Mound Musings: Tossing a Side Session

Mound Musings: Tossing a Side Session

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

This week I'd like to toss some food for thought out there for your consumption. Speculation is a huge part of fantasy baseball. Regular readers will recall me repeating again and again that while statistics are a very useful tool, especially some of the more advanced stats we have today, but telling me what a player has done in the past is not nearly as helpful as telling me what he could do in the future. One of my favorite angles is what I call "changes in latitudes" … which coincidentally often compliments "changes in attitudes" when looking at the big picture. The trade deadline is approaching, and some high profile arms are sure to change uniforms. Then, I like to watch the structuring of teams as they try to build the best team possible. Sometimes it's pretty cloudy and hard to comprehend, but every once in a while a team will make moves that all seem to have a solid objective. Interesting. I have a team I have been watching that just might fall into that latter category, so I'll discuss that too. Let's start by seeing how changes in latitudes might impact some arms that might be involved:

Anticipating Those Inevitable Tradewinds:

Adding playoff spots has had an impact on one baseball tradition. More teams have a legitimate shot at the post season, and that means more teams are taking a wait and see approach to declaring themselves buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Given this

This week I'd like to toss some food for thought out there for your consumption. Speculation is a huge part of fantasy baseball. Regular readers will recall me repeating again and again that while statistics are a very useful tool, especially some of the more advanced stats we have today, but telling me what a player has done in the past is not nearly as helpful as telling me what he could do in the future. One of my favorite angles is what I call "changes in latitudes" … which coincidentally often compliments "changes in attitudes" when looking at the big picture. The trade deadline is approaching, and some high profile arms are sure to change uniforms. Then, I like to watch the structuring of teams as they try to build the best team possible. Sometimes it's pretty cloudy and hard to comprehend, but every once in a while a team will make moves that all seem to have a solid objective. Interesting. I have a team I have been watching that just might fall into that latter category, so I'll discuss that too. Let's start by seeing how changes in latitudes might impact some arms that might be involved:

Anticipating Those Inevitable Tradewinds:

Adding playoff spots has had an impact on one baseball tradition. More teams have a legitimate shot at the post season, and that means more teams are taking a wait and see approach to declaring themselves buyers or sellers as the trade deadline approaches. Given this situation, the tradewinds have been calm so far, but with July 31 approaching, decisions will be made, and some key arms are very likely to change uniforms very soon. Some deals almost have to happen, and others are becoming more likely with each loss in the standings.

In the almost has to happen category, the Phillies have nothing to gain by holding onto Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. They are not going to the post season, so it's only a matter of holding out for the best possible return. Papelbon has a burdensome contract which has kept him in Philadelphia for the past couple of years, but the clock is ticking. On the other hand, Hamels has had a couple of rough outings recently, but a contender will take a chance on him being fully healthy as long as nothing changes in his health status in the next few days. Hamels value probably gets a nice boost, and Papelbon should see a spike in value as well if he goes somewhere else to close.

The Reds aren't making any playoff of noise so Johnny Cueto is probably in play too. A couple of weeks ago he might have been the most sought after arm available, but he hasn't been at his best in his last two starts, including a six walk headscratcher just a few days ago. Like Hamels, as long as teams are convinced there are no physical problems, he will be pursued by the teams with the deepest pockets. Cueto, maybe the best in the field, is a genuine ace, so adding him to a rotation is a game changer.

There are others too. Will the Tigers write off 2015? If so, ace David Price becomes a tradeable commodity. The Mets have an excess of rotation options, and one of them, lefty Jon Niese, has been very sharp for the past couple of months. He's not a front of the rotation guy like Cueto or even Hamels, and he doesn't really have the same name recognition in fantasy circles, but he is very likely to move and could help your fantasy squad if he lands in a good spot. There are even rumors that some pitchers with friendly contracts could be in play. For example, the Blue Jays are reportedly inquiring about Milwaukee's Mike Fiers. He is under team control for a couple more years, but the right package of young talent could tempt the Brewers. Fiers is mid-tier starter, but Toronto may see something they feel could make a difference in his performance, and the offensive support he could see there makes him an intriguing option.

An Organization to Watch:

It's time to shift gears. I routinely review the usage patterns and structure of team pitching staffs looking for teams with a plan for the near future. This is a good exercise for fantasy owners who typically play in keeper and dynasty leagues, so I thought I would share some observations on a team that might be in a position to provide some undervalued pitching as early as next season – the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Barring any deals, there are about ten names that could be in the mix for a rotation spot next season. A couple probably won't be ready yet – kids Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair, and Yoan Lopez – and a few, including a couple of the more notable names – guys like Jeremy Hellickson, Robbie Ray, and Chase Anderson – could actually be fighting for a spot at the back of the rotation. That said, I am going to focus on the four arms I think could be the plums of the pack; the guys who could be nice finds on draft day 2016.

Patrick Corbin – returned from Tommy John surgery a couple of weeks ago, and the Diamondbacks are being understandably cautious with his workload. Expect that to continue through the rest of this year. However, keep in mind, Corbin is the guy who looked great in 2013 (14 wins, 1.17 WHIP, 3.41 ERA). He's a little bit prone to home runs, but if he continues to settle in he could lead this staff, and help yours a lot. I have liked what I have seen so far this season, and there is still rust to shake off.

Rubby De La Rosa – is a big arm who could mature at just the right time. He's still just 26, and he flashes all the tools. He has a moving fastball that can get up into the high 90's, albeit he tends to overthrow it at times, and he can complement that with a quality change and slider. The repertoire is clearly there, he just needs to become more consistent commanding all those pitches. Sometimes he loses the edges of the plate, and sometimes he loses the entire strike zone, but it's there.

Daniel Hudson – has been a pretty well-kept secret all year this year. He posted a 3.01 ERA through his first 44 starts for Arizona, and then had a pair of Tommy John surgeries that cost him the biggest share of three seasons (2012-14). A pure power pitcher, the team has eased him back, working him in with well-spaced relief appearances. He is very likely to rejoin the rotation when they are confident he is ready (next year), and he could be an impact starter the day that happens. Seriously, don't overlook him.

Archie Bradley – is listed here, not because he is fourth in line – he has the tools to be the number one – but because he still carries a blue chip prospect tag and will probably draw a lot more interest on draft day. Last season he suffered some minor elbow woes, and this season he has had a balky shoulder. Both injuries are said to be insignificant, but he's still young, and has command issues of his own to overcome. Another with a high ceiling if he can get and stay healthy, and everything clicks, Bradley could round out a very attractive first four in the Arizona rotation.

I like that group a lot. I also really like what Nick Ahmed does for the defense behind them, and I see a very positive impact with Welington Castillo being behind the plate. Add in top tier guys like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock and the pieces just might be coming together for the Arizona franchise.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:


  • After watching his start against Tampa Bay last weekend, I am ready to suggest adding Marco Estradato your rotation in deeper or AL only leagues. He's still going to serve up some occasional taters, but his change-up and command are likely to limit baserunners and keep the damage to a minimum.
  • Aaron Nola made his debut with the Phillies on Tuesday. He has a nice 92-93 fastball with armside run, a decent change, and a slurvy breaking ball, but he also has the one thing that makes him a good flyer as a new major leaguer – he spots his pitches very well. Command like his isn't an everyday thing for kids.
  • Interestingly, the Royals sent Yordano Ventura to Triple-A Omaha when they activated Jason Vargas. Ventura is an elite talent, but the league has figured him out and he needs to adjust. Vargas then left his first start back in the second inning with a torn UCL so Ventura has already been recalled.
  • The Dodgers verified that Brandon Beachy is not ready for the big show yet and will need work in the minors before he can help. I'm not sure he is ever going to be a huge asset so this might intensify their interest in making a deal. They have been mentioned as very active suitors for Hamels.
  • Red Sox rookie Eduardo Rodriguez has had problems with tipping his pitches on and off this season. This happens more than you might think. Major League hitters (and coaches) are extremely perceptive, and very small things can make a big difference. Just something to perhaps consider when a pitcher struggles.
  • Another name being circulated in trade rumors is Miami's Mat Latos. Since coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago, he has bounced back to his former level of performance. He will be a free agent following the season, so he is likely in play. His biggest problem has simply been staying healthy.

Endgame Odyssey:

Brad Boxbergeris the leading candidate for saves in Tampa Bay, but it appears they will play matchups in specific situations, making Jake McGee a viable option in deeper leagues. The Jays have now committed to Aaron Sanchez becoming a "late innings" reliever for the next couple of months. That translates into him being an insurance policy should Roberto Osuna stumble. He needs to be handcuffed. The Cubs recently called up Rafael Soriano and I would guess it's only a matter of time before he gets a chance to close games. Jason Motte will need to be extra sharp in the days ahead. A reliever who is often mentioned as possible trade bait is Oakland's Tyler Clippard. Clippard is best suited to be a set-up guy so a trade could hurt his fantasy value, and if he is dealt, Sean Doolittle won't be ready to come back. The A's bullpen without Clippard looks like a closer by committee, at least early on. Joe Smith picked up a save earlier this week when the Angels extended their lead in the inning after he entered the game. Closer Huston Street is reportedly healthy and available so don't look for Smith to log many more saves any time soon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 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.
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