Pitching planner: McClellan escapes bullpen limbo to starting stardom
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In fantasy baseball we have the Pitch-22, the Catch-22 of pitchers where a young arm is good enough to start, but too valuable in relief. Teams hold back decent arms because they have a bigger need in the late innings.
Well, we are once again reminded in fantasy, getting out of the Pitch-22 can be a "win" situation. Kyle McClellan of the Cardinals is the most recent example. With his victory Thursday, he is the NL's first six-game winner.
And fantasy owners are slowly learning about him. He is currently active in a mere one-third of fantasy leagues. He is still available in over 30 percent of leagues. Apparently, they are slow to read the daily league leaders.
McClellan is a burgeoning fantasy ace.
Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan is an infamous miracle worker with scrap arms, rebuilding the career of Kyle Lohse (5-2, 2.17) and making Adam Wainwright's (Tommy John elbow surgery) replacement a must-have in all fantasy leagues, McClellan. Those two Cardinals pitchers are among the highest scoring starting pitchers that went undrafted in SI.com's preseason mock draft (Lohse is No. 1, McClellan is eighth).
The other undrafted SI.com surprises in the top 10 of available free agents are: Jhoulys Chacin, COL; Josh Tomlin, CLE; Zach Britton, BAL; Justin Masterson, CLE; Alexi Ogando, TEX; Jake Arrieta, BAL; Charlie Morton, PIT; and Jason Marquis, WAS. Expect some market correction for all these early gems, or jump on board with them as stopgaps if they are still available.
Masterson and Ogando are both Pitch-22 survivors who have previously been relegated to relief in the majors before finding themselves as winners as starters.
McClellan might be the best combination of available and intriguing going forward. Fantasy Week 8 (May 23-28) is another great time to use McClellan in any format. He draws one start at San Diego, certainly not an imposing opponent.
Some other Pitch-22 survivors who can be nice sleepers for fantasy owners include Brandon McCarthy of the A's, Bartolo Colon of the Yankees, Jason Vargas of the Mariners, Chris Narveson of the Brewers and Jason Hammel of the Rockies.
Now, on to the rest of our weekly report that breaks down all of the two-start pitcher options and outlines some of the fringy one-start matchups to take advantage of:
Outside of the obvious pitchers, here are some matchups to capitalize on this week and some to avoid, with the pitcher in question identified in italics.
Lohse has been a favorite sleeper in this column and he is enjoying a renaissance. Consider him an advisable two-start pitcher this week, because of his matchup against the Padres here. He hasn't been great against the Padres in his career (6.14) and draws the Rockies in his second start, but his 1.64 ERA in his past three starts makes him irresistible.
Arroyo isn't pitching all that poorly with a 3.98 ERA in his past three starts, but he is 1-5 with a 5.54 ERA in his career against the Phillies. Sure, the Phils aren't scoring runs right now, but they figure to snap out of it over this weekend and could be buoyed by a return of Chase Utley in this one. Arroyo's two-start week features two NL East contenders, making him a bit more risky than advisable at this point.
This is a full endorsement of a resurgent Beckett as a potential two-start pitcher. He left his last start with a stiff neck, but the Red Sox cannot afford to be cautious with him right now. Daisuke Matsuzaka (elbow) and John Lackey (elbow) are on the DL and the rotation is already thin. Beckett will go and stop the upstart Indians en route to a productive two-start week, including a rematch against Verlander.
Niese is 2-0 with a 3.79 ERA in his past three starts and facing a struggling Dempster, but the Cubs have owned Niese to a 6.75 ERA in his three career starts. As a fringe pitcher in mixed leagues, this is enough to sit Niese. It only gets tougher in his second matchup against the Phillies, too.
The Twins' awful start is making their season a disaster, and Bedard owners can capitalize. Bedard is going well right now with a 1.89 ERA in his past three starts, including a season-high nine strikeouts in his past start coming into the weekend.
Bergesen is pitching for his rotation spot with Brian Matusz (oblique) working his way back on a rehab assignment, but he was hammered by the Yankees on Thursday and looks too risky to use -- even against the Royals. Bergesen is more likely to be a candidate for a demotion to Triple-A or the bullpen than being used in any fantasy leagues this upcoming week.
Arrieta looks like a quality start every time out right now and he has good numbers in his career against the Royals. His opposing pitcher has a career ERA approaching 6.00 against the Orioles, too. Arrieta looks like a solid start in all formats this week and next.
Bailey has come off the DL scorching, but a one-start week against the Phillies and Lee looks like a good time for him to cool off. The Phillies, as we said, might not be scoring runs right now, but this is a sleeping giant that could be awoken by then. Bailey doesn't have great career numbers against anyone at this stage, but he is especially bad in three outing against the Phillies, too, with a 6.43 ERA.
It is time to jump right back on the Hudson bandwagon. We felt too many owners overdrafted Hudson this spring, and he got off to a slow start, but he is 4-1 in his past five starts and has a 1.74 ERA in his past three. The matchup against the Astros is just gravy, particularly since Myers has an ERA over 7.00 in his past three.
The lowly Mets blanked the sinking Nats in back-to-back games Wednesday and Thursday, so naturally you are hoping to take advantage of the Nationals minus Ryan Zimmerman (abdomen). Don't do it with Richard. He has been a mess of late, posting a 7.07 ERA in his past three starts.
McCarthy hasn't won in eight starts, but he really is pitching a lot better than his record. He should get a lot better run support against the Orioles, too. He is a fringe two-start pitcher in mixed leagues because of that first start against the Angels and Weaver, but McCarthy is a candidate to come into his own and help fantasy owners in any format this season. Pick him for a potential McClellan-like breakthrough out of the Pitch-22.
Manager Jimmy Leyland might have come out and said he loves the progress Coke has made transitioning to the rotation, but he did it before Coke is running into a buzz-saw week against the contending Rays and Red Sox. Coke has a 2.89 ERA in his past three starts, but that isn't enough to use him against those two opponents.
Colon is actually more advisable than questionable of a two-start pitcher because of this promising second matchup against the Mariners in a pitcher's park. The Yankees are going to wake up and beat up teams like the Mariners. Colon owners are going to be the beneficiary. Colon's 3.44 ERA in his past three starts should be enough to trust him in mixed formats.
Norris was hot for a stretch there and is a strikeout machine for fantasy owners, but he has an 0-2 record and 5.59 ERA in his past three starts. The intriguing matchups against the sliding Dodgers and rebuilding D'backs are fool's gold. Norris is a hard-thrower the young, aggressive D'backs tend to beat on. Sit Norris in mixed formats for a viable one-start pitcher.