Jimmy Nelson - SP, MIL
When the Brewers finally got fed up with Marco Estrada's extreme proneness to home runs, they made the decision earlier this month to replace him in the rotation with Nelson, who has been flat-out phenomenal in the minors this year and pitched very well in a spot start back in late May.
Nelson's first outing upon being added to the rotation was nothing short of disastrous. In a home start at Miller Park, the right-hander was shelled by the Cardinals for eight runs (six earned) over 4 1/3 innings.
In spite of that, there are numerous reasons to view Nelson as a quality pickup with the potential to make a positive impact on your fantasy staff for the final two months of the season.
First, there is his tremendous work in the Milwaukee system. Nelson has a 3.12 ERA in his five minor-league seasons, and was enjoying his best campaign this year at Triple-A, where he had gone 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 17 appearances (16 starts). In 111 innings, he had racked up 114 strikeouts with only 32 walks and three home runs allowed.
Outside of his rocky outing against the Cardinals, that outstanding work has translated to the big leagues. In three starts against the Marlins, Reds and Mets, Nelson has allowed only five runs in 19 2/3 innings (2.29 ERA). Overall, he has a 22-to-8 K/BB ratio with just two homers allowed in his four starts. In other words, the ugly results against St. Louis (which are skewing his overall numbers toward mediocrity) look very much like a fluke.
From a statistical standpoint, there isn't much not to like about Nelson. He's getting strikeouts and grounders while keeping his walks in check for the most part, and he was amazingly dominant in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League before being called up. I like his chances of being a useful piece from here on out.
Allen Webster - SP, BOS
Webster has been one of the most exciting arms in Boston's system since he was acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster, but his introduction to the big-league ranks last year was a mess. In eight appearances (seven starts) for the Red Sox in 2013, the hard-throwing righty tacked up an 8.60 ERA and 1.81 WHIP. In 30 innings, he yielded 37 hits, 18 walks and seven home runs. Yuck.
Of course, he was also only 23 years old and getting his first taste, so it was far too early to give up on his talent. He's had his bouts with command issues in the past, but the seven long balls were surprising; in 721 total minor-league innings, Webster has allowed just 37 home runs.
He's getting another opportunity to show his stuff in the majors now with the trade of Jake Peavy opening up a spot, and although he wasn't great in his first start, Webster is worth a look for upside-seeking fantasy owners.
In Triple-A this season, the 24-year-old had put up a 3.10 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP over 122 innings. His strikeouts were down a bit, but so too was his walk rate (3.2 BB/9 compared to a career 3.7 rate) and he was holding opposing hitters to a .234 batting average.
Webster picked up a win in his 2014 Boston debut over the weekend, holding the Rays to two runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings, but he also issued five walks. He'll need to improve his command to significantly upgrade his results from last year, but hopefully this was just a hiccup and his sharpened control in Triple-A will shine through.
With a fastball that registers in the mid-90s, Webster has the potential to dominate major-league lineups. He just needs to pull it all together.