Clay Buchholz has allowed one earned run per start in his first three outings with the Arizona Diamondbacks, walking only two batters while striking out 14. However, his career has been defined by frustrating inconsistency with moments of brilliance. With that in mind, is there a chance that Buchholz is legit and worth picking up and starting in your fantasy league?
AJ Mass: Did you see the May splits? Oakland ranked No. 26 in runs scored with 104. Miami came in at No. 29 with 96, one spot and two runs scored behind the Mets. These three teams are not exactly lighting the scoreboard on fire lately. They also happen to be the three teams that Buchholz has faced in his return to action.
So, I'm not exactly wowed by what he's done thus far, even though it is indeed encouraging that he has been able to work deeper into the game and throw more pitches with each subsequent start. If he can dispatch the Giants (.282 BA since May 1) in similar fashion in his next outing, then I may take a closer look. But to paraphrase a great Jedi, "Holding my breath I am not."
I'd much rather take a deep dive with Tyson Ross, whose Padres are 6-1 in his past seven starts, during which time he's allowed only 12 extra-base hits and a .232 BAA.
Eric Karabell: I have actually watched Buchholz in two of the three outings, and I can unilaterally state that I have not the least bit of interest in rostering him. Buchholz could barely miss bats in his first two outings, against the Mets and Athletics. Then he faced the Marlins.
He is throwing strikes but with little velocity -- well, in comparison to other pitchers, at least -- and while the pending schedule does not appear terrifying (Giants this week, then home in the humidor versus the Pirates and Mets), it's a trap. Buchholz has to miss bats consistently, for like another month, before I buy in, and even then, he's an injury risk.
I would prefer to invest in Lance Lynn, who has shown positive signs of late and was a good pitcher last season, and who is rostered in fewer leagues. Same with Chris Stratton and Brent Suter and German Marquez and Jason Varg... no, I draw the line at Jason Vargas, I guess. But it takes a really long time for me to get to that line.
Kyle Soppe: Hard pass. Given his track record, Buchholz will have to post more than three strong outings for me to consider buying in, and to be completely honest, by the time he does enough for me to feel comfortable, he will be nearing the "universally rostered" tier.
Not only has his production during the past four seasons been spotty at best, the man has completed 140 big league innings just three times in his 11-year career. So you're telling me I have the opportunity to add a pitcher whose health is a concern and whose production when healthy is far from a lock? No thanks, I'm good.
If you're hurting for a pitcher and the wire is thin, Chad Kuhl has peaked my interest in a bit. The Bucco's righty gets a nice bump from having a favorable home park, and while his upside is limited, there is some value to gain here. Kuhl hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in three straight starts, and he has rung up at least five batters in six straight -- again, not great, but roster-worthy in my opinion.
I'm not going to tout him as a must add, but he is a pitcher who is thriving in high-leverage spots (.229 opponent batting average against this season with men on base), plays for a good team and is someone I would much prefer compared to the inconsistent stylings of Mr. Buchholz.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: I'm trying to take a less dismissive approach to unexpected pitching performances this season -- see: Smith, Caleb -- but I cannot see how the answer here is anything but "no."
Buchholz does have a 1.50 ERA and is the No. 19 starting pitcher on our Player Rater's last-15 days split, and he did have moments of greatness during his Boston Red Sox days, like his 2013 All-Star first half. Still, two of his three starts have come against the Mets and Marlins, two of the weakest offenses in the game, with the third outing against a Khris Davis-less Oakland Athletics lineup. Plus, he simply doesn't miss bats, which is a major problem in the current game environment. Smith, for example, at least misses bats (and lots of them).
Among starting pitchers with similar availability in ESPN leagues, I would much prefer to speculate on someone like Jaime Barria, who has three quality starts in his past five, a 2.48 ERA in his seven career games to date and has shown signs of strikeout potential with 24 in his past 23 1/3 frames. Another I'd prefer is Ryan Yarbrough, who has been a sensation in a long-relief role for the Tampa Bay Rays, has a 3.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio and provides his fantasy teams a sizable advantage in leagues that use a cap on starts, because of the volume of innings he provides at no charge to your cap.