April 11, 2011
As we seem to discuss every March during primer season, a significant percentage of useful pitching talent goes undrafted in fantasy leagues each year. This position is notoriously difficult to forecast, and injuries are the rule. It's not so unusual for unheralded pitchers to emerge as fantasy assets.
With this fact in mind, let's kick the tires on four lightly owned pitchers who've impressed in the opening weeks. (Would have gone to five or ten, but the Chicago-Oakland pre-party begins early. Sorry). Feel free to deride these names in comments, per your usual.
Chris Narveson(notes), Milwaukee Brewers, 24 percent owned
That's Narveson pictured above, probably striking someone out. The lefty has 14 Ks in 13 innings thus far, and he still hasn't allowed a run, earned or unearned. He's not a particularly hard thrower (88.3 mph average fastball in 2010), yet he has a history of piling up Ks (209 in 237 MLB innings). Check the tape from his most recent start, against the Cubs over the weekend. He's changing speeds, changing eye level, humiliating Soriano. Narveson's next scheduled start is against the Pirates on Thursday, and there are a few friendly series coming up for Milwaukee over the next six weeks (Houston twice, San Diego twice, Washington twice).
Justin Masterson(notes), Cleveland Indians, 22 percent
OK, before offering any sort of Masterson recommendation, we need to first call out the obvious flaw: He's had almost no luck with left-handed hitters in his brief major league career. They're batting .291 against him; his WHIP versus left-handers is 1.68. Splits here. The early returns this year have been encouraging — he struck out nine Mariners in 6.1 innings on Saturday — but of course we need to see some results when the degree of difficulty increases. The nice thing about Masterson's short-term situation, however, is that his next three starts aren't too intimidating. He'll get the Orioles this week, then the Royals twice.
Esmil Rogers(notes), Colorado Rockies, 7 percent
The 25-year-old Rogers gave us seven Ks in 7.1 innings in his first start of 2011, a win at Pittsburgh. He has a four-pitch arsenal that includes a 95 mph fastball, and the guy posted respectable K-rates in the high minors (7.8 K/9 in 2010, 7.5 in 2009). Rogers should get two starts this week (at NYM, vs. CHC); streamers have the green light.
Derek Holland(notes), Texas Rangers, 21 percent
Holland has opened the season with a pair of wins, striking out 11 batters over 12.0 innings. We can assume that run support won't be an issue, not with the Rangers, and the lefty's K-rate works for fantasy purposes. Holland's career minor league K/9 is 9.5. Like everyone else on this four-man list, Holland is perhaps only a spot-starter — no need to give him a turn against the Yankees next weekend — but he belongs on your radar.
And that's all I've got for now, gamers. Time for tailgate prep. If you've got any Braden/Buehrle drinking game suggestions, please share 'em now...
Photo via US Presswire