If you happen to play fantasy football, then you’ve probably figured out that it’s really tough to win a league title with Peyton Manning as your quarterback. It’s not that he isn’t a great player, he obviously is. The problem is that the Colts always clinch a playoff berth only and rest their regulars during Week 17, championship week in fantasyland. Instead of getting a full four quarters (or more) worth of Manning, you’re getting a half or maybe even less. Tough to win with your best player on the bench.
The same theory applies in fantasy baseball, though the impact might not be as severe. Almost every team has implemented some sort of innings limitation on their young starting pitchers, likely shutting them down (or at least scaling back their number of starts) late in the season. That can be a problem for owners who have relied on these guys all season, and suddenly taken away come playoff time.
Replacing that kind of production is often impossible late in the season, so there’s not much more you can do than take the hit if you’ve waited to long to act. What can you do to prevent this? Simple, just trade them to an unsuspecting owner before your trade deadline. Enjoy as much as their production as possible, then spin them off before their team tightens the clamps.
Here are five young pitchers with fantasy value and upcoming innings situations that you may want to avoid. The IP totals listed included majors and minors.
Jaime Garcia | 2010 IP: 103 | 2009 IP: 37.2
Garcia missed basically all of the 2009 season after having Tommy John surgery, so his previous career high comes way back in 2006, when the tossed 155 IP. He does have two other seasons at 103.1 IP and 122 IP, so the century mark is nothing foreign to him. Tony LaRussa seemed to indicate that the team doesn’t have a set limit for Garcia this year, though they will take special care not over to overwork him.
Phil Hughes | 2010 IP: 106 | 2009 IP: 105.1
The Yankees have not put a number out there as far as Hughes’ cap for this season, but the general belief that it will be around 160-175 IP. If true, they’re using his 2006 career high total as 146 IP as his baseline. Unlike the sometimes comical Joba Rules, the Yanks have indicated that they’re going to take a more conventional approach when controlling Hughes’ workload, taking advantage of off days to skip his turn every so often. This plan is already in full effect, as the 24-year-old righty has thrown just 23.2 IP (four starts) over the last 31 days.
Mat Latos | 2010 IP: 106.2 | 2009 IP: 123
The Padres caught a bit of a break when Latos required a sneeze-induced DL stint, and it turns out he won’t even miss a start thanks to the All Star break and off days. Pitching coach Darren Balsley indicated before the season that the team would start to be careful with Latos once he gets to 150 IP, though they understandably have no plans to shut their best pitcher down once he reaches that total now that they’re in a pennant race. Expect San Diego to take advantage of as many off days as possible over the next few weeks, otherwise they’re going to have a problem on their hands come early September.
Mike Leake | 2010 IP: 114.2 | 2009 IP: 142
Leake’s IP total at Arizona State last season appears gaudy, and it is, but remember that he was working on a once-a-week schedule, not a once-every-five-days schedule. Those extra two days of rest between outings is a considerable difference. Dusty Baker said they’re going to skip Leake a few times, but declined to reveal a set innings cap. Speculation has it around 150-175 IP, which really isn’t that far off now.
Stephen Strasburg | 2010 IP: 104 | Career High: 109
Like Leake, Strasburg’s innings came on a once-a-week schedule in college last season. The Nationals have been pretty open about their plan for the young phenom, saying that they will start him on a regular five day schedule and simply shut him down when the time comes. Strasburg will be held to 150-160 IP or so, so he might be a fantasy non-factor by the end of August. He’s on the mound tonight, so that 2010 IP total is going up as you read this. His name alone will get plenty of attention if you place him on the trade block.
Three others worth mentioning are Jonathon Niese, Clay Buchholz, and David Price, but they’re in a little better shape than those guys above. Niese is already up to 102.1 IP this year (not counting tonight), but his career high is 178 IP back in 2008, which came before a 120 IP effort last season (with a hamstring injury mixed it). Buchholz has thrown 99.2 IP this season (counting today), and he threw a whopping 191 IP last season. Price tossed 162.2 IP last year, and is up to 120.1 IP this season. They’re good to go.
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