Rich Harden| Oakland| SP| 12 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.07 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 9.64 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 30.6 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.32 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9
“Year of the pitcher” part two or not, Rich Harden has been a fantastic pitcher who has seen his strong efforts wasted on the waiver wire since being activated from the disabled list in many leagues. It’s entirely possible Harden is a ticking time bomb from a health perspective— An unsatisfactory physical performed by the Red Sox is what hung up a trade they had agreed to—but for now he’s healthy. A putrid 92.0 innings pitched last season in Texas may have been reason for reservation prior to his first few starts this year, but that poor performance is looking more and more like an aberration and shouldn’t prevent owners from confidently owning and starting him going forward.
His extreme fly ball batted ball profile makes him a candidate to sit in some road match-ups, but shouldn’t be too damning at home. He’s striking out tons of batters, largely because hitters are coming up empty on the pitches they swing at outside the strike zone. The league average for outside the strike zone contact (o-contact) is 68.2 percent, but hitters’ o-contact rate against Harden is just 58.0 percent.
These empty hacks have helped Harden beat the league average swinging strike rate by just under two percent. All-in-all, his fastball and change-up combination is helping him perform in a way that holds up well when compared to his original stint in green and gold threads. His play has been ignored by the masses, so those in need of strikeouts with the potential for useful ratios as well may have their answer available at the price of … on the house.
Recommendation: Should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues, and used even in those leagues when he has favorable match-ups.
Felipe Paulino| Kansas City| SP| 2 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.06 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 8.23 K/9, 2.90 BB/9, 45.7 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 4.42 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9
My infatuation with Felipe Paulino and his sudden success is beginning to teeter toward being troublesome. It would appear I’m driving a nearly uninhabited bandwagon, and with a mediocre turn against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday that may not change in short order. It probably should, though. His success since joining the Royals isn’t completely out of nowhere. For his career, his underlying stats have suggested he’s much better than his surface stats would lead most to believe. That fact is probably best illustrated by the 1.24 gap between in his career ERA and xFIP.
While his luck has been less than ideal, he has helped himself by reducing his walks substantially since joining the Royals, while still striking out 1.23 more batters-per-nine than the league average starter. He’s also displaying a groundball slant in batted ball data, which is always preferred to the alternative—a ground ball won’t leave the ballpark.
His next two scheduled starts are brutal, facing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Working in his favor are that both starts come at home, and both come in the same week. After that fearsome twosome leave Kauffman, things get easier; he won’t face another top-10 offense the remainder of the season. Two of his more favorable match-ups are the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners, both coming in the same week (Sept. 5 and Sept. 10). At the least, he should be on owners watch lists for that specific week.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues and all AL-only formats.
Frank Francisco| Toronto| RP| 37 percent Yahoo! ownership
YTD: 4.41 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 10.13 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, 38.0 percent GB
Oliver ROS: 3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
The occasionally combustible Frank Francisco has been on fire of late, and not simply going up in flames. Over the last 30 days Francisco has struck out 10 batters while walking zero and allowing just one earned run, a solo home run. He’s racked up zero saves in that time frame, but he may get an opportunity to add a few more to his season total with Jon Rauch‘s recent struggles. Rauch has allowed at least one earned run in four of his last five appearances, giving up three gopher balls, and blowing one save.
Manager John Farrell has had no problem changing his closer this season. If performance dictates usage, Francisco is due for another crack at closing duties. Of course there is no guarantee that will happen. Owners trolling for saves this late in the season would be wise to speculate and roster Francisco and hope Farrell does the right thing.
Recommendation: Should be owned by owners in need of saves in leagues of all sizes.
Brett Lawrie| Toronto| 2B/3B| 36 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .261/.305/.431
A day late and a dollar short is the popular idiom, but in this case Brett Lawrie’s inclusion in this article is about a week late: Last week’s entry was submitted before his promotion. Fortunately he is still unowned in about two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues, making his inclusion this week something more like 33 cents short than a full dollar. The premium piece the Jays received in return for Shaun Marcum crushed the ball early in the season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League before suffering a non-displaced fracture in his hand in early June. Returning in July, he didn’t miss a beat and earned a promotion to the parent club last week.
He’s scalding the ball for the Jays, and can be helpful to fantasy owners down the stretch. Lawrie is unlikely to keep up his torrid pace, as he’s striking out quite a bit, and has yet to draw a walk. As the book gets out on him, expect to see pitchers begin to exploit his aggressiveness. He is a talented player, though, and could be capable of making his own adjustments as he settles in. Armed with both second base and third base eligibility, he offers great flexibility, and warrants speculation on his skills shining through.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium-sized mixed leagues, all large mixed-leagues, and all AL-only formats.
Johnny Giavotella| Kansas City| 2B| 3 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .283/.330/.409
Not as high-profile a prospect as Lawrie, Johnny Giavotella is an offensive-minded prospect in his own right at a thin position. Giavotella stung the ball in the Pacific Coast League this season, making him much like everyone else who has stepped into a batters box there this year. In all seriousness, Giavotella made a lot of contact, striking out in only 11.3 percent of his at-bats and displaying a bit of pop and a bit of speed, hitting nine home runs and stealing the same number of bases.
His command of the strike zone will make him more difficult to exploit than Lawrie, but his lesser power and speed tools make his upside lower both in the short term and long term. Not a great fit for owners in all league sizes, he can be a better than average contributor at middle infield in large mixed-leagues.
Recommendation: Should be owned in some medium-sized mixed leagues that use a middle infield position, most large mixed leagues with a middle infield position, and all AL-only formats.
Mike Carp| Seattle| 1B/OF| 6 percent Yahoo! ownership
Oliver ROS: .260/.325/.459
Few players can lay claim to being hotter than Mike Carp has been the last 30 days. During that time he is slashing .358/.388/.593 in 81 at-bats with four home runs. He’s riding an 11-game hit streak right now, and is worth rostering in deep leagues as long as he’s hitting. He’s not a player who’s going to wow anyone, but any level of competency in the league’s worst offense is reason enough to be slotted in a prime lineup spot.
Carp has seen his greatest number of at-bats from the cleanup slot, and should continue to hit there as long as he’s punishing baseballs. Unfortunately for Carp, in addition to not having any standout fantasy tools (i.e. power or speed) he’s eligible only at the two deepest offensive positions, first base and outfield. Consider him the equivalent of a pitch and ditch. Ride him while he’s hot, but cut bait when the coals start to cool.
Recommendation: Should be owned in most large mixed leagues while he’s hot, and all AL-only formats.