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The problem with pitchers -- and the reason we tell you not to prioritize them on Draft Day -- is they are so volatile. Hitters are hard to pin down too, don't get me wrong, but the attrition rate for pitchers is so much higher, and finding breakouts out of nowhere tends to be easier there.
Henderson Alvarez and Aaron Sanchez are two of the different types of risks with pitchers personified. Alvarez was an established starter with a track record, but that track record included injuries. Sanchez, on the other hand, is the lottery ticket, the high-upside and high-risk young pitcher who could win you a season or tumble all the way back to the minors.
Both players succumbed to their worst-case scenarios in the first half of the season, with Alvarez pitching just 22 1/3 innings before going down with a shoulder injury; Sanchez only made it a little longer before a late injury put him on the shelf, though his control issues may have earned him a priority ticket back to the minors if things hadn't turned around. However, both players could be back in the majors in the next few weeks, and Fantasy players should definitely take note, because the things that made them so intriguing before the season haven't gone away.
Alvarez recently began his rehab assignment, and could be just a few turns in the rotation away from returning. He is just 34 percent owned and posted a 2.65 ERA last season, so the reasons to be interested in him are clear. And Sanchez recently said he is ready to return from his own injury, after making three rehab starts; he didn't impress earlier in the season, but still has a big fastball and groundball tendencies that could make him an ace someday.
Neither player is a sure thing at this point, just like neither was a sure thing before the season. However, we were willing to take chances on them three months ago, so why not now? If you get the opportunity to stash either player, now is the time, because they could come back up blowing people away and make you pay for your patience.
Kyle Schwarber, Cubs (62 percent owned)
As covered at the Fantasy Baseball Today blog Thurday: Yes, you should pick up Schwarber right now.
Andrew Cashner, Padres (74 percent owned)
With the Padres struggling through arguably the most disappointing season of any team in baseball, general manager A.J. Preller has to be considering clearing house. He already fired the manager, but after taking a big hack in free agency and swinging nearly a dozen trades last offseason, we might be reaching "EVERYTHING MUST GO" time soon. That is one argument against adding Padres starter Andrew Cashner. Cashner is struggling through his own cold spell that has seen his ownership drop, and any move from Petco Park, where his career ERA is 1.50 runs lower than on the road, would be a very bad outcome for his Fantasy value. However, he has a nice opportunity to boost his value before any potential trade, and Fantasy owners should look to take advantage. Cashner's next three starts before the trade deadline are set for Sunday against the Rockies at home, and then July 24 vs. Miami, before he takes on the Mets on the road. That is two starts in Petco and two against bottom-six offenses, so expect Cashner to get back on track, no matter what the future holds beyond that.
C.J. Cron, Angels (25 percent owned)
Cron might just be a Quad-A player, the kind of guy who can put up impressive numbers in the minors, but isn't able to translate it to the majors. He wouldn't be the first, and he wouldn't be the last. After hitting .323/.347/.667 in Triple-A Salt Lake this season, Cron has managed a pretty pedestrian .269/.294/.421 line in the majors so far this season; he was only slightly better last season. However, he was showing major signs of life before the All-Star break, hitting 17 of 37 with four home runs and 12 RBI in nine games since his most recent call-up. He still has major plate discipline issues, but Cron's power could make him stand out if he really is figuring things out. The bar for Fantasy relevance at first base is very high, but Cron probably has that upside, and is worth taking a look at in deeper leagues.
Kris Medlen, Royals (14 percent owned)
It feels like we are starting to reach a tipping point with Tommy John surgeries, where all of the pitchers who underwent the procedure a few years back are starting to come back, replenishing the stocks. Medlen is one such pitcher who could have tremendous upside if he makes it back to full health, and the Royals could certainly use a boost in a rotation that has been forced to rely on the underwhelming likes of Jeremy Guthrie and Joe Blanton, among others. It isn't yet clear if Medlen will pitch in relief or as a starter, but his upside at least means you need to keep an eye on him; let's not forget, he had a 3.11 ERA over 197 innings in 2013, before elbow issues derailed his career. There is no guarantee Medlen will get back to that level, but pitchers with a career 2.95 ERA and 3.23 FIP don't grow on trees, so take a flier on this one.