Fantasy Baseball Focus: AL starting pitchers
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The depth of pitching in baseball is at an all-time high. Almost every team seems to have a legitimate ace, with many having more than one. If your strategy is to take position players early, you will see plenty of starting pitching around later, even if you miss out on the top studs. Here is the breakdown of the American League pitchers, along with a handy guide to help you at your draft.
For-sure pick – It means you’ll get consistency, nothing less, nothing more.
Sleeper – Underrated in drafts; can get in later rounds but might produce above-average stats.
Overrated – Might not produce at the hype he’s supposed to produce at.
Long-term value – Might not be the best bet for this year but excellent for keeper leagues.
Top ten American League pitchers
1. Justin Verlander, Tigers — 2011 stats: 24-5, 2.40 ERA 0.92 WHIP 250 K
2. Jered Weaver, Angels — 2011 stats: 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 198 K
3. C.C. Sabathia, Yankees — 2011 stats: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 230 K
4. Dan Haren, Angels — 2011 stats: 16-10, 3.17 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 192 K
5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners — 2011 stats: 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 222 K
6. James Shields, Rays — 2011 stats: 16-12, 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 225 K
7. Josh Beckett, Red Sox — 2011 stats: 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 175 K
8. C.J. Wilson, Angels — 2011 stats: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 206 K
9. David Price, Rays — 2011 stats: 12-13, 3.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 218 K
10. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays — 2011 stats: 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 178 K
Jake Arrieta — He has the talent, posting a 2.89 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 332 strikeouts over 336 minor league innings, but he hasn’t been able to translate that success to the majors yet. At 25 years old, there is still time. For this year, he could get you around 10 wins with decent strikeout totals, but his ERA and WHIP will hurt you. Very deep leagues only.
Zach Britton — He started out the year going 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in March/April. Then went 7-10 with a 5.50 ERA and 1.66 WHIP the rest of the way. The 23-year-old has one of the best sinkers in the game and is a big time ground-ball pitcher, which means the strikeout totals are never going to be that high. Not ready for standard leagues yet, but a good option in deeper leagues and one to keep an eye on for the future. Long-term-potential.
Tommy Hunter — He actually lead the league in win percentage back in 2010 going 13-4 (.765). I bet nobody knew that one. Hasn’t topped 130 innings in any of his four seasons, so don’t count on too much production from him this year. His 5 K/9 ratio over his career isn’t much for fantasy either.
Boston Red Sox
Josh Beckett — He had a career year in 2011, posting career lows in ERA and WHIP, as well doing a good job of keeping his finger blisters in check. At age 31, still has a lot left and could be one of those pitchers who gets better as he matures. Will get a lot of run support, a lot of strikeouts and should be a top-10 pitcher in the AL this season.
Jon Lester — He is as consistent a pitcher there is. Over his last four seasons, he has had at least 15 wins, his ERA has been between 3.21 and 3.47 and he has averaged 196 strikeouts. He is durable and will also get a lot of run support. Everyone seems to waiting for him to have a huge breakout year with the stuff he has. 2012 could be it. A for-sure-pick based on his consistency.
Clay Buchholz — After his breakout 2010 season, in which he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, he had an injury shortened 2011. Over 14 starts, he went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts but is a solid option for wins, ERA and WHIP. Health is a huge concern with him, however.
Daisuke Matsuzaka — Not a very good pitcher and can’t be counted on for fantasy. Do not draft him.
Chicago White Sox
John Danks — After getting better statistically in every category over his first four seasons, he regressed in 2011. An oblique strain, which caused him to miss five starts, certainly played a part in that. He went 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 135 K in 170.1 innings. The White Sox could be a sneaky team this season, so I could see him putting up 16 wins, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and about 160 strikeouts. A good option in all formats.
Gavin Floyd — He went 12-13 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 151 strikeouts over 193.2 innings last year. He has averaged 195 innings over his last four seasons, so the durability is there. He also keeps the walks to a minimum, which is great for his WHIP. He does give a good amount of home runs, which lead to a higher than average ERA. A solid late-round pick in standard leagues, and a good option in deeper leagues.
Jake Peavy — His injuries in recent years have been brutal. When he is right, he is one of the best, a high strikeout, low WHIP/ERA stud. Still just 30 years old, he can certainly get it together again, and having recently been quoted as being 100 percent healthy, I am putting a sleeper tag on him for 2012.
Chris Sale — The 6’-6”, lefty, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, is going to start the season in the rotation. Over his first two years, he has a 2.58 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 111 K/37 BB over 94.1 innings. He has a high-90s fastball with late sink, a devastating breaking ball and a solid change-up. The only question is how many innings can he go?
Philip Humber — He went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 116 K in 163 innings last season in his first year as a starter. Was 8-4, 2.88 ERA and 0.97 WHIP through the first three months, then struggled in the second half, showing his stamina wasn’t there yet. Could surprise this year with a full season under his belt.
Ubaldo Jimenez — How do you get worse after you leave Colorado? After his 2010 season, in which he flirted with Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA mark for the better part of the season, he found his new home in Cleveland less comfy. Overall, he went 10-13 with a 4.68 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 180 K in 188.1 innings. A lot of people will grab him thinking he will rebound, but he won’t, not in Cleveland. The strikeouts will be fine, the ERA and WHIP will be slightly better, but he won’t get any run support. Overrated.
Justin Masterson — He may be a better option than Ubaldo. Went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 158 K in 216 innings last season. The 26-year-old, 6’-6”, 250 lb workhorse is entering his prime and could better his 2011 numbers this year.
Josh Tomlin — He gave up more home runs (24) than walks last year (21) which lead to a very good WHIP (1.07), but not a very good ERA (4.25). He also only struck out 89 batters over 165.1 innings, another strike against him. A good deeper-league option, not good in standard leagues, mostly because of the low strikeout totals.
Derek Lowe — No! Stay away, this guy is done. Lead the league in losses, going 9-17 with a 5.05 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 137 K in 187 innings. With that many innings pitched, those numbers will kill you.
Justin Verlander — The best pitcher in baseball, and the first one to be drafted in almost every league. Draft him in the first round if that is your thing, and count on another 20-win season, with great strikeout, ERA and WHIP totals. For-sure-pick.
Doug Fister — After going 3-13 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 89 K/32 BB over 146 innings for the Mariners, he went nuts for the Tigers after the trade. Over his 10 starts, he went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 57 K/5 BB over 70.1 innings. While he won’t be that good this season, expect a line of 16 wins, 2.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and around 150 strikeouts. He fell just outside of my top-10 list, but could prove me wrong. Sleeper pick as most people still don’t know who he is.
Max Scherzer — He will get you around 12-15 wins with the offense he has around him, and around 175 strikeouts. He gives up a lot of home runs and hits, however, which will keep his ERA above 4.00 and WHIP above 1.30. A decent option late, a better option in deeper leagues.
Rick Porcello — Low strikeout totals (4.8/9 over his three-year career) keep him from being a good option. He will probably get between 12-15 wins, but will also give you a high ERA and WHIP. He has the talent to be a very good pitcher, and is still just 23 years old, but only a deeper-league option for now.
Jacob Turner (prospect) — He has filthy stuff and is going to be a very good pitcher someday. It just won’t be in 2012. Got rocked around as a 20-year-old last year, posting an 8.53 ERA and 1.66 WHIP over three starts, as the Tigers brought him up way too early. His confidence will be fine, and he could put up decent numbers this year, but will most likely spend some time in the minors and be on an innings count. Long-term-potential, but stay clear this season.
Kansas City Royals
Felipe Paulino — Had a 4.46 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 139.1 innings last year, which was the biggest workload for the 28-year-old. He did post nice strikeout totals, with 133 over those innings, an 8.6 K/9. At 6’-2”, 270 lbs, he definitely has the size to go 200+ innings, and if he does, will be a good option for strikeouts, but not much else.
Bruce Chen — He has now pitched for 10 different teams over his 13-year career, which tells you a little about his value. He did go 12-8 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 2011, but he only had 97 strikeouts over 155 innings. Might get 10-15 wins, but not a good option in standard leagues.
Jonathan Sanchez — Control has always been his problem. While he can strikeout a ton of batters (9.4 K/9 over 708 career innings), he also walks 4.8 per nine. Has only logged more than 170 innings once in his career, so durability is also a concern. A nice option for strikeouts in deeper leagues, not a good one in standard leagues.
Aaron Crow — He is going to be starting after coming out of the bullpen his rookie year. The 25-year-old, first-round pick of the Royals in 2009, has terrific stuff but will most likely be on an innings count of around 160 or so. He had a 2.76 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 62 innings in 2011, posting 9.4 K/9, but also 4.5 BB/9. Let him prove he can handle a full season, while also getting his command under control, before you count on him in fantasy.
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