Jake Odorizzi - SP, TB
It's sort of amazing. Odorizzi has been one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers in baseball, ranking fourth in the majors with a 10.3 K/9 rate. He has also been on a phenomenal run lately, with a 2.79 ERA and 587 opponents' OPS in eight starts since the beginning of June.
And yet, the young righty still remains unowned in 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues and more than 85 percent of ESPN leagues.
Odorizzi's struggles in the first two months of the season seemed somewhat fluky, owing largely to an inflated .362 BABIP and some uncharacteristically shaky control. Sure enough, things have normalized since then and the results have taken a dramatic turn, as he has allowed three or fewer runs in seven straight outings.
Like many Rays starters, Odorizzi has been the victim of poor run support, with the Tampa offense averaging fewer runs than all AL clubs other than Houston and Boston. His success in other categories cannot be ignored, however, and even in the W/L column Odorizzi is showing improvement; he's 3-1 in his last five turns after starting out 2-7.
With his elite strikeout numbers and sustained outstanding performance to match, Odorizzi is a hidden fantasy gem that won't likely stay hidden for much longer at this rate. The Rays are heating up, with nine wins in their last 12 games, and this young starter is at the forefront. Grab him while you can.
Odrisamer Despaigne - SP, SD
Five starts, all quality. A 1.31 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Twenty hits and only one home run allowed in 34 1/3 innings of work. A near no-no in his latest outing.
Despaigne's output since joining the Padres rotation in mid-June has been nothing short of dazzling, but can he sustain it?
The 27-year-old Cuban native seemingly came out of nowhere, and his lack of a track record makes him rather difficult to peg. The Padres signed him to a minor-league deal in early May after he impressed the big-league club with 95-MPH heat in spring showcases. Despite a somewhat rocky minor-league stint -- he went 1-3 with a 6.08 ERA in seven starts between Double-A and Triple-A -- Despaigne got the call less than two months after signing, hurling seven scoreless innings in his MLB debut on June 23rd.
The right-hander's minor-league tune-up was characterized by lots of strikeouts (41) and lots of walks (18) in 31 1/3 innings. His time in the majors has been quite the opposite, as he has averaged just 4.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in his five turns with San Diego.
The biggest key for Despaigne has been limiting hits, as opponents are batting .177 with a sub-500 OPS against him. He won't maintain a sub-.200 BABIP forever, nor will his 3.3 percent HR/FB rate last, but he is clearly keeping unprepared opponents off-balance and he's in the right place to keep getting good results on balls in play. Despaigne has thrived at Petco Field, where he's allowed only nine hits in 20 innings, and he'll continue to make half his starts there.
It's really difficult to believe the amazing run will continue if he doesn't strike more people out, but based on his stuff and what he did in the minors, an uptick in the K category seems feasible and even likely. That should help offset the inevitable regression on batted ball luck, making the righty a decent bet to keep pitching well, even if there's no way he'll keep up at his current pace.