2012 fantasy spring preview: $1 pitcher All-Star team

Juan Nicasio's return from a neck injury could be the feel-good story of the season if he puts up big numbers. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Pitching talent is at an absurd level and has shown no sign of stopping. Because the talent pool is so deep, you can wait until later rounds to fill out your starting rotation. If I were drafting five pitchers in a standard 12-team league, I would want to grab at least one or two elite pitchers and then roll the dice on some late-round guys that could put up nice numbers.

Below are guys I am watching to see what shakes loose during spring training. If you draft a guy like this and he turns into a top 30 pitcher, he may very well help you dominate your league.

Johan Santana — Remember when this guy was a first-round draft pick? I do. He was my first ever pick in fantasy baseball way back when. I traded him at the right moment then (for god only knows who, but I think I won the trade though — of course, I think that with every trade) and now I am ready to buy back in. This guy has a lot of upside with very little risk. Feel free to jump back into bed with this guy. Be gentle though, he does have a surgically repaired shoulder.

Derek Holland — If you watched the Rangers last season, Holland had a mini breakout that had most people hoping he would live up to his high-ceiling prospect status from a few years ago. His xFIP (3.76) is lower than his ERA (3.95), which is a good sign, and his K/9 (7.36) should go up a little. This guy is poised for a potential big breakout season.

Alexi Ogando — While Yu Darvish is getting all the attention, Holland and Ogando could be the guys you want out of Texas this season. Ogando wore down as the season progressed last year, but I feel that this guy could put it all together this season and be a nice value pick at the end of the draft. His numbers are skewed, but I expect his K/9 to push back over 7 and his ERA to settle around 3.65.

Bartolo Colon — Colon had a surprisingly nice season in the Yankees’ hitter-friendly ballpark. Now, Colon is moving to the A’s stadium, which is a pitcher’s dream. The A’s have made some very sneaky moves this offseason, and this could pay off as one of the better ones. I expect and ERA under 4.00 and a K/9 around 7. Expect a nice return at the end of the draft from this guy.

Shelby Miller — This is a guy I am watching to see if he makes the Cardinals’ rotation this season. He is a long shot to make the rotation who needs to work on his change-up. But if he makes the rotation at the end of spring training or if he comes up in June, he could have a major impact on your league. Keep an eye on this top-tier prospect. In his first spring training game, he pitched two innings with one hit, one earned run, one strikeout and one walk.

Juan Nicasio — What if I told you a pitcher came back from a near career-ending injury and led the Rockies to glory? Yes, we have the start of a 30 for 30 documentary with Nicasio this season. I am more interested in is xFIP (3.43) compared to his ERA (4.14) as well as his K/9 (7.28). I am expecting this guy’s number to vastly improve in what will be his second season in the majors. He has looked very good in his first spring training game this season, which is a good sign for his year ahead.

Danny Duffy — This guy is a part of the future of the new-look Kansas City Royals. He had a rough rookie campaign, but looks to bounce back this season. His xFIP (4.53) is better than his ERA (5.64) and his K/9 (7.43) should increase while his BB/9 (4.36) should decrease. If he can get his BB/9 under control, I believe this guy could be a huge sleeper.

Daniel Bard — He is quickly finding his way onto everyone’s “sleeper” list. The reliever-turned-starter had amazing relief numbers last season for Boston. He posted a 9.12 K/9, 2.96 BB/9, 3.33 ERA and a 3.05 xFIP. I am inclined to jump on this guy because of the success stories that have been turning up when relievers turn into starters (Ogando anyone?); however, lets go back and look at his minor-league numbers when he was a starter. During 2007 in single-A, in 17 starts, he sported a 5.55 K/9, 8.17 BB/9 and a 6.42 ERA.  That same year in high-A ball, in five starts, he had a 6.08 ERA, 14.85 BB/9, and a 10.13 ERA. I would not reach, but if he can keep his walks down and his strikeouts up, he could be a nice, late-round grab.

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