I spent of the first month of the season debating a different distribution method for the Trolling the Wire column that appeared weekly last year. After deliberation, I’m just going to continue distributing as I did last year, through this site. Some leagues allow same-day pickups so I’ll cover some guys for tonight along with the rest of the week.
(pitchers are ranked in order of confidence on a given day)
Joe Blanton (PHI) – Those dismissing his complete game shutout against the Braves because it came after the marathon barn-burner the night before are missing out with Blanton. He looked great before that start. His strikeout rate is down to 5.4 which I don’t love, but his walk rate is on a five-year decline down to 0.8 BB/9. (vs. NYM)
Edwin Jackson (WAS) – Last year’s TTW most used arm, Jackson is least available of the four listed (41% available at ESPN), but he is still underutilized. Both his strikeouts and groundballs are at career-best marks (8.2 and 52%, respectively) while his walk rate is down to a career-low 2.3 BB/9. Some people refuse to believe in E-Jax, but I remain steadfastly loyal. (@ PIT)
Danny Duffy (KC) – I expected to see Duffy’s profile raise after a five-plus strong innings against the Yankees, but he remains widely available. He needs to exhibit more control (4.8 BB/9), but he has built himself a solid margin for error with a 10.3 K/9 in his 23 innings. (vs. BOS)
AJ Burnett (PIT) – Yes, St. Louis absolutely obliterated him and your fantasy team’s ERA, but you already sustained the worst of him so why jump off the train now? He was excellent in his two starts prior to that massacre (btw, why the hell did Clint Hurdle leave him out there for that long?) and he has the stuff to get back on track again. (vs. WAS)
Jarrod Parker (OAK) – The heralded rookie who was acquired in the Trevor Cahill deal has looked sharp in his first two outings in the American League including great work last week in Fenway. He has a passable 6.2 K/9 rate in his first two starts, but I think we can expect to see that number rise as the season progresses. Pitching in Oakland always helps, especially with mega-talented arms like Parker. (vs. TOR) — Parker was originally scheduled for Tuesday, then flipped with McCarthy for Wednesday and then flipped BACK again to Tuesday. Thanks for the heads up from commenter Brad.
Erik Bedard (PIT) – I’m going right back to the Pitt-Wash series well for Wednesday. I guess the history of these two teams makes it difficult for fantasy managers to buy in on their starters and the early season success they are enjoying. As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s never been about talent with Bedard, just health, so get everything you can out of him while he is whole. He’s been great this year, though I’d like to see some more pitch efficiency. Even in his last two starts where he only walked a pair in each, he has been able to go just five innings both times. (vs. WAS)
Drew Smyly (DET) – What more does Smyly need to do for fantasy folks to buy in? He has deftly handled Tamp Bay, Texas and the Yankees in New York yet his ownership rate is 45% at ESPN and somehow 32% at Yahoo!. The added bonus is that he has shown some great strikeout potential, too, with 7 Ks in each of his last three outings (TEX, @ NYY, CHW). He will have some ups and downs, but I’m buying in on the big picture. (@ SEA)
Anthony Bass (SD) – Bass is an even more unheralded version of Smyly. He started 2012 in the bullpen and after a pair of appearances in relief, he has moved into the rotation and looked fantastic. Of course pitching in San Diego always enhances a pitcher’s value, but his two starts out of PETCO Park have been just fine, too. He is missing bats (10.6 K/9 in his 5 starts) and getting tons of groundballs (55%). His BABIP is a bit low (.247), but his 3.19 xFIP says he should be even better than his 3.51 ERA. (vs. COL)
Ross Detwiler (WAS) – I have been a fan of Detwiler for a while and I’m glad that he is starting to display his talents at the major league level. In limited time the last three years, he showed incremental improvements, but this year at age 26 he has taken a major step forward. His secondary pitches are yielding both more strikeouts (career-high 6.7 K/9) and groundballs (career-high 58%) which has driven his success. His .215 BABIP will certainly regress at some point, but there is enough to believe in with Detwiler and he shouldn’t be available in 52% of ESPN leagues. (@ PIT)
Henderson Alvarez (TOR) – Limited options with six games on Thursday and a handful of aces going, but Alvarez is coming off of a complete game shutout yet remains on the wire in many, many leagues. The problem is that he couldn’t strike me out. His 2.6 K/9 is frighteningly bad. His game is to induce weak contact and let his fielders do the work (57% groundball rate), but you have to strikeout SOME batters. He is going to have a game where several balls find the holes and he gets BABIP’d to death, but I think he will best Minnesota here. (@ MIN)
James McDonald (PIT) – Yes, another Pirates starter. Unlike last year when their starters were drastically outperforming their peripherals, this year’s rotation actually has some strikeout arms doing pretty well yet not getting the love for it. McDonald wasn’t missing bats early on (6 Ks through his first 3 starts) and I was concerned, but he has 25 Ks in 21 IP across three starts since without giving back the walk rate gains we saw at the start of the season. A longtime favorite of mine, don’t be surprised if McDonald appears repeatedly on TTW as long as he remains available in many leagues.
Felipe Paulino (KC) – He’s back! Unfortunately, Paulino started the season on the DL, but he returned last week with six shutout innings against the Yankees as he picked up where 2011 left off. I really liked Paulino last year and I like him even more this year. As with the Pirates starter, he is unlikely to get much love even with sustained success so jump in now. (@ CHW)
Chris Capuano (LAD) – Fantasy managers are catching on with each passing start, but Capuano is still out there in 30% of ESPN leagues and 44% of Y! leagues so I thought he was worth mentioning. That 2.21 ERA is going to regress a bit as home run issues have always been there with Capuano, but the strikeouts and mid-3.00s ERA by season’s end are well worth it.
Weekend picks on Friday