Looking to improve your fantasy rotation? You would think Tim Lincecum would be the prime candidate at this point, but does anyone really trust him? The numbers for the former fantasy ace have just gotten downright scary. While I obviously would take him at the right price, he’s still a pitcher that’s hard to recommend.
However, he’s not the only potential ace that’s likely out there on the cheap. Let’s take a look at some pitchers who you may be able to buy low on and are primed for a big rest of the season:
Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
Currently sporting a 4.57 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, Lester has posted four straights seasons of at least 15 W, an ERA under 3.50 and a WHIP of 1.27 or better. All of that came pitching in the AL East to boot. Does anyone really think that things are not going to get better for him?
Drafted among the Top 15 starting pitchers prior to the season, Lester currently has a career worst BABIP (.316), strand rate (64.6%) and line drive rate (22.7%). He also has struggled to generate strikeouts, with a measly 6.92 K/9 (he’s been over 8.50 each of the past three years).
Despite still struggling from poor luck in his first two starts of June (.359 BABIP and 58.9% strand rate) and still being hit relatively hard (21.6% line drive rate), the numbers have taken a step in the right direction. The big reason is that the strikeouts are up (14 K over 13 IP), meaning the other metrics have less of an effect on his numbers.
It’s hard to imagine the strikeouts not staying elevated and, given his track record, the BABIP/strand rate/line drive rates should fall into line as well. Throw in a renewed sense of excellent control (2.79 BB/9, similar to his 2008 & 2009 marks) and there is an awful lot to like about Lester.
Now may be your last chance to get him before his owner realizes that he’s going to pitch like the ace he was drafted as. Kick the tires and see what you can get.
Josh Johnson – Miami Marlins
After missing the bulk of the 2011 season (he made 9 starts) no one really knew what to expect from Johnson. When he finished May with a 4.83 ERA (down from his 5.34 mark at the end of April), even those who were believers at the beginning of the season may have grown skeptical.
However, he’s allowed just 3 ER over 14.2 IP in June, striking out 16, and has now lowered his ERA to 4.27. Is it just a blip on the radar, and he’s going to go back to his poor ways? If the owner in your league believes that, now is the perfect time to strike.
Opponents have hit Johnson hard this season, with a 25.4% line drive rate (which helped lead to a .360 BABIP and 82.2% strand rate). Over the course of his career he’s posted a 20.2% mark, so you would expect to see him improve on that number as the season progresses. He hasn’t done it yet (24.3% in June), but you would think it should get there.
If it doesn’t, then the numbers may not improve dramatically, though he does have tremendous control and the potential to rack up the strikeouts. He’s posted a BB/9 below 3.00 each month this season, and also has contributed a 9.82 K/9 in June.
He obviously needs to get the line drive rate down, but like with Lester if he can continue to generate improved strikeouts the other numbers aren’t going to have as big of an impact.
Other potential buy low candidates:
- Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers – While his overall metrics haven’t been unlucky (.300 BABIP, 73.1% line drive rate),where Gallardo has struggled is in his control (3.97 BB/9). You obviously would’ve liked to see him continue his improved mark from 2011, when he posted a 2.56 BB/9. He has improved in June, with just 3 BB over 13.0 IP. As long as he can continue that trend the overall numbers should improve.
- Justin Masterson – Cleveland Indians – A year after breaking out, the overall numbers for Masterson have been atrocious. Through his first 13 starts he’s posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, looking a lot like the pitcher from 2010. Yes, the strand rate is a little unlucky (67.7%), but the biggest problem is that he’s been hit hard (21.1% line drive rate) and lost his control (4.09 BB/9). A groundball machine (55.7%), the control has been improving (3.99 in May, 2.08 thus far in July). He brings enough strikeout potential and more than enough groundballs that, if he can continue to avoid the walks, he should thrive. He may even be sitting on your waiver wire, so now would be a good time to stash him if you have the opportunity.