It seems like somebody or somebodies of consequence succumb to injury daily during the dog days and wind up on the disabled list. Subsequently that puts a strain on waiver wire availability as we see fewer and fewer attractive options. Some leagues will always have someone worthwhile, but others are riddled with retreads and those who are actually getting hurt because roster space becomes too precious to hang onto the disabled. As Roy Oswalt has proven once again tonight (8 ER on 11 H in 5.3 IP), pitching at anything less than 100% is difficult, even for a former star.
With that in mind, understand that these arms may deliver nothing of value once they return (if they return) to the hill. However, as we end the final third of the season, taking chances on upside can be the difference between winning a title and not, securing a money spot or waiting for a check in October that isn’t coming. Here are 10 pitchers in various states of disrepair and of various talent levels who could be had for free in a good number of leagues (or at a discount via trade) and end up delivering some high quality innings for you. Keep in mind that some of these guys are still quite some time away, so plan accordingly to that end.
Out Since: June 19th w/shoulder injury
Availability: On 44% of rosters in Yahoo!; 46% in ESPN
He was hoping to avoid a rehab start altogether, but it wasn’t to be so he’s starting for Sacramento tonight (Monday evening) and if all goes well then he should take his turn with Oakland later this week. If you think the injuries for McCarthy have been frustrating for you as a fantasy manager of him, try actually being him. I imagine it is especially trying to get in a groove only seemingly every time off the DL only to keep going back on a few weeks later.
When on the field, he has been straight-killin’ it this year with a 2.54 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 78 innings. He was white-hot before hitting the DL the most recent time with a 1.35 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 20 innings across three starts. Strikeouts aren’t really his thing (usually ranging 6-6.5, which is average to slightly below depending on year), but thankfully neither are walks (2.2 BB/9 this year after an amazing 1.3 last year). Love that park, plus the sweet-swingin’ A’s might line him up for a few more Ws, too.
Out Since: June 11th w/oblique injury
Availability: On 78% of rosters in Yahoo!; 55% in ESPN
Two things have plagued Morrow as a starter: walks and injuries. He has been improving yearly with the former including a huge step forward in 2012 (2.8 BB/9; 8% BB rate) and appeared to be ready for a full-fledged breakout season before the oblique sidelined him back in June. After fanning just 12 in his first four starts (27 innings in all), he fanned a much more Morrow-esque 55 in 51 innings spanning eight starts. Check your wire if you have roster space as he is out there in some league, but most likely you’ll have to see about netting him at a discount* via trade.
*admittedly that discount is probably shrinking now that he is on rehab
Out Since: June 5th w/shoulder injury
Availability: On 38% of rosters in Yahoo!; 29% in ESPN
Before finally hitting the DL in early June, Garcia labored through a pair of ugly starts, the latter of which he probably never should have made as he had already been skipped in the rotation after the shaky outing against the Phillies on May 26th. In fairness, it’s pretty easy for me to say that now and the Cardinals were working with a helluva lot more information than I have now or did at the time.
I don’t think Mike Matheny would’ve let his guy go out there if he thought it would eventually put Garcia down for two months. If you discount the Houston implosion right before the DL, Garcia was essentially having his 2011 season again. Now is the perfect time to scoop Garcia up on the sly, especially if you have a free DL spot dying to be utilized.
Out Since: June 14th w/elbow injury
Availability: On 68% of rosters in Yahoo!; 64% in ESPN
Don’t ask me how/why he is on so many more teams than these other three. I guess it could be his strong strikeout totals (8.4 K/9, 23% rate) that standout above the other three (especially since Morrow got a late start on his) while his ERA, WHIP and walk rate are in the neighborhood or better than them as well. But still, I’m surprised so many have held on as there wasn’t much good news throughout July.
Things are looking up now and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports speculates that he could be a waive trade candidate. That would surprise me. There might be around $2.5 mil owed to him depending when he hit waivers, but that’s it as he is set to be a free agent this winter so surely some wildcard contender would claim him to block a trade to their opposition if he came available. For our purposes, his venue doesn’t much matter, as long as he is back on the field there is bound to be some worthwhile production.
Out Since: May 23rd w/shoulder injury
Availability: On 42% of rosters in Yahoo!; 37% in ESPN
Lilly had developed one of the most stable skillsets in the games the last several years, but unfortunately those skills have tumbled significantly in 2012. Of course, it’s also been a tiny eight game sample and his numbers are heavily influenced by outings of six and five walks in Houston and in Arizona so it’d be a bit premature to bury him. Meanwhile, he has enjoyed success (3.14 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) in spite of the 5.7 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB in 49 innings. I would still take a shot on a healthy Lilly in 12 team leagues or higher. I think he is still a spot starter at best in 10-teamers so no need to rush out and get him before he gets back to the Dodgers.
Out Since: June 5th, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery
Availability: On 4% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN
One of the brighter young pitchers in the game, Anderson fell victim to the Slider Monster who ate his elbow up after he threw the pitch a career-high 40% of the time in his 83 innings last year. He is working his way back from Tommy John and could be this year’s Tim Hudson, who put together seven strong starts down the stretch in 2009 in his return from TJS. Jordan Zimmermann was OK in his seven starts in 2010, but better in a real-life aspect than a fantasy one. Stephen Strasburg was unreal in five outings a year ago, but he’s on a different level than those other guys.
The issue for Anderson is where he fits into the rotation, especially with McCarthy on the way back. Of course neither McCarthy nor Bartolo Colon are models of health so I’m sure the situation will work itself out by the time Anderson is officially back.
This next group of guys are a good further away, so I’m just putting them on your radar to either make a note about or stash in deep leagues if they’re available and you desperately need pitching.
Out Since: May 14th w/broken leg
Availability: On 3% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN
Coming back from a non-arm injury gives Niemann a leg up on the others listed, but he is still looking at a late-August return so there won’t be much time for him to contribute once he is back. He was in the midst of following up his strong second half from 2011, too, before the freak accident with the broken leg derailed his 2012.
Out Since: May 14th w/elbow injury
Availability: On 8% of rosters in Yahoo!; 19% in ESPN
Stauffer appeared to be getting his career, one plagued with injuries, back on track after a breakout season at age 29 in 2011 that saw him throw 186 strong innings with a 3.73 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Injuries limited him to just 14 innings from 2006-2008, including a completely missed season in 2008, so even working his way back into effective relief was a win for Stauffer. Hopefully he gets back in time to make 6 or 7 starts to close out the season especially since 15 of their 26 September games are in Petco Park.
Out Since: May 1st w/pectoral muscle injury
Availability: On 16% of rosters in Yahoo!; 5% in ESPN
Even when he makes it back, how much can he be trusted in that park the way it’s playing this year? With the margin for error virtually non-existent in Coors Field these days, his elevated walk rate is especially treacherous (4.3 BB/8 career; 5.5 this year). When he’s on, he can be a big strikeout guy, but at 24 he is still very much a work in progress. This is more for keeper leaguers who are playing with an eye on 2013 as I wouldn’t trust my contending ratios to Chacin in Denver coming off of injury.
Rubby de la Rosa
Out Since: July 31st, 2011 w/Tommy John Surgery
Availability: On 0% of rosters in Yahoo!; 0% in ESPN
It remains to be seen whether or not he will pitch in the majors at all in 2012 and then if he does, his role is undecided. He could just get his feet wet as a reliever, though his long-term outlook remains in the rotation so this would be another one for keeper leaguers with an available spot for a highly talented youngster. I am a huge fan of this 23-year old going forward, but he might not pay major dividends until 2014.