Homer Bailey is off the DL, but who really cares...right? Well, he is a pitcher we should all start paying attention to. A former first round choice and top pitching prospect in the Red's organization, Bailey owns a 19-16 career record with an ERA barely below 5.00 but what he has done in recent years and in 2011 is making up for that. Between 2009 and 2010, Bailey went 12-8 with a 4.49 ERA and 186 strikeouts in 112.1 innings. Promising, yes, and he is still just 25 years old. In his first three starts since coming off the DL he is 3-0, giving up just 4 earned runs in 19 innings and racking up 16 strikeouts. The 1.89 ERA is guaranteed to rise a bit, but wins won't be that hard to come by because he pitches for the first place Reds. Bailey faces the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, May 21 and he is owned is just 68.4 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues so now would be a great time to add him.
Thursday, May 19
Anytime a pitcher, who has strung together a few nice starts, faces the Oakland A's I get excited. Nick Blackburn starts against the A's on Thursday and shouldn't face much trouble. The A's are one of baseball's lowest scoring offensive teams and the game is in Oakland, one of baseball's best pitching cities. Blackburn has thrown quality starts in each of his last three turns and has given up just 4 earned runs in the 20.2 innings he's pitched in those games. The 8 K's he had against Toronto in his last start probably won't be an every-start occurrence, but he could do some damage against the anemic hitters Oakland puts into the lineup. Blackburn is owned in just 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
Johnny Cueto is making his third start of the season against the Pirates on Thursday. In his first two starts he dominated the NL Central by throwing 6 scoreless innings against the Cubs and then 7.2 scoreless innings against the Cardinals. The 9 K's could improve, but the 3 BB's in 13.2 innings shows he has good control since coming of the DL. The Pirates offense is hard-pressed for runs and will not be a tough foe for Cueto. He is owned in 87.7 percent of ESPN leagues.
Friday, May 20
Ted Lilly hopes to rebound during the start of interleague action against the White Sox on Friday. He has alternated impressive starts with poor ones without fail this year so far, so if history is any indication of how his next will go, it will go well. This past Sunday he gave up 4 earned runs in 6 innings to Arizona, but in his next turn he gets the struggling White Sox. Lilly is owned in just 55.9 percent of ESPN leagues and many owners are giving up on him, but he is one of baseball's most consistent starters, he just needs to get on a roll. Perhaps this week he'll climb back to the top.
Jake Arrieta needs to be getting more recognition than his 28.5 percent ESPN ownership indicates. This 25-year old sports a 5-1 record with a 4.03 ERA and 46 K's in 51.1 innings and has turned in three straight quality starts including wins against the surprisingly potent Royals and Rays. He faces the Nationals on Friday and they don't offer much in the way of hitting, so expect Arrieta to take advantage of that.
Saturday, May 21
Francisco Liriano is right around the corner from righting the ship. The start after he threw a no-hitter he was ill and only lasted three innings, but he is back. He just threw 7 innings of 1-run ball against Seattle while striking out 9. He hadn't struck out more than 5 until this start. It might be too late to save his season stats, but his numbers from here on out should be right where they were last season. Liriano is owned in 68.7 percent of ESPN leagues.
Sunday, May 22
Rick Porcello is another youngster that is flying very low under the radar. At just 22, Porcello already owns 27 career wins, including 14 from his rookie season and his 2010 post all-star break splits suggest that his success this season is not a fluke. Between April 14 and May 5 he threw 4 consecutive quality starts so you should look for another one as he faces Pittsburgh on Sunday. The 27 K's in 41.2 innings aren't spectacular, but we'll take it as long as he prevents runs and he keeps winning games. He is owned in only 13.6 percent of ESPN leagues.