Santiago, Liriano could offer ace-quality production
Fantasy owners who need to improve their pitching staff in order to challenge for a title may be inclined to make a big splash and pay the premium price for an ace. But the five starters listed below could offer ace-like production during the final two months of the season, for a smaller acquisition cost.
Hector Santiago (Angels): The left-hander has shown markedly improved control this season, as his 2.9 BB/9 rate in 2015 is notably lower than his 3.9 career mark. Pounding the strike zone has enabled Santiago to hold opposing hitters to a .221 batting average, which has aided him in posting a 2.43 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. With a career 8.4 K/9 rate, the 27-year-old has all the makings of a high-end starter in mixed leagues if he can maintain his control gains down the stretch.
Francisco Liriano (Pirates): Like Santiago, Liriano has used better control to spur an overall uptick in production this season. The left-hander has posted elite ratios (2.91 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) in 2015, and his 10.1 K/9 rate is among the best of any starter in baseball. Liriano, who's playing on a contender with an excellent bullpen, could dramatically improve on his current 6-6 record if he continues to post high-end ratios during the final two months of the season.
Scott Kazmir (Astros): The left-hander was a coveted asset on the Major League trade market prior to heading to Houston last week, and he owns a 2.24 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP on the season following his initial start with his new club. Fantasy owners can follow the Astros' lead and pick up this ace-level starter for a smaller cost than traditional No. 1 arms. Kazmir could thrive in Houston, where he joins a postseason contender with one of the best defensive units in baseball. Only Zack Greinke and Jacob deGrom have produced a lower ERA than Kazmir to this point in the season.
Jason Hammel (Cubs): A career-high 9.0 K/9 has fueled a breakout season for the right-hander, who has recorded a 2.82 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP. Since posting a respectable 3.55 ERA in April, Hammel has produced an ERA below 3.00 during each of the subsequent three months. And with a season-to-date 3.08 FIP, the 32-year-old has given fantasy owners little reason to believe that he is due for a major decline.
Wei-Yin Chen (Orioles): Chen, who's heading into free agency after the current season, has pitched like a man on a mission while producing a 2.86 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Although the southpaw does not typically compile a high strikeout rate, his 7.2 mark this season is respectable. Chen has accumulated just four wins, but a productive Orioles lineup should enable him to collect victories at a higher rate down the stretch if he continues to hold the opposition in check.
All statistics are accurate through the completion of Saturday's games.