2014 Fantasy Baseball: Injured Starters With Second-Half Value, Part 2
In part one of this series, I looked at three arms returning this week giving them more immediate value to fantasy owners, but there are still several arms working their way back who can deliver real upside this summer and should be given serious consideration if you’re in dire need of arms.
The league recommendation tables that will follow each player assume you need pitching, so please keep that in mind. If I recommend buying someone in a 12-team league, that doesn’t mean you’re cutting a Phil Hughes for him because of Hughes’ three bad starts recently. It means you’ve lost Jose Fernandez and Cliff Lee and you’ve been piecing it together with streamers and the Jesse Chavezes of the world.
Francisco Liriano – Oblique – Rehab Start on Monday, July 7th
Liriano has regressed some from 2013, but the rise in his ERA of more than 1.5 runs has been a bit undeserved. He’s still missing plenty of bats with an elite groundball rate, but his walk rate is back up and his home run rate has doubled from last year. How much of the oblique injury impacted his 4.60 ERA? He had a 3.97 ERA in April, but then a 5.17 ERA in eight starts before hitting the DL. There is still plenty of upside here. I think he could reasonably drop a full run off of his ERA from here on out and by that I mean pitch well enough to move his composite ERA to about 3.60. But even if he “only” pitched to a 3.60 from here on out, he would be worthwhile. He threw 76 pitches in his rehab start at Triple-A on Monday, netting six scoreless on three hits with eight strikeouts and zero walks. He was tabbed for about 85 pitches so he might get another rehab start to stretch out some more, but I think he will be back shortly after the break at the latest (barring setbacks, of course).
10-mixed: Acquire with open DL spot; Everything else: Buy, even without necessarily having that DL spot free
James Paxton – Shoulder – Simulated Game on Tuesday, July 8th
Paxton was in the very early stages of a breakout season before succumbing to injury. It was just two starts, but they continued to showcase the exceptional talent he showed in four starts at the end of 2013 and of course all of it was backed by his blue-chip status as a prospect. Paxton lacks a firm timetable, but I wouldn’t even begin to expect him back until after the break. Early-August is probably a safer initial return expectation. Paxton looks poised to rejoin a strong ballclub in the Mariners and with his groundball/strikeout combination, he should be a fantastic addition to their rotation down the stretch. With just six MLB starts, I don’t think we can put much stock into his 1.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, but he can be a strong 3.00 ERA/1.15 WHIP arm with big strikeout potential.
10-mixed & 12-mixed: Acquire with open DL spot; All other mixed: Buy, even without necessarily having that DL spot free; AL-Only: Inquire about a discount via trade as he won’t be on the wire
Derek Holland – Knee – Simulated Game on Saturday, July 5th
Holland has done some fantastic things in his nearly four full seasons of work spread out over five years. He’s shown big strikeout potential, refined his walk rate over the years, and generated more groundballs than flyballs (though not overwhelmingly with a 43% career GB rate) yielding bouts of dominance in the midst of the struggles that beset most young lefties. The bottom line is a 4.36 ERA in 782 innings, but his 3.42 ERA in 213 innings in 2013 was well-supported by his component numbers. I like that he’s not returning from an arm injury, too. Granted, micro-fracture is hardly on the light end of injuries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his form quicker than guys returning from Tommy John, for example.
With the Rangers fading from contention as the injuries simply piled too high, the urgency for his return isn’t there, but they won’t necessarily be overly protective either as they just need arms so badly right now. There is a significant chance that Holland ends up as the best pitcher of the six listed in both parts of this piece if that knee is ready for primetime, but that is such a colossal “if” that he remains tough to blindly buy in all formats at this juncture. He’s awaiting word on a rehab assignment and once word on that comes down, you will have a better idea of when he might start contributing to your team.
10-mixed & 12-mixed: Acquire with open DL spot; All other mixed: Buy, even without necessarily having that DL spot free; AL-only: He’s almost certainly locked on a DL spot of another team