Most starting pitchers have only taken the mound two or three times. But as we all know in the fantasy game, it’s never too early to try an improve a fantasy squad. Given that line of thought, I decided to discuss some of the under the radar types that are off to strong starts for their respective clubs. I’ll assume the following for the sake of the discussion: we’re in a 12 team mixed league that starts nine pitchers on a weekly basis. There are certainly scenarios in this setup where every pitcher on this list might have some use, but that doesn’t mean any of them should be making 30 starts for you this season in a 12 team setup.
Blake Beavan, Mariners: 1-1, 2.70 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Beavan hasn’t beat himself in two starts issuing only one free pass, and that will be key for a guy who had only 42 strikeouts last year in 97 innings. Beavan pitches to contact and was successful doing that last year with a 4.27 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 15 starts. The problem is, that level of production is all you have a right to expect from the Mariners tall righty – and that just doesn’t move the needle.
Kevin Correia, Pirates: 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP
In two starts he has been the quintessential ‘let the batters put the ball in play and let my defense work for me’ type. Through 12 innings he’s only walked three batters while striking out just five. However, he’s also pitched in two solid pitcher’s barns in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and that’s likely part of the reason for his success. Also, don’t fool yourself, Correia simply isn’t a very good hurler. For his career, and we’re over 900-innings now, he’s posted a 4.56 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 6.23 K/9 and 1.86 K/BB. Simply put, he’s as blah as blah gets though it should be noted that in his last 16 starts on the road his ERA is 2.45 while his WHIP is 1.09.
Matt Harrison, Rangers: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
The Twins and the White Sox did little against Harrison who has picked right up from where he was last season when he won 14 games with a 3.89 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Harrison has a heavy ball that leads to a lot of grounders, but he’s not an elite ground ball hurler (46 percent of batted balls). Given that he doesn’t miss many bats and that he had a career best 6.11 K/9 mark last season, his margin for error isn’t exactly large. With wins being variable, this isn’t a skill set that necessarily points to long term fantasy success, but he should be pretty solid.
Rick Porcello, Tigers: 1-0, 1.84 ERA, 0.89 WHIP
A first round selection in 2007, Porcello has the stuff to be a major asset to the Tigers. The Rays and White Sox witnessed that first hand as Rick went seven innings against both club while issuing just single free pass in the process. Poised to produce a breakout, this ground ball ace still isn’t an overly intriguing fantasy option (52 percent of batted balls end up rolling through the infield grass). Why is that? The lack of strikeouts of course. I target starters with a K/9 mark of at least six. Through 91 big league starts Porcello has been deficient with a 4.84 mark. Again, real world success is certainly possible, but in 12 team mixed leagues Porcello is more of a match up option than someone you should be rolling out there every week.
Joe Saunders, D’backs: 1-0, 0.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
A two-start pitcher this week, Saunders followed up seven shutout innings against the Padres by allowing one run over seven innings against the Pirates Monday. Saunders is as blah as it gets. Just take a look at his numbers over 163 career starts: 4.11 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5.03 K/9, 1.75 K/BB, 1.27 GB/FB. Purely a matchup option, I’d hope that Saunders is only being used when he’s facing the Pirates or Padres, or when he’s starting twice in a week.
Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
Like so many others on this list, Westbrook is a better real world pitcher than he is a fantasy weapon. Westbrook lasted seven innings in each of his first two starts, and his ratios are wonderful. Still, he has only four punchouts in the two games while he’s issued five free passes. Westbrook will win games, and he’s looked pretty strong since spring, but the guys has a career ERA of 4.30, a WHIP of 1.39 and his career best for Ks is 128. I’ll pass.
By Ray Flowers