Jeremy Hellickson - SP, TB
The road back from elbow surgery has been a turbulent one for Hellickson. The right-hander underwent an arthroscopic procedure in February, and was initially expected to return in mid-May. Setbacks have pushed back his return date, and now that he's finally ready to return, there are plenty of questions about just how effective he'll be.
Hellickson has always been a bit of a conundrum. Formerly a top prospect with big K-rates in the minors, he succeeded in a very different way in the big leagues.
In 2011, he posted a 2.95 ERA and won the Rookie of the Year Award despite an underwhelming 117-to-72 K/BB ratio in 189 innings. The following season he improved his strikeout and walk rates a bit, and delivered yet another brilliant ERA (3.10). Last year he posted the best K/BB ratio of his career but finished with an ugly 5.17 ERA -- with the elbow soreness likely contributing.
Despite peripherals that have often been out of line with his results and a consistent proneness to home runs, Hellickson has been one of the better young pitchers in the game and is still only 27 years old as he makes his return for Tampa. You can't argue with his overall numbers in three-plus seasons: 39 wins, 3.70 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. If that's the guy who pitches for the Rays the rest of the way, he'll be a valuable pickup.
But is the righty capable of recapturing his previous luster? A rocky rehab stint sheds some doubt on that question.
In five starts for Class-AAA Durham, Hellickson went 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA, coughing up an astounding 38 hits over 18 2/3 innings. The good news is that his K/BB ratio (16/5) was fine, but allowing more than two hits per inning against Triple-A hitters is hardly encouraging.
The question marks surrounding Hellickson have kept most fantasy owners away, but that might make this the best time to swoop in. If he can shake off the rust and find his stride, the young hurler could prove to be an excellent pickup for the rest of the campaign.
Dillon Gee - SP, NYM
Sticking with the subject of quality starters returning from a long layaway, let's take a look at Gee, who is set to rejoin the Mets rotation this week. Gee isn't available in as many leagues as Hellickson -- he's owned in about 15 percent of ESPN leagues and 25 percent of Yahoo! leagues as I write this -- but he still might be a sneaky grab in leagues where owners have forgotten about him during his two months on the disabled list.
Prior to getting hurt, Gee was having an exceptional season, with a 3-1 record and 2.73 ERA in eight starts. He was really cruising prior to landing on the DL, having rattled off five straight quality starts with a 1.36 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
It would be great to see him pick up right where he left off, and there is reason to believe he might. Although he missed a significant chunk of time with his lat injury, Gee didn't really hit any setbacks in his recovery and -- unlike Hellickson -- he was dominant in a short rehab stint, striking out 18 hitters while walking two and allowing eight hits in 10 2/3 innings between rookie ball and Low-A.
That's a far cry from major-league competition, obviously, but all reports on Gee have been positive and he was pitching some of the best ball of his career before going down. He's also coming off his best season in 2013, when he went 12-11 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 32 starts.
Generally speaking, Gee is more of a control-and-finesse pitcher than a guy who's going to blow people away, but he's capable of putting up a solid strikeout total on any given day and you can hardly argue with his results dating back to the beginning of 2013. At age 28, he's in the prime of his career, and the fact that he's as widely available as he is right now creates a big opportunity.