SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 25, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Don’t buy into Liriano’s resurgence in Pittsburgh

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — Yo ho, yo ho, it’s a Pirate’s life for Francisco Liriano.

After basically being written off following a number of disappointing seasons in the American League Central, Liriano has sprung back to life with a move to Pittsburgh and the National League this season. He’s an impressive 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in three starts. He also has 25 strikeouts to just six walks and an opponents’ batting average allowed of .206 in 18 innings pitched.

But before you get too wrapped up in his start, take a moment to reflect and you’ll realize this probably won’t last.

In looking at Liriano’s numbers, there are some red flags. For instance, his strikeout-per-nine innings rate is up almost 3 (from 9.59 in 2012 to 12.50 this season), and his walk rate is down almost 2 (from 5.00 in 2012 and 5.02 in 2011 to 3.00 this year).

Interestingly, his velocity and pitch selection appear to be about the same, leading one to question how he’s excelling with basically the same set of pitches at the same velocity when it didn’t get the job done previously.

Liriano topped Yahoo!’s most added list this week and is up to 49 percent ownership. Perhaps you could ride the wave and utilize him in a streaming plan, but expecting anything more than that would be a fool’s errand.

---

Brandon Belt has come alive of late. The one-time hot prospect is hitting .359 with 3 home runs, 8 RBI and 11 runs scored in the last two weeks.

But as with Liriano, let’s not get carried away.

Even with the recent hot stretch, Belt is still only hitting .252 and is striking out at about the same rate as he has in the past (an almost identical 22.5 percent). Moreover, his walk rate is actually down on the season, dropping from 11.4 percent in 2012 to 8.8 percent.

As has largely been the case in his career, Belt had a strong spring training (8 HR, 1.265 OPS), but in the past has struggled to keep that success going in the regular season, and his stock has dropped significantly over the years.

Belt is only owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but I find it hard to recommend him in standard 10- or 12-team leagues. Perhaps he’s more valuable in deeper leagues or NL-only leagues, but for now I’m standing pat on Belt until I see more prolonged success.

---

An interesting player to watch as he battles back from injury is the Yankees’ Michael Pineda. Acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Miguel Montero prior to the 2012 season, Pineda has yet to pitch in pinstripes after undergoing surgery to repair a right shoulder anterior labrum tear.

Now, it should be noted this is not Tommy John surgery, and perhaps there is more reason for concern in his comeback attempts as such injuries aren’t as easy to bounce back from as elbow injuries. But Pineda hit 93 miles per hour in an extended spring training game this week and could soon begin a rehab assignment.

Pineda got off to a fast start as a rookie with the Mariners in 2011 before tailing off in the second half.

---

Jared Weaver is close to making his return to the Angels rotation. Weaver, who is recovering from a fractured left (non-throwing) elbow, gave up 1 run, struck out 9 and walked none in 5 2/3 innings pitched in an extended spring training game this week. It has been reported this could be a precursor to him rejoining the rotation next week.

---

Andy Silva writes the Fantasy Forecast column for The Salem News. You can read his blog at blogs.salemnews.com/fantasyforecast and reach him at asilva@salemnews.com. You can also follow Fantasy Forecast on Twitter at twitter.com/sn_fantasysport.