By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
One month ago, we were starting the second day of action following the All-Star break. A lot has changed between then and now, with new pitchers emerging as useful fantasy options. Here are 10 hurlers who are widely available in Yahoo leagues despite excelling to this point in the second half. As you’ll see, some are potential studs — while others are fool’s gold.
Seth Lugo, RP, Mets
Lugo has been lights-out in the second half, posting a 0.64 ERA, a 0.14 WHIP and a 19:0 K:BB ratio across 14.2 innings. And you know who hasn’t been lights-out in the second half? Mets closer Edwin Diaz, who has allowed at least one run in five of his past six appearances. Diaz has the big contract, but the Mets are suddenly in the middle of a postseason race and won’t hesitate to use Lugo in all sorts of high-leverage situations down the stretch.
Ryan Yarbrough, SP/RP, Rays
I have been pleading with gamers to pay more attention to Tampa Bay hurlers all season, and Yarbrough is among the best arms to grab. Being used as a bulk reliever who usually follows an opener, the southpaw has picked up 11 wins this season after recording 15 victories a year ago. And even though many gamers don’t like wins, they are still 20 percent of the pitching pie in roto leagues. Yarbrough has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his past 10 appearances, and he can help any fantasy team right now.
Brad Keller, SP, Royals
Keller works deep in games, which makes him a rarity these days. And the right-hander has been racking up whiffs more frequently of late, posting a 7.6 K/9 rate in the second half in comparison to a 6.3 mark before the All-Star break. But even with the improvement, his swing-and-miss skills remain subpar. As someone who primarily relies on good fortune with ground balls to succeed, Keller will always be a marginal fantasy asset. He remains a fine streaming option for favorable matchups.
Zac Gallen, SP, D-backs
Gallen caused a bit of a fantasy buzz when he debuted with the Marlins this summer, and he has certainly met expectations by posting a 2.40 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a 10.7 K/9 rate. And after being traded to the D-backs at the deadline, the right-hander now gets the benefit of working in front of a respectable supporting cast. Gallen should be rostered in virtually every league, and he can be started in every NL matchup outside of ones against the Dodgers or at Coors Field.
Giovanny Gallegos, RP, Cardinals
Here’s a fun fact that will impress your friends: No pitcher ranks ahead of Gallegos in all three of IP, ERA, and WHIP. In fact, he owns the lowest WHIP of any pitcher who has tossed at least 20 innings. The right-hander has been one of the most consistent hurlers in baseball this year (1.96 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.4 K/9 rate), and he is sitting on waivers in most leagues.
Ian Kennedy, RP, Royals
Fantasy gamers are likely surprised to know that Kennedy is tied for the Major League lead with nine saves since the All-Star break. He has converted every save chance since the beginning of June, and he owns a solid 54:11 K:BB ratio this season. Sure, Kennedy’s save chances could eventually dry up on a weak Royals squad, but he is still pitching well enough to help all roto gamers.
Cal Quantrill, SP/RP, Padres
Quantrill is quickly showing why the Padres ignored injury concerns and tabbed him eighth overall in the 2016 MLB draft. The rookie owns strong surface stats (3.21 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), and he has been spectacular (0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) in five second-half outings. Quantrill will need more whiffs before he’s a must-start option, but he has the control skills to be used in his favorable outings. At this point, he’s a streamer in 10-team leagues and a roster lock in 12-team formats.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Giants
Samardzija is out-pitching his advanced stats (3.55 ERA, 4.37 FIP), but his results are to be expected from someone who generates plenty of fly balls at a spacious home park. The veteran deserves plenty of credit for battling back from injury to re-establish himself as someone with plus control who gives up his share of homers but generally limits the damage. Overall, I put Samardzija ahead of Quantrill but behind Gallen in terms of desirability among those mentioned thus far in this space.
Max Fried, SP/RP, Braves
Fried owes his spot on this list to good luck, as he has picked up wins in all four of his second-half starts. The righty has finished the sixth inning in just one of his past six outings, which makes his series of victories even more fortuitous. Fried has solid strikeout (9.1 K/9 rate) and control (2.6 BB/9 rate) skills, but he gives up too many line drives and too much hard contact to be a shallow-league stud. Still, his .342 BABIP should come down, and he should be rostered in most formats.
Zach Plesac, SP, Indians
Fantasy gamers need to be careful with Plesac, who gives up more than his share of fly balls and home runs. His second-half success can be mostly traced to a lower-than-normal HR/FB rate, but that sort of midseason change normally doesn’t stick in the long run. The right-hander is a solid streaming option for those who want WHIP help, or for those who need to chase wins and have the roster space to pounce on those juicy AL Central matchups.