Late-season pitching fliers

I mentioned in an earlier post that a pitcher’s overall statistics matter less and less as we enter September. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Marco Estrada, deterring owners with his 4.49 ERA, could be a legitimate top-45 starter for the rest of the season, fueled by his 7.25 K/BB ratio after the All-Star Break. (He should already be owned in most leagues anyway, given his 1.20 WHIP and 8.2 K/9, but that’s not the point.) There will always be free-agent alternatives, even to supposed aces such as the struggling Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, that can help your team down the home stretch.

(Note: I would never drop Wainwright in any context, nor would I bench him. But if I had someone like who struggled all year, such as the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia, I would consider benching him to stream someone such as Estrada. Again, I digress.)

Here are three sneaky late-season pitcher pick-ups, ranked from my favorite to least favorite.

Tyson Ross, SD (12.3% ESPN ownership)
Ross continues to chug along. His ESPN ownership has been cut in half because of two starts that, honestly, were not even that bad (12-1/3 IP, 5.83 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 8.8 K/9). His strikeout rate on the season stands at 8.6 K/9 across 96-1/3 innings, and although his sub-3.00 ERA won’t last forever, his 1.19 WHIP is good enough to help anyone down the stretch, and he’ll likely pick up another two or three wins along the way.

Brett Oberholtzer, HOU (4.5% ESPN ownership)
If you need help with WHIP and not strikeouts, take a chance on Oberholtzer. He plays for a terrible team, yes, but he’s already racked up four wins in six starts (nine appearances). Oberholtzer was never overly dominant in the minors, and he never made any top-100 prospect lists, but he refuses to walk batters, a trait I like in any pitcher. Again, his 5.6 K/9 is not the most appealing thing in the world, but limiting baserunners will help win ballgames no matter who you play for.

Danny Duffy, KC (19.3% ESPN ownership)
Duffy is the antithesis of Oberholtzer (which isn’t a bad thing). Once a rated prospect, Duffy dominated the minors until he debuted in 2011, when he promptly started to lose all control, seeing his BB/9 ratio balloon from less than three walks-per-nine to almost four and a half. But he’s back from Tommy John surgery, and he has recovered most of his minor-league strikeout rate that made him so effective (currently 9.5 K/9). His walk rate is still a point of concern, but his strikeouts and wins will be valuable, especially if he can continue to limit the damage.

If you’re still waiting for Sabathia or R.A. Dickey to come around, stop. I’d rather take a gamble on someone who likely won’t do any worse than a flailing name-brand starter but has the upside to be a stalwart addition to your rotation.

Bonus coverage: The Philadelphia Phillies recently signed Cuban defector Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to a three-year, $12 million deal. He was originally slated to sign a six-year, $50-million(ish) contract before concerns arose about the health of his elbow. There isn’t a ton of information about the guy, but consider Major League Baseball’s two most recent Cuban imports.

Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last year and was signed on a four-year, $36 million deal ($9 million per year). Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig is a National League ROY candidate, and he signed a six-year, $36 million deal ($6 million) per year).

Although Gonzalez’s contract equates to only $4 million per year, his original contract would have been at least $8 million per year on average, in the ranks of Cespedes and Puig. Maybe it’s foolish to hop on the bandwagon based on this nugget of information alone, but considering a player’s salary is predicated upon expected performance value, I’m sold. I don’t know in which round I would draft him next year or how much I would pay for him in an auction draft, but I’d take a low-round flier on him and maybe gamble $6 or so. And if he rears his head in the MLB come mid-September, I’ll take a look.

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