Found June 24, 2012 on RotoStars.com:
PLAYERS: Johan SantanaFrancisco LirianoTim StaufferJustin MastersonMike MinorTerry CollinsClayton KershawStephen StrasburgGio GonzalezJake PeavyWandy RodriguezVance WorleyYovani GallardoYu DarvishRyan VogelsongMatt MooreTim HudsonHiroki KurodaMat LatosDillon GeePhil HughesJake WestbrookDaniel HudsonFelix DoubrontErik BedardJoe BlantonJustin GrimmBronson ArroyoTravis BlackleyJordan LylesTravis WoodLuke HochevarRicky NolascoDaisuke MatsuzakaDerek HollandGavin FloydChristian FriedrichJeff FrancisBarry ZitoRick PorcelloTommy HunterJosh TomlinCarlos VillanuevaRoss OhlendorfJosh OutmanDrew SmylyAaron LaffeyMatt PalmerRA DickeyJustin VerlanderZack GreinkeMatt CainCC SabathiaCole HamelsJered WeaverMadison BumgarnerDavid PriceCliff LeeChris SaleJosh JohnsonAdam WainwrightJames ShieldsFelix HernandezJohnny CuetoIan KennedyJon LesterMatt GarzaAJ BurnettWade MileyDanny HarenAndy PettitteJordan ZimmermannMatt HarrisonIvan NovaTommy HansonChris CapuanoMax ScherzerTrevor CahillWei-Yin ChenJon NieseMike LeakeChris Young
TEAMS: Minnesota TwinsNew York MetsSan Diego PadresCleveland IndiansAtlanta BravesLos Angeles DodgersWashington NationalsBoston Red SoxChicago White SoxHouston AstrosMilwaukee BrewersTexas RangersSan Francisco GiantsTampa Bay RaysNew York YankeesCincinnati RedsSt. Louis CardinalsArizona DiamondbacksPittsburgh PiratesPhiladelphia PhilliesOakland AthleticsChicago CubsKansas City RoyalsMiami MarlinsColorado RockiesDetroit TigersBaltimore OriolesToronto Blue JaysLos Angeles AngelsSeattle Mariners
Colorado_rockies_vs_a5f3

In 2006 the Minnesota Twins boasted two of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball – Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. Fast forward six years and we get a Santana who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and several seasons removed from his last dominant season, and a Liriano who is barely a month removed from being in a bullpen role for arguably the worst team in the American League. However, Santana has enjoyed success this year with the Mets in a season where he has to be considered as one of the frontrunners for comeback player of the year, while Liriano has shown flashes of dominance since returning to the Twins rotation. Neither left-hander is quite the hurler they used to be, but they have both become fantasy relevant in 2012 and are on tap for two-steps this week.

After missing the whole of the 2011 season due to major shoulder surgery, many fantasy experts were bearish on Santana coming into the 2012 season. He was the 58th starting pitcher taken on average in standard ESPN drafts, going in the 22nd round behind the likes of Tim Stauffer, Justin Masterson, and Mike Minor. While he has not quite returned to the elite

Santana was a steal on draft day for fantasy owners

form that he exhibited with the Twins from 2003-2007, he has struck out approximately a batter per inning – his highest mark since joining the Mets. His ERA currently sits at 3.00 and has been coupled with an above average 1.12 WHIP.

The biggest hit to Santana’s fantasy value this year has been his inability to go deep into games. The Mets have understandably been cautious with the southpaw’s workload as he has averaged just 95.6 pitches per start this season, compared to marks of 103.6, 103.0, and 105.8 in the three previous years. Remove Santana’s no-hitter in which Mets skipper Terry Collins uncharacteristically allowed him to throw 134 pitches in order to finish the game and Santana’s pitches per start falls to 92.7. Santana has also struggled at times with his control this season, walking three batters per nine innings – his highest mark since becoming a full-time starting pitcher. Throwing fewer pitches and being less efficient has led Santana to average just 6 innings pitched per start this season – significantly less than the 6.82 innings per start that he averaged in his first three seasons with the Mets. Despite pitching so well this season, Santana has just five wins to show for his efforts – in spite of the fact that the Mets have played better than many expected them to. Expect this trend to hold throughout the season as the Mets continue to limit Santana’s workload. However, you can also be confident in getting above-average ratios as Santana continues to shine as a top-30 fantasy pitcher.

Francisco Liriano’s career has seemingly been one big rollercoaster ride. He emerged in 2006, winning 11 of his 15 starts with an astounding 10.26 K/9 and 1.92 ERA in those starts. He subsequently blew out his left elbow and hasn’t been quite the same since. His lone bright point was in 2010 when he won 14 games and managed a 3.62 ERA, but in the 603 innings since his surgery, he is the owner of a 4.70 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. This season Liriano got off to his usual rough start and was banished to the bullpen in early May. The Twins inserted him into the rotation and he has been surprisingly stellar in five starts, sporting a 2.67 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 10.38 K/9 in just over 30 innings.

Liriano’s success in his career has been closely tied to the use of his most dominant pitch – his slider. In Liriano’s two most successful seasons – 2006 and 2010 – the Twin’s southpaw utilized the pitch 37.6% and 33.8% of the time, respectively. In no other season has Liriano thrown his slider more than 29% of the time.

Liriano’s constant use of the slider in the 2006 season was considered one of the main factors that led to the elbow ligament damage that forced him to go under the knife, which explains why he has only employed the pitch 27.5% of the time since the surgery. However, since returning to the rotation this season, Liriano has thrown his slider 37.3% of the time – reminiscent of his 2006 season. The pitch has been especially filthy since his return to the rotation, as he’s generated swinging strikes on 26.3% of his sliders thrown – compared to 21.3% of the time post-surgery.

Liriano has shown a willingness to throw his slider since returning to the Twins rotation

So why has Liriano increased his use of the slider? One reason could be that Liriano is currently on a one-year contract, and there is speculation that the Twins are allowing him to throw the slider more frequently to showcase him as a possible trade candidate at the trade deadline this year. While there may be possible long-term repercussions for Liriano’s increased usage of his slider, fantasy owners would be wise to snatch him off the waiver wire – he’s available in over 88% of ESPN Leagues. He has considerable short-term value and should be used in favorable matchups.

Double-Start Pitchers

Set It and Forget It

Clayton Kershaw (@SF/NYM)

C.J. Wilson (@BAL/@TOR)

Stephen Strasburg (@COL/@ATL)

Gio Gonzalez (@COL/@ATL)

Strasburg and Gonzalez receive a pair of tough road matchups this week – at Colorado and at Atlanta. Normally, it would be hard to recommend two-step pitchers with such matchups, but the Nationals dual-aces have been two of the best pitchers in the NL this year and have recently tamed the likes of the Rays, Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox. I find it hard to imagine that fantasy owners will be benching either pitcher this week.

Solid Plays

James McDonald (@PHI/@STL)

Jake Peavy (@MIN/@NYY)

Johan Santana (@CHC/@LAD)

Wandy Rodriguez (SD/@CHC)

Vance Worley (PIT/@MIA)

Yovani Gallardo (@CIN/ARI)

Yu Darvish (DET/OAK)

Ryan Vogelsong (LAD/CIN)

Matt Moore (@KC/DET)

McDonald is coming off his first career complete game

James McDonald has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the NL this season as he is the owner of a 2.19 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. He has made considerable strides in his control of the plate this season as he has increased his K/9 from 7.47 to 8.27 and lowered his BB/9 from 4.11 to 2.39. He hasn’t given up more than three runs in a start this season and is coming off his first career complete game. Feel confident starting Pittsburgh’s ace this week despite not having the best matchups.

Since coming off the DL with an elbow injury, Vance Worley has been very effective for the Phillies. He has been a hard-luck loser in his last two starts despite giving up only three earned runs total in 14 innings against Toronto and the Rockies. Wins can be hard to come by when you’re backed by Philly’s struggling offense, but Worley gets a soft two-step this week against Pittsburgh and Miami.

Darvish has rebounded nicely in his last two starts since being given a full week off between starts. He had a 19:5 K:BB ratio in 16 innings and managed two wins – albeit against the hapless Astros and Padres. It is important to note that Darvish has admitted to feeling a bit of fatigue this season, as he has had to adjust to pitching on four days rest instead of the normal five days between starts that he had in Japan. He threw a season high of 122 pitches in his last start against San Diego and fantasy owners should monitor his response to his workload as he heads deeper into the hot Texas summer.

After getting off to a rough start to the season, Moore has rebounded nicely in the month of June, winning three of his last five starts with a 2.61 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and a 37:13 K:BB ratio in 31 frames. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron did an excellent piece on Moore, analyzing the puzzling fact that the southpaw has struggled against left-handed batters this season.

In the month of June, Moore has justified his preseason hype

Cameron recognized that Moore’s most effective out pitch – his changeup – has only been successful against right-handed batters and that he hasn’t been able to successfully locate his breaking ball against left-handed batters. In the last month, Moore has shown flashes of brilliance – especially in regards to his strikeout rate – but he still struggles with his control and with the long ball at times. Moore is still just 23 years old and has a lot of maturing to do, but he is an excellent source for strikeouts and should remain an above average fantasy pitcher for the rest of the season.

Middle of the Pack

Tim Hudson (ARI/WSH)

Hiroki Kuroda (CLE/CHW)

Mat Latos (MIL/@SF)

Francisco Liriano (CHW/KC)

Justin Masterson (@NYY/@BAL)

Dillon Gee (@CHC/@LAD)

Phil Hughes (CLE/CHW)

Masterson has been absolutely masterful of late, as he has given up just one earned and has an incredible 24:3 K:BB ratio in his last 23 innings of work. Fantasy owners should be cautious with his matchup this week as he gets two tough starts on the road, but the Cleveland right hander seems to have righted the ship and is a middling two-step option this week.

AL/NL Only

Jake Westbrook (@MIA/PIT)

Daniel Hudson (@ATL/@MIL)

Felix Doubront (TOR/@SEA)

Chris Archer (@KC/DET)

Nate Eovaldi (@SF/NYM)

Erik Bedard (@PHI/@STL)

Joe Blanton (PIT/@MIA)

Justin Grimm (DET/OAK)

Bronson Arroyo (MIL/@SF)

Travis Blackley (@SEA/@TEX)

Jordan Lyles (SD/@CHC)

Travis Wood (NYM/HOU)

Luke Hochevar (TB/@MIN)

Ricky Nolasco (STL/PHI)

Daisuke Matsuzaka (TOR/@SEA)

Hudson has been terribly inconsistent this season. He has as many quality starts as he has starts in which he’s given up six earned runs and has an ERA of 6.60 for the year. He gets two tough road matchups against top ten offenses this week. I would only play him in the deepest of leagues this week.

Eovaldi has been solid in five starts this season and currently has a 2.35 ERA to his name. His 1.30 WHIP and 20:12 K:BB ratio indicate that he may see some ERA regression in the future, but he gets a decent matchup against the Giants and Mets this week.

Archer and Grimm both had impressive MLB debuts and receive favorable matchups this week for AL only leagues. Keep in mind that Grimm is likely to be sent back down to minors after Derek Holland returns from injury.

You can’t possibly be THIS desperate for a two-step?

Tommy Milone (@SEA/@TEX)

Gavin Floyd (@MIN/@NYY)

Christian Friedrich (WSH/SD)

Jeff Francis (WSH/SD)

Barry Zito (LAD/CIN)

Rick Porcello (@TEX/@TB)

Tommy Hunter (LAA/CLE)

Josh Tomlin (@NYY/@BAL)

Carlos Villanueva (@BOS/LAA)

Ross Ohlendorf (@HOU/@COL)

Jason Vargas (OAK/BOS)

Josh Outman (WSH/SD)

Drew Smyly (@TEX/@TB)

Aaron Laffey (@BOS/LAA)

Matt Palmer (@HOU/@COL)

Erasmo Ramirez (OAK/BOS)

Milone has actually pitched well this season and is coming off a complete game against the Dodgers. However, he has an astonishing home/road ERA split of 0.99 at home and 7.42 on the road. The biggest culprit behind this is his home run rate, as he has given up 12 long balls away from spacious Oakland Coliseum compared to just one at his home park. This week Milone gets two road matchups including one against the Rangers, so I would stay away.

Single-Start Pitchers

Top 30

1. R.A. Dickey (@LAD)

2. Justin Verlander (@TB)

3. Zack Greinke (@CIN)

4. Matt Cain (CIN)

5. CC Sabathia (CHW)

6. Cole Hamels (@MIA)

7. Jered Weaver (@BAL)

8. Madison Bumgarner (CIN)

9. David Price (DET)

10. Cliff Lee (PIT)

11. Chris Sale (@MIN)

12. Josh Johnson (PHI)

13. Adam Wainwright (PIT)

14. James Shields (@KC)

15. Lance Lynn (PIT)

16. Felix Hernandez (BOS)

17. Johnny Cueto (@SF)

18. Ian Kennedy (@MIL)

19. Jon Lester (TOR)

20. Matt Garza (HOU)

21. A.J. Burnett (@PHI)

22. Wade Miley (@MIL)

23. Dan Haren (@TOR)

24. Andy Pettitte (CLE)

25. Jordan Zimmermann (@COL)

26. Matt Harrison (OAK)

27. Ivan Nova (CHW)

28. Tommy Hanson (ARI)

29. Chris Capuano (NYM)

30. Max Scherzer (@TB)

Down by the river stream

(Pitchers owned in less than 30% of ESPN Leagues)

Last Week

Trevor Cahill: W, 6 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Kevin Millwood: L, 5 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

Francisco Liriano: ND, 6.66 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Wei-Yin Chen: L, 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

This Week

Jonathon Niese (@CHC)

Mike Leake (@SF)

Chris Young (@LAD)

Niese has flown under the radar in New York

With all the attention being on R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana in Flushing, Niese has quietly put together a solid string of starts in June. In his last four starts, he has a 2.05 ERA and a solid 28:4 K:BB ratio. Those four starts have come against the Cardinals, Reds, and Yankees (2), so he should have no problem taking care of the Cubs this week.

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