by Bryce McRae
on April 2, 2009 @ 01:00:00
Editor's Note: Player analysis profiles appear in the positions at which the players are projected. Profiles of players who may be eligible at other positions in your league include fantasy baseball advice related to a potential increase in value as a result. A player must have started at least five games or have played at least 10 games to be eligible at another position. Criteria for fantasy baseball leagues vary, so check your league rules.
Pros: A perennial Cy Young candidate, Santana is among the leaders at this position in command (4.24), dominance (9.01) and control (2.13) over the last three years. The addition of closer Francisco Rodriguez and reliever J.J. Putz should secure what was a shaky bullpen.
Cons: Santana, 30 by Opening Day, has seen his command decline in five straight years, which is mirrored by an increase in WHIP (1.15 last year) and opponents' average (.232) over that period. His velocity has also dropped, and some early elbow discomfort was worrying.
Fantasy tip: Though he reported feeling fine after throwing in a spring game Thursday, March 12, his elbow scare was enough to send fantasy owners scrambling. This emphasizes why drafting a pitcher this high with the offensive talent likely remaining on the board is dicey. The Mets ace could still be gone in the first three rounds, but it may not be worth it.
Pros: Last year's NL Cy Young Award winner, he led the majors in dominance (10.51) by a large margin; his minor league numbers point to continued success in this area. He isn't a true max-effort pitcher, which suggests the considerable innings jump last year won't be a huge problem.
Cons: There's concern that his mechanics put pressure on his elbow and shoulder, which could lead to injury problems down the line (this was a worry early in his young career). He has only one full year of major league starting experience.
Fantasy tip: As rewarding as it could be drafting Lincecum, you'll likely have to burn a pick in the first three rounds to do so. Avoid this in favor of more proven pitching talent a little later in the draft.
Pros: The burly southpaw leads the majors in command (4.51) and is in the top 10 in dominance (8.28) since 2005. Durability: he has thrown at least 180 1/3 innings in each of his eight seasons and appears to have a rubber arm.
Cons: How will he hold up in the pressure cooker that is New York, especially with his massive contract? He had an 8.61 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in five starts at the old Yankee Stadium.
Fantasy tip: Like the two pitchers above him, Sabathia may be gone by the time the fourth round hits. This doesn't jive with KFFL's strategy of avoiding pitching in the first few rounds. He is a consistent option, but one you should only consider him in the fourth round if he is still available.
Pros: Webb is one of the best groundball pitchers in the league - one reason his ERA is always among the league leaders - and he has remarkable consistency. He has been one of the most durable pitchers since entering the league in 2003. He has a solid dominance rate given the aforementioned propensity for ground balls.
Cons: Groundball pitchers rely on their defense to keep contact from turning into hits - the D-backs lost second baseman Orlando Hudson, so a few more balls might make it out of the infield. His flyball rate has jumped in the past two seasons, and he pitches in one of the league's best launching pads.
Fantasy tip: The D-backs ace fits the profile of the pitcher KFFL recommends. He could be had sometime from the fourth round on, he's consistent and he gives you a solid base as your No. 1 starter.
Pros: Haren's dominance has improved in every year he has been in the majors, and he was second to only the Toronto Blue Jays' Roy Halladay in command last year (5.15). He has allowed fewer home runs in each of the last two seasons, and his opponents' average has decreased despite an increase in BABIP during that time.
Cons: His ERA has climbed in the final two months in each of the last three years. His command last year was significantly higher than it was in any other year in the majors, so a slide back could be expected.
Fantasy tip: Haren brings consistency and solid contributions in each of the major rotisserie categories. He is a good No. 1 starter that you should start looking to take in the fifth round, if available.
Pros: Command, dominance and consistency - Halladay possesses all three. He led the majors in command last year (5.28), struck out 206 batters and has thrown at least 220 innings in each of the last three years.
Cons: Halladay's dominance rate last year was almost two points higher than it has been in the last two years; it was the highest it has been since 2002. He likely won't get much offensive help, and he could find it tough pitching for the Jays, who haven't contended for a pennant since Devon White was patrolling center field in TO.
Fantasy tip: Look to take Halladay by the fifth round as a No. 1 starter - he has consistently put up great numbers despite toiling in the Great White North. Be prepared for his strikeouts to drop, though.
Pros: Peavy's command (K/BB) over the last three years has been among the league leaders (3.29) and was a solid 2.81 last year. He has a great dominance rate, both last year (8.60) and for his career (8.96).
Cons: Outside of PETCO Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly parks, Peavy had just a 4.29 ERA and 1.45 WHIP last year. A higher-than-average strand rate last year suggests his ERA could climb, and he suffered through elbow problems, missing 26 games in 2008. San Diego's inept offense might not give him much support.
Fantasy tip: Nothing new: his splits have differed greatly before. He is firmly planted in the second tier of starters but is still an No. 1 starter; consider him near the end of the fourth round on. However, there might be safer pitching options to be had at this stage or later.
Pros: Since joining the Red Sox in 2006, Beckett's dominance has climbed steadily, peaking at 8.88 last year, while his control has gone in the opposite direction (1.76 walks per nine innings). As such, his command has been among the league leaders in the last two years. He is supported by one of the top AL offenses.
Cons: Injuries: He has landed on the disabled list every year except 2006. Last year, it was for back, neck, elbow and oblique problems.
Fantasy tip: Owners appear to be undervaluing Beckett so far in drafting season. For now, he's healthy. Take him in as a frontline No. 1 starter in the sixth round or later, though he is a significant injury risk.
Pros: Shields has exhibited excellent control over the last two years, with 1.59 walks per nine, which ranks third in the majors in that time. He strikes out a decent number of batters (7.27 K's per nine in his career), and he has allowed fewer home runs in each of the last two years.
Cons: "Big Game James" still isn't a strikeout machine, like a true ace; he saw his dominance decline last year. He doesn't have the track record or pedigree of others at this level, either.
Fantasy tip: You'll want to snag Shields in the early middle rounds, likely around the seventh or eighth, as a low-end No. 1 starter. Despite his recent entry onto the fantasy scene, he is already well into his prime, so don't expect a huge improvement.
Pros: Hamels' command has been above 3.00 in every year he has spent in the majors - it was 3.70 last year. He is supported by one of the best offenses in the majors. He doesn't walk many batters - just 2.10 per nine innings over the last two years.
Cons: Hamels won't make his Opening Day status because of inflammation in his elbow; his first start of the season could come Friday, April 10. He spent time on the disabled list with shoulder and elbow injuries in 2006 and 2007, respectively. He also experienced a huge innings jump last year. His dominance rate has decreased in each of the last two years. A low BABIP last year (.270) suggests his WHIP might rise slightly.
Fantasy tip: Hamels is a rising star and still offers some upside, though he is not as safe as some other options around this stage. He has an easy motion, so innings aren't a huge worry. He'll likely be gone, but you can snag him in the sixth round as a No. 1 starter if available.
Pros: Oswalt's dominance bounced back after three straight years in decline. His command has been excellent throughout his eight-year career, dipping below 3.32 only once (2007).
Cons: He pitched in the World Baseball Classic, which further increased the workload for the veteran hurler. His control has slipped back to his pre-2005 level, when he walked at least two batters per nine innings. Injuries, combined with his advancing age and small frame, are a worry - he was bothered by a hip injury and strained abductor muscle last year.
Fantasy tip: Oswalt continues to pitch at a high level into his 30s. He won't be as dominating as he was in the past, and his name value could have some overvaluing him. Select him in the early middle rounds, though he is better as a No. 2 starter.
Pros: His dominance rate is among the best in the majors (7.93 last year; 9.95 for his career). After a sluggish start to the season, Liriano looked to be his dominant old self after July with seven of his of final 11 starts quality ones.
Cons: He has never held up for a full season in the majors, capping his major league workload at 121 innings in 2006 (because of injury). His dominance rate wasn't the same as it was pre-injury, and his control worsened, too. U huge jump in flyball rate raises concerns about home runs allowed.
Fantasy tip: If you want to take Liriano, you'll likely have to pay for the stats he put up in 2006. He is best suited for a high-upside No. 2 role, in the early middle rounds.
Pros: While working in Los Angeles' rotation, first in 2006, Billingsley's dominance rate has increased and his walk rate has dropped. That culminated in a career-high 2.51 command ratio last year.
Cons: Billingsley's offseason plans were hampered by surgery to correct a spiral fracture of the fibula in his left leg. He still struggles with his control (3.59 walks per nine last year), which offsets his dominance. His jump of more than 50 innings from the previous season raises an eyebrow for the hard thrower.
Fantasy tip: Drafting the Dodgers ace will likely take a pick in the early middle rounds. This is a steep price to pay for Billingsley, but if you can snag him as a high-upside No. 2 without reaching for him, do so.
Pros: The former Mets prospect has a dominance rate of 9.81 or higher in four of his five seasons in the majors. His flyball and home run rates were unusually high, so look for a bounce-back there.
Cons: He may strike out a lot of batters, but Kazmir still struggles with his control (3.99 walks per nine since 2006), which leads to an inflated WHIP. An abnormally low BABIP (.275) for the lefty is another issue. A high strand rate last year (82.9 percent) could mean his ERA rises slightly. He is also an injury risk and has trouble working deep into games.
Fantasy tip: Kazmir is being slightly overvalued. He is good value as solid No. 2 starter, if healthy, in the middle rounds. One other note: He put on 20 pounds for strength and balance, so it remains to be seen what sort of effect this will have.
Pros: He piles up the strikeouts, with a rate of at least eight per nine innings since 2005. Durability hasn't been a problem for the youngster, who at 22 still has plenty of time to mature.
Cons: King Felix's already suspect control deserted fully him last year (3.59 walks per nine innings). He has failed to take the next step despite three full seasons in the majors. The Mariners offense lost outfielder Raul Ibanez (top RBI man last year) and likely will be among the worst in the AL.
Fantasy tip: Owners still have visions of Hernandez's rookie season dancing through their heads when they draft him. He has been overvalued and is worth a pick only in the middle rounds as a topnotch No. 3 starter with declining upside.
Pros: Not much more needs to written on Lee's outstanding season. Stellar control appears to be the main factor as he walked just 1.37 batters per nine innings last year, the best control ratio in the league. A big change in his delivery and a huge reduction in flyballs were factors in his success.
Cons: Lee in 2007: A 6.10 dominance ratio, 3.33 walk rate, 1.83 command ratio and 1.57 home runs allowed per nine innings led to a 6.29 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and an extended stint in the minors. With just the one outstanding year under his belt, Lee isn't exactly the epitome of consistency.
Fantasy tip: Lee should be taken in the middle rounds of most drafts as a No. 2 starter - just don't take him with the expectation he'll repeat his 2008 success. However, there's reason to believe he's for real.
Pros: Slowey has demonstrated outstanding control his entire career. He managed a 1.35 walk rate last year, which helped him finish in the top three in the league in command.
Cons: Prior to 2008, Slowey had pitched just 66 2/3 innings in the bigs. His dominance rate is not exceptionally high, and he gives up quite a few home runs. Injuries were a problem last year as he fought a bicep injury and finger injury at separate times.
Fantasy tip: Slowey should be considered a sleeper; his trends point to more positive outcomes. Look to draft him in the middle rounds as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter, though he could function as a No. 3.
Pros: Vazquez's dominance rate has been increasing for four straight years, sitting above eight in each of those years. He hasn't missed a start since 2004. A shift to the weaker of the two leagues should help as well. Turner Field is kinder to pitchers.
Cons: There likely will be a breaking-in period in his new environment. Solid indicators haven't helped keep his ERA low - he has finished the season with an ERA of 4.42 or above in four of his last five seasons. Chalk some of that up to his propensity to give up the long ball.
Fantasy tip: He pitched in some tough home run parks in the last three years. Consider Vazquez a dependable No. 2 starter that you should target in the middle rounds and get as a No. 3. There isn't much upside to him, but he should still provide a solid base.
Pros: Traded by the Texas Rangers, the former prospect finally lived up to his hyped status with a huge first two months (1.46 ERA in 68 innings). One reason for the showing: a ridiculous 10.99 K's per nine innings and just three homers allowed in those 12 games (11 starts).
Cons: The rest of the year is where Volquez fell apart. His K's fell, he gave up significantly more hits, and his abysmal walk rate (4.27 walks per nine for the season) finally caught up with him. He has never had great control, even in the minors.
Fantasy tip: Even his "falling apart" wasn't terrible. Volquez would make a decent, if risky, upside pick in the middle rounds as a No. 2 starter. Be ready for some growing pains, however.
Pros: Gallardo has a solid dominance rate (7.50 last year; 8.24 in 2007), which is backed up by outstanding ratios in the minors. Chalk up the high number of homers he gave up in his few innings last year to rust; he posted solid ratios in the minors and during his first year in this respect.
Cons: He has thrown only 134 1/3 innings in the majors, largely because he missed most of last season. His control has hovered around three walks per nine innings throughout his career. Gallardo will be the staff ace - can he handle the pressure of carrying a playoff hopeful?
Fantasy tip: Look to secure Gallardo as a No. 3 starter with high upside. Ideally, he turns out to be a great No. 2 starter that could be had in the middle rounds.
Pros: Consistency in dominance and command - two prime indicators - back up the lofty totals put up by the Angels ace in the last four years. Don't expect him to give up as many home runs this year, either; 2008 appears to be an outlying year.
Cons: His strikeouts have been declining for four straight years. His strand rate was unusually high last year, so he could see his ERA rise slightly in 2009. He's likely to begin the season on the disabled list because of elbow inflammation, the second straight season he'd do so after five straight seasons of around 200 innings.
Fantasy tip: Lackey is a bit of risky No. 2 pitcher given the elbow news (although there's no structural damage); his age raises a few concerns, too. You may hesitate to draft him until early in the middle rounds, with reason, but as long as the Angels are careful, he should still return solid ratios, wins and strikeouts.
Pros: Matsuzaka reined in the home runs he allowed last year while keeping his strikeouts high (145 in 167 2/3 innings). He's backed up one of the best offenses in the majors.
Cons: He's one wild and crazy guy. No, not Steve Martin, but rather the Red Sox's high-priced import. He finished just behind Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants) in walks allowed per nine innings last year. Matsuzaka's BABIP (.267) was significantly down, so a bump in WHIP might be expected. Same goes for his ERA, after he posted an 80.6 strand rate.
Fantasy tip: Dice-K should be good for wins and strikeouts. Besides that, he's overvalued; there's clear downside. He is a poor option as a No. 2 starter, so only look to take him as a No. 3 starter in the middle rounds.
Pros: Nolasco demonstrated excellent command last year as he struck out 7.88 batters per nine innings while walking only 1.78 per nine. One reason for it: Nolasco appeared to focus on throwing more strikes rather than dancing around the plate. He also fine-tuned his repertoire, particularly his cut fastball.
Cons: Last year was his first full season as a starter in the majors. His dominance rate from previous seasons and his time in the minors suggest his strikeouts will come down. He hasn't exhibited the control he did last year at any other stop in his career. Knee and elbow issues wrecked his previous two campaigns.
Fantasy tip: Without much of a track record, Nolasco isn't the safest choice, though he could easily produce like a No. 2 starter. However, rely on him as a No. 3 starter that can help your ratios and who should be taken in the middle rounds.
Pros: Since joining the Cubs in 2007, Lilly's control has returned to what it was during his time with the Oakland Athletics (2002-03). As such, his command over the last two years has been higher than it has been any two-year period during his career. The Cubs offense is among the strongest in the NL.
Cons: He gives up a lot of flyballs and home runs. In addition, the speed on his fastball has been declining for three straight years - could it be a sign Father Time is catching up to the 33-year-old hurler?
Fantasy tip: At this point in his career, you know what you are getting with John Gibbons' former best friend: wins and strikeouts. He is a rather bland pick in the late middle rounds as a No. 3 starter, but he's undervalued.
Pros: Another former Rangers prospect who developed once he left Texas, Danks finally got a handle on his control last year, while his dominance rate moved closer to his minor league ratios. In addition, he is a solid groundball pitcher, which helps him in the Chicago airport better known as U.S. Cellular Field.
Cons: Just one full season of dominance doesn't mean he has arrived for good. Growing pains could be expected from the 23-year-old. He still needs to prove he has fully gained command of his pitches. The youngster also pitched 56 more innings than he did in 2007.
Fantasy tip: The workload isn't a major concern because of his easy motion. Danks has the look of a No. 3 starter with decent upside; however, he might be gone before you consider looking his way in the middle rounds.
Pros: Did one bad season wipe out two years of good work? Through 2006-07, he exhibited solid dominance (7.13) and control (2.95). He is still only 25, so he should just be hitting his prime. A paltry 65.4 percent strand rate should bounce back (likely along with his ERA).
Cons: What caused Verlander's abysmal year? His control disappeared like a thief in the night (3.90 walk rate). Since he entered the bigs, his flyball rate has been increasing, another indicator of success - or rather failure in this case. Oh, and a midseason surge last year promptly ended with some horrible second half ratios (6.04 ERA, 1.63 WHIP).
Fantasy tip: Gambling owners will take him as a No. 3 starter in the early middle rounds. Don't risk it: Take him as a low-end No. 3 or No. 4 later in the middle rounds. He's talented, but he has plenty to figure out.
Pros: Garza has great stuff with a 93-94 mph fastball. Most importantly, he finally showed some command of that stuff, which was largely due to improved control. He has been improving in that aspect since entering the majors.
Cons: Maybe the weather in Tampa and Minnesota just isn't warm enough, because his dominance rate has been heading south since entering the majors. He struck out just 6.24 batters per nine innings last year. His BABIP last year (.278) was low enough that a bump in WHIP could be expected. His splits are significantly worse on the road, too.
Fantasy tip: This might be the year to grab the former Twins prospect. He offers significant upside as a No. 3 starter, and he could be had in the middle rounds.
Pros: Chamberlain's dominance has been downright nasty during his two years in the majors; he has notched 11.00 strikeouts per nine innings in that stretch. His WHIP could drop as his BABIP (.332) was unusually high last year, and he really cut down on the line drives.
Cons: Manager Joe Girardi plans to skip Chamberlain in the rotation in an effort to keep his innings down. Chamberlain spent some time on the disabled list with a shoulder ailment last year. It remains to be seen how he holds up over the course of the season. He needs to harness his pitches.
Fantasy tip: The hype surrounding the Yankees prospect reached mammoth proportions during his rookie campaign, and there still appears to be some residue left from that year. He isn't worth the high draft pick you may have to burn on him; consider him if he falls to the middle rounds as a No. 3 starter with upside.
Pros: A late bloomer, Wainwright returned from a finger injury to show off his stellar command (2.68) in 132 innings last year. This ratio was helped by a solid walk rate (2.32) and a decent dominance ratio (6.20).
Cons: His dominance rate is nothing special (6.55 for his career), and the control he exhibited last year was a far cry better than he had shown in previous years. Uncertainty in the Cards bullpen could see Wainwright lose a few wins.
Fantasy tip: You'll want to take Wainwright as a No. 3 starter who has minimal upside. He should be selected in the middle rounds, and he isn't someone to reach too far for.
Pros: When he's on, he's among the best in the majors. Last year proved that to be true. He was among the league leaders in dominance (11.01 K/9) and demonstrated solid command (2.97) - ratios shown over the rest of his career. He is also helped out by a strong offense in Chicago.
Cons: Injuries, injuries and more injuries. His 148 innings last year were his most since 2004. He doubled his total from the previous two seasons combined. Don't buy into his clean bill of health. He already has a shoulder tear, and general manager Jim Hendry said he would happy with 25 starts from Harden.
Fantasy tip: If you draft Harden, prepare for many sleepless nights. He is almost certain to land on the DL at some point. Although he can perform as a No. 1, the injury concerns make him nothing more than an unreliable No. 3 starter who shouldn't be considered until the middle rounds.
Pros: Despite three full seasons in the majors, Cain won't turn 25 until later this year; he still has room to develop. He has been remarkably consistent in his command over the last three years, with his control improving in that stretch. His flyball rate has dropped in three straight years.
Cons: Has he stagnated? Cain's key indicators have hit a plateau, and he has failed to build on his early success. San Fran's offense doesn't provide him with much support, either - 15 wins in two seasons.
Fantasy tip: Cain is a solid starter that offers definite No. 3 upside. However, don't take him if you need wins. He's a little overvalued until he shows signs that he's ready to take the next step.
Pros: One of the best groundball pitchers in the majors, Lowe has improved his command in the last three seasons. He combines an impressive dominance rate for a groundball pitcher (6.27 last year) and has decent control. He will be pitching in another favorable park this year.
Cons: His control last year (1.92) was significantly lower than anything he has done since 2002; don't expect him to continue at that clip. A new environment could mean some struggles as he adapts to life in Atlanta.
Fantasy tip: Lowe is not a sexy pick, but at this point, he offers stability and is a relatively safe if you drafted a high-upside youngster or two. Consider Lowe a low-end No. 3 starter with no upside but someone you can land in the middle rounds, perhaps toward the end of them.
Pros: There is a reason the Yankees invested $80 million in him for five years - he has some of the nastiest stuff in the majors. He has struck out 9.47 batters per game over the last two years, the third most in the league.
Cons: A.J. hasn't been the healthiest of hurlers; he missed time in each of the last four seasons before staying fully healthy in 2008. With his huge payday behind him, Burnett might have less incentive. He struggles with his control at times and is susceptible to the big inning.
Fantasy tip: Is this Carl Pavano: Part Deux? It's unlikely as Burnett offers more of a track record than his former Florida Marlins teammate. Draft Burnett in the middle rounds, though he carries a sizable injury concern and may be overvalued. In fact, you'll likely want to add an extra upside pitcher for when Burnett invariably ends up on the disabled list.
Pros: With his crippling personal problems behind him, Greinke has demonstrated some impressive trends over the last four years. His dominance rate has increased in each year since 2005 (8.14 last year), while his walk rate (2.49 last year) has gone in the opposite direction since 2006.
Cons: Wins have been a rare commodity for the Royals' starters, who are backed by a subpar offense. Greinke has demonstrated his ability, but he's inconsistent from month to month and sometimes start to start.
Fantasy tip: A high-upside pick who should be entering his prime, Greinke offers value if you can nab him as a No. 4 starter in the middle rounds or later. Some owners might reach for him based on his potential, though there isn't enough to warrant it this year.
Pros: "Big Z" is expected to undergo LASIK eye surgery, which should help him see the strike zone better. Maybe this is what he needs to get back to the years (2004-06) when he was striking out more than eight batters every nine innings. He has just one stint on the disabled list since 2002. His control has improved over the last two years.
Cons: His strikeouts have been declining in the last two years, and he has been susceptible to prolonged slumps. Even though it has improved, Zambrano's control is still subpar (3.43 walks per nine innings allowed last year). That stint on the DL came last year, for his shoulder, after five seasons of heavy use. His velocity is on the decline.
Fantasy tip: Backed by a strong offense, Zambrano should help mainly in wins and ERA. It's possible some owners will overvalue him because he has been thought of as a No. 1 for so long. Look to snag him as a borderline No. 2 starter in the middle rounds.
Pros: A returnee from Tommy John surgery last year, Johnson was a solid late-season pickup for fantasy owners. He struck out 77 batters in just 87 1/3 innings (keeping pace with his career rate), and his control ratio was a career low (2.78).
Cons: His control has been all over the place during his career, and rarely has it dropped below three walks per nine innings. Last year was the first time. It was an encouraging return, but it's tough to gauge how pitchers will perform in their first full season back.
Fantasy tip: Johnson is an intriguing midround selection; he has the stuff to produce as a No. 3 starter, but it's hard to recommend him as more than a No. 4 or No. 5. There's risk here, but some don't appear worried.
Pros: A switch to the rotation paid off for Dempster last year. He saw his dominance rate increase (8.14) while he enjoyed a career-best walk rate (3.31). Chicago's offense should once again be near the top of the NL, providing Dempster with more opportunities for wins.
Cons: Dempster hadn't pitched more than 92 innings in a year since 2003. How will his shoulder react to a second straight year throwing twice that many? That uncertainty combined with the career highs set in both control and command means it will be a dicey for Dempster to repeat his 2008 success.
Fantasy tip: Coming off a career year, now is not the time to buy into the Canadian. He is best drafted as a No. 4 starter who should contribute mainly in strikeouts and wins. Look for him in the late middle rounds, not much before.
Pros: A 16-game winner in 2006, Santana washed away the stench from a horrid 2007 with another 16-win campaign. This time around he backed it up with some impressive indicators: 8.79 K's per nine and just 1.93 walks per nine. The righty simplified his arsenal and pitched with much more confidence.
Cons: A sprained medial collateral ligament will force him to the DL to start the season; he might not return until the end of April. Last year's dominance rate may be here to stay, but Santana failed to exhibit the kind of control he showed last year in any of his previous stints, be it in the minors or majors. He yields a lot of flyballs, and the loss of closer Francisco Rodriguez (62 saves) could weaken the bullpen.
Fantasy tip: Santana's elbow injury should see him drop in all drafts. Follow suit and let him pass you by until the middle rounds, where if you're desperate, he has shaky value as a midrange No. 3 starter. He is just too risky to recommend as anything more.
Pros: The old man can still get it done: He struck out 173 batters in 184 innings last year, and since 1991 he has seen his dominance rate dip below 8.42 only once. He pitched extremely well in the second half last year, and his career stats in San Francisco are solid.
Cons: How many other hurlers are still throwing 180-plus innings at 45 years old? How many 45-year-olds can still throw one inning for that matter? Though a special pitcher, age has been catching up with Johnson. His pitch speed is in decline. Back problems can be chronic and have to remain a concern.
Fantasy tip: How comfortable are you taking an aging pitcher? He won't feel much pressure in the backend of San Fran's rotation, but he is just one year removed from a herniated disc. Take him as a No. 4 starter with upside but also plenty of risk.
Pros: If cancer can't slow this guy down, what hope do major league hitters have? He finally locked down his control last year, stopped surrendering as many home runs and proved he can handle a full workload. He's backed by one of the strongest AL offenses as well.
Cons: The Red Sox hadn't planned on giving him that many innings last year and have altered his offseason plan. A jump of more than 50 for a youngster raises an eyebrow. He doesn't strike out that many batters, and he has only one full year of exquisite control.
Fantasy tip: Lester might have solid value late in the middle rounds of most drafts. The problem is that he's often drafted as a No. 2 when he's more of a No. 4 with upside but also downside. It's hard to envision him being much better than he was last season.
Pros: Entering the majors in 2006, Weaver showed off excellent command, backed up by his minor league numbers, en route to winning his first seven starts. He has made some minor improvements since then, developing two other pitches (changeup and slider) and cutting down on the flyballs given up.
Cons: He still hasn't done much to improve on his early success. His control is regressing, more runners who reach base are scoring on him, and he needs to be more consistent.
Fantasy tip: Will he follow the path of his older brother, Jeff, or does Jered finally live up to his potential? We think somewhere in between, but he's a bit of a sleeper. Select him as a No. 4 starter with some upside in the late middle rounds.
Pros: Injuries were the main reason for last year's struggles. With those out of the way (for now), Bedard offers a lot of strikeouts, solid command and potential for a Cy Young-caliber season. It rarely hurts to draft a Canadian, either.
Cons: Bedard has been a walking injury; last year it was shoulder, hip and back problems that limited him to just 81 innings. He has never lasted to 200. Already he has been bothered by a hip injury that will limit him to the 80-pitch range early in the season. His rate of home runs allowed has been headed north. As for the M's, their offense likely won't give Bedard much help.
Fantasy tip: Don't pay for Bedard's 2007 numbers, but if you are looking for a No. 4 starter with plenty of upside in a midround draft pick, pull the trigger on the lefty. He certainly has more of it than the pitchers around him.
Pros: There was a huge drop in his flyball rate as over half of his hits turned into groundballs. His command improved in his second year, and he is still only 23. If he can match his dominance from the minors....
Cons: Over 188 innings thrown in the majors at only 22? That's a tad concerning, especially because he had never pitched above Double-A ball. He seemed to wear down after the break, posting a poor August (5.73 ERA, 1.64 WHIP) and September (4.30 ERA, 1.52 WHIP). Control has been his enemy.
Fantasy tip: Jurrjens is an intriguing candidate to lock up the No. 4 spot in your fantasy rotation. He shouldn't be drafted until the middle rounds, or when the late rounds begin. He may regress, but he shouldn't be terrible.
Pros: Consecutive years with 210-plus innings and an ERA under 4.00 have somewhat justified the Royals shelling out big money for Meche two years ago. His command has been better in KC than it has at any other time in his career, and he has cut down on his mistakes and flyballs. He posted a career high in strikeouts per nine innings.
Cons: A reason to be skeptical: an increasing walk rate, especially given his history. Run support could be a problem on the bottom-dwelling Royals. His ceiling isn't much higher than what we've soon for the past two years.
Fantasy tip: Meche is like the girl next door: They are both familiar to owners (or neighbors), neither are sexy picks, and they don't offer much upside (unless you are living in Beverly Hills). There's still a little, tough. Draft Meche as a No. 5 starter in the late rounds.
Pros: Baker's big-league dominance finally matched that from his minor league stats, with 7.36 strikeouts per nine innings last year. His command hasn't dipped below 3.36 over the last three years, also.
Cons: Baker's percentage of flyballs allowed has been dangerously high over the last three seasons. He gave up more than a homer per nine innings last year. Although still not that high, his control rate has been loosening over the last three years, culminating in 2.19 walks per nine innings last year. Right shoulder stiffness will sideline him for at least the first two starts of the season.
Fantasy tip: Baker offers owners a solid No. 4 option. Ideally, look for him in the late middle rounds or early in the late rounds, where he may still offer value. Slight regression is possible, leaving him with some downside.
Pros: Jimenez has fanned batters at a rate of 7.58 per nine innings in the majors. A decreasing flyball rate helps him greatly at Coors Field. He has great stuff, with a fastball in the mid 90s. He was thoroughly impressive in July (1.74 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) and September (2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP).
Cons: Apparently Jimenez doesn't think you need control to make it in the majors; his walk rate has increased in consecutive years. He hasn't shown great command at any level above Double-A ball. He's terribly inconsistent, as evidenced by the rest of his up-and-down season.
Fantasy tip: Look to snag Jimenez in the late rounds as a No. 5 starter. He can be streaky, but he does offer slight upside given his arsenal. His biggest boost will come in strikeouts.
Pros: The tall righty has been a menace to opposing batters, with 8.07 strikeouts per nine innings during his five seasons in the majors. He regularly posts a relatively low average on balls in play.
Cons: His control rate has increased in every year since 2005. This, in turn, has contributed to a decrease in his command over the last four years. He also surrenders a worrying number of flyballs, resulting in a high number of home runs, especially for someone in a pitchers' park such as PETCO Park. Various injuries keep him from pitching full seasons.
Fantasy tip: Outside of his strikeouts, he's not a lock for anything, but potentially there are gains in his ERA and WHIP. Young offers enough to be a low-end No. 3, but he's a little unreliable, so think of him as a No. 4 starter. Consider him in the middle late rounds.
Pros: For the first two months last year, Maine looked like a pitcher ready to continue making the leap. His dominance was up, he wasn't giving up a lot of runs, and his flyballs were down - the last was true of his entire season. He has consistently shown solid dominance in a New York uniform.
Cons: In real estate, it's location, location, location; for Maine, it's control, control, control. The former Baltimore Oriole is losing the grip on his walk rate that he had initially in New York. He's 28 in May, so he might have already peaked. He missed more than a handful of starts with a shoulder ailment.
Fantasy tip: Offseason shoulder surgery removed a bone spur doctors said was one of the biggest they'd ever seen. Did this continue to Maine's drop-off in the second half? He's shaky as anything more than a No. 5 starter, but he has limited upside.
Pros: What happened in 2008? Prior to that year, Harang had increased his dominance rate in two straight years, while his walks had gone in the opposite direction. He had posted a command ratio of 3.20 or higher for three straight years.
Cons: To answer the above question, Harang's control dropped off last year, and he paid for his mistakes. He allowed an outrageous 35 homers in 184 1/3 innings. His dominance, control and command all regressed. The downturn came after a four-inning relief stint in late May. His strikeouts per nine may never be the same.
Fantasy tip: Harang wasn't all that bad - his 17 losses and all the dingers he allowed overshadowed some decent contributions late in the year. Consider him a mid-grade No. 4 starter in the late middle rounds, and he could have a moderate bounce-back year.
Pros: Myers' 2008 season was a Tale of Two Halves. His second is where we'll stick: He cut down on the home runs, didn't allow as many baserunners and struck out more batters. Myers' flyball percentage has dropped in consecutive years.
Cons: Any of his mistakes are punished by the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Park. His control has been suspect over the last two years. He was off to a sour start for the second straight season, this one resulting in a stint in the minors. After his two-month turnaround, he posted a 5.23 ERA in September. His K/9 is in decline.
Fantasy tip: He shouldn't be as good as he was in July and August last year, but he likely won't be as bad as he was early in the year. He's clearly overvalued. It's OK to grab Myers as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter; don't expect much upside, though.
Pros: The baseball world bore witness to Price's filthy stuff during the Rays' surprising postseason run last year. A nasty fastball-slider combo is what Price relies on. He struck out 12 batters in just 14 innings last year. He's advertised as the second coming.
Cons: The Rays will start him at Triple-A to begin the season, and he might not feature regularly in the rotation. With his inexperience, bumps in the road are a definite possibility. The Rays believe he needs to work heavily on his changeup.
Fantasy tip: There might not be a prospect with more hype heading into the season. Many pundits have already pegged him as the AL Rookie of the Year. These lofty expectations have owners completely overvaluing him; we only recommend reaching for him as a low No. 4 or No. 5 starter to avoid risk.
Pros: Kawakami will have the benefit of his Japanese League experience, so he won't be a true rookie. He is a control pitcher, issuing just 25 free passes in 117 1/3 innings last year and only 23 in 167 1/3 innings the year before.
Cons: Back issues and 33-year-old pitchers go together like Brett Favre and Ted Thompson. He has never faced a batter in a major league game. Other arms recently imported from Japan haven't been overly impressive.
Fantasy tip: Does he become the next Dice-K? Or the next Kei Igawa? Those are the questions fantasy owners are faced with. He's not much like either; he might be turn out to be a slightly better Hiroki Kuroda, but at a minor discount. He could be a No. 5 starter that should help you boost your WHIP and can be taken in the late rounds.
Pros: Airplanes are rarely seen in orbit when Buehrle is pitching; he was in the top 20 in groundball-to-flyball ratio last year. This helps in homer-happy U.S. Cellular Field. He has pitched eight straight seasons with 200-plus innings.
Cons: You can count on one hand the numbers of batters Buehrle has fanned. OK, it isn't that bad, but he still doesn't strike out batters at a great rate. He has consistently allowed a high number of baserunners to score.
Fantasy tip: Buehrle doesn't offer any upside aside from a possible boost in ERA and wins; if you need those stats in the late rounds, take him as a No. 6 starter, more of a consolation pick at the end.
Pros: A former Cy Young Award winner, Carp posted season ERAs of 3.46 or better from 2004 through 2006. In returning from two depleted seasons, Carp has looked extremely impressive this spring with 14 scoreless innings.
Cons: With various shoulder and elbow injuries crumbling his fantasy worth to nothing in the last two seasons, he needs to get back on the horse. He only has four strikeouts this spring in that many innings - is his potency there? How long can you really count on him to stay on the mound? Many questions here.
Fantasy tip: This is arguably the biggest high-risk, high-reward name in fantasy baseball. As a No. 5 starter, he's worth it if you have stability, but you better be prepared to stress out a bunch if you take him.
Pros: He is usually among the league leaders in groundball-to-flyball ratio. Home runs off him are a rare thing because he keeps the ball down so much. His K/9 has been on the rise.
Cons: Wang's control ratio has been increasing over the last two years, moving in the opposite direction of his groundball rate. Wang's career-high dominance rate (5.12 last year) is still dull. He's coming off a troubling foot injury.
Fantasy tip: Wang has been cleared, but the foot is on his landing leg; will it hold up? If you need wins and a modest bump in ERA late in the draft, then Wang can still be your guy. However, he isn't anything more than a weak No. 5 starter, with the possibility of a rebound as long as he remains healthy.
Pros: Sonnanstine relies heavily on his control; he ranked in the top ten in fewest walks per nine innings last year. He should be entering his prime this year, so he should have another year or two of improvements left in him.
Cons: If they had Viagra for soft-tossers in baseball, Sonnanstine could be their spokesman. His fastball was just 87 mph last year (not Jamie Moyer territory, but Sonnanstine isn't 100 years old, either). His dominance rate is a meager 5.77 K/9 and decreased from his first year in the bigs.
Fantasy tip: Don't look to take Sonnanstine before the last rounds of the draft. He is a desperation pick that offers little upside as a weak No. 5 starter and likely won't help much outside of some wins.
Pros: He saved the Yankees a few million by turning down their initial offer. All kidding aside, Pettitte strikes out batters at a decent clip (6.97 K/9 last year) and is backed by a strong offense. He gobbles innings. His BABIP and strand rate were both high and low, respectively, so an improvement in ERA and WHIP could be coming.
Cons: Last year's dominance rate was more than one point higher than the previous year. He will turn 37 this year, and it is a tossup if he'll maintain his skills. His WHIP hasn't been below 1.41 since 2005.
Fantasy tip: He has name value, so some owners might reach for him (especially if they are getting bored at the end of their drafts). Regardless, as a fifth starter, he isn't bad if you need wins, but there is little, if any, upside in this pick.
Pros: Parra certainly has the stuff to get it done at the major league level - his dominance rate hovers around the 8.00 K/9 level. His recently displayed shoddy control was rarely a problem in the minors. Perhaps age 26, a prime breakout year for pitchers, is when Parra will put it all together. The Brewers' 'pen, which cost him some wins last year, is marginally improved with the signing of closer Trevor Hoffman.
Cons: How does the saying go? Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser? Well, show me a young pitching prospect and I'll show you a hurler that needs to improve his control. Parra is no exception to the semi-rule.
Fantasy tip: Reaching to snag Parra in the late rounds isn't a bad idea. He is at the age when pitchers generally break out, and his stuff suggests he could be a quality contributor to a fantasy rotation. Make him a No. 5 starter with upside.
Pros: A solid groundball pitcher, Pelfrey corrected his perennial problem, his control, last year, and he is entering what are the breakout years for pitchers (if he indeed plans on breaking out).
Cons: He still relies a lot on his fastball, doesn't strike out many batters (despite his 90 mph-plus speed on said fastball) and could easily slip back to his pre-2008 control problems. A drop this big in control doesn't exactly line up with his trends (5.06 BB/9 in 2006, 4.83 BB/9 in 2007).
Fantasy tip: His age and room for improvement make him an interesting pick, but, and it's a big but, he is risky as a No. 5 as a pick that might, or might not, contribute in the wins department.
Pros: Please sir, I want some more; the Mets were asking that as they brought back the former 15-game winner for another three years. In this case, Perez's strikeouts and sporadic command overshadowed all else. He could benefit from a strengthened Mets bullpen.
Cons: All else being a horrible control ratio (4.76 walks per nine innings for his career), a tendency to give up flyballs and "short attention span," according to ex-closer Billy Wagner. Now, is that something that will improve with a three-year guaranteed deal?
Fantasy tip: He doesn't offer a multitude upside and should be viewed mainly as a contributor in wins and strikeouts; everything else is a guessing game. Consider him in the last rounds of drafts if you need to shore up a deep rotation.
Pros: An offseason strengthening program should supposedly help Kuroda's shoulder, which was sore during the 2008 season. It didn't look the part as the heavy ground ball pitcher demonstrated solid command (2.76 K/BB) over his pitches en route to posting a 3.73 ERA.
Cons: He has already bypassed the World Baseball Classic to help keep his shoulder healthy; at 34, the shoulder is a huge worry. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters (5.69 K/9 last year).
Fantasy tip: Kuroda is a decent pick as your No. 5 starter in the late rounds, though you'll want to wait and see how he throws in spring training before pulling the trigger. If healthy, he can boost wins and your ratios.
Pros: A Japanese League import, he has demonstrated exceptional control across the Pacific. This should help him in a park that isn't friendly to mistakes made by right-handed pitchers. He is a lock for Baltimore's rotation.
Cons: He has never pitched in the majors, and he'll be pitching in the hitter-friendly AL East and at Camden Yards, which isn't exactly favorable for pitchers.
Fantasy tip: A recent import from Japan who had great control (the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda) was a solid first-year pitcher on the West Coast, but he plays in the NL in a park that leans toward pitchers. Still, Uehara is worth a flier in the last rounds of the draft. Maybe the mystery surrounding him will help.
Pros: At times, Cueto showed he could live up to the spring training hype last year; he had quality starts in three of his first four outings. He has an outstanding dominance rate (8.17), which is backed by his minor league ratios and a 93 mph fastball.
Cons: For most of the season Cueto looked just like a 22-year-old hurler that had jumped three levels in 2007. He had controls problems last year and gave up an extraordinary amount of home runs.
Fantasy tip: One more year of seasoning should help Cueto gain better command of his pitches. Luckily for fantasy prospectors, he had exhibited solid control in the minors, so that should improve. Draft him as a No. 5 starter with significant upside in the late rounds - he'll be snagged cheaply if you're willing to take the risk.
Pros: He has found a home in Baltimore - he has cut down on the walks and made better use of his pitches.
Cons: His dominance rate is dropping and was never great to begin with. He enjoyed a BABIP well below average (.267) and his flyball rate is dangerous given the park he's in.
Fantasy tip: Guthrie seems to have settled into a steady role with the Orioles - he isn't going to wow you with overpowering stuff, but he'll put up consistent numbers. Draft him as a last resort for your fifth spot in the late rounds.
Pros: He maintained his dominance rate from Las Vegas (Triple-A) to Los Angeles last year. This is his age-21 season - it's tough to expect much in the bigs from a pitcher that can't even purchase a six-pack legally. His curveball projects as one of the best in recent years. A .325 BABIP should correct itself. He kept the ball on the ground often.
Cons: That last point above: he's still only 21 so some growing pains are to be expected. His first major league action didn't result in great control (4.35 walks per nine).
Fantasy tip: Kershaw is worth reaching for in the late rounds of all drafts. He might not be a consistent starter, but we recommend grabbing him to fill up a roster spot based on his tremendous upside.
Pros: It appeared as though Floyd's success last year came about as he was able to work in more pitches than just his low-90s fastball. He sustained his K rate from 2007 and didn't allow as many home runs or flyballs, which is always a good sign in power-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
Cons: Floyd regressed in three major areas - control (3.05), command (2.07) and strand rate (71.4 percent) - so it's amazing his ERA actually came down last year. This could have been the byproduct of a lucky .268 BABIP. That should right itself this year along with Floyd's ERA.
Fantasy tip: The wins are going to inflate his value - he might not be good for that many this year given his indicators. He has a five-pitch arsenal that could continue to blossom, but avoid taking him other than as a depth option in deep leagues.
Pros: Exquisite control: Litsch ranked in the top 20 in this respect in the majors last year. His fastball improved late in the year when he went to a four-seamer. Who else do the Blue Jays really have to pitch? Litsch is going to get a heavy workload.
Cons: He is the pitching version of Bengie Molina; no, that isn't a size comparison, but rather they both rarely record a strikeout. Even with the velocity increase, Litsch is still a soft tosser.
Fantasy tip: His ratios should help you, but other than that there is little value to be had late in the rounds unless you are filling out a deep roster spot.
Pros: Like the Canadian retirees living in Florida, Rodriguez's dominance has been migrating north for the summer over the last three years. In addition, his control rate has decreased in each of the last two years. A slightly inflated BABIP (.323) could result in a lower WHIP.
Cons: The anti-CC Sabathia, Rodriguez's slight frame leaves him vulnerable to injuries or at least breaking down. He doesn't have much of a track record with only one serviceable year. Though his road ERA improved slightly last year (4.34), don't start him away from Minute Maid Park.
Fantasy tip: Rodriguez has been trending upward over the last three years; he might have reached his peak last year, but that shouldn't keep you from taking him as a weak No. 5 starter in the last rounds.
Pros: Filthy, nasty, dirty, electric - any of these words could describe Scherzer's stuff. Two of his last four starts of 2008 were of the quality variety. In those starts, he struck 32 batters in just 22 innings. Scoff at that mark all you want, but he had a 13.42 dominance rate at Triple-A last year.
Cons: Scherzer said his arm felt sore when he picked up a ball this offseason and with the shoulder fatigue he suffered last year, the D-backs might take it easy on the young prospect.
Fantasy tip: Wait to see if the team limits his innings. He likely will be the No. 5 starter for Arizona, which is the role he should have on your fantasy team, at best. He is someone to reach for in the late rounds, too.
Pros: His dominance rate has hovered above 6.50 in each of the last four years, and he has been durable with at least 200 innings pitched in those years.
Cons: The braided one has seen his ERA jump to heights not seen since his time in Pittsburgh at the start of the century. His walk rate has climbed since 2003 along with the amount of home runs he gives up per nine innings.
Fantasy tip: Arroyo could use a bit of seasoning because as a fantasy pick, he is rather bland. Take him if you must, but he is nothing more than deep roster filler that could be had in the last rounds of fantasy drafts.
Pros: A strong spring has put Maholm on the fantasy map: 1.52 ERA, 14 K's and two walks in 23 2/3 frames. He underwent a drastic improvement in skill after altering the hip movement in his delivery during the 2007 season. His ERA dropped 1.31 runs from 2007 to 2008. He's adept at inducing groundballs.
Cons: His underwhelming dominance (5.79 career K/9) means he might have a small margin for error. His walk rate climbed to 2.75 last season, and his strand rate experienced a 10.2 percent jump - is that sustainable?
Fantasy tip: Nab Maholm as a No. midrange No. 5 starter in deep mixed leagues. There may be some anti-Pirates bias in your draft, but smart fantasy owners need to ignore that to identify true talent. That being said, don't overpay given his growing hype.
Pros: Another Dave Duncan reclamation project, Wellemeyer surprised everyone but his mother with his 3.71 ERA and 13 wins last year. An improvement in his control (2.91 BB/9) was a big reason for the solid year.
Cons: His innings jump (79 1/3 innings to 191 2/3) is a huge warning flag; he missed time last year with right elbow inflammation, and his strikeouts went down as a result. What reason is there to expect him to hold up over another full season? His flyball rate has been problematic since the middle of the decade, and he doesn't strike out a lot of batters.
Fantasy tip: We can't recommend drafting Wellemeyer except in NL-only and very deep drafts. There are better picks available with more upside at this spot. If you are thinking about drafting him, take five deep breaths and instead go for someone more exciting.
Pros: How many out there pegged Saunders for 17 wins, a 3.41 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP last year? He has demonstrated decent control over the last two years, and his fastball has picked up a couple of mph over the last four years.
Cons: The wins might have been expected, but the ERA and WHIP to follow? He'd have trouble striking out Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Mike Cameron, and his BABIP (.267) was dangerously low. For someone who pitches to contact as often as he does, an increase in this could damage his ratios.
Fantasy tip: Just win, baby! Al Davis would be proud of Saunders, at least for his last two seasons. If you need to stack up a few wins in the last round or two, consider Saunders. He doesn't have much upside, and you should let others reach for him based on last year's numbers.
Pros: Blanton has long been a workhorse. His move to Philadelphia resulted in a perfect 4-0 record backed by a 4.20 ERA. We don't know what he might have been smoking in the city of Brotherly Love, but whatever it was certainly helped his dominance (6.24 in Philly), ERA, WHIP and opponents' average.
Cons: It didn't show last year, but a full season away from the pitchers' paradise in Oakland should have a detrimental affect on those ratios. His walk rate rose after joining the Phillies, and his flyball rate also increased, especially after his move.
Fantasy tip: You know what you'll get with Blanton: a rather bland year. He'll hurt you in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, but backed by a strong offense, he could be worth a few wins late in drafts as pitching depth.
Pros: His indicators have always suggested a potential breakout year. His command was still at a decent level last year (2.27), and he should have a rotation spot locked up this year. His home splits have been solid compared to his road ratios.
Cons: A decreasing dominance rate (5.30 K/9 last year) and command rate, along with an increasing control ratio (2.34 BB/9), show Bush's declining skills. His BABIP (.245) was ridiculously low last year, so expect that to climb along with his ratios.
Fantasy tip: He is only a valuable start at home; even then, he is about as valuable as a Stubby Clapp rookie card. Take him if you must in the last rounds of mixed drafts, but he doesn't offer any upside and really should remain on the waiver wire except in NL-only leagues.
Pros: He is entering the prime years for a breakout, and he definitely has the stuff to make him an intriguing pick. Sanchez has a 9.07 dominance rate in the majors and is expected to be the No. 5 starter for San Francisco this year.
Cons: Sanchez needs to harness his unpredictable control ratio (4.27 walks per nine last year) if he wants to stay at this level. He needs to avoid leaning on his fastball. Sanchez may see some competition from lefty Noah Lowry for the No. 5 spot.
Fantasy tip: The hard-throwing southpaw likely could be had late in mixed drafts. He has better stuff and more potential than the other starters around him at this stage, which makes him a decent upside pick as rotation depth. He shouldn't cost you much, either, but know that he comes with some wild stuff.
Pros: In his injury-shortened 2008 campaign, Smoltz (shoulder) proved he still had major league stuff with three wins, a 2.57 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in six outings. His command hasn't dipped below 3.19 since 1995.
Cons: Smoltz might be ready for Opening Day after undergoing shoulder surgery last year. However, neither Smoltz nor the Red Sox are going to push him for that date, though. He'll be switching to the AL, which is more hitter-friendly, and his fly ball rate has been increasing.
Fantasy tip: It'll be strange seeing Smoltz in a Boston uniform, but he could be a sleeper pick as owners might not value him highly because of the shoulder injury. Don't count on him for a regular rotation spot right off the bat, but he is a pitcher to stash in the last rounds of deep drafts.
Pros: His solid ratios last year weren't just because of half a season spent in PETCO Park. He posted a 3.57 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 12 starts with the Houston Astros.
Cons: From 2005-2007, Wolf missed 278 games, so saying injuries are a problem is like saying the Dallas Cowboys have chemistry issues. A slight frame could see him wearing down, and he has a career ERA of 6.48 at Dodger Stadium.
Fantasy tip: All signs point to Wolf leaving Dodgers fans and fantasy owners howling in frustration this year. He isn't worth selecting except in extremely deep mixed or NL-only leagues. He could be a decent spot starter, but wait to see how he reacts to his new surroundings in the first couple of games before picking him up.
Pros: Who needs to throw a 95 mph fastball to win? Consistency has been Moyer's calling card with a control ratio that never rises too much (or dips too low) and a flyball rate that has been decreasing hesitantly in the last four years. He is good for at least double digits in wins.
Cons: He doesn't offer much, if any, hope for strikeouts. His ERA had been trending upward for three straight years before it returned to his pre-2004 range; this screams outlier for the 46-year-old hurler.
Fantasy tip: Moyer could be taken as a late-round draft pick, but you really won't gain much by doing so unless you need to build some consistency in wins. That is about the only category where he brings any value.
Pros: Boston's offense gives Wakefield a solid backing, and he is a good bet to reach at least 10 wins because of that. If his knuckleball is working, he can be near unhittable. He doesn't exert much force, meaning he eats innings.
Cons: The reliance on his knuckleball makes Wakefield wildly inconsistent. If the pitch isn't there, then expect Wakefield to get shelled. If it is, then he should be good for a quality outing. His command improved after two straight years in decline, suggesting an outlying year.
Fantasy tip: Another blah pick late in drafts; leave Wakefield on the free-agency wire and instead target a pitcher that can give you some semblance of upside. Only, we repeat, only take him if you are desperate for wins.
Pros: The 25-year-old hurler earned the fourth spot in the Tribe's rotation this spring. He won all four of his starts last September as he posted a 2.63 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Lewis has exhibited solid control during his minor league career.
Cons: One reason his ERA and WHIP were so low: a .233 BABIP. He doesn't strike out a lot of batters (5.63 K/9 last year) so you can't count on him in that respect - not that you should be relying heavily on him with only four major league starts. He hasn't even had much success in the minors, either.
Fantasy tip: Lewis shouldn't draw much consideration in mixed leagues, but he is worth a post-draft pickup in deep mixed leagues and a late-round pick in AL-only, largely because of his starting spot.
Pros: Galarraga was a pleasant surprise in Detroit's inept rotation last year; he displayed decent command backed by a solid dominance rate and posted solid ratios (3.73 ERA and 1.19 WHIP).
Cons: Watch out for his innings jump and the quick rise through the minors. Just three years ago, Galarraga was dealing with fatigue issues after returning from Tommy John surgery - and now he's slated for a regular rotation spot in the majors. He walked 3.07 batters per nine innings last year, and with his uninspiring arsenal, that's susceptible to further trouble.
Fantasy tip: Last year appears to be the best you'll get from Galarraga; he doesn't have the track record to suggest he can back it up again. Thus, don't worry about taking him in drafts; leave him for free agency to see which version, 2007 or 2008, shows up.
Pros: The Nats' top prospect, Zimm has not allowed a run in 12 1/3 frames this spring while fanning 16. He struck out a batter per inning in his 2008 farm work. Nothing but upside here.
Cons: He's only 22; do the Nats want to risk it this soon? He hasn't pitched above Double-A yet, and the Nats have ample arms (despite their boring attributes) to help bridge the gap to their youngsters.
Fantasy tip: This is a name you grab in the last round of extremely deep mixed leagues and most definitely NL-only setups. There is no guarantee of Zimmermann making the rotation, but the Nats might have to cave if he's this dominant.
Pros: From 2005 through 2007, Snell saw his ERA drop from 5.14 to 3.76 and his WHIP drop from 1.60 to 1.33. His BABIP (.358) was the second highest among qualifying starters last year; that should come down, which would help his ratios.
Cons: His dominance rate declined for the third straight year while his control ratio spiked last year. Given he has only once posted a walks-per-nine ratio under 3.58, it could be safe to say 2007 (2.94) was an outlying year. Is he over a midseason elbow injury that fouled up his 2009?
Fantasy tip: Snell wasn't given much help last year, and given his trends in the three years before 2008, he could be a bounce-back candidate. That doesn't mean you should take him as anything more than pitching depth, but he is worth a last-round flier in deep mixed.
Pros: Pitching coach Carl Willis noticed a flaw in Carmona's delivery late last season, and the groundball pitcher has worked to correct it this winter. His 2007 season (19 wins, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) had him in Cy Young contention.
Cons: His control deserted him last year (5.22 BB/9), and his 2007 could be considered an outlier. In fact, his whole 2007 season could be considered an outlier. He has a subpar career dominance rate (5.55 K/9).
Fantasy Tip: Don't buy into Carmona's 2007 season. Sure, a hip injury played a part in his struggles last year, but he wasn't great before or after the injury. His value is strictly limited to very deep mixed formats and AL-only leagues as a depth pitcher.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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