Spot Check: Johnny on the spot
Cueto, Holland, Ely among this week's top pitching pickups
Fantasy pitching is like a relationship.
Sometimes it supports you when nothing else is going right. Sometimes it breaks your heart. And sometimes it's better to cut bait and move on with your life.
Hey, there are always other fish on the waiver wire.
Whether you're looking for a serious long-term commitment or just a casual one-time encounter, Spot Check is here to play wingman. Read on -- because you never know when you might find The One.
Johnny Cueto, Reds
Next start: Monday, May 17 vs. Brewers
'10 stats: 2-1, 4.07 ERA, 42 IP, 1.21 WHIP, 33 Ks
Outlook: 2009 was a tale of two seasons for Cueto. Through July 1, the right-hander looked like a Cy Young contender with an 8-4 record, 2.69 ERA and .223 BAA. Something went awry after that, however, as his walk rate skyrocketed and opponents teed off to a .314 clip over the campaign's final three months. Six weeks into the 2010 campaign, Cueto's peripherals look awfully close to last year's stellar first-half numbers. The league is hitting just .248 off him and his 7.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 are actually improvements over last year's marks. Cueto's last three starts have yielded a 19/3 K/BB ratio and just five earned runs in 20 innings. Buy low now before the window slams shut.
John Ely, Dodgers
Next start: Monday, May 17 vs. Astros
'10 stats: 1-1, 3.86 ERA, 18 2/3 IP, 1.02 WHIP, 17 Ks
Outlook: The back end of the Dodgers rotation has been a rotating carousel of rookies and retreads for the past two seasons. Ely's first three starts should be enough to earn him a long-term ride. The rookie right-hander will give up a home run sooner or later, but he hasn't been especially lucky on balls in play (.310 BABIP) and his other peripherals -- 8.2 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 - fully support the sub-4 ERA. Any first-year big league hurler is prone to some struggles, but with Dodger Stadium behind him and one of the NL's most potent offenses in support, Ely might be a worthwhile addition in mixed leagues.
Derek Holland, Rangers
Next start: Monday, May 17 vs. Angels
'10 stats: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 1.00 WHIP, 7 K
Outlook: Simply put, Holland was bad in '09. There's really no other way to look at a 6.12 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 33 appearances (21 starts). The thing is, the left-hander's Minor League track record is so impressive that the Rangers really had no choice but to give him another try in the rotation. Only a Spring Training knee injury kept Holland off Texas' Opening Day roster and after posting a 0.93 ERA and 37 K's in 38 2/3 Triple-A innings, he overmatched Oakland's lineup in his tidy '10 debut. He might not have the same ceiling as Tommy Hanson, but Holland's Minor League numbers compare favorably. And something akin to Hanson's brilliant '09 isn't out of Holland's reach this season.
Probable starters, May 17-May 22
Monday, May 17 (All starters)
Spot on: Gio Gonzalez, A's vs. Mariners
'10 stats: 3-3, 4.08 ERA, 39 2/3 IP, 1.36 WHIP, 37 K
Outlook: Through 37 games, the Mariners were last in the AL in runs scored, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Bottom line: when streaming pitchers, you really can't go wrong picking against Seattle. Gonzalez actually got roughed up by the M's back in mid-April and his control has been inconsistent of late, but a rematch -- at home this time -- could be just what he needs to get back on track.
Spot on: Carl Pavano, Twins at Blue Jays
'10 stats: 4-3, 3.30 ERA, 46 1/3 IP, 34 Ks
Outlook: Remember when Pavano was the laughingstock of the American League? No longer. Very quietly, the right-hander has restarted his career as one of the AL's more dependable starters. In '09, poor luck obscured solid peripherals. This year, the combination of 6-plus K/9 and a stingy walk rate has paid handsome dividends. The Jays led the AL in homers and were second in runs scored through 39 games, but they also whiffed more than any other Junior Circuit club. Expect value from Pavano as long as he keeps the ball in the yard.
Spot on: Brett Cecil, Blue Jays at Mariners
'10 stats: 2-2, 5.46 ERA, 28 IP, 1.29 WHIP, 26 Ks
Outlook: The early returns have been mixed since Cecil got the nod as a long-term add after his April 23 season debut. Good starts against the Red Sox and Indians were followed by a mediocre turn against the White Sox and a two-inning, eight-run implosion against the Rangers on May 14. Despite the inconsistency, the left-hander's 8.4 K/9 and 2.9 K/BB point to a pitcher whose ERA should be much closer to 4 than 6. Oh, and did you see who he's facing this week?
Spot on: Chris Narveson, Brewers at Pirates
'10 stats: 3-1, 5.29 ERA, 32 1/3 IP, 1.64 WHIP, 32 Ks
Outlook: Narveson's ERA is a bloated 4.43 since transitioning to the starting rotation in late April, but the left-hander's 26/9 K/BB ratio and .235 BAA in 22 1/3 innings point toward improvement. Pittsburgh hit just .235/.308/.357 as a team through its first 37 games and Andrew McCutchen is the only above average right-handed batter in the Bucs' lineup, so this has all the making of a favorable matchup.
Spot on: Jason Hammel, Rockies at Royals
'10 stats: 1-2, 7.71 ERA, 25 2/3 IP, 1.64 WHIP, 20 Ks
Outlook: With the stuff to produce both groundballs and Ks, there's a lot to like about Hammel. The right-hander returned from the DL to toss seven innings of three-run ball against the Nationals on May 15, striking out seven and allowing only six batters to reach base safely. Owners can expect more of the same this week in Kansas City, as the Royals are 22nd in the league in runs scored and only two teams have worked fewer free passes.
Spot on: Clayton Richard, Padres at Mariners
'10 stats: 2-2, 3.21 ERA, 42 IP, 1.50 WHIP, 30 Ks
Outlook: Yes, we're going back to the well again with a matchup against the Mariners and their cushy ballpark, but this pick is mostly about Richard and what he's accomplished so far this season. The former Michigan Wolverine doesn't have great peripheral stats, but he's lasted at least five innings and allowed three runs or fewer in each of his seven 2010 turns. In his last three outings (18 innings), the southpaw has allowed just five earned runs and struck out 15. Look for him to build on that hot streak.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.