By David Ferris
R.A. Dickey, SP, Mets: We've all been trained to view the knuckleball as an unpredictable pitch, but the way Dickey is going, toss conventional wisdom out the window. His only bad start this year can be explained away by a cold and rainy afternoon in Atlanta; the knuckler works best in warm weather, and we're hitting the warmest stretch of the year. Otherwise, we're looking at nine fantasy-useful starts, and a Top 20 spot on any pitcher ranking formula thus far in 2012. Dickey's improved his walk and strikeout rates significantly this year, and he throws a harder knuckler than anyone we can remember. He's not only fun to own, he's fun to watch.
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: He's been more teaser than pleaser during his career, but Bailey's last four turns have been sharp and he's up against the Pirates again next week. That's good news for two reasons: Pittsburgh has the worst offense in the game this year, and Bailey is 6-0 against them over eight career starts, with a 1.79 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Plan ahead for this streamable play.
Carlos Marmol, SP, Cubs: In a perfect world, you stash him on your bench and wait things out. But just keep in mind the Cubs have every incentive to get Marmol fixed and back in the ninth inning, and no one has run away with the closing job in the last two weeks. The Cubs might be the worst team in the NL, but they can still support a 20-25 save man the rest of the way, like every team can.
Roy Oswalt, SP, Rangers: He might have landed in the worst possible spot, signing up for a summer in Arlington, where right-handed pitchers are chewed up and spit out. Oswalt turns 35 in August, he wasn't all that hot in Philly last year (3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and his velocity and strikeout rate have been tumbling in his mid-30s. You need to do better in a standard mixer. The only reason to grab him right now is with the intention of flipping him before he ever pitches in a game. And he's probably a month away from his Texas debut, so you'll be wasting valuable roster space in the meantime.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics: A lot of good things here: big park, 2.88 ERA, buzzy prospect pedigree. And everyone can see that Parker's mere one win over seven starts is a fluke - his bullpen has coughed up two ninth-inning saves. That said, when you note the crazy HR/FB rate (around two percent) and just 29 strikeouts against 21 walks, we can see the storm clouds moving in. Parker is still a viable arm, but his ERA will likely be in the middle 3s, perhaps as high as 4, the rest of the way. The market might overprice him, so ask around.
Chris Sale, SP, White Sox: A lot of otherwise-smart people are dug in against Sale, and it's getting silly to this point. Oh no, he throws a slider. Good golly, he had elbow soreness and an MRI earlier this year. Look, just about any pitcher in this game is an injury risk; it's an unnatural act that puts heavy strain on your body. In the meantime, let's chase the stats and the indicators we see in front of us and worry about the physical problems later. Sale has a 2.34 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and more strikeouts than innings pitched. His K/BB rate is almost 4/1. This is an elite arm, period, end of story.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants: The regression police had a good laugh at Vogelsong's surprise 2011 season, but the laugh is at the skeptics: Vogelsong's ratio stats are lower this year. So long as you steer him away from the extreme parks (hiya, Colorado), this is a very safe place to park your innings, even in a mixer. Vogelsong's ERA at AT&T Park over the last year and a half? A tidy 1.95.
Frank Francisco, RP, Mets: He's come through on six straight save attempts, along with nine strikeouts (against three walks) and no runs allowed. Terry Collins was patient here and he's been rewarded. And the Mets will keep the opportunities coming; this is not a bad ballclub.