|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 12/8/1981 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Aceves was a great find for the Boston Red Sox as he very much served as handy adhesive when pieces were falling off all over the Red Sox staff. Aceves gave them 114 innings of work, mostly in relief, but also four spot starts, posting a 2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 6.32 strikeout rate. He benefited somewhat by a high strand rate and low home run rate, reflected in part in his 4.77 xFIP, but Aceves produced good results nonetheless. There’s some rumor of his joining the rotation in 2012, but that seems unlikely given his peripherals and pedigree. Aceves enters 2012 as a likely decent source of holds, and a dual-eligibility pitcher, but little more. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Unless he joins the rotation, Aceves will have limited value as a sixth and seventh inning option and occasional emergency starter unless you’re in a holds league — and even then, don’t do somersaults when you draft him.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/1/1981 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Acosta is an effective reliever, but the Acostapolypse really struggles with the long ball. While he traded a few strikeouts for better control, he also allowed righties to put up a 1.73 home run rate against him. He was much more effective against lefties last season, and should probably be used as a specialist more often. A pitcher with Acosta’s skill-set can succeed in a Major League bullpen, but his propensity for the home run probably limits him to a set-up role at best. Giving up home runs is never good, but giving up game-winning walk-off home runs is even more frustrating. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Acosta belongs in a Major League bullpen, but he’s not really a candidate to pick up saves. He gives up too many home runs, and is less effective against righties.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 7/29/1978 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Arguably the best non-closing reliever in baseball over the last three or four seasons, Adams somewhat predictably saw his home run rate spike (from 0.38 HR/9 to 1.05 HR/9) following his trade from the Padres (and spacious Petco Park) to the Rangers (and the cozy Ballpark In Arlington). He remains a dominant high-strikeout (9.00 per nine in four straight years), low-WHIP (sub-1.10 in four straight years), low-ERA (sub-1.80 in three straight years) setup man that’s a must own in holds leagues, and it won’t take much for him to see some save opportunities with Neftali Feliz moving to the rotation and the aging Joe Nathan set for ninth inning duties. The homers could push his ERA closer to 2.00 than we’re used to seeing, but it’s a small price to pay for an elite holds reliever. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: There’s no reason to expect Adams to not be one of the best non-closing relievers in baseball next season, as he’ll offer a ton of strikeouts to go along with a low WHIP and ERA. His home run rate figures to climb a bit, but he’s also got a chance to see more save opportunities with the Rangers than he ever did behind Heath Bell with the Padres.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/25/1988 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Adock had shown flashes in the Minor Leagues prior to 2011, but not enough for the Pirates to protect him for the Rule Five Draft, and the Royals took him and left him in the majors all season long. He had his moments and a good ground-ball rate, but clearly was not ready for the Major Leagues, with a strikeout rate under six and a walk rate over three in mostly relief appearances. It would be surprising if he made the Royals out of Spring Training, so pass on him until you see something more happening with his Major League role and his performance. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Nathan “Insert Juvenile Name Joke Here” Adcock flashed potential as the Royals 2011 Rule Five pick, but he isn’t likely to be of any use as a fantasy player in 2012.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 6/6/1979 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Affeldt is a classic LOOGY but Giants manager Bruce Bochy used him more against RH batters in 2011, with mediocre results. Against lefties, Affeldt had an FIP of 2.47. Against righties, that became a 4.54 FIP. With Ramon Ramirez gone from the Giants bullpen, expect Bochy to continue to use Affeldt against righties more than he should. (Wendy Thurm)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/20/1983 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Matt Albers acted as the right-handed bridge to Josh Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, typically appearing in the 6th to 7th innings. He’s really only useful in leagues counting holds. He struggles mightily versus lefties and while he managed to have a breakout season relative to his strikeouts, his miserable walk rate and swinging strike rate of 6.6% should leave enough suspicions for you to look away. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/10/1986 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: A walk rate over six per nine is a hard thing to live with, even from a reliever. It is a bit easier when that reliever is striking out more than 13 per nine. That’s what Al Alburquerque did in 2011. No, he probably isn’t that good of a strikeout guy, but he probably isn’t that bad when it comes to control, either. Alburquerque looked like a cheap source of strikeouts for fantasy owners going into 2012, but all those sliders that made him so hard to hit seem to have taken their toll, and he had elbow surgery. He will miss the first part of the season, at least, so don’t draft him. But keep tabs on him if you need strikeouts from your relievers, as he might be available as the season wears on. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Al Alburquerque exists. He is a strikeout machine, but had elbow surgery in the off-season and will miss at least the first part of 2012. Keep him in mind for a waiver pickup or a deep-league DL stash, but don’t waste a pick on him. (Matt Klaassen)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/18/1990 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: An international free agent who’s made his way through the Toronto farm system, Henderson Alvarez made his debut for the Blue Jays last August, and didn’t disappoint, ending the season after 10 starts and with a 3.53 ERA and 3.97 FIP. Alvarez has quickly supplanted the likes of Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil on the Toronto depth chart, and is an intriguing fantasy option in 2012. Alvarez showed great command in his first go-round in the majors, walking only eight batters in 63.2 innings, for an impressive walk rate of 1.13 per nine. Alvarez gives up ground balls and will therefore give up hits, but there’s lots to like about the youngster, who will only be 22 years old come April. Keep your eye on Alvarez, and look for him as a sleeper for your rotation in the middle to later rounds of your draft. The Blue Jays just might have something special in young Henderson. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Alvarez didn’t disappoint once he made the leap from Double-A New Hampshire to Toronto last August, showing great command and walking only eight batters in 63.2 innings. He looks to have a spot in the Toronto rotation in 2012, and, while he will likely be on an innings limit, his WHIP makes him an attractive and intriguing late fantasy option. Make no mistake, his ceiling his high.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/1/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: All those slurves that Anderson threw may or may not have led to his Tommy John surgery, but for now that’s immaterial. He’s out, and he’s out until July at the earliest. Since he started with such great control (2.36 walks per nine, career), maybe he’ll have a head start on fellow TJ-returners in that category. Along with his plus ground-ball rate (57.5% last year), he should be fine even if he doesn’t add more strikeouts to his oevre. It is sort of strange that Anderson hasn’t struck out more than seven per nine over his career, but his swinging strike rates are also below average. Either way, if he can manage a ground-ball rate near 60% with strong control, he should be the pitcher everyone hoped Trevor Cahill would be. If you can stash Anderson on your disabled list for half a season, throw a late-round pick his way. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Anderson hasn’t quite shown the strikeout punch that was expected of him, but elite control and ground-ball ways make him a good pitcher. This year, you’ll want to stash him if you have enough DL spots to wait for his mid-season return from TJ surgery — or just remember his name for later.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/12/1984 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Returned from Tommy John surgery in 2011 and looked similar to — but not precisely like — his former self, losing a couple percentage points in strikeout and ground-ball rate and adding some in walk rate. He could certainly improve with further distance from surgery, but, with offseason acquisitions of Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, isn’t likely to see save opportunities. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/6/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Not that long ago, Jake Arrieta was part of a bright pitching future for the Orioles. Along with Brian Matusz and Zach Britton, Arrieta was going to help the Orioles pitch their way back into contention in the American League East. 219.2 Major League innings later, the shine has worn off. Arrieta has struggled with his control, walking 107 over those innings, which might have been manageable if he had struck out more than 145. Most of those strikeouts came in 2011, when he was able to increase his rate to 7.01, but at the same time he saw his home run rate jump to 1.58. The problem for Arrieta is that his track record doesn’t suggest there is much improvement to come. He never struck out more than 7.89 per nine in Triple-A and his walk rate has been over four for three straight years. If Arrieta can bring down the walks, there might still be some hope for him, but as he enters his age 26 season, the chances are Arrieta is what he is at this point. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Jake Arrieta has now thrown more than 200 Major League innings without much success. He walks too many, strikes out too few, and gives up too many homers — and there isn’t much reason to think he will turn that around at this point.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 2/24/1977 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite allowing a Blylevian 46 gopher balls in 2011, Arroyo really does profile as a pretty good back-end starter. He’s durable (one inning shy of seven straight 200 inning seasons), carries a decent career strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.2), and averages about two wins a season despite pitching in a park that doesn’t cater to his skill set whatsoever (120/133 HR park factor for GAB in 2011). The 2011 campaign wasn’t friendly at all to Arroyo, and his -1.3 WAR serves notice, but part of it can be blamed on an out-of-whack home-run-per-fly-ball rate, and that he stopped inducing worm burners at a 40-plus percent rate for the first time since 2007. If anyone can overcome that sort of deviation, it’s a wily veteran like Arroyo, but honestly, he’d be better suited in a more accommodating home park. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Given his skill set and current home park, Arroyo is simply undraftable in all but the deepest of leagues. Now, if he were to be dealt to say, San Diego or Seattle, he could be worth a late-round flyer. Otherwise, look the other way.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/30/1985 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Axelrod got his first shot at the bigs in 2011 after five years in the minors. He could be in the White Sox rotation again in 2012, but his ceiling is no better than a real-life number four. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/1/1983 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Axford established himself as one of the National League’s elite relief pitchers in 2011. After a rough start, he converted 46 saves and recorded a phenomenal 43 shutdowns against just three meltdowns. The 93.5% shutdown rate trailed just Greg Holland among relievers in 2011 and was the best mark posted by a closer in the past four seasons. His peripherals were excellent as well: beyond the excellent strikeout rate, Axford allowed just 25 walks and four home runs in over 70 innings pitched. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Axford posted one of the best reliever seasons in both Brewers history and the National League in 2011. With near spotless peripherals, look for more of the same in 2012.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/8/1983 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Badenhop takes his heavy ground-ball ways to Tampa Bay where he has the potential to surprise in relief. Although he’s not a hard thrower, his strikeout and walk rates, coupled with that strong ground-ball rate, are good enough to make him a better than league average pitcher. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 9/10/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Baez hasn’t posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 2:1 since 2006 and has posted only one season below an xFIP- of 100 since 2004. The average leverage index for when Baez entered games in 2011 was 0.65, suggesting that the Phillies understand his limits. You should, too. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/31/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: For the second year in a row, Bailey’s season was cut short by injury. He had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in late 2010, and he missed nearly the first two months of 2011 while recovering from a forearm strain. Bailey was at least sharp when he returned last season, with a 41/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.86 FIP in 41.2 innings. He seemingly relied less on his cutter and went to his low-90s four-seamer more often, which resulted in a lower ground ball rate (37 percent). That wasn’t a problem in Oakland’s spacious Coliseum, but it’s something to keep in mind in Boston. He’ll still likely be the Red Sox’ closer, but Mark Melancon and Daniel Bard will keep him honest. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Bailey’s value is hard to gauge — he’s very good, but there’s downside potential due to his history of elbow and forearm woes. For what it’s worth, his fastball velocity spiked to 95 MPH late in the year, suggesting his stuff is none the worse for wear. Draft him, but you might want to grab Daniel Bard as a back-up plan.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/3/1986 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: For the third straight year, Bailey has had flashes of greatness coupled with miserable stretches which makes him so difficult to own in fantasy baseball. Bailey, ever the ueber prospect, continues to fail to put together a full season of solid work either because of injury or ineffectiveness (resulting in all-expense-paid trips to Louisville). In 2012, Bailey posted a 4.43 ERA (4.06 FIP), a 1.28 WHIP, and a pretty respectable 7.23 strikeout rate. Then he altered his approach pretty significantly in 2012, going to his slider over 20% of the time, effectively double the rate from his career numbers. The change produced results too — the slider generated better than a 17% whiff rate and was worth 2.44 runs above average per 100 pitches, making it one of the better sliders in baseball. Bailey seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s still just 25 years old and he has the talent to produce like a starter deserving a roster spot. His inconsistency can be unnerving, but keep an eye on him on draft day as he’s a good risk/reward type in later rounds. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Bailey is still just 25 and coming off a season with some encouraging signs. His inconsistency might drive you to drink, but he has the talent and pedigree to be a good fantasy contributor. Don’t sleep on him, but don’t have unreasonable expectations either.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/19/1981 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: When Scott Baker pitched in 2011, he did a great job. He had career bests in ERA, WHIP and strikeout rate. Scott’s main problem during 2011 was that he was on the disabled list twice with problems to his pitching arm. In all, he missed 52 games. His best trait, that he is able to maintain from year to year, is his near-two walk rate. Looking forward, we should expect some similar results with double-digit wins, 150 strikeouts, 1.25 WHIP and a four ERA. He has never had such an injury-filled year as 2011 and it is unknown how it will affect him in 2012. In Spring Training, try to find any information you can on him. What is his velocity? Is there any signs of pain? Did he miss a scheduled appearance? If he’s 100% healthy, he could be a great steal in the later rounds. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Scott Baker is a great undervalued talent. His 2011 injuries and their effect on him will be the biggest concern for him going into 2012.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/6/1986 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: The one-time starting pitching prospect has transitioned to relief and heads to Detroit after being acquired for Ryan Perry. After years of mediocrity as a member of the rotation as the result of weak strikeout rates, Balester has seen his strikeout rate spike upon his move to the bullpen. His control is acceptable enough and his ground ball rate has improved, which has led to pretty good SIERA marks over his first 56.2 innings pitching in relief. His fastball velocity has jumped two and a half miles per hour since departing from the starting role, though his swinging strike rate remained stable last year. Balester will likely remain in the pen for the Tigers and is nothing more than an okay bullpen arm. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: After moving full-time to the bullpen after years as a starter, Balester has seen his skills improve as his fastball velocity has jumped. However, he will likely remain a reliever, which limits his fantasy value.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 12/30/1977 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: The high-octane Aussie was unusually homer-prone in his first year with the A’s, allowing his highest home runs per nine rate (1.2) since he was a rookie with the Twins back in 2003. He was still decent overall, though, with 8.6 strikeouts per nine, 2.9 walks per nine and a 3.77 FIP. But if Balfour is to keep anything near his 2.47 ERA, he’ll need to cut down on the dingers — a .232 batting average on balls in play and an 89 percent strand rate don’t happen every year. The A’s oddly went with the inferior Brian Fuentes in save situations when Andrew Bailey went down with a forearm injury, though it’s hard to imagine they’ll make the same mistake again with Bailey gone for good. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Look for Balfour to get saves now that Bailey isn’t around — Fuentes just isn’t that good, and Fautino De Los Santos needs to prove he can control his power stuff before he’s an option.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/25/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: After two-and-a-half years as a hyper-effective setup man, the Red Sox are bringing Bard to camp as a starting pitcher next season. They aren’t guaranteeing him a rotation spot in 2012, but they’ll see what he can do multiple times through the order in Spring Training before making a decision. He could be back in the bullpen my mid-March. We know what Bard can do as a reliever, and that’s provide a ton of strikeouts with a low-ERA and a microscopic WHIP, plus this year he has a very real chance to close. He hasn’t been a successful starter since college though, and it’s close to impossible to know how effective he’ll be when he presumably loses a little off his fastball as a starter (meaning 94-96 MPH rather than 98-100) and batters see him multiple times. History is not on his side as a starter, so the safe play is to grab him with the expectation of relief work and save potential. As a starter … your guess is as good as mine. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Bard will go to Spring Training as a starter next year, but he’s not guaranteed a rotation spot and could end up back in the bullpen by the end of camp. With Jonathan Papelbon in Philadelphia, Bard’s opportunity to grab saves has never been better.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/1/1987 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Bass, 24, was actually surprisingly impressive in jumping from Double-A to San Diego in 2011. (If you knew he posted a 1.68 ERA over 48.1 innings, you might be related to him.) There are warning signs, though, like the 24:21 strikeouts to walks or the out-of-his-ordinary 3.9 walk rate, but the Padres are nothing if not uncannily unparalleled at unearthing unknown relievers. A taste of Triple-A wouldn’t be bad for Bass, but there’s a role for him in the bigs — or among your NL-only team’s pitching reserves — next year. (Jason Catania)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/21/1985 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: Bastardo flashed closer-like stuff in 2011 with a good fastball but a particularly wicked slider that produced a 2.64 ERA and 0.93 WHIP and saw him emerge as a great source of holds for formats that care about such folly. A few things to note about Bastardo are his extreme fly ball tendencies with a career 55.6% rate and a batting average on balls in play of just .179 in 2011 — both of which are likely to give him a little more trouble in 2012. He’s a nice source of strikeouts with a strikeout rate over 10 in 2011, but he also has control issues with a career walk rate around four per nine. He’ll be setting up Jonathan Papelbon in 2012 and will be a good source of holds and strikeouts. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: In standard leagues, Bastardo is only valuable if something should happen to Jonathan Papelbon. Otherwises, he’s a good source of holds and strikeouts but beware a little regression with batted balls and count on something closer to his career FIP at 3.62 in terms of an ERA.
|Debut: 1992 | BirthDate: 2/19/1971 | Position: RP|
Profile: He chased the dream successfully, too: Batista re-upped, signing a Minor League deal with the New York Mets for the 2012 season, after starting the 2011 with the Cardinals and ending it in Queens. He pitched out of the bullpen for St. Louis before being released, then started for New York. Batista even picked up two wins in the process as a starter, including a two-hit, complete game shutout to end the season. Today, in winter ball in the Dominican League, Batista is closing games, something he hasn’t done since 2005 with the Blue Jays. It all comes full circle. Batista walks more batters than he strikes out, and is hanging on to what’s left of an almost 20-year professional baseball career. Don’t draft him, he’s got no fantasy value, but wish him well. His gold watch — when the time comes — will have been well deserved. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Poet, author, and novelist — or, as you know him, journeyman right-handed pitcher — Miguel Batista will be 41-years-old in February, but he continues to chase the dream. Just don’t dream him up for your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/3/1986 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Where did this come from? Beachy went from a prospect not worthy of a write up in last year’s Second Opinion, to a player who posted a 10.74 strikeout rate in the majors. His breakout wasn’t a fluke either, as his excellent 3.68 ERA was actually higher than his 3.19 FIP. An oblique injury — suffered in mid-May — was one of the few blemishes on an otherwise excellent rookie season. There are a few reasons for concern, however. Beachy’s career high in innings pitched — which he set last season — is only 146.2, so it’s unclear if he can handle an increased workload. It will be hard for him to improve on his phenomenal rookie season, but his performance was legitimate. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Beachy may have emerged from obscurity last season, but his performance was far from a fluke. If he can handle a higher workload, he’s a good bet to improve this season.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/27/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Not your typical reliever, former Rule-Fiver Beato has a four-pitch mix. Unfortunately, none of the four pitches are dominant, and his 92-MPH fastball might not survive a move back to the rotation. That puts him somewhere around fourth on the bullpen depth chart. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/17/1989 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: The 2011 rookie has the misfortune of owning the third-worst strikeout rate among all pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched. Unfortunately, his lackluster K/9 rates in the minors don’t give us much reason for future optimism either. His swinging strike rate wasn’t as bad as his strikeout rate would suggest, so maybe he will see a spike here…to punching out five batters per nine. He does have rather elite control, but he is also a fly ball pitcher, so all those balls in play are going to inevitably lead to home runs, and lots of them. Though the kid will be just 23 next season, he has shown nothing statistically to hint at much upside here. It would be a surprise if he lasted in the Mariners’ rotation all season. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With one of the worst strikeout rates in baseball and not enough ground balls to compensate, Beavan is a pitcher to avoid. Although elite control is a plus, it’s simply not enough to offset his other significant flaws.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 5/15/1980 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Beckett bounced back from a troubled 2010 campaign and showed the world that he can still be an electric starting pitcher who has the ability to anchor the top of a real world and fantasy rotation. His fantasy numbers got some help from his batting average on balls in play and strand rate, but his peripherals still suggest he’s a great pitcher who won’t need any help to put up a very good line. His swinging strike rate, for instance, was better than he’d ever shown since moving to the American League. Even his continued progression away from featuring his big fastball didn’t change the peripherals much other than his career-worst ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio. Beckett’s big question will always be his health, and he will slip in drafts because of it. The 31-year-old will continue to have an excellent offense and defense behind him, so acting like he’s a top end number-two fantasy starter due to his health is entirely fair. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Beckett still has the stuff to dominate hitters, but can he stay healthy? Don’t let him be your first starter off the board, but don’t be afraid to draft him after that.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 3/5/1979 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Erik Bedard spent time with both the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox in 2011 and is now a member of the Pirates, having signed a one-year contract with Pittsburgh worth $4.5 million. He threw 129.1 innings last season, the first time he threw more than 100 innings since 2007. Bedard’s 2.4 WAR was his highest since 2007, too. Bedard did spend some time on the disabled list with a sprained left knee last year, but a season with only one trip to the disabled list is actually a healthy one for Bedard. He pitched well last season, especially with Seattle. Bedard’s always had good stuff, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Bedard’s strikeout rate of 8.70 last year, and 8.76 on his career, means you have to take notice of him. He could round out your fantasy rotation, provided he stays healthy. Pay the right price for Bedard, as you know what you’re going to get: strikeouts, walks, and at least one stint on the DL. But you’re eventually going to have to gamble, and Bedard could pay off. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Bedard’s a Pirate after stints with the Mariners and Red Sox in 2011, and is likely as healthy as he’s ever going to get after throwing over 100 innings for the first time in since 2007. Bedard’s going to walk batters, but he’s going to strike out even more. He’s worth a gamble in most leagues.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 6/6/1980 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: By May 2009, most Rockies fans hoped that they never, ever saw Matt Belisle again, but he came back at the end of that season a changed man, and he has been electric ever since. Manager Jim Tracy did his best to Scott Proctor him in 2010, so it took Belisle a little while to work into his 2011 season, but after April, he was lights out save for one appearance in early July, when he randomly allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning. To a certain degree, Belisle traded strikeouts for ground balls last season, which led to a slight drop in his FIP and xFIP marks, but overall he was still very effective — his 72 FIP- tied for 26th out of 134 qualified relievers. With Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers and perhaps even minor leaguer Chad Bettis likely to see save opportunities before Belisle, he doesn’t carry a ton of fantasy value, but he should accrue a good number of holds and vulture wins. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Belisle has been one of the more relievers in the game the past two-plus years, but with the Rockies having such a deep bullpen, a lot of dominoes will have to fall for him to end up in the closer’s role.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/29/1977 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: After three straight 40+ save seasons with the Padres, Bell cashed in with the Marlins and leaves the comfort of Petco Park. The burly right-hander’s strikeout rate dropped considerably last season, from 10.63 K/9 in 2009-2010 to just 7.32 K/9 in 2011. His other peripherals were unchanged, as was his pitch usage (~72% fastballs, ~28% curveballs) and velocities. For whatever reason though, Bell’s curve went from being about four runs above average to about two runs below average last year, perhaps due to poor location or pitching tipping or something else. Your guess is as good as mine, but when a 34-year-old with a relatively short track record sees a significant drop in his strikeout rate, it’s a major red flag. Bell is still a great saves target, but he carries more risk than he has at any point in the last two or three years. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Bell’s strikeout rate dropped considerably in 2011, and now he’s moving out of Petco Park into a field with unknown park effects. He’s still a great bet for saves given his fat new contract, but he carries more risk now than he did at any point in the last few seasons.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/26/1977 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Joaquin Benoit parleyed his shockingly effective comeback with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 into a three-year contract with the Tigers the following off-season. Although he got off to a bit of a rough start, the right-handed reliever soon got his footing and had a nice season in Detroit, striking out over nine per nine while walking less than three. He was clearly a superior pitcher than incumbent closer Jose Valverde, yet for some reason the Tigers excercised their 2012 club option on Valverde anyway, which probably means that Benoit will not be getting the saves that would make him so valuable in most leagues. Nonetheless, Benoit’s strikeouts give him value, and he is next in line. Valverde’s saves catch the eye, but in reality he is edging closer to “teflon closer” territory, and if he struggles, Benoit could sneak in and get the saves. The saves! (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Despite being blocked for saves by an inferior pitcher, Benoit’s strikeouts and the possibility that he could slip in to the closer’s role give him real fantasy value for 2012.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/25/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Remember 2009 when, as a rookie, Brad Bergesen made 19 starts for Baltimore, winning seven of them, and posting a 3.43 ERA? Neither do Orioles fans. The 2011 season was a nightmare for Bergesen, his second disappointing campaign in a row, and he finished the year in the bullpen, where he’s slotted for 2012. What Bergesen’s selling — below-average strikeout, groun-ball, and home run rates — you’re not in the market for. Out of Minor League options in 2012, Bergesen’s status is further clouded, and he’s unlikely to be drafted in most leagues. Remember, when looking at Baltimore Orioles pitchers, make sure to you ask yourself: How desperate am I? (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Bergesen struggled in 2011, eventually moving to the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen after starting the season in the rotation. Out of Minor League options, and set to face competition on the mound in spring training, where Bergesen will pitch in 2012 is unclear, killing the miniscule chance he had of being drafted — in any league — in the first place.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 3/23/1988 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: While he’s one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects, Betances is still somewhat of a wild card. The 24-year-old has great stuff and overwhelming size, but his command problems remain prevalent and may force him to move to the bullpen in the long-term. As far as 2012 goes, the right-hander will be honing his stuff in the minors, and until he proves that his command is under control, he won’t be joining the big league club. Don’t be afraid to draft him in the second half of dynasty league drafts, but just don’t pin your hopes on him as a prospect. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Betances has massive size and stuff, but control problems will keep him out of the majors for the time being. He’s a solid dynasty league pick as long as you realize there are much better pitching prospects out there for the taking.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 4/29/1975 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Rafael Betancourt was already a pretty good reliever when he was traded to the Rockies, but he has been incredible the past two seasons. Over that timeframe, his 61 xFIP- is tied for the best in baseball among relievers with at least 100 innings pitched, and his 10.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio stands alone at the top. Towards the end of last season, Betancourt began pilfering saves from Huston Street, and the Rockies felt confident enough in Betancourt’s steely reserve to jettison Street. Now that he will add saves to his other dominant categories, Betancourt could be one of the better relief plays in the game this season, but because he has never been a full-time closer you probably won’t have to pay that much for him. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Now the Rockies’ closer, Betancourt should be a great value even if he is only 80-90 percent as effective as he has been the past two seasons.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 7/29/1984 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Chad Billingsley is a pitcher with some core stats in decline that may limit his value in the future. He ranks 57th out of 59 pitchers from 2006 to 2011 in walk rate (3.92). He has been able to produce while maintaining this high walk rate by having a high strikeout rate — eight per nine innings, or 15th out of 59 qualified starters. The problem is that his strikeout rate is on a four-year decline from 2008 to 2011 (9.0 to 8.2 to 8.0 to 7.3). He has been able to maintain a reasonable ERA because of lifetime home run per fly ball rate of 0.67. This value is about the same at home (0.64) as it is on the road (0.69), so he has no real home and away split. For 2012, look at valuing Bills similar to other pitchers with a seven-ish strike out rate and a four-ish walk rate rate (like Carlos Zambrano). (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Billingsley has been able to maintain a decent fantasy value because of a high strikeout rate. With that rate in decline, his fantasy value is also in decline.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/24/1982 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: We’ve known all along that Nick Blackburn can’t strike anyone out. His 4.61 strikeouts per nine last year was a career high! But in 2008 and 2009, Blackburn kept his walk rate under two per nine, enjoyed neutral luck on balls in play, and put up an ERA that was close enough to four that he probably was rostered in some fantasy leagues. In 2010, despite improving his ground-ball rate, he suffered some bad luck on home runs (13.4% home runs per fly ball) and put up a terrible ERA (5.42) that turned his managers (fantasy and real) against thim. Last season, the bad luck on home runs continued, and despite the ground-ball rate staying above 50%, his control worsened for the second straight season and the 4.42 ERA was unsightly. An average HR/FB rate might bring that ERA closer to four again, but without the strikeouts, and with the average control, Blackburn is not a good fantasy starter. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: He won’t give you strikeouts, and it looks like the real Blackburn only has slightly above average control at best. If the new ground-ball rate holds another year, and the home run luck improves, he might be an average real-life pitcher — without much fantasy value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/11/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The big man used to eat innings like they were covered in pepperoni until nerve damage in his elbow derailed his season in 2011. All signs point to Blanton being recovered from his injury and likely slotting in as the team’s number five starter going into 2012. If you’re considering Blanton for your squad, just skip right over 2011 because the statistics are almost entirely useless — rather, focus on career averages with a little uptick in the strikeout department thanks to the National League. In Blanton, you should find yourself about 30 starts, 160 strikeouts, a 4.40 ERA and a WHIP that won’t make you one bit happy. Although Blanton can frequently put together short runs of effectiveness, he’s a fringe starter in standard leagues at best. While you certainly could do worse, better advice is venture to do a little better on draft day. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Blanton, 32, has never been particularly thrilling in fantasy formats, and there’s no indication why that will ever improve. He might tally double-digit wins, but he’s not going to help much in any other category. A deep league or league-specific format is a better home for him.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/15/1984 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Boggs was one of several relievers to get a crack at the Cardinals’ closer job last season, saving four games before it was someone else’s turn. In three nearly full seasons as a big leaguer, the 26-year-old righty has shown that he will consistently strike out roughly seven batters per nine while being somewhat liberal with the free pass (3.38 walks per nine over the last two seasons) and generating a ground ball more than 50% of the time. Boggs appears to be slated for more middle relief in a somewhat stacked Cardinals pen next season, though he has more big league experience than most of this bullpen mates, so he could see some higher leveraged work if he sees an uptick in his peripheral stats. Don’t count on hims to be anything more than a decent holds candidate in 2012, in part because we still don’t know how new manager Mike Matheny will manage his relievers. That’s the x-factor here. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Boggs is one of many power arms in the St. Louis bullpen, but he hasn’t shown the strikeout ability of some of his teammates in recent years. He’s a decent holds candidate, but it’s hard to expect more going into the new season.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/9/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Groomed as a starter, Bowden has shown up briefly in Boston three consecutive years, used almost exclusively in mop-up duty. Bowden profiles as a back-of-the-rotation type, not particularly thrilling in any part of his game, and it’s not likely he starts in Boston unless disaster strikes. At 25, there’s still time for him to develop, but if he’s featured in 2012, it will likely be as a spot starter at best, and probably just long relief. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/4/1985 | Position: RP|
Profile: The former first round pick of the Yankees hooked on with his hometown Reds this offseason, but he won’t be a factor in either the big leagues or fantasy until he stops walking everyone he faces (78 walks and 75 strikeouts in 98.1 total innings in 2011). Brackman might see some action as an up-and-down reliever, but that’s probably it. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/23/1987 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Braddock has immense potential as a left-handed reliever, but he will need to solve his health issues before he can make an impact at the Major League level. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/13/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: Braden was limited to just three starts in 2011 due to season-ending shoulder surgery just three weeks into the season. He lost a big chance to prove his 2010 season was real, when he posted a 3.50 ERA on the back of excellent control, walking just 2.01 batters per nine innings. It will be tough to justify anything more than a flyer on Braden in fantasy for 2012, though. Between his injury history, the rebuilding state of the Athletics, and his inability to miss bats (7.8% swinging strikes), his fantasy value is limited. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Braden remains an intriguing piece of Oakland’s young rotation, but between a history of injuries and an inability to miss bats, his fantasy value isn’t as high as his real value.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/5/1983 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Surprisingly, Bray turns 29 this June — surprising, because he’s a lefty who throws in the 90s and has struck out over 20% of the batters he’s faced in the majors, but has only pitched 188.2 career innings. That’s because of health problems, including Tommy John surgery. In 2012, provided he’s healthy, he’ll strike out about 50 batters in about as many innings. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/8/1980 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: After drifting through four organizations from 2005-2009, Breslow has settled in as a passable middle reliever without a platoon split. That’s the lefty’s ceiling, though, as he doesn’t have the power stuff or control to merit late-inning work. (David Golebiewski)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/22/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Zach Britton had a solid rookie season in 2011. The Oriole’s 24 year-old lefty threw 154 innings of a an average 4.00 FIP. His ERA wasn’t as good at 4.61, but that can be explained by a very low strand rate that we shouldn’t expect to continue. The Oriole’s top pitching prospect at the start of the season, Britton is the rare left-handed sinker baller – he used his heavy sinker to get grounders 53 percent of the time this year. The pitch is good, and he thinks so too — he threw 70 percent fastballs last year. But Britton has more than just a sinker — he also throws a changeup and slider, both of which were very effective in 2011. These two pitches both resulted in swings-and-misses over 15 percent of the time — an above average rate. If he trusts his changeup and breaking ball enough to throw them more in 2012, he could pick up a significant amount of strikeouts without sacrificing ground balls. Despite ostensibly mediocre performance in 2011, Britton has significant upside in 2012, so don’t be afraid to draft him more aggressively than others expect. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Zach Britton had a solid debut in 2011, and we should view that as his floor for 2012. Britton has the repertoire to take a big step forward next season.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/18/1987 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Closer of the future” was a label attached frequently to Rex Brothers last season, and with a 13.06 strikeout rate that was seventh among relievers with at least 40 innings pitched, it’s not hard to see why. More than a quarter of the sliders he threw last year generated swings and misses, and he complements that with a 95-mph heater, a rarity from the left side. The plus heat and diminutive build evoke easy comparisons to Billy Wagner, though it may be another year or so before Brothers gets a shot at closing full-time. He could end up a poor-man’s Jonny Venters this season, as they share the penchant for high heat and high walk totals, but to date Venters has been much, much better at generating ground balls. But that the comparison can even evoked is eye opening — Brothers has sleeper potential written all over him. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: For the moment, Rafael Betancourt is the Rockies’ closer, but if he falters Brothers could be next in line for the job. Either way, the youngster should strike out enough batters to hold some fantasy value.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1984 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Broxton was arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball from 2006 through the middle of 2010, when a one-inning, 48-pitch outing against the Yankees seemed to change everything. The burly right-hander walked (21) nearly as many batters as he struck out (24) the rest of the way, and his 2011 season was cut short with elbow problems. The Royals rolled the dice and added Broxton as a setup man this year, hoping that he could get back to being the guy he was before that brutal outing against New York. If he does, you’ve got a super high strikeout/low-ERA guy for your holds league, but if not, he’s unrosterable. Broxton is very much a wildcard heading into 2012, with the potential to be an elite holds candidate as well as a total bust. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Broxton is a total wildcard heading into 2012, with a chance to be an elite holds reliever or a complete dud. The health of his elbow is probably the biggest thing to keep an eye on before your draft/auction.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 2/17/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: The White Sox cut Bruney loose in August, and signed him to a Minor League deal in November. He’s been downright awful the last three years, so don’t be surprised if they cut him loose again. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/14/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: After a spectacular 2010 in which Buchholz even garnered Cy Young attention, he was ineffective early on in 2011 and then lost by mid-June to some unseemly back issues for the remainder of the season. On the year, Buchholz threw 82 innings, registering a 3.48 ERA (4.34 FIP) with 6.52 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His peripheral stats were still very much in line with 2010 with the exception of home runs allowed, which explains in large part why his xFIP in 2011 isn’t a far cry from 2010 — 4.28 and 4.07, respectively. A couple concerns in 2011 was a declining swinging strike rate from 9.4% to 8.4% and a drop in velocity from 94.1 MPH average on his fastball to 92.3 MPH. He has an impressive repertoire, using six different pitches — but it would be smart to pay attention to his velocity early in Spring. Buchholz comes with the kind of name recognition that will get him drafted higher than his fantasy usefulness, and you’re probably better off leaving him to another manager. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Buchholz is coming off an injury-shortened season, and was previously the poster boy for outperforming the ERA predictors in 2010. He may strike you as a buy-low candidate, but you shouldn’t expect anything other than back-end rotation contributions in standard format leagues for 2012.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/23/1979 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Eleven straight years of double-digit wins and 200 innings pitched for the South Siders has given Buehrle a well-earned reputation as a good pitcher who can be counted on to eat innings. This off-season, that reputation paid off to the tune of a four-year, $58 million contract with the Miami Marlins. Buerhle’s career 3.83 ERA is a pretty good representation of what he has done, and 2011 was one of his best seasons, with a 3.59 ERA (and a 3.98 FIP). The move to Miami should help quite a bit. U.S. Cellular is a significant hitter’s park, particularly with regards to home runs. We haven’t yet seen how the new Miami park will play, but all evidence suggests it will be kind to pitchers. While Buehrle has never given up a ton of home runs, he doesn’t get many strikeouts and relies on getting guys out on balls in play. The move to a more pitcher-friendly park in the more pitcher-friendly league should help Buerhle’s rate stats significantly. You can’t count on him for a lot of whiffs, but he could be worth owning if you need help in ERA, WHIP or wins. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The move to Miami will provide Buehrle with improved rate stats, but won’t suddenly turn him into a strikeout machine. If you need ERA, WHIP and wins, he should help in all three, but he is far from an ace.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/1/1989 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: After experiencing a velocity dip in 2009 and seeing his prospect star dim, Bumgarner has seen his average fastball speed rebound, as it has now increased for two straight seasons. The improved velocity has allowed him to regain his strikeout ability first shown in the lower minors in 2008. With sterling control, backed by a strong first strike percentage, and an above average ground-ball rate, Bumgarner enjoyed a fantastic season in his first full year in the Giants rotation. His good, but not great, swinging strike rate does suggest that he has a bit more downside than upside in his strikeout rate though. He could regress a smidge in that department, while it is difficult to sustain such a low walk rate. That said, even a small skills decline should yield an ERA no higher than the mid-3.00 range. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Bumgarner had his coming out party in his first full year in the Giants rotation and his performance was fully supported by his underlying skills. Though some regression should be expected, he is one of the more exciting young pitchers in baseball.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/26/1987 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Prior to the 2010 season, Burnett was really coming along as a fine young middle reliever. He was fanning about a guy an inning, completely neutralizing the long ball, and basically doing everything to get a look. However, the Twins have inexplicably allowed him to take his lumps at the big league level. The past two seasons, Burnett’s carried a 5.40 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and rather pedestrian 6.4 K/9 while never really displaying any ‘feel’ for what seem to be above-average offerings. It’s certainly had an adverse effect on the young hurler, as subsequent Minor League stints have provided even worse numbers, which now leaves the club in a tough spot. He’ll likely get one last look in 2012, but don’t be surprised if the Twins move on if he falters again. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Move along. Burnett just hasn’t shown enough to even be trusted to late-inning, hold situations.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/17/1982 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: The former top Pirates prospect turned in an elite season in 2010, whiffing nearly a batter per inning, limiting walks and racking up grounders more than half the time that the opposition put the ball in play. In 2011, however, he returned to mediocrity. He still scorched the earth, but Burnett only struck out 5.2 per nine innings, walked 3.3 and saw his FIP climb from 2.73 to 4.51 in the process. Burnett continued to shut down fellow lefties but his control waned against righties, which is nothing new for him save for 2010 (he’s got a career .348 OBP against right-handers, and .300 versus lefties). He’ll continue to be the first lefty out of the bullpen for Washington, though he’s clearly behind Tyler Clippard for hold chances and has little chance of getting saves. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Burnett takes down lefties and doesn’t get totally thumped by righties, but he’s not in the same league as Clippard and Drew Storen. He’ll get some holds, but precious few saves.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/3/1977 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: For the second consecutive season, Burnett endured a miserable year of 5.00+ ERA ball. But was it really that bad? SIERA suggests that it wasn’t. Although his skills have clearly slipped since his Marlins and Blue Jays days, Burnett still strikes out enough hitters and induces enough ground balls to not be left for dead. The primary culprit for his 2011 disaster was a ridiculous 17% home run per fly ball ratio. Amazingly, this has actually happened to him before, as he posted a nearly 18% mark in 2007. Then the following year, it fell right back down to the league average. His fastball velocity did decline for a second straight year, but his peripherals do make the case that with better luck, a sub-4.00 ERA is possible. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Burnett endured a dismal season last year, posting an ERA above 5.00 for the second consecutive year. However, his peripherals were still pretty good and a seriously inflated home run to fly ball ratio clouded his results, suggesting he could be a surprise rebound candidate this year.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/9/1979 | Position: RP|
Profile: On one hand, Bush does a fantastic job of limiting walks. On the other, he doesn’t miss bats, doesn’t get ground balls, or have any fantasy value. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 10/31/1973 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: There are actually leagues that have settings in which an okay LOOGY can be useful.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/1/1988 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Cahill continued to increase his strikeout numbers in 2011, recording a career high 6.4 per nine innings, but that spike was accompanied by similar increase in walk rate back to the 3.6 per nine innings of his rookie season. He’s survived despite mediocre strikeout-to-walk ratios due to a high ground-ball rate, and he’ll need to keep that up in Arizona. His ERA finally matched up with his FIP last year in the 4.10-4.20 range; if he sees a spike in home runs, he could be a well below average pitcher. However, he’s only 24, and there is more than enough room to grow into a solid mid-rotation starter as well. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: The Athletics cashed Cahill in for prospects over the offseason, making him the newest piece of a promising young rotation in Arizona. Can he thrive out of the protective Oakland Coliseum?
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/1/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: A sabermetrician’s nightmare, Cain has been the poster boy for the anti-DIPS crowd. As with any rule or theory, there will always be exceptions, even due to pure chance itself. Whether Cain truly does have the skills to outperform his peripherals every year or not, he has done it now for over 1,300 innings. His strikeout ability has been remarkably consistent, while his control has improved over the years and his ground-ball rate experienced a nice jump last season. While this perception of safety is a positive, he will remain riskier than the guys who post similar ERAs but are actually supported by their underlying peripherals. If Cain ever loses his batting average on balls in play and/or home -run suppressing skills, that ERA is going to rise fast. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Cain’s peripherals and ability to suppress what we typically consider luck metrics have been very consistent over the years. As long as he can continue keeping his batting average on balls in play and home run per fly bll ratio down, he’ll be fine, but once those skills disappear, that ERA is going to jump.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 11/18/1975 | Position: RP|
Profile: The 2011 season saw Shawn Camp do what he does: induce ground balls at a superior rate out of the Toronto bullpen. After back-to-back seasons of more than 70 innings pitched, Camp saw his workload decrease last season, and his 4.34 strikeout rate was the lowest of his Major League career. However, Camp’s 5.2% home run rate was the best of his career, even though his batting average on balls in play corrected to .332, after two straight sub-.300 BABIP seasons in relief. A free agent, Camp’s the odd man out in the Toronto bullpen, and is looking for work in 2012. Depending on where he lands, he might give you some innings, but his value as a middle reliever is certainly limited. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Camp’s been a reliable arm out of the bullpen for Toronto the past three years, and, depending on where he finds a job for 2012, can provide you with innings out of the bullpen. But he doesn’t strike out enough batters to warrant serious middle relief fantasy consideration.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/3/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Matt Capps re-signing, along with Joe Nathan’s departure, makes him the default closer in Minnesota. Almost all of his fantasy value will come from getting the few Twin Saves. He is not a high-strikeout closer. Over his career he has a 6.6 strikeout rate. The problem is that in 2011 that strikeout rate dropped to 4.7 per nine. Part of the cause of the drop in strikeouts was an over one tick drop in his fastball speed compared to previous seasons. He must have known about the drop and began to use his offspeed pitches more. His offspeed pitches are his worst by pitches’ run values. Do not draft Matt high compared to the other closers — he is just not very good and could lose his job quickly. If you want to see if he is near his pre-2011 form, follow his strikeout rate, which stabilizes quickly, early on in the season. He may be fine if it is above the six per nine level. If it is under five per nine, make sure to find and pick up his replacement. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Matt Capps may start out the season as the worst closer in the league. Expect his job to in jeopardy has soon as he comes in for his first save opportunity.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/19/1978 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: The Mets helped Capuano land on his feet after surgery by giving him all the starts he wanted in a (what used to be a) pitcher-friendly park. Now, like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano, he’s headed south to an even friendlier park. The lefty responded to the Mets’ confidence by showing his career levels in most categories, which are surprisingly decent. He garners whiffs at a rate that is better than the league average, most years he has above-average control, and he gets ground balls at about an average rate. No part of the package is elite, but no part is terrible either. Maybe it’s the fact that his 88-MPH is a little too hittable — he’s given up more than a hit per inning over his entire career — but Capuano does not have elite upside. Use him as a spot-starter or back-of-the-staff filler in deeper leagues and you’ll get the most value out of the new Dodger. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Capuano’s peripherals are a pocket full of average, but at least he’s headed to a good park in Los Angeles. He’s a guy with decent control and a good amount of strikeouts but hittable stuff — use him as a spot-starter at home or in the back of your staff in a deeper league.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/7/1983 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Carmona has been arguably the most consistently inconsistent pitcher in baseball the past few years. His FIP has ranged from 3.94 to 5.36, while his ERA has been as low as 3.06 and as high as 6.32 — and the two have rarely moved in unison. Carmona’s success is closely tied to his control. His lack of strikeouts and ground-ball-heavy approach means that if he walks too many hitters, runs tend to follow. Making matters worse, for a guy who gets ground balls 55% of the time, Carmona gives up an awful lot of home runs (1.05 HR/9 in 2011). The Indians continue to believe in Carmona, picking up his $7 million option for 2012, and you can expect him to be in the Indians rotation… once he gets back to the states. After being outed by the real Fausto Carmona’s mother as Roberto Hernandez Heredia, he’ll needto navigate some visa issues to return to the sates. Once he returns, his fantasy value will be limited. A lack of strikeouts, a high WHIP, and the hugely unpredictable ERA (which is likely to be at least 4.00) make it difficult to own Carmona/Heredia. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Carmona has been an innings-eater for the Indians the last couple years, but he provides little in the way of fantasy value. No strikeouts, a high WHIP and a volatile ERA make him tough to own. Now that he’s Roberto Hernandez Heredia, stay further away.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 4/27/1975 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: A World Series ring may cover for a myriad of woes, but Carpenter’s 2011 was actually his worst season fantasy-wise since his injury-marred campaigns of 2007 and 2008. Despite a rising ERA and WHIP, there is good news for Carpenter in a slowly, but surely rising strikeout rate, which was one of the missing pieces in his arsenal. Carpenter may be slightly more valuable to the Cardials than he is to most fantasy teams because of his groundball tendencies, but he is definitely a pitcher worth targeting, albeit not quite in the same range as other NL aces like Roy Halladay or Tim Lincecum. Don’t forget all those injuries, but don’t forget about the pitcher either. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: A old veteran like Carpenter shouldn’t see too many ill effects from the high number of innings, but 26 playoff innings after 237 innings in the regular season was a substantial load to bear. It shouldn’t be enough to change Carpenter’s value, though, as he’ll still be the pitcher atop the Cardinals’ rotation. He is a strong fantasy option.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/15/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: Acquired from the Cardinals for Pedro Feliz in August 2010, Carpenter made his big league debut in 2011 and was quietly effective down the stretch for the Astros. He struck out 29 and walked 13 in 27.2 IP, but the walk total is inflated by seven (!) intentional walks. His Minor League walk rate since the start of 2010 (2.68 BB/9) gives us a better idea of what lies ahead, and he’s always been a strikeout-per-inning guy. Carpenter is a fly ball pitcher in a hitters’ park, so homers will be a concern, but there’s a lot to like anytime a guy legitimately sits in the mid-90’s with a power mid-80’s slider. The closer’s job in Houston is wide open following the trade of Mark Melancon, and Carpenter is a definitely darkhorse for the job. If he doesn’t get the ninth inning, he’s still a prime candidate for holds and useful in all ottoneu formats. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Don’t be fooled by Carpenter’s intentional-walk-inflated WHIP (seven of 13 walks were intentional), the hard-throwing righty has a chance to pick up plenty of strikeouts and holds for the Astros next year. He’s also a darkhorse candidate for saves.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/18/1985 | Position: RP|
Profile: If Carpenter does manage to break camp with the Jays, he’d be an interesting source of strikeouts if you can stomach his ERA. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/21/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Matt LaPorta gets more recognition, but he isn’t the only top-prospect-traded-for-a-Cy-Young-winner to disappoint in Cleveland. In 2008, a year before the Indians made him the headliner in the Cliff Lee deal, Carrasco got his first taste of Triple-A and looked like a future star — 11.29 strikeouts per nine and a 2.19 FIP at age 21. By the time he came to Cleveland, there were already concerns — his 2009 wasn’t nearly as impressive as his 2008, and his cup of coffee in Cleveland did not go well. 2010 was a bounce back for Carrasco, including seven solid Major League starts with a decent 4.13 FIP. Carrasco had a an up-and-down 2011, that ended with him needing Tommy John surgery, which will likely keep him out of Cleveland’s rotation for the entire 2012 season. Carrasco still has enough potential at age 24 that he could be a useful player in 2013 — but not useful enough that he is worth stashing on your roster for a full year. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Carrasco will miss most, if not all, of the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. Once he gets back, he could have some value, but he isn’t worth a roster spot until he proves himself.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/11/1986 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Injuries have slowed Cashner’s progression into an elite starter, but his potential for greatness remains bright. He has yet to pitch any more than 100.1 innings of professional baseball (at any level) and should start the 2012 season in the Padres’ bullpen. However, he has everything — from pitches (fastball, slider and change) to power (96 mph fastball) — necessary for a future transition to the rotation. If he can harness his ability without injuring himself again, he can easily be a 3.30 FIP starter or a 3.00 FIP or better reliever. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Cashner started the 2011 season as the Cubs’ fifth starter, but a rotator cuff strain ended his season before it began. He returned as a reliever and, depending on how the Padres view his health issues, could stay in the pen. As a starter, he might be good (3.30 FIP); as a reliever, he might be elite (3.00 FIP or better).
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 7/25/1980 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Although he still seems to exhibit control problems from time to time, Casilla performed admirably out of the Giants bullpen in 2011. His 7.84 striketout rate was solid, but an unattractive 4.35 walk rate pushed his strikeout-to-walk ratio down to 1.80, a mark you don’t normally like to see in relievers and set-up men. Also, his 3.10 FIP was significantly higher than his 1.74 ERA, so he so should be thanking his teammates for the extra help. Still, Casilla stepped up and acted as a closer when the Giants needed him to and recorded six saves while posting a 51.5% ground-ball rate and a miniscule 2.6% home run per fly ball mark. He’ll remain an integral part of the Giants bullpen in 2012 and, while we’d love to see a reduction in walks, should produce similar totals moving forward. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: As Casilla continues to improve his ground-ball rate, something he’s now done three years running, he will become an even bigger asset coming out of the Giants pen. He can already be called upon to close in a pinch, as he showed with his six saves last season. Though his fantasy upside is minimal, he can still be a decent plug-and-play option if you need help with your ratios.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/2/1986 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: After winning 15 games in 2010 to lead the Blue Jays, expectations were high for Brett Cecil to take his place alongside Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow in leading the Toronto rotation. Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned. The former college closer struggled badly in 2011, as his ground-ball rate dipped below 40% and his home run rate climbed to 13.3%, one of the worst in the American League. Velocity has always been an issue for Cecil, and he’ll never be confused for an overpowering pitcher. An interesting fact: in 2011, Cecil dominated left-handed hitters, but couldn’t get right-handed hitters out; all 22 home runs Cecil allowed last season came against those batting from the right side of home plate. Cecil’s going to be fighting to fill out the Toronto rotation in 2012, and his marginal fantasy value makes him only a late option in your deeper leagues. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Cecil’s lack of velocity, low ground-ball rate, and high fly ball rate caught up to him in 2011. He was hit hard, and hit often (especially by right-handed hitters), and comes into 2012 fighting to fill out the Toronto Blue Jays rotation. Cecil doesn’t strike out enough batters to be worthy of much fantasy consideration.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/28/1987 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: Ceda has knockout stuff, but half the time he has no idea where the ball is going. It will take a significant improvement of his control to be worth gambling on as a potential closer of the future. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 1/7/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: Chacin kept himself in the rotation all season, but a drop in his strikeout rate was not coupled with a drop in his walk rate, leaving him a very inefficient pitcher. Of the 94 qualified starters, he was one of 18 to post a strikeout-to-walk ratio under 2.00. Chacin’s control actually regressed as the season progressed — he had just a 1.32 K/BB after the break, and he led the National League in walks. The drop off showed up throughout his game. From April through June, he didn’t post an xFIP worse than 3.72, but from July through September, he didn’t post one better than 4.26. On the positive side of the ledger, Chacin did a better job of keeping the ball on the ground, but if he can’t control his walks, 2012 could be a very long season for him. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: While he is very talented, Chacin is a volatile play right now — he could post anything from second-starter to fifth-starter quality. If he’s on the board after the middle rounds, he is a nice gamble, but don’t over-invest.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/23/1985 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Now that the Yankees are done jerking Joba around, he has an opportunity to be a dominant late-inning reliever when he’s healthy; but he’s not healthy. Joba underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-June, and with the typical 12-month time frame, the 26-year-old won’t be able to help the Yankees until the second half. Even then, don’t expect the Yanks to have him jump right back into the majors. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Joba makes an interesting snag late in dynasty leagues that use holds and have a multitude of DL slots.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/28/1988 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: The Red’s $30 million Cuban import electrified Major League fans in his late-season (and post-season) performances in 2011. A fastball averaging 100 MPH (and many pitches were much higher than that) tends to get people excited. The Reds did not pay all that money for reliever, so despite 50 innings of relief pitched in 2011, he also got a few starts in the minors. While the strikeouts were there in both roles, control problems surfaced, with Chapman walking over seven per nine innings in a relief role in the majors. As of this writing, it looks more likely that the Reds will leave him in the bullpen to start the season, especially with the acquisition of Matt Latos lessening the urgency to upgrade the rotation. The situation is one to watch — despite the walk problems, Chapman’s strikeouts still make him an elite fantasy reliever if he is in the “way more valuable in fantasy” closer role. If he starts, things get more dicey… although if he starts fails, they will probably move him back to the ‘pen anyway. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Watch Chapman’s situation carefully this spring — his stuff is electic, but control concerns mean that he’s a top closer if the Reds put him there, but a marginal starter if that is his primary role. Of course, that could change…
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/16/1989 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: As part of the Rockies retooling process, Tyler Chatwood is now a part of Colorado’s organization after the Angels traded him for catcher Chris Iannetta. He struggled with the Halos in 25 big league starts last season, but he showed off his velocity and developing curveball. The ground-baller is still just 22-years old, and as he was rushed through the Minor Leagues, he could use another year in Triple-A to work on his approach and command on the mound. Don’t draft him unless you have an extra spot in a dynasty league, especially now that the Rockies have about fifteen options for their final two rotation spots. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Chatwood struggled in his Major League debut, but he was very young and rushed through the minors. He will likely get a good deal of time in the Minor Leagues, so he’s not an option unless you’re willing to wait a year or two for a pitcher without top starter upside.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 6/19/1977 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Bruce Chen did it. He somehow came back, had a bad year with the Royals, then a okay one, then got a $2 million contract for 2011, then parlayed a seemingly-good season into a multi-year contract. Incredible, He’s been around forever, and we aren’t sure how he’s doing it. Despite unexceptional control (he walks about a league-average number of batters) and striking out fewer batters each season, his ERA was under four in 2011. Do not expect that to continue. Chen may, in fact, have the “skill” of outpitching his peripherals, but it isn’t that good. Random variation aside, maybe he really could manage almost a league average ERA, and at the right price, that has its uses. Kauffman Stadium is friendly to extreme flyballers like Chen. However, do not bet on it. Chen is going to turn 35 in 2012 and has not his mere 155 innings in 2011 were his most since 2005. He probably won’t kill your team if you go cheap on him, but do not get seduced by the shiny 2011 ERA. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Sweet Chen Music, for all of your soft-tossing lefty needs. If that “need” means “just get me a guy who can manage an ERA better than five.”
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/18/1986 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: Steve Cishek made a decent splash in his first full season with the Fish. He started the season with the Marlins, but was sent down to Double-A a couple of times. Once he was finally up permanently with the team, he excelled. In 2011 he had a 9.0 strikeout rate, 3.1 walk rate, .291 batting average on balls in play and 0.2 home run rate (only one home run allowed in over 50 innings). The extremely low home run rate was helped by a 57% ground-ball rate. These stats helped lead to a 2.63 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. His ERA is comparable to his ERA estimators: 2.46 FIP, 3.12 xFIP and 2.78 SIERA. Expect some level of regression for 2012, but he is a decent pitcher. His main problem is that he will probably not given the chance to close in Miami. His only value is among other relievers with a sub-three strikeout-to-walk rate in leagues that count holds. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: While he is a good reliever, Cishek’s fantasy value is limited in Miami.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/1/1989 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: The 22-year-old Cleto got his first taste of the big leagues in 2011, putting eleven men on base and allowing six runs in 4.1 innings across three relief appearances. With just 34.1 IP at Double-A and 71.1 IP at Triple-A, expect the Cardinals to send him back to the minors next season just to make sure he accumulates innings, likely as a starter. Cleto’s Minor League numbers have never been stellar (7.3 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine in 437.2 Minor League innings), though he lights up radar guns with his fastball and has a pair of decent offspeed pitches. The Cardinals could have an opening in their rotation at some point, but Cleto figures to fit best as a relief option at some point, which doesn’t help his fantasy value because their big league bullpen is quite stacked. Deep and ottoneu leaguers should take notice, but there’s no reason to carry this right-hander in standard leagues. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: A hard thrower in need of more Minor League seasoning, Cleto could emerge as a bullpen option for the Cardinals at some point next summer. His fantasy value is essentially zero at this point, however.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/14/1985 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: The bespectacled, rubber-armed changeup artist had another fantastic season as a set-up man. Clippard worked 88.1 innings and struck out his highest percentage of batters in the big leagues (31.6 percent) while paring his walk rate to 7.9 percent, down from 10.9 percent the previous year. The 6-foot-3 Clippard’s see-saw delivery generates a ton of fly balls (60.1 percent last year, second-highest among relievers), and that led to some homer issues (1.1 home runs per nine). Still, his 3.17 FIP was stellar. You’ll note, however, that Clippard’s FIP is much higher than his 1.83 ERA. He was good, but he was also the beneficiary of a ridiculous .197 batting average on balls in play and a 95.6 percent rate of stranding base runners. Fly ball pitchers tend to have lower BABIP totals and high-strikeout pitchers have higher strand rates, but those numbers won’t be repeated. Clippard is entrenched as Drew Storen’s set-up man and should rack up holds again in 2012. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Clippard won’t post a sub-2.00 ERA again, but his combination of strikeouts and durability makes him a top option for holds. Storen doesn’t seem likely to slip up, so it would take an injury for Clippard to get the closer’s gig.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/7/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Cobb pretty much came from nowhere to tear his way through the Minor Leagues in late 2010 and early 2011. In nearly 200 high-minors innings, he’s struck out over a batter per inning and walked fewer than two and a half per nine. That’s not a ton of innings, though. When he hit the Major Leagues, his 91 MPH fastball did not impress, his control disappeared, and he was left with his plus changeup and his plus changeup alone. That meant a good ground-ball rate and not much else to like about his peripherals. Cobb could be a back-end starter in both real-life and fantasy baseball, though, so he’s worth a flier in AL-only leagues, especially ones with deep benches. But he’ll have to wait his turn — or hope for more mediocrity from Wade Davis — before he gets his shot. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Call him To Be Determined: Cobb has had some nice numbers in the minors, but he doesn’t quite have the pedigree and his stuff is an open question.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/9/1980 | Position: RP|
Profile: This portly slider specialist saw his ERA drop over a run from 2010 to 2011 (from 4.76 to 3.62), but that was due to better luck on fly balls than any change in skill (his xFIP increased from 3.85 to 4.06). Coffey’s sprint to the mound will continue to be the most pulse-pounding part of his relief appearances. (David Golebiewski)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/19/1982 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Tigers tried to move Phil Coke to the rotation last year but the chances are they won’t try that again any time soon. Coke pitched decently out of the pen — 8.47 strikeouts per nine, 2.65 walks per nine, 3.35 FIP — but everything fell apart when he started. The strikeouts fell almost in half (4.46 K/9), his walks ballooned (3.62 BB/9), and while his FIP stayed at a decent 3.67, it was largely a result of an unsustainable .24 home run rate. This may actually be the rare case where his 4.82 ERA is a better representation of his value than his FIP (his xFIP was 4.95). Assuming Coke finds his way back to the pen, he should be a decent reliever, although unimpressive rates and a lack of saves will limit his fantasy value. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Phil Coke the reliever is decent but doesn’t provide much fantasy value. Phil Coke the starter was a bit of a disaster. Neither is worth owning.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/3/1987 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Coleman is in many ways a glimpse into the pitching depth of which the Cubs wish they had more. Average in the minors (4.20ish FIP) and average in the majors (4.40ish FIP), Coleman may never be a full-time starter, but he’ll probably get spot starts in 2012 and, depending on the situation in 2013, may eventually contend for a fifth starter spot. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: His ceiling might be as low as fifth starter, so Coleman is really only worth watching if he starts dominating Triple-A something fierce.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/4/1986 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Coleman is yet another good, young arm with some control problems in a strong Kansas City bullpen. Coleman’s fastball actually averages just under 90 MPH, but in combination with his slider he has an impressive strikeout rate, even if at times his over-reliance on the slider gave him problems with walks. Coleman probably won’t average more than nine strikeouts per nine innings again in 2012, but he will be very good. However, he’s a bit down the bullpen depth chart since the Royals added Jonathan Broxton to Joakim Soria and Greg Holland ahead of him. The heavy slider-usage may also put Coleman at risk for injury. There are not many leagues where you can use the team’s fourth- or fifth- best reliever, but if you need some strikeouts on the cheap, you could do worse than Coleman for an endgame or $1 pick in deep leagues. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Coleman is far enough down the chain of a stacked Kansas City bullpen that his chances for saves will be few and far-between in 2012, but he will rack up the strikeouts for you if that is what you need.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/29/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: If only the Royals displayed as much affinity for hitters who get on base as much as they do relievers who put people on base. Tim Collins was the main piece that came over from Atlanta, which supposedly justified the hilariously dumb contracts given to Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel that were eaten in order to make that trade. Collins did have impressive Minor League numbers for both Toronto and Atlanta (and Kansas City in 2010), and is short and thus “fun to watch.” Apparently, the umpires did not get the word, as they did not enjoy watching pitches that could not find the strike zone in 2011, when Collins managed to walk about six-and-a-half batters per nine innings. If you simply need strikeouts (he still struck out more than eight a game) and are not worried about rate stats, Collins might make sense. He is also very young (he will be 22 in 2012), so he might improve, although studies on pitcher aging curves do not really support that idea. Maybe if Ned Yost would not put him into seemingly every game his control would also tighten up. The Royals are pretty stacked in the bullpen, so Collins might also start the year in Triple-A. There is some potential here, but for a reliever who seems a bit gimmicky, don’t go out of your way to get him at the draft unless it is near the end, he should be available on waivers. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Tiny Tim Collins sure is “fun to watch,” especially if you are a batter with some notion of the strike zone. Not so much if you are a Royals fan or his fantasy owner.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/7/1986 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Josh Collmenter is one of the strangest pitchers in the MLB. His delivery is literally straight over the top, and gives his mid to high-eighties fastball natural cutting action which helps him induce pop-ups and weak fly balls. Bizarre as he is, he had a very good year in 2011, posting an ERA 16% better than league average. Advanced metrics had him as about a league average pitcher in 2011; he was aided by a .255 batting average on balls in play and a home run per fly ball rate of 7.7%, which are both well below average. However, he is a fly ball pitcher, so we should expect him to retain a small portion of his BABIP skill. While he doesn’t strikeout many, he also doesn’t walk many. And despite the uninspiring velocity, he had a higher rate of swings and misses per pitch last year than Ubaldo Jimenez. While many may view Collmenter as a risky draft because of his freakish delivery and poor velocity, you should view him as an undervalued asset. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Josh Collmenter established himself as a legitimate, middle of the rotation starter in 2011. Despite the strange delivery and limited velocity, he should be a solid late round addition to your team.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 5/24/1973 | Position: SP|
Profile: Bartolo Colon’s 2011 season came out of nowhere. He struggled with injuries for years and had not started over 26 games, his 2011 total, since 2005. Colon even missed the entire 2010 season with shoulder pain. He came back rejuvenated. His 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings was the highest since he had 8.1 with the 2001 Indians, and his walk rate of 2.2 per nine was outstanding. He has been prone to giving up the long ball, but his 2011 values (1.2 home runs per nine, 11.4% home runs per fly ball) are in line with his career numbers (1.1 HR/9, 11.0% HR/FB). Besides pitching well, the 38-year-old did have some health issues. He missed 18 games due to a hamstring injury. After the injury, his fastball speed slowly dropped over the second half of the season. He could be a good pick up in Oakland, but he also probably won’t pitch effectively for an entire season. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: After a rejuvenated 2011 season, Colon landed on his feet in Oakland. Can the dream continue?
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/6/1971 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: Elbow problems bothered Contreras in the first half of the season and ended his year in mid-June, after just 14 reasonably effective innings. Surgery in September will likely have him behind the other pitchers in Spring Training, and arm problems with a (purported) 40-year-old are always a big red flag. If healthy, Contreras figures to get plenty of eighth inning work ahead of Jonathan Papelbon, and he should still be capable of providing decent strikeout numbers thanks to his splitter. A middle reliever with arm problems stuck behind an established (and well-paid) closer isn’t exactly a hot fantasy commodity, but Contreras could have value in holds leagues if he manages to shake off the elbow concerns and stay on the field in 2012. Just make sure you’re quick to pull the plug if things go south. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Elbow problems sabotaged Contreras’ season in 2011, and September surgery means he’s a question mark heading into 2011. Middle relievers with injury problems don’t have much fantasy value though, so be careful.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 2/8/1979 | Position: SP|
Profile: Loyalty dies hard in Major League Baseball, and particularly with the Rockies, which they proved by sticking with Aaron Cook — who was once an inspirational comeback story — to the bitter end. Cook missed two months with a broken ring finger and was ineffective when he returned last season. He allowed six runs or more in a start five times, yet was still in the Rockies’ rotation when September started. His 143 ERA- was the third-worst among pitchers who tossed at least 90 innings, “bested” only by John Lackey and Edinson Volquez. Cook is still able to keep the ball on the ground better than most, but his control has evaded him the past two seasons, and as a result, more balls that were harmless wormburners have become screaming liners into the gap. His 1.69 WHIP was simply untenable, and while it may improve slightly this season, it’s not a WHIP that you want on your team. Now a free agent, Cook may not have a full-time role when the season begins anyway. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Cook is still able to generate grounders, but when hitters can get the ball in the air they do a lot of damage. Never that good to begin with — he has never posted a sub-4.00 xFIP — Cook is now not draftable in any format.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 5/11/1975 | Position: RP|
Profile: Cordero might not be a spring chicken anymore, and now he’s a setup man to Sergio Santos in Toronto. 2011 was certainly a strong campaign for Cordero, who dropped his WHIP down to a very respectable 1.02, but where he was once as a reliable option for both saves and strikeouts, he’s down to just the WHIP now. Unless Santos gets hurt, Co-Co doesn’t have much value, since his declining strikeout rate severely limits his value if he’s not the one getting saves. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Now a Jay, Cordero will have lost most of his value. Without the saves, he’s just a quickly aging middle reliever.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/24/1980 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: There were a fair number of people who predicted disaster for Correia when he moved from the pitcher-friendly parks of the NL West to the nominally more hitter-friendly PNC Park, but he actually pitched better in his first season with the Pirates than he did in his last season with the Padres. His home run rate did rise the way people predicted, but he walked far fewer, which helped mitigate the effects of those home runs. A bit worrisome is the drop in Correia’s ability to miss bats and strike hitters out. His strikeout rate fell from 7.1 down to 4.5, the difference between workable and actually detrimental in a fantasy sense. His improved WHIP and ERA aren’t better enough to live with when he isn’t adding much of anything in the counting categories. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If his odd strikeout swoon is a one-year mirage and the improvements made in the rate categories were real, then Correia’s usability surely increases. As it stands now, where owners get one or the other, his marketability is low. Deep NL-only league players may find a home for him, but everyone else should move on.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 7/5/1981 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: The Crain train changed locales in 2011 but kept trucking along, continuing the torrid pace he set from mid-May 2010 on. On May 20th, 2010, Crain entered play with a 7.31 ERA, and from that point on he pitched to a 1.73 mark, with a scintillating .518 OPS against. He wasn’t able to maintain the sparkling ERA, but at 2.62 while fanning 9.6 per nine, Kenny Williams surely wasn’t about to complain. With Sergio Santos now out of the picture, Crain joined the mix for saves on the south side in ’12 with Matt Thornton and young Addison Reed. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Crain should battle Matt Thornton and Addison Reed for ninth inning duties on the south side. Thornton may get the first crack as the senior bullpen member, but Crain is one to target in holds leagues as well.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/11/1986 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2011, Alex Gordon probably had the best season by a Royals position player since George Brett in 1985. Naturally, Aaron Crow was their All-Star representative. Crow was drafted as a starter, but never pitched all that well in the minors. Rather than have him work on his curve and changeup in the minors, the Royals brought him up as a reliever in 2011. He was fairly dominant in the first half despite control issues, but fell off in the second half. Naturally, the Royals now want to try him in the rotation. You know, since he totally worked on his off-speed pitches in the bullpen, right? Uh…. Here is another issue: there was not a single qualified starter in the majors in 2011 who had a higher walk rate than Crow did as a reliever (4.50, new Royal Jonathan “The Sanchize” Sanchez did not qualify). As a reliever whose only good pitches were his fastball and slider, Crow killed righties and was bad against lefties. Is that really going to work when he has to start? If he looks like he is going to start in the majors or minors to begin the year, don’t waste a draft pick. As a reliever, he can help you, although not much more than a dozen other strikeout guys with bad control. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Aaron Crow the (All-Star!) reliever is good, if overrated. Aaron Crow the starter is a really bad idea, at least for your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 10/15/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: With a nice, average year in 2011, comeback Cruz should find another mid-leverage relief position in 2011, sporting a high 3.00 ERA, depending on the defense around him. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/15/1986 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Cueto wasn’t able to answer the bell at the start or end of the season, but he was marvelous at all points in between, as he once again lowered his ERA. Among pitchers who tossed at least 150 innings, his 2.31 ERA was second only to Clayton Kershaw, and while he wasn’t as good by advanced metrics, his 3.45 FIP placed him in the top third (31st of 107). One of the reasons for his muted upside is that his strikeout rate continues to drop, but last season he compensated by generating far more ground balls than he ever had before. As a result, Cueto is now a guy who you can trust to pitch in the wind tunnel that is Great American Ballpark, which ups his value. Cueto probably won’t post a sub-2.50 ERA again this year, but even with an ERA in the mid-3’s, he should still be a valuable member of your rotation. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Cueto has never developed into the superstar some had predicted, but he has improved each season, and should be a good second or third option in your fantasy rotation.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Danks’ extension was something of a surprise, given the fact that many observers felt it was likely that he would be traded out of US Cellular Field (a trade that would have been good for his fantasy value). Nevertheless, Danks is a solid mid-tier option in mixed and, as always, slightly higher in AL-only. His 2011 semi-swoon was due largely to a rather unexpected jump in his line-drive rate, an issue he had earlier in his career, but was able to correct in 2009 and 2010. Even if that’s an issue again in 2012, Danks will still have value, but that correction is the difference between Danks being a really good value out of the middle rounds and being acceptable, if somewhat disappointing. The best strategy here may be to draft Danks, then trade him early if it looks as though he’s giving up a lot of hard contact. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Underperformance was the name of the game for the 2011 White Sox and Danks surely marched to beat of that drum. He allowed too much hard contact and while most of it stayed within the field of play — a jump in a pitcher’s line drive rate is never going to be a good thing. Danks is still an option for a fantasy SP2 or SP3, but it will be interesting to see which pitcher shows up in 2012.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983 | Position: SP|
Profile: It is pretty hilarious to be writing a fantasy preview for Kyle Davies. He is on a Minor League contract with the Blue Jays, last I checked, so I guess there is always a chance he and Jeff Mathis could team up to form The Ultimate Battery. At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, Davies finally flashed the performance that scouts had seen potentially hiding in his “stuff” all those years ago, but other than that, it has been such a horror show that it is not worth going into how his FIP is better than his ERA, since DIPS theory assumes a population of Major League quality pitchers, and it is pretty safe to say that Davies is not one, at least not at this point. The Royals should have tried him as a reliever years ago, and who knows, stranger things have happened than Kyle Davies suddenly becoming a valuable pitcher. But do you want to be the person in your league that takes that bet? (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: During the 2011 season, one Royals blogger called Kyle Davies “the worst starting pitcher ever.” That means he can totally help your fantasy team in 2012, right?
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 9/21/1975 | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite getting released by BOTH Chicago baseball teams in 2011, lefty starter Doug Davis actually looked pretty dominant in his combined 11 Minor League starts (~2.60 FIP). The 36-year-old Davis will probably get a Spring Training invite somewhere, but he will not be much more than rotation depth for a bad team at this point in his career. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Davis will be minor league fodder for an organization desperate for depth, but holds little fantasy value at this point.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/7/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: A former top prospect, RHP Wade Davis has been a fairly considerable disappointment in the majors. His prospect pedigree and team-friendly contract ensure he will get every possible to flourish in the majors, but his strikeout rate MUST bump over 20% to get his FIP back into the 3.00s. If he can get his fastball back to its’ previous effectiveness, then Davis could be a strong, 3.50 ERA/FIP kind of pitcher. Otherwise, he might find himself in a relief role sooner rather than later. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Wade Davis needs to improve his strikeout rate, or he risks getting moved to the bullpen. He should start throughout 2012, but if his FIP does not drop beneath 4.10, he might be a reliever come mid-2013.
Rubby De La Rosa
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 3/4/1989 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Armed with a power fastball, De La Rosa made a successful jump from Double-A to the majors last season. His 8.90 strikeout rate and 3.88 ERA as a starter make him an intriguing option going forward. His 4.60 walk rate, however, could be a bit of a problem. If he can get that under control, he has a bright future. Unfortunately, De La Rosa tore his ulnar collateral ligament during a July 31st start and underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery in August. It’s unlikely he’ll make an impact until September at the earliest. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: De La Rosa showed some promise in his rookie season, but underwent Tommy John surgery in August. He has a bright future, so keep an eye on him for 2013.
Jorge de la Rosa
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/5/1981 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: Jorge De La Rosa’s season went up in smoke on May 24th, as he exited after 2 1/3 innings and headed straight for the operating table to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. Up to that point, he had seen a slight drop in his strikeout rate but a sharp drop in his walk rate, for a career-best 2.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but it’s difficult to judge whether or not this was legitimate progress or just a good early-season run. De La Rosa has been very diligent in his rehab, and may make it back to the majors in less than 12 months, but no matter what he is not going to pitch a full season. And since pitchers aren’t usually back to their old selves until two years after Tommy John surgery, you definitely want to tread lightly with De La Rosa — don’t draft him unless you have a very deep league or a lot of open disabled list spots. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: De La Rosa is extremely unlikely to take the hill before mid-May, and may not be completely effective upon his return, so monitor his progress from the safe distance of the waiver wire.
Fautino De Los Santos
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/15/1986 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: De Los Santos is an interesting player seemingly limited to an uninteresting role. The strikeouts are real: his 11.61 strikeout rate in the majors last year is mirrored by a Minor League rate that was almost always in the double digits. However, he’s limited by his fragility; after losing two years to Tommy John, it’s debatable whether he could survive even the 70-inning workload of the modern closer. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/9/1990 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Delgado won’t strike out fewer than five per nine going forward, but he won’t be a strikeout king — at least that’s what his (slightly) below-average swinging strike rates suggest. His 92+ MPH gas and curve ball are Major-League ready, even if his 2011 results were skewed by a .220 batting average on balls in play. Give him regular luck, his regular slightly-below-average control, and he’ll strike out about seven per nine, walk just below four per nine, and be a passable back-of-the-rotation starter in the National League. Betting on him to be much more than that is putting a lot of stock in the improvement of his changeup or his control, two things that haven’t quite been true since he hit the high minors. Delgado is probably going to be one of those guys that is more valuable to his Major League team than your fantasy team. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Delgado had the best results among the Braves’ trio of young prospect hurlers, but his peripherals and stuff take a back seat to Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Be cautious with your investment.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/23/1985 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Demel lives and dies by the ground ball, and he’s stuck behind some more established (and better) relievers in the Diamondbacks bullpen. Injuries to the injury prone J.J. Putz and Takashi Saito could force him into higher leverage spots though. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/3/1977 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Dempster’s ERA skyrocketed to 4.80 from 3.95 in 2011, but good luck finding the actual difference in his performances over the two seasons. His strikeout, walk and home run rates were all within 0.2 points of his norms, and he posted an FIP- below 100 for the sixth straight season. Dempster won’t be elite by any stretch of the imagination, but don’t be surprised if he rebounds to a 4.00 ERA with his usual decent strikeout numbers, just under one per inning. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Dempster continues to be a steady if unimpressive starter, but awful Cubs defense torpedoed his fantasy season in 2011. He could be a sleeper for the 2012 campaign
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/6/1986 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The sixth pick in the ’07 draft, Detwiler is now just an afterthought behind the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann in the Nats’ rotation. But the adequacy he showed in 2011 was a welcome sight after surgery for a torn labrum in his hip derailed his career the previous year. The lefty opened the season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he compiled a 3.49 FIP and a 63/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87.1 innings. Upon reaching Washington in July, Detwiler had a 4.21 FIP and a 41/20 K/BB in 66 frames. Not great, but he did regain some of the velocity he lost in 2009-2010 by sitting at 92 MPH. That fastball might be his ticket to a career as a mid-to-back rotation arm, but his fringy curveball and changeup keep him from achieving more. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Detwiler is healthy and is penciled in as Washington’s fifth starter in 2012, but it’s unclear what kind of workload he can handle and he’ll have to fend off Tom Gorzelanny. Past prospect status aside, Detwiler’s upside is limited.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 9/19/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: Devine was Oakland’s closer-in-waiting back in 2008, using his low-90s fastball and wipeout slider to strikeout out well over a batter per inning. Sadly, his elbow promptly blew up at that point. He missed over two months with soreness in ’08, came to camp with continued problems in 2009 and finally succumbed to Tommy John in April of that year. He returned in 2011, dominating in Triple-A (35 Ks in 23.1 innings) but showing rust in the majors, with a 20/11 strikeouts and walks in 23 frames. Devine’s fastball didn’t have its previous giddy-up, sitting at 92 MPH instead of 93-94, and his understandably shaky control (just 41 percent of his pitches were in the zone) put him in hitter’s counts. With Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and possibly Fautino De Los Santos standing in his way, Devine figures to pitch in middle relief in 2012 as he works his way back to form. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: His velocity and control could improve as he puts Tommy John surgery further in his past, but Devine’s path to holds or saves is muddled even now that Bailey is in Boston.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/30/1986 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Plucked from the Braves in the Rule Five draft one year ago, Diamond didn’t actually make the club out of spring training, forcing the Twins to deal closer prospect Billy Bullock to Atlanta to keep his rights. With Rochester, Diamond was able to actually improve his pedestrian strikeout rate and cut his walks by half a batter per nine. Alas, the 2011 season was far worse than 2010 for Diamond, as his BABIP ballooned to .354, which suggests his 5.56 ERA should have been closer to 3.80. Nevertheless, Diamond was pressed into action as everything that could have possibly gone wrong with the big league club did, and he predictably faltered there, as well. Any whiffs Diamond had in Rochester completely vanished in Minneapolis, and his defense wasn’t particularly special, either. He will head to Rochester to start 2012, but will be on speed dial for when Jason Marquis inevitably fails. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Diamond is basically a young Jason Marquis. Rather than use the cow for milk, the Twins went to the free agency trough to get a more cultured version. It wasn’t pretty when Diamond was around on the big league club, and isn’t likely to improve much. Avert your eyes.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 10/29/1974 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: R.A. Dickey is RAD. Trust this despite his so-so swinging strike rates and poor strikeout rates. Dude is well-read, well-spoken, and down-to-earth. Oh, and has great control for a knuckleballer. Perhaps it’s the fact that he has three separate speeds for his knuckler, but he also gets a strong ground-ball rate for a pitcher of his ilk (55.1% and 50.8% over the past two years respectively). DIPS theory sometimes has an asterisk for knuckleballers — and why not, given the unconventional way the ball moves — but if you can stomach the lack of strikeouts, Dickey’s control and ground-balls will make him the best knuckler on your draft board. And a good late-round value in leagues of any depth. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: R.A. Dickey climbed Kilimanjaro for charity against the Mets’ wishes this offseason, and that’s about the third-coolest thing about him. Don’t think too much about his three different knucklers or his propensity for Star Wars quotes — just draft him late for value.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 11/25/1973 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: After stops in Toronto and St. Louis in 2011, Octavio Dotel’s all-expenses paid tour of Major League Baseball takes him to Detroit in 2012. The 38-year-old on his sixth team in three years is still dominant against right-handed batters, and his high strikeout rate — 10.33 last season, and 10.91 over his career — can give him fantasy value, but it would take a lot for him to garner saves. (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/17/1976 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Scott Downs had a really weird 2011. His strikeout rate was the lowest in six years, yet his ERA was the lowest it has ever been. Maybe it was his batting average on balls in play. The BABIP monster strikes again! Downs is still a very good reliever, but expecting career bests from a 36-year-old is just silly. He should be able to provide owners with at least 15 holds in 2012 with the occasional save, so value him accordingly. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Downs won’t have another career year, but the lefty should still provide fantasy owners with holds and the occasional save.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/8/1987 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Known as the pitching prospect Toronto asked for and received in return for eventual Cooperstown inductee Roy Halladay, Kyle Drabek has struggled to make the leap to the Major Leagues. After starting 2011 in the Toronto rotation, Drabek was eventually demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, where what ailed him in Toronto continued to give him problems: his command. Drabek walked more than six batters per nine innings with Toronto, and almost five batters per nine innings with Las Vegas. While it’s probably premature to label the 24-year-old a bust, he’s got nothing guaranteed coming into 2012, and, like many Blue Jays pitchers, will be fighting for a spot in the rotation, or will spend more time in the minors. Until Drabek figures it out, you’re better off staying away. But keep an eye on him. There’s no doubt he possesses the tools to be a number two or three pitcher in big league rotation, it’s how he deals with failure that will determine his fate. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: With Toronto possessing a healthy amount of pitching depth, Drabek comes into 2012 fighting for a spot at the back end of Toronto’s rotation. Until he figures out his command issues, his fantasy value is severely limited.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/22/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: After a very nice 2010 campaign that saw him split time as a swingman between the pen and rotation, Duensing predictably faltered as a full-time starter in 2011. There’s nothing much in Duensing’s rates to differentiate 2011 from 2010 when looking at his strikeout or walk rates, but his distinct platoon splits (.836 OPS for RHH/.511 for LHH) simply don’t allow him to be successful enough to pitch long stretches. The Twins have wisely opted to move him to the bullpen in 2012, where his talents ought to be better suited. He won’t see a Glen Perkins-like increase in velocity or effectiveness, but he can be a useful cog in middle relief for a team which had the worst bullpen ERA league-wide in 2011. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Duensing is virtually un-rosterable as a middle inning reliever. He has no chance at the closer’s role, and is very unlikely to return to the rotation. Even if he did, right-handed hitters eat him alive. Steer clear.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/21/1988 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite taking part of 2010 “off” as a prospect considering retirement, Duffy came back and performed well in the minors both in 2010 and 2011, being the first major starting pitching prospect to make the majors out of the Best Farm System in the History of Whatever. Indeed, Duffy has pretty much the only starting pitching prospect from that group that has actually pitched well in the minors above High-A. However, while he had his moments in the big leagues in 2011, he mostly was bad. Especially disappointing were his many walks, since he had generally displayed good control in the minors — I suppose he was just trying to fit in with the Royals’ other young pitchers. Duffy is very young and has potential, but his rotation spot for the start of 2012 is not guaranteed, and I have never read that a scout saw him as having more than #3 upside. He’s worth a pick in deep leagues, but as a pitching prospect without ace potential, don’t spend much, and only if you have no other roster needs. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Duffy was mostly disappointing in his 2011 debut. He is young enough that he has potential, but there is not enough upside to take too much of a risk on him yet.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/19/1983 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Zack Duke has been able to notch out an okay career as a pitcher by basically limiting walks. He is 16th out of 54 pitchers in walks per nine (2.44) from 2005 to 2011 with pitchers over 1000 innings pitched. He was also 22nd in home runs allowed with .93 home runs per nine. The problem is that he is 53rd out of 54 in strikeout rate (4.64) with .323 batting average on balls in play. Zack is just going to go out, throw strikes and hope the other team doesn’t do too much damage. For these reasons, there is little, if any, reason to own him in any league in 2012. Another huge hit, besides being a bad pitcher, is that he may not even have a starting pitching job with the Diamondbacks. He could have some value as a spot starter in road games at run-suppressing stadiums like PETCO in San Diego. You know what you will get with Duke, the problem is that what you get is of no real fantasy value. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: The Duke limits walks and home runs, but his complete inability to strike any player out may cost him a starting MLB job.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/23/1985 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: Mike Dunn’s fantasy value lies with him getting his walk rate under control. Strikeouts are his strong point. His 10.5 strikeouts per nine average is good enough for the 24th-highest value among all relievers (226 total) over the past three years (minimum 70 innings pitched). His problems are the walks — 5.6 per nine, or the eighth-highest total over the same three-year period. Dunn is showing some signs of getting the walks under control. In 2010, he was at 8.0 walks per nine with the Braves. It dropped to 4.4 BB/9 in 2011. With the additional control of the walks, his strikeout rate suffered going from 12.8 in 2010 to 9.7 in 2011. There’s little reason to own him going into the 2012 season in all but the deepest of leagues. He will not be closer for Florida with Heath Bell as the closer and Edward Mujica and Leo Nunez / Juan Carlos Oviedo entrenched as the setup men. Also, Dunn will need to have his strikeout-to-walk ratio get closer to the three level to be a viable non-save reliever. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: If Dunn can get his fastballs under control, his value will take off. Until then, look elsewhere for a reliever.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 12/3/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Chad Durbin has played for four teams in his career (including two stints with the Indians) and has provided little to no value to all of them. His most valuable season was 2001, when he gave the Royals a very poor FIP of 5.03, but also gave them 179 innings over 29 starts and racked up a WAR of 2.0. Since then, he has primarily been a reliever, and a rather mediocre one at that. As a reliever, he has struck out 7.4, walked 4.13, and allowed 1.13 home runs per nine innings pitched, resulting in a 4.65 FIP, and his 2011 numbers come pretty close to matching those career numbers. Durbin is a free agent and is unlikely to end up back in Cleveland, who has built solid bullpen depth, but he is likely to catch on somewhere, as average relievers always seem to find a home. But he won’t be a closer and the rest of him numbers won’t support him on a fantasy roster. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Durbin is a perfectly mediocre relief pitcher who, even at 34, is likely to find a home for the 2012 season. That home, however, will not likely include any high-leverage innings or save opportunities.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/13/1985 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: In the midst of his arbitration years, Elbert finally did something to help plead his case last season. After posting a 9.18 strikeout rate with a 2.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Elbert should remain the Dodgers top lefty specialist in 2012. Unfortunately, the limited innings don’t help much on the fantasy front. (Howard Bender)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/13/1986 | Position: RP|
Profile: After the off-season signings of Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, Ely finds himself as the seventh option (at best) for the Dodgers rotation. While he can be effective in short spurts, his approach doesn’t lead to many strikeouts, and teams have been able to figure out his approach after just a few starts. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1986 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: After a decent 17 starts in 2010, Enright imploded last season, posting a 7.41 ERA over 37.2 innings. As a fly ball pitcher with poor strikeout ability, it will be an uphill battle to make it back to the majors. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/13/1990 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After a successful half-season in Double-A, Eovaldi made the jump to the majors in August. His performance there was problematic, as his 5.97 strikeout rate nearly matched his 5.19 walk rate. Eovaldi’s 3.63 ERA may have looked pretty on the surface, but his 4.35 FIP and 4.80 xFIP are more indicative of his current skill-set. With the signings of Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang this off-season, it looks like Eovaldi may get some more seasoning in Triple-A. He’s got some promise as a Major League starter, but he’ll need to show improvement in the minors first. If he ends up in the pen with his two pitches, he’ll be useful as a starter-eligible bullpen arm. ottoneu and deep holds league managers should pay attention. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: The Dodgers’ off-season signings seem to indicate that Eovaldi will get some much needed seasoning in the minors this season. While he won’t be all that valuable this season because of his role, it should help his development.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/5/1983 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Estrada, who dealt with injuries for much of the 2010 season, made an impact as the Brewers sixth starter in 2011, filling in for Zack Greinke early on and others as needed. He was as much as anybody could have asked for in the role, with a 4.08 ERA and even better peripherals, recording a 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s difficult to imagine him maintaining such success given a minor league track record of sub-3.0 K/BBs, but he doesn’t need to in order to succeed in the swingman role in store for him in Milwaukee. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Estrada established himself as a solid swingman for Milwaukee, capable of making a spot start or taking low-leverage bullpen innings
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/29/1983 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: After a fairly successful September with the Dodgers, Eveland was dealt to the Orioles this December. While he seems like a long shot to make their rotation, it’s not like he’s got a ton of competition. Even if he manages to pick up a few starts, he hasn’t been effective since 2008. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 4/14/1976 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Yankees fans scoffed when the Rays signed Farnsworth to close for them in 2011, but his late-career rennaisance has dumbfounded the knickerbockers. Collecting a career-high 25 saves, Professor Farns shrugged off a variety of injury issues to sport a wicked 2.18 ERA, 3.16 FIP, and 2.77 SIERA. He’s a strong candidate to collect 30+ saves in 2012 with a chance at 40+, depending on how Joe Maddon uses the rest of the bullpen. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: If Rays manager Joe Maddon feels comfortable with the rest of the bullpen, Farnsworth may once again find his way into a full-time closer role, which on a strong Rays team could mean 40+ saves and a 2.50ish ERA.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/7/1983 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Feldman pitched pretty well out of the bullpen last season, but he doesn’t miss bats and is stuck in a great hitters’ park. Unless he plans on reverting to 2009 form, don’t bother. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/2/1988 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: After the signing of Joe Nathan, Feliz will likely enter the season in the rotation, returning to the starting role he had in the minors. As the closer last year, his strikeout rate fell by more than a point, while his walk rate jumped more than two points and he remained an extreme fly ball pitcher. Only great fortune enabled him to post another ERA well below 3.00. The good news is that he posted another fantastic swinging strike percentage and his velocity was unchanged. As a starter, he will need to throw his other pitches more frequently, as his fastball usage was around 80% the last two seasons. He will probably be on an innings limit as well, so there are various risks associated with this transition. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Feliz enters the 2012 as a likely member of the Rangers rotation after transitioning from closing games and suffering a skills decline last year. With an innings cap and the need to throw his non-fastball pitches more often, there are multiple risks Feliz faces upon his move.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/15/1985 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Fiers has quickly climbed the organizational ladder despite lacking the stuff typically requisite for the Major Leagues. With his sub-90s fastball, Fiers has dominated the Minor Leagues over the past two seasons and finally reached a level suitable for his age (26) in 2011, moving from Double-A to Triple-A and pitching two innings in the majors to boot. Fiers was particularly impressive in his 10 Triple-A starts, holding opponents to a 1.11 ERA. Obviously some luck was involved, but the peripherals back him up somewhat, as he posted a 9.6 strikeout rate and a 3.03 FIP. He won’t be much more than a back-of-the-rotation guy at best, but he gives Milwaukee valuable depth as a starter. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Fiers is a classic case of excellent Minor League peripherals but a perceived lack of Major League stuff. He has breezed through the minors after a late start and could be one of the Brewers’ first rotation options given an injury.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/4/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: The Tigers appeared to hit the trade deadline lottery last season, as Fister pitched to a 1.79 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP in ten starts (and one relief appearance) after coming over from the Mariners. That isn’t a sustainable level of performance for anyone really, and it’s worth noting that half of those ten starts came against the fading Twins and Indians. Fister will continue to keep his WHIP down because he doesn’t walk many (career 1.69 BB/9), but he also doesn’t strikeout many batters (career 5.52 K/9) or do an exceptionally good job of keeping the ball on the ground (career 46.5% grounders). Fortunately for him, he’s played in some big ballparks. Fister is almost guaranteed to be overvalued come draft day, and now the infield defense behind him might be legendarily bad, but he’s still a quality arm that should provide a solid ERA and WHIP to go along with a nice wins total for a good team. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: There’s a good chance Fister will be overvalued on draft day, but he’s still a safe bet for wins with solid ERA and WHIP numbers. Just don’t expect a ton of strikeouts or a repeat of his second half showing with the Tigers. That was pretty close to an unsustainable performance.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/27/1983 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: The last three seasons, Gavin Floyd has been remarkably consistent. He has posted FIPs between 3.46 and 3.77, struck out between 7.02 and 7.60 per nine, and walked between 2.09 and 2.79 per nine. Over that time, his ERA has also consistently stayed higher than his FIP. In 2012, the most likely scenario is more of the same, although that ERA should come down a bit to fall more in line with his FIP. The issue Floyd has faced from a fantasy perspective (other than the ERAs hovering above his FIP) is a lack of wins. He has had 13 the past two years, and had only 11 and eight the two previous years. Floyd isn’t likely to be a fantasy stud anytime soon, but if he can bring down the ERA and nab a couple more wins, he could provide solid value for a guy who should not cost much to get. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: With Floyd, you know what you will get — about 7.3 strikeouts per nine, 2.5 walks per nine and an FIP around 3.60. If he can make his ERA match that FIP, he’ll be a solid fantasy option in 2012.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/8/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: Francis pitched his first season away from the Rockies in 2011, and managed to pitch more innings (183) than he had since 2007. He did okay by pitching-independent measures, but his ERA was still a poor 4.82 — perhaps it was not all Coors. Francis has his uses as a back-end starter in real baseball, and maybe fantasy as well, Just keep in mind that with an 85 MPH fastball, a strikeout rate under five is probably the norm for Francis now unless he gets to pitch to pitchers again. He has good control, but Francis has never shown the ability to outpitch his peripherals. Francis will find a team — he is left-handed, after all, but he’s a guy who just fills out a deep fantasy roster, that’s about it. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Francis can fill out a fantasy rotation, but that’s about it. His good control really doesn’t make up for a sub-five strikeout rate.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/11/1979 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: After a number of years in the Texas organization, and one year in Toronto, Frank Francisco is the new closer for the New York Mets. While he only registered 17 saves in 2011, thanks to a trip to the disabled list that cost him 18 games, Francisco continued to strike out batters — he posted a 9.41 strikeout rate. Francisco’s stuff remains electric, and there’s no reason why he can’t put up another season of a strikeout-to-walk rate around 3.00. Much like Jon Rauch, the move out of Toronto will help Francisco keep the ball in the ballpark, too. You might be worried about Francisco’s durability, as he’s made four trips to the DL in the past three years, but plying his trade in New York’s Citi Field, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t draft him. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Francisco is closing for the Mets in 2012. He’ll get you strikeouts, and some saves. And he’ll probably go on the disabled list, at least once. But nobody’s perfect, and he is worth your selection.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 3/5/1973 | Position: RP|
Profile: Franklin proved once an for all he doesn’t belong in a closer role last year with St. Louis. It’s possible he may not even find a Major League job in 2012 as a result. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/9/1977 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Jason Frasor is from Chicago, but Toronto is his home. After spending his career with the Blue Jays, he was dealt to the White Sox last July, only to struggle. Like they say, home is where the heart is, and Frasor’s a Blue Jay once again, re-acquired by Toronto in January. He will provide middle relief for Toronto in 2012, and is a proven and reliable right-handed reliever who strikes out more than 20% of the batters he faces. Frasor’s time in Chicago was plagued by poor command, and an inability to keep the ball in the yard. A .354 batting average on balls in play was of little comfort. While Frasor takes his sweet time on the mound when he’s out there — take a deep breath — he’s worth the wait, and should be relied upon for another 60 innings out of the Toronto bullpen in 2012. Like I say — and, yes, this has become my favorite phrase when describing middle relievers — you could do worse. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Frasor’s a Blue Jay once again, and happy about it. He will be an integral part of a revamped Toronto Blue Jays bullpen in 2012, and you’ll want to keep him in mind when looking for strikeouts from middle relievers. Consistency and durability make him interesting.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/19/1985 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Petco Park has been a wonderful home to Mr. Frieri, who has give up exactly zero career homeruns in his home park since debuting late in the 2009 season despite a measly 23.8% ground ball rate. On the road, he’s surrendered 0.89 home runs per nine, which is probably a little light for someone giving up that many fly balls. Playing a lot of road games in Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park must help. Frieri has posted big strikeout (11.08) and big walk (4.84) rates in his two-plus seasons with the Padres, and his platoon split is quite massive: .242 FIP and 3.33 xFIP against righties, but 4.46 FIP and 5.61 xFIP against lefties. Thankfully Bud Black is aware of the issues with batters of the opposite hand and has done a nice job keeping Frieri away from lefties. With Mike Adams, Chad Qualls, and Heath Bell all gone, Frieri figures to assume the majority of the seventh inning work behind Huston Street and Luke Gregerson in 2012. He’s definitely a high-strikeout, low-ERA sleeper in holds leagues, and should offer value in most ottoneu formats. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Frieri is a nice sleeper in holds leagues thanks to his low-ERA and high strikeout rate, but he has a massive platoon split and has been helped immensely by Petco Park thanks to his fly ball happy ways.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/9/1975 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: Signed to a decidedly un-Moneyball-like two-year, $10.5 million deal last winter, Fuentes was barely above replacement level in 2011. The lefty virtually scrapped his breaking ball and threw more fastballs than usual (76 percent), which didn’t improve his control much but led to the lowest strikeout rate (6.5 per nine innings) of his career. That’s a far cry from his career average of 9.5 K/9. Fuentes closed for the A’s while Andrew Bailey nursed a forearm injury and had 12 saves, but he split hold chances with Grant Balfour down the stretch and didn’t perform as well as his Aussie teammate overall (4.16 FIP for Fuentes, 3.77 for Balfour). In addition to Balfour, Fuentes might have to compete with power arms like Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine for the open closer role. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: The 36-year-old former Rockies stopper isn’t closer-worthy anymore – he’s really just a middle reliever with more name recognition. Chances are he gets passed up in the pecking order in 2012.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/11/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Even now, experts have as yet to count all the entendres involved in the trade that sent Furbush to Seattle in exchange for starter Doug Fister. As that important work continues, Seattle’s front office and coaching staff will see what they have in the left-hander. Furbush struck out over 25% of the batters he faced in the Minor Leagues, including 28.8% of Triple-A batters in nine starts (of 10 total appearances) at Toledo in the spring. However, his 90 MPH fastball suggests he’ll be unable to approach those rates as a major leaguer. He could probably be a league-average starter — with better unadjusted numbers, thanks to Safeco — if given the chance; however, even after the departure of Michael Pineda via trade to the Yankees, Furbush is not a lock to break camp as part of the rotation. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Could probably post league-average numbers across the board, but is unlikely to begin season in starting role.
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