By David Ferris
Sergio Romo, RP, Giants: With Santiago Casilla doing everything he can to torch the Giants in the ninth inning, save chasers need to look at Romo, the dominant set-up man (0.75 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, better than a strikeout per inning). Bruce Bochy probably doesn't want to give Romo the complete baton in the ninth - Romo isn't ideally suited to pitch on consecutive days - but this looks like a bullpen that's about to blow up given how Casilla is collapsing. Also consider situational lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez as possible handshake vultures in deeper leagues.
Franklin Morales, SP, Red Sox: I'm not eager to use him against the Yankees on Saturday, especially in Fenway Park. Bobby Valentine didn't do fantasy owners any favors by taking Morales out of the Wednesday turn in Oakland, and Morales's cycle has been upset as well. But I love how the recycled lefty looked in his first three starts (especially 24 strikeouts versus just three walks) and I see him as a mixable arm for most assignments going forward. Don't sweat the Colorado starting experience too much; that extreme park is a graveyard for pitchers. Perhaps Morales is going to be a post-hype surprise in his second act.
Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants: A lot of analysts defend him through still-strong K/9 rate, but that's partially tied to facing more hitters. On a per-batter basis, Lincecum's strikeouts are in decline. And I'm not going to give him a golden pass for what some term the "unlucky" strand rate - for all we know, he could be having mechanical trouble pitching from the stretch. There's also a school of thought that suggests Lincecum is struggling to land properly, perhaps due to physical issues. Plenty of theories to choose from. Add it all up and I'd be shocked if he posted a sub-4 ERA in the second half. Even if you have to sell low, I'm selling. Even if you can buy low, I'm not interested.
Jose Quintana, SP, White Sox: He makes a lot of his own luck by throwing strikes and hiding the ball well, but a 5.6 HR/FB rate isn't likely to stick in a Chicago summer and Quintana's ground-ball profile is merely average. He's not going to fall off the table going forward but that 2.04 ERA is mostly smoke. Pay for something in the high-3s going forward, and look for other options if you're limited in starts or innings (since the strikeout rate is fairly tame).
Roy Oswalt, SP, Rangers: He was able to stop the Rockies (a dreadful offensive club on the road), but the Tigers and White Sox absolutely pounded him to the pavement. Big league hitters are now bating .422 against Oswalt, and it's mostly supported by a lofty line-drive rate. Normally you'd look at four walks against 16 strikeouts and consider a possible bounce-back, but the jet stream in Arlington (which is especially friendly to left-handed sluggers) is going to eat Oswalt alive. Even in deep mixers, you must do better than this.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians: We live in a result-bias world, so the recent ERA drop has some people excited. But when you see 12 walks over Jimenez's last three turns, you realize that he's a long way from turning the corner and fixing those noisy mechanics. I wouldn't play him in any format, even AL-only, for the second half.
Dan Haren, SP, Angels: After two months of hell the other cleat finally dropped: Haren's been dealing with back problems all year. He bit the bullet and went on the DL, which is what fantasy owners should want: rest, rehab, come back strong for the stretch run. At least the injury isn't tied to the shoulder, elbow or forearm. I can't see why Haren won't be one of the 40-50 best pitchers in the second half; use that rank and apply it to your league. He might be a buy in some formats, a sell in some others.
John Axford, RP, Brewers: He's been a hot mess this year, no one will dispute that: five losses and five blown saves, 4.86 ERA, 1.44 WHIP. But Francisco Rodriguez's ratios aren't really much better, and the Brewers are trying to move K-Rod besides. Axford's latest blown save also came on a fourth consecutive day of work - in those instances, you blame the manager, not the pitcher. Milwaukee will probably stick with the status quo for the balance of 2012.