|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/27/1981|
Profile: Heading into the off-season, it was essentially a foregone conclusion that the Mariners would trade David Aardsma. He has racked up solid save totals the last two years, but his shaky command and one pitch arsenal always left you feeling that he was something of a time bomb – eventually, hitters would stop swinging at his fastball out of the zone and let him self destruct. However, news broke in December that Aardsma would require surgery on the labrum in his hip, which nuked his trade value, and so he remains a member of the Mariners roster. He also remains one of the highest risk options for saves in baseball. He was already an implosion candidate before the injury, and now he’s going to get up speed in 2011 without a spring training to work out the kinks. If all these warning signs have you thinking buyer beware, you are a pretty smart individual. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: If he’s healthy, you’ll saves with a side helping of heart attacks. He might not be healthy. Discount heavily.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 7/29/1978|
Profile: Part of the unknown and unhittable Padres relief corps, Adams is expected to be among the top contenders to take over the closer’s role when Heath Bell is inevitably traded. That will make him a pricey setup man on draft day, but he has value even while waiting for the Padres to relocate their portly closer. Over the last two years, he has the lowest FIP of any reliever in baseball. His numbers compare favorably to Mariano Rivera. He’s just as good against left-handed batters as right-handed ones, so he’s not living off of specialized usage. The strikeout rate isn’t as crazy high as someone like Carlos Marmol, but the whole package is better, and Adams is probably the most underrated pitcher in the game today. You could argue that he might be better than Bell right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Padres moved him earlier than expected in order to let Adams establish himself as a premier closer in 2011. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: While he’s not guaranteed save opportunities out of the gate, he’ll almost certainly get a bunch after Bell is traded, and he’s been good enough to think that he’ll become an elite closer the minute he’s handed the role.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/1/1988|
Profile: Brett Anderson is talented — of that there is no doubt — but Anderson spent a total of 91 days on the disabled list last season with an injury to the tendon in his throwing elbow. That is cause for caution on how much you should spend to get him in a draft. Anderson is not a flamethrower but he has good control and keeps the ball on the ground. In addition to his talent in keeping freeloaders off the base paths, the offensive suppression of Oakland’s home park aides Anderson’s WHIP and ERA in staying low. The Oakland team appears well enough to get Anderson the wins he deserves and so he could be a great fantasy No. 2 if his elbow problems are behind him. That is one giant “if” however. Make sure your team is not ruined if his tendons turn out to be. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: A pitcher with recent elbow injuries? What could go wrong? Anderson has a lot of talent but staying on the field is the question for 2011.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/6/1986|
Profile: Arrieta, who turns 25 before opening day, is an interesting pitcher. The right-hander was a fairly high-profile amateur pitcher and he produced solid pro numbers in the low minors. However, his stats leveled off a bit in the upper minors, thanks to some issues with his command and control. Arrieta also struggled in 2010 during the first 18 starts of his MLB career. His ERA sat at 4.66, which was unfortunately the exact same number that he produced for his strikeout rate. He had some success with his curveball, but hitters were able to lay off of it when he struggled with his fastball command. The O’s starting rotation will feature a lot of youth in 2011 so Arrieta should have a good chance to secure a spot; you should expect better numbers and he has the ceiling of a No. 3 pitcher. He’s has a big, strong frame and could throw 200 innings this season if he can find some consistency. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Arrieta could be a modest AL-only contributor but don’t expect many wins given the team that he plays for should finish fifth in the AL East. Arrieta has the potential to be a respectable No. 3 starter.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 2/24/1977|
Profile: Bronson Arroyo will be returning to the crowded Cincinnati Reds rotation in 2011 after the Reds picked up his 2011 option en route to a three-year extension. Of any of the potential six to seven starting pitchers vying for spots, Arroyo has his position as the No. 1 starter most intact, mostly because he has been consistent in getting 200+ innings of work each of the past six seasons. After three seasons of 6.50+ K/9, Arroyo’s strikeout rate dropped to 5.05 K/9 in 2010. Without 150-160 strikeouts a season like he was used to getting, Arroyo’s fantasy value drops dramatically. And while Arroyo held a 3.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, the decreased strikeout rate and an unsustainable .246 BABIP in 2010 suggests an increase in the rates of runs and hits allowed. Still, pencil him in for 200+ innings of decent value for your fantasy team, perhaps as a No. 3 or 4 starter for the standard 12-team league. Expect just under a 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and 130 strikeouts for the season. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Arroyo signed a three-year extension with the Reds, and will give you 200+ innings of work. However, his strikeout rate dropped in 2010, so expect just under a 4.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 2011.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/10/1985|
Profile: The Nationals acquired Atilano in the 2006 Daryle Ward trade, but he didn’t reach the Majors till last year. He pitched 85.2 innings in 16 starts in 2010, and his 5.15 ERA pretty adequately summed up his skill. He missed the last two and a half months of the year with bone chips in his elbow, the same elbow that was repaired by a 2006 Tommy John surgery. A former first-round pick in 2003, he now has a high-80s fastball that doesn’t miss bats, so he doesn’t pitch deep into games, and he’s a fly-ball pitcher who gives up more than one homer per nine innings. It’s to his credit that he reached the Majors after seven years in the minors, but he couldn’t strike out people on the farm either — in his minor-league career, he struck out 321 men in 604.1 innings. There’s just one word for a pitcher who meets his profile. Meat. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: A fly-ball pitcher who doesn’t miss bats or keep the ball in the park: basically, he’s a No. 7 starter.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/1/1983|
Profile: John Axford had a successful first year as the Brewers’ closer, no question, especially compared to the faltering Trevor Hoffman. An impressive 2.48 ERA and 1.19 WHIP line was the reward for astute fantasy owners who picked him up last May. Control issues for the fireballer were offset by an 11.9 K/9 and a microscopic 0.16 HR/9. Axford will almost certainly allow more than one home run every 58 major league innings, so don’t bank on a 2.4% HR/FB rate for the 2011 season. On the other hand, Axford allowed only 12 home runs in 239.2 innings of minor league play, so you can expect his home runs-allowed rate to regress upwards, but not by much. All that being said, always be wary of committing to a projected closer with little major league experience. If anything, Axford would suit well as your third closer at best, good for 25-30 saves and plenty of strikeouts. Don’t expect a 2.48 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP again though, 3.00 ERA and 1.30 WHIP should be more realistic given his minor league history. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Axford took over for long-time closer Trevor Hoffman and was very impressive. He should be good for 25-30 saves with plenty of strikeouts, but expect a 3.00+ ERA given his minor-league history.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/31/1984|
Profile: Pop quiz: name the closer for a Bay Area team who throws a hard fastball, but doesn’t sport a thick, artificially colored beard, flashy shoes or a mohawk. Yep, Oakland’s Andrew Bailey. Bailey may not have the attention-grabbing qualities of the closer on the other side of the Bay, but he followed his 2009 RoY campaign with a strong, if injury-shortened sophomore effort. In his profile last year, David Golebiewski warned against expecting another 1.84 ERA, but Bailey exceeded his 2009 figure with a 1.47 mark. Though he struck out fewer batters in 2010, Bailey kept his batted-ball rates right in line with the numbers he was in 2009, and racked up 24 saves despite the time he missed. The blemish on Bailey’s ’10 season was the time he missed with injuries, which was capped with a September trip to Dr. James Andrews with a sore elbow. Fortunately, he was given a clean bill of health after a clean-up procedure. Assuming his health holds up, Bailey should return to his spot as one of the league’s best closers, and rack up his share of saves. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Injuries were enough to slow him down, but they did not stop Bailey from joining the top class of closers.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/3/1986|
Profile: Homer Bailey, nicknamed “former top pitching prospect,” has improved a bit since his disastrous rookie season in 2007: he recorded 100 strikeouts in 109 innings in 2010. The improved strikeout rate may be enough to change opinions about what has turned out to be one of the major disappointments in pitching prospects. In his fourth season in the majors, Bailey recorded a 4.46 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The right-handed starter will start 2010 with a spot in the Reds’ crowded rotation, and he was hurt by a relatively unlucky .321 BABIP. Given his history in Triple-A and with the Reds, he hasn’t looked like the promising young pitcher that many expected him to be, albeit for a few flashes of brilliance here and there. Still, Bailey is only 25 years old, and his improved strikeout rate along with his decreased walk rate every season is encouraging. Until you see signs of sustained improvement against right-handed hitters that keep runs from scoring, expect another season of about 4.50 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Keep him on your watch list (especially if he remains healthy) but keep another eye on the state of the Reds’ rotation. Mike Leake may be knocking. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Bailey recorded 100 Ks in 109 innings in 2010 but also recorded a 4.46 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He is only 25 years old, but has yet to show signs of sustained improvement toward the pitcher many expected him to become.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/19/1981|
Profile: Baker is a nice starter that will help round out a fantasy pitching staff. None of his stats are going to be great, but they will not cost you much, either. His 2010 ERA was a bit higher than normal at 4.49, while his xFIP (4.02) and FIP (3.96) were half a point lower. This can be attributed to his BABIP of .329. His WHIP was also up to 1.34 in 2010 from 1.19 in 2009 because of this higher BABIP. His K/9 (7.07) and BB/9 (2.10) have been relatively constant through the years and there’s no reason for those to change. There’s also no reason not to expect double-digit wins, 150 Ks, an ERA of ~4.00, and a WHIP near 1.28. Baker should be drafted in all leagues, but not until the later rounds to fill out a pitching staff. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Baker is not flashy, but should be able to get his owner double-digit wins and 150 Ks.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/25/1985|
Profile: Middle relievers are usually a last resort option, but in terms of last resorts Daniel Bard ranks among the best. With an upper-90s fastball and a knee-buckling breaking ball, Bard can make fools of hitters as he sets them up for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Unfortunately, he does not rack up the saves, and therefore won’t be of elite value. In 2010 he had an incredible 1.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, along with the 12th-most strikeouts for a non-closer relief pitcher, so he’s not completely devoid of value. In a keeper league he might make sense, since he could take over for Papelbon in 2012. But barring injury or an unlikely trade, Bard will once again be in a setup role for 2011, thus hindering his value. He’ll likely go far higher in 2012 drafts. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Bard has the makings of an elite reliever, but he’s not quite an elite fantasy player yet because of his role. Until the Red Sox part ways with Jonathan Papelbon, which will most likely come after 2011, Bard will be a reliever who racks up strikeouts.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 5/15/1980|
Profile: The Red Sox lost a lot of players to injury in 2010, but perhaps none performed as poorly as Beckett when on the field. Bothered by a back strain that dogged him from May through July, Beckett put up an ugly 5.78 ERA in 127.2 innings, winning just six of 21 starts. The peripheral stats were fine though, 8.18 K/9 and 3.17 BB/9, down just a tad from recent years. The long ball became a bit of a bugaboo, with one ball leaving the yard for nearly every 6.2 IP. After establishing himself as a guy that could strike out close to a batter an inning and keep the walks limited to about two per nine, it’s easy to chalk up the poor 2010 effort to the injury. After all, it’s tough to throw a baseball the way you want to with a bad back. Expect the 30-year-old Beckett to rebound quite nicely in 2011, maybe not to 2007 through 2009 levels, but 15 wins, 180 strikeouts, an ERA at or below 4.00 with a WHIP hugging 1.20 is likely as long as the back holds up. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Beckett’s back killed his 2010 season, but if it holds up in 2011 he’s a safe bet to return to his previous performance levels. That’s not a small question mark though.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/29/1977|
Profile: Heath Bell has struck out more than double-digit batters for two straight seasons now, and has done so on the back of his excellent 94 mph fastball and tight curveball. Then again, anyone with a sub-two ERA has probably had some luck, and Bell’s sub-five HR/FB percentages over the past two years (1.6% last year!) would agree. Pitching in home run-suppressing Petco can help a pitcher. Bell keeps the ball on the ground okay (49.1% ground-ball rate for his career), so he’s not depending on the park… but it helps. Even with a few more home runs next year, he’ll most likely put up another sub-three ERA, close to 80 strikeouts and fewer than 30 walks. Honestly, it’s a struggle to say anything negative about this former Mets farmhand, and considering Mariano Rivera’s age, he might just be the first closer off the board in most drafts this year. He deserves it. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: An elite closer at the top of his game in the perfect home park — there’s little not to like about Heath Bell (other than the fact that he’s a pitcher and his value is subject to the health of his arm).
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/26/1977|
Profile: You know the story – a year ago, the Rays had Benoit in camp on a minor league contract, and after running a K/BB ratio of nearly 7/1, he’s now a highly compensated setup man for the Tigers. Benoit’s change-up is a fantastic weapon and plays off his velocity very well, so if he can stay healthy, he has the stuff to be a premier reliever. Given the erratic command of closer Jose Valverde, Benoit even has a pretty decent shot at closing games in 2011, which would give his value a significant boost. The problem is that he’s the opposite of an under-the-radar guy, and his story has been rehashed enough that everyone knows how good he is and that he’s got a legitimate chance at stealing the ninth inning job in Detroit. That means he’s not going to come cheap on draft day, and Valverde is solid enough that it could be money down the drain if Benoit never gets a crack at the closer’s role. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Big time strikeout relievers can have value even in setup roles, but if you’re buying Benoit at his projected price, you’re going to be paying for the expectation of some saves. Jose Valverde isn’t a lights out closer, but he’s good enough to make that a risky bet.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/29/1984|
Profile: While his decrease in strikeout rate gets most of the attention, his simultaneous decrease in walks generally goes unnoticed. While a loss of strikeouts can be a sign of decline, in Billingsley’s case, it appears to have been the result of a conscious decision to throw more strikes. The overall result was that Billingsley produced similar results to the rest of his career, even if the package was slightly different. Despite his reputation for inconsistency, his skillset is relatively stable, and you should expect roughtly 2.5 strikeouts for every walk and a ton of groundballs. That combination usually leads to high quality results, and while Billingsley is due for a spike in his home run rate, he’s good enough to survive a few extra long balls. He’s not a top tier pitcher, but he’s solidly in the second group of National League starters, and he’s better than many people perceive. He could be a solid value on draft day. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Steadier than he’s given credit for, you can pencil Billingsley in for 200 innings of good performance. Don’t expect ace production, but you probably won’t have to pay ace prices in order to get him.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/24/1982|
Profile: If it wasn’t for the results of two months in 2010, Blackburn would have looked like he did the first two years of his career when he was 11-11 in each season with almost 100 strikeouts. Here is how his 2010 season broke down: April/May: 6-1 4.28 ERA, June/Jul: 1-6 10.05 ERA, Aug/Oct: 4-5 3.16 ERA. The main problem he faced in 2010 is his K/9 rate dropping by 0.5 and his BB/9 increasing by 0.5 from 2009 to 2010. He seemed to right the ship in the last few months after spending about a month in Triple-A. Even if Blackburn is able to put up numbers similar to 2009 in 2011, he really has little value expect in possibly AL-only and deep-mixed leagues. He rarely strikes anyone out and his main value will be from the wins he gets. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Besides accumulating a some wins, Blackburn’s fantasy value is fairly low.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/11/1980|
Profile: The burly right-hander is still a Phillie for now, but not for lack of trying. The team wants to get rid of him to make room for Cliff Lee’s salary, because they owe him $17 million for the next two years and he’s league average at best. He’s not awful — Dave Cameron has noted that he’s got similar numbers to Carl Pavano — but he isn’t good: he doesn’t strike out a ton of people, he gives up a lot of hits (his .273 career batting average-against helps inflate his career WHIP to 1.34); he’s homer-prone; and he hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2007, when it was 3.95. In three of his five full seasons, he’s posted an ERA above 4.60. He is a generally reliable innings-eater (though he hasn’t recorded a complete game in three years), but it’s hard to be much more complimentary than that. Just by showing up, he’s usually good for low double-digit wins, around 190 innings pitched, and an ERA somewhere north of four. Give him credit for consistency. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Just by showing up, he’s usually good for low double-digit wins, around 190 innings pitched, and an ERA somewhere north of four. Give him credit for consistency.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 10/28/1982|
Profile: As of this writing, Bonderman is still unemployed, and his future is still to be determined. While he’s still got a bit of shine left from his days as a top prospect and a good young pitcher in Detroit, his arm problems and inflated ERAs have given teams pause when deciding whether or not to guarantee Bonderman a job in a major league rotation. In fact, given his complete inability to get left-handed batters out, his best role may be in the bullpen. If used in situations where he could use his slider to go after right-handed hitters with regularity, Bonderman could become a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen. This is a legitimate possibility, and one you should factor in before drafting him as a cheap flyer to fill out your rotation. While he’ll almost certainly find a team willing to give him an invitation to spring training, you might want to view him as a reliever. If he lands on a team with uncertainties at closer, he might end up being a source of saves in the second half of the year. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A good arm who probably needs to move to the bullpen to revive his career. Don’t view him as a long term starting option.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/13/1983|
Profile: In a couple ways, Dallas Braden is similar to Gio Gonzalez. Braden’s media spat with Alex Rodriguez and his subsequent perfect game made his name memorable. That will have the tendency to push his draft stock higher than his actual fantasy or baseball value is worth. On the field, however, Braden offers very few strikeouts and, though he managed a 3.50 ERA in 2010, his xFIP was a whopping 4.41, suggesting that his ERA might rise past the level where it was worth paying for in 2011. He can be of use if you only need to fill innings. Beyond that he is merely a spot starter to pick up off waivers when facing the right kind of offense, one which has little power. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Dallas Braden is very valuable to you if your league counts perfect games and you have access to a time machine. Otherwise, not so much.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1984|
Profile: Broxton wasn’t quite the force of prior seasons in 2010, with declining numbers in almost every category, not only from his superlative 2009 performance, but from his career averages as well. This is worth noting when bidding on Broxton, especially since the Dodgers have a tremendous setup man in Hon-Chih Kuo who could easily close. Having said that, Broxton is set to be the closer for 2011, and there are signs that 2010 was partly due to bad luck, particularly with respect to balls in play. Broxton remains an elite closer, and should bounce back to post a season better than he did in 2010. Just don’t expect him to repeat 2009. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Broxton should pitch better in 2011 than he did in 2010. He’s still an elite closer, but there are some warning signs, as well.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/14/1984|
Profile: Prior to 2010, Buchholz was amassing more and more doubters. He silenced most of them with a 2.33 ERA and 17 wins for the Red Sox. However, his peripherals don’t indicate that his 2010 was anything close to sustainable. His numbers look different than they did when he was first called up to the Bigs a few years ago. In 2007 and 2008, Buchholz was striking out almost a batter an inning, and relying heavily on his changeup and curveball. Now, his K/9 is sitting around 6.5, and he’s put more faith in his slider and has almost abandoned the curveball all together. While the strikeout rate has dropped, his walk rate really hasn’t, leaving him with a K/BB rate consistently under 2.0. As Buchholz has matured, we’ve seen his fastball velocity jump up a tick every year. That’s not to say that he’ll continue to gain velocity next season, but increased velocity could equal more strikeouts for the righty if he’d commit to using his heater more often. Buchholz is in line for some series regression in 2011, so paying for his 2010 shouldn’t be in your plans on draft day. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Prior to 2010, Buchholz was amassing more and more doubters. He silenced most of them 2.33 ERA and 17 wins for the Red Sox. However, his peripherals don’t indicate that his 2010 was anything close to sustainable.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/23/1979|
Profile: Mark Buehrle is perhaps the most consistent pitcher this decade, averaging 222 innings=pitched since 2001. Because of his stable spot in the rotation, he has had double-digit wins in all of those seasons, as well. Not that Buehrle was ever a big strikeout pitcher, but what should concern fantasy owners is his drop in strikeout rate, from 5.76 K/9 in 2008 to 4.24 K/9 in 2010. Buehrle’s 2010 ERA was above 4.00 for the third time in a decade, and as his age continues moving on the wrong side of 30, there’s reason to believe that it may stay that way. In the ML-wide home-run drought of 2010, Buehrle held batters to only 0.73 HR/9, but don’t bank on those numbers again as he has been about average in allowing home-runs throughout his career. Buehrle is a safe pick with almost nil injury risk for a lefty who won’t net you more than 120 strikeouts. And since he may post numbers north of a 4.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, be wary of overvaluing Buehrle in the draft as your competitors may think of doing. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Buehrle has averaged 222 innings since 2001, but his drops in strikeout rate the past two seasons is concerning. He is a safe pick with a 4.28 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in 2010, but won’t net you more than 120 strikeouts anymore.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/1/1989|
Profile: There was a fair bit made early on in the season about Bumgarner’s drop in velocity but he posted a 3.66 FIP in 18 MLB starts as a 21-year-old. He showed okay velocity in the Majors. The lefty displayed outstanding control (2.11 BB/9) but his sub-7.00 K/9 strikeout rate does create some cause for concern from a fantasy perspective. An increased ground-ball rate would help his numbers in 2011. Bumgarner struggled with his fastball command in his debut but flashed solid secondary pitches, which allow him to succeed even when his heater isn’t perfect. Bumgarner also showed outstanding composure in the playoffs and he should continue to get better with experience. He’ll be a solid NL-only pitching option for 2011 but you’ll want to be cautious in mixed leagues; don’t invest too heavily in his sophomore season. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Bumgarner’s stuff has fluctuated throughout his pro career, which is worrisome to a degree. However, he handled himself admirably during fall ball and won’t wilt under the pressure of The Show.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/3/1977|
Profile: The 2010 season was disappointing for everyone involved here, meaning Burnett, the Yankees, and fantasy owners. His strikeout rate plummeted to just 6.99 per nine innings, down almost two full strikeouts from 2009 and about a K and a half from his career rate. The good news is that his walk and home-run rates were right in line with his career averages (not that they’re great), and the batted-ball profile was pretty consistent with the last few years as well. The drop in strikeout rate has to do with the decreased effectiveness of Burnett’s curveball more than fastball velocity, which was still humming at well over 93 mph on average. The curve, which consistently rated as 1.5 runs above average for every 100 thrown in recent years, fell to half a run below average in 2010. The Yankees have a good enough offense and bullpen to give Burnett double-digit wins, but his value will be limited until he cranks the strikeout rate back up. If the curveball is working in 2011, he’ll be good for 180+ strikeouts and an ERA in the low-4.00s — a good, but not elite, fantasy option. Just proceed with caution. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The lack of strikeouts really hurt Burnett in 2010 and it was all due to a severe drop in the effectiveness of his curveball. A little LOB% rate regression should have his ERA back in the mid-4.00’s, but as has been the story of Burnett’s career, the potential for more is there.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/9/1979|
Profile: If you’re reading this, you’re almost definitely reading it on Bush’s player page at FanGraphs. And if that is the case, please take a moment to get familiar with Bush’s 2006 season. Pretty great, right? The high ERA (4.41) disguises the underlying excellence you’ll find there: 7.11 K/9, 1.63 BB/9, 46.6 GB%, 3.76 xFIP, 3.8 WAR in 210.0 IP. No, it’s not quite Cy-caliber, but definitely an exciting year from a pitcher in his age-26 season. Now go ahead and look at all of Bush’s seasons since then. Mostly depressing, no? Generally fewer strikeouts, generally more walks, definitely fewer grounders. That’s not what one would generally call a “recipe for success.” The last thing Bush had going for him — from a fantasy perspective, at least — is that he was a starter for a team with an excellent offense. Now, that’s not necessarily the case: as of press time, Bush is a free agent. His most likely role is as a swingman. Maybe a change of teams helps his performance, but it’s not something to count. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is free-agent as of press time. Most likely role is as swingman. Not a draft option.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/1/1988|
Profile: The best 2010 ERA by a qualified starter in the American League with a strikeout rate lower than six-per-nine was Trevor Cahill, at 2.97. Second on that list was teammate Dallas Braden (at 3.50), so asking if the park gave the two mid-rotation mates front-of-the-rotation superficial stats makes sense. The park did suppress offense (here, wOBA) by five percent for left-handed batters and seven percent for right-handed batters. The thing that Cahill has over his teammate, though, is an elite skill. Cahill’s 56% ground-ball rate was third in the AL among qualified starters, and he’s always been a sinker-baller, so it’s probably a repeatable skill. And while he didn’t strike out many (5.4 K/9), he did strike out over eight per nine in his final two minor league stops and has some upside there. Cahill could easily improve his underlying skills — strike more batters out and even improve the ground-ball percentage — but put up a season that looks worse in terms of wins and ERA. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Cahill is an exciting young ground-ball pitcher with enough upside to suggest he will improve his true-talent work in the upcoming season. Just remember that his true-talent level last year was much closer to league average than his 18 wins and 2.97 ERA seemed to suggest.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/1/1984|
Profile: Matt Cain has been pitching regularly since 2006, has accrued over a thousand innings, has a career ERA in the mid-threes, and didn’t give up a run in the postseason as the Giants won it all. And yet, the numbers crowd remains suspicious. Look at his strikeout rate (7.44 K/9 career) and ground-ball rate (36.3% career), and you’ll understand the sentiment: he’s a fly-baller without elite strikeout ability. Sure, he has good control (2.46 BB/9 last year, 3.37 career), but the numbers don’t really add up. His career ERA (3.45) is a full run below his career xFIP (4.43), for crying out loud. The key to outperforming your peripherals every year of your career, it seems, is playing in a nice home park and coaxing plenty of infield fly balls (16.4% last year, 12.9% career, less than 10% across baseball). Whether or not this is a repeatable skill is a matter of some (intense) debate, but Cain has proved again and again that he is able to be a strong mid-rotation pitching in fantasy leagues of any shape or size. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Over one thousand innings into his career, perhaps we can agree that Matt Cain is an outlier? Wether it’s the ‘fro or the infield flies, he’s managed to outperform his peripherals so far, and betting against him seems like folly.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/3/1983|
Profile: Capps was having a great year as the closer for Washington and, once traded to Minnesota, he continued this dominance. He was fifth in the Majors with 42 saves and a great ERA of 2.47. With this dominating 2010, he still has two huge question marks existing for the 2011 season. The first is “Which Matt Capps will show up?” The Capps that had the great 2010? or the one that posted a 5.80 ERA (4.90 FIPs and 4.37 xFIPs) in 2009 with the Pirates? The 2009 numbers may be attributed to elbow problems. Also, he missed 45 days at the end of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. The injuries may now be in his past or they could come back. The second main issue surrounding him is what his role will be when Joe Nathan returns. The veteran closer should expect to begin pitching sometime during spring training. It has been stated that Nathan will be given back the closer’s role when he returns. Without being able to get saves, Capps’ value drops quite a bit. Fantasy owners should track Joe Nathan’s status closely and draft Capps accordingly. If Nathan looks like he will be available for the start of the season, Capps’ value will be little and should be available in the late rounds of a draft. If Nathan is not ready for the season, Capps’ value will be much higher, as he is able to take the saves until Nathan returns. The best strategy is to draft both so you will get the saves no matter what. Nathan can be stashed in a DL slot until he is ready, at which point owners can then decide what to do with Capps. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Capps was a great closer in 2010, but a couple issues surround him for 2011 — most notably the impending return of Joe Nathan.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/7/1983|
Profile: After two injury-ravaged seasons featuring walk rates north of five per nine innings pitched, Carmona stayed healthy, re-discovered his control and returned to fantasy relevance in 2010. Compared to the MLB average, Carmona’s number of pitches thrown within the strike zone was 0.6% below average in 2008 and 6.7% below average in 2009. This past year, he was 3% above the big-league average. Avoiding so many hitter’s counts, Carmona sliced his walk rate to 3.08 BB/9. He didn’t punch out a lot of batters (5.31 K/9), but with good control and ample grounders (55.6 GB%) he posted a 4.39 expected FIP in well over 200 innings. You’ll note that Carmona’s xFIP is considerably higher than his actual 3.77 ERA — odds are, he’s not going to keep a BABIP in the mid-.280s (his career BABIP is .299), or surrender a homer a little over 8% of a team an opponent lifts the ball against him (career 10 HR/FB%). Still, it was a nice bounceback season, and he had three pitches working. Carmona’s sinker was godawful in ’08 and ’09 (-1.18 runs per 100 pitches), but it was +0.16 runs/100 pitches in 2010, and his changeup (+1.10) and slider (+0.52) rated in well, too. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Carmona is once again draftable, though he’s not the same guy who burst on to the scene in 2007 — his ground-ball rate doesn’t sit in the mid-60s these days, and he doesn’t have quite the same level of control. Owners should spend a pick expecting a low- to mid-fours ERA in 2011.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 4/27/1975|
Profile: Few pitchers have shown the ability to rebound from major injuries like Carpenter. He battled shoulder issues back in his Blue Jays days before becoming a Cy Young Award winner in St. Louis, and a few years ago he had Tommy John surgery only to return and perform brilliantly. The 2010 season was his second full season removed from surgery, and all he did was pitch to a 3.22 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 235 innings for the redbirds. Carpenter’s always been a ground ball guy (consistently over 50% in his career), so the strikeout totals are good but not great (6.86 K/9 in 2010, 6.73 in 2009), though he’ll win plenty of games during the course of the season (16 last year, 17 the year before). The question here is health, as always. Carpenter’s going to be 36 in early April, so his body might not agree with the idea of 200+ innings anymore. The projection systems available on FanGraphs call for another low-3.00’s ERA and plenty of W’s, but you have to hedge your bets a little when it comes to his ability to stay on the field. Carpenter’s fantastic, but definitely as risky as ever. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Carpenter is undeniably brilliant, though he’s getting up there in age and his health becomes even more of a question. He’s still an asset to any fantasy team, but there’s some risk.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/2/1986|
Profile: Cecil, 24, wasn’t a fantasy stud in 2010 despite 15 wins. His strikeout rate was just 6.10 K/9 and his ERA sat at 4.22. Cecil succeeded by receiving solid run support while also producing average rates (hits allowed, ground-ball rate, home-run rate). He did, though, display above-average control (2.81 BB/9) for a sophomore hurler. With the trade of Shaun Marcum, Cecil will slide up one spot in the starting rotation and will face higher expectations in 2011. After pitching 183.2 innings in ’10, the lefty should be good for 200 innings, if he can stay healthy. If he can continue to show improvements in his four-pitch repertoire in 2011, Cecil could see improvements in his strikeout rate, which will improve his fantasy value. As is, he has value in AL-only leagues but is a late-round pick in mixed leagues. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Cecil won 15 games but didn’t post great secondary numbers. He should improve in 2011 but he’s probably not more than an AL-only contributor.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 1/7/1988|
Profile: Chacin has positioned himself to be a key mid-round fantasy pick in 2011 despite playing half his games in Colorado. The right-hander’s rookie season saw him post a 3.28 ERA and his FIP implies that it wasn’t a fluke. Chacin struggled a bit with his control, but his 9.04 K/9 rate suggests big strikeout numbers could be on the menu for 2011 (with an increase in innings). Despite his control issues, Chacin posted a solid WHIP because he limited the hits allowed; expect a little regression in the WHIP. Colorado should be cautious with Chacin in ’11 so don’t expect more than 180-190 innings. With a little luck, the youngster has the talent to win 12-15 games and is a great sleeper — especially if he can improve his fastball command to go along with two solid breaking balls. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Chacin could be a breakout candidate in mixed-league formats. He may also be underrated in NL-only leagues if the Colorado stigma remains.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/23/1985|
Profile: Middle relievers are only as valuable as their strikeouts will allow, so in that way Joba Chamberlain ranks among the best. He ranked 11th among non-closer relievers in strikeouts. Still, that doesn’t mean much when combined with his 4.40 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. The only chance he’ll get for saves is if Mariano Rivera gets hurt, and even then it’s not clear that he’d be the man to take over. He’d first have to establish himself as being back to around his 2008 levels. If he does that he can be valuable in terms of ERA and strikeouts, but not much else. In other words, unless you have a free roster spot and can’t think of anyone to fill it, Joba might be your man. But there will assuredly be a more valuable player on the board. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Being blocked by Mariano Rivera usually means few save opportunities. Chamberlain can still strike out hitters, but, without save opportunities he’s an emergency only option.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/28/1988|
Profile: The Reds organization has been coy about how it plans to utilize Chapman in 2011. It’s clear, though, that he’s MLB-ready as a reliever and probably doesn’t need too much time in the minors to succeed as a big-league starter. His 100+ mph fastball gives him a massive weapon against NL hitters, especially when he’s flashing average to above-average command; he actually showed pretty good control of his fastball and slider but he didn’t use his changeup in the Majors. Chapman showed an exciting mixed of top strikeout numbers (12.82 K/9) and outstanding ground-ball rate (73%). He has the opportunity to become an impact closer as a young pitcher — much like Neftali Feliz in Texas — but incumbent stopper Francisco Cordero stands in his way. A set-up role will kill his fantasy value. Chapman is a player that you’ll want to follow very closely in the spring. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Chapman has the potential to be an impact pitcher at the MLB level in 2011 in either the rotation or the bullpen. However, Francisco Cordero stands in his way in the ‘pen and his fantasy value will be muted as a setup man. Owners should snap him up if Cordero is traded or Chapman gets converted to the starting rotation.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 6/19/1977|
Profile: Perhaps the most underrated unintentional comedy moment of the offseason was the news that Bruce Chen was looking for a multi-year deal. After not pitching at all in 2008, Chen signed a minor-league deal with the Royals for 2009, was terrible, got brought back to Kansas on another minor-league deal in 2010, and had an enjoyable 23 start ride, finishing with a respectable 4.17 ERA. Was he a different pitcher in 2010? No. He still had the same strikeout and walk numbers to go with a high fly-ball rate, he simply got luckier on batted balls and on home runs leaving the park. He re-signed with KC and will compete for a starting rotation spot in the spring but don’t fall for it, unless an ERA around 5.00 is good in your league. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Bruce Chen had a nice mini-comeback with the Royals in 2010, but don’t be the person in your league who succumbs to the lure of Sweet Chen Music.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/19/1982|
Profile: Based on his three pitch repertoire, the Tigers have decided to convert Phil Coke into a starting pitcher, and he’s currently penciled in as their #4 starter. It’s easy to point to C.J. Wilson as an example of another left-handed bullpen guy who made a successful conversion, but I am not as optimistic about Coke’s chances of making it work. His numbers out of the bullpen were decent but not special, and almost all of his success has come against left-handed batters. His career 5.19 xFIP against right-handed bats does not inspire much confidence that he’ll be able to attack line-ups full of RHBs, and with limited opportunities to punch out left-handed hitters, his strikeout rate will likely fall dramatically. As a fly ball pitcher, he needs strikeouts to succeed, and I’m not sure there’s enough stuff there to routinely blow right-handed hitters away. Unless his change-up takes a big step forward, I think the Tigers had him where he belonged in the first place. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Don’t pay for C.J. Wilson 2.0 – you’ll likely end up very disappointed. Coke has a big hill to climb, and given his performance out of the bullpen, he’s not prepared to face line-ups stacked with right-handed bats.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/3/1987|
Profile: After 21 starts at Triple-A Iowa, Casey Coleman broke into the big leagues with the Cubs with 12 appearances (eight starts) in the past two months of the season. Outside of one season in the low minors, Coleman never thrived on the strikeout, instead pitching to contact. That tendency showed itself at the Major League level, as Coleman struck out 4.3 batters per nine innings while waking 4.0 en route to a 4.11 ERA. Typically, seeing those first two numbers begin with a four begins with the third beginning in a five or a six, but nobody could get the ball out of the yard against Coleman. Although Coleman does have ground-ball tendencies, he’s not the kind of elite ground-baller (think good Fausto Carmona) who can live on such mediocre K/BB levels. Unless he limits the walks, the amount of baserunners, contact, and home runs he allows will combine to keep him from becoming a MLB quality pitcher. As far as fantasy value goes, Coleman is simply not an option for 2011, and despite his solid debut, there are other young pitchers that are far more worth your time. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Casey Coleman looked good in a cup of coffee last season, but he doesn’t strike enough batters out nor have the ground-ball abilities to truly compete at the MLB level right now.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 2/8/1979|
Profile: Cook does one thing that we all like to see: he consistently gets ground balls at a high rate. Other than that, he isn’t Cookin’ up anything to get excited about. We know pitchers can survive with a high groun-ball rate and a low strikeout rate, but Cook is going about it all wrong. Cook has only had one season with a league-average K/BB ratio, and he had one of his worst rates in 2010. Other than his power sinker, Cook doesn’t have another pitch he can consistently rely on, leading to problems when he’s ahead in the count. While he doesn’t deserve an ERA over 5.00, an ERA around 4.50 with a low strikeout rate and poor WHIP is what you’re going to get. Unless he can somehow manage to get enough run support for 15 or more wins, he’s not worth your time in 2011. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Cook can certainly get ground balls, but that’s about all he can do. His value will be tied in with how much run support he receives, so he’s not worth your time.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 5/11/1975|
Profile: At this point, the Reds are just waiting for the other shoe to drop with Cordero. Last year saw his peripherals continue to decline, as he struck out only 7.3 batters per nine innings while walking 4.5. His only legitimate skill as a pitcher is his ability to limit home runs, but that may be just what it takes to make him just productive enough to retain his closer role in Cincinnati. If he does, another 40-save year is certainly a possibility. However, Cordero is no longer the kind of relief pitcher who helps in more than just the saves category. At 35, age appears to be catching up to “Coco.” Look for an ERA in the 3.50-4.00 range, a modest 7.5 K/9, and a high WHIP due to his propensity for the walk. Cordero’s a good bet for saves, but he’s not the kind of guy who should go in the early closer rush. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Cordero still racks up the saves, but age might be catching up to him. His peripheral numbers are falling, and he shouldn’t come off the board in the initial closer rush.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/3/1982|
Profile: Corpas picked up 10 saves while Huston Street battled shoulder issues early in the 2010, but he won’t have that opportunity in 2011: he underwent Tommy John surgery in September and was released by the Rockies after the season. He hasn’t found a home as of this writing but it won’t matter anyway: the surgery will keep him out for basically all of 2011. Corpas’ peripheral stats were never jaw dropping (6.48 K/9, 2.52 BB/9) and he instead survived on a ground-ball rate approaching 50%. The injury more than anything makes him a fantasy afterthought for next season. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Corpas is a fantasy afterthought in 2011 because he underwent Tommy John surgery in September, and it’s expected to keep him on the shelf all season.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/24/1980|
Profile: Take a cursory look at Correia’s stats from the past two years, and you’ll come away thinking he was a quality starter in 2009 and a punching bag this past season. But, despite a jump in ERA from 3.91 to 5.40, he was the same caliber of pitcher in both campaigns with the Padres. The way in which he got his results was different — Correia’s K rate rose from 6.45 per nine to 7.14, he issued more walks (2.91 BB/9 in ’09, 3.97 BB/9 in ’10) and his ground-ball rate increased from 44.8% to 48.9%. However, his xFIP was nearly unchanged, coming in at 4.19 in ’09 and 4.20 in 2010. So why the bloated ERA? Correia’s home-run per fly-ball rate shot up to 14.8%, compared to his 10.1% career rate and the 10-11% MLB average. The Pirates signed the 29-year-old to a two-year deal over the winter. PNC Park’s no PETCO, but it’s a slight pitcher’s park, and Correia will almost assuredly surrender fewer homers next year. On the downside, Pittsburgh’s defenders don’t figure to do him any favors. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Correia’s ERA should be closer to 4.50 than 5.50 in 2011, which makes him a perfectly acceptable back-of-the-rotation arm for Pittsburgh. Mixed-leaguers should be more ambitious, though — he’s just an emergency fill-in outside of NL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/15/1986|
Profile: Johnny Cueto has improved dramatically every season since his 2008 debut, decreasing his ERA and WHIP each year (4.81 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 2008, 3.64 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 2010). The season-by-season improvement is further heightened by the consistent league-average BABIP Cueto has put up, suggesting that Cueto’s improvements are more ability-related than luck-related. A closer look at Cueto’s rate statistics reveals that he has improved his walk rate and home-run rate every season toward a decent 2.71 BB/9 and 0.92 HR/9 in 2010. Add all of this to the fact that Cueto had 30+ starts and 170+ innings pitched in each of the past three seasons and you have a consistent and effective starter who has shown improvement and “earned” his sleeper status. Pencil him in for 175 IP, 3.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 140 strikeouts. Good, not great, but useful for any fantasy-team rotation considering the upside. Cueto will be 25 years old come Opening Day. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Cueto has improved dramatically since his 2008 debut, posting a 3.64 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 2010. He has improved his walk and HR-allowed rates every season, and has consistently pitched 170+ innings with 130+ Ks.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985|
Profile: A couple of years ago, Danks looked like he was about to become a pitching superstar. Although he’s certainly been good since then, it looks like he’s settling into being an above-average pitcher. He does a good job of avoiding the walk, but his strikeout rate is only around average. He does seem to have a bit of a knack for having an ERA below his peripherals despite an unexceptional ground-ball rate, although he also was probably a bit lucky on fly balls staying in the park in 2010. He isn’t an ace, but Danks is a good pitcher who should be drafted in all leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Danks isn’t a superstar, but he’s a good starter who can help you team in all categories and should have value in all leagues.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983|
Profile: Davies has a low fantasy value because he really has few, if any, useful fantasy traits. He walks too many batters. His BB/9 in 2010 was 3.92, which was actually significantly down from his 2009 number of 4.83. Of the starters with more than 160 inning pitched in 2010, he had the fourth worst BB/9 in the league. This high walk total and the Royals’ horrible defense and offense leads to pitchers with inadequate fantasy stats. Davies’ ERA is going to be high with all the runners he puts on base via the walk. The Royals’ defense is one of the league’s worst, so there will be more baserunners than if he pitched somewhere else. These runners will eventually come around and score. This can be seen by his high ERAs 5.27 and 5.34 each of the last two seasons, respectively. The Royals’ offense will not be able to score enough runs to make up for the runs Davies allows, so his win total is going to be muted to probably somewhere under eight wins. He does have a reasonable strikeout rate of just over 6.00 K/9, but this cannot make up for his other categories. There’s no reason to draft Davies, even in deep-mixed or AL-only leagues. There just seems that there are too many other options. Maybe monitor his early-season progress and see if he can keep from walking people. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Davies’ high walk rate is destroying any fantasy value he has currently. Look for pitching help elsewhere.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/7/1985|
Profile: The Rays have more young pitching than they know what to do with, and the latest hurler to join their rotation full-time was the 25-year-old Davis in 2010. He was able to rebound after a slow start (5.03 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 5.95 RA in his first 11 stars) and finish the season strong, with a 3.55 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in his final 18 starts. Davis’ strikeout rate didn’t improve much (6.11 K/9 down the stretch) during the course of the year, but that’s not uncommon for young pitchers in their first full season as a big leaguer, especially in the AL East. A shoulder strain interrupted his August, but Davis showed no ill effects in September. A normal development arc would expect him to improve next year, which could mean a similar ERA (4.07) but improved WHIP and strikeout numbers. Double-digit wins are also likely as long as he stays healthy. Davis is an excellent fantasy sleeper candidate as a back-end starter on what should be a solid team. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: A lack of strikeouts and a bout of homeritis held Davis back in 2010, but he figures to improve in 2011 and is a great sleeper candidate.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/5/1981|
Profile: Once referred to as “The Mexican John Rocker”, de la Rosa has always been something of an enigma. Even as he’s matured into a quality starting pitcher, he’s continued to befuddle. His high strikeout and groundball rates show the tools to be an elite starting pitcher, but his ERA has consistently been higher than his FIP would suggest. He’s the kind of pitcher who is often labeled as a breakout candidate, because the talent is better than the results have shown, but sometimes, these guys just never get it. When you add in the high risk that comes with pitchers who throw a lot of pitches to get through the line-up three times, and de la Rosa is probably going to be overvalued in most leagues. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: He’s an above average starting pitcher, but don’t pay a price that reflects the potential to be great.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/3/1977|
Profile: Dempster’s return to the rotation continues to be a success in Chicago. He hasn’t quite repeated the 17-6, 2.96 ERA season that he posted in 2008, but he continues to be an above-average starter. The futility of the Cubs resulted in a mediocre 11 wins, but the rest was still there. Dempster’s ERA was a decent 3.85, and his 208 Ks were only one behind his career high. His weakness is a moderately above-average walk rate, which results in a slightly worse WHIP than the league average. Dempster is entering his age-34 season next year, so he’s a bit of an attrition risk by default. However, Dempster’s been good enough the last three years that it shouldn’t dissuade you from drafting him. He should be above average in ERA, Ks, roughly average in wins (with potential for more), and slightly below average in WHIP. He’s not a guy you want as an anchor in your fantasy rotation, but he should be able to help in any league. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Dempster is entering his age-34 season, but he’s been a reliable starter for Chicago for the past three seasons. Expect Dempster to help you out in ERA and Ks and possibly wins, with not much to offer in WHIP.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/6/1986|
Profile: Former top draft-pick Ross Detwiler hasn’t shown much in his first 100 big-league innings. He’ll turn 25 in March, and he won’t get too many more second chances after 2011. He missed most of 2010 with hip injuries, starting the year on the DL and then returning to the DL in August. But he wasn’t having a good year. He was a strikeout pitcher in the minors, but his strikeouts have dropped precipitously in the majors, as his strikeout to walk ratio has dropped from 2.32 to 1.30. He isn’t assured a rotation spot, either, as the Nationals have pursued Carl Pavano and other free-agent pitchers. Unless he has a scorching spring, he may start out the season in the bullpen, and, unless he can push his strikeouts to where they were in the minors, he might have to stay there. Detwiler has the talent to stick — or at least he once did — but without the ability to miss bats, it’s hard to recommend him. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: He’ll turn 25 in March, and he won’t get too many more second chances after 2011. Detwiler has the talent to stick — or at least he once did — but without the ability to miss bats, it’s hard to recommend him.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 10/29/1974|
Profile: Ahh, knuckleballers. They’re fun to watch, annoying as anything to hit against, and essentially impossible to project. In 2008 and 2009, Dickey failed to land his knuckler in the strike zone with any frequency, so opposing hitters just let him fall behind in the count and then whacked his “fastball”. Last year, he inexplicably cut his walk rate in half, and voila, instant ace. Can he do it again? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. Flip a coin, roll the dice, consult a medium, or just pick an auction value out of a hat, and it’s all about equally likely to lead you to the right answer. Dickey showed last year that he can be tough to hit when the knuckler is floating, but we already knew that. Can he keep dancing it around the strike zone for another 35 starts? We’ll find out. If you’re into betting big on wild guesses, Dickey is the pitcher for you. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: The ultimate wild card. He could be good, he could be lousy, he could be anything in between. Bid accordingly.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 11/25/1973|
Profile: Octavio comes from the Latin “Octavius,” meaning “eighth.” Dotel started 2010 with the Pirates, his eighth team. Coincidence? Probably, yes — especially as the reliever proceeded to play with his ninth and 10th teams (the Dodgers and Rockies, respectively) before the season was over. At the end of December, Dotel signed with his 11th team, the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom he may, or may not, close games in 2011. Though one can’t say for sure why Dotel’s gotten around so prolifically, here’s a theory, at least: his ground-ball rate of 31.8% since 2002 (i.e. for as long as such numbers are available) is one of the lowest in the Majors over that stretch. That leaves Dotel open to conceding homers — and, hence, runs — in bunches. Fantasy owners have to deal with the same concerns, especially as Dotel enters a hostile division and home park. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Insofar as he’ll be closing games for Toronto, he’ll be valuable. Fly-ball-heavy approach makes him susceptible to homers, runs.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/17/1976|
Profile: Downs was one of the cornerstones of the Blue Jays’ bullpen from 2006 to 2010, but left as a free agent to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While In Toronto, Downs saw small stints as the Blue Jays’ closer, but never pitched well enough to hold down the job for long. Being a lefty didn’t help his cause, either, as some teams are reluctant to have a southpaw consistently finish games. Not Mike Scioscia, though, who used Brian Fuentes as the Angels’ primary closer during the past couple seasons. However, Scioscia has quite a few options in the back end of his bullpen, and as many as five relievers could be in the mix for saves this year. Even if he can’t lock down the ninth-inning job, Downs is still worth a pick in every league. He’s been a consistently good pitcher for awhile now, and should pay off for owners with at least a handful of saves and a good strikeout rate. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Downs was a very good reliever in Toronto, and could be the Angels’ closer this year. Even if he doesn’t get the ninth-inning job, he’s still worth a pick in every league.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/8/1987|
Profile: After spending a successful season with Toronto’s AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Kyle Drabek appears ready for the big leagues. He’s not a complete product yet, but considering the Blue Jays position he could certainly earn a spot in the rotation out of spring training. In fact, the Blue Jays essentially opened one for him by trading Shaun Marcum. There will be competition, but Drabek could be the guy. In terms of what to expect, it’s tough to project a player with so little major league experience. In the minors he flashed an average strikeout rate and a quality walk rate, which, combined with a two-seamer that can generate ground balls, should make him formidable in ERA and WHIP categories, if not strikeouts. He might be too risky to take in a draft, but keep an eye on him. Even if he doesn’t make the Opening Day rotation he’ll be up soon enough. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: As with all rookies, it’s tough to peg Kyle Drabek’s potential performance in 2011. If he doesn’t start the year in the bigs then he’ll be up soon enough, so he might be more of a waiver watcher than a late-round draftee.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/22/1983|
Profile: Brian Duensing should feel right at home on the Twins. He’s a low-walk, low-strikeout guy who relies on inducing poor contact, particularly in the form of ground balls, in order to retire hitters. That worked smashingly last year, as Duensing first dominated during his 85.2 relief innings and turned that into 45 successful innings as a starter. The Twins have six starters heading into the season, so there is a chance that Duensing starts in the bullpen again. Even if he does, he’ll be pitching in the rotation soon enough. His low walk rate should help keep his WHIP down, and while he won’t help you at all in terms of strikeouts — Joba Chamberlain had one fewer strikeout in almost 60 fewer innings — but his combination of high ground balls and low walks should help provide value in other areas. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Brian Duensing might not rank atop any fantasy owner’s wish list, but he can help in a number of categories, including ERA and WHIP. Just don’t count on him for strikeouts of any kind.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/19/1983|
Profile: A decent back-end starter under the best of circumstances, Duke was dogged by a combination of shoddy defenders and poor luck in 2010. He pitched somewhat differently, recording his highest strikeout rate (5.43 K/9) since 2005 and the highest walk rate (2.89 BB/9) of his career, but Duke was still basically the same finesse lefty relying on DP-starting ground balls (48 GB%) and good control to compensate for shrug-inducing stuff. However, his ERA soared to 5.72 due to the second-highest BABIP (.347) among starters with 150+ innings pitched, a 65.5% strand rate (69.9% career average) and a 13.7% home-run per fly-ball rate (10% career average). Compounding matters, he missed nearly a month with a strained elbow. If Duke had fewer bloops falling for hits, better luck keeping runners from crossing the plate and a few less warning-track shots finding the bleachers, it would have been hard to tell 2010 from his past work — Duke’s expected FIP was 4.48. Traded to Arizona in November, Duke will be better in 2011. But the move to Chase Field won’t do him any favors. According to StatCorner, the D-Backs’ home boosted offensive production by 6% for lefty hitters and 7% for righties this past year. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Duke has some real-world value as a ground-ball-centric lefty who limits walks, and his 2010 ERA isn’t a reflection of his talent level. For fantasy purposes, however, you can ignore this piece of Pirates flotsam outside of NL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/13/1986|
Profile: Acquired from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre deal, Ely raised eyebrows by turning in six consecutive Quality Starts after being given a shot in the rotation early in the year. He won three of his four decisions in that span and had a 6.6 K/BB ratio. But in his final 11 games of the season, Ely was 1-8 with a 1.2 K/BB ratio and an 8.00 ERA. He is not overpowering and relies on pinpoint control to be successful. He is not in the team’s plans for Opening Day and it would take several injuries to the rotation for him to get regular starts. Look elsewhere for a pitcher who may get a shot in the rotation later in the year. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: Ely had some success early in the season but hitters figured him out after his first time around. Not a viable option on Draft Day.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1986|
Profile: Enright, a former supplemental first-round draft pick, had a superficially solid season in 2010 but beware of regression. While his ERA was 3.91, his FIP sat at 5.62. His BABIP-allowed rate sat at .251 and he should continue to be homer-prone in 2011, as he produced low ground-ball rates both in the minors and the majors. Enright showed excellent control last season but his fastball command was below average, which is part of the reason why he had a woeful strikeout rate of 4.45 K/9. He could provide some durability in 2011 but Enright should be left on the waiver wire in mixed league formats. Along with innings, he could offer an okay WHIP but the strikeout numbers and win total will be average at best. The club doesn’t have a ton of depth so Enright should get plenty of opportunities to stick in the majors in 2011. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: If you’re looking for some innings, Enright could be your man in NL-only leagues. However, there are a numbers of signs pointing to “fluke” when it comes to his 2010 ERA. Beware.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/7/1983|
Profile: After a fairly strong showing in 2009, the Rangers signed Scott Feldman to an extension. Immediately thereafter he reverted to being the player he was prior to 2009. Feldman certainly provided value to fantasy owners in 2009, with 17 wins, a 4.08 ERA, and a 1.28 WHIP. Those who were thinking repeat in 2010 were met with a player they likely cut by May. Feldman heads into 2011 as the likely odd man out in the Rangers rotation. They have enough young arms that using Feldman just doesn’t make sense. Chances are he’ll make a few spot starts between bullpen outings, but he’s not going to provide much fantasy value — he doesn’t rack up the strikeouts, allows a lot of hits, and has problems keeping his ERA under 5.00. He can fill in for an emergency situation, but there’s probably someone better. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Feldman had a relatively strong 2009 and started the 2010 season in the Rangers rotation, but after a poor season he likely won’t have much of a chance in 2011. Unless the Rangers face injury or their younger starters don’t work out, he won’t be a factor.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/2/1988|
Profile: Were you to look up “easy velocity” in the dictionary, you probably wouldn’t find it, on account of it’s not a very common term. However, were you to ask some baseball scouts, “Who in the game most clearly exhibits ‘easy velocity’?” it’s likely that many of them would say Neftali Feliz. Feliz used that velocity — as well as an above-average curveball — to post a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves in 2010, en route to becoming one of the top-65 or so most valuable fantasy players. Two uncertainties surround Feliz entering 2011. The first concerns his batted-ball profile, as Feliz’ career .221 BABIP-against is likely to regress back up towards .300. The second concerns his role. After pitching predominantly as a starter in the minors, Feliz has now made all 90 of his Major League appearances in relief. The Rangers are entertaining the idea of re-introducing Feliz to the rotation. It likely wouldn’t change his value a ton, but it would affect how he fits on fantasy rosters. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Has been excellent, but a bit hit-lucky, though his first 100 innings. That will affect him more should he start, where his main stat to date (i.e. saves) wouldn’t be available.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/18/1974|
Profile: Figueroa has pitched everywhere — Arizona, Philly, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Queens, Mexico, China, Venezuela, The Island from Lost (okay, made that last one up) — and in 2010, the globe-trekking swing man split the year between the Phillies and the Astros. In 11 starts and 20 ‘pen appearances amounting to 93 innings pitched, Figueroa was the definition of average. He had a strikeout rate slightly north of seven per nine frames (7.13 MLB average) and a 3.29 BB/9 rate that was a near dead-ringer for the MLB norm (3.29 BB/9). His FIP was 4.07 (4.08 MLB average). The 36-year-old junk-baller isn’t likely to post another 3.29 ERA, but he uses an excellent low-80s slider (+1.29 runs per 100 pitches in 2010, +1.2 for his career) to good effect while mixing in a high-80s fastball and an average low-70s curve. He’ll compete this spring with Jordan Lyles, Aneury Rodriguez, Lance Pendleton and Ryan Rowland-Smith for Houston’s fifth-starter job. Figueroa might be at a disadvantage, as Houston’s likely non-contender status might compel the club to give the spot to a younger arm with more upside. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: As a veteran who turns 37 in May, Figueroa’s an emergency fantasy option will be pushed for a rotation spot by a younger group that might be part of the next relevant Astros squad. Still, Figueroa won’t embarrass himself if he wins out, and, if he doesn’t, he’ll head to the Astros’ bullpen, or Scandinavia, or Uzbekistan, or…
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/4/1984|
Profile: Fister is yet another member of the tall, skinny, no velocity club, who expose the myth that height is the key to throwing hard. Despite standing 6’8, his fastball averages just 88 MPH, and so he’s relegated to being a pitch-to-contact strike-thrower. Luckily, he’s gotten good enough at pounding the strike zone to make it work, as he has a career walk rate of just 1.82 walks per nine innings in the big leagues. His refusal to put runners on base has led to more success than the pedestrian stuff would have otherwise indicated, and with the Mariners planning on running out a roster of premium defenders again, Fister’s make-them-hit-it approach could continue to work. He won’t get you strikeouts, and he probably won’t do much in the way of winning on a Seattle squad that won’t score all that often, but he could provide a cheap source of quality ERA and WHIP. Given the Mariners lack of rotation depth, he’s basically guaranteed a job out of spring training. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Does enough well to get hitters out with regularity, throws soft enough to remain a pretty decent sleeper.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/27/1983|
Profile: Gavin Floyd has performed relatively consistently since his 17-win season in 2008, maintaining around 180 innings-pitched a season with about a 4.00 ERA. Floyd increased the use of his slider and changeup following his successful 2008 season, leading to increased K rates (6.32 K/9 in 2008 to 7.25 K/9 in 2010). However, the win totals just haven’t been there since the White Sox last won the NL Central. Interesting things happened to batted balls off Floyd in 2010, so while he achieved a career-best FIP of 3.46 and HR rate of 0.67 per 9.0 IP, it was aided in part by a low HR/FB rate of 7.6%. An unusually high BABIP of .329 hurt the right-handed pitcher. A return to normal BABIP levels, confidence in strikeout numbers, and upside for the 28-year-old should push Floyd to a top-20 pitcher in 2011. The White Sox are early favorites for the 2011 AL Central crown, which loosely means more run support and win totals for Floyd. Expect 150 strikeouts, a 3.80 ERA, and a 1.25 WHIP for the right-handed hurler. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Floyd has increased K rates and decreased HR rates since his 17-win season in 2008. His run support and win totals should return as the White Sox are early AL Central favorites.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/8/1981|
Profile: After missing the entire 2009 season while recovering from shoulder-labrum surgery, Jeff Francis made a comeback in 2010. In some ways it went well, as he lasted 104.1 innings and showed better control than he had previously in his career. But he did miss time towards the end of the season with shoulder tendinitis, which represented the fifth time in his career that he has been placed on the DL with a shoulder ailment. He remains a severe health risk for 2011. He’ll also need to land on a contender in order to provide much value, since his ERA and WHIP don’t provide much value. Still, he managed to win 17 games with a 4.22 ERA in 2007, so with some run support he can still have value as a back end starter. If he’s healthy. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: While Jeff Francis’s No. 1 concern is health, he also has a few other factors working against him. He allows a lot of balls in play and doesn’t strike out many, so his ERA and WHIP are usually a bit inflated.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/11/1979|
Profile: Three straight years, three double-digit straight strikeout rates – and yet Frankie Frank seems under-rated and was jettisoned by the team that developed him this offseason. He can be a hot-head, and an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but it’s probably the innings totals that are the most worrisome part of his repertoire. Or rather, the lack thereof: he’s only once managed more than 60 innings and seems to hit the DL yearly. No matter, because his platoon splits are better than those Octavio Dotel or Jon Rauch have shown, he’s in the catbird seat for saves in the tdot. Should he finally stay heatlhy for a year, he’ll make for a great value closer in all leagues. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be great while not on the DL. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Consider Francisco the favorite for saves in Toronto, and therefore also a good value pick at his position. (While he’s healthy.)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 3/5/1973|
Profile: Thanks to the save statistic, Ryan Franklin will have his place at the table in fantasy leagues. Franklin racked up another 27 saves in 2010 as the Cardinals closer, but they came, once again, with some rather mediocre numbers on the side. Franklin didn’t pile up the strikeouts (5.8 per nine innings) and didn’t post a great reliever ERA (3.42). He did post an excellent 1.03 WHIP, as he walked only 1.4 per nine innings and allowed a .261 BABIP. However, there’s no reason to believe that either of those number will remain in his next 65 innings pitched. Franklin will probably outperform his peripherals again — his career ERA is three quarters of a run below his career FIP in 1173 innings. However, his WHIP will probably revert to the 1.20-1.30 range that it has sat in for much of his career, and he won’t add much in terms of strikeouts, either. Because Franklin plays for a good team, he will probably have plenty of save opportunities and therefore plenty of value in standard leagues. However, Franklin should not go in the first “closer rush” that tends to happen in every draft, as his saves are likely to be his only true fantasy value in 2011. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Ryan Franklin will find his way onto fantasy rosters thanks to his saves. Just make sure you don’t find yourself paying for those saves early in a draft
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/13/1985|
Profile: Acquired from Detroit in the Jarrod Washburn trade in 2009, French sported a decent slider that allowed him to miss some bats and get left-handers out. The Mariners promptly converted him into a change-up oriented pitch-to-contact specialist, and after mostly scrapping his slider, French regressed significantly. His strikeout rate fell from below average to unacceptable, and it’s nearly impossible to find an example of an extreme fly ball pitcher who made it work without ever missing bats. French’s still not great 4.83 ERA was mostly a fluke, and until he starts throwing his slider again, he’s not going to be a good option for either the Mariners or your fantasy roster. While some may try to paint French as the new version of Jason Vargas, don’t buy into it – the quality of stuff is significantly worse, and French took a big step the wrong way in 2010. Let someone else hope bet on his breakout. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Even if he wins the Mariners 5th starter job, he’s not a guy you want on your roster.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/9/1975|
Profile: After a six years of being the closer with both the Rockies and the Angels, Fuentes was sent to the Twins to help solidify their bullpen for the playoffs. In the nine appearances he had with the Twins, he did not allow a single run. Fuentes recently landed in Oakland and should be helped by his new home park. When he was with the Rockies, Fuentes could be counted on for a K/9 rate of more than 10.00. His strikeout rates the past two seasons were at 7.53 and 8.81 K/9. His ERA projects to be just under 4.00 for 2011. This value is not at an elite-closer level. Fuentes’ greatest previous value was his closer status and the saves he accumulated. He’ll lose value in 2011 as he’s expected to set up A’s incumbent closer Andrew Bailey… along with another free-agent signee, Grant Balfour. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Fuentes’ value takes a huge hit as he lands in Oakland, possibly slotting in behind both Andrew Bailey and Grant Balfour.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/27/1986|
Profile: Although 14-7 with a 3.84 ERA might not necessarily look like a young pitcher taking a step into the elite class of pitchers, that’s exactly what Yovani Gallardo did in 2010 with the Brewers. He continued to strike batters out at a tremendous rate (9.7 K/9) and cut down on free passes by nearly a full point to 3.6 per nine innings. As such, he produced a 3.02 FIP that could be a sign of things to come. Unfortunately, a porous Brewers defense let him down at times, resulting in the ERA nearly a full run higher than his FIP. Next season, there’s no reason to believe that the defense will be significantly better, especially with Lorenzo Cain traded to Kansas City. A Prince Fielder trade would potentially help. Gallardo is a lock to be among the league leaders in strikeouts and to produce a good, if not fantastic, ERA and win total. Gallardo shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your fantasy staff in mixed leagues, but he is truly an ace now and deserves an early look in fantasy leagues this year and is extremely valuable in keeper or dynasty leagues. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Gallardo made a step towards becoming an ace last season. He’s a strikeout artist and she be able to boost your staff in every category.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 10/6/1976|
Profile: Freddy Garcia went through several teams and several seasons of shoulder injury and minor league contracts before settling in the majors in 2010 with an actual major league contract. The veteran was once an ace for the Seattle Mariners, but has fallen out of fantasy relevance after six seasons of 200+ IP in 2001-2006. Earlier this decade, Garcia had averaged up and around 7.00 K/9, but has since dropped to a 5.10 K/9 in 2010. A 4.64 ERA and 1.38 WHIP under a league-average BABIP is nothing to get too excited about. Garcia heads into 2011 uncertain about whether or not he will start, and fantasy owners shouldn’t see Garcia as a sleeper to keep watch for. If a team does take a chance on him and give him 150 innings in 2011 (and that’s a big “if”), a 4.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 100 Ks may be the ceiling for Freddy. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Garcia heads into 2011 uncertain about whether or not he will get starts. If he does get 150 innings in 2011 (and that’s a big “if”), a 4.40 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 100 Ks may be the ceiling.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/8/1986|
Profile: If one thing is certain about Jaime Garcia, it’s that he won’t repeat the 2.70 ERA he produced in 2010. That’s not to say he’ll collapse, but rather that he set an unattainable precedent last year. His peripherals still suggest that he can continue pitching effectively in 2011 and the future, and that goes more so if he can cut his walk rate (not all that uncommon for players as they get into their mid-20s). Even if he doesn’t, he still produced a league average strikeout rate and one of the best ground ball rates in the league last season. If there’s one concern it’s his increased workload. Garcia had never thrown more than 122 innings in a season before last year, and thanks to Tommy John surgery he was limited to just 37.2 innings in 2009 before throwing 163.1 innings last year. Still, he didn’t seem to tire too badly. He figures to be a solid contributor in 2011. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Jaime Garcia’s 2010 ERA is not sustainable, but his strikeout rate and ground ball rates could keep his ERA well below average. If more control comes with maturity, he could also see a lower WHIP in 2011.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/27/1979|
Profile: Garland posted the lowest ERA of his career in 2010, but that was more the product of his taking home starts in the best pitcher’s venue on earth and getting support from quality defenders than anything he did on his own. Sure, Garland was a somewhat different pitcher. He struck out a career-high 6.12 batters per nine frames and got ground balls more frequently than ever before (about 52%), while also walking hitters at his highest clip (3.92 BB/9) since he was 22 years old. The end result, though, was familiar adequacy — a 4.41 FIP that was nearly a run higher than his 3.47 ERA. Supported by a Padres defense that ranked third in baseball in UZR, Garland had a .267 BABIP (.288 career average). He benefited from a 75.9% stand rate as well, which is five%age points above his overall MLB mark. Signed by the Dodgers over the winter, Garland will now pitch in front of less adept defenders. When his BABIP and strand rates rise, so will his ERA. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Properly evaluating a season like Garland just had is what separates league champions from chumps. He’s still a low- to mid-fours ERA pitcher, shiny 2010 total aside.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/26/1983|
Profile: Heading into 2010 Matt Garza appeared to be a good bet. He had just recorded his second straight season with more than 180 innings and an ERA under 4.00, and his strikeout totals jumped from 128 to 189. In 2010 he took something of a step back. His ERA was still a very good 3.91 and his WHIP a quality 1.25, but his strikeout rate dipped to pre-2009 levels. He totaled just 150 while pitching 1.2 more innings than in 2009. It’s tough to project Garza as striking out more than seven per nine innings, which would give him around 155 for a 200-inning season. That’s not bad, but not elite. Still, with his ERA staying relatively low and him proving durable, he will be a good bet in 2011. A move to the National League from the American League East could really help his overall numbers. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Matt Garza provided tons of value with the strikeout in 2009, but it appears that he’s not going to approach the 200 mark. He has a good ERA and pitches a lot of innings, so he’s still a good buy.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/28/1986|
Profile: The G-Unit had a nice debut on the surface, but his strikeout rate (4.64 K/9) and walk rate (4.09 BB/9) revealed the nibbling that was actually going on. Oh, Gee did put up nicer strikeout rates in the minor leagues, but he doesn’t own prototypical strikeout stuff and works backwards off of a mediocre fastball. If he finds the mojo he showed in the minor leagues, a slightly above-average strikeout rate (8 K/9 in minors), paired with an above-average walk rate (1.9 in minors), is definitely possible. Unfortunately, a slightly above-average Major League starter does not make for a great fantasy starter, and without his work as a 24-year-old in Triple-A, even his modest strikeout rate would look a lot worse. Given his (actually) inauspicious beginnings, mixed leaguers should definitely take a wait-and-see approach with Gee, and deeper-leaguers shouldn’t spend anything but a late-round flier on Gee-licious. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Don’t be fooled by his pristine ERA — Dillon Gee doesn’t have the strikeouts or stuff to be an elite fantasy starter, even when he puts up work more commensurate with his minor-league work.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/10/1988|
Profile: Last season was the first one that Gomez spent in the majors and he went 4-5 with the Indians with a 4.68 ERA. His debut was not spectacular, be he seems to be an interesting pitcher. He had a 5.3 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 11 starts in 2010. This values are just a little worse than his minor-league numbers of 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. The 3.4 BB/9 will not cut it in the Majors when a pitcher is only striking out only five to six batters a games. One plus he has is a better-than-average GB rate (46.8%) which could add some needed value. One major problem with him, though, is that he pitches for the Indians. Gomez would probably pick up double-digit wins with a team like the Yankees just by keeping them in the game. With Cleveland, he may easily end up only winning a handful of games, while hurting a fantasy teams ERA and WHIP. There’s no reason to draft him in any league except possibly a deep AL only league. Gomez may be worth a waiver-wire pick-up later if his K/9 and/or BB/9 improve. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Gomez will need to show improvement for him to be viable fantasy option in 2011.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1985|
Profile: Gio Gonzalez’s shiny 3.28 ERA last season got him a lot of attention. That is going to bump up his perceived value in draft stocks, but is it warranted? The three main luck-driven statistics for pitchers — batting average on balls in play (BABIP), strand rate (LOB%) and home run per fly ball (HR/FB) — were all better than the league average in 2010. Those are not primarily controllable for pitchers and the best guess for 2011 is that Gonzalez experiences regression in those areas, which will put upward pressure on his ERA. Gonzalez has a problem controlling his walks, as well, and so an increase in BABIP will likely push his WHIP to a number higher than the league average as well. Gonzalez has some good traits, namely health and a respectable strikeout rate, and, even with worse results in the other areas, he should be a decent pitcher. The problem is that his actual value is unlikely to match his perceived value thanks to that low ERA last season. Monitor where he is going in drafts but remain grounded in your expectations. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Beware the pitcher coming off a great ERA season with merely average strikeout rates. He shall be overvalued and prone to disappoint.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/12/1982|
Profile: After a pair of putrid seasons, Tom Gorzelanny rebuilt his value in 2010 with the Cubs. His control was a bit suspect, as it has been for most of his career, but he survived by striking out an above average number of hitters and limiting home runs. The good news, then, is that he’s headed to a park that suppresses homers a bit better than Wrigley Field. While his xFIP suggests that his performance might decline in 2011, if he uses Nationals Park to his advantage he can keep down his home run rate, and, therefore, his ERA. Other than that it’s tough to see how he’ll provide much value. He’s no better than average in strikeouts, and his career WHIP is 1.49, including 1.50 last season. With the Nationals he might have trouble racking up wins, too. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Tom Gorzelanny did a good job keeping his ERA low last season with the Cubs, and he could repeat that in Washington’s more pitcher-friendly park. ERA is really the only category he’ll help in, since he doesn’t figure to pile up the wins and his WHIP has been high for his career.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/14/1984|
Profile: Like Mike Adams, Gregerson is going to be a popular target for those looking to scoop up some saves from the Padres’ relief corps. However, I expect Adams to get the nod as the ninth inning guy once Heath Bell is traded in large part due to their different HR rates over the last few years. While HR/FB rates are inconsistent, the picture of a reliever giving up a late inning bomb can stay with a manager for a long time, and Gregerson gave up eight home runs last year, while Adams has only given up three in the last two years. Managers are loathe to put a pitcher in during the ninth inning who they fear might give up a lead with one pitch, and fair or not, Adams has been able to engender more trust that his pitches will stay in the park. Gregerson may get some save opportunities, but I wouldn’t recommend paying for him with the expectation of more than a half dozen or so. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A good reliever who is further down the totem pole of potential closers, you should approach him as if he’s going to pitch in the setup role all season.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 6/20/1978|
Profile: Gregg is perhaps known best for being a cardiac closer, meaning he tends to make the ninth inning more stressful than it needs to be. In the realm of fantasy he’s a solid option, however, pitching to no worse than a 3.55 ERA with no fewer than 8.85 K/9 in three of the last four seasons. He’s also approached (if not exceeded) 30 saves in three of the last four years, as well. Gregg puts far too many runners on base compared to a typical closer and the problem is only getting worse; his WHIPs have climbed from 1.23 in 2007 to 1.28 in 2008 to 1.31 in 2009 to 1.39 in 2010. Oddly enough, he has a rather pronounced platoon split over the last four seasons, holding lefties to a .606 OPS against while righties got him for a .714 OPS. Saves are saves, though, and Gregg is good for plenty of those with halfway decent secondary skills. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Gregg has produced ~30 saves, ~8.90 K/9, and a ~3.50 ERA in three of the last four seasons and is a safe bet for similar statistics in 2011. He’s not a top-tier fantasy closer, but he’s fine as a second or third option.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/21/1983|
Profile: The 2009 Cy Young Award winner regressed in 2010 and disappointed a few people with his 2010 performance. Though he was not great in 2010, Greinke wasn’t that bad. One main change in his 2010 pitching style was that instead of striking everyone out, he was looking to create more ground balls and weak contact. The results show this by his GB% going from 40% to 46% and K/9 dropping from 9.5 to 7.4. Greinke’s plan would not have been half bad if the infield defense playing behind wasn’t horrible. Instead, too many balls got through the infield and his ERA jumped 2.00 points from 2.16 to 4.17. Giving up the extra runs to go along with the Royals’ bad offense led to just 10 wins. Greinke said that he is going to abandon his ground-ball strategy and go back to striking everyone out. It wouldn’t be unexpected to see him put up numbers somewhere between his 2009 and 2010 values. His trade to the Brewers will probably only help his win total. The Brewers’ offense should give him quite a bit more support than the Royals’ did. Expect his ERA and WHIP to remain fairly constant since the Brewers’ defense is similar to the Royals’ (bad), especially since the defensively incompetent Yuniesky Betancourt will probably be manning the shortstop position. Greinke should be in the top-five to -15 pitchers drafted depending on the league. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Greinke is one of the league’s ace pitchers and should be drafted as one.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/8/1979|
Profile: The lone veteran in the Orioles’ rotation, Guthrie will be returning for his fifth season in Baltimore, his eighth season overall. Last season marked the third straight in which Guthrie started 30 or more games, and the second straight year in which he racked up at least 200 innings. Guthrie’s fastball sits in the 92-93 mph range, yet he can’t seem to strike hitters out or produce ground balls at a league-average rate. For some unknown reason, Guthrie has shown the ability to consistently outpitch his peripherals, and 2011 shouldn’t be any exception. He’ll probably give you a FIP around 4.50, but his ERA will be around 4.00 mark. He won’t give you enough strikeouts to matter, but if you want a pitcher who’ll eat up innings and help your WHIP, he’s the guy for you. He won’t be on many draft boards, so you can easily grab him in the last round if you want him. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Guthrie has pitched two straight 200-inning seasons, and he’s as durable as they come. He’ll outpitch his peripherals, but he won’t strike enough batters out to be worthy of a draft pick in standard leagues.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/14/1983|
Profile: After a game of “nose,” Gutierrez ended up with the closer position in the worst bullpen in the league. True Story. How else did a man with an FIP near six end up with 15 saves? He did it by being mediocre when everyone else was putrid. He struck out about 7.49 per nine, walked 3.65, and only coaxed 35% of his batted balls on the ground — a package that, even without poor luck on his fly balls (15.3% HR/FB), is decidedly unexciting. Even if he cashes in on his strikeout upside (8.37 K/9 in 2009), his fly-ball tendencies will temper his upside, especially while he’s still in the thin desert air. He might enter the season as the closer next year, but even if he does, he won’t be favored to end the season in the same role. Someone young and more exciting will surely catch management’s eye, or Gutierrez will just lose the next game of “nose.” (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Juan Gutierrez was the worst closer in the league, and other than a little strikeout upside beyond what he showed last year, and some regression on his home-run per fly-ball rate, there’s little reason to think he’ll do much better in 2011.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/14/1977|
Profile: With a move from the American League to the National League in 2010, Halladay dominated as expected. The 33-year-old ace won more than 20 games for the third time in his career, while recording 200+ strikeouts for a third straight season and 220+ innings for the fifth consecutive year. Halladay also showed outstanding control with a walk rate of 1.08 BB/9 (his sixth straight year below 2.00 BB/9). With a fairly strong offense behind him, the former Blue Jay is a threat to reach all those levels again in 2011. With Cliff Lee joining him in the starting rotation, there will be a little less pressure on him — not that he’s ever been fazed by expectations. Halladay should be one of the first three to five pitchers off the board in mixed leagues and he is a great pitcher to spend money on in auction leagues given his durability. He also one of the safest 33-year-old pitchers you can have in keeper leagues because he’s in great shape and should age well. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Halladay could be a member of the most potent one-two punch in 2011, with the addition of free-agent Cliff Lee. Halladay is a threat to win the Cy Young Award and is one of the best fantasy pitchers in baseball.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/27/1983|
Profile: Cole Hamels had a terrific year in 2010, entirely quashing doubts about his elevated ERA and indifferent playoff performance in 2009, but his success may have been obscured by his 12-11 record, particularly for fantasy owners. Hamels’s win totals are hard to figure, frankly; from 2007-2010 he’s been one of the best southpaws in baseball, but he has only won 51 games, an average of 13 a year — the exact same total as his teammate Jamie Moyer, who is not exactly one of the best southpaws in baseball. He’s still a fine fantasy option, because all his other numbers are good — he was one of only five left-handed starters with 200 strikeouts, he’s durable, and he has a career ERA and xFIP under 3.60. Slightly worrisome is his elevated walk rate, up from 2.0 BB/9 to 2.6 BB/9. However, as long as his K/BB stays above 3.4 (as it has every season of his career) it’s hard to see his results seriously suffering for that. If you can swallow the bizarre lack of wins, he’s still one of the better pitchers around. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Cole Hamels had a terrific year in 2010, but his success may have been obscured by his 12-11 record. If you can swallow the bizarre lack of wins, he’s still one of the better pitchers around.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/2/1982|
Profile: While you wouldn’t know it from looking at his ERA, Hammel’s last two seasons are a model of consistency. He ran identical 3.81 xFIPs in both 2009 and 2010, and the increase in ERA was simply due to more of his runs being labeled as earned, rather than unearned. With the Rockies replacing Brad Hawpe’s horrid glove in the outfield, Hammel should get better defensive support in 2011, and he’s in line for a rebound in ERA. He’s an underappreciated quality starter, and one who could be a bargain on draft day, especially if your competitors don’t buy into DIPS theory. He’ll never post huge strikeout numbers, but if you need an innings eater who will give you some wins, a decent ERA, and a solid WHIP, Hammel could be a nice buy. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Look for Hammel to go for less than he’s worth in most drafts. He shouldn’t be your ace, but he should be on the target list.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/6/1981|
Profile: The early announcement from manager Clint Hurdle has it that Hanrahan will enter the season as the closer, so this battle may be a fait accomplit. Certainly, Hanrahan has the strikeout rate of a closer (12.92 K/9 last year, 10.30 career), and combined with what ended up being the best command of his career last year (3.36 BB/9) he should make for an excellent closer. Sure, he’s a fly-ball pitcher and has had some unlucky years, but he brings mid-nineties heat, owns an excellent slider that he throws a ton, and should do fine with mostly empty basepaths and a lead. And perhaps it even makes sense to use Evan Meek, who gets grounders from lefties and doesn’t have the same career strikeoute rate, in innings where there are a few ducks on the pond. Hanrahan makes for a fine, cheap option at his position. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Looking for a cheap closer? Hanrahan is your man. Announced as the closer going into the season, and owner of a double-digit strikeout rate, there’s little (other than some unlucky years and a fly-ball tendency) to hold against the man.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/28/1986|
Profile: A talented young pitcher at the age of 24, Hanson will certainly be one of the key pieces of the Braves’ roster for years to come. He went about his business in 2010 in the shadow of rookie phenom Jason Heyward and produced a 4.3 WAR as a sophomore starting pitcher. Hanson won just 10 games but pitched more than 200 innings and showed solid control (2.49 BB/9). He does need to improve his consistency, as well as the command of his curveball. Hanson shows an excellent one-two punch with his heater, which has above-average velocity, and deadly slider but he needs a reliable third pitch to upset hitters’ timings. If he can learn to keep the ball down a little more, Hanson should increase his ground-ball rate. He’s gotten lucky avoiding the long ball so far, but homers could become a thorn in his side in 2011. Hanson should be good for 200+ innings and could strike out more than 200 batters if he continues to make adjustments. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Hanson could develop into a solid mixed-league target in 2011. He has the potential to pitch 200+ innings with attractive strikeout numbers and a good ERA.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/19/1982|
Profile: Happ, a young starter with prior MLB success, was the centerpiece of Houston’s Roy Oswalt trade last season. The 28-year-old looked like an able replacement in 72 innings for the Astros, posting a 5-4 record and, more impressively, a 3.75 ERA. However, just as it did in Philadelphia, Happ’s good ERA is not supported by his peripheral numbers. Happ has consistently walked about four batters per nine innings through his career so far. It has taken a combination of a very low BABIP (.273) and an extremely high LOB% (81.4%) to keep Happ’s traditional numbers from creeping below average. Although there is a possibility that Happ is better than the average pitcher at suppressing base hits and stranding base runners, there is zero chance that it continues at this level. No pitcher in MLB history has maintained a LOB% that high over 1,000 innings pitched, and 289 innings is hardly enough to establish the BABIP dominance that he has shown. Expect Happ to struggle to win games behind the terrible Astros lineup. He can put up some strikeout numbers, but his ERA should land around 4.20-4.30, making him a marginal fantasy play. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Happ looked good in his first go-round with the Astros, but exercise cautions. His peripherals just don’t suggest that he’s an above-average pitcher, and the Astros won’t win many games for him.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/9/1978|
Profile: Aaron Harang has hit major road bumps the past two seasons. First, he had to end a decent 2009 season with an emergency appendectomy. Then he spent two months of the 2010 season on the DL because of back spasms. When he was activated last September, he was pushed out of the Reds’ crowded starting rotation to make room for young pitchers such as Travis Wood and Mike Leake, eventually left off the Reds’ playoff roster. And while he is joining the San Diego Padres in 2011, he faces tough competition for the No. 5 spot. A 5.32 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 2010 is not encouraging, although much of that may have been due to his back injuries. If his back spasms have fully healed, we may see Harang in the rotation again. If he is able to get 160-180 innings, look for a 4.40 ERA and 150 strikeouts. Those are two big ifs though, so you’ll need the certainty that Harang opens the 2011 season as a starter to justify a fantasy roster spot for a fifth or sixth starter. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Harang faced major road bumps the past two seasons and ended 2010 with a 5.32 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. If his back spasms fully heal and he gets a rotation spot with the Padres, look for a 4.40 ERA and 150 strikeouts.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/30/1981|
Profile: Before 2010, Texas signed Harden to an incentive-laden one-year, $7.5 million contract — likely with the idea that, even if the injury-prone Harden didn’t pitch for long, he’d at least pitch well. As it turns out, he didn’t really do either, posting a 5.58 ERA (5.90 xFIP) over 92.0 innings. It’s likely that a drop in velocity — from about 92 mph in 2008-09 to 90.5 last season — is partly to blame, and that’s a scary thing insofar as pitchers rarely regain velocity without some manner of surgery. Accordingly, the market for Harden’s services was markedly thinner this past offseason, leading him to sign a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the A’s in mid-December. Oakland has already announced that they plan to use him as a reliever, so, unless he displaces Andrew Bailey as the team’s closer, he’s unlikely to have much fantasy value this year. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Neither stayed healthy nor played well in 2010. Will now pitch in relief, but not as a closer, for Oakland.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/17/1980|
Profile: Dan Haren’s reintroduction to the American League went about how you would have expected it to. His swinging-strike rate dropped from a dependable 10-11% with Arizona to 9% with Anaheim. That decreased Haren’s strikeout rate considerably and that is where it will probably stay in the future. It is still a decent rate and Haren has good control in combination with the strikeouts that helps keep his WHIP below the league average in every season since his first. Haren’s made at least 33 starts every year since 2005 and his lowest innings total during that stretch is 216. That durability gives him plenty of chances to record wins and the Angels should be good enough to get him clear past double digits. It is an overall package that makes Haren one of the better options at starter. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Perhaps underrated because of his high ERA in Arizona last season, Dan Haren remains a high-quality pitcher even in the tougher league.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/8/1987|
Profile: Hellickson stands to be one of the most promising rookie pitchers in the Majors in 2011. The 23-year-old hurler does have some hurdles to clear, though. The Rays have a lot of pitching depth so he may end up as a long reliever to begin the season — or he could open 2011 in Triple-A (although he has nothing left to prove in the minors). Hellickson has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 pitcher and he held his own in a brief MLB trial in ’10. He showed good strikeout numbers while also showcasing above-average control for his age. Hellickson has a good fastball-changeup combination and improved command of his curveball could transform him into a Rookie of the Year candidate if he receives the opportunity to start. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Hellickson has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter, so he’s a key keeper-league target. In other leagues, though, his value is muted because the Rays have a lot of starting pitching depth. He could end up in the bullpen.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/13/1985|
Profile: Arizona’s bullpen was historically bad in 2010, and new GM Kevin Towers went on a mission to rebuild it over the winter. One of the new additions is Hernandez, who came over from the Orioles in the Mark Reynolds swap. The 25-year-old’s strikeout rate jumped up to 10.9 per nine innings after moving into relief last year (5.7 K/9 as a starter), which is right in line with his 10.4 minor-league K/9. Hernandez is an extreme fly-ball pitcher (71.5% non-ground balls in his short ML career) moving into a homer-friendly park, so that will present some problems. He’s shown the ability to keep the walks down to a respectable level in the past but, regardless, his fantasy value is limited because J.J. Putz is the Diamondbacks’ new closer. The good news is that Putz has dealt with nagging injuries in the last few years, so Hernandez could see some save opportunities come his way at some point during the summer. Until then, he’s not much more than a guy you keep in the back of your mind in non-holds leagues. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Hernandez is a strikeout-heavy middle reliever with fly-ball tendencies moving into a homer-happy park, so his value is limited until some save opportunities come his way. That’s a tall order with J.J. Putz holding down the ninth inning in Arizona.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/8/1986|
Profile: The newest recipient of the American League Cy Young Award, Felix Hernandez is a dominating fantasy stud when it comes to strikeouts. Felix racks up large inning totals and has seen a rise in strikeout rate each of the last four seasons. Playing in Safeco Field helps suppress Felix’s ERA even further from its already excellent starting position. Regardless of the rest of the offseason, the Mariners are expected to field another solid defense behind King Felix, as well, helping to gobble up would-be hits and keep Felix’s WHIP down as well. The downside to Felix’s 2010 season was his relatively low win total. No matter that the Mariners are not likely to enter 2011 as a serious contender for the division, they should be much better from their historically poor offense and awful bullpen. Improvement in those realms should boost Felix’s win total next season and make him more valuable. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: A king in whatever league you want to put him in, Felix Hernandez is worth taking early. Even if only to hold him hostage against the poor Mariner fan(s) in your league.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 2/20/1975|
Profile: Few players can match Livan’s supreme durability — he’s thrown no fewer than 180 innings in each of the last 13 seasons — but, unfortunately for him, that skill has little to no fantasy value in a traditional 5×5 scoring format. Despite a resurgent 2010 season that saw him post his best ERA (3.66) and WHIP (1.32) in half a decade, Hernandez’s true-talent level is an ERA north of 4.50 and three base runners for every two innings pitched. His strikeout rate is microscopic (4.31 since 2007) and his ground-ball rate isn’t enough to compensate (40.7%), so he’s walking on quite the tight rope. Don’t count on Livan lucking into another 73% strand rate or a .293 BABIP again, and avoid him at all costs. You’ll be lucky to get double-digit wins, especially on the Nationals. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Although Hernandez is one of the game’s premier workhorses, his fantasy value is limited because of a microscopic strikeout rate and inferior supporting cast.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/15/1983|
Profile: At age 27, Luke Hochevar is getting a little old for a breakout season. The former No. 1 overall pick has experienced a rough few years in the majors, compiling a 5.60 ERA in his 387.2 innings. Still, there is some room for hope. That is, there’s hope that he provides some real life value. In fantasy he’s not someone to depend on. Even if his ERA does come down into the range of his xFIP, 4.24 last season, he still probably won’t be valuable with strikeouts, wins, and WHIP. You can watch the waiver wire — because Hochevar will certainly be there — and pull the trigger if he somehow breaks through in 2011. But since that’s an increasingly remote possibility, it’s best to do what Kansas City should have done with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006: forget about Luke Hochevar. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Luke Hochevar, even at 27, is still a pitcher with some potential. But since he hasn’t shown it yet, and since he hasn’t provided fantasy value in the past, it’s near impossible to justify drafting him.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986|
Profile: In last year’s profile, we noted that — owing to his component stats (strikeouts, walks, etc.) — that Holland’s unsightly 6.12 ERA from 2009 would almost definitely drop in 2010, and that’s exactly what it did. Despite posting almost the exact same xFIP (4.38 in 2009, 4.40 last year), Holland’s ERA dropped over two runs, to 4.08. That’s a perfectly respectable line from a pitcher in his age-23 season. The reason it won’t be regarded as something better, though, is that the young lefty was limited to just 57.1 innings between injury (shoulder, knee) and minor-league work. Holland returned in mid-August, however, to make six starts and nine overall appearances en route to a 38:18 K:BB and just two homers allowed in his last 38 innings. He enters 2011 as the likely No. 3 or 4 starter for the Rangers and should be a value on draft day. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: As opposed to 2009, his 2010 numbers actually reflected the underlying performance. Unfortunately, pitched fewer than 60 innings.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1987|
Profile: Hudson’s 2011 outlook certainly looks brighter than it did in the winter of 2010. The young hurler’s move to the National League could help him break out and reach his potential as a No. 3 starter. He produced an impressive set of numbers in 2010, his rookie season, but he was aided by an unrepeatably low .245 BABIP. Expect an ERA around 4.00 and a WHIP in the 1.30-1.40 range. His extremely low ground-ball rate (35.2%) will likely lead to quite a few homers allowed during his games in Arizona. If his excellent control numbers and outstanding command of three pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) continue, Hudson could survive a regression in BABIP and home-run rates, and remain a solid pitching option in NL-only leagues. He was just shy of 190 innings in 2010 (including the minors) so he has the potential to provide 200+ innings in 2011. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: The move from the AL to the NL could help Hudson but he doesn’t have the most favorable home park to pitch in. Keep that in mind when bidding on him in auction leagues. He’s a great sleeper.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/14/1975|
Profile: Hudson went 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 2010 — even garnering some Cy Young attention — but below the surface he looked more like Derek Lowe than some might like to admit. He has made up for his lack of strikeout punch (5.47 K/9 in 2010, 6.06 career) as his career has traveled further from his peak — his two best ground-ball percentages have come in the last two years, and his 64.4% last year led qualified starters in the category. He also showed his always excellent control last year (2.91 BB/9 in 2010, 2.78 career), and, paired with a bump in fastball velocity, he’s an unqualified Tommy John success story. But, as with all ground-ball pitchers, he’s a bit at the mercy of the bouncing ball. When the ball bounces his way, as it did in 2010 (.250 BABIP), he looks great. When it doesn’t (.335 BABIP in 2009), he looks like a pumpkin — at least when it comes to fantasy baseball. The lack of strikeouts diminishes his upside, and if his 2010 statistics make him expensive in this year’s drafts, he’s probably a pitcher to avoid. He could put up an ERA in the high threes in 2011. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Hudson’s arm bounced back from surgery, but some fortuitous luck masked the fact that the 2010 version wasn’t quite as good as his superficial statistics indicated.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/22/1984|
Profile: Sometimes a mediocre player can be placed in the right environment and he can provide fantasy value. David Huff is not one of those players. He’s a lefty, so he’ll get his share of chances. But don’t expect much success. He doesn’t strike out hitters and doesn’t have the requisite control to keep his WHIP down. His ERA has been steadily high in the majors, and his peripheral stats don’t suggest a turn around. If he played on a contender he might pick up a few wins, but since he’s stuck on the Indians he probably won’t bring much of that either. He’s truly a “break glass in case of emergency” option. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: David Huff had a breakout season in the minors in 2008, but he has been mediocre to bad ever since. He might not even break camp on the roster, so he’s not worth a look to start the season.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/24/1986|
Profile: During his first full season in the rotation, Hughes was good, though far from the brand-new ace that his 18 wins seemingly indicate. When he was on the mound as the pitcher of record, the Yankees’ 2004 first-rounder received a whopping 9.6 runs of support per nine innings pitched from Bomber bats. Sure, the Yankees have a high-powered offense, but that was the highest mark in the AL by more than a run. That said, Hughes missed some bats with 7.5 K/9, and he also limited walks. Getting a first-pitch strike against batters 63% of the time (58.8% MLB average), Hughes issued just 2.96 BB/9. While his mid-70s curveball got scorched (-1.2 runs per 100 pitches thrown), Hughes’ low-90s heat (+0.88) and upper-80s cutter (+1.02) were quality offerings. He did surrender a lot of fly balls (36.1 GB%, compared to the 44% MLB average), which led to his coughing up nearly 1.3 homers per nine innings pitched. Overall, Hughes’ 4.19 ERA lined right up with his peripherals — his FIP was 4.25. He’ll be the Yankees’ No. 2 or 3 starter in 2011, depending upon whether the team can bring in another big name after Cliff Lee declined to don pinstripes. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Hughes’ days in the bullpen are over — he’s now firmly entrenched in the Yankees’ rotation. There’s upside remaining here, but don’t draft him extremely high based on that tempting win total.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/3/1986|
Profile: Tommy Hunter missed time in 2010 with an oblique injury, which always bears keeping in mind, as they have a tendency to relapse and cost significant time to rehab. Even if Hunter remains healthy and lasts the full season in the Rangers’ rotation, he is a bit of a bland fantasy starter. Hunter has never been successful due to strikeouts, relying instead of a combination of good ground-ball rates and limiting walks. That pattern can work but is more prone to fluctuations and allowing so many balls in play puts Hunter’s ERA and WHIP more in the hands of the Texas defense. Lucky for him, that is a good unit to rely on — especially with the addition of Adrian Beltre. The difference between Michael Young’s defense at third to Beltre’s could swing Hunter’s fantasy value significantly. Hunter may be able to outpace his fielding-independent numbers yet again. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Tommy Hunter relies on his defense and he has a good one behind him for 2011. Don’t dismiss him due to his low-strikeout total.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983|
Profile: After the Rays noticed Jackson’s mediocre peripheral numbers and traded him to the Tigers prior to the 2009 season, Jackson managed to pick things up. He pitched well for the Tigers in 2009, then out-pitched his ERA for the Diamondbacks in 2010, including a no-hitter in interleague play against his old Tampa Bay teammates. Jackson put up his best numbers in years in 11 starts after he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2010. However, don’t let those rates fool you. Don Cooper may be a heck of a pitching coach, but Jackson has a long track record of middling strikeout and walk rates, and he hasn’t shown an ability to “outpitch” his FIP for long periods, either. Jackson did up his ground-ball rate a bit in 2010. Still, don’t overspend on Jackson in 2011. He should go drafted in all leagues, but he’s a middle-back of the rotation starter in even relatively deep leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Don’t let Jackson’s impressive third of a 2010 season in Chicago fool you — he’s still a below-average starter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/30/1987|
Profile: Kenley Jansen used to be a catcher that could throw out baserunners by the bushel but couldn’t hit a lick. Moved to the mound in 2009, he’s since struck out more than 14 per nine in over 75 relief innings spread across four levels of baseball. Intense. He does it mostly on the back of a mid-nineties fastball that he throws almost 87% of the time, but his mid-to-low eighties slider and change serve to keep hitters off balance. He doesn’t have great control (he walked five per nine last year), but he’s growing into his new role and even garnered some saves when Jonathon Broxton was broken by Joe Torre last year. Most likely, he splits the setup role with lefty Hong-Chi Kuo, but since Kuo is oft-injured and Broxton is coming off of his worst season, you could squint and see a future that has Jansen closing. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The most likely outcome for this former catcher with a blazing fastball is that he helps set up. Given the health and recent performances of the pitchers he shares the bullpen with, however, it’s certainly possible that Jansen collects some saves this year.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/14/1981|
Profile: He showed the second-best strikeout and ground-ball rates of his career in 2010, but Bobby Jenks had terrible luck with the batted ball (.345 BABIP) and therefore became a potential vaue closer in the offseason. Unfortunately, he was picked up by a team in Boston with a pretty good closer, so now he’s just a pretty good late inning man on a strong team. If he can stay healthy, he should be in for a good number of holds, but Daniel Bard will steal plenty of those too. “Third pitcher in the pen” doesn’t scream “fantasy value pick,” but Jenks should be able to manage a strikeout per inning with good control, so he’ll work in some leagues. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Too bad Jenks ended up in Boston, because he was much better than his ERA in 2010. He can still get you strikeouts with decent ratios, but with Daniel Bard and Jonathon Papelbon in front of him, holds and saves will be hard to come by.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/22/1984|
Profile: For Ubaldo and his owners, 2010 was a wild and crazy ride. In April and May, he had an ERA below 1.00 in just over 80 innings of work. In that time frame, he gave up only one homer, struck out 70 batters, walked 26, and had a high GB% to boot. Most of his success was due to a pretty extreme BABIP and LOB%. For the rest of his season, Ubaldo was a bit of a roller coaster, losing his control at times while getting unlucky during others. The past is the past, so what can we expect from Ubaldo in the future? Innings, loads of them. He’ll also contribute 200 strikeouts to your team, with an ERA floating around the 3.20 mark. He has some of the best pure stuff in the game, and if he can make small improvements to his command, he’d easily be the best pitcher in baseball. Ubaldo’s worth an early pick in 2011, but don’t get carried away. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Ubaldo’s 2010 was pretty magical, especially if you traded him away when his value was highest. His 2011 won’t be as special, but he’s still a top-flight starter.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/31/1984|
Profile: The biggest Fish treated the National League like a small pond, finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting despite only winning 11 games and missing the last month of the season. The injuries are a bit worrisome — he had Tommy John surgery in 2008, and a shoulder injury can be devastating to a pitcher — but the Marlins have been talking about him as their Opening Day starter in 2011. Johnson was great in 2009, but otherworldly in 2010, largely because of an increased strikeout rate and a sharply decreased home-run rate at home, especially noteworthy since he’s not a ground-ball pitcher. His road totals were still good — 3.25 ERA, 2.19 K/BB — but it was his utter dominance in Miami that made his year. His split isn’t usually that dramatic, and it’s safe to imagine that his home-run rate will climb back up next year. Still, even if it does, he’s a good bet for a K/BB around 3.0 and an ERA around 3.00. The Marlins were smart to lock him up through 2013, and as long as he doesn’t have more arm pain, he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the league. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: The biggest Fish treated the National League like a small pond. As long as he doesn’t have more arm pain, he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the league.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/29/1986|
Profile: Jurrjens followed a 2009 season in which he wildly outperformed his components by finally succumbing to them in an injury-plagued 2010. He isn’t exactly a strikeout pitcher — he strikes out about 6.5 per nine innings, with a career high of 152 strikeouts in 215 innings in 2009 — nor is he particularly a control pitcher, with a career K/BB right around two. But he keeps the ball in the park and pitches efficiently, using less than the league-average pitches per plate appearance. The question is health: his DL stint was for his hamstring, not the shoulder that bothered him in spring training. He’s a better real-world starter than fantasy starter: he’s never won 15 games or struck out 160 men, and probably won’t this year, either; likewise, his walk rate means that he’ll probably have a WHIP above 1.3 again as well. His ERA is his only standout category. He could be a bargain sleeper in a late round, but he’s much closer to the pitcher he was in 2008 than 2009. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: At his best, Jurrjens gives you good ERA, but only decent strikeouts, wins, and WHIP, and he was hurt last year; sleeper only.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/24/1982|
Profile: In 339.1 career innings now, Karstens has a 5.07 ERA. Nor do his FIP or xFIP (5.00 and 5.13, respectively) suggest that anything’s amiss with that number. Moreover, the right-hander plays for a team (the Pirates) who, while likely improving, also finished second-to-last in the NL last season with -99.0 adjusted batting runs, indicating that Karstens isn’t a candidate to pick up wins on the strength of an above-average offense. Essentially, then, what you have with Karstens is a below replacement-level pitcher by most formats. To his credit, he has generally thrown strikes, walking only 2.78 per nine for his career, but the lack of strikeouts (4.46 K/9 for his career) or ground-ball stuff (39.0%) prevents him from even filling a Jason Marquis-y kind of role. Barring a move to San Diego, he’s not worth even a bit to fantasy owners. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is unlikely to provide much value. Look elsewhere.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/22/1975|
Profile: Last season was a rough one for Kawakami. A 0-9 start to the season saw him first demoted to the bullpen and eventually banished to the minors, not to return. It’s pretty clear that Kawakami’s future isn’t with the Braves, but as of yet no other team has acquired his services. The Braves were reportedly in talks with the Pirates early in the offseason, but a deal hasn’t materialized. There were also some rumblings of Japanese teams interested in re-importing him, but that appears to have been more talk than intent. Kawakami’s components were not drastically different in 2010 than the were in 2009, when he posted a 3.86 ERA over 156.1 IP. This suggests that if he does get another chance at a Major League rotation spot, he has a decent chance of redeeming himself as a back-of-the-rotation starter, particularly if he lands in the NL. Kawakami’s weakness at this point is workload; he hasn’t thrown more than 167 innings since 2006, when he logged a career-high 215 with the Chunichi Dragons. So Kawakami’s upside at this point is a low/mid-4.00 ERA over 150 innings or so. Since his chances to get regular starts are likely to come from a second-division team, he probably won’t rack up many wins. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Kawakami wasn’t as bad in 2010 as he showed. Will he get a chance to prove it in 2011?
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/24/1984|
Profile: The Angels are stuck with Scott Kazmir, but luckily that does not require you to be as well. It was another poor season for Kazmir in 2010 as his downward slide progressed. The strikeouts continued their plummet in 2010 while his walks remained at their already high level. In fact, they nearly equaled each other after a peak of over three to one in 2006. Injuries have sapped Kazmir of his fastball and his effectiveness. Even if he regained some of the skill, you cannot count on him to stay healthy enough to record a worthwhile amount of wins or strikeouts. The ERA might come back down, but Kazmir has never been stingy with the walks and so his WHIP has never been elite, even when the rest of his stats were. He might be worth monitoring as a pick-up during the season if he is showing some life, but he is not worth a draft pick. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: The fall of Scott Kazmir is a reminder that all pitchers are volatile and even the young and great ones are not immune to decline.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/19/1984|
Profile: I highlighted Kennedy as a breakout candidate prior to 2010 and he did just that with a move from the potent American League East to the National League. Even though he plays in Arizona (a good offensive park), Kennedy’s fly-ball tendecies are less harmful in the senior league. With a thinner starting pitching corps in 2011, Kennedy will be relied on to fill the No. 2 or 3 spot in the rotation and should pitch more than 200 innings. He will likely see an increase in his BABIP-allowed rate (.265), which will negatively impact his WHIP, but his control should continue to be average or better. He should also be able to provide 160-180 strikeouts with 200 innings pitched. The Diamondbacks don’t project to be a great team in 2011, so don’t expect a ton of wins and his ERA should be around 4.00-4.20. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: If he can harness his home-run tendencies, Kennedy could really shine in mixed leagues. If not, the right-hander remains valuable in NL-only leagues thanks to his solid — but unspectacular — numbers.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/19/1988|
Profile: Kershaw has great stuff and has been a highly thought of prospect since his days in high school, so after posting a 2.91 ERA as a 22-year-old, it’s easy to buy into the narrative that he is one of the game’s elite pitchers. I wouldn’t make that leap just yet – a bulk of Kershaw’s run prevention were built on the twin towers of unsustainability – HR/FB rate (just 5.8%) and BABIP (.275). While Kershaw may prove to be able to beat the league average in both of the marks, smart money will bet on significant regression in both areas in 2011, and without a drastic improvement in his command, his ERA will almost certainly go up this year. Consistency in strike throwing is still a problem as well, and high pitch counts have led to shortened outings and fewer opportunities for wins. While he has all the potential to become an ace, he isn’t there yet, and if prices reflect a belief that he arrived as a #1 starter in 2010, your money is better spent elsewhere. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A very good pitcher who might be unfairly perceived as a great one already. Could get there, but don’t pay for the assumption he already did.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/28/1988|
Profile: Armed with a mid-90s fastball and a great slider, Kimbrel goes to war with wicked stuff and little idea where it’s going most days. In his debut, he showed a Marmol-ian (and debut record) 17.42 K/9 as well as a 6.97 BB/9, and that’s right in line with his double-digit strikeout rates in the minor leagues (and poor walk rates as well). It might make for some Maalox days in the bullpen in Atlanta, but the strikeout punch should erase some mistakes. The news is that the Braves will platoon Kimbrel with lefty Johnny Venters, but Kimbrel’s platoon splits aren’t terrible and the best money is on him winning the role outright by the end of the year. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: He may be starting the year in a platoon with Johnny Venters, and he may have some control issues, but Kimbrel’s strikeout punch is so elite that he’ll probably take full control of the closer’s role by the end of the year. Expect walks and strikeouts, lots of them.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/23/1981|
Profile: Most fantasy relievers (closers) are worth more in fantasy than in reality. As long as Jonathan Broxton is around, the opposite is true of Kuo. He’s a stud reliever: monster K rates and low walk rates. That has fantasy value, but without save opportunities that value is limited. He should be first in line if Broxton goes down, so he should be one of the first non-closer relievers off the board in most leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Kuo is one of the best non-closing relievers in all leagues in which he’s eligible and should be first in line for saves if something happens to Jonathan Broxton.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/10/1975|
Profile: Even though he’s no developing prospect at 35 years old, Kuroda has improved his strikeout rate (up to 7.29 K/9) every year he’s been in the Major Leagues so far. He’s done this while keeping his walk rate (2.06 BB/9 career) and ground-ball percentage (50.8% GB career) above average. Pairing those abilities has helped him curb the long-ball (.72 HR/9 career) and limit the damage (1.18 career WHIP) on his way to a sub-four career ERA. He’s in a friendly home park, but his FIP over his career has been better than his ERA (3.46 FIP, 3.60 ERA), so it’s not all about Dodger Stadium. Still, he’s an older guy with a 92 mph fastball and there’s little reason to predict an improvement. He knows what he is doing and has sneaky-good statistics, but is still more of a lower-risk, lower-upside mid- to late-round draft pick than an exciting mid- to late-round foundational pitcher with upside. And that’s not just semantics. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: It won’t be praised in your draft room, but picking Kuroda will show that you don’t always chase upside and that you can appreciate an older dude that pitches in a good park, keeps the ball on the ground, and doesn’t walk people. At least the downside shouldn’t be too bad.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/23/1978|
Profile: John Lackey’s first year in Boston didn’t go exactly how he had planned. After signing a five-year contract, he delivered a 4.40 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and a lower strikeout rate than he had experienced in six years. True, he did provide more gross value because he made 33 starts, but that’s still not enough to make up for his other lacking factors. Still, Lackey has previously established himself as a quality starter, and it’s hard to believe that at age 31 he’d just fall off a cliff. Unless he follows the path of his rival A.J. Burnett, he should provide quite a deal more value in 2011. That’s not to say he’s worth a high pick, but he’s definitely an arm that can round out a fantasy staff. Even a mild rebound should mean 180 strikeouts and around 17 wins. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: It’s tough to look past Lackey’s poor Boston debut, but he’s still an established pitcher. Regaining even a little of his previous value will make him a quality back-end fantasy starter.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985|
Profile: Laffey seems to have very little value and it gets less with every passing year. He spent 2010 in three places: with the Indians, at Triple-A, and on the DL. While on the Major League club, he gave up the exact same number of strikeouts and walks at 28 in 55.2 IP, as well as a BB/9 and K/9 of 4.53. The strikeout rate was close to a career high, but the BB/9 value has gotten worse every year that he’s pitched in the majors (2.19 to 2.98 to 4.22 to 4.53). The reason he’s probably not throwing anything near the plate is that his fastball maxes out at a blistering 87 mph. He used to be a great ground-ball pitcher, but that has also degraded since he started in the Majors (62.4% down to 51.6%). His ERA and FIP actually don’t look as bad as his rate stats say in 2010 (FIP = 3.92 and ERA = 4.53), but a HR/FB rate of under 2% is not sustainable, even for a ground-ball pitcher. I see him struggling to secure a job in 2010 and there is no reason to draft him in any league. There are better options (higher K/BB) available. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Laffey will need to improve dramatically in order to be a viable fantasy option.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/27/1984|
Profile: John Lannan had the worst year of his career in 2010, but he wasn’t exactly unlucky — his 4.65 ERA was still lower than his career 4.71 FIP. He maintained an ERA under 4.00 in 2008 and 2009, making him a nice fantasy sleeper, but his poor components — he has a career 1.39 K/BB ratio — came home to roost in 2010. He pitched so poorly in the first half that he earned himself a mid-season demotion to Double-A; upon his return, he pitched well enough to ensure himself a rotation spot in 2010, but he simply doesn’t have the stuff to survive anywhere but the back of the rotation. He’s perfectly serviceable back there, as long as he isn’t getting paid much. But he’s mostly valueless to a fantasy owner. He’s never even won 10 games, he doesn’t strike many people out, and his ERA and WHIP are likely to be between mediocre and bad once more. It’s hard to bet on him beating his components the way he did in ’08-’09. The greatest compliment you can pay John Lannan is to say that he’s slightly better than a replacement player. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Slightly better than a replacement player. But only slightly.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/9/1987|
Profile: Just 22 in 2010, Latos has an outstanding sophomore season. He has a big, strong pitcher’s frame and provided 185 innings, which means he should be good for 200+ innings in the coming year. The right-hander has the ceiling of a No. 1 starter and his numbers will be even better given that he’ll pitch approximately 50% of his games in San Diego. Latos is a rare pitcher that can produce excellent control numbers while also offering 200+ strikeouts. If you’re looking to nitpick, his ground-ball rates are usually average, or a little below, but that is less of an issue for a San Diego pitcher (due to the spacious park). Despite his youth and inexperience, Latos should be a solid mixed-league option. He’s the best pitcher on the staff by leaps and bounds, but the club’s offense should be fairly pathetic, so it’s hard to know how many wins he’ll be able to pull in. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: It’s hard to put a lot of faith in young pitchers but Latos is oozing with potential and he pitches in a very favorable park. He should have value in both NL-only and mixed leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/16/1983|
Profile: League has mid-nineties gas, but the elite rate he produces is not his strikeout rate, but instead is his groundball rate. That might be because of his most excellent circle change, or perhaps his cutter, or the combination of the two. A bit of a pitch f/x buster, his pitching mix doesn’t classify easily but clearly it works well. With David Aardsma hurting, League will certainly pick up some saves at the beginning of the year. With the Mariners rebuilding, he may even end the year as a closer. It’s just the middle part of the year that remains cloudy. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: He doesn’t have the strikeout rate of a closer, but League will open the year with the job in Seattle. Once David Aardsma returns from his hip injury, League will probably return to being an excellent setup man… until Aardsma is dealt?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/12/1987|
Profile: When Leake made his season debut on April 11th of 2010, he became the first pitcher taken in the draft to completely skip the minor leagues since Ariel Prieto in 1995. Darren Dreifort in 1994 and Jim Abbott in 1989 are the only other two pitchers to perform a similar feat in the last 30-plus years. Unfortunately, that’s not a huge sample from which to draw conclusions. That said, Abbott may actually make a pretty decent comp given what we know of Leake so far. Despite the differences in handedness, each was a college pitcher with lower-than-average K rates, league-average walk rates, and above-average groundball rates. (Abbott’s career 1.59 ground-out/air-out ratio suggests something very similar to the 50.2% GB that Leake posted.) Abbott’s best seasons, 1991 and 1992, were the product of a peak in all those categories plus a little batted-ball luck. Leake may not quite reach Abbott’s heights, but makes sense as a late-round pick. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: One of the few pitchers to skip minors entirely in last 30 years. Ground-ball skills could make him decent back-end fantasy option.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/7/1984|
Profile: If someone ever asks for evidence that Petco Park is the most pitcher friendly ballpark on the planet, simply point to Leblanc. In 2010, he posted a 2.71 ERA at home and a 6.11 ERA on the road, almost exclusively due to a home run rate that was twice as high away from the cozy confines of San Diego. His soft-tossing approach simply didn’t work in parks where the walls were a reasonable distance from the plate, and he gave up a staggering 2.04 HR/9 on the road. If you play in a daily line-up league where you can manipulate the roster so that LeBlanc only starts for you when he’s pitching at home, he’s a decent option as a cheap ERA buy. If you’re also forced to take his road starts in the package, then you might want to look elsewhere. His smoke and mirrors routine will only work for so long. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A Petco mirage, he’s likely to be overrated by the guy in your league who doesn’t get park factors.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/30/1978|
Profile: Cliff Lee probably deserved the AL Cy Young in 2010, but too many home runs allowed when he first moved to Texas likely killed his candidacy. Moving back to the National League for his first full-season tour there should benefit him, not that he needs any help. One factor to remember, however, is that Philadelphia’s park is no less home-run friendly than Texas’. Still, Lee is a great bet to toss another 200-plus innings with around 175 strikeouts and an utterly fantastic WHIP. Somewhere along the line, Lee apparently made a decision never to walk anyone ever. The ERA should be stellar and pitching in front of the Phillies offense all season should provide him with a big increase in the win department. All told, Cliff Lee is as big a stud in fantasy as on the actual mound (and off it). (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: In the standard five pitching categories, there might not be a better package than the one Cliff Lee will offer. The Phillies are poised to make a deep run in the National League.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/7/1984|
Profile: As if Jon Lester weren’t already one of the best fantasy pitchers in the game, he’s just now entering his prime at age 27. One of these years he’s going to put it all together and become a Cy Young winner, and there’s no better year to bet on that than 2011. He has struck out 225 batters in each of the last two seasons, which has helped establish him as one of the AL’s most dominant arms. He also benefits from the Red Sox defense, and has won 15 games in each of the last three seasons, including 19 last season. If he combines his walk rate from 2009 with his home-run rate from 2010, he figures to put up an ERA near or below 3.00, with a WHIP below 1.20. That’s a lot of dreaming right there, but if there is any pitcher in the league on whom you can dream, it’s Jon Lester. Leave him on the board at your own risk. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Already an elite pitcher, Lester is just now entering his prime and could experience a monster 2011. Even if he pitches along the lines of his 2009 and 2010 seasons, he’s still one of the top pitchers in the league.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/2/1979|
Profile: Can you catch a rainbow and put it in your pocket? Can you snatch a butterfly out of the sky, and say to it, “Hey, stop being a butterfly for a moment will you”? No! Such is the Colby Lewis… Even for those who weren’t necessarily swept up by Colby Lewis Fever, it’s hard to deny the righty’s accomplishments in 2010. In his first season back from Japan, Lewis surprised almost every baseball pundit by throwing 200-plus innings of sub-4.00 ERA ball. Nor was it smoke and mirrors: Lewis’s xFIP (3.93) and FIP (3.55) suggest that the ERA is real. While the Ranger offense wasn’t necessarily a juggernaut (sixth in the AL by park-adjusted batting runs), Lewis’s 12-13 record was undeservedly poor. Come 2011, there’s every reason to expect a similar performance from Lewis. For fantasy owners, the major difference will be perception: Lewis entered 2010 a virtual unknown; he enters 2011 as a pitcher with a 1.71 ERA in four high-profile postseason starts. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Could post a carbon copy of his 2010. The difference: where he’ll go in your draft.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/23/1976|
Profile: A year removed from his worst season — and arguably the worst season any 30-save closer has ever had — Brad Lidge bounced back to effectiveness, if not elite status. His strikeouts improved and walks decreased over his woeful 2009, but neither returned to the levels he posted from 2003 to ’08. Last year was also his fourth in a row with a DL trip, and his first bout with elbow inflammation. Seen all at once, 2010 was good but not great: he coupled a good but not stellar strikeout rate with a worryingly high walk rate; thanks to injury he made the fewest appearances of his career and recorded just 27 saves, tied for 15th in baseball; his 2.96 ERA was 12th among major league closers with at least 25 saves, and his 1.23 WHIP was 14th. Since Lidge just celebrated his 34th birthday in the offseason, and hasn’t posted a BB/9 below 4.0 since 2005, it’s hard to imagine him topping those numbers in 2011. Since he has had so many highs and lows over his career, it can be hard to keep track of whether he’s overrated or underrated. Right now, he’s probably rated correctly: he’s just okay. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Since he has had so many highs and lows over his career, it can be hard to keep track of whether he’s overrated or underrated. Right now, he’s probably rated correctly: he’s just okay.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/4/1976|
Profile: While Lilly was very good for Los Angeles after being acquired in a mid-season trade, there are four reasons to be concerned about how well he’l perform in 2011 – their names are Ethier, Kemp, Gibbons, and Thames. The Dodgers have compiled an historically awful outfield defense, and Lilly is among the most extreme fly ball pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. Last year, 52.6 percent of all of his balls in play were fly balls, and with those lead-footed statues responsible for tracking down balls in the gaps, Lilly could be in for some frustrating outings. He depends heavily on limiting hits on balls in play (his career BABIP is just .271) so that the home runs he allows don’t score too many runners at once. If those fly balls start falling in before he gives up a long ball, he could put up some ugly numbers in a hurry. Toss in his advancing age and Lilly is probably not a guy you want to spend market prices on this year. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: On a roster with speedy fly catchers, he’d be a recommended buy. He’s on the 2011 Dodgers, however, so you might want to say a prayer for his sanity instead.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/15/1984|
Profile: When Lincecum bolted through the minor leagues, he did it with a 100 MPH fastball that he just blew by opposing hitters. Now, he regularly throws 90 MPH fastballs and instead gets them out by throwing perhaps the game’s best change-up. It’s been a remarkable transformation, but through it all, Lincecum has remained an elite starting pitcher. He might not match his numbers from 2009 again, but his ability to pivot and maintain most of his dominance in the face of declining velocity is a good sign for his future. Pitching half his games in AT&T Park also helps keep his home run rate down, and the combination of few home runs and a lot of strikeouts make it difficult to put runs on the board. Don’t expect another 260 strikeout season, but if you want a high-K, low-ERA starter, he’s tough to beat. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: One of the best starting pitchers in the game, but not any kind of secret. You’ll have to pay a premium to have Lincecum at the front of your rotation.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/25/1985|
Profile: The fourth-overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft showed fine touch in the minors, but he got pummeled in his first big-league stint. Lincon whiffed eight batters per nine innings, walked 2.3 per nine and posted a 3.65 FIP in 94 frames at the Triple-A level. In the Majors, however, Lincoln was lashed for a 5.49 FIP in 52.2 IP. Making nine starts and two relief appearances, Lincoln just couldn’t miss any wood. Getting swinging strikes 6% of the time (8.5% MLB average), he struck out 4.27 hitters per nine. And while he rarely got in trouble with walks (2.56 BB/9), Lincoln got taken deep frequently. He served up 1.54 dingers per nine innings, and it wasn’t really bad luck. Lincoln became a fly-ball pitcher as he climbed the minors, and he burned worms just 37.2% of the time with the Pirates. His 11% HR/FB ratio was right around the league average. Fifty-some innings aren’t nearly enough to make a definitive judgment on a pitcher. But as a guy who figures to have an average-at-best K rate and plenty of pitches lofted against him, Lincoln’s upside is limited. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Draft pedigree aside, Lincoln’s no future ace. He’ll hope to carve out a role at the middle- to back-end of the Bucs’ rotation, but he’s only an option in NL-only formats.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/11/1980|
Profile: There’s not much more disappointing in fantasyland than a closer losing his job through no fault of his own. That’s what happened to Lindstrom, who goes from being Houston’s primary ninth-inning guy to a middle reliever in Colorado after an offseason trade. His premium fastball velocity hasn’t translated into strikeouts over the last few years (7.12 K/9 since 2008), and that’s where most of his immediate fantasy value lies. For now we’ll have to hope for vultured wins and improvements in the ERA and WHIP categories, none of which seems terribly likely. Huston Street isn’t exactly a beacon of health, so it’s possible that Lindstrom will find his way into some save opportunities throughout the course of the season. Having the “proven closer” tag helps his case. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Lindstrom moves from Houston to Colorado and lost his closer’s job, so his fantasy value lies in vultured wins and just an okay strikeout rate for the time being. An injury to Huston Street could send some save opportunities Lindstrom’s way.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/26/1983|
Profile: On a per-inning basis, it was hard to find a better pitcher in 2010 than Francisco Liriano. He struck out over a batter per inning while waking only 2.7 batters per nine innings and conceding fewer than 0.5 home runs per nine innings. That resulted in a tremendous 2.66 FIP, third best in the league, but the results to become an elite fantasy pitcher just weren’t there. Liriano finished with a 3.66 ERA, a 14-10 record, a 1.26 WHIP, and 201 strikeouts, the only really elite number of the bunch. Of course, Liriano is still young (27 for the entire regular season) and he could benefit from some BABIP regression (.340 in 2010). The key will be whether or not he can manage longer starts. His stuff is good enough and Target Field large enough that we should continue to see Liriano post good home-run-suppression numbers. Basically, Liriano has to find a way to get his BABIP down to normal levels. If that happens, he will allow fewer runs, log more innings, and really step into his place as one of the elite pitchers in the Major Leagues. That potential is there, and even if it’s not realized this season, Liriano should be good for 180+ high quality innings, with a mid-3.00s ERA and a ton of strikeouts. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Liriano was an elite starting pitcher in 2010, but there’s still room to grow. If he can throw more innings, he can move into a class all his own.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 10/4/1978|
Profile: Hey, remember when the St. Louis Cardinals signed Kyle Lohse to a four-year, $41 million contract? After a dismal 2010 for Lohse, it’s probably fair to call that one a failure. Lohse only made 18 starts for the Cardinals, winning four games and posting a 6.55 ERA. His peripheral numbers weren’t nearly that bad — under 3.5 BB/9 and only 0.9 HR/9 — but a .369 BABIP and a (likely related) 60% strand rate did Lohse in. His FIP came in a 4.52 and his xFIP at 4.98, so there’s a chance that we can expect more out of Lohse in his opportunities next year. However, the question is whether or not he will get those opportunities. Lohse is currently slotted in as the fifth starter for the Cards, and, with a poor start, it’s hard to imagine that Tony La Russa wouldn’t be quick to try the next in line. Lohse won’t be of much help in Ks nor WHIP, so his only hope for fantasy value would be to luck into a solid win total or a decent ERA. Expecting either of those to happen would be folly. Avoid Lohse in fantasy drafts. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Kyle Lohse is the fifth starter for St. Louis for now, but the leash is probably short. Another 6.00+ ERA probably won’t happen again, but there’s not much fantasy value here.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 12/14/1975|
Profile: Pitching for his sixth different organization, Lopez crossed the 200-inning threshold for the second time in his career. That said more about the state of Arizona’s rotation than it did about the quality of Lopez’s starts, though. The soft-tosser used his 88 MPH fastball less than half of the time, using a kitchen sink repertoire including a slider, cutter, curve and changeup. As usual, he didn’t whiff (5.22 K/9) or walk (2.52 BB/9) many opponents. He did a great job of getting ahead of hitters, with a 64.9 first-pitch strike percentage (58.8% MLB average), but he couldn’t put those hitters away. Lopez got swinging strikes just 5% of the time, third-lowest among qualified starting pitchers. Homers were a big problem, too. Inducing ground balls under 38% of the time, Lopez served up 1.67 round-trippers per nine innings. That was by far the highest rate of taters served up among qualified starters and contributed heavily to his 5.00 ERA and 5.21 FIP. A free agent at press time, Lopez will likely get a minor-league contract and a spring invite from some pitching-starved club. He’ll face an uphill climb to make a big league roster, much less toss 200 innings, in 2011. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: The journeyman kept on taking starts for the D’Backs last year because, well, someone had to. Hopefully, your team won’t end up in such dire straits that Lopez looks like a viable option.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 6/1/1973|
Profile: Derek Lowe had a terrible first year of his four-year, $60 million contract with Atlanta, but partially redeemed himself in 2010, looking especially good with a 1.48 ERA in his last seven starts, five in September and two against the Giants in the NLDS. It’s hard to build a projection on just seven starts, considering that he was pretty mediocre in his previous 62 starts in a Braves uniform, but it certainly made him look more like the guy they paid for. Still, he doesn’t strike many people out, he gives up a lot of contact leading to a decently high WHIP, and his 16 wins in 2010 tied his National League high. If he can keep his ERA under 4.00, he might be worth some sleeper consideration, but that’s about it. The Braves need him to be a rotation anchor, but fantasy owners have no such obligation, particularly as he turns 38 in June. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: An old sinker-baller showed flashes of his old self in October and will probably be better than his awful 2009. Still, that’s not saying much.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/10/1979|
Profile: Lyon was given a silly contract from Astros’ GM Ed Wade after he produced a shiny ERA and nothing else during his 2009 stint with the Tigers. However, Lyon wasn’t viewed as Houston’s ninth-inning guy until the last two months of the season, and he only got promoted thanks to Matt Lindstrom’s injuries. Lyon’s strikeout rates are always below average, which is especially troubling for a late-inning reliever. Plus, for the third time in the past four seasons, Lyon sported a K/BB ratio of under 2.00. While Lyon has beaten FIP the past two seasons, his career ERA and career FIP are a mere .05 apart, so we shouldn’t expect it to happen again. While Lyon will likely hold onto the closer job and could record around 30 saves this year, that doesn’t mean he should be on your radar. He doesn’t strike enough hitters out to support a mediocre walk rate, and if his ERA is below 4.00 again, color me surprised. I’m staying away from Lyon unless I’m in an NL-only league, and even then I’m skeptical. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Lyon isn’t much more than a middle reliever, but the Astros’ seem comfortable using him late in games. Even if he does collect 30 saves, you’d be better off looking elsewhere for relief help.
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