MLB Free Agency: Low-Level SP Who Can Have Fantasy Impact in New Place

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery. It seems as though every year, a few journeyman pitchers get picked up by a team and become big contributors. We’ve seen it in recent years Ryan Vogelsong, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, and Bartolo Colon, just to name a few.

So, when you look towards the bottom of this year’s free agent list of pitchers, who stands out as a guy who can do that next year? In the right spot, who can revitalize his career and in turn, help your fantasy team? If they end up in the right place, don’t ignore these guys.

 

Dan Haren

A few years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be sitting here talking about the potential sleeper value of Dan Haren in fantasy baseball. But when you look at the last two seasons, he’s certainly fallen off of the radar. 

Split
IP
H-BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
2012 (Angels)176.2190-388514212-134.331.291
2013 (Nationals)169.2179-318815110-144.671.238
Total346.1369-6917329322-274.501.265

But, there’s some hope. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles tweeted, there is a possibility that Haren may be returning to the West Coast.

In general, I’d like this move for Haren. Dodger Stadium is a great place to pitch. Haren is a guy who throughout his career has been a high strikeout, low walk type of guy. That kind of game will succeed anywhere but for a guy entering his Age 33 season, you have to wonder how long those pitches in the strike zone or going to be missed by the hitter. If he’s pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, where his career ERA of 3.49 is already below his overall mark of 3.74, that’s not as big of a concern.

Generally speaking, I had a pretty high opinion of Haren heading into 2014 as it was. He finished the 2013 season on a good note and while you can make the case that he did the same in 2012 (he did), that transition was a little different, as he explained to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post in September.

It was really, really difficult…Most guys have their families where they are, so I’m not going to bug them. The majority of my time was spent alone. Those times where I was struggling on the mound, it was really compounded by just kind of being alone. My life revolved too much around baseball. It didn’t affect how I was pitching. But it made in between pitching and after the games more difficult.

That actually makes a lot of sense, and although Haren said it didn’t affect his pitching, you can’t help but notice that he struggled in the first three months of the year. You also can’t help but notice that he was hurt early in the year. Remember that Haren’s from California and since getting traded from the Cardinals after the 2004 season, he pitched in Oakland, Arizona, and Anaheim before signing with the Nationals.

If he’s healthy and on really any West Coast team, I’m giving Dan Haren a shot next year. It won’t hurt him to be closer to his friends and family, and every West Coast team plays in a great pitcher’s park. If he’s with the Dodgers, he’s probably looking at good run support and a strong W-L record to go along with everything else. He’s a sleeper, but don’t fall asleep on him.

 

Phil Hughes

The career numbers don’t look that wonderful for Phil Hughes. But it’s not exactly a secret that the American League East isn’t exactly a kind division for pitchers to pitch in. Hughes has been no different and considering 44 percent of his career innings have come against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays, it’s fair to at least assume that they’ve had a big impact on his career numbers. So, just how much of an impact? 

Split
IP
H-BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
AL East344381-11419529320-235.101.439
Rest of MLB436.2406-13119936336-274.101.230

As far as specific options go. Well, let’s look at a few:

Mike Beradino, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Right-hander Phil Hughes and left-hander Jason Vargas also have drawn preliminary interest from the Twins, according to a different source.

Obviously Vargas won’t happen, as he’s now a part of the Kansas City Royals. While we’re on that note, look at what Bub Dutton of the Kansas City Star said when a reader asked about Hughes.

Yes, they did sign Vargas, but their official website lists the starting rotation as James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy, and Wade Davis. There would be plenty of room for Hughes.

Since we did it with the AL East, look at how Hughes’ career has gone against AL Central teams. 

Split
IP
H-BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
AL Central212.1193-508817619-133.731.144
AL Central (Minus KC)170143-386014514-113.181.065
AL Central (Minus MIN)171161-377314916-113.841.158
I don’t exactly know why Kansas City has given him so much trouble, or how his career record against them is 5-2. But if he goes there, he’s looking at good career numbers against all divisional opponents other than the Detroit Tigers. In either Minnesota or Kansas City, Hughes would be going to a good park to pitch in, especially compared to Yankee Stadium.

If he’s really going for cheap, Hughes can end up anywhere. We don’t have much of a sampling against National League teams, but I’d say that if Phil Hughes gets himself out of the AL East, there’s sleeper potential. He’s not that different than guys like A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, who both had fantastic seasons in 2013.

 

Jason Hammel

Like Hughes, the overall numbers wouldn’t appear to be overwhelmingly in the favor of Jason Hammel

Split
IP
H-BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
Career989.11082-34352871749-594.801.440
2013139.1155-4877967-84.971.457
But like Hughes, we can dig a little deeper and find some potential value.

We’ll start with what Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted earlier in Novemeber.

While the Giants have signed Tim Hudson since then, they still need a fifth starter. Now, is Hammel a guy who’d be very effective to your fantasy team? Judging by his career and 2013, probably not. But remember, this is a guy who’s spent his entire career in either the AL East, or on the Colorado Rockies. That’s certainly not going to do your ERA and WHIP and favors. But let’s take a random stadium like AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play their home games and see what he’s done there. 

Split
IP
H-BB
ER
K
W-L
ERA
WHIP
AT&T Park30.226-68170-12.351.043

Those numbers look a little better. Sure, it was a few years ago, but Dave Righetti had some success turning Ryan Vogelsong around in 2011 and 2012. When you get a contact guy like Hammel into a pitcher’s park, it’s not impossible to think that it can happen there.

Now, this is where things get a little different. Hughes may be worth a late-round gamble if he goes to the right spot because even in a bad outing, he can still help your team out with strikeouts. Jason Hammel won’t do that. Even at his best, he’s a contact guy that relies on his defense for help. With him, you have to wait a few starts and see what he’s doing. If he’s a bust, you obviously let him go. If he’s throwing a few quality starts, he may be worth picking up, especially in a streaming-type setting, or in deeper leagues.

Topics: Dan Haren, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes

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