What's up with Justin Masterson?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

"Value" is a word that gets tossed around a lot in fantasy baseball. The owner who finds the most "value" throughout the season, via the draft, trades and waiver wire pickups, is the one who wins the league. Pitchers like Indians right-hander Justin Masterson are a good example of finding that value.

This is a bit of a paradox, because by all accounts Masterson has been one of the least valuable pitchers in baseball this season. He owns a 4.75 ERA, his WHIP is an unsightly 1.48 and he has just four wins, including one in the last month.

But Masterson is trending in the right direction, and there's reason to believe he'll only improve. In June, the Indians right-hander owns a 3.32 ERA, and of his four starts, two have been dominant and another could be classified as above average. That includes Masterson's seven innings of one-run ball against the Angels on Thursday, in which he allowed only four hits. The walks are still a red flag—he's walked 13 in 21.2 innings this month—but everything else is smooth sailing. He hasn't allowed a home run since May 22. Opponents are hitting .206 against him this month. Even the strikeout totals are up.

Masterson has worked with Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway constantly this season in an effort to hone his delivery (quickening it, to be specific) and get it back to what it was in 2013, when the right-hander posted a 3.45 ERA and struck out 195 batters in 193 innings.

According to The Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, Masterson said his work on his delivery "led to some moments [on Thursday] where I was yanking some balls and stuff like that, but I think the overall sense was we started to get in a decent rhythm." Even though Masterson was still relatively wild in that start, he'll likely only improve as he becomes more and more comfortable with his delivery.

The entire season has been a learning process for Masterson. Aside from perpetually attempting to harness his control, the right-hander has also had to learn to work with his decreased velocity. His fastball is traveling an average of 2.5 MPH slower than it did last year, which is no small drop-off. But like the control problems, that's an issue Masterson will continue to address, and as he adjusts to his role as more of a finesse pitcher, his numbers will only improve.

For what it's worth, Masterson's upcoming free agency will also serve as a bit of a motivating factor. He'll earn a whole lot more if he can string together several starts to prove that he can still pitch like it's 2013.

Masterson is owned in 40.3 percent on ESPN leagues, which means there's a good chance he's there for the taking. There's also a possibility of acquiring him for cheap if he is owned. Do it NOW, before he gets hotter!

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