Five worm-burning starters you should target

June 27 2:45am
AntonioD

By Antonio D’Arcangelis

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece on six pitchers poised for a summer turnaround. But they’re not the only guys you should be targeting in mid-season trades.

Here are five more starting pitchers – all with ground ball rates of at least 50 percent – who could give you a huge boost in the second half. If they can be pried away from your fellow fantasy competitors, it’s worth trading away a player of perceived comparable value, pulling off a sneaky 2-for-1, or ditching a decent bat if you’re a tad hitter-heavy.

Jon Lester, BOS – The Red Sox offense is far and away the most explosive in baseball, and Lester is the ace of the staff. Not only does this inspiring cancer survivor strike a ton of guys out (8.78 K/9), his GB% is 50.8. If the .290 BABIP remains constant, Lester should continue to dominate in the second half and improve on his 3.70 ERA. With 15.1% of fly balls going for home runs, I’m positive he’ll have better luck after the All-Star break, when he could rack up another 10-12 wins and post a sub-3.00 ERA.

Ricky Romero, TOR – He’s gone from a solid starter to a standout in less than two years, and it’s largely due to a combination of his worm-killing ways (53.0 GB%) and excellent strikeout rate (7.98 K/9). The crazy thing is that he’s just 6-7 this season. He may not be able to sustain the .273 BABIP and 80.7 LOB%, but his HR/FB rate is 12.1% (a bit high) and minor regressions towards the mean should be balanced out by better run support. Romero’s outstanding fastball-changeup mix (he’s largely abandoned his slider and cutter, while throwing his curveball less and less) seems to be an effective approach, and it’s obvious that he’s arrived.

Jhoulys Chacin, COL – Jhoulys (pronounced Yo-Lease) may have an uncommon first name, but he has even rarer breaking stuff. With the help of a devastating 12.1 pitch value slider, Chacin struck out 9.04 batters per nine innings last season, and while his strikeout rate has dropped to a still respectable 7.95 K/9. The main change has been his increased proclivity toward ground balls, a number that increased from 46.6% in 2010 to 61.1% (the third-best in baseball) this season. Nobody expects Chacin to duplicate his 2.71 ERA in the second half, especially because his .217 BABIP has nowhere to go but up, but he’s not bound for as steep a decline as most sabermetrically inclined owners would believe. His xFIP is under 4.00, and he’s shown improved control. There’s a good chance he’s just a sharp young pitcher on the rise.

Derek Lowe, ATL – The grizzled veteran is still keeping hitters ground-bound, posting a 58.3 GB% in the first few months of the season. He’s just 3-6 with a 4.33 ERA, but the 38-year-old sinker-slider specialist keeps the ball down, still strikes out 6.30 batters per nine innings, and currently sports a 3.37 xFIP that portends an improved ERA over the remainder of his starts. Mix in some better run support (which will surely be aided by a healthy Jason Heyward and a better second half from Dan Uggla), and you’ve got a fantasy relevant Lowe capable of 8-10 more wins and modest peripherals.

Tim Stauffer, SD – Stauffer has been a hard-luck loser on many occasions this season, and while his 3.13 ERA is excellent, his 3.13 xFIP is exactly as impressive. Even if the Padres offense continues to suck, there’s no way he wins only two more games in his next 15 starts. Stauffer’s 53.8 GB% is just what you want to see, especially coupled with an above-average 7.14 K/9 rate and admirable control (2.25 BB/9). What was defined the last three seasons as a slider is now pegged as a cutter – a pitch he throws about a quarter of the time. But the sinking fastball has been his standout pitch in 2011, earning an 8.8 pitch value.

Antonio D’Arcangelis is a fantasy baseball and football writer from Upstate New York. He’s written for Fanhouse.com and Rotoexperts.com, among several other sites, with columns syndicated on SI.com and Yahoo.com. Antonio has 10 years experience as a fantasy writer and currently provides content for DraftBuddy.comFFToday.com and FanDuel.com.

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