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Mound Musings: See You In September

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.

Is it possible? Can we be heading into September already? From a fantasy perspective, there are several aspects to the month of September worth considering. Some teams are in the hunt for a title. They are probably looking for that one piece that could put them over the top, and over their competition. However, even the teams that have fallen out of contention have things to be focusing on. September is scouting season for next year! Rosters expand, some of the better young arms might make a few appearances, and some guys who suffered long term injuries might be back. Rehab can be both physical and mental, and for a pitcher who has missed much of the season, getting back in the saddle before the year ends can make the winter a lot more positive. †Letís briefly see who might be worth a look during the seasonís upcoming final month:

Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays) Ė Stroman was the toast of Toronto last season, and they were really excited about his prospects for this year. Unfortunately, he tore an ACL and has been out since March. He has been on the mound the past couple of weeks, and reports have been very positive. Keep in mind, this was a fluke knee injury (it happened during fielding drills) and not an arm injury. When he does return, probably in mid-September, he could be nearly 100% and ready to pitch when it counts. If they let him start right away, he could help you yet this year. Having not pitched for so long, the Jays are unlikely to give him a heavy workload, but the playoffs are looming.

Kris Medlen (Royals) Ė After missing most of two seasons with two Tommy John surgeries, the Royals took a flyer on Medlen. He came back with a few bullpen outings initially, but they moved him into the rotation this week. Medlen was very productive through 2012 and 2013, so he could be quite find if he comes back to anywhere near that level. He will be on pretty strict pitch counts for the first few starts, but he showed some encouraging signs Monday. Did you know only one pitcher had a better ERA as a starter during 2012-13? His name was Clayton Kershaw.

Derek Holland (Rangers) Ė Like Medlen, Holland is actually back on the mound and with the Rangers before September. The poster child for long term injuries not involving Tommy John surgery, Holland didnít make his 2014 debut until September after missing most of the season with a knee injury, then went on the disabled list in March of this year with a shoulder strain. He came back just a couple of weeks ago. I donít like shoulder injuries, his velocity is down a tick, and his command hasnít been up to its normal level, but the bottom line is, I think Holland is already starting to settle in, and as he gets stronger he could be a nice addition to your stretch-drive rotation.

Matt Moore (Rays) Ė This is my sneak him in special for the last month. Moore has missed most of the last two seasons with injuries, and when he did come back earlier this year he posted an ugly 2.06 WHIP with an 8.78 ERA over 27 innings. Not surprisingly, that performance got him a trip to Triple-A Durham. Moore struggles with his command to be sure, but when he has everything in synch, he can be devastating. The minor league innings just might be just what it will take to bring him back to being one of the more promising pitchers in the game. Hereís a tidbit. He recently hurled six innings striking out 16. Yep, thatís two outs by anything other than a strikeout.

Now Iíll shift gears and look at a couple of kids who have not pitched for their major league teams yet this year. Actually, they are now a bit harder to come by, because teams are calling up the blue chip arms earlier these days.

Julio Urias (Dodgers) Ė Just to make it interesting, Iíll put a 19-year-old southpaw who hasnít pitched above Double-A in the top spot. Urias isnít your everyday young kid. In fact, barring anything unforeseen, he will also be right at the top of my annual kids to watch for next year list at the end of September. Itís not cast in stone that the Dodgers will promote him next month, and if they do he will likely pitch out of the bullpen, limiting his fantasy value this year. However, if you are in a keeper or dynasty league, and are aiming for 2016, you want this guy on your roster. He has true ace upside.

Tyler Glasnow (Pirates) Ė He started his pro career as a solid pitching prospect with a big body (6í8Ē), a live arm (electric high 90ís fastball), and a lot of potential. Since then he has built on his status and is now one of the top pitching prospects in the game. The Pirates are generally pretty conservative in pushing their young arms, but Glasnow is making that difficult. He still walks a few too many hitters, but his walk rate is steadily improving, and while primarily facing older, more experienced hitters, he has struck out an eye-popping 487 in just 360 innings. And, that is with an average change-up (that is also improving). Thereís a good chance the Pirates will give him a look in September.

Jose Berrios (Twins) Ė Barrios is another who has been steadily enhancing his value as he works his way through the Twinsí system. He was the Pitcher of the Year in the organization in 2014, and he has continued to move forward this year. Heís still just 21, but he has spent the last half of this year at Triple-A Rochester and he hasnít been overmatched, so the Twins may want to gauge how ready he will be to step into their rotation next year. He works in the low-mid 90ís but he can touch 98, and he can vary speeds on his breaking pitches while using his improving change as an out pitch. He looks like a middle-of-the-rotation guy, but his maturity and poise could play well now.

Blake Snell (Rays) Ė Iím not sure the Rays will give Snell a look in September, but I would like to see him. The Rays are typically conservative with their pitching prospects and they have been cautious with his innings and he has already thrown 119 innings this season, the most in his pro career. That said, they keep moving him up, and watching for him to level off, but he just keeps getting better. At Triple-A Durham he has posted a 0.76 WHIP and a 1.53 ERA with 47 strikeouts against just eight walks in 29 innings. Heís another one who may not get many innings even if he gets the call, but heís worth taking a look at as he is probably going to be a factor at some point next year.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings

  • I considered including James Paxton to the above list of September call-ups, but he struggled in his first rehab assignment, and was on a very low pitch count. That leads me to believe he wonít be back much before the end of the season, if then. Still, if he can get and stay healthy, donít forget him next spring.
  • While he still maintains a very tidy 2.94 ERA, the Cardinalsí Lance Lynn has a history of wearing down as the year wears on, and his recent performances havenít been up to his early season form. I donít think he will necessarily self-destruct, but you might not want to rely on him for ace innings.
  • I am still not completely convinced he has turned the corner, but I am more and more impressed every time I see Nathan Eovaldi. He has a huge arm (triple digits is in his bag even late in games), but his secondary stuff is finding the strike zone more often now. He could be a major target for me next spring.
  • J.A. Happ continues to baffle me. I bought him on the cheap before the season began, and I got a couple of respectable months, but then the wheels came off and he couldnít find the plate (other than the middle of it). He went to Pittsburgh and now heís back to respectable. Will the real J.A. please step forward?
  • I am impressed with the evolution of Justin Verlander. At some point in every power pitcherís career, they have to face the realization that they can no longer just reach back and blow people away. Some never make the transition. But, Verlander is showing that he can. Itís a step-by-step process but heís doing it.
  • Miami, and his fantasy owners, especially those in the hunt for a title in 2014, are very anxious to get Jose Fernandez back. He returned from Tommy John surgery, but made just seven starts before going down with a biceps strain. Heís coming along quickly and should be back, probably by mid-September.

Endgame Odyssey:

The Mariners brought about the biggest mass of confusion this week. They designated Fernando Rodney for assignment. Danny Farquhar imploded and bought a ticket back to Triple-A. Carson Smith has been scuffling, so they let Tom Wilhelmsen have the ball in the ninth, and it worked. This has committee written all over it, but no one stands out as their closer right now. Greg Holland was held out of a save situation last Sunday and pronounced unavailable Monday with a ďcrankyĒ arm. Itís hard to say exactly what that means, but Wade Davis owners need to be watching. Sean Doolittle finally made it back to Oakland, and while his first appearances werenít very pretty, his velocity was back and he is likely to close sooner rather than later if he is in fact healthy. Glen Perkins has been dealing with a sore neck, and the Twins werenít expected to let him pitch until Tuesday. An extra innings game changed that timeline last weekend, and he was pressed into service. Now heís had back spasms. Stay tuned. As we move into the latter part of the season, there are a few teams who literally donít have a viable closer to handle end game duties. Boston is in trouble without Koji Uehara as Junichi Tazawa and Jean Machi arenít the answer. Detroit is in a similar situation with Bruce Rondon trying to prove he is a better option than other pretenders.