Lester looking for mojo in second half

FOXSports.com writer Joel Beall examines which pitchers to start in the fantasy baseball week of July 16.

Start ‘Em

Anibal Sanchez (@CHC, @PIT)
After flaunting a 2.56 ERA at the end of May, Sanchez has been hit with a dose of reality, getting rocked for 30 runs in his past seven outings, five of which have resulted in losses for the Marlins. Sanchez’s upcoming slate, however, should provide a platform to bounce back, taking on middling offenses in the Pirates and Cubbies. Better yet, both starts come on the road, where Sanchez maintains a 2.96 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in eight games this season. Factor in the progression predicted by the sabermetrics (67.2 left-on-base percentage, 0.70 ERA-FIP) and it’s easy to buy into Sanchez’s near future.

Phil Hughes (TOR, @OAK)
Perhaps it’s premature to pronounce Hughes as back to his first-half form from the 2010 season, but the 26-year-old is certainly on his way. In his last seven starts, Hughes owns a 2.87 ERA with 43 strikeouts versus 10 walks. The home run continues to give the Pinstripes pitcher trouble, as Hughes conceded 10 bombs in this seven-game stretch to up his season total to 19 long balls. Luckily, Hughes and the Yankees are heading out west to O.co Coliseum, a park that’s in the bottom third in jacks relinquished, which should alleviate any apprehension owners harbor in implementing Hughes this week.

Scott Diamond (BAL, @KC)
It’s astounding that this Diamond in the rough (zing!) is available in nearly 70 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, as the Minnesota rookie boasts a 7-3 record with a 2.62 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12 starts (79 innings). Granted, Diamond has been aided by some home cookin’, possessing a 2.01 ERA and 10.4 WHIP in pitcher-friendly Target Field compared to a 3.26 ERA and 1.32 WHIP away from the Twin Cities, but the latter production is still respectable. He doesn’t accumulate a plethora of Ks, and the sabermetrics (3.85 FIP, 3.53 xFIP) do point to a slight regression. Nevertheless, with a low walk rate (1.37 BB/9) and pedestrian adversaries in Baltimore and Kansas City, look for Diamond to continue this dexterity.

Other Start ‘Ems
Wade Miley (@CIN, HOU)
Johnny Cueto (ARI, MIL)
Jonathon Niese (@WAS, LAD)
CC Sabathia (TOR, @OAK)
Matt Moore (CLE, SEA)
Jair Jurrjens (SF, @WAS)
Travis Wood (MIA, @STL)
Bronson Arroyo (ARI, MIL)
Zach McAllister (@TB, BAL)
Lance Lynn (@MIL, CHC)

Sit ‘Em

Jon Lester (CHW, TOR)
On one hand, no way Lester’s first-half swoon continues in the dog days of summer, as his .326 BABIP, 3.57 FIP and 66.9 left-on-base percentage indicate the two-time All-Star has been the victim of misfortune. Alas, both of this week’s outings come at Fenway, where Lester is 2-4 with a 5.80 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 10 games this year. Also not helping matters are dates with the White Sox and Blue Jays, two of the heavier hitting ball clubs on the Junior Circuit. Unless competing in an AL-only format, there’s too much risk to endorse Lester as a smart start this week.

Michael Fiers (STL, @CIN)
This is no condemnation on Fiers, who has been marvelous in Milwaukee’s rotation with a 2.31 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in eight games (seven starts) in 2012. Unfortunately, Fiers faces two formidable foes in the Cardinals, who lead the National League in runs, and the Reds, currently atop the NL Central standings. Throw in the fact Fiers’ matchup against the Redlegs comes at Great American Ball Park, a diamond that’s been known to facilitate fireworks, and there’s too much to dislike about the Brewers neophyte.

Jeff Karstens (@COL, MIA)
I’m actually a believer in the Buccos for the second half, but not when the Pirates are away from PNC Park. Additionally, not exactly excited about a scheduled appearance in Coors Field. To his credit, Karstens shook off a disastrous return against the Phillies to submit two strong showings against division adversaries St. Louis and Houston before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, Karstens has never been a prime-time performer in the second half of the season, with a 9-23 record, 5.00 ERA and 1.41 WHIP during this juncture of the baseball calendar.

Other Sit ‘Ems
Mike Minor (SF, @WAS)
Aaron Cook (CHW, TOR)
Dylan Axelrod (@BOS, @DET)
Josh Tomlin (@TB, BAL)
Jeff Francis (PIT, @SD)
Christian Friedrich (PIT, @SD)
J.A. Happ (@SD, @ARI)
Jordan Lyles (@SD, @ARI)
Jonathan Sanchez (SEA, MIN)
Everett Teaford (SEA, MIN)
Samuel Deduno (BAL, @KC)
Kip Wells (HOU, COL)
Ross Ohlendorf (HOU, COL)
Henderson Alvarez (@NYY, @BOS)

Use Caution

Trevor Bauer (@CIN, HOU)
Bauer showcased the stuff that equated to a No. 9 ranking on Baseball America’s Top 100 list in his last start, giving up just two hits and a lone walk in six shutout innings against the Dodgers on July 8. While Houston does little to provoke fear, I’m not overly optimistic about a trip into Cincinnati against the scorching Reds in a yard that’s allowing the second-most long balls in 2012. The strikeout rate is enticing, but be wary of a possible implosion.

Rick Porcello (LAA, CHW)
Don’t be dissuaded by Porcello’s 4.47 ERA, as the Motown hurler has conceded just six runs in his last four outings. Moreover, Porcello has been unbelievably unlucky, evidenced by a robust .353 BABIP and a 3.83 FIP. Not the greatest of matchups with the red-hot Angels and dangerous White Sox visiting this week, and Porcello’s 5.31 strikeout rate and 1.57 WHIP don’t proclaim pitching proficiency. Yet for those looking for a gamble, Porcello’s your man.

Ervin Santana (@DET, TEX)
Santana’s 5.75 ERA has made him one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season, and seeing Detroit and Texas as opponents may be enough for his proprietors to banish him to the waiver wire. However, Santana has historically been a second-half pitcher, and the way the Angels have been hitting as of late, Santana just has to be adequate to bring home the W. Although it looks frightening on paper, plugging in Santana is not as risky as a play as imagined.

Other Cautions
Chris Tillman (@MIN, @CLE)
Zach Britton (@MIN, @CLE)
Philip Humber (@BOS, @DET)
Jacob Turner (LAA, CHW)
Garrett Richards (@DET, TEX)
Nate Eovaldi (PHI, @NYM)
Carlos Zambrano (WAS, @PIT)
Bartolo Colon (TEX, NYY)
Joe Blanton (@LAD, SF)
Barry Zito (@ATL, @PHI)
Jason Vargas (@KC, @TB)
Alex Cobb (CLE, SEA)
Edwin Jackson (@MIA, ATL)
Ross Detwiler (NYM, ATL)