Bill Plunkett, of The Orange County Register, reports Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim starting pitcher John Lackey (triceps, elbow) is expected to be out for at least a month of the regular season. Lackey underwent an MRI exam Friday, March 14, that revealed a strained triceps muscle. Lackey is not scheduled to throw for three to four weeks before he is re-evaluated and begins a throwing program. Lackey is scheduled to return to the team in early May at the earliest.
Lackey is a mainstay at the top of any fantasy rotation - especially after a 2007 campaign that pushed him into the upper echelon of fantasy starting pitchers. Last season, Lackey went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 179 strikeouts en route to a third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award vote. This opening day will mark the first time in Lackey's pro career that he's missed a start due to injury, so his resilience shouldn't be called into question.
Without Lackey, the Angels rotation is expected to include Jon Garland, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. The Angels have a few candidates to replace Lackey in the rotation, but the front-runner is right-hander Dustin Moseley. Moseley was used chiefly in the bullpen last season, making 38 relief appearances in 2007 while starting eight games as well. Moseley, a former first-round draft pick for Cincinnati, has had better numbers in the bullpen so far in his short career; Moseley has a 5.44 career ERA as a starter as opposed to 4.39 ERA in relief. Opponents have hit .333 off Moseley as a starter compared to .260 in relief.
Moseley started off the 2007 season hot, compiling a 2.60 ERA in the first half, but fell apart in the second half and put up a 6.67 ERA. These numbers do not indicate that Moseley is primed for a breakout fantasy season, so it'd be best to leave him off your radar. Two other candidates to replace Lackey in the rotation are Nick Adenhart and Nick Green. Both are rising studs in the Angels' farm system - especially Adenhart, who was named the No. 24 prospect in the nation by Baseball America - but neither has pitched above the AA level.
Lackey's fantasy value will take a hit and his average draft position will likely fall as a result. However, savvy fantasy owners could use this to their advantage - if they have the roster space to stash Lackey on the bench (or the disabled list, if your league implements one) for at least a month, they would have a bona fide ace when he returns. One of the hardest things to do in fantasy baseball is lock up a top-tier starting pitcher, and grabbing one a couple of rounds later than you normally could be a steal on draft day. If you do end up drafting him, just be prepared to take some lumps on the scoreboard for the first month of the season.
About Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart has been a Hot off the Wire Analyst for KFFL since 2007.
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