Gallardo's Knee Could Brew Fantasy Trouble

by Michael Egnak on February 17, 2008 @ 14:14:16 PDT reports Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (knee) has torn cartilage in his left knee and will likely travel to Milwaukee to undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday, Feb. 19. Gallardo is expected to miss four weeks following the procedure.

This is an early blow to fantasy owners, particularly owners in keeper leagues. Gallardo burst onto the scene last June and immediately started his young, promising career with a victory. With the exception of a horrendous start in Colorado and a few rough outings shortly after, Gallardo was solid in all of his other starts. Of his 17 starts, 12 were good enough to be considered quality starts; his run included a three-game stretch when he went a combined 21 innings without giving up a run. He finished his rookie season with a 3.67 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, a 9-5 record and 101 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings.

At 22 years old and armed with a fastball that approaches the mid-90s, Gallardo was being selected on average between the 10th and 12th rounds of fantasy drafts. He was also likely held on to in most deep keeper leagues; he is young and gives fantasy teams a solid amount of strikeouts.

With surgery pending, Gallardo should fall in fantasy drafts. An absence of four weeks puts him in line to return before the season starts. Easily one of their top pitchers, Gallardo should not be allowed to return until he is 100 percent. He could also struggle coming off surgery, making his first few starts less than stellar as he works out the knee again. Thirdly, the team could decide his conditioning isn't up to par and stick him on the disabled list until he is ready to start every five games.

With so many unknowns, Gallardo is a safer pick in the 16th to 19th rounds of fantasy drafts. He'll be picked earlier in keeper leagues and might be kept in deeper leagues, mainly because he's too talented to fall too deep in those particular formats. Owners should try to go with some more reliable options to receive optimal value where Gallardo would have been taken.

With Gallardo getting ready to go under the knife, a few starters will gain value in fantasy drafts and take his place in the 10th to 12th rounds. Los Angeles Dodgers starter Brad Penny is one such pitcher. His strikeout rate isn't as great as Gallardo's, but he has posted 16 wins in each of the last two seasons. Penny's WHIP is a little high at 1.31, but playing in a pitcher's park does benefit his fantasy stock.

San Francisco Giants starter Matt Cain is another pitcher that should see extra value. Cain's record of 7-16 was hardly encouraging, but he often received feeble run support from an aging Giants offense. Cain finished the year with a 3.65 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and 163 strikeouts in 200 innings pitched. While his strikeout rate is better than Penny's, it was around one batter per nine innings less than Gallardo's.

A third pitcher to consider is New York Mets starter John Maine, who will give a fantasy team a decent strikeout total and ERA. Maine struck out 180 batters in 191 innings last season, an average of 8.5 batters per nine innings. However, his 3.91 ERA and 1.27 WHIP were a little on the high side. It is worth noting that the majority of Maine's poor numbers came after the All-Star break, making him a solid sell-high candidate after the first few months of the season.

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About Michael Egnak

Michael Egnak is a Hot Off The Wire Analyst at KFFL and has been with the company since 2005. Covering both NFL and MLB, Egnak is also a key contributor to KFFL's fantasy services.

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