Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With the heat of the summer just around the corner, you can expect a rise in offensive production around the league. Which makes keeping on top of your pitching staff a priority if you want to win your fantasy league.
Josh Collmenter, Arizona - The name Collmenter probably isn't known to many, but you should probably do some reading up on his productive spring. Through 12 games he's got a stunning ERA of 1.25 and an equally good WHIP of 0.669. In his five outings since being shifted from the bullpen into the starting rotation, he's yet to give up more than two earned runs. He's also been very stingy yielding hits, just 16 in 27 1/3 innings. Collmenter is not going to give you a boost if you're in need of strikeouts, but he's been very good in his new role and won three of his five starts. He's owned in about 40% of all leagues.
Jered Weaver, Anaheim - Overcoming a "slump" in which he gave up 14 earned runs over a four-game stretch, Weaver has once again looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball in his last three starts. Over that span he's gone 23 innings, yielding just 11 hits and three earned runs while striking out 20 batters. If you had been tempted to make an offer to obtain him in trade, you missed your opportunity.
Ryan Madson, Philadelphia - There's a reason the Phillies aren't rushing closer Brad Lidge back before he is ready - his name is Madson. He's been perfect in 2011, going 13-for-13 in saves after blowing 11 save opportunities in the previous two years. This is a much more mature pitcher who should continue to flourish in the closer role and is available as a free agent in one out of every five leagues.
Jon Lester, Boston - As a fourth-round selection, Lester's owners are expecting him to be a staff "ace" and he started the season living up to those expectations. That has not been the case over his last five starts. Despite winning three times in that span, batters have hit for a .299 average and Lester has posted an ERA of 6.52 and a WHIP of 1.758. There doesn't seem to be anything physically wrong, he's just not throwing good pitches. Ride out the "slump" and he'll produce solid numbers across the board by the end of the season.
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs - Marmol's greatest asset to fantasy owners is his strikeout-per-nine innings. He posted a ridiculous 16.0 number in 2010 but this season has returned to his career level of around 12.0-per-nine innings. Along with this big drop in strikeout ratio is an increase in ERA from 2.55 to 3.33 and WHIP from 1.185 to 1.296. The ERA and WHIP can be blamed on one horrible outing on May 31st (0.1 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 1 BB vs. Houston) so there is no need to panic at this time.
Joakim Soria, Kansas City - When a pitcher of Soria's ability is removed from the closer role it means he's got serious problems to work out. After blowing three save opportunities in seven days (ERA 21.60, WHIP 3.30), the Royals did just that. The good news is that Soria has pitched well in three non-save situations and manager Ned Yost is likely to give him back the closer's job very soon.