- Brian Gramling, Fantasy
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There is a bevy of intriguing pitchers for Wednesday. In really deep fantasy leagues, you could make the case for starting two dozen pitchers taking the hill on hump day. Eleven pitchers have double-digit wins this year, and half the pitchers on the starting docket carry an ERA of 4.10 or better. See below for all the pitchers worth plucking off the waiver wire.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 15
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.
• Must Start: Brian Duensing's numbers as a starter this year are excellent: 5-1, 2.18 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.9 K-BB ratio. Yet, he is owned in just 36.5 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. In case you need more reason to scoop him up for Wednesday's start, Duensing also is 3-0 with a 2.40 ERA in nine career outings (three starts) against the Chicago White Sox. Twenty percent of ESPN fantasy leagues astutely picked up Carlos Zambrano in the past week, but he still is available in nearly 55 percent of leagues. He can blow a gasket at any time, but how can you argue with his performance since returning to the rotation? In seven starts, Zambrano is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA and 39 K's in 45 innings. J.A. Happ is 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA and .210 opponents' batting average in nine starts with the Houston Astros, and he threw six shutout innings in his only start this year against the Milwaukee Brewers.
• Strong Play: Homer Bailey has a 2.94 career ERA and an 8.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in 11 September starts, and the odds are in his favor to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday. Kyle Drabek, the key piece in the Roy Halladay trade, makes his major league debut against the third lowest scoring team in the majors. The 22-year-old Drabek was 14-9 with a 2.94 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 27 starts at Triple-A, but his high walk rate (68 BBs in 162 IP) is a bit disconcerting. Jenrry Mejia is the New York Mets' top pitching prospect, with a 1.28 ERA and 45 K's in 42 1/3 innings in nine starts in the minors this season. The 20-year-old has been hit hard in his first two major league starts (9 IP, 17 H, 10 ER), but the Pittsburgh Pirates have a knack of boosting confidence for young hurlers.
• Worth Considering: John Lannan is 5-2 with a 3.02 ERA in his past seven starts and has a September ERA of 3.52 in 13 career starts. He also has a weak mound opponent in Mike Minor (9 IP, 10 ER in past two starts). Clayton Richard would be higher on this list if he wasn't pitching in Coors Field, which hasn't been kind to him this year (12 2/3 IP, 13 H, 9 ER, 6 BBs, 7 K's). Richard's 5-2 record and 2.87 ERA in his past nine starts is enough to justify a starting spot in NL-only leagues, though. Admittedly this is a stretch, but Jeanmar Gomez is worth a start in AL-only leagues based on his success at Progressive Field this year (2-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) and his dreadful opposing pitcher (Scott Kazmir).
• Stay Away: Brad Bergesen has strung together a few quality starts, but not against the Toronto Blue Jays, against whom he carries a 9.77 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and .386 opponents' BA in three starts this year. Joe Saunders is 0-6 with a 7.01 ERA and 2.02 WHIP in his past seven road starts, and faces a tough Cincinnati Reds lineup. Burke Badenhop is making his first start of the season, which has not been a suitable role for him in the past. In 10 career starts, Badenhop has a 6.95 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. His mound opponent on Wednesday is Roy Halladay, who pitched a perfect game at Sun Life Stadium on May 29.
Hitter matchup ratings for Sept. 15
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.
Chris Johnson, 3B, Houston Astros: Now that his sore back is feeling better, it's time for you NL-only players to put Johnson back in your lineup. His numbers have been stellar since the All-Star break (.332 BA/.368 OBP/.520 SLG), and he is 7-for-9 versus Dave Bush in his young career.
Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: Lind has three homers in his past six games and has success in his career against Brad Bergesen (6-for-12, one homer, five RBIs).
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Cincinnati Reds: He is batting .346 in September and is 9-for-18 with three doubles in his career versus Joe Saunders. And he's probably available on your waiver wire since he's owned in less than 18 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Emilio Bonifacio, SS/3B/OF, Florida Marlins: He is on fire, batting .447 (17-for-38) with 11 runs in his past nine games. He also carries a .375 on-base percentage in eight games against Philly this year, so he's worth a start in NL-only leagues even with Roy Halladay on the mound.
Dexter Fowler, CF, Colorado Rockies: He is a career .181 hitter when facing San Diego Padres pitching, including an atrocious line of .136/.239/.169 in 15 games this year. The switch-hitter also is 2-for-19 with six strikeouts lifetime versus Clayton Richard.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees: I know that most fantasy leagues don't have the luxury of sitting such a fantasy monster, but there are many options better than Teixeira these days. He is 4-for-32 with nine strikeouts in his past nine games, and that isn't likely to change against James Shields on Wednesday (4-for-28, 13 K's career versus Shields).
Curtis Granderson, CF, New York Yankees: Another prominent Yankee is also worth a benching Wednesday. Granderson is 3-for-22 with just one run in his past eight games and 2-for-26 with six strikeouts when facing James Shields in his career.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers: Weeks is batting .116 in September with 16 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances. If you think he's due to bust out, don't bank on Wednesday being that due date. Weeks has a .190 batting average with 18 strikeouts in 42 career at-bats against Carlos Zambrano.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies: I might have missed the boat on Tulowitzki, because he's sure to cool down one of these days. I just don't think Wednesday is the day when the red-hot Tulowitzki (.409 BA, six homers, nine runs, 11 RBIs in past six games) finally gets stymied. He is 5-for-10 with two bombs and five RBIs in his career versus Clayton Richard.
Injury list: Out
Johan Santana, P, New York Mets (season-ending shoulder surgery)
Aaron Cook, P, Colorado Rockies (broken fibula, likely done for season)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers (flu)
Scott Hairston, CF, San Diego Padres (shoulder)
Nick Swisher, RF, New York Yankees (sore left knee)
Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado Rockies (right calf strain)
Josh Bell, 3B, Baltimore Orioles (right hand)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (hamstring)
Bobby Jenks, P, Chicago White Sox (forearm)
Weatherproof games: Yankees at Rays, Brewers at Astros and Red Sox at Mariners. Wednesday is looking good for the majority of the country. The eastern part of the U.S. will enjoy a sunny day with temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s, and the important Southeast games (Phillies-Marlins, Nationals-Braves) will reach 90 degrees. A's-Royals appears to be the only contest that could be affected by rain.
Brian Gramling is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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