With several teams careening out of contention and other desperately seeking to remain in the race, a number of rookie starters have found their way into rotations. Some have already locked in future roles on both big league and Fantasy rosters while others are receiving auditions.
The current trend toward dominant pitching has many of them lighting up radar guns and putting up strong numbers. But Fantasy owners must take it all with thousands of grains of salt in comparing them to veteran mound options. They must also consider such factors as potential hitting support, pitch-count limits and competition that could force them into bullpens or demotions. Expanded rosters in September could also knock them out of rotations.
It all adds up to what will be referred to as the Pick-N-Play Ranking. Many of the following - continuing here with the American League - are free agents in both shallow and deeper formats. Snagging any of them would be a waste of a roster move if unused or a disaster if unproductive. The following are worthy of attention, either negatively or positively (current statistics in parenthesis):
Scott Carroll, Chicago (5-7, 4.99; 97.1 IP, 113 hits, 35 walks, 50 strikeouts): A 29-year-old rookie having yielded 16 runs in 17 2/3 innings over his last three starts is no potential pickup. His career minor league numbers, which include 10 hits allowed and five strikeouts every nine innings, indicate that the only reason he's pitching in the bigs is a distinct lack of depth in the White Sox rotation. His owned/start ratio is 2/1. It would be wise to keep it that way. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 1
Roenis Elias, Seattle (9-10, 4.09; 139 2/3-134-54-126): Elias is headed distinctly in the wrong direction. He has no quality starts since June 28 as a lack of command continues to drive his pitch count up. The Mariners don't hit well enough for Fantasy owners to feel comfortable that they will secure and maintain a lead after the five or six innings Elias manages to pitch. It's no wonder Elias has just two wins in the last two months. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 3
Shane Greene, New York (3-1, 2.91; 43 1/3-39-14-39): Oddly, Greene has struggled more against weaker-hitting clubs such as Texas and Boston, but the sample size is too small to consider that a trend. Greene found his command a couple years ago in the minors and has learned to keep hitters off balance by mixing in a low-90s fastball with off-speed stuff. He has given up just two runs in his last 14 innings, seems entrenched in the Yankees rotation and is owned in only 41 percent of Fantasy leagues, so he could be a worthy addition. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 7
T.J. House, Cleveland (2-3, 3.80; 66 1/3-79-20-49): This little-known left-hander has proven surprisingly consistent and effective, showing an ability to limit the damage caused by a lack of velocity and supreme stuff. House has had hitters swinging over low sliders and keeping them off-balance, though his strikeout numbers are mediocre. The Indians hit well enough to provide him decent run support and are playing a weak schedule the rest of the way, though his two starts next week are in Kansas City and Chicago. His owned/start ratio of 4/2 is far too low considering he seems set in the rotation for now. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 5
Nick Martinez, Texas (3-9, 5.13; 100-116-43-57): Command issues have limited Martinez to just one quality start since June 21. This right-hander is averaging 100 pitches in just five innings over his last four outings. His start-to-start inconsistency has been pronounced. Despite occasional strong efforts, it appears that both he and the Rangers are going down the drain together. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 2
Trevor May, Minnesota (0-2, 9.00; 9-13-13-3): Thirteen walks in nine innings pitched? Really? May can bring it in the mid-90s and his changeup offers good deception, but he doesn't know where any of his pitches are going. He has averaged nearly one walk every two innings throughout his professional career and his control issues have worsened since arriving with the Twins. Until that changes, he's hands-off for Fantasy owners. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 2
Miles Mikolas, Texas (1-5, 7.48; 49 1/3/61-17-33): Mikolas has had a penchant for poundings. Seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against Oakland. Nine runs in 3 1/3 against Houston. Ten runs (yikes!) in six innings against Tampa Bay. Despite an upper-90s fastball and decent control, he hasn't missed too many bats. His fastball has proven to be mysteriously inconsistent, averaging under 90 mph in some starts, according to Fangraphs. Mikolas is owned in only two percent of all Fantasy leagues. They must be really deep AL-only leagues. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 1
James Paxton, Seattle (3-1, 2.20; 32 2/3-28-8-29): This left-hander is the most worthy pickup on this list - and he's unowned in 25 percent of all leagues. His fastball has peaked at 97 mpg and tremendous late movement on his breaking pitches has translated into more than a strikeout per inning in the minors. An injury set him back this season and he pitched poorly in his last outing, but he appears set in the Seattle rotation and his can't-miss stuff has already paid dividends for Fantasy owners. Don't miss out. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 9
Matt Shoemaker , Los Angeles (12-4, 3.56; 103 2/3-97-19-102): Despite a fastball that tops out at around 92 mph, Shoemaker has swing-and-miss stuff with a curve and slider that has finished off many of his strikeouts. He pitches for the second-highest-scoring team in major league baseball, which explains his just-OK ERA and dymanite record, but he is also improving. He has given up just 22 hits and four runs with 30 strikeouts in his last 32 1/3 innings pitched. Shoemaker is trending in the right direction and should boast a better owned/start ration than 65/46. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 8
Marcus Stroman, Toronto (7-4, 3.83; 87-81-21-73): Stroman shouldn't be hitting any rookie wall having thrown just 122 total innings this season, but he is coming off a performance in which he yielded five runs in just 2/3 of an inning and has been clobbered in two of his last three starts. He should receive plenty of run support down the stretch and is playing with a contending team, but Fantasy owners might want to monitor his efforts heading into early September before making a commitment. Pick-N-Play Ranking: 6