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Fantasy Owners Should Stay With Clay

Red Sox Pitcher Clay Buchholz (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

After Clay Buchholz missed his turn in the rotation with an injury he may or may not have incurred from sleeping on his shoulder in a weird position, alarm bells immediately went off across the fantasy universe.

True, the 28-year-old righty was off to the best start of his career with a record of 7-0 and a microscopic ERA of 1.73, but this was also the same guy who was just two years removed from a 2011 campaign where he only started 14 games before being shut down for the year with back problems. It was pretty easy to look at Buchholz’s career numbers – a career in which he has started 16 games or fewer in three of his five “complete” seasons – and say, “Uh, oh. Here we go again…”

He may have temporarily quieted the doubters with another strong performance on Sunday night against the Yankees in the Bronx to string his record to 8-0, but lingering concerns about his ability to stay healthy and whether Buchholz’s hot start will continue probably have many fantasy owners looking to sell-high…

Unless you can get truly elite (and well-proven) talent in return, that’s probably not a good idea.

Clay Buchholz (Courtesy CBS Sports / USATSI)

With eight wins, a 1.62 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 77 and 2/3 innings, Buchholz is ranked behind only Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish in Yahoo standard leagues among pitchers. His K/9 is the highest of his career at 8.92 and out of the 51 hits he has allowed this season, only 15 have gone for extra bases.

It’s not as if these numbers have come against a slew of bad ball clubs either. Buchholz has had the luxury of starting against teams like the Astros and Royals, but he’s also started against the Orioles, Rays, Twins (twice) and Yankees (twice).

It may seem like a long time ago, but we’ve seen these sorts of numbers from Buchholz before. In 2010, he started 28 games and finished with a 2.33 ERA and a record of 17-7. His K/9 wasn’t quite as filthy as it is this season (6.22) but the ratio of extra base hits he allowed (34 out of 142) is actually better than this season’s mark.

It’s probably no coincidence that 2010 was the last year that current Red Sox manager John Farrell was in town. Farrell was largely credited with keeping the pitching staff in line during his first tour in Boston and it should come as no surprise that Boston pitching has shown a marked improvement now that he’s back. Buchholz, not staff “ace” Jon Lester, is the poster child for that resurgence.

The Red Sox offense is potent, the team is competitive and certainly has something to prove after last year’s debacle. All those factors, combined with Farrell’s continued mentorship, mean that Buchholz should remain a top fantasy option the rest of the way.

About Evan Bleier - @itishowitis

Evan recently received a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University. He lives in Brooklyn, is an avid sports fan, loves all things Boston and is constantly on the lookout for the perfect Buffalo wing. His work has appeared in Maxim, The Huffington Post, The Real Deal and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter - @itishowitis.

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