National League Value Starters
There are several months to go but it is easy to be excited about the National League playoffs given how stacked the league is with power arms and elite starting pitching. The American League All Star team will have an unenviable task next month as Terry Collins will be able to trot out a truly elite starter in every inning if he wants to.
As the separation grows between the contenders and the rest of the league the cost to support the elite starters on quality teams will continue to grow. Ultimately identifying quality starters at lower price points will be the key to having success in the National League given how steep the prices will be on the starters for the Cubs, Nationals, Giants, and Mets, as well obviously Clayton Kershaw.
There are several National League starters that project a few tiers down that still can offer some promising potential on many nights while falling in line at costs that are much easier to stomach in most matchups. Here are a handful of possible value starters in the NL for the coming weeks.
Jerad Eickhoff (Philadelphia Phillies): Aaron Nola was the dominant starter for the Phillies in the first two months of the season and remains the highest priced starter in that rotation. It was Eickhoff that wowed in eight starts last season however and after some ups-and-downs in April he is starting to put it together again in 2016. Eickhoff is almost 26 and he won’t be on a sharp innings watch like Nola or Vincent Velasquez in the Phillies rotation and he has allowed three or fewer runs in seven of his last eight starts. Eickhoff owns a better than 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and despite his 4-8 record he has picked up a win in three of his last five starts after starting the season 1-6. His ERA is just 3.40 with a FIP that is only slightly higher and his walks and home runs allowed have been kept in check of late. With a limited offense the Phillies are sometimes tough to support but the team has still won 30 games with similar home and road results and Eickhoff might be the best pitcher to support for the Phillies with the ‘under’ also looking playable in many of his upcoming starts.
Michael Wacha (St. Louis Cardinals): Wacha looked like he was on the superstar fast track starring for the Cardinals late in the 2013 season and in the playoffs. Injuries derailed him in 2014 but he had a fine 2015 season for the 100-win Cardinals. Wacha has already taken as many losses as he did last season at 2-7 but his FIP is 3.51, significantly lower than his season FIP was in 2015 when he wound up 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA. The Cardinals had a slow start to the season but the team is rounding back into form and while catching the Cubs might be a challenge in the NL Central this certainly looks like a team poised to claim a wild card spot. Wacha’s marginal numbers will lead to reasonable pricing to support him even though he is still capable of a dominant outing. The schedule has worked against Wacha as since mid-May his starts have come against the Rockies, Cubs, Nationals, Giants, Pirates, and Rangers, taking on some of baseball’s best offensive teams. Even so he has a quality start in three of his last four outings and he offers great promise the rest of the season at discounted pricing compared to the lines he drew last season.
Bartolo Colon (New York Mets): Backing Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz is certainly more comforting but Colon’s prices are sharply discounted on the following nights for the Mets. The 43-year old is occasionally the butt of jokes but there is nothing funny about the success he is having against NL hitters. Colon has delivered five consecutive starts with two or fewer runs allowed and his ERA is down to just 3.01. He owns a better than 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and while he gives up a lot of hits, he usually escapes with limited damage and he has only allowed two home runs over his last six starts. The Mets are 8-4 in his last 12 starts and with New York possessing an unreliable offense Colon can be supported at a much more reasonable price than the rest of the rotation, avoiding the risk of laying -200 or greater behind an offense that is often sweating out one-run games.
Jake Peavy (San Francisco Giants): While it seems like Jake Peavy has been around forever he is only freshly 35 and could have a few solid years remaining in his career. Peavy is 3-6 with a 5.83 ERA but after a rocky start to the season he has been pretty reliable in recent weeks. His season FIP is a much more respectable 4.16 and his ERA is only 1.82 over his last four starts. Peavy is still getting nearly seven strikeouts per nine innings and after allowing six home runs in his first six starts of the season he has allowed just two in his last seven starts. Everyone would prefer to support Madison Bumgarner or Johnny Cueto but Peavy might be the value option to support a Giants squad that scores nearly 4.5 runs per game despite playing in a pitching-friendly ballpark, while also playing strong defense and generally looking like one of the best teams in baseball.
Zach Davies (Milwaukee Brewers): Davies hasn’t been considered a high ceiling prospect and with his small frame he was only a 26th round draft pick by the Orioles in 2011. Davies is only 23 however and after a shaky April he has emerged as a reliable option in the Milwaukee rotation. Davies has a K/9 of 8.3 over the last month while turning in four straight quality starts. Davies has actually allowed six or fewer hits in 10 consecutive starts and while he has been a little fortunate with a low .262 BABIP on the season his command has been strong with a low walk rate. Davies seems to have solved Miller Park which typically is a tough venue for pitchers as he owns a 2.88 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in eight home starts with the Brewers winning five of those games. While Milwaukee isn’t likely to be a playoff contender the Brewers have a winning home record and Milwaukee has played above .500 ball since the calendar turned to May as this has been a competitive team that is still frequently getting solid underdog pricing.
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