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A closer look at Odrisamer Despaigne

7/21/2014
Odrisamer Despaigne has held opposing hitters to a .177 average in his first five big-league starts. Denis Poroy/Getty Images

His name is Odrisamer Despaigne, and you're forgiven if you don't know much about the Cuban right-hander that toils for the San Diego Padres. The franchise that has never had a no-hitter in its history (7,264 regular season games) came close Sunday afternoon. That's right, the Padres have a spacious ballpark and have had some pretty good pitching in their 46 seasons -- from Randy Jones to Bruce Hurst and Jake Peavy -- but San Diego has never had a pitcher toss what San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum has done twice versus the Padres in just the past year. Despaigne, a 27-year-old defector who signed a minor-league deal in May, nearly made history in his fifth big-league start, falling four outs short.

Alas, New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy ruined the fun with a two-out, eighth-inning double to left center field and then spoiled Despaigne's chances at a win when he scored on a David Wright single, but let's examine this pitcher. After all, Despaigne boasts a 1.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP after 34 1/3 innings, but that's not nearly enough to know if there's a fantasy monster lurking. My immediate take the past few weeks has been that he is not someone to invest in due to his paltry strikeout rate. Despaigne has whiffed 17 hitters in a month, so he's not helping anyone there. Good innings matter, but if he's not going to win much -- Sunday was a great example as the offensively inept Padres scored once in eight innings -- and he's not adding strikeouts, that's a problem.

Despaigne began Sunday as the No. 13 most-added pitcher in ESPN standard leagues, but he's still available in more than 80 percent of leagues. While almost all Padres starting pitchers are worth a look for ERA/WHIP help, due to playing half their games in spacious Petco Park, right-handers Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy are the only ones among the top-60 starting pitchers on the Player Rater. Andrew Cashner would be as well if he had pitched more, I suppose. Despaigne's command still worries me; he's likely to be hittable, but the pair of four-walk games he had recently tell a story. His fastball is averaging a modest 91 mph, but he sinks the ball and boasts an effective hard slider and reasonably slow curveball, mixing his speeds well enough -- some pitches don't hit 70 mph -- to confuse just about everyone. Oddly enough his numbers in the minors -- only seven starts -- saw him get shelled but pile on the strikeouts. So what's the verdict?

Well, it's hard to get too excited here. Colleague Tristan Cockcroft left Despaigne out of his top-90 starters in his midseason rankings, and I agree. It's too early. It's a nice story so far -- nearly a historic one Sunday! -- and I wouldn't fault anyone for adding the guy even in a standard league, but be wary of what's to come. This isn't a guy with knockout stuff, or else the New York Yankees and 20 other teams would have bid on him back in the spring. He's worth using in all Petco Park games, but his next outing is scheduled for Friday at Atlanta. Ride the hot streak, but be prepared to move on if/when things go awry.

NL report: Atlanta Braves lefty Alex Wood shut down the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, allowing one run in six innings for his seventh win. Wood continues to get strikeouts and shouldn't be among the most-dropped pitchers, although he is. … San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is headed back to the disabled list for a concussion, but at this point he's a tough man to count on. Belt has 10 home runs, but seven of them came in the first month. His walk rate has plummeted. Move on. Adam Duvall will be summoned. The 25-year-old has legit power, so NL-only owners should monitor, although expect Mike Morse to handle first base most of the time. … Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig left Saturday's game prematurely after being hit by a pitch on the left hand, and more exams are scheduled for Monday. The Dodgers claim Puig will be fine, and fantasy owners should leave him active this week if they have the option to adjust lineups. … Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee continues to hit. His homer Sunday off Lincecum was merely his second of the season, but he's batting .322 and on pace for 94 RBIs. Those that took a chance in NL-only formats deserve credit.

AL report: Toronto Blue Jays lefty Mark Buehrle permitted five runs over six innings to the Texas Rangers Sunday, pushing his ERA to 2.86. That's still terrific, but the statistical regression most predicted for Buehrle is clearly here; he's given up 27 hits in his past three outings, covering 17 innings. Sell before it's too late. … Detroit Tigers first baseman Victor Martinez played his 15th game at first base Sunday, and he's expected to handle the position in the road interleague series in Arizona this week. Martinez seems likely to earn first base eligibility (20 games) for 2015, which further raises his draft value. This is a top-10 first baseman. … Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino came off the DL Saturday and had three hits in two games. Victorino is available in more than half of ESPN's standard leagues and figures to be a top-60 outfielder the rest of the way, although durability is hardly a strong point for him, and he might not run much. … Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura initially pitched well after dealing with a sore elbow, but the Red Sox shelled him for six runs on nine hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings Sunday. Ventura didn't register a strikeout. He's a huge risk in standard formats.

Closer report: The Padres traded right-hander Huston Street to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend, and Street earned his first save Saturday. If you're in an AL-only format, go get him. Meanwhile, Joe Smith moves back to a setup role and isn't worth much anymore. The Padres will turn to right-hander Joaquin Benoit for the ninth inning, but be aware he's trade bait as well and doesn't figure to close for the new team. Dale Thayer could find his way into saves in lovely San Diego. … Blue Jays lefty Aaron Loup saved games over the weekend. On Saturday he filled in for an ill Casey Janssen. On Sunday Loup relieved Janssen, who struggled. Janssen remains the closer, but Loup is next in line. … Seattle Mariners right-hander Fernando Rodney sputtered Sunday in losing to the Angels, allowing three hits and three walks -- although two intentional -- in his first blown save in more than two months. With setup man Danny Farquhar admitting his elbow is sore, Rodney is secure in the role.