB. Seems like it would be tough to allow that many home runs in Seattle (half of the 20 have come at home), so please avoid.

Sam Deduno (MIN) -
He's probably owned, but perhaps there is large contingent of owners in your league who haven't bought in. Given his 1.44 WHIP, 6.1 K/9IP and 5.5 BB/9IP, I wouldn't blame them. That said, Deduno's last three starts have been encouraging - 20 innings, 1.80 ERA, and an 18:6 K:BB. His .255 BABIP seems a bit low, but he does generate a lot of groundballs (2.4 G/F), so if the newfound control is for real, he could be an asset in AL-only and deep mixed leagues.

Corey Kluber (CLE) -
After a rough 2011, Kluber turned things around in Triple-A this year, recording a 3.59 ERA and solid 9.2 K/9IP before joining the Indians in eight starts, he's proven far too hittable (39.1 IP, 54 H), though a .384 BABIP hasn't helped. Kluber does have a couple solid ratios, including a 7.8 K/9IP and a 2.3 BB/9IP, but factoring in a 1.4 HR/9IP with all those hits is something that may not bode well. Still, a starter with a 3.4 K/BB is worth owning in AL-only leagues.

Regan, a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

Follow @vtadave on Twitter.

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