By David Ferris
Scott Diamond, SP, Twins: He doesn't throw hard enough to wake the baby, but Diamond has been effective nonetheless (five wins, 1.61 ERA) because he's an extreme strike-thrower with a dominant ground-ball rate. You worry about the league catching up to Diamond when he gets around the AL once or twice, but we love him with the inter-league slate at play. Use the lefty with confidence at home against Philadelphia and at Pittsburgh, favorable matchups in mistake-forgiving parks.
Ryan Cook, RP, Athletics: We can't guarantee the A's will let skills lead to the ninth inning - in a perfect world, they'd like to find a taker for veterans Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour, and a shiny save total can sometimes aid in that pursuit. But Cook was the man in the ninth at Colorado on Tuesday, earning his first save, and his 2012 numbers make a strong statement (0.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27 Ks, just eight hits allowed). Don't overreact to the 15 walks Cook has issued - three of them were intentional, so he's on the fringe of having acceptable control. As much as the A's want to think about their future with roster and game management, they also have to be accountable to the clubhouse and the fan base. With that in mind, Cook is the best saves play here.
Kevin Millwood, SP, Mariners: In shallow mixers you don't have to bother with Millwood, but he still has a whiff of value in deeper pools and AL-only groups (3.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). Millwood's always been able to induce ground balls, and he's still getting some swings and misses (52 strikeouts) and keeping the ball in the park (three homers allowed over 12 appearances). A home date against San Francisco this weekend looks unthreatening enough; so long as you work the schedule with Millwood, you should be fine.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds: To be honest, he could be in any of our headings this week: buy, sell, or hold. It really depends on your league environment and the people you're competing against. Cueto's seven wins and 2.46 ERA play in any format, and while he's not a big strikeout guy (just 69), he's walking less than two batters per nine. A heavy ground-ball bias helps keep the ball in the park, though Cueto has also been fortunate when batters do elevate one of his pitches (6.3 percent HRFB).
Most of the peripherally-suggested ERAs say that Cueto is smoke, someone who is destined to blow up when his luck runs out, but maybe Cueto is a pitcher who's capable of consistently beating the secondary stats - perhaps this is another Matt Cain type, a pitcher statheads are destined to underrate. Ultimately Cueto gets the sell tag here because we've seen some strong hauls come back in recent deals: he's been moved (1-for-1) for Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion and Cliff Lee in some public leagues. Your mileage will vary. You know your league mates better than we do. In some other formats, the play on Cueto is to hold, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers: The zippy strikeout rate gets everyone excited, especially when he runs into a hack-first opponent like Pittsburgh (recall the 15-whiff parade a few weeks back). But Scherzer struggles with loud and inconsistent mechanics, not to mention efficiency of pitches - he only has 41 wins over 123 MLB games, largely due to his difficulty working deep in ballgames. And for all the glove-popping of his fastball, batters seem to square it up plenty: Scherzer has allowed 13 homers this year, and lefties are batting .340 against him. Another one for the tease file. The 5.76 ERA is probably a fluke, sure, but remember he was a 4.43 man last year.
Matt Garza, SP, Cubs: The 3.99 ERA is his highest mark since 2006, but he's also fashioning a 1.12 WHIP, the lowest of his career. The KBB numbers are in a good spot, three whiffs for every walk. The two wins in 11 starts? That's Chicago's ineptitude talking. Garza's affordable contract makes him a strong candidate to be moved in July - even more so than walk-year Ryan Dempster - and any contending club would have to support the righty better than the Cubs currently are. Be patient, ride it out.
A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates: The 12-run meltdown in St. Louis left a mark, sure, though that day also told us something about Clint Hurdle, clueless manager (no rotation staple should be hung out to dry like this). Burnett has been money in his other nine starts, allowing just 13 earned runs over 59.2 innings of work. The pitcher-friendly environment of the NL (and PNC Park) is doing wonders for the talented but enigmatic righty. It's real.