August is just over a week away. Let that sink in for a minute. It honestly feels like drafts were just a few weeks ago and leagues are almost in the stretch run. Everyone makes moves to position themselves for the second half around this time. Itâ€™s time to hit the wire or try to pry away undervalued assets from your leaguemates.
Everyone could use an extra pitcher for the stretch run and the three names on this list should help fantasy teams during the sprint to September.
Any article on buy-low pitchers starts with Indians starter Corey Kluber. Kluber was an under-the-radar, nondescript name penciled into the Indians rotation. Most doubted his very existence. It was just assumed that â€œCorey Kluberâ€ was baseball-speak for â€œTBA.â€ Kluber absolutely exists and heâ€™s a name that should be owned in every applicable format. Heâ€™s even spawned his own appreciation society on FanGraphs. Corey Kluber is a sabrmetric darling and
Kluber is capable of posting a the strikeout totals that would be useful to fantasy GMs and his peripherals indicate heâ€™s due for a huge second half.
Kluber owns 24.4% K percentage with a 5.8% walk percentage. Both of those numbers are where fantasy GMs want to see them. He owns a 10.8% swinging strike percentage which is exactly what fantasy GMs want to see from a pitcher with a K % over 20.0%.
His cutter is absolutely deadly to lefties (.125 BA against) and his slider is rough on righties (.132 BA against).
Heâ€™s had a run of 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts that has dropped his ERA to 3.69, but his 2.98 xFIP indicates that good things are still to come for Kluber. Corey Kluber needs to be off the wire in every league and in the lineup every day he starts. Heâ€™s currently nursing a hip strain, but remains on schedule for his Friday start against the Rangers. It doesnâ€™t look like heâ€™s going to need a DL trip and the little medical symbol next to his name should scare off the foolish.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova has been a cuddlebuddy for FP911â€™s very own Patrick Dicaprio. We need to print t-shirts with â€œPatrick was right!â€ in graffiti text because, well, Patrick was right about Nova.
Novaâ€™s strikeout numbers (23.1% strikeout percentage) and walk numbers (7.6% walk percentage) have continued in 2013. The difference between Novaâ€™s 2012 season and his 2013 season is that those numbers donâ€™t come with an ERA over 5.00. Nova is currently posting a 3.66 actual ERA with a 3.44 xFIP.
The change in Nova is caused by increasing the usage of his curveball. Heâ€™s throwing his curve 33.5% of the time this year. Thatâ€™s a career high. Heâ€™s only allowing a .147 BA against with a .191 SLG against when using his curveball. Thatâ€™s against both sides of the plate. Itâ€™s been equally effective against righties as it has against lefties.
His fourseam has been more hittable this year (.371 BA against both sides of the plate) compared to his career average (.321 BAA for his career). The biggest difference appears to be an alteration in his horizontal release point. Heâ€™ll be in for an even bigger second half if he can make a correction or regress to the positive side with his fourseam.
His swinging strike percentage is at 10.0% for the first time in his career and he also owns a career high 34.9% o-swing percentage. Heâ€™s getting more whiffs and getting hitters to offer at pitches outside the zone more than he ever has in his career. The arrow seems to be pointed up on Novaâ€™s career and fantasy GMs need to take advantage…assuming they want pitchers that strike out hitters in bunches with competent ratios.
One final name that fantasy GMs need to keep in mind for the second half of the season is Red Sox starter, John Lackey. Lackey has been a punchline for the past few years due to his near-constant injuries, bloated salary and exceptionally mediocre production. Lackey is back in the majors, appears healthy and is throwing as hard as he did early in his career. His name is so reviled in fantasy baseball circles that his comeback has been ignored in most formats. Even if he is owned, he can likely be had as a throw in to any trade offered. John Lackeyâ€™s stock is trending upwards for the first time in years and this is probably the best time to buy in.
Lackeyâ€™s K/9 currently sits at 8.44. He hasnâ€™t seen a K/9 that high since 2005. His BB/9 is only 1.94. Heâ€™s never had a full-season with a BB/9 below 2.00. The closest he ever got was during his career year in 2007 that saw a 2.09 BB/9.
Heâ€™s posting a 2.95 actual ERA with a 3.17 xFIP. Heâ€™s outperforming his xFIP, but thereâ€™s such a small difference that it barely rates as a yellow flag, let alone a red flag.
The results are also showing up in his batted ball data. Lackey owns a career line drive percentage of 20.7%. Heâ€™s currently posting an 18.4% LD %. Heâ€™s getting more ground balls (50.8% GB %) and fewer fly balls (30.7% FB %) right now than he has at any point in his career.
Lackey is healthy and throwing like the Red Sox wished he had for his entire career. Heâ€™s still a buy-low guy (itâ€™s a long climb from a $0.00 value) and heâ€™s a worthy target for the stretch run.