As we get deeper into the second half of the 2011 baseball season, it is time to consider which pitchers may be shut down early by their major league teams. This can have a huge effect on your fantasy baseball team in a number of ways. If your fantasy baseball team is in contention this year, you will most likely not want to have any players on the bench for the remainder of the season and therefore may want to consider trading away any pitchers with potential innings caps looming over their seasons. Conversely, if your fantasy baseball team is out of the running this year and you are looking ahead to next season, you may wish to trade for one of these pitchers as they could represent a good “buy low” opportunity and can be stashed as a “keeper” for next season.
Let’s consider a few pitchers that may be subject to an innings cap as we head further into the second half of the 2011 season:
Michael Pineda (SEA) –
Entering the 2011 season, very few people felt Pineda would step right in and dominate in the Mariner’s rotation. He was projected as a possible number 5 starter but he has fit in as a solid number 2 pitcher right behind Felix Hernandez. Pineda has been dominant at times in the first half of 2011 but Mariners’ pitching coach Carl Willis has stated that Pineda’s innings will become an issue. The rookie’s innings were capped in 2010 when he fanned 154 batters in only 139 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Consider also that elbow issues limited him to a mere 47 1/3 innings in 2009 and Pineda is a fantasy baseball red flag in the second half of this season.
Brandon Beachy (ATL) –
In spring training, Beachy was ranked as the number 8 prospect in the Braves farm system, so it would be fair to say not a great deal was expected of him in 2011. However, after breaking into the starting rotation with a strong spring, Beachy has been another in a long line of young Braves pitchers to achieve success at the major league level. His innings have jumped markedly over the 3 seasons from 2008 – 2010 as he pitched 12, 76 2/3 and 134 1/3 innings respectively over that span. An innings cap of around 175 in 2011 wouldn’t surprise but keep your eyes on news out of the Braves organization as they are not openly talking about placing an innings cap on the youngster.
Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) –
The Nationals see Zimmermann as their number 2 starter of the future and like their number 1, Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann has had recent Tommy John surgery. He flashed glimpses of potential in 2009 and once again this season but with an eye to the future, the brass in Washington are said to limit Zimmermann’s 2011 innings to 160. At his current pace, this means he will be shut down for the start of September unless the Nats give him rest between starts to stretch that timeframe out by a few weeks. In either case, you’ll want to trade Zimmermann to a fantasy owner who, like Washington, has their eye on the future.
Jeremy Hellickson (TB) –
Capped to 100 innings last season (between Triple-A and the majors), Hellickson’s ability to step in and help the big league club was one of the factors which made Matt Garza expendable. Although he has performed well in2011, Rays manager Joe Madden has considered moving to a six-man rotation in an effort to limit Hellickson’s innings. If Tampa falls out of contention in the competitive American League East, they may very well cap Hellickson with an eye toward 2012.
Madison Bumgarner (SF) -
After pitching only 121 innings combined from 2009-2010, Bumgarner is a concern entering the last 2 months of the 2011 season. A late season surge (including 2 post-season wins) proved that Bumgarner was the real deal last season. With a lop-sided blowout already in 2011 and the Giants not exactly favourites to repeat as World Champions, Bumgarner may find himself shut down early this September.
Jonathan Niese (NYM) –
Niese showed promise at times in 2010 but wore down as the season progressed and saw his ERA increase in the second half. He has pitched well in 2010 but with the Mets’ season a write-off and injured starter Johan Santana hoping to pitch at some point in 2011, it would serve the team well to limit Niese’s innings down the stretch.
Jake Arrieta (BAL) –
After pitching only 100.1 innings in 2010 and suffering a bone spur (which he elected not to have surgery to correct), Arrieta was a candidate to have his innings limited in 2011 straight out of spring training. After admitting to experiencing recurring problems from the bone spur, combined with a propensity to get hit hard recently (7 HR in last 4 starts), and Arrieta may indeed see an innings cap sooner rather than later.
If you are gunning for your fantasy baseball title in 2011, you may want to consider avoiding pitchers who may see their innings limited in August and September. However, if you are looking to add some arms for next year, these pitchers may just be the type of player you can acquire at a decent cost.