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Weekend pitcher watch: Ryan Vogelsong

5/13/2011

Like most of you, I scoffed at the notion Ryan Vogelsong could have much fantasy value when the San Francisco Giants called him up a few weeks ago. I mean, Vogelsong was once a pretty good prospect for the Giants, but that was a decade ago. He was with the Pittsburgh Pirates through 2006, but never had major league success. His career major league ERA entering this season, which few thought would change after years of toiling in the minors and Japan, was 5.86. Last year I saw Vogelsong hurl for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and overall he produced a 4.66 ERA and 1.77 WHIP with the Iron Pigs and the Triple-A Salt Lake City Bees!

So it is that Vogelsong was called upon to replace another guy who didn't seem to matter much in lefty Barry Zito, and of course against any expectations he's delivered a cool 3.05 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 20&frac23; innings, including three starts. His last time out he permitted one measly hit to the Colorado Rockies over 6&frac13; innings. Is he legit or is this a ruse? Well, I think we'll learn a bit more about Vogelsong this weekend when he pitches at Wrigley Field.

Ultimately, I don't think Vogelsong has standard league value at this point, even knowing Zito isn't close to returning. I don't buy into the notion that if other members of a team's rotation are thriving, that means a pitcher with less talent will suddenly step up and overachieve. It really doesn't work that way. However, the Giants do play their home games in a friendly place for pitchers, and once upon a time Vogelsong was highly regarded. It was just a long time ago. I'd avoid him this weekend, but I do have to admit I am watching.

While I'm at it, the guy Vogelsong is scheduled to face doesn't intrigue me much for fantasy purposes this weekend, but I'm not ruling out further relevance. Lefty Doug Davis made 34 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, and sported a 4.12 ERA. In deep leagues or NL-only formats, a pitcher with 146 strikeouts and a usable ERA gets owned. Then Davis suffered a series of serious injuries, and his 2010 was terrible. Like with Vogelsong, I'll be watching mostly for NL-only purposes. I don't want a pitcher that can only hurt me ... but perhaps Vogelsong and Davis can help.

Like with the hitters earlier today, here are some other pitchers I'll be watching a bit more closely this weekend.

Philip Humber, SP, Chicago White Sox: Like Vogelsong, forget everything you thought you knew, Humber looks legit. I mean, Ozzie Guillen is going to a six-man rotation just to keep him around. What could be more telling? OK, truth is Humber has been Ozzie's top starter. Fantasy owners aren't buying the 0.94 WHIP, but I don't see anything in the peripherals that scares me.

Tyson Ross, SP, Oakland Athletics: Dallas Braden isn't coming back anytime soon, so Ross has some leeway here. So far he hasn't needed it with his 2.51 ERA, but I do have reason for concern. This right-hander is hittable and doesn't miss bats. He's likely best suited for relief work. Perhaps he's pitching well because all the other Athletics are. I'd avoid him this weekend against the White Sox, and for another few starts.

Erik Bedard, SP, Seattle Mariners: I'm convinced there's something here, and we've seen it the past few outings. Bedard fanned nine Chicago White Sox on Sunday. In his past three outings, he's allowed four runs total. He appears healthy. I still think run support will be an issue, but the strikeout potential is worth looking at, and he's trending upward.

Freddy Garcia, SP, New York Yankees: Yes, I actually would use him on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball game against Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox. Garcia is 8-2 lifetime against the Sox, and more importantly, he's got a decent strikeout rate this season. He's not likely to throw a shutout, but he has been keeping the Yankees in games, despite low run support.

Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers: He's struggled this season, with a 6.75 ERA and 1.64 WHIP, but note the 25 strikeouts in 14&frac23; innings. Only two relief pitchers have more whiffs (Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Clippard). Also note the absence of Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo in the bullpen, leaving Vicente Padilla alone for the ninth inning. You feeling good about Padilla? There's potential opportunity for Jansen, now that he's back in the bigs.

Have a great weekend everyone!