It’s all about pitching. How many times have fantasy owners heard that phrase before? It’s much easier to find a hot offensive player than it is a hot pitcher, especially at this juncture of the season. The way to a fantasy championship is through pitching depth, so those owners contending for the crown should check out the rankings and make sure that their team will still be on top by the end of week.
1.Felix Hernandez, SP SEA: 9-10, 2.51 ERA, 183 K, 1.13 WHIP
How do you strikeout almost 200 batters before the end of August and amass only nine wins? Just ask King Felix, and he’ll tell you exactly how: by playing for the Mariners. He’s currently enjoying a CY Young caliber year and has 31 strikeouts over his last three outings. Despite being just 4-5 over his last 11 outings, three of those four wins have come against the Yankees. The King is considered elite for far more than just his ability to win games, and if he played for a team that actually provided him run support it’d be scary to see what he’d be capable of doing. Hernandez helps fantasy teams out just about every time he hits the rubber, and that trend should continue when he takes on the Red Sox at Boston on Wednesday night.
2.Ted Lilly, SP LAD: 7-8, 3.23 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 115 K
Since coming over to LA, Lilly has done nothing but find success: 4-0 over his last four starts. Coming off the heels of an 11-strikeout performance, Lilly will look to carry the momentum he’s built into his next start against the Brewers. He’s pitching like an elite fantasy starter, and while we know this won’t last forever, owners should definitely take advantage while they still can. It’s amazing how mental pitching can be sometimes, so perhaps this is just the result of Lilly feeling more comfortable in his home state of California.
3.Max Scherzer, SP DET: 9-9, 3.73 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 134 K
He’s been one of the top starters in fantasy over the last six weeks but had been hampered by the inability to secure the W. Now coming off back-to-back victories, Scherzer looks primed to ride this wave for the rest of the year. An absolute strikeout machine, even his “bad” starts are solid. To recap: 8-5 with a 2.28 ERA since coming back to the show. The kid has always had the potential as he came up through Arizona’s ranks as a top prospect, so now that he’s harnessed it opposing hitters should be scared. He’ll be making a start for my team Thursday against Toronto.
4.Brian Duensing, SP MIN: 7-1, 1.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 48 K
After finding his way into the rotation from the bullpen, Duensing has done just about everything to prove that this is the spot where he belongs. Over his last two starts, the right-hander is 2-0 and has 17 IP with just a single ER allowed. He still needs to prove that he’s for real and deliver these type of results over the long haul, but so far so good for Mr. Duensing. If he continues at this rate, he may find himself vying for a starting spot next season and beyond. With his next start scheduled against the Rangers this week, Duensing will have to pull out all the stops to stop a tough offensive juggernaut. This will be a good test for the 27 year old.
5.Trevor Cahill, SP OAK: 13-5, 2.54 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 86 K
If you don’t know who Trevor Cahill is, odds are that you’re not in first place in your fantasy league. The new ace in Oakland has been dominant this season and has blossomed into quite a weapon for the A’s. He’s certainly not going to blow anybody away with his stuff, but the dude knows how to pitch. He’s very even-keeled which allows him to balance himself on the mound even when he doesn’t have his best stuff and effectively limits his opposition because of it. With a strong pitcher’s mentality, owners shouldn’t hesitate to use him in any format. Cahill will toe the rubber against Cleveland on Wednesday and look to prove that his first start against the Indians earlier this year was a fluke.
6.Wandy Rodriguez, SP HOU: 9-12, 4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 127 K
Wandy sure would be a lot higher on this list if his teammates could provide him some run support. Unfortunately for both he and his owners, he plays for the lowly Astros who don’t provide a whole lot of offensive support these days. Despite suffering his first loss in seven starts, Rodriguez fell just one strikeout shy of his career high (11) in his most recent start against Florida. We’ve been suggesting him for weeks since he first start heating up and those owners that took our advice look mighty smart right about now. He’s allowed just six ER and has 48 K over his last 41.1 IP and is pitching like an elite fantasy ace. He’ll take his show on the road to Philadelphia this week and look to prove that he’s for real.
7.Jon Niese, SP NYM: 8-5, 3.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 110 K
As good as Niese’s season line stands, he’s actually pitched much better than it indicates. After spending some time on the DL earlier this season, the lefty has pitched out of his mind since his return. He’s allowed just one ER in each of his last four starts and has pitched at least seven innings in each one (his last start was a 5 IP rain-shortened CG), a trend that appears poised to continue. It’s easy to see why the Mets refused to trade the kid as he appears to be blossoming into something special before our eyes. Owners who scooped him up should feel very fortunate and continue to use him week in and week out. He has a favorable matchup against Nelson Figueroa and the Astros next time out.
8.Dallas Braden, SP OAK: 8-8, 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 86 K
Braden most notably made headlines this season when he got into a spat with 3B Alex Rodriguez regarding to whom the pitching mound actually belonged, but it looks like he’s put that in the past. After battling an elbow injury that severely limited him after tossing his no-no against TB, Braden has come back and pitched quite effectively. Since coming off of the DL, the lefty is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA. Furthermore, he’s allowed more than three ER just once in his last eight starts. His fantasy value is at its peak when he’s pitching like this, so make sure to plug him in this week since he’s pitching so well. He’ll take on a tough test when he pitches at Texas on Saturday.
9.Mat Latos, SP SD: 13-5, 2.33 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 144 K
It’s amazing to me that Strasburg continues to get more attention than Latos. The two are the same age (22), possess a similar arsenal of pitches, and are both dominating the opposition. The only difference between them is that Latos has actually stayed healthy and proven that he’s darn near unhittable. Not only is he a candidate for 15+ wins, but he’s also among the league leaders in Ks and WHIP as well while pitching for the first place Pads. He hasn’t struck out less than seven in a start since July 2nd, and owners will want to take advantage before the Pads put him on an innings count. With a 12-2 record and a 1.62 ERA since May 7th, he warrants a start in every format in existence. He’ll look to blow by the D-Backs on Wednesday.
10.Clay Buchholz, SP BOS: 14-5, 2.36 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 89 K
Despite missing some time this season due to injury, Buchholz has taken giant leaps and bounds this season. Owners have known since his rookie season that the talent has been there, but consistency has been a problem for the young righty. Now in his third year at the major league level, it seems like Buchholz has really learned how to pitch and pitch quite well. A serious threat to win 17+ games, he’s been stellar over his last three with a 3-0 record and has pitched at least seven innings in each start. We’d like to see his strikeouts go up a bit and for him to limit the amount of batters he walks, but we really can’t be picky here—the kid’s been phenomenal. He’s got a tough test at Tampa Bay and Matt Garza this week.