What to Do When Arms Go Wainwrong
I was talking with my friend Pasko Varnica last week, just a couple of days after he finished representing us in the 2011 KFFL Experts League draft.
Pasko, who won the league title a few years back, was bemoaning his team as his #1 starter was the St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright.
I can sympathize, for losing a top player like Wainwright is tough. But, in losing his ace so early in the year, the season is far from lost; in fact such a loss could not have happened at a better time.
That is because Pasko still has a full season to adjust and juggle his players, goals, and options, losing very little ground all things considered.
Big Z, others help make up ground
Besides the advantage that there is still a full complement of games (and prospects to be promoted) ahead, Pasko has a couple of other things going for him.
One is that he drafted a pretty deep pitching staff around Wainwright (Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Garza, Mike Pelfrey, and Jair Jurrjens), softening the loss a little bit. Second, because the league is on the shallow side - with 12 teams in a mixed format - there should be a handful of starting pitchers floating atop the free agent pool who were undervalued at the draft, and who can now help him fill the void.
So, as part of the discussion, I threw out a handful of names who I thought could help remedy the situation. Virtually all the names I suggested went either at the end, or were not taken at all in the half dozen or so of mock drafts in which I participated this year.
At the top of the list was A.J. Burnett, who was not mentioned during yesterday's Sirius/XM draft, and who went as a reserve pick in the FSTA draft just a month ago. Based upon the 10-15, 5.25 season Burnett gave us last year, with 204 hits allowed over 186-plus innings, there is no wonder why no one wanted to touch Burnett.
At 34 years of age, Burnett is the same age as Roy Halladay, meaning A.J. is hardly at the end of his career. In 2008 Burnett was not only among the leaders in starts in the American League, but he led the league with 231 strikeouts, earning another 195 a season later.
Meaning Burnett has the capability of giving Pasko everything Wainwright could; in fact the hard thrower has actually done it before. Rumor within the Yanks' camp is that Burnett has changed his arm angle, and is throwing very well this spring. And, that makes him a likely candidate.
The Chicago Cubs' Carlos Zambrano is another name and arm that has caused owners to wince over the past couple of seasons. In 2010 the right-hander spent a chunk of the season on the suspended list, and then working out of the pen.
Zambrano only made 20 starts, and worked just 129 2/3 innings, and indeed was sent home after his 3-6, 5.66 first half numbers. Upon returning, though, Zambrano was 8-0, 1.58 over the 79 second half innings he tossed. Zambrano whiffed 64 over that span, posting a WHIP of 1.27, and, well, though it seems he has been around forever, Carlos is just 29. Zambrano is also in as bad favor as Burnett it seems.
Two names that simply are not household ones, who also went late, if at all, in my drafts belong to Tim Stauffer, and James McDonald.
Stauffer, the San Diego Padres' first round pick in 2003, has been struggling to prove his worth since being selected, and through his abbreviated major league time in 2011, he might actually be there.
Stauffer went 6-5, 1.85 over seven starts and 82 innings, striking out 61 and posting a 1.07 WHIP. Since he gets to pitch in arm friendly Petco Park, Stauffer's horoscope looks even better.
McDonald, swapped to the Bucs by the Dodgers last fall, was drafted out of high school in 2002 at the age of 17, so, despite now just being 26, he too has been around.
Blessed with a Pedro Martinez kind of build - 6'5", 195 pounds - McDonald can dominate, as his 124 strikeouts over 140 2/3 innings suggest (as a minor leaguer McDonald whiffed 616 over 572 frames).
McDonald does still battle his control at the major league level (61 walks and a 1.41 WHIP), and as a Pirate, runs - and wins - may be hard to come by, but certainly the talent is there.
Finishing with another veteran name, going into 2010, Jake Peavy was already devalued because he was both going to the American League, and pitching at the New Comiskey Park.
It is true that since 2009, Peavy has had his injury issues, first with his foot that season, then his arm last year, and again with some minor surgery that will cause the right hander to start 2011 on the DL.
However, like Zambrano, Peavy is just 29. He has 1,459 strikeouts over 1,469 career innings, and a career WHIP of 1.18, and in 2007 Peavy led the NL with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts.
So, while we do want to be optimistic with respect to injuries, there is no reason to think just because Peavy switched leagues his skill set has fallen (he struck out 93 over 107 arguably bad innings in 2011).
Honorable mentions to track go to Mark Buehrle, Vicente Padilla, and Dallas Braden.
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.