Need to Know
Derek Lowe, SP, Dodgers: Trade deadlines should be fast approaching in fantasy leagues, and Lowe is somebody you need to get some value for. He is on pace for one of his best seasons in ERA and strikeouts, and no doubt has been a strong No. 2 starter on most teams. However, manager Grady Little has been quoted as saying the sore hip Lowe is dealing with could very well linger the rest of the season. The implication is that the hip is something they normally would shut Lowe down over, if they weren't five games out of a postseason spot with less than two months to play. Lowe's ERA ballooned to worse than 5.00 for the month of July, after spending May and June sub-3.00. His overall numbers still are above average, and it should be a sellers' market in fantasy for starting pitchers, with the recent injuries we've seen. If you stick with Lowe, you better have some other strong starters to support him.
Doug Davis, SP, Diamondbacks: Maybe it's the pressure of having to be the team's No. 2 starter without Randy Johnson. Maybe he's just finally pieced together the correlation between men-on-base and earned runs. Either way, Davis is on what we like to call a hot streak. To put things in perspective, Davis pitched exactly 32 and 2/3 innings in both June and July. In June he surrendered 44 hits, but in July only 25. That is very significant, especially when the main thing holding Davis back from fantasy usefulness was his WHIP. A couple of splits look good on him as well, including his August and September career strikeout numbers: just shy of a K-per-inning with 204 strikeouts in 210 and 2/3 innings. The Diamondbacks look like they are going to make some noise down the stretch, and they are going to need Davis to be "on." He is available in 97 percent of ESPN leagues, but I think he can have No. 2 starter fantasy value in medium-sized mixed leagues and all NL-only leagues.
Curt Schilling, SP, Red Sox: I still have concerns about Schilling being limited and protected by the Red Sox. Boston has its eyes on the prize this season, and Schilling's postseason performances are a thing of lore. They need him in October, and I think he'll be babied on the way there. Do I think he still is someone you should start 99 percent of the time? Yes. Do I think he will be effective enough and work deep enough into games to be a No. 1 fantasy starter? No. If you can use Schilling to upgrade your team somewhere else, do it.
Pedro Martinez, SP, Mets: Class-A batters rocked Martinez for five runs, including two home runs, in his recent rehab start. Consider it a warning sign. Pedro's name value will be higher than his actual value this season. As I've indicated before, his fastball just is not expected to be back until 2008. Martinez still is on track to be back with the Mets in late August.
David Wells, SP, Padres: This is a case where fantasy owners likely were ahead of the curve. Not even the deepest of NL-only leagues were hanging on to Wells after his recent performance, and now the Padres have dropped him too. San Diego plays in the most pitcher-friendly park in the majors, so if Wells resurfaces anywhere, the numbers will only get worse. Let me just say, that was a tumultuous career, Boomer, and we'll be seeing ya!
Esteban Loaiza, SP, Athletics: Loaiza is set to make one more start in Triple-A before the A's make a decision on what to do with him. Regardless of the fact that he'll never again come close to his Cy Young season, Loaiza can get hot and string together some high-K, low-earned run games. He should be somewhere between ridiculously cheap and free in most leagues. If your starters have been struggling in the strikeout department, he is worth a gamble.
Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox: Don't bite. He has been a minor league tease with terrific numbers outside of the majors, but every time he gets the call, he disappoints. Floyd is battling Jose Contreras for the fifth rotation spot, but I'd have to be in a very deep league before I started looking at him.
Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins: His fight to return to the majors is over after undergoing Tommy John surgery. It's too bad, really, as Johnson has filthy stuff. We'll have to see how things go and worry about him again in late 2008.
Aaron Harang, SP, Reds: Eight innings, eight strikeouts and zero earned runs. That's Harang's line from his latest start after skipping one turn in the rotation. He is just fine. Even if the back spasms resurface, he clearly can recover with no ill effects.
Andrew Miller, SP, Tigers: Miller is set to start rehabbing his hamstring. Even if he returns quickly from the DL, Miller shouldn't be on most fantasy teams' radar. His rookie status is showing as he rarely lasts deep enough into games to be useful.
Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox: I maintain my support for Lester. He has the repertoire to be effective in fantasy and has a rotation spot with the best team in the majors. Sure, he has been hit pretty hard in his past two starts, but he still hasn't made a start at home. I think the Fenway Park fans will have a positive effect on Lester. If someone in your league has given up on him, pick him up.
Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers: Consider him being lit up like the Strip in Vegas nothing more than a bump in the road. It was inevitable that he would receive a pounding. Hopefully owners recognized it was his first start at the notorious Coors Field and benched him. But unless he is in the thin air of Denver again, don't be afraid to start Gallardo, regardless of matchup.
John Maine, SP, Mets: Maine has had back-to-back sub-par outings, and there are concerns about fatigue. But I don't buy them. Between the minors and the majors, he pitched 150 innings last year and 160 innings the year prior. He hasn't passed either of those thresholds yet, so I'm not concerned. He caught a red-hot Braves team and a hot Cubs team in his past two starts. Unless the matchup is poor, I'll continue to look at Maine as a solid No. 2 starter.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Blue Jays: He's good to go. Don't have any qualms about starting Burnett this Sunday or for the rest of the year. He has proven that he can handle pitching in the AL East and even be quite dominant. His shoulder problems were blamed on fatigue, which shouldn't affect the groove he has been in for 2007. He should be a middle-tier No. 1 starter from here out.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com.