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Closing Time: The Phil Hughes conundrum; the Dellin Betances alarm

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Felipe Hughes (USAT)

We've seen plenty of false positives with Phil Hughes over the years. The pedigree would whisper to us, a few good turns would show, you get excited – and then the bottom falls out. Wham, biff, zowie. Fool me once, fool me twice . . . you know how that goes. You haven't played roto until you've had Hughes torch your ratios.

And all that said, I'm signing up again. Grab the football, Lucy Van Pelt, I'm ready to kick it (and if it falls apart, meet me at the psychiatric booth).

Hughes was finally liberated from AL East ballpark hell over the winter, and he's off to a good start in the Midwest (4-1, 3.61/1.23). His last five turns have been especially useful: four wins, one walk, 23 strikeouts, 1.95 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. It hasn't been a cakewalk schedule, either (mmm, cakewalk): he's faced Boston and Detroit (twice) over that stretch. Here's a look at how Hughes stopped the Red Sox on Thursday.

Like most extreme fly-ball pitchers, Hughes is a little misunderstood. While ground-ball biases are always the preference, an extreme fly-ball rate isn't bad, either. You want a pitcher to exert more control over his results than the average pitcher. Think back to the salad days of Jered Weaver or Dan Haren; they did just fine as fly-ball starters.

I'm happy to dial up Hughes next week at San Diego, no matter that he bombed there last season. And I'm thrilled he no longer has to regularly visit the AL East ballparks that ruined him for years. Look at his ERAs from the four hitter-friendly havens of that circuit: 6.56 ERA at Fenway, 5.92 ERA at The Stadium, 5.69 ERA in the YYZ, 5.66 ERA at Camden Yards. The mistake-forgiving ways of Target Field are a pitcher's best friend.

Ready to forgive and forget? Hughes is still unowned in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues. Maybe a breakout season at Age 27 makes sense. Who's with me?

Here are some Dellin Betances pictures to spruce up your day: six straight whiffs en route to a relief victory. You've been good, you deserve it. And it's always fun to watch the Mets look silly (I suppose that's every night). Sixty-eight guns, our battle cry.

Betances is owned in a mere nine percent of Yahoo leagues, which I can partially justify – he's one of those limbo relievers (no save chances). But look at the numbers, man: 22.1 IP, 12 H, 4 R, 9 BB, 39 K, 1.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP. You have no use for filthy innings like that? A strikeout percentage of 44.8 doesn't move you? Heck, can't you imagine the Yankees upgrading Betances's role at some point?

The control and command (two different things) both need some work, but with strikeout stuff this good, I envision a future closer (especially if anything happens to David Robertson, who's already been hurt once this season). And if Betances ever got a rotation chance, I'd be interested there, too (fully understanding that his strikeout rate would take a big dip in a stretched role). Let's have some fun with this one.

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Don't tell any of this to Wieters (USAT)

If you need some ground balls to get through the day, maybe Zach Britton is more your speed. The Baltimore lefty got the closing call Thursday at Kansas City and aced the test: 12 sinkers, seven strikes, three infield outs, one mound celebration with teammates. Two of the opposing hitters were right-handed, too. Good luck elevating this kid's sinker (take a look at that ridiculous ground-ball rate, both this year and for the career). The K/BB rate could be better, but Britton's one dominant skill makes him worth our time.

Uncle Buck Showalter isn't going to reveal much to us, and he did have Tommy Hunter warming while Britton was on the mound. But given Hunter's jagged-numbers tour this year, I don't blame any rotoheads for cashing out right now. Darren O'Day? He pitched Thursday, too – in the sixth inning. Britton is good to go in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Ah, this unforgiving season of injuries. Joey Votto is the latest man down; he's dealing with a balky left knee and didn't travel to Philadelphia. A DL stint looks imminent. Move over, Jay Bruce.

The Reds weren't doing anything on offense even with Votto: they're 28th in runs. These guys were already on the streaming hot list, but things are especially friendly now. Cincinnati faces a number of name pitchers in the next week, automatic starts, but maybe we can talk you into some of the marginal guys (Tanner Roark and Jaime Garcia draw them next week). Ready, aim, fire.

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