|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
The Texas Rangers don’t seem particularly worried about right-hander Yu Darvish, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a mild strain in his trapezius muscle in his upper back, so really, fantasy owners shouldn’t overreact to the news. After all, Darvish is expected to miss only one start, which puts him in basically the same position as awesome New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, in the same plight this weekend. Sure, Harvey’s issue is about starting the All-Star Game -- um, I mean, he has a blister -- and Darvish’s is more like shoulder fatigue, but still, the goal is the long term for these teams and fantasy owners. It’s not terribly uncommon for starting pitchers to get the brief DL treatment, or in the case of Oakland Athletics right-hander Dan Straily, to get sent to the minor leagues for a quick return after the All-Star break.
Of course, some fantasy owners just won’t see things quite that way, so now is actually a wonderful time to see whether the Darvish owner in your league is panicking, and perhaps you can work a deal for less than proper value. I have full confidence in the Japanese strikeout artist and, in fact, certainly wondered over the past fortnight whether his modest struggles were a result of a minor physical ailment. Darvish has managed only one quality start in his past four outings, pushing his season ERA to the other side of 3 and his WHIP over 1. Again, though, he’s been striking hitters out and he’s the No. 8 starting pitcher for the season, so it’s not like he’s been Joe Blanton of late. I blogged about Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander on Wednesday and noted that Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Darvish were the only three pitchers I’d choose over him for the rest of this season and for early 2014 draft purposes. This DL news doesn’t change that one bit, and the fact that Darvish leads everyone in most pitches per start (109.5), edging out C.J. Wilson, Chris Sale and Verlander, doesn’t worry me at all. Not all pitchers are created equal.
Regardless, if you’re looking for fill-in pitchers for the next week, the following options available in more than 50 percent of ESPN standard leagues seem more than reasonable to me, in order of preference: Josh Johnson, A.J. Griffin, Ricky Nolasco, Jorge De La Rosa, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Kendrick, Jacob Turner, Ivan Nova, Wade Miley, and, for while it lasts, Jeremy Hefner and Scott Feldman.
Meanwhile, a month or so ago, I discussed the top hitters with the DL asterisk next to their name in terms of rest-of-season value, so now seems like an apt time to do this with the pitchers. As always, refer to excellent colleague Stephania Bell when it comes to injuries, but here are my thoughts on whether these pitchers are worth waiting for and to what degree, and apologies for the names you don’t see. We can’t discuss everyone.
Yu Darvish, Rangers: He leads baseball in strikeouts. Yeah, I’d say patience is warranted here. If it were late August, I doubt he’d miss any starts for this issue.
Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: Still the No. 14 pitcher on the Player Rater despite having made only 12 starts, Buchholz has been dealing with neck and shoulder soreness, but the team thinks he’s close to starting a rehab assignment. He’s not the most durable fellow, and his ERA has to regress at some point, but I don’t think he’ll fall apart, either. I’m actually buying here.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox: The White Sox really want him back soon so they can shop him in trade, and I’d bet he returns right after the All-Star break. He remains a big strikeout option with a low WHIP. I’d stash him over the next brittle guy, which surprises me as well.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds: Back on the shelf with the same lat strain as before, although the tear is minor, the Reds don’t expect him back until August. They also don’t expect the injury to fully heal. Personally, I’d try to trade Cueto away, and I figure he’s got about 10 starts in him at most.
Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves: Coming back from Tommy John surgery, the Braves think Beachy can return this month. The problem is there’s no obvious choice to leave the rotation, so they might be seeking a Tim Hudson or Paul Maholm trade. For Beachy’s purposes, don’t assume more strikeouts than innings pitched or a sub-3.00 ERA, but he can be a top-50 pitcher the rest of the way.
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays: He was pitching so well this season when the line drive struck his head, and the Rays seem optimistic Cobb can return by August. Hey, I’d take that. There was no guarantee he’d come back this year. Just don’t expect similar performance.
Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers: His first rehab outing for Triple-A Round Rock didn’t go so well statistically, but the team really needs him this month. I worry about his shoulder continuing to bother him and command woes. I’m tepid on adding him.
Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals: Yeah, I’m a bit surprised he’s so close to returning, but he’s days from a rehab assignment, and the team says he will be featured as a starter. When’s the last time Carpenter pitched poorly over a long stretch? I trust him and think he returns by August. Each start could be his last, but don’t we kind of say that now for Andy Pettitte?
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies: Well, who knows. Honestly, do you think Halladay knows? I’m skeptical he'll make more than five or six starts, but I wouldn’t bet against a major bounce back in 2014.
Wandy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates: The latest line on the lefty is he can’t get rid of the forearm tightness, which seems foreboding to me. I’d move on, since he’s not a high-upside guy to start with.
Brett Anderson, Oakland Athletics: Enough is enough.