Before we get to today’s regularly scheduled baseball chatter, I want to take a moment to offer my condolences and thoughts to those affected by the tornados in Oklahoma this week. Last month, after the Boston Marathon bombing, I wrote this, and I think it applies here as well:
The world is a big, beautiful place, but sometimes it is immeasurably bad. Boston’s story is sadly not unique either, as you are undoubtedly aware. Tragedies unfold every hour of every day, in every nook and cranny of the world. It’s part of the deal we make to live in it.
I’m here to write about fantasy baseball because that’s what I do. To unwind. To relax. To escape. To have fun. And that’s why I’m here today. I urge each of you Internet People (IPs) to do the same. Play fantasy baseball. Take your kids to the park. High five a stranger. Laugh. Cry. Live.
You can, I promise, and you must.
In many ways, this week’s tragedies in Oklahoma are more intimately connected with the baseball world, as so many players, coaches, fans, and media hail from the Sooner State. I was touched to see members of the baseball community reaching out to do their part to help, including Diamondbacks prospect Archie Bradley and Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. If you’re able to, I urge you donate to those who have lost so very much this week.
Enough real life. Let’s get on to the fantasy stuff, shall we? We shall!
Mitch Moreland has seen his ownership rates skyrocket since he was featured here (a direct result of being featured here, no doubt). The Texas first baseman is now owned in 89 percent of CBS leagues, so I hope you heeded my advice and bought when I said that would be a good idea. The ultimate upside here still seems limited to me, but he’s hitting right now and that should only get better as the weather heats up in Texas this summer. James Loney has also continued to produce, albeit less homer-ly than Moreland, and he’s owned about 25 percent fewer on CBS.
Waiver Wire favorite Welington Castillo has tailed off considerably, his last five games notwithstanding. His power is now below average and he’s due even more regression because of his still-high .395 BABIP. But hey, at least he drew a walk!
Matt Garza and Andrew Bailey returned from injuries. If either is unowned in your league as a result of their respective trips to the disabled list, you should remedy that immediately. John Danks also will return this Friday, but I would take a more measured approach with that one. It seems Dylan Axelrod will hold on to his spot in the White Sox rotation for the time being, and he’s actually been surprisingly not that bad. I didn’t listen to my own advice to avoid him earlier this year, and he hasn’t hurt me yet.
Scott Kazmir got slapped around by the Mariners, and I’m sticking by my advice that he doesn’t offer a whole lot of value for fantasy owners.
Today, let’s look at three starting pitching options for those in deep leagues.
Jerome Williams | Los Angeles Angels | SP | ESPN: 7.5 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 10 percent; CBS: 40 percent
YTD: 2-1, 3.05 ERA, in 38.1 innings pitched
ZiPS Projection: 6-7, 4.14 ERA in 133 innings pitched
In my continual scan of CBS’ “Most Added Players” list, I was somewhat shocked to see Jerome Williams (yes that Jerome Williams) as one of the most added pitchers last week, jumping from six percent to 40. I should not have been. The Angels’ rotation has been terrible (fifth worst ERA in the majors) and Williams has been very solid in posting a 3.05 ERA, 3.71 FIP and 4.50 xFIP.
His strikeout rate of 14.7 percent is nothing to write home about, but his walk rate of 6.4 percent is encouraging, and he’s getting a fair number of ground balls (41 percent). He’s posted quality starts in two of his three trips to the bump, both against the anemic White Sox offense, and he’s likely to keep his spot in the rotation until Jered Weaver returns.
There’s a lot to like the further you dig into his PITCHfx data, as well. His velocity, at 92.7 miles per hour, is as high as it’s ever been. He’s generating a healthy number of swings outside of the strike zone (34 percent), he’s throwing tons of first pitch strikes (63.1 percent) and his swinging strike rate (10.6 percent) is similarly strong.
Recommendation: Worth owning while Weaver is sidelined. He may lose his job after that, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
Jair Jurrjens | Baltimore Orioles| SP | ESPN: 1.1 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 0 percent; CBS: 10 percent
YTD: Four earned runs, five strikeouts, one walk, five innings pitched in his one start this year
ZiPS Projection: 3-8, 6.14 ERA, 82 innings pitched
Jurrjens made his season debut for the Orioles Saturday in place of Wei-Yin Chen, who is sidelined with an oblique strain. He’s never had a ton of swing and miss in his game, and it’s very clear now that his absurdly good 2009 (in which he had the fifth best ERA in the majors) was a complete outlier. It’s just one start, but Jurrjens was not bad in that one start, and he’s been decent at Triple-A this season.
In his eight starts there, he has a strikeout rate of 17.1 and a walk rate of 7.1 percent. His velocity does not appear to be back where it once was, but it’s very possible Jurrjens is not awful. Or, at least it’s possible that he’s not as awful as he was last year when he vomited up a 6.89 ERA for the Braves before they realized he was not helping them very much.
The Orioles sent him back to Triple-A to make room for Miguel Gonzalez, but it’s entirely possible (perhaps even likely) that they will bring him up again to make his next start later this week.
Recommendation: Break glass in case of emergency.
Roy Oswalt | Colorado Rockies| SP | ESPN: 0.0 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 1 percent; CBS: 5 percent
ZiPS Projection: 8-6, 4.45 ERA in 111.2 innings pitched
Oswalt signed with the Rockies earlier this year, which caused many owners (who had been speculating on him signing in a more pitcher-friendly situation) to jump ship. He’s gotten good press this week, though, and is about to set off to Double-A, where, at 35, he will make a handful of starts before joining the big club.
Oddly enough, Jeff Zimmerman covered both Jurrjens and Oswalt over at Fangraphs last year, and came to this conclusion about Oswalt (then with the Rangers).
Oswalt looks to be a bit of an intriguing pitcher. Currently, his talent level is not exactly known. He looks to get plenty of wins by being on the Rangers. His WHIP and ERA may suffer a bit when throwing at home. Right now, I would look at spot starting him against weaker teams at home or when the Rangers are on the road.
Temper the wins thing, change the Rangers to Rockies, and the statement still holds very true. He’s still just 35 years old, and while his 5.80 ERA last year with the Rangers was certainly ugly, there was a fair amount of bad luck involved there as well.
Recommendation: Worth a shot in deep leagues. Wait and see in mixed leagues. Oswalt is the kind of veteran pitcher fantasy league owners love to undervalue.