A few days ago, I mentioned a handful of pitchers I suggested taking a flier on for teams looking a late-season spark plug, one of them being the Kansas City Royals’ Danny Duffy. I now recant that recommendation. Duffy’s a good source of strikeouts, but he’s also a good source of walks — aka a bad source for WHIP. It looks like the Royals have Duffy on a loose pitch count (as he’s coming off Tommy John surgery), throwing more than 100 pitches only once in five starts. He’s only gone eight innings in his last two starts, and although he’s given up only seven hits, he’s allowed nine walks, and it’s preventing him from going deep into games. If he can’t go five innings, I can’t waste my time on him. He struggled with his control throughout the minors and his first two season, so I’m moving on.
Speaking of Dannys, the Cleveland Indians’ Danny Salazar is in the same boat: he’s being held to a strict pitch count, Since Aug. 7, he has gone five or more innings only twice in five starts, averaging 76 pitches per game. That doesn’t render Salazar irrelevant, though. He has 28 strikeouts over 23 1/3 innings in that span, so he’s not a total innings suck in rotisserie leagues, and his high strikeout totals and ability to limit baserunners still makes him valuable in head-to-head leagues. The likelihood of Salazar registering a loss instead of a win, however, is a rather large deterrent, so it’s understandable for contending teams to look the other way. But if you’re in a dynasty league, 2.92 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.9 K/9, albeit across a small sample size, is worth holding on to.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ricky Nolasco is having a hell of a month. He was a serviceable starter in Miami, posting a 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 7.2 K/9, but he was dismissed as fantasy-relevant because he has been mediocre throughout his career. Nolasco has posted second-half numbers of 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 while tripling his win total. My take: owners looking to cash in on wins may have missed their opportunity. Although good pitchers win games, recording a statistical win is largely a matter of good (or bad) fortune — just ask Cole Hamels — and Nolasco’s luck may have already run dry in that regard. He has given up fewer home runs since moving to L.A., even though Dodger Stadium is a better home-run ballpark, but has benefited from a .267 second-half BAbip. Ultimately, I think Nolasco’s true ERA and WHIP split the difference between his pre- and post-All Star Break numbers, looking something like a 3.20 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Dodger Stadium is a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark than Marlins Park, despite the latter stadium’s home run number, and Nolasco now throws for arguably the hottest team in baseball over the last two-and-a-half months.
Changing directions, Eric Karabell of ESPN remarked that Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian “Bull” Dozier (maybe I gave him that nickname, maybe I didn’t — who knows?) profiles a lot like a young Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals. I don’t know if I’m sold on that one — he’s having a solid season with 17 HR and 10 SB, and he pretty much came out of nowhere. But he hit only 16 home runs in more than 1,400 minor-league at-bats — 1,400! He has done that damage in a third the time. He’s older now — he’s 26 — and he’s hitting more fly balls than he used to. But does a seemingly powerless guy such as Dozier develop power overnight? Perhaps that’s why he resembles Desmond, who only hit 50 home runs in almost 2,400 at-bats, but at least Desmond reached double-digit bombs in each of his last three minor-league seasons. Dozier didn’t come close. In short, I’m not sold, and I’m not taking a flier on him and his low batting average.
One last middle infielder: Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings hit .330/.359/.482 with 12 HR and 20 SB in Triple-A before recently getting the call. He’s the Diamondbacks’ shortstop of the future if Didi Gregorius can’t recover the magic from earlier this season. The double-digit homers and steals are flashy, but his on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired, and his unfavorable strikeout-to-walk ratio could result in frequent slumps. But homers are homers and steals are steals — he stole his first base yesterday in his second career start — and has now started three straight games. Again, if you’re looking for a spark plug, maybe Owings is it. If anything, the former first-round draft pick is worth a conditional add in dynasty leagues.