Roundtable: Hot hurlers worth vetting

Wolf, Pavano among vets worth watching

Which surprising veteran starter should be targeted as owners seek to solidify their rotations? MLB.com's fantasy experts offer their take in this week's Roundtable.

Kevin Millwood, Rangers

I've been a fan of Millwood since he helped carry my staff with 18 wins, a 2.68 ERA and 205 strikeouts back in 1999, and as such I'm probably a little biased. Still, I don't think his current 3.23 ERA is a total fluke. He'll have a tough time sustaining that mark with half his starts coming in Arlington, but the veteran righty has actually pitched quite well at home this season (2.59 ERA). With his increased reliance on an effective slider and a powerful offense to provide plenty of support, Millwood could prove to be a solid acquisition instead of a mere spare part of a larger deal.

-- Tim Ott, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Mark Buehrle, White Sox

Buehrle's consistency often goes underappreciated in fantasy circles, but the stats speak for themselves. The southpaw has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in four of his last five seasons, and while his strikeout total is low, he's helped himself by issuing very few free passes. With a 6-1 record and a 2.71 ERA through his first 10 starts of '09, Buehrle is once again proving to be a smart late-round investment and a solid addition for any team.

-- Zach Steinhorn, Producer, MLB.com Fantasy 411

Javier Vazquez, Braves

The Braves seem to have struck gold with their pitching acquisitions yet again this season, as both Derek Lowe and Vazquez are enjoying impressive campaigns. Vazquez has seemingly turned back the clock to his glory days in Montreal, as he sports a nifty 1.15 WHIP and a tremendous 11.0 K/9 rate. This type of dominance is difficult to come by, so if the Vazquez owner in your league is skeptical of his staying power and is willing to deal the veteran righty for a mid-range hitter, I'd make the move.

-- Toby Mergler, Contributor, MLB.com Fantasy

Brad Penny, Red Sox

Relegated to fantasy's scrap heap during a frustrating 2008 campaign, Penny has reemerged of late thanks to improved command. The righty has shaved a walk off his BB/9 rate from a year ago -- from 4.0 to 2.8 -- and has issued just one free pass in 18 innings over his last three starts. With 14 punchouts and a pair of wins in that time frame, Penny is making clear that he might be the answer to mixed-leaguers' back-end rotation woes.

-- Kyle Stack, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Randy Wolf, Dodgers

Wolf just continues to figure out a way to get it done. I wasn't as big a fan as I've been in the past, but I'll admit, he's sold me. Prior to Tuesday's iffy outing against the Diamondbacks, the veteran lefty was flirting with just under a strikeout per inning and owned the 10th-best ERA in the National League. Combine that with a great pitchers' division, a cushy home park and an unchallenged slot in manager Joe Torre's rotation, and you might find yourself howling at the moon soon enough.

-- Mike Siano, Co-host, MLB.com Fantasy 411

If Wolf's owner is looking to sell high, see what it would take to acquire the soaring southpaw. Yes, Wolf has been fortunate with respect to hit rate and stranding runners and is thus due for a correction to his ERA, but underneath are some sustainable peripherals suggesting the correction may not be as marked as some might expect. Wolf has fanned 58 and walked just 22 over 75 2/3 innings, an impressive rate in line with what he used to deliver before health problems surfaced in 2004. To that end, the lefty's injury history should serve to keep the price of acquisition reasonable, making him that much more of an attractive target.

-- Todd Zola, Correspondent, MLB.com

Carl Pavano, Indians

Pavano has been startlingly effective after a nine-run beatdown at the hands of the Rangers in his season debut, compiling a 4.06 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 10 starts since. The righty's excellent ground-ball rate is in line with his career marks, as is his stingy walk rate, while his strikeout rate is currently at a career-best level. Pavano rightfully earned his "American Idle" moniker while pitching only 26 total games across four seasons with the Yankees, but if he truly is healthy again, he could be in for a fine bounceback campaign.

-- Cory Schwartz, Co-host, MLB.com Fantasy 411

Without looking at a shred of evidence, I'd guess that the vast majority of New York-based fantasy owners have completely ignored Pavano this season. And how can you blame them? The Yankees shelled out a whopping $40 million for four years, and got back 145 2/3 measly innings from the right-hander. The Indians, on the other hand, have managed to squeeze 63 frames out of Pavano in just two months' time. With a 5-1 record, a 3.60 ERA and a 34/8 K/BB ratio since May 1, he's looked more like the pitcher who helped lead the Marlins to the 2003 World Series championship than the primary subject of the boo-birds in the Bronx. Given that turnaround, Pavano deserves serious consideration from owners in need of another arm.

-- Alex Cushing, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Assuming that arms like Vazquez and Chris Carpenter are already owned, Pavano (yes, that Pavano) is the most intriguing of the still-possibly-available veteran hurlers. The righty's battle to stay on the field became the stuff of legend during his four disappointing seasons in the Bronx, so it's easy to forget that he won 18 games with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 2003, his final year with the Marlins. The 33-year-old displayed similar form this past month, going 5-1 with a 3.60 ERA and a terrific 34/8 K/BB ratio in May. With numbers like that, he certainly makes for a worthwhile add in any format.

-- Chris Stryshak, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Jarrod Washburn, Mariners

Washburn will likely never be a frontline fantasy starter, but for owners looking to reinforce the back end of their staffs, the 34-year-old southpaw is as good an option as any. He's given up just one earned run in 13 innings over his last two starts, and he's yielded two earned runs or fewer in seven of his 10 outings on the year. Opponents are hitting just .242 against the crafty elder statesman, who boasts a rock-solid 1.18 WHIP. Throw in the fact that his home park is pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, and you can see why Washburn is a legitimate low-cost option in all formats.

-- Matt Chaprales, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

The Mariners' weak offense may prevent Washburn from winning more than a dozen games this year, but he's still well worth a look from fantasy owners. The 34-year-old has found a recipe for success by boosting his K/9 rate to 6.16 (up from 5.10 in '08) while reducing his walks and home runs allowed. Some owners may expect Washburn's ERA to regress toward his career 4.09 mark, but keep in mind that the veteran lefty managed a 3.20 ERA in '05 with worse peripheral stats than he's maintained through the first two months of this season.

-- Ian Kay, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy