|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/28/1980|
Profile: For the last two years, Ryan Madson has been a better pitcher than titular closer Brad Lidge, and yet he only has 15 saves to show for it. Ask a Phillies fan, though, and they’ll assure you he’s not fit for the role. Perhaps he doesn’t have the temperament (he did kick a wall and break his toe after a blown save). What he does have is the ability to strike people out (10.87 K/9 last year, 7.67 K/9 career) and garner groundballs (50.4% last year, 47.6% career) while eschewing the walk (2.21 BB/9 last year, 2.77 BB/9 career). He’s 30 and only pitched 55 innings last year due to a non-pitching injury (the toe-wall thing), and seems primed for a great year. Unfortunately, in most leagues his value will depend almost entirely on the production of Lidge. Given that Lidge has both an injury-riddled and ineffective season in his recent past, it could mean double-digit saves for Madson by the end of the year. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: In recent times, Ryan Madson has been a better pitcher than the man notching the saves for the Phillies. Still, it looks like his owners will have to wait for Lidge to go down before getting any saves out of their pitcher.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/25/1982|
Profile: Maholm is one of the league’s Official Ground-ball Pitchers™. In his 981.1 career innings, he has a ground-ball rate of 52.7% — good for 12th among all starters with at least 500 innings since 2005 (when Maholm debuted). Certain pitchers at the top of that list — Felix Hernandez, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay — are legitimate aces in both real and fantasy baseball. Other pitchers — Derek Lowe, Aaron Cook, Jake Westbrook — can be perfectly reasonable contributors in the real game while distinctly underwhelming in the fantasy version. The difference, of course, is the strikeouts. None of the latter ground-ballers strike out even six per nine — and that’s the case for Maholm, too, who has a 5.58 K/9 on his career. Entering his age-29 season, he’s unlikely to improve considerably in this area. Moreover, he plays for the Pirates, who’re unlikely to provide even league-average run support this season. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Will likely be “ace” of Pirates, but ground-ball-centric approach makes him better real-life than fantasy pitcher.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/8/1981|
Profile: Following a breakout 2007 campaign with the Mets that featured a 3.91 ERA (4.18 FIP) with 8.48 K/9 and 15 wins in 191 innings (32 starts), a then 26-year-old John Maine looked ready to a rise into the upper echelon of fantasy starters. And then he started to get hurt. In 2008 it was a shoulder strain and surgery to remove bone chips that limited him to 140 IP and a 4.18 ERA (4.40 FIP). In 2009 it was a prolonged bout with shoulder weakness that resulted in 4.43 ERA (4.57 FIP) in just 81.1 IP. Last year it was surgery to repair a debridement in his throwing shoulder, an ailment that kept him off the mound for all but 39.2 IP (6.13 ERA, 5.78 FIP). No one knows what to expect out of the soon-to-be 30-year-old Maine following his non-tender, but the smart money is on nothing. Even in the deepest of deep leagues, let him show he’s capable of simply walking out to the mound and throwing a pitch in a game before even considering giving him one of your precious few roster spots. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Major shoulder injuries have derailed Maine’s once promising career, and now he’s a guy that you simply monitor in the box scores from time to time to see if he’s resurfaced. Chances are, he won’t, at least not in a fantasy relevant way.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/14/1981|
Profile: A surprise offseason trade saw Marcum head to Milwaukee in exchange for Canadian second-base prospect, and former first-round draft pick, Brett Lawrie. The move to the National League and away from the potent American League East should have a huge, positive impact on the former college shortstop. Marcum possesses a below-average fastball but he has one of the best changeups in the Major Leagues, as well as three other pitches. He mixes his pitches well and shows outstanding control, which allows him get his fair share of strikeouts (7.60 K/9). He also consistently produces low BABIPs and doesn’t give up a lot of hits; his new defense behind him, though, may not help him in that area. Marcum, 29, may not age well because he’s an undersized right-hander with past injury problems and has the below-average heater. That shouldn’t be a problem for the next few years, especially with the change in leagues, but it’s something to keep in mind for keeper leagues. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Marcum, the master of the changeup, will benefit from a move to the National League. He could earn a few more wins in the NL Central and his strikeout rate could also see a bump, especially while NL hitters learn to read the off-speed pitch coming out of his hand.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/14/1982|
Profile: Carlos Marmol is apparently Spanish for “Charlie Sheen”. No, I’m not insinuating that Marmol is a hooker-and-cocaine fiend, but instead, that he’s the living personification of Sheen’s character in Major League. Just like Ricky Vaughn, Marmol trots in from the bullpen, throws the ball hard, and generally has no idea where it’s going to go. Somehow, it works. He posted a ridiculous strikeout rate of 15.99 batters per nine innings last year, which helped him strand the 60 batters he put on first base by either walk or painful beaning. Perhaps more amazingly, he allowed just one home run despite giving up 63 fly balls, a HR/FB rate of just 1.6 percent. If you’re looking for Marmol to repeat his 2010 numbers, that should be the number that scares you the most. As an extreme fly ball pitcher, he’s almost certain to give up more homers in 2011, and if the bases happen to be loaded because he’s just thrown 12 straight pitches in the dirt, his ERA could jump in a hurry. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: The strikeouts are enough to let him rack up some easy saves, but you better have some heart medicine around if you’re going to have him closer for your team.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/21/1978|
Profile: Since 2005, 34 pitchers have thrown at least 1000 innings. Of those pitchers, only one (Jeff Suppan, with a 4.8 mark) has managed to compile fewer WAR than Jason Marquis (7.2). Even that number is mis-representative of Marquis, as his 3.8 WAR in 2009 is his highest mark over that span by basically two wins. What’s the point of mentioning all this? Well, for one, it’s to note that, when he’s not eating innings, Marquis has little value. In 2010, he wasn’t eating innings and, hence, wasn’t valuable. It’s also to say that, even when he is throwing 200 or so frames per year, Marquis’ peripherals — including just a 1.38 K:BB since 2005 — prevent him from being truly valuable. High-ish ground-ball rates might help keep his ERA from inflating too wildly, but poor control of the strike zone, combined with just a mediocre offensive club, render Marquis a non-target in fantasy drafts. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Sometimes, even if it looks like a starting pitcher and quacks like a starting pitcher, it’s actually just Jason Marquis.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 1/2/1983|
Profile: Martin’s 125 big-league innings feature a respectable 4.32 ERA but just 4.90 K/9 and a 1.41 WHIP, though his minor-league track record is a little more promising. In 322 combined innings in Double- and Triple-A, Martin owns a 7.13 K/9 and his walk rate is outstanding (1.78 BB/9 when you take out intentional walks). That bodes well for future WHIPs, but he’ll always be a little hit-prone because he doesn’t miss that many bats. Martin’s big bugaboo is the long ball, he’s given up 23 homers in those 125 ML IP, and his minor-league home-run rate is just decent at 0.7 HR/9. He could end up back in Triple-A to start the season, after being released by Washington. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Martin is stuck behind some higher-upside young arms and veterans making decent money, but his fantasy value is limited anyway. He doesn’t miss many bats and can be hit prone, leading to poor WHIPs despite a strong walk rate.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/22/1985|
Profile: During his second full season in the big leagues Justin Masterson showed some signs of improvement, but his results actually got worse. His walk rate and home-run rates dropped while his ground-ball rate rose. While his strikeout rate fell, that’s to be expected with a full transition to the rotation. Masterson’s peripherals suggest that he should be better than his 4.70 ERA indicates, though he still has limitations. He has no real weapon against lefties, and he plays for the Indians. That could keep his ERA inflated and his win totals deflated. Still, he’s a decent breakout candidate who, as he enters his prime, appears to be putting it together. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: Justin Masterson’s peripherals suggest that he’ll be better in 2011 than he was in 2010. But without a real weapon against lefties he might not catch up to his peripherals.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1980|
Profile: In light of 2009’s lost season, Matsuzaka’s mediocre performance in 2010 has to be considered something of a bounceback. After starting the season with a Triple-A stint, he took the ball every fifth day aside from a DL disruption in June. Dice-K was a six-inning pitcher in 2010, as he threw 153.2 innings in 25 starts and only made it through the seventh six times. Command was again an issue, with a rough 4.33 BB/9 rate falling right into line with his career norms. That said, his FIP was a respectable 4.05 and his peripherals were more or less in line with his 2008 performance, when he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. What was the difference? He was a little less fortunate on BABIP, at .292 versus .267 in ’08, but the real difference was performance with men on base. In 2008, he stranded 80.6% of runners, but in 2010 this number fell to 67.2%. In 2008, his splits with men on base were better across the board than they were in 2010, but WHIP is particularly dramatic — 1.15 in 2008 to 1.40 in 2010. It’s unrealistic to expect Matsuzaka to rack up a large number of innings, but if he can regain the form he showed in ’08 with runners on base, he could post a respectable ERA and a solid win total. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: We know what we’re getting with Matsuzaka at this point. Or do we?
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/11/1987|
Profile: This former No. 1 draft pick has faced a lot of expectations since signing with the Orioles; he showed a lot of promise in 2010 but still has work to do. Matusz won 10 games for the fifth-placed O’s but his ERA sat at 4.30. The southpaw produced a below-average ground-ball rate but still survived by keeping his home-run rate at an average level (0.97 HR/9). That could change with a little less luck in 2011, unless he makes some adjustments, which includes keeping the ball down. Improved command of his changeup will also help keep hitters off balance, and it could cause a spike in his strikeout rate (7.33 K/9). Matusz could emerge as the O’s best pitcher as early as 2011. He has the ceiling of a No. 1 or 2 starter if everything clicks, so Matusz is a great target in keeper leagues. From a fantasy perspective, he should have some value but he plays for a club that is expected to struggle so wins may be hard to come by. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Matusz has a respectable rookie campaign. Expect more in the years to come as he has the potential to be a No. 1 or 2 starter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/28/1981|
Profile: It didn’t take long for Yunesky Maya to reach the majors. The former Cuban national team pitcher defected in 2009 and signed with the Nationals on July 31, 2010. By September he had reached the Majors. His debut didn’t go smoothly, as he allowed 17 runs in 26 innings, but he should still get a chance in the Nationals rotation in 2011. He stuff doesn’t seem overwhelming, and his control, reportedly his strong suit, did not show in either the minors or the Majors. Still, we know so little about him that it’s difficult to forecast him as a fantasy pitcher. But given that he probably won’t strike out many and that he plays on a mediocre team, chances are he won’t provide much value. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: It’s always hard to project Cuban defectors, and Yunesky Maya is no different. He should get a chance with Washington in 2011, but there’s not enough upside to warrant a gamble at the beginning.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/27/1986|
Profile: Like many of his Oakland teammates in the starting rotation, Mazzaro managed to outperform his underlying statistics. Despite not striking people out (5.81 K/9) or coaxing ground balls (42.9% GB), he had an ERA in the low fours and caught the eye of Royals GM Dayton Moore. Without the help of the nice home park, Mazzaro may have even more trouble with the home run (1.4 HR/9 in 2010, 1.31 HR/9 career). Mazzaro has some okay secondary stuff, but his fastball isn’t very exciting (-14.7 runs above average in 2010, -35.3 runs career). Since his strikeout rates in the minor leagues were also unimpressive, it’s on Mazzaro to induce ground balls or he’ll never be a true-talent league-average pitcher. Mazzaro should remain undrafted in most leagues — he’s worth a final-round flier pick only in the deepest. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: A fly-ball pitcher that hasn’t struck people out in the Major or minor leagues that’s leaving a pitcher-friendly ballpark to join a team with a young lineup and one of the worst rotations in baseball? Er, don’t sign me up for that, please.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984|
Profile: In 2009, Baseball America rated McDonald second overall in the Dodger organization. That season, he threw 63.0 middling innings of Major League ball, and added 76.2 more over three levels in 2010. Apparently, that was enough for GM Ned Colletti, who traded McDonald and Andrew Lambo at the deadline for the Pirates’ Octavio Dotel. It’s likely the Pirates won that one: as McDonald posted a 1.7 WAR over 11 starts for Pittsburgh, Dotel was worth only -0.1 WAR before being traded to the Rockies for a PTBNL. So far as McDonald in 2011 goes, it’s not likely that he matches his 3.52 ERA with Pittsburgh, as that number was based on a 3.7% HR/FB and 3.38 BB/9 that he’s unlikely to match. That said, the strikeouts are likely real. Obviously, a weak Pirate offense doesn’t bode particularly well for run support, but McDonald mayn’t be a crazy late-round pick. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: May not repeat his excellent post-Dodger numbers, but is capable of posting strikeout numbers, which is something few recent Pirates have managed to do.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985|
Profile: Kris Medlen, on the verge of breaking out, suffered a serious health setback in 2010, getting Tommy John surgery in August; and doctors later discovered a torn hip labrum. The 25-year-old is scheduled to come back in late 2011, and the Braves will probably try to nurse him back to the rotation through the bullpen. Based on his work in the majors so far, he’s poised for a very nice year in 2012, when he’ll be 26, and he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Braves. The Braves pushed Peter Moylan back to active service fewer than 12 months after his Tommy John surgery, so it’s possible that Medlen could be back by July, but even in the most optimistic scenario, it’s hard to imagine that he could possibly muster more than 50-80 innings of league-average work. He’s a fine pitcher, but neither the Braves nor fantasy owners should rely on him in 2011. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Out till late 2011 with Tommy John surgery. A fine pitcher, but neither the Braves nor fantasy owners should rely on him in 2011.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/12/1983|
Profile: Once a control-challenged Rule V pick, Meek emerged as a late-inning force for the Pirates in 2010. Pumping mid-90s fastballs, low-90s cutters and low-80s breaking stuff, Meek racked up a decent number of strikeouts (7.88 per nine) and an excellent ground-ball rate (56.7%) while keeping the walks in check, with 3.49 per nine. Meek wasn’t the relief deity that his 2.14 ERA would suggest — that .236 BABIP is going to rise — but he managed a 3.45 FIP in 80 innings of work. After Pittsburgh swindled the Dodgers in the Octavio Dotel deal, Meek and Joel Hanrahan took turns closing out games. The Pirates have shown little interest in signing another graybeard to work the ninth, so the two high-octane righties will duke it out in spring training for save opportunities. That’s assuming, however, the club doesn’t shop the arbitration-eligible Hanrahan. Entering 2011, Meek makes for a nice option for those who squirm at spending a high pick on a closer. There’s no guarantee he gets the gig, but he could be a top-10 option if he does. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Progressing from wild mop-up man to wicked high-leverage reliever in a year, Meek looks legit so long as you expect an ERA closer to the mid-threes than the low-twos. He’s closer-worthy.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/11/1989|
Profile: Coming up through the minor leagues, Mejia used his “Mariano-like” cutter to rack up good strikeout and ground-ball totals, so maybe it wasn’t so surprising that a management team that knew they had little time left in the driver’s seat elected to use him in the bullpen in 2010. The problem with the move from a development perspective is that Mejia needs to improve his secondary pitches, and working out of the pen reduced him almost to a one-pitch pitcher. The fastball was nice, but 76% usage of one pitch is not ideal for a starter. The new regime will start Mejia at Triple-A, and the best bet is that it’ll take at least a half-season of sustained excellence at the level for him to resurface in the Major Leagues. If he does so as a starter, and with three working pitches in his arsenal, he’ll be interesting — at the very least, as a spot starter. Keeper leaguers will have to hold Mejia because of his reduced trade value, but there’s still something there worth keeping an eye on. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Nice strikeout and ground-ball rates in the minor leagues came to a screeching halt when the Mets elected to move Mejia to the pen in 2010. The good news is that the new regime will put him in Triple-A and that he’ll be much more prepared to be a useful starter the next time he sees the Major Leagues.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 12/24/1974|
Profile: Millwood was on fire at the start of the 2010 season, but his early success did not carry over into the latter half of the season. During April, Millwood had a K/BB ratio of 4.00, and a 3.00 ratio during the month of May. Then things got rocky, and he posted a FIP and ERA above 6.00 during June and July. He rebounded a bit during the last two months, but he was merely mediocre during that time. Even when things were going well, Millwood had trouble keeping the ball in the field of play, an issue not helped by Camden Yards’ park factors. In recent years, Millwood has struggled to make hitters miss, and is giving up far too many fly balls. He may be able to luck into an ERA close to the mark he put up with the Rangers in 2009 (3.67), but that is unlikely. Unless he gets amazing run support and earns a win every time out, he won’t be worth the trouble in any format. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Millwood had a hot start to 2010, but he struggled in the middle months of the season. He no longer has the skills to make him a fantasy relevant pitcher.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/26/1987|
Profile: Minor, 23, saw his fastball velocity jump in 2010, which led to improved numbers in 2010, and very impressive strikeout rates. The lefty posted a strikeout rate of 9.52 K/9 in nine MLB appearances. Although his ERA was high at 5.98, his FIP sat at 3.77, which suggests his numbers could be better in 2011 with a little more luck. On the down side, Minor did have a low ground-ball rate so he could be prone to home runs. He also didn’t sustain his strong velocity throughout the entire season and it sat at 91 mph in the Majors after reportedly sitting in the mid-90s in the minors earlier in the year. Minor also struggled with his fastball command in The Show, so there is room for improvement. He’s currently the favorite for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation but he’ll face stiff competition from rookie Brandon Beachy. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Minor struggled a bit at the MLB level in 2010 but enters 2011 with a solid shot at earning a spot on the MLB staff. He has a solid ceiling but he probably won’t reach it this season; he’s a solid keeper-league target but watch him closely this spring if you’re playing in NL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/18/1981|
Profile: Quick quiz: who had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio on the 2010 Mets pitching staff? Even Flushing diehards would be forgiven if they didn’t know the answer was Pat Misch. In limited action, Misch had maybe the best year of his career, briefly working as a swingman in Citi Field after being a stalwart of the Triple-A Buffalo staff. But he probably won’t have a 5.75 K/BB again. On the other hand, though he won’t repeat his 1.0 BB/9, he has decent control of his fringy stuff, so there’s a chance he’ll be able to offer above-replacement performance as a spot starter/long reliever in the Met bullpen. He’s never yet had a full season in the Majors without being shuttled back to the minors in the middle, but he’s now out of options, so he has a better chance of actually staying on the team in 2011. He can’t do much more than mop-up work because he can’t miss bats, but he won’t kill the Mets as their 25th man. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: He can’t do much more than mop-up work because he can’t miss bats, but he won’t kill the Mets as their 25th man.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/21/1986|
Profile: The Dodgers picked up Monasterios in the Rule 5 draft prior to last season. After pitching just 7.1 innings at Double-A, he held his own in the majors last year, working as both a starter and a reliever. Monasterios has a full assortment of pitches, but none of them was particularly impressive by itself. He has little fantasy value on Draft Day, but is a name to keep in mind during the season if the Dodgers get hit by injuries and he works his way into the rotation. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: A Rule 5 pick after the 2009 season, Monasterios can either start or relieve. He serves as roration depth only.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/26/1984|
Profile: Seen as an enigma in Seattle, Morrow blossomed after being dealt to Toronto, posting the lowest walk rate and highest strikeout rate of his career. His 3.63 xFIP was actually better than the mark posted by Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia, and because of his good peripherals and impressive velocity, he’s a popular sleeper target in 2011. However, he remains a high risk proposition. He’s battled shoulder problems throughout his career, and the Blue Jays shut him down in September in order to limit his workload. The 146 innings he threw last year were more than twice his previous career high in the majors, and the Blue Jays will continue to be careful with their young fireballer. He’ll be among the league leaders in strikeouts and should post a lower ERA than he did a year ago, but you might not get the quantity of innings required to justify a significant investment in Morrow on draft day. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Potential to be among the league’s best pitchers, but with a long line of concerns as well. High risk, high reward.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982|
Profile: Most people prefer their closers to throw hard. Motte’s average fastball velocity is in the mid-90s while current Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin is about four mph slower. Combine that with Franklin outpitching his peripherals in 2009 and many people thought Motte would take over as closer during the 2010 season. But Franklin converted 93 percent of his save opportunities last year and Motte was able to vulture just two saves. With a 9.29 K/9 ratio last year, Motte still seems like a closer in waiting and will likely be picked up in many leagues as owners anticipate a changing of the guard in the St. Louis bullpen. But Motte still has some issues versus LHP, against whom he has allowed a lifetime .850 OPS and had 12 BB and 15 Ks in 2010. Even if Franklin loses his job, Motte is not necessarily the heir apparent closer. Kyle McClellan did not have a noticeable left/right split and he could be next in line for saves in St. Louis. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: Motte throws gas and is commonly thought to be a closer in waiting. But he has a big left/right split and may not be the next in line for saves.
|Debut: 1986 | BirthDate: 11/18/1962|
Profile: Jamie Moyer has already pitched about a decade longer than most people thought he would. And he has no plans on quitting any time soon, even undergoing Tommy John surgery a few days after his 48th birthday. He wants to return to the majors in 2012. His results in 2010 were pretty similar to 2009, an ERA just south of 5.00 and a more or less replacement-level performance. He’ll almost certainly get a chance in 2012, both because of his track record and because he’s a curiosity, but unless they give him Henry Rowengartner’s elbow ligaments, he’ll probably return as a long reliever. Still, every baseball fan will be rooting for him. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Moyer is out for the season with Tommy John surgery.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/17/1980|
Profile: Following an injury-marred, tater-filled 2009, Myers enjoyed a career year with the Astros in 2010. Myers’ K rate, 7.24 per nine innings, was close to his career average, and his rate of free passes issued (2.66 per nine) was the best of his big-league tenure. The biggest change, however, was his home-run per fly-ball rate. From 2002 to 2009, Myers gave up a round-tripper 15.5% of the time a batter hit a fly ball against him. Last season, that rate dipped to 8.5%. The result was a career-low 0.8 HR/9 and a nifty 3.56 FIP. Another change for Myers was pitch selection. The four-pitch righty has never been fastball-centric, but he threw his 89-90 MPH heat about 44% of the time (53% career average) while going to a low-80s slider nearly 28% (11% career average). It’s hard to evaluate individual pitches, as a pitcher’s whole repertoire and his tendencies influence results. But Myers’ fastball rated as nearly a run below average per 100 pitches thrown, while his slider (+1.54 runs/100) and mid-70s curveball (+1.91 runs/100) were stellar. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Myers revived his career, got a brand spankin’ new deal keeping him in Houston through at least 2012, and he looks like a solid option for next season. Don’t expect another low-threes ERA, though — his home-run per fly-ball rate should move closer to the 11% MLB average and, given Minute Maid’s dimensions and Myers’ past rates, perhaps a bit higher.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981|
Profile: The Brewers’ main job this summer is to improve a depleted starting rotation, one in which Chris Narveson is currently projected as the No. 3 or No. 4 starter. The lefty nearly reached a 5.00 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, walking 3.2 batters per 9.0 innings. Right-handed hitters hit .280/.342/.474 off of him. Barring a free-agency spending spree, Narveson should stay in the Brewers’ rotation because of his durability and strikeout ability. Unfortunately, until he figures out better control for himself and less contact from hitters, his only fantasy use will be cumulative statistics like wins and strikeouts. Keep watch of the Brewers’ rotation situation. If Narveson can keep the No. 4 starter’s spot for most of the 2011 season, he should get 180 innings of 4.70 ERA ball, maintaining at least seven strikeouts per nine innings. Not exactly the starting pitcher you want on your pre-rankings list, but certainly a replacement-level pitcher who adds value depending on your fantasy strategy. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Narveson should start out in the Brewers’ rotation because of his durability and strikeout ability. However, he is more of a replacement-level pitcher, adding value to wins and strikeouts instead of ERA and WHIP.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/28/1983|
Profile: The Rays have envious starting pitching depth, and, although there have been rumblings of moving Niemann to the bullpen (possibly even making him the closer), he’s expected to start 2011 in the team’s rotation. His strikeout rate over the last two seasons isn’t great (6.49 K/9) but it’s good enough, and he makes up for it by keeping his WHIP down and his ERA respectable by limiting walks (2.86 BB/9, taking out intentional walks). Niemann is a solid fourth or fifth fantasy starter, but he’s going to have to start missing more bats (just a 7.5% swing-and-miss rate for his career) to take the next step and become more. Tampa will still be a fine team in 2011, so another dozen wins or so is likely. Niemann did miss three weeks with a shoulder strain in 2010, the latest in a long line of arm injuries,further limiting his fantasy value. He’s a solid option to round out a roster, but not a centerpiece. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Potential injuries and an overall lack of strikeouts limit Niemann’s fantasy value, but he remains a solid fourth or fifth starter to round out your roster.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/27/1986|
Profile: How about this for average? Last year, Niese had about an average strikeout rate (7.67 K/9, average was 7.13), walk rate (3.21 BB/9, average was 3.18), and home-run rate (1.04, average was .96). The resulting FIP (4.10) was right around average, too (4.08 was average). Increased use of the cutter has lead to better ground-ball rates (47.7% ground balls), but he’s not far above average in that category, either (usually around 45%). With average luck (his .335 BABIP was a little high, but right in line with his .337 career BABIP), he could probably get his ERA just under four, but he’ll need to find more strikeouts to be much better than that. He did strike out a batter per inning in the low minors, but his work in the high minors was commensurate with his current work, so there probably isn’t much upside beyond. Don’t draft Niese expecting much more progress. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Though it’s unclear how much promise he has, Niese was at least slightly better than average last year and will help his Major League team for some time. Fantasy teams will need him to get a little better, though, especially in mixed leagues.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/13/1982|
Profile: For yet another year, Ricky Nolaso remained a guy with high potential, but one yet to deliver in certain categories. He figures to continue striking out hitters, perhaps eclipsing the 200 mark after flirting with it in 2008 and 2009. He also managed 14 wins in 26 starts last season, and if the Marlins’ young hitters come of age he could be in line for more run support. His WHIP also tends to be below the 1.30 mark. Where he struggles is with ERA. His fielding-independent numbers are always solidly in the mid-3.00s, but other than in 2008 his ERA has trended considerably higher. He’s entering his age-28 season, so perhaps this is the time he’ll put it together. Even if he doesn’t, he should still be good for strikeouts. He’d actually be a nice sleeper if he hadn’t garnered the same status for the past few years. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: While Nolasco can provide the strikeouts and WHIP, and will likely rack up 13 to 16 wins, he still hasn’t been able to keep his ERA at a respectable level. His peripherals suggest a turnaround, though, so maybe 2011 is his year (they said for the third straight season).
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/2/1985|
Profile: Norris continued to show potential in his second year as a Major Leaguer, although that potential couldn’t quite show itself in the form of results just yet. Despite striking out over a batter per inning, he allowed a 4.92 ERA, due to the dangerous combination of a high walk rate (4.5 BB/9) and a high BABIP (.326). The chained effects of allowing more hits and a high amount of baserunners resulted in an ERA three quarters of a run higher than his 4.17 FIP. Norris struggled with walks in the minors as well, so a quick remedy in that department is unlikely. However, with only 209 innings under his belt, we know next to nothing about his true-talent BABIP. His .327 career BABIP is the driving factor behind his 4.82 career ERA. With a BABIP closer to .300, we’d probably expect an ERA closer to 4.10. If you must, err on the side of caution, and expect an ERA slightly higher than average and few wins behind the horrid Astros offense. However, as with the last two seasons, the strikeouts will be there, and so in deeper or NL-only leagues, Norris should have some value. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Bud Norris is a strikeout machine, but the rest of his game isn’t there yet. He has potential, but his fantasy value is restricted to deep or NL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/12/1987|
Profile: One day Ivan Nova might be a decent pitcher, both in terms of real-life and fantasy value. That year could very well be 2011 if some things break right. But that’s not a gamble to take early on. For starters, it’s not guaranteed that Nova even makes the Yankees rotation. He is likely one of the four best starters in camp this spring, but given the Yankees’ penchant for picking veterans over young’uns, Nova could find himself in a bullpen role, or even in the minors, to start the season. If he does make the rotation, there’s little suggest that he’ll provide much value. His strikeout rate is average at best, and unless he gets incredibly lucky he probably won’t bring an above average ERA or WHIP. His only chance at value is wins, which comes more from the Yankees offense than from Nova himself. Still, with his uncertain roster status, it’s best to stay away now. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: While Ivan Nova might one day be a decent late-round pick-up, that won’t be the case in 2011. He’s too unproven, and there’s no guarantee the Yankees actually put him in the rotation to start the year.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/14/1983|
Profile: Nunez has had an interesting career, having been traded straight up for both Benito Santiago and Mike Jacobs. He has been the Marlins’ closer for two years, and he was much better in 2010, with improvements across the board in his strikeout, walk, and home-run rates, even though he lost the closer role to Clay Hensley after an awful August. If anything, his FIP suggests that he may have gotten unlucky last year, victimized by a high BABIP, though that may be offset if his fly-ball and homer rates return to their previous levels. Obviously, his fantasy value is almost entirely tied to his save total, and while the Marlins appear willing to give him back the job, manager Edwin Rodriguez clearly has no problem giving the ball to someone else. Nunez may have suffered from fatigue last year, so the team may be more restrictive with his innings this year. If he can keep his strikeouts high and keep his BB/9 under 3.0, he’ll likely remain effective. He isn’t exactly Robb Nen, but he’s good enough. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Nunez made improvements across the board in his strikeout, walk, and home-run rates, even though he lost the closer role to Clay Hensley after an awful August. He isn’t exactly Robb Nen, but he’s good enough.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/1/1987|
Profile: Some might see that O’Sullivan will be 23 to start the 2011 season and think, “upside.” However, most recent research on pitcher aging curves doesn’t show much of an upward curve for pitchers in their early 20s. In any case, there isn’t much to build on here. O’Sullivan’s poor strikeout rate in the Majors is a pretty good reflection of his unimpressive stats in the minors, and his walk rate isn’t low enough to make up for it. He also hasn’t displayed an ability to get ground balls. But hey, at least he’s on a good team that will boost his win total! Oh, wait. I suppose that if you really need to meet an innings pitched minimum, then O’Sullivan might come in handy given the Royals’ thin 2011 projected rotation, but those sorts of pitchers are easily available on your league’s waiver wire. It is hard to imagine a league so deep that O’Sullivan should be drafted (do you need an ERA over 5.00?), but I suppose it’s possible. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Sean O’Sullivan probably shouldn’t even be on your draft board unless you find a pitcher with “Fat Brian Bannister” upside intriguing.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983|
Profile: With most of the focus on Neftali Feliz, Ogando’s remarkably successful rookie season flew under the radar until October, when he flashed a premium fastball and announced his presence with authority. With Feliz at least potentially moving back to the rotation, there has been some talk of giving Ogando a shot at closing in Texas, but he’s probably best left in a setup role for now. As a guy who leans heavily on a fastball/slider combination, we shouldn’t be surprised that he struggles against left-handed batters, but his splits last year were crazy – 33/7 K/BB ratio against RHBs, but a very poor 6/9 mark against LHBs. His overall line against left-handers looked decent thanks to a low BABIP, but the Rangers shouldn’t be handing the closer’s job over to a guy who had more walks than strikeouts against opposite handed batters. Until he develops better command of his fastball or improves his change-up, he’s a specialist, and those guys often struggle when forced into the ninth inning job. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A strong performer for the Rangers last year, he’s due for a good bit of regression, especially if the Rangers ask him to face too many LHBs. He’s a really good right-handed seutp guy, but for now, that’s his upside.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/8/1982|
Profile: Ohlendorf caught plenty of breaks in 2009, allowing him to post an ERA (3.92) significantly lower than his xFIP (4.63). In 2010, he continued to post a decent-looking ERA despite pitching poorly and suffering plenty of physical pain. During a season in which he went on the DL with back spasms, got hit in the face with a line drive, and then was shut down in late August with a strained muscle in his right shoulder, Ohlendorf had a 4.07 ERA. His strikeout rate increased from 5.55 to 6.56 per nine, but his walk rate climbed from 2.7 BB/9 to 3.66 and his ground-ball rate was alarmingly low at 31.4%. Had he surrendered homers on fly balls at a Major League average 11% instead of his actual 7.7% clip, his HR/9 would have been 1.4 rather than an even one dinger per nine innings. Ohlendorf’s xFIP, which adjusts for his good fortune on fly balls, was 4.96. The 28-year-old is entrenched in the Pirates’ rotation as a cheap, functional starter, but he’s headed for regression unless he shows better touch and gets more ground balls. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Fantasy players who do their homework on this Princeton product won’t be surprised to see his performance tail off in 2011. As a pitcher who doesn’t miss much lumber or induce many grounders, Ohlendorf needs to get healthy and re-discover his control just to be a fantasy option.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/12/1984|
Profile: Though the Pirates have as yet to shock the world, GM Neal Huntington has taken almost the exact right approach during his time with the club, making moves for players like starter James McDonald, catcher Chris Snyder, and outfielder Lastings Milledge — that is, cheap players with some kind of upside or underrated skill. That Huntington targeted Olsen this offseason, signing the left-hander to a one-year contract for just a half-million dollars, suggests that Olsen fits that mold. Mind you, there’s a lot of room for Olsen to imrove: before 2010, he hadn’t posted an xFIP below 4.90 since 2006. Some of that poor performance is certainly due to injury, and that was also the case last year, as he missed all of July, and more, with shoulder problems. If Huntington sees something here, it’s likely a combination of the following: either/both an increase in velocity (up 1.6 mph over 2009) and a career-high ground-ball rate of 46.5%. He’s not someone to draft, but may not be entirely irrelevant this season. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Not a player to draft, but could definitely have an opportunity in Pirates thin rotation.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/29/1977|
Profile: Since 2004-2005, Oswalt’s numbers have mostly been in a decline. Before 2010, his strikeout rate had been trending down from the mid-sevens to the mid-sixes, and his walk rate had been slowly increasing from under two to under three. In 2009, he added the second-worst ground-ball rate of his career to the picture, and it didn’t look good. After famously telling Buster Olney of ESPN that he would retire after this contract was through, Oswalt seemed like he might be in for the quick decline that had been prognosticated for him based on his slight frame. It’s hard to ignore the three-year stretch that came before last year, but Oswalt can regress a little and still put up an ERA in the mid-threes in 2011. With that veteran offense behind him, that should be worth a lot of wins — making Oswalt a great fantasy No. 2 in standard leagues, and a sneaky ace in deeper leagues with owners unwilling to pay top dollar for pitching. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Resurgence, thy name is Roy Oswalt. After years with many of his peripherals going the wrong direction, Oswalt shook off his age (33) and threw a blazing fastball of a season. Can he do it again?
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 9/27/1977|
Profile: After bombing out in Texas, Padilla experienced a career resurgence in Los Angeles, turning in useful performances for the Dodgers in between stints on the disabled list. Arm problems limited him to just 16 starts last year, but he was effective when he did take the mound. Questions about his durability caused the Dodgers to sign Jon Garland to hold down their #5 starter job, however, and now Padilla is looking at a role in the Dodgers bullpen. It’s actually one he’s well suited for, as his career numbers against left-handers are nothing short of atrocious. If used primarily to combat right-handed hitters, Padilla could be an excellent setup man, and depending on how Jonathan Broxton performs, he could even be an option for saves from time to time. If you’re looking for cheap relievers to give you a good ERA, some strikeouts, and an outside chance at stealing some save opportunities, Padilla is not a bad place to invest. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Career starter looks headed to the bullpen for 2011, and he could thrive in his new role. A legitimate option to steal a few saves and potentially take the closer’s job if Broxton falters.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/23/1980|
Profile: For Papelbon, saying he had a down season is a relative term. He still saved 37 games and struck out 10.21 batters per nine innings, but his ERA was a career worst 3.90 (by more than a run and a half, too), as was his WHIP (1.27). Part of the problem is Papelbon’s declining walk rate, which jumped from 1.04 BB/9 in 2008 to 3.18 in 2009 to 3.76 in 2010, but he also ran into a tiny bit of poor luck when it came to stranding baserunners (68.7%). That last bit could be explained in part by an increasing home-run rate, which has gotten worse over the last three years just like the walks (0.94 HR/9 in 2010). Papelbon has some more competition this year but not in the sense that he’ll have to win the closer’s job in spring training, but should he struggle for an extended period of time, the voices wanting Bobby Jenks in the ninth inning will grow louder. Expect Papelbon’s ERA to rebound a bit, but for the first time in his career, his job security isn’t guaranteed. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Although his ERA and WHIP in 2010 were very un-Papelbon-like, the Red Sox closer still struck out over 10 men per nine innings and saved 37 games. Bobby Jenks is looking over his shoulder now, so for the first time in his career his job isn’t set in stone.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/30/1982|
Profile: Manny Parra started the 2010 season as a reliever, was a starter at the beginning of June, and ended the season as a reliever. As a starter, opponents hit .293/.379/.494 off of Parra. Starting pitching numbers of a 6.19 ERA and 1.74 WHIP are not what you want anywhere near your fantasy roster, although he did strike out 129 in 122 IP. Still, expect the Brewers to look for other options in the starting rotation or in free agency. Don’t expect Parra to start the season as the No. 5 starter, as the Brewers may have found him a place in the bullpen. Parra’s control problems and hittable pitches are a last resort for the Brewers, and he may get a spot start every now and then if the Brewers strike out in the hot-stove league or multiple starters get injured. The once-promising lefty with good velocity and strikeout ability has not shown any sign of a turnaround in control. Expect much of the same this season, which means 4.5 walks per 9.0 innings and a 5.00 ERA. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Parra will not start in the rotation to begin the 2011 season unless the Brewers run out of options. Control problems still hamper the pitcher, so expect 4.5 BB/9 and a 5.00 ERA.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/17/1983|
Profile: Pauley might be the most boring pitcher in baseball. He doesn’t have a single pitch that is above average, nor does he possess great command. He does everything just okay, and that will never excite scouts or anyone looking for a guy with upside. However, he also doesn’t suck at any particular part of pitching, and in front of a good defensive team in a park that is pitcher friendly, he could actually look like a solid enough #5 starter. If you’re just looking for a cheap arm who might post a decent ERA, Pauley’s an interesting choice. The Mariners lack rotation depth, so even if he doesn’t make the rotation out of spring training, there’s a good chance he’ll end up making double digit starts for Seattle in 2011. He won’t get you wins or strikeouts, in all likelihood, but he could be a decent roster filler arm who doesn’t hurt you either. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: A classic #5 starter, he’s got some value simply due to Safeco Field and a defense that should be among the league’s best.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983|
Profile: Paulino had been hanging around the Astros organization since 2006, but 2010 marked only the second season in the starting rotation. The 27-year-old continued to rack up the strikeouts (8.2 K/9), but walks became a major issue in 2010. After posting a respectable 3.4 BB/9 in 2009, that figure ballooned to 4.5 last season. Due to a stupendously low 0.4 HR/9, his FIP was a respectable 4.11, but his xFIP was a less impressive 4.54 and his ERA was an unacceptable 5.11. Those poor numbers prompted a trade to Colorado, where it’s hard to imagine Paulino turning things around. He’s not a ground-baller, and the increase in home runs that he’s bound to see at Coors Field should only exacerbate his issues with the free pass. There’s also a good chance that Paulino ends up in the bullpen for the Rockies, which could help some of the issues, but either way, he won’t be a viable fantasy option. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Felipe Paulino throws hard, but it hasn’t translated to MLB success yet. He’ll get another chance in Colorado, but Coors Field is almost never good news for pitchers.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 1/8/1976|
Profile: Pavano had his best season in 2010 since he was with the Marlins back in 2004. He accumulated 17 wins with a respectable 3.75 ERA. He was not able to able to strike many people out (117 Ks in 221 innings) with a K/9 rate of just 4.76. He was also helped out with a low BABIP of .286. In 2011, he may not even be able to closely put up numbers similar to 2010. Injuries effectively sidelined him from 2005 to 2008 but he finally seems healthy for now. Also there is the issue that he will be 35 when the season starts, which is not a great age for any athlete. His greatest value seems to be in accumulating wins. He will keep a team in most games and, depending on the run and defensive support he receives from the Twins, he should again have double-digit wins and some reasonable rate stats. Expect him to be drafted in all leagues, but not until the end of the draft. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Quite a bit of Pavano’s fantasy value hinges on his ability to defy the Hands of Time.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/31/1981|
Profile: For all the attention he received during 2009 trade rumors, Peavy hasn’t actually been a great pitcher since 2007. Indeed, he’s barely pitched more than 100 innings each of the last two seasons, and outside of the comfy confines of Petco Field and without the luxury of facing the pitcher, he’s not the force he once was. This isn’t to say Peavy isn’t valuable. When he pitches, he’ll still manage to avoid walks, get an above-average number of strikeouts (although not nearly as many now that he’s in the AL) and he should rebound to have a decent ERA. But that all adds up to a pitcher who is above average at best, and now he’s got injury concerns. Perhaps some people in your league have forgotten about Peavy and he’ll actually be underpriced, but don’t make the mistake of treating him like the fantasy star he was San Diego. Barring a miracle, that guy is long gone. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Peavy was a fantasy star when he pitched in San Diego, but that was a team, a league, a park, and four years ago. Now he’s an above-average pitcher (at best) with injury concerns.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/14/1984|
Profile: Sure, Mike Pelfrey put up the best single-season ERA of his career in 2010, but there wasn’t much to write home about when it came to his peripheral statistics. He still doesn’t strike anybody out (4.99 K/9 in 2010, 5.44 career), still walks guys at about an average rate (3.00 BB/9 in 2010, 3.31 career), and still elicits ground balls at a decent-but-not-elite rate. Unfortunately, that ground-ball rate has slowly been dropping, down to 47.8% in 2010, only a few percentage points above average. The good news is that Pelfrey used his fastball at a career-low rate, meaning that he’s making some progress developing his secondary stuff. Specifically, he found a split-fingered changeup that he used 16.3% of the time. Though it didn’t show up linear weights (-3.9 runs), the pitch helped keep batters from teeing off on the fastball (+9.3 runs). Still, without more strikeouts or elite control or ground-ball work, this is about the best one can expect from Pelfrey. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Pelfrey has now alternated years with ERAs over five with years with ERAs under four. That doesn’t mean he’s been radically different in any of those years — he’s still mediocre.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/24/1978|
Profile: Super sleeper alert! Whether it’s bad feelings from his flop with the Red Sox or the fact that he spent most of last year on the disabled list, Penny went mostly ignored this winter before Detroit threw $3 million at him to be their #5 starter. For just slightly more than Melvin Mora, the Tigers added a starter who posted a 3.77 xFIP last year while throwing 94 MPH. Sure, there’s injury concerns, but if he can stay healthy, Penny has a chance to be the best non-Verlander starter in that rotation, and he should be near the top of your list of value pitchers to target. Like most pitchers who go to St. Louis and study under Dave Duncan, Penny became an extreme strike-throwing ground ball guy, and Duncan’s fixed pitchers often stay fixed even after they leave. Penny now has the stuff and the skillset to be a high quality starter. His health makes him a risk, but he’s a risk worth taking, and he’ll probably be undervalued in almost every draft. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Penny is a high-risk, high-reward pitcher, but unlike a lot of other players with significant upside, he shouldn’t cost you a mint to put him on your team. You can even afford to be aggressive with his valuation – he’ll probably be worth it.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/1/1985|
Profile: This beefy Kenny Powers look-alike took over as Cleveland’s full-time stopper after Kerry Wood was shipped to the Yankees on trade deadline day. Perez finished the year with some shiny-looking stats — a 1.71 ERA and 23 saves in 27 opportunities — but his merely good underlying performance means that he’ll be telling batters “you’re @#$^*!& out!” less often in 2011. In 63 innings, Perez punched out nearly a batter per inning (8.71 K/9), but he also walked four hitters per nine and got some fortunate bounces in tight situations. The former Cardinal had a .236 BABIP. While Perez is a fly-ball pitcher (35.8% ground-ball rate in the majors), and fly balls have a lower BABIP than grounders, that number will almost assuredly rise next year. There’s a downside to all those fly balls, too — the ones that aren’t caught do serious damage. Perez was lucky to surrender a homer just 5.5% of the time he allowed a fly ball. Add in a very high baserunner strand rate (86.1%) that’s bound to fall, and you can understand why Perez’s expected FIP, based on Ks, walks and a normalized HR/FB rate, was 4.30. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Perez has power stuff and is making strides with his control. Still, you’re bound to be disappointed if you take him with a premium pick and expect a repeat of his 2010 season.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/15/1981|
Profile: Had he qualified for the ERA title last year (stay with me here), Oliver Perez would have almost doubled the worst qualified walk rate out there (Jonathan Sanchez, 4.48 BB/9, Perez, 8.16 BB/9). Words almost fail to describe how bad Perez has been over the past two years, perhaps the numbers can do the trick. He’s had an FIP over six in his last 100+ innings over those two years. Though he’s struck out just over eight batters per nine over that stretch, he’s walked MORE batters in the same period. That’s before getting to his flyball tendencies (32.9 GB% career). Yeah, maybe those numbers did it. Perez may be one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and even a move to the pen wouldn’t do much to save his career at this point. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Oliver Perez is in contention for the worst pitcher in baseball. Don’t pick him up, don’t ever pick him up.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/25/1978|
Profile: Would it surprise you to find that last year, Pineiro pitched 152.1 innings, struck out more batters than he did in 2009 (5.44 K/9 in 2010, 4.42 in 2009), won ten games, and still induced more than half of his balls on the ground (54.9% ground balls in 2010)? Perhaps the year wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It’s almost impossible to keep your walk rate perpetually under two, anyway — only Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee managed to repeat the feat from 2009 to 2010. Instead, think of a full-year version of 2010 as Piniero’s likely contribution going forward. At 32, he can keep walks to a minimum (2.01 BB/9 in 2010, 2.51 career) and keep the ball on the ground (49.2% career). Because he’s in the more difficult league, that probably means an ERA around four and a minimal contribution in strikeouts — a muted upside that makes best for a deep-league, back-of-the-rotation starter in most fantasy games. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Since he was injured and put up seemingly mediocre numbers in an Angels uniform, it might surprise the average fantasy manager that Piniero wasn’t too far off of his excellent 2009 form, especially once you adjust for the difference in leagues.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988|
Profile: By xFIP, Porcello’s season was nearly identical to his rookie season, but a shift in runner stranding led to a drastic increase in his ERA. His current true talent level lies somewhere in between his 2009 and 2010 performances, but his stuff suggests there is potential for improvement. A reduced dependence on his fastball could lead to a significant uptick in strikeouts, and perhaps make Porcello a better pitcher overall. While pitchers don’t follow traditional get-better-as-they-age models, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that he’s just 22 years old. With a better approach to attacking hitters, Porcello could take a significant step forward. Whether that will happen in 2011 or not is beyond the scope of our ability to predict, but your evaluation of Porcello should include the potential for real improvement. That enthusiasm should be tempered somewhat by the reality of the Tigers poor infield defense, however – as a ground ball guy, that could prove to be a problem for Porcello this year. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: Talent is better than his strikeout numbers would indicate, but you might have to be patient if you’re waiting for him to become a front-line starter.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/26/1985|
Profile: This is what incremental — and therefore hopefully sustainable — improvement in a young pitcher looks like. By changing his pitching mix just a little, Price added a strikeout per nine, subtracted half a walk per nine, and upped his ground-ball rate two percent (to 43.7%). He still uses the fastball a lot (74%), but linear weights didn’t mind (+23.5 runs above average). In fact, his fastball was ninth-best in the league by that statistic. There was some luck involved in his season, as his BABIP (.279) and strand rate (78.5%) were both better than the means in those categories. If his luck returns to normal, though, there’s still a chance that similar marginal improvement will mask most of the regression. Sure, he won’t have an ERA in the mid-twos — that’s tough in the American League — but he could easily manage an ERA in the mid-threes, with a bushel of wins. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The Rays’ fire-balling lefty brings one of the best fastballs in the league and is already a top starter. Further work on his pitching mix could lead to more true-talent improvement, even if that step forward will likely be masked by regression in some luck statistics.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 2/22/1977|
Profile: Putz had a nice recovery season with the White Sox in 2010 after mediocre, injury-riddled seasons in 2008 and 2009 in Seattle and New York. Signed to a two-year deal by Arizona, he seems likely to be the closer, which gives him instant value in all 5×5 leagues that include NL players. As for his other numbers, one needs to decide whether 2010 was a return to form after dealing with problems in 2008 and 2009 or if it was the last gasp from a declining player. The best bet is somewhere in between, leaning towards him being good. Putz is a risk given his age, injury history, and the hitter’s paradise he’ll be pitching in for 2011. However, he gets a ton of strikeouts, should have a decent walk rate, has an above-average ground-ball rate, and, well, saves are saves. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Putz’s injury history makes him a bit of a risk, but closers are closers in traditional leagues, and his strikeout rate gives him additional value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1978|
Profile: In 2010 Chad Qualls experienced by far his worst year in the Majors, allowing a 7.32 ERA between two teams. His peripheral numbers suggest he’s better than that, and the jump in his walk rate further suggests that 2010 was a fluke. The walk rate combined with a .399 BABIP suggests he had a hard time finding his spots, so he could certainly return to his earlier rates of production. When he’s on he’s a ground-ball pitcher who can strike out a decent number of batters. Chances are, though, that he’ll fill more of a middle-relief role in 2011, so his value will be very limited. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: While Chad Qualls is almost certainly better than his 2010 indicated, he might not get a chance to close games in 2011. Since he’s not a particularly high-strikeout reliever, that limits his value.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 9/27/1978|
Profile: Rauch was a decent relief pitcher for the Twins during the 2010 season. In 76 games, his ERA is 2.82 with a record of 8-2 and 21 saves. The saves were accumulated when Joe Nathan was lost for the year and someone needed to become the closer. Don’t expect these values to hold up and his ERA could easily balloon by a point or more. He looks quite average (~7.5 K/9 and ~2.5 BB/9), and these numbers may get worse for the 32-year-old. His fastball velocity has dropped each of the past two seasons (2008: 92.0 mph, 2009: 91.3 mph, 2010: 90.0 mph). Any value he has will be if he lands a closer (unlikely) or setup (somewhat likely) role on his new club, the Toronto Blue Jays. Expect him to be drafted in deep-mixed and AL-only leagues. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Rauch had a good couple years with Minnesota, but don’t expect that success to continue in the AL East with the Jays.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/12/1983|
Profile: The prime player picked up in the July 2009 Jake Peavy trade, Richard topped 200 innings pitched with a 3.75 ERA and a nearly identical 3.81 FIP. The 6-foot-5, 240 pound lefty isn’t a power arm, sitting mostly 91-92 MPH with his fastball and striking out slightly fewer batters per nine innings (6.83) than the 7.13 MLB average. And his control isn’t Cliff Lee-esque, as Richard walked 3.48 hitters per nine (that includes six intentional walks; without them, his BB/9 drops to 3.21). But, blend those decent K/BB numbers with a few more grounders than most (46.1 GB%), put ’em in PETCO, and you’ve got an asset. Richard might not strand quite as many runners next year — his 74.9% left on base rate was 3-5 percentage points above the big-league average — and his 7.7% HR/FB rate might increase slightly, though not drastically, as many PETCO flies die at the warning track. Whether he takes another step forward in 2011 depends upon his ability to limit walks against right-handers. During his Major League career, he has a 2.87 FIP and a 3.21 K/BB versus lefties, and a 4.58 FIP with a 1.53 K/BB against right-handers. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: A good pitcher benefiting from great circumstances, Richard is locked into San Diego’s rotation. He’s a good bet for a high-threes to low-fours ERA next season, though ideally he’d find the strike zone more often against righties.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 11/29/1969|
Profile: Comparing Rivera to his 2009 self, Mo’s strikeout rate fell off a cliff, but his walk rate and ground-ball skills stayed exactly the same. On another good note, Mo’s velocity hovered around the same mark, so maybe age isn’t really catching up with him? On to the disappointing news: his cutter’s movement lessened in both the vertical and horizontal fronts. Rivera is 41 years old, but his bag of tricks still seems to be working. Since the Yankees still plan on being a powerhouse, 35 saves and an ERA around 2.00 is highly likely. However, the Yankees may decide to limit The Sandman’s innings, so he could lose a handful of save opportunities throughout the year. Because of his ability to keep the ball on the ground and limit home runs, even with declines in velocity and movement, Rivera is still a really safe bet in every league. Don’t be afraid to draft Rivera like he’s a top flight closer, because he still is. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: While Rivera’s velocity and pitch movement have declined over the years, he’s still been able to put up excellent numbers. Don’t be afraid to draft Rivera like he’s a top-flight closer, because he still is.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 3/18/1977|
Profile: A year and a half after converting 37 of 38 save chances with the Detroit Tigers despite a mediocre pitching profile, Fernando Rodney took over closing duties with the Angels from Brian Fuentes with predictable results. Rodney ended up with 14 saves and 7 blown opportunities. In 2010, Rodney was worse than he was in 2009 but, more significantly, his luck simply regressed. The 2010 Rodney is the version that you should be using as a benchmark. His strikeout rate is falling and his high walk rate is not what should worry you. Rodney is not the sort that will rack up many strikeouts and his WHIP will be awful for a closer. Similarly, he is not going to post an elite ERA, and, since he is not even a guarantee to stay in the closer’s role the entire year, you should not be resting back on the saves as a reason to take him. Closers are always valuable in fantasy, but make sure you are not relying on Rodney. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Rodney built a reputation on a fluky save-conversion season in 2008. Don’t be as fooled by it as Anaheim was.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/7/1982|
Profile: Last year, K-Rod made headlines for assaulting his father-in-law after a game, tearing a ligament in his thumb in the process, and drawing a suspension from the team. And yet, despite all that, I’d say that he had a pretty good year overall. Maybe not from a plays-well-with-others standpoint, but if we limit our view to how he performed on the field, Rodriguez was actually fairly impressive. After years of regressing, he posted his lowest FIP since 2004 thanks in large part to improved command of the strike zone. Rather than walking the world and giving Mets fans anxiety, Rodriguez pounded the strike zone and racked up pretty good numbers before his little run in with family. Assuming Rodriguez is fully healthy and will avoid beating down relatives in 2011, he’s actually an interesting fantasy target – his good performance got lost in the hoopla about his personal life and his bloated contract, and you might be able to get a bargain on draft day for a guy who proved last year he can still pitch. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: If you’re in a league with your father-in-law, you should probably stay away on principle. Everyone else should take a good look at Rodriguez as a possible bargain.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/18/1979|
Profile: “Magic Wandy” continued to establish himself as a quality starting pitcher in 2010. It was his third straight season with at least 8.0 K/9 and fewer than one home run-allowed per nine innings. His walk rate remained below the league average as well, even though it did see an uptick. Rodriguez has been consistently better than the league average in these three important components, and this was reflected in both his FIP (3.50) and his ERA (3.60). Rodriguez will be 32 when the 2011 season begins, so although the decline phase of his career may be coming, he’s still a good bet to be productive again. Expect him to provide a good to very good ERA, great strikeout numbers, and a decent WHIP. The Astros lineup, however, projects to be one of the worst in the league, so it’ll be difficult for him to eclipse the 11 victories he picked up last season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Rodriguez has established himself as a good starting pitcher. There’s no reason to believe that will stop in 2011, making him a solid fantasy play despite little support from a poor Astros lineup.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/6/1984|
Profile: The emergence of Romero helped to soften the blow of losing Roy Halladay prior to the 2010 season. The Jays organization will put even more pressure on the former No. 1 draft pick after dealing another veteran starter — Shaun Marcum — this past off-season. Romero struggles with his command at times but he has a solid fastball for a lefty and two good secondary pitches — a changeup and curveball. He racked up 174 strikeouts and was durable enough to throw 210 innings in his sophomore season. Romero also does a very nice job of keeping the ball on the ground (55.2%). The Jays have an okay but not great offense heading into the 2011 season. With a move up in the rotation, Romero could face tougher mound opponents, making wins harder to come by. With that said, the has the talent to be a No. 2 starter in the American League East, so don’t underestimate his value in both mixed and AL-only leagues. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Romero will be the go-to guy in 2011 for the Toronto Blue Jays. He has the potential to be a valuable mixed-league starter with a respectable ERA and good strikeout numbers.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/26/1983|
Profile: A year after giving up 25 home runs in just 20 starts, Ryan Rowland-Smith was non-tendered by the Mariners and then chose to try and salvage his career in Houston. Given the proximity of the left field wall to the plate, the man known as Hyphen could not have picked a worse place to ply his trade. Extreme fly ball pitchers do well in San Diego and often in Seattle, but even Safeco wasn’t enough to keep the ball from flying out of the park on Rowland-Smith last year. Now he’ll be forced to try and keep hitters from hitting pop-ups into the stands in a park that is far less suited to his particular skillset. While many marginal arms can make a decent living in the National League, RRS picked one of the worst environments for him to stage a comeback. Don’t be surprised if he’s non-tendered again next winter. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: It’s hard to see him having much fantasy value, especially if he ends back in a middle relief role.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/29/1985|
Profile: After a strong rookie showing in 2009, Rzepczynski was slowed by injuries in ’10. When he returned to health, the sophomore southpaw struggled with his command. He came on strong late in the season for the Jays and also had a nice showing in the Arizona Fall League. With the trade of Shaun Marcum, Rzepczynski has a good shot at securing a gig in the starting rotation for 2011. There is an outside chance, though, that the club will decide that he’s more valuable as a long man in the bullpen. If he starts, Rzepczynski should produce slightly above-average strikeout numbers and a high ground-ball rate. His heavy fastball helps him succeed in the potent AL East even when his command is not 100%. On the down side, he does tend to struggle with his control. The 25-year-old pitcher should be good for about 180 innings. Rzepczynski is not a great bet for mixed leagues at this point but he should certainly be considered a sleeper in AL-only leagues. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Rzepczynski recovered from a slow start to 2010 and finished strong after recovering from injury and inconsistency. He has the potential to be a real sleeper in AL-only leagues but he could also end up in the bullpen so monitor his situation closely.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/21/1980|
Profile: While not as dominant in 2010 as he was during his 2007-2009 reign of terror, the XL lefty adapted, piled up the innings yet again and topped five WAR for the fifth season in a row. It’s true, CC didn’t get as many whiffs in 2010. His 9.4% swinging-strike rate was still well above the 8.5% MLB average, but considerably below his 12.2% total the previous three seasons. As a result, his strikeout rate declined to 7.46 per nine innings, compared to 8.17 K/9 from ’07 to ’09. However, Sabathia established a new career high in ground-ball rate, with 50.7% of balls put in play against him getting knocked into the grass. Those extra grounders wiped away base runners. CC’s double-play rate shot up to career-best 16% of his twin-killing opportunities (11% MLB average), and his FIP stayed low at 3.54. Sabathia’s days as a bat-munching monster might be in the past, but he’s got plenty left with a still-above-average K rate, quality control, and earth-scorching skills. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: An ace among an otherwise undistinguished group of Yankees starters, Sabathia is no longer the best starter in baseball but remains in the conversation. Maybe he won’t be an elite strikeout pitcher moving forward, but the uptick in grounders is a positive sign that Sabathia can remain an excellent pitcher as he enters his thirties.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1989|
Profile: After a lefty brings 96+ MPH gas and a double-digit strikeout rate out of the pen in his rookie year, it’s reasonable to wonder if he would be worth more to his franchise in the rotation, but GM Kenny Williams has put a stop to that speculation by announcing that Sale will begin the year in the pen. It’s a shame because Sale owns three major league pitches that all rated positively by pitch type values in his debut. Perhaps the unorthodox delivery and small frame are too worrisome to the team for them to risk moving Sale to the rotation – certainly the team doesn’t need another lefty with ace southpaw Matt Thornton at the back of an excellent pen. In any case, it looks like Sale is most useful to keeper league prospectors and leagues that score holds in the meantime. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Chris Sale is a great young lefty with gas and three major league pitches. For now, though, he’s relegated to the pen and probably will only pick up the odd situational save.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/8/1988|
Profile: In a more hitter-friendly park, Alex Sanabia would be in more trouble. He’s a fly-ball pitcher with a below-average strikeout rate (and a below-average swinging-strike rate) in a park that suppresses home runs somewhere between five and seven percent depending on your source. Because his control is above-average, he’ll probably survive for a while, and maybe even thrive some in the short term. But he’s probably not going to continue walking fewer than two per nine — he did show elite control at the upper levels of the minors, but only two pitchers in baseball (Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay) spent the last two seasons with walk rates under two. Sanabia’s name doesn’t belong in that group, so expect a few more walks, a few more home runs, and overall statistics more suited to a spot starter or a deep-league, back-end fantasy starter at best. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Limiting walks is his game, but without the strikeouts or ground balls, there might not be much shelf-life to Alex Sanabia and his name.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/27/1984|
Profile: Though he has a no-hitter on his resume, you might say that Sanchez doesn’t have no-hit stuff. His swinging-strike rate is average, his fastball only cracked a 91 mph average this last year for the first time, and his slider is his best pitch. It looks like Sanchez isn’t going to strike out many more than seven per nine, so it’s all about his walks. His control is no sure thing, as it’s oscillated from close to five per nine to the low threes, but when it’s going he can be a decent (if not front-line) pitcher. What makes him even harder to draft in fantasy is the fact that he’s so injury-prone, however. In the last five years, he’s only amassed 81 starts, and 32 of those were last year. His downside is clear, and with such modest upside, he’s probably best left to the late rounds of almost any fantasy draft. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Control is Sanchez’ bugaboo. When he’s got it, he’s a decent mid-rotation fantasy starter in a good park; when it’s gone, he’s probably on his way to the DL anyway.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/19/1982|
Profile: Jonathan Sanchez finally blossomed into the pitcher that Giants’ fans and fantasy owners everywhere have been hoping him to be, striking out 205 in 193.1 innings while posting a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Actually, keen fantasy players will note that Sanchez has been pretty much the same pitcher since his 2006 debut, maintaining very close to his career strikeout rate of 9.41 K/9 and walk rate of 4.60 BB/9 every season. His expected FIP has been nearly identical since 2007. The main culprit in his ERA fluctuation has been his BABIP. With every decrease in ERA since 2007, Sanchez’s BABIP has also decreased, from .327 in 2008 to .262 in 2010. Remember, just as Sanchez’s high-BABIP years followed with optimistic projections the next season, so we should expect his low BABIP in 2010 to regress up toward the mean. However, his consistent strikeout and home runs-allowed rates are to be properly noted. Assuming a league-average BABIP of .300, look for Sanchez to strike out 200 batters again with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Sanchez blossomed into a great pitcher in 2010, striking out 205 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. His strikeout, walk, and HR-allowed rates have been very consistent since his 2006 debut, so a league-average BABIP should get Sanchez similar numbers in 2011.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/12/1982|
Profile: For the past six seasons, Ervin Santana has alternated high-inning totals (204, 219, 223) with only medium-inning totals (134, 150, 140). If we judged solely on that pattern, Santana would be due one of those disappointing seasons. Luckily, that is not how we predict usage patterns. However, there are some troubling signs in Santana’s numbers. His strikeout rate dropped again in 2010 and is now below average and the home runs-allowed rose to a career-high 27. Santana is a bit above average at limiting walks, but his WHIP has alternated between above and below average just like his innings total has and is more troubling than the innings pitched. Santana’s 17 wins in 2010 make him a high-profile starting pitcher, but his numbers do not back those up and he’s roughly an average pitcher across the board. How you feel about the Angels chances to crack 85 wins as a team and contend for the playoffs in 2011 will affect your evaluation of Santana, but he will probably be overvalued at the start. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Ervin Santana needed the Angels to get better this winter to afford him a chance to repeat his 17 wins. They did not and he should not either.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/13/1979|
Profile: In the Fan Projection ballots, those who submitted projections for Santana in 2011 and did not classify themselves as Mets fans estimated that he would pitch 157 innings this year – those who identified themselves with Mr. Met only had him down for 106 innings. In this case, I’d suggest going with the home town crowd, who likely have a better feel for what his recovery timeline looks like. We know Santana won’t be healthy to start the year, but if Mets fans are to be believed, he’s not likely to arrive until the second half of the season. No matter how optimistic you are about his chances for recovery, you’re only going to get 15-20 starts out of him, and that’s if there aren’t any setbacks. Given that Santana’s strikeout rate has dropped dramatically the last three years, what he can provide even when healthy is still an open question. There’s a lot of risk here and less upside than his name value might suggest. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: If you’ve got a roster spot to waste for three months, he could be a decent guy to stash, but don’t expect to get the Johan of old when he does come back.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1981|
Profile: Much was made of interim GM Jerry DiPoto’s comments after he acquired Saunders as part of a package for Dan Haren, but that tends to happen when you cite a pitcher’s winning percentage as his best trait. Saunders is a proven commodity, a surefire bet of mediocrity that will you give innings and not much else. He’s struck out just 442 batters in 774.2 career innings (5.14 K/9), and his reputation as a ground-ball machine isn’t much more than a fallacy. Saunders has generated just shy of 46% grounders over the last three years, a decent amount but not really enough to sustain such a low strikeout rake. To make matters worse, when Saunders misses his spots he tends to miss up in the zone. That’s resulted in quite a few homers allowed (1.10 HR/9 career), a problem that will only be more exacerbated as he spends more time in Chase Field. With an established performance level around 4.60 FIP, Saunders has little fantasy value unless he starts missing more bats or falls into some great run support and steals some wins. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: As a starter that allows a tad too many baserunners without many strikeouts, Saunders is one to avoid in 2011. Playing on a team not quite ready to contend doesn’t help matters either.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/27/1984|
Profile: Scherzer looks like he could become at fantasy stud, but there is red flag. He has always been able to strike players out and that continued to be the case when he was traded to the Tigers for the 2010 season. His 2010 K/9 rate stands out at 8.5 and a lifetime number of 9.0 K/9. His walk rate was decent at 3.22 BB/9, in 2010 which is consistent with his career number of 3.28. The one concern with him is his declining fastball speed from 2008 to 2010 (94.2 to 93.6 to 93.1 mph). In the same time the Contact% on pitches swung at for Scherzer has gone from 72.9% to 86.9% to 78.9%. This increase in contact has led to fewer strikeouts, as his K/9 has gone from 10.61 to 9.19 to 8.46. If you pick him up, monitor his fastball speed to see if it has finally leveled out. He will receive plenty of run support, so despite his rate stats,he should be able to accumulate quite a few wins. Scherzer will be taken in all drafts based on his previous numbers and could be rated quite high by some people. There’s certainly no problem with picking him up, just don’t reach or overpay for him. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Scherzer will get quite a bit of attention in drafts, but be aware of his three-year declining strikeout rate.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/9/1986|
Profile: Schlereth came to the Tigers in a big three-way trade with the Diamondbacks and Yankees. The southpaw reliever has put up big strikeout numbers in both the Majors and minors, but has also put up sizeable number of walks. Schlereth looked like he might be being groomed to be a closer in his minor-league days, but his control issues combined with the presence of other, more highly-paid relievers in Detroit ‘s bullpen seem to indicate that such opportunities are unlikely to be forthcoming any time soon. He’s good for strikeouts in deep AL-only leagues, but not much more. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Schlereth has some promise given his strikeout numbers, but seems unlikely to get many opportunities to close given the expensive talent ahead of him in Detroit.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981|
Profile: Shields has always been a bit homer prone, but in 2010 he was overly so. However, there is good reason to believe it won’t happen again, as his HR/FB ratio was higher than normal. To go along with some bad luck on home runs, Shields’ BABIP was also quite high, making 2010 a hellish season for one of Tampa Bay’s key rotational cogs. In the midst of these problems, Shields also posted a career-best strikeout rate, although it came with the lowest whiff rate of his career. Throughout his career, Shields has been the definition of durable, making 33 starts each of the past three seasons, and surpassing 200 innings pitched in each of the past four. If everything can even out for Shields, a year similar to 2009 could be in store: an ERA around 4.00, 200-plus innings, and 160 strikeouts from the Ray. Shields is a nice bounce-back candidate for 2011, but he’s not going to be an ace, so target him in the last third of your draft. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Shields had quite a bit of bad luck in 2010, and he should be better in 2011. He’s likely to be a solid starter, but not an Ace, so target him later in drafts.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 4/23/1979|
Profile: Carlos Silva went through a transformation sometime between moving from the Mariners to the Cubs, achieving a career high with 6.37 K/9. However, an irregular heart-rate set him back in August, suppressing a career year, so only take the chance that this won’t affect him in 2011 if your fantasy team can afford it. The addition of more changeups and sliders naturally led to an increase in the amount of whiffs, which has been instrumental to the increased K rate. His changeup in particular had been very effective in the 2010 season. Overall, with the increased usage of breaking balls, Silva kept his walk rate at 1.91 BB/9 and a 0.88 HR/9, all of this with a .314 BABIP, several points above the MLB average. Heading into a contract year in 2011 (with the Cubs almost certainly buying out his 2012 option), Silva may be dumped by the Cubs mid-season. All of this uncertainty suggests that you don’t want to build your team around Silva, just as the Cubs probably won’t. His value should regress, but his K rate may be useful if NL hitters can’t figure out his changeup. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Silva heads into an uncertain 2010 season after multiple injuries suppressed a potential career year. His K and walk rates have improved because of more breaking balls, which is good value even if he is not with the Cubs in July.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/8/1981|
Profile: It’s rare to see a player pop up on fantasy radars when he turns 29, but that’s exactly what happened with Simon. While he had seen very limited action in 2008 and 2009, he got his first real shot to showcase his stuff in 2010. He only has 68 career innings to his name, but Simon seems to be lost when it comes to keeping the ball in the yard. Granted, all three samples we have from Simon are small, but 19 homers in 68 innings is worrisome, to say the least. Just because his overall strikeout numbers aren’t great, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t reason for his owners to hope for better returns next year. His fastball sits around 95 mph, and he misses a good amount of bats with his off-speed stuff. The problems with walks are real enough, but based on his minor-league numbers, it may very well be something we see him improve on. If he can drop his walk rate and slightly bump up his strikeout rate, the Orioles may be forced to use him in the back of the bullpen once again. He’s only worth something if he’s racking up saves, so keep an eye on the Orioles in spring training. Legal troubles, though, could keep him away from baseball in 2011 and beyond. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Simon had his chance in the spotlight when he was closing games for Baltimore last season. If he gets the same opportunity, he’s worth having around, but only if he’s picking up saves.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/4/1984|
Profile: Kevin Slowey is the consummate control pitcher. Last season was his fourth straight with a BB/9 rate below 2.00. Despite that, 2010 was also Slowey’s fourth straight season with an ERA above 3.99, as he finished with a mark of 4.45 to go along with his 3.98 FIP. These higher ERAs than his peripherals have been a theme for Slowey. For his career, Slowey has a 4.21 FIP but a 4.41 ERA. The most obvious cause is BABIP, for which his .319 mark from 2010 was nearly identical to his career average. The combination of those added base runners with the natural home-run problems that come with a career 32% ground-ball rate results in perennially higher ERAs than we would expect from his peripherals. We’ve seen this through 473 innings and 2000 batters faced, so until we see a change, our expectations of Slowey shouldn’t change. He will only be 27 for much of the 2011 season, but unless something fundamentally changes with his pitching style, it’s unlikely that we see any fundamental changes in his numbers. Expect double-digit wins, but a 4.30-4.50 ERA with middling strikeout and WHIP numbers. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Kevin Slowey is a control specialist, but his BABIP struggles keep him from becoming more than an average starter. His fantasy value is probably limited to his wins and some strikeouts.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/18/1984|
Profile: In the sabermetric community, there’s a general consensus that closers are overvalued. In fantasy analysis, there seem to be multiple points of view. However you value closers in your league, Soria has to be among the best. He gets strikeouts, avoids walks, and doesn’t have a particularly high fly-ball rate. One shouldn’t expect any pitcher to maintain an ERA under 2.00, especially when the Royals defense is thrown into the equation, but Soria has done so two of the last three seasons. Soria’s save opportunities are a bit lower because of the team he plays on, and he did have a bit of trouble with injuries in 2009, but that shouldn’t keep him from being one of the top closers on fantasy draft lists for 2011. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Despite playing for the Royals, Soria is one of the top closers in both fantasy and real baseball.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/19/1979|
Profile: Rafael Soriano is a great pitcher with an intense demeanor. Just ask a Rays or Braves fan what his nickname (MFIKY) means. (We’d tell you but it’s NSFW.) That intensity has served him well — he has averaged over a strikeout per inning over his career. That punch, powered by a 93 mph fastball and a wicked slider, is paired with above-average control (2.69 career BB/9). He’s even managed a sub-three FIP the last two years. The problem is, he’s on a team with an ironman closer in front of him (Mariano Rivera has only once failed to rack up 60 innings in his most excellent career), so he won’t rack up saves. In holds leagues, he’s an excellent, if expensive, play. But even then, there’s the fact that Soriano has only managed to hit that 60-inning threshold four times in his nine-year career. Don’t make the same mistake that the Yankees did — let someone else overpay for those holds and find yourself a relief ace later in the draft. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Soriano ended up in about the worst place possible if you own him in a league that depends on saves. Only once in his career has Mariano Rivera failed to get to 60 innings — predict his demise at your own peril.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1984|
Profile: Two years into his big-league career, Craig Stammen has pitched a season’s worth of innings and posted a 5.12 ERA. He’s probably a bit better than that, and a good candidate for the No. 5 spot in the Nationals’ rotation, but he’s sort of a right-handed version of John Lannan: he doesn’t strike many people out, so he gives up a lot of baserunners. He took some serious strides last year, improving his strikeout rate from catastrophic to mediocre, so he could well be a serviceable number-five starter, but he’ll be 27 by season’s start, so that’s about the best he can offer. His ground-ball rate is right around 50%, so his luck might marginally improve if the Nationals upgrade their infield defense by shopping Ian Desmond to clear room for Danny Espinosa. But not even Ozzie Smith could move Stammen to the front of the rotation or the early rounds of a fantasy draft. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: A candidate for the back of the Nationals’ rotation. A lot will have to break right for him to be anything more than mediocre.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/2/1982|
Profile: A (possibly temporary) move to the bullpen gave Tim Stauffer a little velocity boost, but it looks like eschewing his 90 mph heater in favor of his slider has been the larger part of his success the last two years. In 2010, a career-high ground-ball rate (54.5%) hearkened back to the promise he showed in his younger, pre-injury years. After a slight blip in 2009, his control has definitely returned since he missed all of 2008 to surgery on a partially torn labrum. Then again, that control has mostly been there whether it was last year (2.61 BB/9) or career (3.03 BB/9). Given his modest velocity and stuff, an ERA near four is a good bet — but that will include his work on the road. In fantasy baseball, we all know that any passable San Diego pitcher is worth something extra when he’s at home. Stauffer will fall in that difficult range between spot-starter and bench starter in mixed leagues, but that should mean a decent return on a low price, however you use him. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: It’s tough to come back from labrum surgery, but if you can do it anywhere, it’s in San Diego. Stauffer will fall in that difficult range between spot-starter and bench-starter, but he should be useful.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/11/1987|
Profile: Storen was the first player from the Nationals’ 2009 draft class to reach the big leagues, beating that Strasburg fellow by three weeks or so. After cutting his teeth during various middle relief and setup appearances, Storen stepped in as the team’s closer following Matt Capps’ trade to the Twins and nailed down five of seven opportunities. He’s the odds-on favorite to be the team’s primary ninth-inning option in 2011, a role that fits his skill set. Storen misses bats as a true three-pitch reliever, setting hitters up with a mid-90s fastball before burying them with one of two breaking balls. A strikeout rate north of eight per nine innings is more than reasonable, and he should be able to limit the walks to three per nine once he gets acclimated. The only issue is opportunities; as long as the other 24 players on the roster can give him enough leads to work with, Storen’s a safe bet for 20+ saves with the potential for a whole lot more. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Storen is the Nationals’ closer of the future and present, with the stuff and strikeout potential to be sneaky good in 2011. The question is: how many save opportunities do his teammates give him?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/20/1988|
Profile: Most available superlatives have already been used twice to describe Strasburg. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. He throws a 100 MPH fastball. His changeup has six feet of arm-side run. He doesn’t so much cure cancer as decapitate it with both a metaphorical and actual guillotine. Here’s one you maybe didn’t come across, though: Strasburg’s 2.6 WAR in 68.0 innings represented the highest rate of WAR/100 IP (3.8) among all pitchers but Carlos Marmol (4.0). The next starter? That was Josh Johnson, at 3.4 WAR/100. In any case, the point remains: Strasburg is excellent. And, of course, another point remains: the would-be ace’s season ended in late-August when the Nationals announced that Strasburg would need Tommy John surgery. As a result, Strasburg’s unlikely to pitch much, if at all, in 2011. That makes him useless in re-draft leagues. His primary value, then, is for owners who’re punting their season — or have extensive “minor-league” slots — in keeper leagues. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is, and will likely continue to be, a generational talent; however, is only useful in 2011 to owners in deep leagues with minor-league components.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/2/1983|
Profile: Street’s 2010 season was a bit of a disappointment mostly due to injury; he didn’t debut until late June because of a shoulder issue (that knocked 1.9 mph off his fastball according to PitchFX data) then was spotty in late September because of an oblique strain. His strikeout rate dropped close to two full strikeouts per nine to a still-strong 8.56, and his walk rate stayed low enough (2.09 BB/9) to keep his WHIP dangerously close to the hallowed 1.00 level. He converted 20 of 25 save opportunities after returning, with three of the blown saves coming in a three-week stretch in mid-August. Street has a big contract that guarantees him save opportunities for the foreseeable future, but he’s also missed time with nagging injuries late in each of the last two seasons, and that doesn’t include the shoulder injury. Street’s a safe bet for 8+ K/9 with an ERA in the mid-3.00s as well as save opps if healthy, but staying on the field has been a bit of chore and is likely to be an issue going forward. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Injuries are the big question here, but as long as Street is healthy enough to pitch, he’ll be a very good closer option with plenty of save chances coming his way.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 1/2/1975|
Profile: Few things in baseball were as predictable or as ugly as the demise of Jeff Suppan. Before signing his monster contract with the Brewers prior to the 2007 season, he had exactly one full season with an FIP better than 4.37, and that came two years before he signed with Milwaukee. Sure, he gave the team some value in his bulk innings, but by the time he approached his mid-30’s, the secret was out. Suppan has pitched to a 5.20 ERA (5.29 FIP) with just 4.48 K/9 in 263 IP over the last two years, missing close to seven total weeks of action due to groin, neck, and oblique issues. In reality, he hasn’t been worth a fantasy roster spot in no fewer than four years, really five years. Now that Suppan’s on a minor league contract with the pitching heavy Giants, his value is essentially negative. At best he’s a middle reliever on that staff, and that simply has no value to you or your team. Just taking the time to read this blurb probably cost your fantasy team; you could have been off looking at players that were actually valuable. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: If it’s possible, Suppan has even less to offer your fantasy team than he did the Brewers last year. Stay away.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/2/1975|
Profile: Takahashi came over the big pond as a starter, but settled in with the Mets as a reliever. His best pitch is his changeup (+9.5 runs above average by pitch type values), and perhaps limiting the number of times opposing batters saw the pitch helped him be more effective. He didn’t gain velocity, in any case. The fact that he was still much better against lefties probably means his role in the Angels pen will be somewhere between a LOOGY and a setup man, but Tak2 is a better pitcher than his overall traditional numbers indicate. He should be owned in deeper holds leagues, but only tracked in leagues that use saves. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Takahashi joins a pen in flux, but with his platoon splits and lack of a booming fastball, his role will most likely be somehwere between a LOOGY and a setup man.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/17/1983|
Profile: Talbot was a solid pitcher in the minors, but that did not translate into success with the Indians last season. The organization got him in a trade for veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach. In 2010, Talbot had a K/9 of 5.0 while his BB/9 was at 3.9. In the minors, he had a K/9 of 7.4 and and BB/9 of 2.6. There should be some expected drop in these numbers, but going from a K/BB of 3.72 to 1.28 is pretty extreme. He was helped, though, with a GB rate of 48%. Also, he got a cup-o-Joe in 2008 and his fastball velocity averaged 91.6 mph. In 2010, it was at 91.1 mph, so he doesn’t look like he is losing speed yet. In 2011, one should expect more out of him than in 2010, but it’s unclear how much. Even if he increases his K/9 rate by 1.00 and decreasex his BB/9 by the same amount, he still may not be anything more than a fourth or fifth starter. Also, Talbot won’t be able to pick up many wins since he is pitching for the Indians. There’s no reason to draft him in any type of league. He is going to need to make substantial improvement to be valuable. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Talbot has had success in the minors, but he has not yet translated that success to the majors.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/15/1976|
Profile: Fans complained when Thornton got into the 2010 All-Star Game, but whatever you think of middle relievers in that game, the truth is that Matt Thornton has been one of the best relievers in baseball the past few years, including closers. The lefty just comes at hitters with his blistering fastball over and over, and is effective against both righties and lefties. He’s got a good walk rate and an otherworldly strikeout rate. He should be closing for the the White Sox in 2011. Even if he isn’t, he should be the first non-closing reliever off the board. If he is named closer for the North Siders, he should rank alongside Rivera and Soria in terms of draft position and value. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Thornton should probably be the first middle reliever taken in leagues where he is eligible, unless he is named the White Sox’ closer, in which case he should be one of the most valuable relievers in almost all leagues.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/15/1988|
Profile: Traded by the Mariners in the ill-fated Erik Bedard trade, Tillman has shined in the minors for the Orioles. His brief stints in the Major Leagues? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story. During his 119 big-league innings, Tillman has struck out only 70 batters while walking 55, and he’s given up a whopping 24 homers in the process. Before 2010, Tillman never struck out fewer than a batter an inning during his time in the minors, but he had some troubles during his second stint in Triple-A. His strikeout rate dipped below seven per nine, but his walk rate also decreased along with it. It looks like the O’s are going to give Tillman a chance to win a rotation spot in spring training, but who’s to say that he’ll get the job done? Even if he does, it’s probably best to stay away from Tillman unless you’re in a deeper than average keeper league. He’s likely quite ready for the majors, and, at 22 years old, it’s hard to fault him for that. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Tillman’s minor-league resume is impressive, you have to give him that. However, he likely not quite ready for the Majors, and, at 22-years old, it’s hard to fault him for that.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984|
Profile: An undersized right-hander who gets by with fine command and a deep mix of pitches, Tomlin didn’t sniff prospect lists coming into 2010 but finished the year taking turns in Cleveland’s ho-hum rotation. The former 19th-round pick in the 2006 draft doesn’t blow anyone away with his stuff — he’ll crack 90 MPH with his fastball on a windy day — but he also features a mid-80s cutter, a low-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. In Triple-A, he got plenty of lucky bounces in posting a 2.68 ERA that belied mediocre peripheral stats (6.7 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 4.02 FIP). With the Tribe, Tomlin whiffed just 5.3 batters per nine frames, walked 2.3 per nine and had a 4.59 FIP in 73 innings. Using his modest fastball less than 50% of the time, he got plenty of swings on pitches out of the zone (33.1%) but opponents hit the ball skyward. Tomlin’s 28.4% ground-ball rate was second-lowest among starters pitching at least 70 innings. His GB rate was 36% at Double-A in 2009 and 40 at Triple-A in 2010. Progressive Field isn’t a homer-happy venue, but Tomlin has little margin for error if he’s not getting many Ks and he’s tempting fate with deep drives to the warning track. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Tomlin’s got a decent shot of opening 2011 in the Indians’ rotation, but there’s little upside with this 26-year-old soft-tosser. He could be relegated to relief work by more well-regarded arms later in the year.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/3/1975|
Profile: Uehara was known for at least two things in Japan: phenomenal command and a tendency for injuries. After demonstrating plenty of the latter in his first year or so with Baltimore, he showed some of the former in 2010. Working as a full-time reliever, Uehara struck out 55 while walking only five in 44 innings of work. Amazingly, as R.J. Anderson pointed out, this 11:1 K:BB ratio was only good for third among MLB relievers in 2010, with Edward Mujica and fellow former-NPB-er Rafael Betancourt edging him out. Perhaps unlike Mujica and Betancourt, however, Uehara has a decent chance of approaching a double-digit K:BB ratio in 2011. His 2010 performance was not an aberration in context with his career in Japan. In 10 NPB seasons, Uehara had a career 6.68:1 K:BB ratio, but what jumps out is the 66:4 mark he posted in 62 innings in 2007, his only season as a full-time reliever. Uehara is done as a starter, but should chip in 50-60 innings of work with outstanding command and an accordingly sound WHIP. There will be some risk with him as he’s fly-ball prone and around the plate so much, but he’s a good bet to rack a few saves, either as a full-time closer or a solid plan B. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: Uehara applies a lengthy track record of NPB command to Baltimore bullpen 2010; look for more of the same in 2011.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/24/1978|
Profile: Valverde is close to paradigmatic of an overpaid closer in real baseball. In fantasy baseball, well, he’ll probably still be overpaid, but not as badly as he is in the “real world” (whatever that is). The Tigers do have other options in the bullpen in 2011, but Valverde is that man to start the season. An ERA of around 3.00 with a good strikeout rate (but a fair number of walks) and probably 25 saves has good value in most leagues. Phil Coke temporarily replaced Valverde at closer at the end of the season, and the Tigers are paying newcomer Joaquin Benoit a pretty penny in 2011, so keep an eye on Valverde’s status leading up to your draft. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Valverde is your generic fantasy closer: if everything goes as planned, he could get at least 25 saves (maybe more). He isn’t a teflon closer like vintage Joe Borowski, but his job security isn’t ironclad, either.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/2/1983|
Profile: Jason Vargas did not pitch at all in 2008 and his 192.2 Major League innings in 2010 nearly equaled his prior Major League career total. Now he finds himself as the de facto No. 2 starter on the Mariners for 2011. He is going to receive a long rope, which is beneficial when you make a choice for a starting pitcher, but, unfortunately, Vargas doesn’t offer much for the distinguishing fantasy shopper. His strikeout rate is middling and his ERA depends greatly on limiting the damage done by home runs. Safeco Field is a good place for accomplishing that, but it is a bet one should probably avoid taking. Making things worse is that the Mariners offense is not well-equipped to lucking Vargas into 15 or so wins and his WHIP is just so-so. Jason Vargas on the Yankees would be mildly interesting as a cheap, fungible option to fill out your rotation. Jason Vargas on the Mariners is worth remembering only to serve as an occasional single-serving free-agent pick-up when he gets to face a tepid offense at home. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: Pitch-to-contact fly-ball pitchers are workable for baseball teams, but are the pitching equivalent of fourth outfielders for fantasy teams.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 7/25/1976|
Profile: After his electric 2009, Vazquez’s 2010 was a disaster. Returning to New York for his second go around, Vazquez had his worst season ever. Vazquez had a FIP and xFIP over 4.00 for the first time since 2004, his first stint with the Bronx Bombers. While some may have attributed his failure to the pressures of the Big Apple, the answer is far more simplistic: velocity. In the past, Vazquez would sit around 91 mph with his heater, and that number dropped all the way down lower than 89 mph. While that’s not the biggest deal in the world, when your breaking balls stay the same speed when your fastball declines, you’re going to have a hard time making hitters miss. A move back to the NL should be refreshing for Vazquez, who will no longer be pounded by DHs and AL East foes. If he wants to succeed, he either needs to regain his lost velocity, or learn to pitch with his current arsenal. He’s worth taking a chance on in standard leagues, but if you’re counting on him to perform, you’re going to be in trouble. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Vazquez struggled in 2010 thanks to problems with his velocity. He’s worth a flier in standard leagues, but don’t count on him to perform at a high level.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/20/1985|
Profile: Looks like the move to the bullpen worked for the h-less Jonny. After years of mediocre results as a lefty starter in the Braves’ organization, he switched to the pen in 2010 and never looked back. He never spent a year in the rotation even close to averaging a strikeout per inning, but Venters blew batters away in short stints (10.08 K/9) with what was now a mid-nineties fastball and a wicked slider. He also garnered groundballs by the grip (68.4%) and generally was a grand revelation in his new role. His success was such that he’s now been declared part of a closer tandem in Atlanta. Then again, his platoon split (1.97 FIP v LHB, 3.06 v RHB) means that he’s more likely to get the shorter end of the stick there. Also, he walked over four per nine (4.23 BB/9), showed similar control problems in the minor leagues, and doesn’t have the strikeout punch of, say, a Craig Kimbrel. He’s more likely to end up as the setup man than take the closer role for himself. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: As a lefty with slight platoon splits and a great groundball numbers, Venters might be slightly miscast as a closer. Bet on him to get saves early, but don’t bet on him to claim the role for good unless Craig Kimbrel’s control problems lead to a meltdown.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/20/1983|
Profile: Verlander was a fantasy stud in 2010, just like he was in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He did struggle in 2008 and that can be easily attributed to his fastball going from 95 mph (which has been the average in every other season) to 93.5 mph. Besides 2008, he has average rate of more than 8.00 K/9 innings and under 3.00 BB/9. He should be able to get about 15 wins by going against the rest of the AL Central and the having decent run support. He is one of the top aces in the league and should be treated as one. Verlander should be one of the top-15 pitchers to come off the board and probably in the top five in an AL only league. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Verlander has been a great fantasy pitcher over the past few season and there is no reason to see that change in 2011.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/3/1983|
Profile: Very few starting pitchers can be legitimately counted on to strike out a batter per inning. Volquez is one of them. He did it during his breakout 2008 campaign. He came very close to doing it in 2009, even as he suffered elbow pain that would eventually lead, in early August, to Tommy John surgery. And he did it upon returning to the Majors last year, pitching 62.2 innings after returning in mid-July. Of course, this isn’t to say that Volquez is without flaw: even before his injury, he was generally incapable of walking fewer than four batters per nine. That’s not so good. But given both his strikeout and ground-ball (46.0% career) rates, he profiles as a No. 1 pitcher, easy. Over his last four starts of the season (27.2 IP), he recorded 31 strikeouts against only eight walks, with no home runs allowed. He’s likely to be undervalued in most drafts this season. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Even without cutting walks, would be strong No. 2 or lower No. 1 fantasy starter. Will likely be undervalued in most drafts.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/23/1986|
Profile: Well, he’s tall. Like Chris Young, Chris Volstad has an imposing frame, but he doesn’t strike people out. He was slightly better last year after a brief mid-year demotion to Triple-A, but he still averaged fewer than six innings a start with an ERA above 4.30. He probably should have been left in the minors for more seasoning, but with more than 400 big-league innings under Volstad’s belt, the Marlins’ options are limited. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, he doesn’t provide a lot of innings, and he isn’t a precision pitcher either, as he has walked 3 1/3 batters per nine innings in his career. Unless he can improve his stamina and his strikeout-to-walk ratio, he’ll remain a back-of-the-rotation starter, the sort of player who only looks good at the league minimum. He made a significant step forward in 2010, despite getting fewer strikeouts, by cutting his homers nearly in half. If that improvement is legitimate, he’ll at least be able to keep his rotation spot. If the homer rate goes back to where it was before, though, he’ll earn another ticket back to Triple-A. (Alex Remington)
Quick Opinion: Like Chris Young, Chris Volstad has an imposing frame, but he doesn’t strike people out. If his homer rate goes back to where it was in 2009, he’ll earn another ticket back to Triple-A.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 7/25/1971|
Profile: Wagner may say he’s retiring, but he’s still on the Braves’ 40-man roster and he showed he still has plenty left in the tank last season. A double-digit strikeout rate, good control, and a fastball in the mid-90s sounds like the Wags of old even. But he – and his agent – claim it’s just a paperwork issue, so don’t waste a pick on this great closer of yore. But do remember how much fun it was to watch the diminiutive dude get that giddyap over the plate. And if he comes back, pick him up immediately. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Billy Wags is probably done, but if you hear any rumblings about a return, run to the waiver wire. He still has the ability to be an elite closer.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/30/1981|
Profile: Adam Wainwright remains one of the premier pitchers in the National League. Last year saw another ace-quality season, as Wainwright won 20 games and posted a 2.42 ERA. The peripheral numbers were right there as well, as Wainwright struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings and posted a 2.86 FIP. It was the same methodical kind of performance that we’ve learned to expect year in and year out. On top of that, Wainwright brought another huge inning total, making 33 starts and throwing 230 innings for the second season in a row. Although it’s never a good idea to bank on win totals or ERA totals like Wainwright posted in 2010 for a second year in a row, it’s safe to expect another big season. About 180 innings, an ERA near or below 3.30, and 15 wins are very safe, conservative expectations and would already make him a top-flight starting pitcher. Wainwright also features excellent control and will help in WHIP, and his strikeout abilities combined with his high volume of innings make him one of the best for racking up strikeouts as well. Wainwright is worthy of an early pick in any fantasy league. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Wainwright remains an elite starting pitcher. Look for another 200 IP, 3.00 ERA type season out of the Cardinals ace.
|Debut: 1992 | BirthDate: 8/2/1966|
Profile: The ageless wonder is still going strong in his mid-forties, but injuries have sapped some of his strength and have raised questions about his durability. However, Wakefield’s knuckleball still dances like a beautiful ballerina, and he still manages to keep his walk rate at a surprisingly low level. Boston has six viable starters right now, so it’s very likely Wakfield will be the man that moves to the bullpen. If he’s in the bullpen, he’s obviously not worth having around in any kind of fantasy league. Even when he does start, Wakefield is always a risk in head-to-head leagues, because he could have a blow up and ruin your ERA and WHIP numbers at any time. When he’s healthy and in the rotation, Wakefield’s worth a look as a two-start pitcher or a spot starter in your lineup. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Wakefield will probably start the year in the bullpen, so placing a value on him is hard. If he’s starting, he’s worth a look against subpar opponents and during weeks in which he starts twice.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/16/1987|
Profile: Looking back through Walden’s minor-league history, it’s hard to find a harbinger for last year’s double-digit strikeout rate. He only once struck out as many as one batter per inning on the farm. But Walden was a starter for most of that time, and his move to the pen played up his velocity (his fastball averaged 98.8 MPH) and simplified his repertoire down to that booming fastball and a useful slider. An above-average swinging-strike rate (13.3%) seems to suggest that he can continue to strike Major League batters out, but for fantasy uses, the real question is his proximity to the closer’s role. With Hisanori Takahashi, Fernando Rodney and Scott Downs in the pen around him, though, Walden has too many veterans to pass to be considered a real sleeper for saves in 2011. Mike Scioscia likes his veterans, as mediocre as some of his other options might be. Walden is best used for strikeouts and holds out of the pen. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: A move to the pen proved to work for Walden, as his velocity and strikeout rate skyrocketed last year. Someday he should close, but the veterans around him in the pen will get the first shot at the job.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/12/1985|
Profile: Despite his 6’4 frame, Walters is not overpowering. He throws five pitches and has a nice 10-mph separation between his fastball and his changeup. He’s a swing man, capable of either starting or relieving. Walters’ K rate is surprisingly good considering his 87 mph fastball. In 351 IP in Triple-A, he has a lifetime 8.7 K/9 and last year posted a 6.6 K/9 in the majors. But he will not be in the rotation on Opening Day and will probably be in the minors to start the season. He has no fantasy value on Draft Day but is a name to keep in mind should injuries hit the Cardinals’ pitching staff. (Brian Joura)
Quick Opinion: Walters has some potential for strikeouts. But he will not be in the rotation and has no value on Draft Day.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/4/1982|
Profile: After years of good-but-not-great peripherals, Jered Weaver took a huge step forward in 2010. His strikeout rate jumped from the mid-sevens (7.82 K/9 career) to over a K per inning (9.35 K/9) and he added a career-low walk rate (2.17 BB/9 in 2010, 2.53 BB/9 career). The control looks real, since he’s been better than average every year in his career. As a fly-ball pitcher (33.3% career GB), he has the odd issues with the home run (1.01 HR/9 career), and the “real-ness” of the strikeout rate becomes tantamount to projecting his ability to retain the new level of excellence. On that front, sorting out the sustainability of his new strikeout rate is mostly conjecture — but it’s worth looking at his pitching mix and seeing that he’s added a cutter, added some separation in movement and speed between some of his pitches, and worked on his sequencing (Weaver has upped his curveball usage and avoidance of the strike zone on two-strike counts). This sort of thing looks like the normal maturation of a pitcher, but it also could be the siren song of a peak year. At any case, buying now is almost certainly buying high, even if he can repeat his work. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Weaver matured as a pitcher and lept forward in 2010, but any time a pitcher adds a strikeout per inning to his career total, the probability of regression back to career means is just as real as the changes that pitcher made to get there.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/28/1982|
Profile: Randy Wells suffered the fury of high BABIP’s effect on ERA inflation last season, allowing 209 hits in 194.1 innings. Not to say that Wells should fall back to a sub-4.00 ERA in 2011, as although his K rate rose to 6.67, his walk rate also rose to 2.92. As a ground-ball pitcher, one of Wells’ strengths is preventing the home run, so look for him to allow fewer than one home run every 9.0 innings again. Wells figures to be a third or fourth starter for the Cubs with pretty good stuff, so look for 180 innings from him as a Cubs starter in 2011. After posting a 4.26 ERA and 1.40 WHIP pitcher in 2010, expect those numbers to improve in 2011 because of last season’s .320 BABIP, but let’s be cautious because of the Cubs’ infield defense, which had more to do with Wells’ increased ERA than did his increased walk rate. If you are a Cubs fan or a Randy Wells owner, your prayers will be directed toward the improvement of Aramis Ramirez’ arm and Starlin Castro’s defensive range, as well a new starting first baseman who can handle the duties related to supporting ground-ball pitchers. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Wells suffered from a high BABIP and a poor Cubs’ infield defense, but improved his K rate. The Cubs’ rotation is filled with ground-ball pitchers like Wells, whose success in 2011 is dependent on improvement of the Cubs’ infield defense.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/15/1986|
Profile: Other than his left hand, there’s not too much to hang your hat on with Sean West. He’s lost plenty of innings to injury already, and the only time he ever struck out a batter per frame, it was in a 64-inning stretch in Double-A. He has the ability to strike out people at an average rate, and in a good year his walk rate will approach average as well. He’s a fly-baller — at least he’s in a good park for that — so he won’t be inducing double plays to erase his mistakes. He barely cracks 90 MPH on the gun, and his fastball has been a negative over his career according to our pitch-type values. This train may be on its way to the bullpen. With a few more ticks on his fastball, maybe the rest of his package can garner more swinging strikes. Any Marlin pitcher against a righty-dominated lineup at home is worth the odd spot start, but counting on West to do any more for your fantasy team would be a mistake. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Teach your children to throw with their left hands. At the very least, they’ll have a chance to put up the same mediocre peripherals as Sean West, meaning they’ll have a chance to a Major League pitcher.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/29/1977|
Profile: Last year made Jake Westbrook look like another Dave Duncan special, and I’m not sure anybody should be surprised by this development. Overall, Westbrook was 10-11 with a 4.22 ERA and an identical FIP, but after a mid-season trade from Cleveland to St.Louis, Westbrook posted a 3.48 ERA with a 3.52 FIP. Of course, that’s only 75 innings, but Dave Duncan’s trademark — a high ground-ball rate — was present. After the trade, Westbrook’s ground-ball rate ballooned from 53% to 62%, which, along with his roughly average K/BB rates, resulted in an excellent home-run rate of only 0.6 per nine innings. Westbrook will be 33 for almost the entire 2011 season, so he has reached the point where we begin to worry about his ability to eat up innings, particularly since he only threw 34.2 innings in 2008 and 2009 combined. However, we can expect good things when he’s on the field. Repeating the 3.50 ERA we saw at the end last year might be a bit much, and the Cardinals have downgraded their infield defense, but an ERA in the 3.80-3.90 range (and the suitable amount of wins) should be possible for the Duncanized Westbrook, with a decent WHIP and average K numbers. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Merely the latest Dave Duncan special. Look for another decent year out of Westbrook: high-3.00s ERA, double-digit wins, and average WHIP/K numbers.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/16/1982|
Profile: Every year that he’s been in the big leagues, Wilson has gotten better and better, culminating with a superb 2010 campaign. Wilson had an ERA under 2.00, and struck out 93 batters in just under 75 innings. His walk rate was his lowest since 2007, and his ability to make batters miss has never been better. Not only does Wilson strike out his fair share of batters, he also does a good job of getting ground balls and limiting home runs, making big innings harder and harder for opponents. While he probably won’t have an ERA below 2.00 in 2011, there’s a good chance it will be around the 2.50 mark, which is still extremely valuable. Thanks to his wicked sweet beard and postseason triumphs being viewed by millions on national T.V., Wilson is in line for a bump in his ADP. He’s good — really good — but he’s not going to be worth the price that it will require to snatch him up. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Wilson is a fantastic closer, sporting both the ability to strike batters out and keep the ball on the ground. However, thanks to his performance in the World Series, he won’t be worth the price you have to pay to get him.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/18/1980|
Profile: After years as a relief-only pitcher, C.J. Wilson made a successful transition to the rotation in 2010. Can he keep it up? Though he is entering his age-30 season and is well past the young-pitcher injury nexus, Wilson’s increase in innings pitched in 2010 was incredibly high and often times an increase in usage can manifest create health effects down the line. Wilson certainly saw a marked decrease in his velocity with the move into the rotation, averaging 2-3 mph fewer per pitch. Monitor those in 2011. If they stay consistent with 2010, that is a good sign for his endurance. If they drop further, that would present an ominous sign. If he holds up then Wilson can deliver a good amount of strikeouts paired with a solid ERA and WHIP. The wins, being team-dependent as always, look promising as well, as Texas is the clear AL West front-runner. (Matthew Carruth)
Quick Opinion: You should always be concerned about pitchers that see as large an increase in usage as Wilson did last season. Wilson isn’t a young pitcher, however, and if he survives the bump in innings is a risk worth taking.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 8/22/1976|
Profile: In 2010, NL starters averaged 7.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9. Over the last three years — between stints with San Diego, Houston, the Dodgers, and Milwaukee — Wolf has done this in 620.1 IP: 6.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9. Basically, what that gives you is the average-est of the average pitchers. Of course, there’s value in starters who post league-average numbers while also tossing about 200 innings per annum — and Wolf has done that for each of those three seasons. And if Milwaukee repeats as the NL’s best offense (74.6 adjusted batting runs above average in 2010), that could mean something like 13-15 wins. On the other hand, his swinging-strike rates — which are predictive of strikeout rates — go like this over the last three seasons: 8.7%, 7.4%, 6.7%. Bottom line: he’s not someone to reach on, but he’s fine for a two-start week. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Is a candidate for Most Average Pitcher award. Pitching in front of above-average offense gives him some value, though.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 6/16/1977|
Profile: Very rarely do we see a player take less money to join a team, but that’s exactly what Wood did when he spurned the White Sox and Yankees (and probably others) to take a sweetheart deal with the team that originally drafted him, the Cubs. Carlos Marmol has the team’s closer job locked down, so Wood will step in as his primary setup man. His fantasy value is tied to his strikeout rate now, which was still sky-high at 9.59 K/9 in 2010. The only time Kerry has dipped below a strikeout per inning in a season is when he’s been hurt, which unfortunately is still far too often (two more disabled-list trips in 2010). There’s definitely potential to vulture some wins here, which is more likely to happen than vulturing saves. Wood is very risky because of the injuries, and the lack of save opportunities drags hurts his fantasy value in traditional scoring leagues. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Always an injury wisk, Wood’s fantasy value takes a hit now that save opportunities won’t be coming his way. Strikeouts will be the only thing he has to offer in traditional scoring leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/6/1987|
Profile: Travis Wood was passed over by Mike Leake early in the 2010 season. While Leake had beat Wood out for the No. 5 starter role prior to the season, Wood was called up in July and pitched well the rest of the season, including pitching a one-hit loss against Roy Halladay and the Phillies in his third career start. When the numbers add up, Wood should be ahead of Leake in 2011 — likely in the No. 5 spot — after a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP rookie season. Wood struck out 7.54 batters per nine innings while walking 2.28 on average, similar to his minor-league numbers. Wood was generally lucky with a .272 BABIP, but he was able to consistently maintain less than a .300 BABIP in Triple-A as well as a sub-0.80 HR/9. We may not see the last of Leake in the Reds’ rotation, but the Reds would be hard-pressed not to continue on the Travis Wood train. Like Leake, the 24-year-old lefty still has a lot of upside. If he gets 180 innings, expect a season-long performance similar to 2010. (Albert Lyu)
Quick Opinion: Wood returned to rotation in 2010 and carved out a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP rookie season. He can strike out close to eight batters per nine innings, and, as a 24-year-old lefty, still has a lot of upside.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1979|
Profile: From 2005 to 2007, Young was one of the better pitchers in the National League, using his leverage and home park to get a lot of fly ball outs. A long string of health problems have left him as a shell of his former self, however, and his fastball – which once averaged 90 MPH – was only sitting around 85 in his limited action last year. He hasn’t posted a BB/9 under 4.00 in the last three years, and he’s only managed to stay on the mound for a total of 198 innings during that timeframe. The combination of diminished stuff, failing command, and significant arm problems should be enough to scare you away, and once you factor in a move out of Petco, it’s hard to see much value in drafting Young. With any pitcher, there’s always a chance he could have a rebirth, but that seems like a gamble best left to someone else. (Dave Cameron)
Quick Opinion: This is not the Chris Young you were looking for. You want the outfielder, not the pitcher.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 6/1/1981|
Profile: If you prefer your team to have flair and pizzaz, Zambrano might be a solid pick-up. He was, uh, animated in the dugout last season, to put it mildly. If, however, you prefer a pitcher who can stay on the field for a full season and produce numbers, well, you might want to look into Zambrano as well. Despite the problems that caused him to miss a few games and ultimately landed him in the bullpen last season, he’s actually put together a remarkably solid career. In fact, since his full-season debut in 2002 he hasn’t crossed the 4.00 ERA mark. His strikeout skills seem to still be in tact, and while his WHIP is inflated by a high walk rate, he still keeps it at a reasonable level. He’s not a good choice in the first few rounds, as he might have been in, say 2005, but he might just slip by the people in your league, on account of the craziness. (Joe Pawlikowski)
Quick Opinion: A little bit of crazy might render Zambrano an underrated option for 2011. Even if he returns to his 2009 level of production he can be a solid pickup who might be available in the later rounds.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/23/1986|
Profile: Zimmermann is an object lesson in how un-horrible Tommy John surgery can be. He made his last Major League start of a heretofore successful 2009 season on July 18th. Rest and rehab proved incapable of curing the elbow soreness he was feeling, so TJ followed in mid-August. Within a year — July 3rd of 2010, specifically — he made his return to the mound, pitching two innings at High-A Potomac. By the end of the year, he’d thrown 31 Major League innings, posting above-average strikeout (7.84 K/9), walk (2.90 BB/9) and ground-ball (48.9% GB) numbers. Really, at this point, Zimmermann is ideally situated as a value pick. Not only did he log only those 31 innings last year, but his 4.94 ERA is almost definitely the product of a stupid-high 22.2% HR/FB. The wins may not necessarily be there (the Nats finished only above the lowly Pirates and Astros and Pirates in runs scored), but 2011 looks bright otherwise for Zimmermann. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Between his abbreviated 2010 and unlucky ERA, is likely to be a value on draft day.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/13/1978|
Profile: It seems like a long time ago that Zito was a consistent 220-inning-eating workhorse, and even longer ago that he was a Cy Young winner. Zito’s 2010 will likely be remembered for his disastrous outing against the Padres on the last weekend of the season, and his subsequent banishment from the Giants’ playoff roster. The flip side is that over the rest of the season, Zito posted the best of his four campaigns with the Giants. As low a bar as that is, he set new bests for his Giants tenure in IP (199.1), WHIP (1.34), K’s (150) and set a second-best in ERA (4.15). With his best days on the mound clearly behind him, Zito is a solid number-five man in a deep Giants rotation. He’s never missed a start in his 10-year career, so he should be good for another 190+ innings in 2011, with an ERA in the low-4.00s, a WHIP around 1.35, 150 or so Ks and about 10 wins. (Patrick Newman)
Quick Opinion: No longer a star, Zito is simply a predictable, back-of-the-rotation starter
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/9/1984|
Profile: Remember when Joel Zumaya was a 100-mph-throwing, dominant reliever? Yeah, me neither. In 2010, Zumaya was actually good for the first time since 2006 but… wait for it… had his season shortened due to injury. He will supposedly be ready for spring training, and his velocity has remained high over the years, but he hasn’t pitched 40 innings in a season since 2006 and, frankly, the strikeout numbers don’t merit the hype he used to get. His walk numbers came down in his brief 2010 sojourn, so there’s that. Zumaya is worth a flyer, but there are at least two or three pitchers ahead of him in Detroit’s bullpen, even when he’s healthy, so he’s a $1 lottery ticket in most leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Zumaya was great in 2006, and has been mostly bad on the rare occasions he has been healthy since then. He was okay in 2010, but got hurt. Bid accordingly.
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