|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/15/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: After faring poorly over eight starts with the Diamondbacks, Galarraga was banished to Triple-A, where he posted a gruesome 9.26 ERA in 23.1 innings. With poor strikeout ability and below average control, one wonders how he managed to rack up over 500 big league innings to begin with. Heck, he has even been a fly ball pitcher throughout his career, so it is difficult to even find one positive in his profile. His swinging strike rate does suggest a higher strikeout rate, though even a league average rate won’t be enough to make him useful. If he does manage to find his way back to the majors, make sure he stays far away from your fantasy team. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Without a Major League role and weak skills to begin with, it is safe to avoid Galarraga. Even if flashes of his near no-hitter come to mind, do your best to ignore him.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/27/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Gallardo put up the best season of his career as a 25-year-old in 2011, setting career bests in wins (17), total strikeouts (207), ERA (3.52) and WHIP (1.22). The key? A decline in walk rate, from 3.65 per nine innings to 2.56; from 9.3% to 6.8%. This allowed him to pitch over 200 innings for the first time in his career, giving his bullpen better chances to hold leads and giving him more chances for strikeouts. We’ll see if he can maintain this improvement at 26, but if he can, a drop back to his career home-run-per-fly-ball mark of 10% could lead to a borderline ace season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Gallardo took another step forward in 2011, suppressing walks and continuing to post an excellent strikeout rate due to pinpoint control of the fastball. Look for him to post ace-like numbers for the Brewers in 2012.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/8/1986 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Garcia completed his first full season in 2011 and he continued his grounder-heavy ways. Largely behind a 53.6% ground ball rate as well as improved control, Garcia posted a 3.56 ERA despite only stranding two-thirds of his runners. Garcia’s peripherals are already first-rate – his strikeout-to-walk ratio eclipsed 3.0 last season. With a normal strand rate next season, Garcia should reach a borderline ace level behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in the Cardinals’ rotation. He’ll never get the strikeouts of a fantasy ace though. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Garcia earned himself a five-year deal in 2011, and should continue to be a more than capable top-of-the-rotation arm, largely thanks to his excellent changeup.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 10/6/1976 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Freddy Garcia gave the Yankees some much-needed starting pitching help in 2011. While he was not lights out, he was able to pitch well enough to win 12 games with a 3.62 ERA (the second-best ERA of his career). Going into 2012, he was expected to strike out about six and walk about three guys per nine innings. He would have the same talent level of pitchers like Tim Stauffer and Luke Hochevar. The big question with Freddy in 2012 is where does he end up in the Yankees rotation? CC Sabathia has his spot locked and probably Ivan Nova also. New arrivees Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda probably have the three and four spots locked down. Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett both struggled in 2011, but probably have more upside than Garcia. Garcia is a nice insurance policy for the Yankees, but it doesn’t help his fantasy value. For him to be considered in all but the deepest or AL-only leagues, it would be nice if he was one of the top four (or even five) starters for the Yankees. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Most of his fantasy value will be determined by his role with the Yankees in 2012. Is he even in the rotation after the Yankees went out and acuired Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/27/1979 | Position: SP|
Profile: After posting a shiny ERA in 2010, Garland returned to his normal self in nine starts with the Dodgers. The right-hander has never struck out enough batters to be a truly useful fantasy option, instead relying on durability and decent win totals. That all fell apart last season, as he was shut down with a shoulder injury in June and had surgery in July. The Dodgers declined their option on Garland in November, making him a free agent. Even if he fully recovers and gets another opportunity to start, he’s still a long shot to be a valuable fantasy pitcher. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: The Dodgers declined Garland’s contract after an injury-riddled season. Even if he gets another opportunity with a team, he’s probably not going to be worth a roster spot in fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/26/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Garza posted by far the best season of his MLB career despite getting little help from his teammates in 2011. The 28-year-old’s strikeout rate nearly reached one per inning and his ground ball rate was his highest since leaving the Twins in 2007, and as a result Garza posted a career best 3.35 ERA in Chicago. One could even argue he was unlucky – he had a 2.95 FIP and a 3.19 xFIP, but given the homer-friendly nature of Wrigley field and the league-worst defense (by Defensive Efficiency) in Chicago, such a difference between results and peripherals should be expected. Garza is on the trade market, and being shipped out of Chicago should help him garner some wins if it comes to pass. What his new park will do to his peripherals is the open question. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Garza didn’t get much help from his defense in 2011, but he posted possibly his best season as a major leaguer. His strikeout spike was unprecedented; can he maintain that level in 2012?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/28/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: Not quite a gangster, “Oh” Gee has spent parts of two Major League seasons racking up one combined season of average play. It’s unclear how much upside he has remaining. Gee’s fastball doesn’t crack 90 and the trademarked control he showed in the Minor Leagues didn’t travel with him to the big leagues. Watch him pitch and no single pitch stands out — only his changeup really gets any whiffs. His curve is okay, too, but he only uses it about 10% of the time. Bottom line — even if he regains some of his old level of control and gets strikeouts more line with his average-ish swinging strike rate, he’s not likely to be much better than a decent final starter in deeper leagues. Watch and wait. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: In the minors, Gee “Unit” didn’t walk anyone so it was okay that he didn’t really strike people out. Now, he’s worse than average with the control, and still not getting the strikeouts. And the Mets are moving in the walls. Remember the name, but don’t draft him.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/15/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Gomes is a young, talented reliever who has closer pedigree, but may still be a few years away. Expect something around a 3.40ish FIP in middle relief for the 2012 Gomes. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 5/23/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Mike Gonzalez still strikes out righties, but that doesn’t mean he’s not sliding towards LOOGY status. His peripherals against right-handers have slowly slipped to the point where you might expect him to strike out about eight righties and walk five of them per nine innings. That makes for an FIP over four, most likely, since he also can’t get any ground balls off of righties (under 32% for two straight years, 36.9% career). Well, for now it’s a platoon issue that keeps him from signing somewhere to be a closer. In the future, it might make him a LOOGY. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Sliding towards LOOGY status means that Gonzalez isn’t likely to rack up many holds or saves, no matter where he ends up.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1985 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Gonzalez becomes the third cog in a suddenly powerful Nationals’ rotation. The question will be if he deserves the ace-like treatment he received by the Nationals, who gave up a package of prospects similar to those which went out for pitchers like Zack Greinke, Mat Latos, and Matt Garza. Even factoring in the cavernous Coliseum, Gonzalez’s sub-3.25 ERAs over the past two seasons are fantastic, checking in around an 80 ERA-. Nationals park is similarly gaping, so the park isn’t the question here, it’s if his peripherals catch up to him: with a career walk rate around 4.5 per nine innings, we should be expecting an ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Gonzalez will get a similarly friendly home park in Washington as he did in Oakland, so the question remains: can he strand enough of all those walks to stay as effective as he has the past two seasons?
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/12/1982 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Gorzo served as a swingman for Washington in 2011, making 15 starts and relief appearances apiece. He started the season in the rotation, but he suffered an elbow injury in late May and lost his spot when Chien-Ming Wang returned to health. Not surprisingly, Gorzelanny was much more effective out of the ‘pen (22.1 IP, 20/6 strikeouts per walk, 2.76 FIP) than pitching every fifth day (82.2 IP, 75/27 K/BB, 4.57 FIP). He showed better control than in years past, but that seemingly came with more long balls (1.3 home runs per nine). Gorzelanny was considered a non-tender candidate, but the Nats retained him and he could even start in 2012 with prospects Brad Peacock and Tom Milone now in Oakland. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: As a lukewarm starter with a sub-90s fastball and a history of elbow and shoulder problems, Gorzelanny may be better suited for relief. That kills his fantasy value, though he could get back in the picture if Wang’s shoulder, Ross Detwiler’s hip or Stephen Strasburg’s innings total becomes an issue.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/4/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: The Cubs acquired Grabow in hopes of making the true-talent LOOGY into a high-leverage setup man. Needless to say, the experiment of ignorance exploded in Jim Hendry’s face. And since Grabow tore his MCL in 2010, he has not been effective against any hand. At his best, Grabow was a solid LOOGY, but his best may be gone. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Do not expect much better than a 4.50 FIP against righties for Grabow, who will finish his career as a LOOGY — assuming its not finished already.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/14/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Gregerson’s performance declined significantly in 2011, as his usually high strikeout rate (10.68 from 2009-2010) was basically cut in half (5.50 in 2011) and right-handed batters handled him substantially better than they had in the past (.168/.228/.253 from 2009-2010 but .329/.394/.376 in 2011). His fastball velocity dropped more than a full mile an hour (91.1 MPH from 2009-2010 but 89.7 in 2011) while trademark slider gained velocity (83.6 MPH from 2009-2010 to 85.1 in 2011), which is generally bad news because the separation between the two pitches began to disappear. Sliders that used to generate swings and misses are now being put in play or fouled off, and a sharp decline in his slider whiff rate (23.4% from 2009-2010 but 17.0% in 2011) backs this up. Gregerson has thrown 54.3% sliders in his three seasons with San Diego, and extreme slider usage like that tends to lead to arm problems down the road (Brad Lidge and Brett Anderson are notable examples). Assuming he stays on the field, the big righty is slated to be Huston Street’s primary setup man in 2012 with a chance to rack up a ton of holds again. The strikeout decline is a real problem though, one worth paying attention to. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: A sharp decline in strikeout rate (10.68 from 2009-2010 but 5.50 in 2011) is best explained by a sudden lack of separation between Gregerson’s fastball and trademark slider, which generated considerably fewer whiffs in 2011. He’s going to be Huston Street’s primary setup man next year, but there’s a lot of risk here given his extreme slider usage (54.3%).
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 6/20/1978 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: As his strikeout-to-walk ratio continues to plummet (1.33 in 2011), Gregg’s fantasy value is tied directly to the future of Jim Johnson. If the Orioles move the sinkerball specialist in to the rotation, then Gregg doesn’t have any obvious competition for saves in Buck Showalter’s bullpen. If Johnson stays in a relief role, then there’s a pretty good chance he’ll keep the closer’s job he took from Gregg this past September. Gregg’s strikeout and walk rates continue to decline into his mid-30’s, and he’s always been a homer prone/fly ball guy. That doesn’t work so well in Camden Yards and in the AL East. There are probably 28 other closers you should target before Gregg in your fantasy draft, and the only reason there aren’t 29 is because we still don’t know what’s going on with the Astros following the Mark Melancon trade. Be very, very careful. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Gregg’s fantasy value is tied to Jim Johnson’s future, because the only way he’ll see a significant number of a save chances next season is if the big sinker baller is pitching out of the rotation rather than the bullpen. There’s a lot to be scared of here.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/21/1983 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Greinke’s 3.83 ERA in 2011 was pedestrian, but nothing else in his performance qualifies as such. He recorded a mammoth 10.54 strikeout rate per nine innings in his first run through the National League, walked just 2.36 per nine, and posted the league’s best xFIP at 2.56. However, there were some bumps in the road — home runs, which eventually evened out to one per nine innings, and stranding runners, which did not even out, as he finished with a 69.8% strand rate (73% is about average). Without Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop, Greinke should be able to count on some better defense behind him, and as such, his ERA should be expected to match up at least a little better with his fantastic peripherals in 2012. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Greinke posted the league’s best xFIP in 2011, but his ERA remained merely average. However, an utterly fantastic second half proved what he’s capable of with just the slightest amount of defensive help.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/31/1985 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: There probably wasn’t a better example of saves appearing out of nowhere than Guerra in 2011. The 26-year-old right-hander was called up from Double-A (skipped right over Triple-A) in mid-May, worked four appearances worth of middle relief, then was thrust into the ninth inning. Guerra responded by going 21-for-23 in save chances with just the second full season strikeout-to-walk ratio above 2.00 of his career. The only thing he does exceptionally well is limit homers (0.39 HR/9 in 2011, 0.49 in his Minor League career), but otherwise his strikeout (7.33 per nine in 2011, 8.81 in the minors) and walk (3.47 per nine in 2011, 5.23 in the minors) rates won’t wow you. Guerra is a regression candidate (2.31 ERA and 1.18 WHIP) but also a candidate to lose the closer’s job at some point, mostly because Kenley Jansen is just that damn good. Tread carefully. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Guerra is a risky proposition in 2012 because his Minor League track record suggests his big league performance was a bit of a fluke last year, and also because Kenley Jansen is standing over his shoulder waiting to steal some saves.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/2/1978 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Matt Guerrier’s value as a reliever mainly lies in the possibility of being the Dodger’s closer if Kenley Jansen or Javy Guerra can’t do the job. Last year with the Dodgers, Matt saw his strikeout rate jump up from the 5.5 per nine values of the last two years to his 2007-2008 levels near seven per nine. A problem was that his walk rate also jumped to 3.4 (1.9 in 2009 and 2.8 in 2010). For relief pitchers, you want the strikeout-to-walk rate to be at least three or higher. There’s no real reason to hold on to him in all but the deepest of NL-only leagues with the hope he may take over the closer job. There are plenty of better options for non-closer relievers. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Matt Guerrier really only has any fantasy value if he somehow lands the closer job with the Dodgers.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/8/1979 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeremy Guthrie, bless his soul, is set for another season atop the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation. While that sounds like a great job in theory, it isn’t so much in practice. He’s going to get hit, there’s no doubt, but he’ll make 30 starts as he’s done the past four years, and throw 200-plus innings, as he’s done the past three years. He doesn’t strike out enough batters for you to consider him early in your draft, but, in the later rounds, his workload and WHIP certainly make him a candidate to fill out your rotation. Since 2007, Guthrie has been one of the few Orioles who consistently contributes, posting an average WAR of 2.2 over the past five years. You know what you’re getting with Guthrie: an ERA around 4.00, and a FIP around 4.50. Much like the Orioles, when you’re desperate, Guthrie will be there. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Jeremy Guthrie will once again lead the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation into battle in 2011. He’ll throw 200 innings, outpitch his peripherals, and, well, he’ll lose a fair number of games. Not that that’s his fault. However, a lack of ground balls and strikeouts means he’s only worth a pick in the deepest leagues.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/1/1986 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: At one point a future starter, Hagadone made his big league debut last year as a reliever, and figures to stay there for foreseeable future. The big lefty sits mid-90s with his fastball and has a long history of double-digit strikeout rates in the minors. In his first taste of the American League, Hagadone flashed the strikeout potential, setting down 11 hitters in 11 innings, after striking out 77 over 71 Minor League innings in 2011. The big questions with Hagadone have always been control and health, but the shift to the pen has — so far — helped him with the latter. In 2011, Hagadon posted a walk rate under three in the Minor Leagues for the first time since low-A in 2007, but he was back up over four walks per nine after getting called up. In 2012, Hagadone figures to play a prominent role in the Indians’ bullpen, although being a southpaw will likely keep him in a set-up rather than a closing role. The strikeouts will be there and, if he can keep the ball in the strike zone, Hagadone could post terrific rate stats as well. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Health and control have been the struggles for Hagadone, and last year he made big strides in both. If he can stay healthy and in the zone, he will rack up strikeouts and holds with solid rate stats out of the Indians pen in 2012.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/14/1977 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: When discussing Halladay, it’s hard not to utilize the sort of language generally reserved for truck commercials. You want power? Halladay struck out a career-best 23.6% of opposing batters (8.47 strikeouts per nine innings) in 2011. Durability? The 2011 season marked the sixth consecutive one in which Halladay reached the 220-inning mark. Best-in-class payload? Actually, that’s not a really a thing that humans have — but one should also note that Halladay only walked 3.8% of opposing batters (1.35 BB/9) while inducing grounders on 50.9% of batted balls. Per Pitch F/x, Halladay threw five different pitches — a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a cutter, a curve, and a changeup — at least 15% of the time and, also per Pitch F/x, all of those five pitches graded out as above-average in terms of runs saved. If you’re looking for Halladay’s downside, it’s that he’ll be 35 in 2012. Otherwise, he’s Roy Halladay. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Imagine Roy Halladay anytime from 2006-11 in your head: that’s very likely how Roy Halladay will pitch in 2012. The only downside? He’s 35. But that’s picking nits.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/27/1983 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Cole Hamels turned in arguably his best season of his career in 2011, tossing another 200+ innings with a 2.79 ERA (3.05 FIP), 8.1 strikeouts per nine and the lowest walk rate of his career at 1.83 per nine, which contributed to his stellar 0.99 WHIP. Hamels, 28, limited the long ball at a career low 0.79 home runs per nine, in large part due to the highest ground ball rate of his career at 52.3% — not to mention having the league’s best change-up at 3.91 runs above average per 100 pitches. Although Hamels may be the number three starter on his own Major League team, he is undoubtedly a fantasy staff ace, able to anchor your squad in every measurable way for a starting pitcher. The only concern going forward is some likely regression in the batted ball luck category as his career rate is .280 and his 2011 saw an average of .255 — but otherwise there’s no reason so suspect that Hamels can’t produce another season as fantastic as 2011. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Hamels will come with a high price tag, but he’ll likely be worth every penny. There are few other starters that you can bank on high strikeouts, an extraordinarily low WHIP, a great ERA and easily double digit wins.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/2/1982 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: An underrated pitcher heading into 2011, Jason Hammel turned into the pitcher many of his detractors thought he had been all along. His strikeout rate hit a valley at the same time that his walk rate peaked, making his margin for error incredibly thin. Superficially, his ERA looked exactly like his 2010 ERA, but whereas in 2010 he boasted robust FIP and xFIP numbers, last season those figures both jumped into the danger zone. Hammel was one of 10 pitchers to toss at least 150 innings and also compile a strikeout rate under five per nine innings. Finally, Hammel allowed more homers than he had the past two seasons, something that could be a function of getting fewer ground balls. It wasn’t a big difference — a drop of three percent — but it was enough. He briefly lost his rotation spot toward the end of the season, and with the Rockies bringing an abundance of back-end starters to spring camp, he is not guaranteed to retain it this season. Even if he does at the outset, between Jorge De La Rosa returning midseason and the Rockies trying to fit more prospects into the rotation, Hammel’s days as a starter with the Rockies appear to be numbered. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Hammel saw all three of his controllable rates — strikeouts, walks and homers — regress, and is unlikely to maintain a meaningful role on the Rockies pitching staff throughout 2012.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 3/20/1990 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Hand walked nearly as many as he struck out last year and has a history of uninspiring strikeout and walk rates. With an extreme fly ball tendency to boot, he has a long way to go to be worth rostering if he manages to wiggle into the rotation. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/6/1981 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: Why screw around when you have a 97-100 mph fastball? Hanrahan didn’t screw around in his first full season as a closer, and it produced a career-best 2.18 FIP and 40 saves. The Hammer threw his fastball (averaging 97.1 MPH) about 83 percent of the time, compared to the low sixties in recent seasons. That heater-heavy approach led to fewer strikeouts (eight per nine frames), but it also led to the lowest walk rate (2.1 per nine) and highest ground ball percentage (52.4) of his career. Hanrahan has made a dramatic transformation from his Nationals days, when he racked up strikeouts with a wipeout slider but never kept a high-leverage role due to his spotty control. He’s firmly entrenched in Pittsburgh now, especially after injuries wrecked Evan Meek’s season. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Draft the Hammer high and shout “can’t touch this” as he blows upper-90s gas past hitters. Just don’t break out the parachute pants.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/28/1986 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Hanson struggled with a shoulder injury that cost him about 10 starts in 2011, but he’s expected to be back full strength in 2012. What’s full strength for Hanson? A 10% swinging strike rate, as he showed in 2011 for starters, as he raised his strikeout rate to an elite 9.8 per nine innings. The question is if he can return to his home-run-suppressing ways in 2012 — his 40% career ground-ball rate finally caught up to him, as he allowed 1.18 home runs per nine innings. The health, even though it’s his shoulder, shouldn’t be a huge concern — he made over 30 starts (between all levels) in both 2009 and 2010. If the ball stays in the yard in 2012, he should return to a borderline ace level. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Hanson struggled with health and homers in 2011. If he can corral those issues, his increased amount of missed bats could push him into ace territory in 2012.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/19/1982 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Not much went right for Happ between 2010 and 2011. The good news is that he maintained a strikeout rate just under eight per nine innings, but like his teammate, Brett Myers, he was undone by home runs. Happ allows a high number of flyballs even when he’s pitching well, so when his home run per fly ball rate jumps too, it’s not good news. At age 29, Happ is no longer a prospect, so what you see is what you’re likely to get. Right now, that’s too many walks and too many homers. If you’re positively desperate for strikeouts in NL-only, maybe Happ is worth a one dollar bid, but there aren’t too many other scenarios where he should be a target. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: There is an upside in Happ because of his strikeouts, but not for much longer. Keeper league players should be conscious that after one more season in the NL Central, Happ will move into the much more potent AL West. Anyone thinking about capitalizing on Happ’s strikeouts shouldn’t plan to do it for more than this season.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/9/1978 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: This is why pitchers should sign one year deals with the Padres. Though he posted nearly identical strikeout and walk rates, Harang had a much better ERA last season. His strand rate rebounded to previous levels, which led to some of his improvement. While his 4.17 FIP is more indicative of his true performance, Harang did a nice job reestablishing his value last season. He’s not the same pitcher that he was in 2005-2007, but he’s still an interesting late-round gamble. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: After a nice rebound season, Harang looks like a late-round flyer this season. He’s no longer in his prime, but he could post a decent ERA again with the Dodgers.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/30/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: Harden is drawing some interest in a relief role, something that would make sense given his utter lack of anything resembling durability. The 31-year-old made just 15 starts last season and was under 100 innings pitched for the second straight season. He still has the elite swing-and-miss that has kept him desired through his injuries, racking up whiffs on 12% of pitches last season. Even in a relief role, however, don’t expect Harden to feature prominently enough anywhere to be worthy of fantasy pickups in all but the deepest formats. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Harden has drawn interest as a reliever in 2011, and that may be necessary just in order to keep him on the field these days.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/17/1980 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: If you look up “durable” in the dictionary, you will find a picture of Dan Haren’s bearded face smiling back at you. Haren has started at least 33 games in each of the past seven years, and he’s only once posted a ERA over four in that timeframe. Haren may not be as dominant in the American League as he was in the National League, but he still managed to have an ERA under 3.20 and a WHIP barely over one last season while striking out over 190 hitters. Haren is still a fantasy ace, and the addition of Albert Pujols could help Haren win an extra game or two during the 2012 season. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Haren is a legit fantasy ace despite the dip in strikeout rate since moving to the American League. Treat him as such and enjoy his extremely high ceiling.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/16/1985 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Matt Harrison had himself a nice little 2011 for the American League Champs with 14 wins, a 3.39 ERA and a fairly respectable 1.28 WHIP. His ERA predictors were somewhat mixed with an FIP at 3.52 although SIERA and tERA were at 4.09 and 4.20, respectively. Harrison generated a 7.6% swinging strike rate, which is right in line with his career rate and his strikeouts don’t particularly inspire at 6.11 strikeout rate (career 5.43 K/9). His success in 2011 was in large part due to a reduction in walks and ability to control home runs with a 7.1% home run per fly ball rate. While the former might be sustainable, pitching in Arlington is likely to push that home run rate closer to league average which will no doubt hurt his fantasy stats. He may very well repeat in the win column pitching for a team that averages better than five runs per game but expecting an ERA south of four is probably optimistic. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Harrison was a nice surprise in 2011, but couple a dose of regression relative to home runs with an unimpressive strikeout rate and he’s probably best stashed on your bench in standard leagues for spot starts against lesser opponents.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 12/21/1972 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Hawkins provides another effective right-handed relief option for Mike Scioscia. Both Jordan Walden and Scott Downs will be in line for saves before Hawkins, however. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/1/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Hawksworth had a fine season in middle relief for the Dodgers in 2011, with homers (1.02 per nine) being his only real bugaboo. He’d have to show some improvement to get more responsibility and become rosterable, however. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 11/11/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Heilman has struck out more than eight batters per nine in three of the last four seasons, but he hasn’t had a sub-4.00 ERA or a sub-1.35 WHIP in five years now. He’s a great final round target in “all players must be drafted” leagues. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/8/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeremy Hellickson had a great year, throwing 189 innings of 2.95 ERA ball — good enough for Rookie of the Year honors. But his season wasn’t without concern; Hellickson was mediocre according to advanced metrics like xFIP and SIERA. Among all qualified starters, he had the lowest batting average on balls in play and the second highest strand-rate — a recipe for regression stew. But there are many reasons to expect good performance from Hellickson in the future. While his career strikeout rate is six per nine, he gathers swings-and-misses 10 percent of the time — a near elite rate for starters. This suggests that he could considerably increase his strikeout rate next year. And while his BABIP will regress, he should be able to sustain better than average rates thanks to the fantastic Rays’ defense. While Hellickson is not nearly as good as he was in 2011, there’s still a lot to like. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Hellickson is good, but not as nearly as good as he was in 2011. Unless you think Hellickson is the next Matt Cain, don’t expect a sub-3.00 ERA again next year.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 6/23/1974 | Position: RP|
Profile: Mark Hendrickson is tall, and he pitches with his left hand. Don’t draft him. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Hendriks is the quintessential Twins pitcher — little more than average velo paired with plus control and improving command. After enduring a back surgery that cost him all of 2008 and most of 2009, the 23-year-old righty stayed healthy enough to throw 108.2 and 139.1 innings in the minors over 2010 (1.74 ERA) and 2011 (3.36). Including his September debut, Hendriks threw a career-high 162.2 innings last year, so there’s a chance he feels some after-effects in 2012. Because of his ability to spot his fastball and utilize a solid changeup and slider, he was able to take advantage of Minor League hitters at times, but his 8.2 strikeout rate in the minors won’t translate to the majors. He’ll have to rely on his elite walk rate (1.4/9 career) to limit the damage, and if he’s off even a little, he could get hit around. He’s got enough savvy to pitch at the back end of the rotation. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: The Twins’ rotation is full of injury risks (Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Carl Pavano) and underwhelming arms (Nick Blackburn), so Hendriks has an opportunity to log Major League innings throughout 2012 as the first-in-line call-up. Pitching in Target Field will help, but he’s strictly an option in deep AL-only leagues until he proves himself
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/31/1979 | Position: RP|
Profile: Clay Hensley had a fairly eventful 2011 season after a good 2010 season. In 2010 he pitched in 68 games and recorded 77 strikeouts to go along with a 2.16 ERA and seven saves. Previously he averaged closer to five strikeouts and walks per nine innings in his four MLB seasons with the Padres. The main reason for the 2010 turnaround was that he increased his strikeout rate to over 9.0 and dropped his walk rate under four. In 2011, he reverted back to his old ways when he had a 5.4 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 rate, but he was somehow able to put up a 3.60 ERA. He went on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury and the Marlins decided to bring him back as a starter with horrible results. While he was able to maintain similar strikeout and walk rates, he ended up giving up 1.5 HR/9 and had a 6.21 ERA as a starter. Finally he was sent back to the bullpen to end the season. To compensate him, the Marlins non-tendered him. For Hensley to have any value in the upcoming season, he will need to find a steady role in the Giants bullpen and find a way to have the control he showed in 2010. If both of these happen, he has some value as a starter-qualified reliever in leagues where they are utilized. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: No role, no control, no value.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/13/1985 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: In his first full season in the bullpen, Hernandez was pretty solid, striking out 77 batters in 69.1 innings and posting a 3.13 SIERA. His control was improved a bit from past seasons, but still below average. With that excellent strikeout rate, though, his walk rate was acceptable. Hernandez is an extreme fly ball pitcher, but he managed to allow just four home runs last year, yielding just a 4.9% home run per fly ball ratio. That mark is likely to rise, along with the .253 batting average on balls in play he posted, but his SIERA suggests that he actually was unlucky this season on the whole. That may be because of his league average strand rate, which should probably have been higher given the big strikeout rate. He remains a solid backup plan for J.J. Putz and has shown he could get the job done in the ninth inning. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Another injury to J.J. Putz is what it will take to give Hernandez another shot at closing, but even if that doesn’t happen, his strikeout ability gives him some value in deeper leagues.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 2/20/1975 | Position: SP|
Profile: The free agent enters his age 37 season having posted an ERA below 4.47 just once since 2006. He still possesses good control, but with a weak strikeout rate, below average ground-ball rate and a line drive rate that has been above 20% for the last five seasons, Hernandez is the definition of a pitcher to stay far away from. He must bring some extremely desirable intangible(s) to the table, as he continues to find a spot in a team’s rotation despite having posted an xFIP- of at least 111 for six consecutive years. Apparently eating innings has value, even if those innings being consumed are of poor quality. If he does manage to find a starting job yet again, clearly he belongs nowhere near a fantasy team roster. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Hernandez’s only positive attribute really only benefits real baseball teams, and that is the ability to stay healthy and pitch around 180+ innings. With poor skills and a 4.47 SIERA representing the best mark he has posted in seven years, he should not be touched with even a twenty foot pole on fantasy baseball teams.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/8/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: A first glance at King Felix’s numbers could easily give the impression that 2011 was a down year for the still-young pitcher. After winning the AL Cy Young in 2010, he wasn’t even in the conversation in 2011, as his ERA jumped more than a full number (from 2.27 to 3.47). Beneath the surface, though, Hernandez was a model of consistency: his FIP and xFIP were almost exactly the same as his record-setting year, and his peripherals (outside a worrying drop in ground-ball rate) held fairly steady. The most important statistic when it comes to Felix, however, is 240: that’s the number of innings he’s averaged the last three seasons, second only to Roy Halladay. For every maturing pitcher, there are two forces acting at once: he hones his control and command of his pitches as the miles per hour slips away from his fastball. Felix is no different in that respect. He’s lost a couple of ticks, but the strikeout rate improved for the fourth straight year along with his changeup. Expect nothing different from the King in 2012: 230 innings, 220 strikeouts, and a quarter of the Mariners’ 60 wins. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Felix may have lost a couple of ticks on his fastball, and yet his strikeout rate improved for the fourth straight year along with his changeup. Expect nothing different from the King in 2012: 230 innings, 220 strikeouts, and a quarter of the Mariners’ 60 wins.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/31/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Herrera, 22, blazed across — count ‘em — four levels in 2011, from High-A all the way to the majors, putting up video game digits along the way, including a 1.60 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. In his first season as a full-time reliever, he also saved 14 games. Even if Herrera starts 2012 in Triple-A, this future setup man should eventually fit right in with the Royals’ new approach to building a bullpen: young and relentless. (Jason Catania)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/15/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: “We’ve found what Luke’s problem is, and now it’s fixed and he’s going to be awesome.” — The Royals, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. That’s a bit harsh, but it also rings true. Since being selected first overall in the 2006 draft, Luke Hochevar has not exactly lit world on fire. He has shown flashes, but that is about it. First he was a ground-ball guy, but without many strikeouts. Then he increased the strikeouts, but the ground balls went down. Sprinkle in some injuries and a tendency toward “bad innings,” and you have a guy who is league average at best. In 2011, he kept the walks down, but the strikeout rate went down below six per nine innings. Hochevar’s FIP has been better than his ERA the last three seasons, but at this point that might be his “skill” more than a reason for optimism. Hochevar just turned 28, so time is not on his side. He is worth a flyer, but don’t expect much. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: Hochevar might be a league average starter if things break just right, but don’t get fooled by his now-annual “he’s fixed” second-half performance. Worth a pick, but a low one.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Holland enjoyed a strong season in his first full year in the Rangers rotation. Though his strikeout and walk rates were solid, yet unspectacular, his Minor League record provides some optimism that there is some additional upside. He induced an above-league-average rate of ground balls, which is important given that he calls The Ballpark at Arlington home. The most intriguing observation in Holland’s statistical profile is the spike in his average fastball velocity. It jumped 2.1 miles per hour from 2010, ranking him second among all qualified left-handed starters last year, behind only David Price. Though surprisingly this had no apparent impact on his strikeout or swinging strike rates, it does provide further reason to expect a rise in strikeout rate next season. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Holland displayed a solid mix of skills during his first full year in the Rangers rotation, posting above average strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates. A large spike in fastball velocity, along with a strong Minor League record, provides plenty of optimism for continued growth next season.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/20/1985 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Aaron Crow may have gotten the All-Star nod and Eric Hosmer the (justifiable) hype, but relief pitcher Greg Holland was arguably the Royals’ best rookie performer of 2011. Holland was never all that great in the minors until the last year or two, but he was utterly dominant in 2011. His ERA was 1.80, and that was not much better than his 2.21 FIP. His struck out more than 11 batters per nine while walking less than three. He probably can’t start given that he relies almost completely on a fastball and slider, although if Alexi Ogando and Michael Pineda can do it… well, okay, that’s probably pushing it, and the Royals have not talked about it anyway. His performance will regress, of course, but frankly, at this point he is probably the best reliever in the Royals’ impressive bullpen, even without considering age, team control, and contracts. If you are chasing saves (a questionable strategy), Joakim Soria and (probably) Jonathan Broxton are ahead of Holland in line for those. If you want the best pitcher of the group, I think it’s Holland, and only Soria is close. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: The Royals have built an impressive bullpen. But while much of the attention goes to closer Joakim Soria and new setup man Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland may be the best pitcher of all of Kansas City’s relievers.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/25/1983 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: The former Rays closer struggled after returning from major shoulder injuries in 2010, but looks like a lock for at least a high-leverage LOOGY job in 2012 with a possible chance to return to a setup role. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/14/1975 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Hudson churned out another typical season consisting of 200+ innings pitched, a handful of wins and a strong ground-ball rate. He’ll never lead the league in strikeouts (or come close), but his strikeout rate jumped to 6.61 last season — his best performance in the category since 2001. While his stats were superficially good in 2010, Hudson’s peripherals fell in line last season. He is typically able to outperform his FIP, but the numbers nearly matched up last season (3.22 ERA to 3.39 FIP) — proving that discussions of his demise were premature. He won’t rack up strikeouts, but Hudson has still got the stuff to succeed in the majors and he’s as dependable as they come. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Hudson throws 200+ innings, consistently outperforms his FIP, and typically posts a solid win total every year. Expect more of the same in 2012.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1987 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: After teasing us with an amazing performance over 79.2 innings upon his arrival in Arizona in 2010, Hudson followed up nicely during his first full season. He improved his ground-ball rate to a near league average level, while displaying sterling control. However, a declining strikeout rate is concerning, as it dropped below 7.0, over a full point below his mark in 2010. The good news is that his swinging strike rate was excellent, and suggests he deserved a better strikeout rate. A rebound here is also necessary for him to have a chance of maintaining a mid-3.00 ERA, as some good home-run luck helped him outperform his SIERA and xFIP marks. What we may see from Hudson this season is better overall skills (leading to slightly better SIERA and xFIP marks), but a relatively stagnant ERA as his luck neutralizes, offset by the increased strikeout rate. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With strikeout upside, Hudson may generate even more fantasy value than in 2011. He will need to sustain the increased ground-ball rate to make that happen though.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/22/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: David Huff made great strides in his third (partial) big league season, but considering where he was coming from, he didn’t really have anywhere to go but up. In 2010, Huff posted a 5.83 FIP in 79.2 IP, while issuing almost as many walks (34) as he did strikeouts (37), and allowing 1.58 home runs per nine innings. One year later, the 27-year-old had a 2:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and allowed just 1.07 HR/9, resulting in a 4.15 FIP — not an All-Star by any means, but a solid Major League starter. The Indians figure to start the year with Huff bringing up the rear of their rotation, and unless he falters, he should be able to stay in the rotation as long as he is healthy. In that role, he will try to continue the growth of his strikeout rate, while keeping his walks and home runs down. If he can do that, he may be able to improve on his 4.15 FIP, but an ERA of 4.00 is probably the best you can hope for. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: David Huff made a big step forward in 2011, but that step landed him a role as a decent fifth starter and little more. He won’t provide a ton of fantasy value and is not worth owning except in the deepest AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/24/1986 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: 2011 did not start out well for Phil Hughes after a promising 2010 campaign. In 2010, he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA and had a 7.5 strikeout rate with a 1.25 WHIP. In 2011, he was shut down with an arm injury after only tjhree starts. In those three starts, he saw his fastball average 89 MPH after being around 92 in the previous season. He had a 13.94 ERA, 2.23 WHIP, 2.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Not good. He returned to the Yankees in early July with a fastball near 92 MPH, and his stats over the rest of the season were 4.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 6.4 K/9. All were just a little worse than his career averages. For 2012, expect somewhat of a bounce-back season. If projections are used with him, they may need to be adjusted up a bit to take into account the three bad/injury starts at the beginning of the season. The one item I would watch like a hawk is reports of his fastball speed in Spring Training and at the start the season. He might be a useful starting-pitcher-eligible reliever next year, at worst. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Hughes looks to rebound in 2012 after an injury led to an disappointing start to the 2011 season.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/21/1982 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: For the first time in his career, Humber was allowed to start more than one Major League game and, also for the first time in his career, he looked like a pitcher who was once worth a third overall pick in the MLB draft. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but Humber did put together a strong season, built on a lowish walk rate and a batting average on balls in play of .275. Because of his lack of a Major League track record, it’s hard to know just how much that rate will rise in 2012. He does get a fair number of ground balls when he’s on his game, which bodes well for his continued success, provided the White Sox’s defense can convert them into outs. He’s worth a gamble in AL-only, especially in the relatively weak AL Central, but he’s a fringe option at best in mixed, where there is simply too much depth to take on this kind of risk. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: It may feel as though Humber has been around for a long time, but 2012 will only be his age 29 season, making him neither too young nor too old to be useful. There is some risk here, but if he’s available in the later rounds of an AL-only draft, his upside is real enough to be worth the gamble.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/3/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Tommy Hunter has to be furious. Just over a year ago, he and Nick Blackburn were both in the starting rotation for playoff teams, and Hunter’s went to the World Series! And yet here he is, struggling to hang on at the bottom of the bullpen for the pathetic Baltimore Orioles. No, it isn’t fair, Tommy — some terrible starting pitchers get to hold on to their jobs for no reason, some get shipped out of town. Neither have any fantasy value. Well, maybe if Terry Ryan chose the categories for your fantasy league and it was an “all Twins and Orioles” league or something like that. Just be glad that Hunter’s former Texas teammate Matt Harrison had a good 2011, which let us all know that they are actually two separate people. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: If you are in a league deep enough to be reading Tommy Hunter’s fantasy profile, you have somehow achieved the extremely rare distinction of being Too Much of a Nerd to Read FanGraphs.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 9/7/1972 | Position: RP|
Profile: It was a nice comeback season for Isringhausen, who pitched a significant number of innings for the first time since 2008. While his 8.49 strikeout rate was acceptable, his 4.63 walk rate limits his ceiling. Isringhausen carries the valued role of “proven closer” as evidenced by his 300 career saves. If he catches on with a team, he might have a chance to pick up save opportunities just based on his past success in the role. That’s basically what happened last year. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: He had a nice comeback season, but the only reason he’ll receive a prominent bullpen role is his reputation. The “proven closer” tag makes Isringhausen a sneaky candidate to pick up saves in the right situation, but things would have to go to hell for a team to move him to the role.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983 | Position: SP|
Profile: Jackson compiled his best peripheral season of his career in 2011, with a career high 2.4 strikeouts per walk and a 0.72 home run rate which bested all his previous efforts as a full-time starter. It’s difficult to tell if anything has actually changed with Jackson, though — his depressed walk rate was met with a similar drop in strikeout rate and his ground-ball rate fell back to earth a bit as well. Jackson continues to look like a good middle-of-the-rotation guy but not the pitcher with ace potential which teams constantly seem to trade for. Jackson will look to actually lock in a team for the future in 2012, and on a particularly good team he’ll make a good fantasy pitcher purely on the basis of adding wins to his otherwise average or better profile, but he remains nothing overly special. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Jackson continued to bounce around in 2011, and although he’ll sign his first free agent contract in 2012, don’t expect much of a step forward. He remains a middle of the rotation starter on a good team.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/22/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Jakubauskas is somewhat interesting in very deep dynasty leagues if you need a spot start and he’s facing the Mariners in Seattle. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/30/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: No pitcher in baseball was more likely to strike a batter out than Jansen in 2011 (minimum 40 innings pitched), who whiffed 96 of the 218 hitters who stepped in the box to face him (44.0%). The hard-throwing former catcher returned from shoulder inflammation to dominate in the second half for the Dodgers, a performance that puts him in line for eighth inning work and backup closer duties next season. Jansen is still trying to figure out his control (career 4.57 walks per nine) and is an extreme fly ball pitcher (29.4% grounders in his career), so he’s always going to be a little homer prone and struggle to keep his WHIP down without some balls in play luck. There’s some serious potential here for the Dodgers and fantasy owners, as it’s not a stretch to say that Jansen could emerge as the 2012 version of Craig Kimbrel in Chavez Ravine. Worst-case scenario, he’s a high-strikeout reliever that’s ideal for alternate scoring systems like ottoneu. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: It’s not crazy to think that Jansen could emerge as the 2012 version of Craig Kimbrel, a dominant super high strikeout reliever that overwhelms the competition and provides huge value to fantasy owners. The walks can be a little scary, but they’re not surprising given his recent conversion from catching.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/17/1981 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Casey Janssen took over for the departed Scott Downs in the Toronto bullpen in 2011, and put up the best numbers of his career, in terms of ERA, FIP and xFIP. He was downright dominant, and actually performed better against left-handed hitters than right. In 55.2 innings of work, Jannsen improved on his career-high strikeout rate of 2010, improving from 8.26 to 8.57 per nine. Janssen’s WHIP was a stellar 1.10, as he walked only 14 batters all year. There’s not a lot to dislike about Janssen: he gets batters to ground out and his homerun rate of 4.3% is to die for. If you’re looking for value out of a middle reliever, look no further than Casey Janssen, who will play an integral role out of the Toronto bullpen in 2012. If you’re like the other 90% of fantasy leagues that don’t get much value from middle relievers, just enjoy the extra ‘s’ in his last name. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Janssen’s the set-up man for new Toronto closer Sergio Santos, and is looking to make it three impressive seasons in a row out of the Blue Jays bullpen. His strikeout rate makes him a valuable reliever, and worthy of a pick in any league.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/21/1987 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Jeremy Jeffress was the “throw-in” portion of the pu-pu platter of role players the Royals received from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade. Once he made the 40-man roster, he was spared from any further embarrassing drug testing. Those who have watched him pitch could use a hit, however. He has quite the arm, which was the appeal, but absolutely no control. The Royals sent him down to the minors, where they experimented with him being a starter. Hilarity ensued. It would be a minor upset if Jeffress ever saw the majors again. (Matt Klaasen)
Quick Opinion: The only hope Jeffress has for fantasy relevance is if a bunch of relievers get hurt for the Royals and you are in a bizzaro league.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/14/1981 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Jenks was totally ineffective as a member of the Red Sox, and his status for 2012 is in question. With Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon in the fold, Jenks will be stuck with middle-relief duty to start, so don’t pick him up until he proves he can be effective. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/26/1984 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Jepsen throws hard and gets ground balls, but the Angels already have late-inning relievers in place. He could see a few holds if he comes out firing, though. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/22/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: A cursory glance at Ubaldo Jimenez’s stats and you might think he’s washed up, but despite his rather unseemly 5.10 ERA with the Indians, it’s pretty remarkable how consistent his performance has been over the last three seasons. Looking at his xFIP, he has registered at 3.59, 3.60, and 3.71 from 2009-2011. His strikeout rate in the same time span is 8.17, 8.69, and 8.60. His walk rate in the same period is 3.51, 3.74, and 3.73. The major problem in 2011 was a .314 batting average on balls in play (career .286), a miserable strand rate of 65% and a home run per fly ball rate of 9.3% (career 7.7%). One big concern is his fastball, which was down in velocity by about 2.5 MPH versus 2010, and his swinging strike rate fell to a career low 7.5%. Jimenez turns 28 in January, and it’s probably worth monitoring his fastball velocity in Spring to see if it’s any worse than it was at the end of 2011. But Jimenez is a very good pitcher, still capable of racking up big strikeouts and his ERA should trend down towards something in the 3.50 range. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Jimenez pitched far better than his 2011 ERA and record suggests, but monitor his fastball velocity in case you can sniff out an injury. His price tag should be low and he could be a great source of cheap strikeouts.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/31/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Josh Johnson entered the 2011 season as one of the top pitchers in the league. In 2010, he led the league in ERA (2.30) and home run rate (0.3). He was limited to 183 innings because of an injury to his pitching shoulder. He came back in 2011 with a vengeance. In nine starts, he had a 1.64 ERA and sub-one WHIP. In his last start, his fastball speed dropped two MPH from its norm. It was the last time he pitched in 2011. Some reports have Johnson being 100% for Spring Training, but no one knows for sure. The key evaluating him is to see him go deep into a game in Spring Training and if he misses any starts. The more he throws, the higher he should move up in drafts. If it’s available, compare his Pitch F/x data to make sure he has the same arm slot and movement as in 2010 to 2011. He has the potential to be a top-ten pitcher if he is healthy and produces like he has in past seasons. Or he could be a shell of his former self. Johnson is one the highest risk/reward picks in the draft. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Johnson is coming back from a 2011 shoulder injury and has the potential to be a top-ten starter in 2012.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/27/1983 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Hyper-effective as a reliever in three of the last four seasons, the Orioles haven’t yet decided if they’ll move Johnson into their beleaguered rotation next season. They did say they will decide before the start of camp rather than risk having the righty change roles in the middle of Spring Training, but that doesn’t help up right now. As a low walk (career 2.83 walks per nine), high ground ball (61.5% grounders in 2011, 56.5% career) righty, Johnson figures to have an easier transition to starting than most guys, but he hasn’t started a game since Triple-A in 2007. There will continue to be that element of the unknown until we actually see him out there. If he stays in the bullpen, he’s almost certain to take over for Kevin Gregg as the closer, which he did late in 2011. Johnson isn’t the best fantasy reliever candidate because he doesn’t strike many out (career 5.79 per nine), but he’s dominant in the ERA and WHIP categories. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: It’s unclear if Johnson will start or relieve next year, but he’ll be most valuable to fantasy owners by remaining in the bullpen and taking the closer’s job from Kevin Gregg.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/29/1986 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: When he was healthy, Jurrjens performed pretty well in spite of a pedestrian 5.33 strikeout rate. For the second time in three seasons, Jurrjens posted a sub-three ERA despite peripherals suggesting he was due for a decline. Much like his poor 2010, injuries derailed Jurrjens last season. A poor stretch starting in late July — in which he posted just two quality starts in seven attempts — eventually led to him being shut down for the season. The injury remains a concern, as teams have been hesitant to trade for Jurrjens due to concerns about his knee. He’s pitched over his head when healthy, but now it’s unclear how healthy he’ll be once the season starts. Tread with caution. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Due to low ERAs, Jurrjens is likely to be overrated in most fantasy leagues. His poor strikeout rate, combined with concerns about his knee injury, make him a risky bet to repeat last seasons’ numbers.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/24/1982 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Karstens has improved steadily since an abysmal 2009, making concerted gains in most of the traditional categories and rounding into form as a playable fantasy asset. As with many players, the lack of consistent strikeouts makes him a untrustworthy asset. Put another way, 2011 was the first full season his ERA was lower than his FIP; if he can do that again, he’s a decent end-of-the-draft sleeper option. If his batting average on balls in play, which has always been below league average, suddenly regresses, he becomes a danger to the rate categories without adding much in the way of strikeouts or wins — unless the Pirates add another big bat between now and Opening Day. Given the choice, former teammate Paul Maholm is probably the better option, but they are extremely similar pitchers. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: 2011 was a solid year for Karstens and the first time he’s been on fantasy radars as anything more than a prospect to watch. His batting average on balls in play should rise from where it was in 2011, but the height to which it rises will determine whether or not he’s playable again in 2012.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/26/1984 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Kendrick pitches for a great team in a hitters’ ballpark, striking out too few hitters (career 4.14 per nine) to be very useful in most fantasy formats. He’s a pitch-to-contact hurler who managed to have a tidy little ERA in 2011 of 3.22, but the ERA predictors sniff that out pretty well (4.55 FIP) and he’s probably better left to your opponents to take a flyer on. Even if Kendrick were able to provide you with 180 innings, he probably wouldn’t generate many more than 85 strikeouts and his win totals, WHIP, and ERA won’t impress enough to put up with it. Kendrick could be useful in deeper leagues or league-specific formats, but otherwise, he’s an emergency option or spot starter. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: We know enough about Kendrick’s repertoire and skill set to know he’s not likely to break out in any meaningful way. He’s a fringe starter in standard leagues and he’s mostly a play for cheap wins on the road in spot starts in deeper formats.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/19/1984 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: In his second season with the Diamondbacks, Kennedy enjoyed a breakout performance that resulted in a fourth place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. Though he displayed some strong skills, such as an 8.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, he is a fly ball pitcher in a home ballpark that inflates home runs. Kennedy certainly pitched well –- his SIERA and xFIP marks were 3.44 and 3.50, respectively -– but he relied on a heaping of luck to post a sub-3.00 ERA. That 79.2% LOB% is going to come down, while the 7.7% HR/FB is going to jump. His .270 BABIP may also rise a bit, but his fly ball profile and history of low BABIP marks suggest it will remain below the league average. Along with the artificially low ERA, the shiny win total will also likely cause him to be overvalued in fantasy leagues. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Kennedy pitched real well last season, but his ERA and win total gives the faulty perception that he can be a fantasy team’s ace. Those expectations may be too high, so don’t overpay.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/19/1988 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: It all came together for the 23-year-old last season. Kershaw’s walk rate dropped to 2.08, yet he maintained his excellent 9.58 strikeout rate. He’s also becoming one of the most dependable starters in baseball, making 30+ starts and increasing his workload over the past three seasons. In a previous life, Kershaw’s curveball was referred to as “public enemy number one,” but his slider was his best weapon last season. It will be tough for Kershaw to improve on his 2.28 ERA, but his 2.47 FIP suggests that he’s capable of similar success in the future. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll be one of the best pitchers in fantasy baseball next season. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Armed with the best slider in baseball, Kershaw absolutely dominated the competition last season. He’s still just 24 — and while it will be tough to improve any more — he should be one of the best starters in baseball for the foreseeable future.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/28/1988 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Kimbrel went from hotshot rookie to the best reliever in baseball last season, regardless of whether your you’re talking fantasy value or real life value. His long track record of missing bats resulted in a Marmolian 14.84 strikeout rate, and he was so tough to hit that his WHIP (1.04) nearly ducked under 1.00 despite a pretty unimpressive 3.74 walk rate. The concern here is Kimbrel’s 2011 workload, as Fredi Gonzalez wore him out in the first half and saw him fade in September. Kimbrel appeared in 79 games (second most in MLB) and threw 77 innings (ninth most) last season, which is the biggest workload of his career. He’s young (23), so there’s a chance he’ll just shake off all that work during the winter, but there’s also a chance that the workload has a carryover affect in 2012 and impacts his performance. Value him as a top closer because he is one, but Kimbrel isn’t exactly risk free. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: A heavy 2011 workload is the only thing you reason you have to worry about the super-high strikeout Kimbrel, though that’s a pretty significant concern. He’s an elite closer but also not the surest of bets given the way he faded down the stretch last year under all those innings and appearances.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/23/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: Kuo battled elbow injuries and a second bout with social anxiety disorder in 2011 and was ineffective as a result. Control was a real issue, with a 7.67 walk rate and a 1.33 home run rate. Kuo is now on the free agent market for the first time, having spent his entire career to date with the Dodgers. (Wendy Thurm)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/10/1975 | Position: SP|
Profile: Besides a few injuries, Hiroki Kuroda has been a fairly consistent starter since signing with the Dodgers. He generally has seven strikeouts and two walks per nine innings. The biggest concern for him from 2011 was the higher home run rate (1.1 from 2011 vs. .8 in his career). The main cause was a drop in ground-ball rate from 51% to 43%. This eight percentage point drop can be attributed to using his sinker seven percentage points less often. With Kuroda signing with the Yankees, his fantasy value will probably take quite a hit. A tougher stadium (Yankee vs. Dodger stadiums), facing the DH in the American League and an unbalanced schedule (vs. AL East), will lead to dents in his ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. The key for his value will be if he can add enough wins to offset the increase in value of the other three stats. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: This often under-rated pitcher may now be over-rated suddenly. Ending up in Yankee stadium and in the American League for the first time at 37 years old is not a recipe for great fantasy value.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/23/1978 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Lackey is going to miss the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing (right) elbow, so he’ll have no value unless you play in a dynasty league with plenty of DL spots. If you do, Lackey makes an interesting pickup. The 33-year-old got hit around in 2011, but his strike and walk rates remained respectable. With the way he was often smashed, there’s a good chance Lackey may never again live up to his FIP numbers, but he’s worth stashing in the hopes that TJ surgery will fix part of what ails him. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Lackey will be out for the entirety of the 2012 season, but he’s an interesting stash in dynasty leagues with plenty of DL spots.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985 | Position: RP|
Profile: Laffey is a left-handed reliever without a whole lot of talent. Have fun drafting him. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/27/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: The lefty had a nice bounce-back season for the Nats, posting the lowest ERA of his career after a weak performance in 2010. However, his skill set is far from exciting. Though he has never induced ground balls at a level below 50%, he only has mediocre control and a poor strikeout rate. His fate is really in the hands of the defense, which luckily has been there for the most part to bail him out. Lannan has outperformed his SIERA every year of his career, except in 2010, when he nearly matched it. Much of that outperformance is due to a career .286 batting average on balls in play and a nearly 73% strand rate. With his low BABIP years coming back in 2007-2009, his luck may have run out, and he is left with little to fall back on. Even in NL-Only leagues, the upside is simply too low to be worth even a minimal bid. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: The left-handed ground ball specialist has gotten by on better-than-league-average batting averages on balls in play and strand rates, despite weak peripherals. With a terrible strikeout rate, he is a poor risk even in NL-Only leagues given his low ceiling.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/9/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Latos hit an early season speed bump (shoulder inflammation) as he tried to follow up his breakout 2010 campaign, but he again had a strong season despite ever so slight declines in strikeout (9.21 to 8.57), walk (2.44 to 2.87), and ground ball (44.7% to 42.8%) rates. Latos, still just 24, is now moving out of spacious Petco Park and into the hitter friendly Great American Ballpark, so it will take a minor miracle for him not to see a spike in his ERA (3.47 in 2011) and WHIP (1.18). On the other hand, being on a better club should help get him back into double-digit wins territory. Latos is one of the very best young pitchers in game and could establish himself as one of baseball’s truly elite in 2012, but the ballpark change will absolutely hurt going forward. Count on him for strikeouts and wins, but adjust your ERA and WHIP expectations accordingly. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: There aren’t many young pitchers in the game more exciting than Latos, but moving out of Petco Park and into the Great American Ballpark will hurt his fantasy value. Expect lots of strikeouts and double-digit wins, but ERA and WHIP projections are going to have to be adjusted upwards.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/16/1983 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: When David Aardsma’s oblique landed him on the disabled list to open the season, League stepped right into the ninth inning with his sinker-slider mix. When Aardsma tore his elbow ligament and needed Tommy John surgery, League got the job for good and wound up saving the third most games in the American League (37). His strikeout rate is generally underwhelming (6.60 strikeouts per nine in 2011, 6.70 career), but he does have one 9+ K/9 season to his credit (9.16 K/9 in 2009) and has generated more than 10% swings and misses in each of the last three years. He cut his walk rate basically in half last season (1.47 BB/9 in 2011 after 3.08 in 2010), and all of his ground balls (61.3% career) are in good hands with the Mariners’ infield defense. As a very good closer on a non-contending team heading into free agency, League is a prime candidate for a midseason trade in 2012. His save chances could vanish at a moment’s notice this summer. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: League doesn’t figure to offer much in the strikeout department, but he’s a safe bet for a low ERA and save chances as long as he remains in Seattle. He’s going to be a free agent after the season, making him a prime candidate to be traded at some point during the summer.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/12/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Teams used to rush players up to the show all the time; at one point, in the mid-seventies, Gaylord Perry was the only member of the Texas Rangers old enough to rent a car. They don’t do this anymore because the whole idea is kind of dumb. Instead of working on secondary pitches and earning poise, these overmatched rookies end up getting punished for every single mistake pitch they throw, stunting their growth. Leake is frustrating because of the lack of Minor League data; basically, we know that he’s somewhere between Jim Abbott and Mike Morgan, and neither player is an inviting comparison. The trouble with Leake is that as far as sleepers go, he’s basically an inside straight draw. The park, his size, his arm strength, and his lack of experience are all strikes against him. Anyone who drafts him is basically banking on his ability to scatter his hits and walks to the degree that he becomes a league-average pitcher. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: The trouble with Leake is that as far as sleepers go, he’s basically an inside straight draw. The park, his size, his arm strength, and his lack of experience are all strikes against him. Anyone who drafts him is basically banking on his ability to scatter his hits and walks to the degree that he becomes a league-average pitcher.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/7/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Any time a pitcher gets traded out of San Diego, his value is likely to drop, but LeBlanc just may be the exception to that rule. In 2011, he featured a minimal home-road split, with a 3.97 FIP at Petco and a 3.99 FIP away from home. In addition, he is moving to a new ballpark in Miami and while it is difficult to predict how a new park will play, the measurements in Miami suggest that stadium will be pitcher-friendly. LeBlanc, however, needs to bring up his strikeout rate (6.29 per nine in his Major League career) if he is going to carry much fantasy value. If his new home park helps him out as much as his old park did, LeBlanc should post an ERA around 4.00, but there is some risk involved with a starter moving out of San Diego, and he isn’t going to provide much value in the counting stats. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The new stadium in Miami will have a big effect on LeBlanc’s value. He needed PetCo to have any shot at real fantasy value, and barely had any while pitching there — if Miami isn’t a significant pitchers’ park, LeBlanc will be unownable.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/4/1984 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: With the exception of four starts, all of LeCure’s 43 appearances in 2011 were from the bullpen, where he was able to face a few more righties, add a couple miles per hour across the board, and increase his effectiveness (88 xFIP-). Fantasy value in standard leagues is limited by role. Owner of world-class mustache. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/30/1978 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: 2008 seems like a long time ago. Lee’s cosmetically brilliant comeback season, when he went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA, was certainly unexpected. What was more expected was that he’d keep it up. Lee’s 2011 season was in many ways his finest, setting career highs in a number of categories. The move to Citizen’s Bank Park wasn’t the detriment many expected, as Lee was so unhittable (7.6 hits per nine) that the park effect had no chance to take effect. Four years later, Cliff Lee is one of the safest picks out there. In 2010 he strained an oblique and missed the first month of the season, and yet he still threw 210 innings. Whether you draft Lee or not will depend on whether you draft top-tier starting pitching at all. He comes with all the caveats and inconsistencies that any starter will bring, but as far as pitchers go, he’s elite. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Four years later, Cliff Lee is one of the safest picks out there. Whether you draft Lee or not will depend on whether you draft starting pitching at all. He comes with all the caveats and inconsistencies that any starter will bring, but as far as pitchers go, he’s elite.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/7/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite continuing to post great fantasy numbers, Lester took a step backwards in 2011. The 28-year-old lefty had problems getting hitters to swing and miss, but he still managed to fan almost 23% of the batters he faced while maintaining a stellar ground-ball rate. Don’t let Fenway or the AL East scare you off; if Lester can regain his previous form — perhaps by cutting his walks back to 2008-2009 levels — he’s a top-five fantasy starter. Even if he continues to walk a few more than the average baller, he’ll still be a top-24 starter on a good team. He’s a back-end ace with perennial Cy Young upside. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Lester took a step back in 2011, but in a testament to his skill, the left-hander still posted great fantasy numbers. If he can bounce back, he’ll be a top-5 starter once again.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/2/1979 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Lewis opened the season missing some velocity over his first three starts, but that recovered somewhat over the rest of the year. After returning from Japan and making a strong debut for the Rangers in 2010, Lewis endured a bumpy 2011 season as his strikeout rate declined by more than a full point and his fly ball rate jumped even higher. The loss of fastball velocity likely contributed to his strikeout ratedecline and led to a lower swinging strike rate as well. On the positive side, his already good control improved further, fully supported by an excellent first strike percentage. The good news is that according to SIERA, Lewis was rather unlucky last year, so his ERA should drop, even without a rebound in strikeout rate. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Lewis was rather disappointing last year as a drop in fastball velocity led to a decline in strikeout rate. However, his SIERA suggests he suffered from some bad luck, so if his velocity rebounds, he could rebound.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/23/1976 | Position: RP|
Profile: Years of throwing slider after slider have finally caught up to the 35-year-old Lidge, who’s been on the disabled list with arm problems three times in the last two seasons. He was unsurprisingly mediocre after coming back in the second half this past season, walking 13 in 19.1 IP. In fact, if you go back to the start of the 2009 season, Lidge has walked 71 batters in 123.2 IP (5.17 walks per nine) though he always managed to limit the damage with a high strikeout rate (9.90 per nine). Now with the Nationals, Lidge is pretty far removed from a closer’s job. Without the guarantee of save opportunities, he’s not worth targeting on draft day given his injury problems and underwhelming performance in recent years. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The health of Lidge’s arm is a serious question mark, but his days as an elite closer are over. He might grab save chances if he catches on with a non-contender, but otherwise it’s fine to take him off your board.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/4/1976 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: The 36-year-old Ted Lilly is entering his 14th major league season. Over the past three seasons, his strikeout (7.7, 7,7, 7.4) and walk rates (1.8, 2.0, 2.4) have been relatively constant. Walks and strikeouts aren’t his real problem, giving up home runs is his issue. He has averaged 1.35 home runs per nine over his career which is consistent with what he has done in the last few years (1.12, 1.49, 1.31). To put it in perspective, looking at all pitchers that pitched over 500 inning since 2008, he has the fifth-highest total at 1.34 HR/9. His fly ball tendencies have helped him suppress his batting average on balls in play (.270 career value) and therefore allows him to have a decent WHIP (1.25). One problem with Lilly recently is that he has missed significant time in both 2009 (34 games) and 2010 (17 games) due to shoulder issues. If a pitcher with double-digit wins, 180ish strikeouts, a 3.75 ERA, and a 1.25 WHIP is valuable in your league, feel free to pick up Lilly. Just understand that there is probably more injury risk with him because of his age and past injury history. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Lilly is a fly ball pitcher that lives and dies off the home run. He is fairly consistent, but recently injuries have become more of concern.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/15/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: In yet another example of how bad wins and losses as a pitcher statistic are, Lincecum actually finished with a sub-.500 record despite posting a 2.74 ERA. Lincecum’s star has dimmed just a bit over the last two seasons as his SIERA/xFIP marks have risen each year since 2009. His strikeout rate has no dropped for three consecutive years, while his walk rate has increased for two. The good news is he regained the lost velocity on his fastball that he suffered in 2010, though that didn’t help his strikeout rate or his swinging strike percentage. Now sitting in the 92.0 mile per hour range with his fastball, versus 94.0 back in 2007 and 2008, it is unlikely he returns to the 10.0+ strikeout rate level. That said, he should continue to strike out over a batter per inning, while displaying league average control and inducing grounders at an above average clip. Still an ace. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Lincecum has lost a bit of luster over the past two seasons, but he still has a strong skill set. With a sub-.500 record in 2011 leading to overshadowing by the Clayton Kershaws and Roy Halladays of the world, he may be undervalued in 2012 drafts.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/25/1985 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Lincoln’s season got off to an ominous start –- he took a line drive to his forearm off Jimmy Rollins’ bat in Spring Training –- but he came back to pitch well at Triple-A Indianapolis and finish the season in the Pirates’ starting rotation. The fourth overall pick in the ’06 draft had a superb 94-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.02 FIP in the minors, and he at least held his own in Pittsburgh after a Bullington-esque debut in 2010. Lincoln had 5.5 strikeouts per nine, 3 walks per nine, 0.8 home runs per nine and a 4.03 FIP in a little less than 50 MLB frames. He’s not going to overpower hitters with a fastball that parks at 91-92 MPH and an average curveball and changeup, though happily he kept his pitches down and increased his ground-ball rate from 37 percent to 52 percent. With Charlie Morton recovering from hip surgery, a spot at the back end of the Bucs’ rotation is Lincoln’s if he avoids getting Charlie Brown’d again this spring. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: The 26-year-old righty has a low ceiling and won’t get many strikeouts, but he throws strikes and shouldn’t have home run issues pitching lower in the zone in power-crimping PNC Park. Best-case scenario, think Tim Stauffer.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/15/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: The Dodgers love them some big, hard-throwing righty relievers, huh? Lindblom (6’5”, 240) follows in the line of Gagne to Broxton to Jansen as he enters 2012 with a good chance to be the club’s seventh-inning man by Opening Day. A former starter, the 2008 second-rounder looked solid enough in his 27-game debut (2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.5 strikeouts per nine) that he should be a decent whiffs/holds staff-filler in NL-only leagues. (Jason Catania)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/11/1980 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Another effective piece of the Rockies’ deep bullpen, Matt Lindstrom only holds value in leagues that count holds. In Colorado, it was a good news/bad news kind of season, with the good — lowered walk and home run rates, improved strikeouts per walk — outweighing the bad — lowered strikeout rate. Lindstrom threw just as hard as he always did, but did battle an arm injury in the second half, which limited his workload. On a superficial level, Lindstrom posted the best ERA and WHIP of his career, but his xFIP- was essentially identical to his 2010 mark. He probably isn’t in line for saves even if Rafael Betancourt gets hurt, so he’s waiver wire material at best. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Lindstrom was effective in his first season a mile high, but since he isn’t in line for many save opportunities, he holds value only in holds leagues.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/4/1976 | Position: RP|
Profile: Long removed from his days as an elite setup man, Linebrink is a middling homer-prone middle reliever that belongs on no one’s fantasy roster in 2012. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/26/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: One year after making a run at the AL Cy Young Award, Liriano was back to being an injury-prone enigma in 2011. Shoulder ailments landed him on the disabled list on two occasions, and when he was on the mound he pitched to a 5.09 ERA and a 4.54 FIP in 134.1 IP. The strikeouts dropped (career-low 7.50 per nine), the walks rose (career-high 5.02 walks per nine), and the runs kept crossing the plate as his defense didn’t really help him out any (67.2% strand rate). Liriano is one of those guys who uses a high percentage of sliders (like Brad Lidge and Brett Anderson), which seems to take a toll on the arm more than any other single pitch. With low expectations and free agency approaching, Liriano will be undervalued on draft day, and there aren’t many better arms to roll the dice on in the late rounds of a draft since he isn’t that far off from his Cy Young caliber campaign. If the Twins don’t contend, he’s a prime midseason trade candidate, which could impact his fantasy value. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Liriano is an enigma, but he’s also likely to be undervalued on draft day. He’s just one year removed from a Cy Young caliber season, and it’s primarily a question about health. With free agency coming, Liriano could be trade bait at midseason.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/9/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Jesse Litsch began 2011 in the Toronto Blue Jays rotation, and, after a couple of demotions to Triple-A Las Vegas, ended the season in the Toronto bullpen, where he might have just found a home. Litsch, another Toronto pitcher that will never overpower hitters, induces ground balls at around a league average rate, and, in 2011, in 75 innings, his most since 2008, set a new career-high with a 7.92 strikeout rate. Post-All Star break, Litsch found solace in the Toronto bullpen, striking out 30 batters in 28.2 innings. As a situational righty out of the bullpen for John Farrell, Litsch has value, and, in turn, limited fantasy value. Like I always say, middle relievers will never make you happy. But you could do worse than Litsch, that’s for sure. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: After moving to the bullpen for good, Litsch may have found a home as a situational righty in Toronto in 2012. It’s unlikely, however, that he’ll throw enough innings to warrant your drafting him.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/10/1981 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Loe should see heavy use in the middle innings, particularly against right-handed batters. His sharp breaking pitches lose their deceptiveness against lefties, however, and that will keep him out of higher leverage innings. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 4/9/1984 | Position: P|
Profile: After Adam Loewen’s promising pitching career was ended by injury in 2008, he did what all rational baseball players would do: became a hitter. And Loewen’s long journey through the minors — a lesson in perseverance, no doubt — was complete in 2011, when he was made a September call-up by the Toronto Blue Jays. Thanks to an elevated .382 batting average on balls in play, Loewen excelled in Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League. But he was unable to translate that success at the Major League level, hitting only .188 in 14 games and 32 at-bats with the Blue Jays. A free agent, Loewen signed a Minor League deal with the New York Mets, where he’ll compete for a spot on the bench in Queens as a bat off the bench. A great baseball story? Yes, absolutely, one-hundred percent. A great fantasy baseball story? No. Never. On a Minor League contract, and fighting for a fifth-outfielder’s job, it’s unlikely Loewen gets enough at-bats to warrant consideration in any league. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: A testament to his perseverance and pure baseball talent, former pitcher Loewen made it to the majors as a hitter in 2011, a September call-up with the Blue Jays. His is a great story, no doubt, but Loewen won’t see enough Major League at-bats to merit fantasy consideration.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/13/1984 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: A hard-throwing lefty by trade, Logan took a number of steps forward in 2011. For one, his WHIP of 1.34 was by far the best mark he’d posted as a big leaguer. He also fanned more than a hitter per inning, and kept the longball and walk relatively in check. He’s not mentioned as one of the better middle relievers around, but he’s been pretty darn good for two years running. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: At best, Logan will be fourth or fifth in line in a deep and established Yankees pen. There are better options.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 10/4/1978 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Lohse continues to be an incredibly volatile pitcher. He was healthy for much of 2011 and was excellent in 30 starts, recording a 3.39 ERA and 3.67 FIP after a year of merely 18 starts, a 6.55 ERA and a 4.42 FIP in 2010. He wasn’t a particularly different pitcher either year based on peripherals, and although 2011 shows he’s capable of good results, he shouldn’t be relied on for them – look for him to be much closer to average than either the elite or horrible he’s showed the past two seasons. And now he’s in a competition with Jake Westbrook for the final spot in the rotation, further decimating his fantasy status. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Lohse was effective when healthy but struggled to stay on the field. He remains a frustratingly inconsistent pitcher.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 12/14/1975 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Acquired by the Cubs midseason when half the rotation went on the DL, Rodrigo Lopez pitched a shade under 100 innings in 2011 after finishing 200 in the previous year. He’s not had an ERA under 4.00 since 2004 and his FIP in 2011 was north of 5.00. However, his time in the minors was impressive (2.96 FIP), and he’s bound to find a spring invite and a long-man, rotation depth spot somewhere — despite being 36 years old. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Lopez, a free agent following his down 2011 season, should find a spring training invite somewhere, but his fantasy value could hardly be lower than it is now.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/19/1983 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: Now that last season’s closer, Mark Melancon, is no longer with the team, there are saves to be had in Houston. Lopez was the Astros’ second-best reliever last year and could end up with the inside track for the closing job, unless someone else really acquits themselves well in spring training. With a strikeout rate below eight per nine, if Lopez doesn’t end up getting saves, he doesn’t have much value unless your league counts holds, in which case he’s an uninspiring but useful option. If you’re mining the middle relief corps for hidden gems, Lopez probably isn’t your best option. If he ends up as the team’s closer, you could do worse if you’re in need of saves. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Unless he beats out Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter and gets the lion’s share of the save opportunities, Lopez simply doesn’t have much value. His rate stats aren’t good enough for him not to add consistent saves or holds and still be worth a roster spot.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 7/11/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Lopez will be in his age-35 season in 2012. Like Affeldt, Lopez is most effective as a LOOGY, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy uses him against both righties and lefties. The difference is extreme: his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties was 2.78; against righties it was .88. Expect more of the same in 2012. (Wendy Thurm)
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 6/1/1973 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Like his former Braves teammate Tim Hudson; Lowe is durable, posts mediocre strikeout rates and relies heavily on his defense in order to succeed. Problem is, he’s just not as good as Hudson. While Lowe’s 3.70 FIP indicates he’s due to improve in 2012, he’s moving to a tougher league and playing on a team with a porous infield defense. His walk rate also jumped a bit last season, adding more cause for concern since Lowe’s approach already leads to a ton of hits. His ERA might see a slight improvement next season, but there are a lot of factors working against him as well. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Lowe has been durable and consistent over his career, but he’s just an average fantasy option. A move to the American League — and to a troublesome defense infield — will limit his improvement this season.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/4/1985 | Team: Padres | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Here’s a candidate for breakout player of the year last season. Luebke emerged as a valuable starter for the Padres last season, striking out 9.92 batters per nine innings while posting a solid walk rate. He’s a fly ball pitcher, but that shouldn’t be a problem in Petco. His ERA may have been higher on the road, but his road FIP was just 3.17, so he’ll succeed anywhere. There’s a decent chance he’ll be the Padres best starter this season. The time to buy is now, even if the move back to the rotation will mute some of his numbers. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Luebke broke out last season, and should build on that success this season. He’ll post a strong strikeout rate, limit walks and benefit from one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. What’s not to like.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/19/1990 | Team: Astros | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Lyles was clearly rushed to the majors last season, and it showed. He struggled in his first taste against Major League hitters, who pounded him for a 1.34 home runs per nine last season. While his other breaking pitches need refinement, his change-up fooled Major League hitters last season — a promising sign going forward. The Astros wisely realized that Lyles was over his head last season, eventually sending him back to Triple-A to finish out the season. He is still just 21-years-old, and there’s a decent chance he becomes the Astros first legitimate home-grown pitching prospect since Roy Oswalt, but he still needs some seasoning in the minors. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Lyles probably wasn’t ready for the majors last season, and his struggles should be taken with a grain of salt. He’s still a solid bet to be a strong starter for the Astros going forward, but he needs more time in the minors.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/12/1987 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Lynn may have been a starter all through the minors, but the Cardinals currently have five existing starters and Lynn acquitted himself well as a reliever during the end of the 2011 season. With the crowd at the end of the starting rotation, it’s most likely that Lynn remains in the bullpen, where he should compile a decent number of strikeouts and holds behind Jason Motte. (Dan Wade)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/10/1979 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: Lyon’s disaster 2011 season (11.48 ERA, 7.15 FIP, 2.40 WHIP) was mercifully cut short by major shoulder problems, including a torn labrum and biceps tendon. The 32-year-old is tentatively scheduled to be ready for the start of the season, but if he loses any more of his already fringy stuff, he’ll be completely unrosterable. Even when healthy, Lyon was a low-strikeout (hasn’t topped 7.00 strikeouts per nine since 2003) reliever that was becoming more and more prone to walks in his early-30’s. He’s also been homer prone for most of his career, and Minute Maid Park won’t be forgiving in that department. Lyon is owed a bunch of money and could win the Astros’ closer job almost by default, but he would be the riskiest ninth inning guy in the league. Proceed with extreme caution. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Lyon could get the Astros’ closer job by default because he’s a Proven Veteran and will be paid a ton of money, but major shoulder surgery could further sap his already fringy stuff. Be very careful, the blowup potential is huge.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 3/5/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: The well-traveled righty reliever enjoyed a bit of a renaissance season last year improving everywhere from ERA to FIP to strikeout-to-walk ratio, so perhaps the 35 year old is like a fine wine, getting better with age. Of course, he’s completely injury-prone so another full year of good health remains suspect at best which means that fine wine could be vinegar by the end of 2012. (Howard Bender)
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/28/1980 | Position: RP|
Profile: Ryan Madson entered 2011 with a good deal of question marks relative to his ability to close out games, and by the end of the season, he was one of the best stoppers in baseball, posting a 2.37 ERA (2.25 FIP), 1.15 WHIP, and a terrific 9.20 strikeout rate over his 60 innings. Madson was nearly perfect in save chances, nailing down 32 of 34 opportunities, doing it in large part by keeping the ball in the yard (3.7% home run per fly ball rate) and keeping the ball on the ground (48.8% ground-ball rate) utilizing his 94 MPH fastball and one of the best change-ups in the game. His move to Great American Ballpark won’t help maintain that minuscule home run rate, but if Madson is capable of success at Citizen’s Bank Park, pitching in a bandbox should feel pretty familiar. At 31 years of age, Madson isn’t a spring chicken — but for 2012, if he’s not in the top tier of closers, he’s certainly sniffing it. This is the second consecutive season that Madson has dominated in a late inning role, and there’s not much to point to which would suggest a decline. Draft him with confidence. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Madson has shut down opponents for two years straight and with a one year deal in Cincinnati, he’s pitching for his next big contract. Expect big things.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/6/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: A college reliever who failed in an attempt to convert into a starter, Magnuson is about as uninteresting a fringe relief prospect as you can find. In 2010 his walk rate dropped to 1.23, which gave him potential in a Carl Pavano kind of way, but he reverted in 2011. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/25/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: Maholm is now a Cub. The lefty pitched far better than his 6-14 record might indicate, with an ERA under four and a WHIP under 1.30, which makes him a reasonably compelling candidate for the back end of a real-life rotation, but an iffy option in fantasy. He gives up far too many line drives, but at least the home run issues he had earlier in his career seem to be largely under control. If he could get his strikeout rate up into the seven-per-nine range, he’d be a really compelling sleeper. Unfortunately, Maholm has never been close to that mark, striking out six per nine just once in his career. He’s a deep NL-only option at best. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: His low strikeout rate means that Maholm needs the Cubs defense to be decent behind him, but that offense won’t win him many games anyway. He’s a deep leaguer at best.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/14/1981 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Marcum’s struggles in September and October will dominate the minds of many come draft day, but it should be similarly tough to overlook what he did in the season’s first few months. Taken as a whole, Marcum was much the same pitcher as he had been in Toronto – a solid ERA in the mid-3.00s, a moderate but unimpressive strikeout rate, and double-digit victories. Marcum is pretty clearly behind Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke in the Brewers rotation right now, but he should be counted on for numbers befitting an above-average mid-rotation pitcher. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Marcum sputtered badly down the stretch but was arguably Milwaukee’s best pitcher in the first half. Injuries have been a problem, but he should be able to recover and use his changeup to dominate hitters over about 170 innings.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/14/1982 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Sometimes elite, sometimes erratic, Carlos Marmol (29 years old) is, on average, above average. His career 3.70ish FIP does not tell the true story of how elite Marmol can be (2.01 FIP in 2010) and how troubling he has been (4.06 FIP in 2009). It’s anyone’s guess which Marmol will show up in 2012, but he can be penciled in for 30 saves pretty easily because his age and contract necessitate he will be the closer unless forced elsewhere by outstandingly poor performance. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Pencil him in for 30+ saves, but do not bother writing down the ERA or FIP until after the season.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/21/1978 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Over the last three years, the Long Island native has recast himself as a control-and-ground-ball pitcher, and it was probably a good idea to do so. He never got the swinging strikes to be the strikeout guy he tried to be early in his career. Even recently, his control has never been elite, and along with the lack of strikeouts, he’s just not a great fantasy option. Now that he also has to pitch to designated hitters in the better offensive league, he’s even less exciting. Deep leaguers that want a warm body and think he could pitch to a low-fours ERA in an okay home park for pitchers in Minnesota can spend a low pick on Marquis, but they’d probably also find a pitcher with more upside hanging out in the same tier. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: An innings eater from the get-go, Marquis was “meh” even when he added the ground balls and is even less exciting now that he’s pitching in the American League.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/30/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Once a promising young starter, Sean Marshall has now blossomed into an elite, late-inning reliever. He may begin the season as the setup man to Ryan Madson, but he could become a full-time closer by 2013. The curve-happy Marshall might also make it back to the rotation a la John Smoltz or Ryan Dempster, but the Reds are currently flush with rotation options, so 2013 would probably be his soonest chance at starting again. No matter what, his rate stats make him a boon in leagues that reward per-inning goodness, like all ottoneu formats. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Marshall is an elite, late-inning reliever with an inside track to a closer role in 2012 or 2013.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/6/1982 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Martinez is primed to take on a bigger role in the Braves bullpen next season, but as a ground-baller lacking a big strikeout track record, he’s not going to be anything more than decent holds candidate. He might be more useful by taking some of load off Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and Craig Kimbrel, keeping them fresh all year. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/17/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Masset has never been a big collector of saves or holds, which means his fantasy value is almost exclusively tied up in his ability to strike hitters out. In 2010, Masset struck out 85 hitters in 76 innings of work; in 2011, that rate dropped to 62 strikeouts in 70 innings. While his 2011 rate isn’t terrible, there is almost certainly going to be another middle reliever out there who can give you more than 7.7 strikeouts per nine without subjecting you to a WHIP of 1.41 — Masset’s career rates. Is he going to kill teams that roster him out of necessity due to league depth? No, almost certainly not, but unless you’re in a 16-team NL-only league with 25-man rosters — so, basically the actual National League — there are better middle relief options than Masset. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Middle relievers who amass neither saves nor holds need to rack up the strikeouts with abandon to have much value. Masset brings owners neither saves nor many holds and his strikeout rate is falling — even the deepest league players should be looking at other options for the middle relief corps.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/22/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Ever since coming up with Boston, Masterson has been tortured by left-handed hitters, severely limiting his value. The Red Sox saw him as a reliever, in large part due to the platoon split, but the Indians acquired him with the belief he was a future front-of-the-rotation arm. In 2011, the Indians faith in Masterson was rewarded handsomely, with a 3.28 FIP, including 3.65 against the lefties who so tormented him in the past. The one concerning sign in his season was a drop in his strikeout rate, falling below seven per nine innings for the first time in two years, despite increased velocity. Without the return of his strikeouts, Masterson’s value is solid, but not great. An ERA in the mid-threes and double-digit wins are the good news, a WHIP likely to be near 1.30 isn’t as exciting. Masterson is a must-own in all formats, and the potential for a bounce back in strikeouts gives him some valuable upside. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: There have been questions in the past, but Masterson has clearly established that he can be a front-end starter. Strikeouts were down last year, but very well could rebound in 2012 — and he is a must-own regardless of the strikeouts.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1980 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: From henceforth, we shall refer to him as Dice-BB. All kidding aside, Matsuzaka underwent Tommy John surgery near midseason in 2011, and those arm woes likely contributed largely to his inability to locate the strike zone. As a result, Matsuzaka not not only enters a contract year in 2012 unhealthy — he won’t likely be ready until June or later — but even with some doubt surrounding his good seasons so far. He managed an 18-3 mark in 2008 with a 2.90 ERA, but that came with a 4.64 xFIP, largely due to his unsustainable ability to strand his baserunners that season. He’s more than a useful starter when he’s right, but nobody’s entirely sure if that’ll happen again after his arm woes. A good half-season with Boston will go a long way in determining his long-term prognosis in the states. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: He won’t be ready until mid-season at the soonest, and as we often see with arm injuries, he may not even be ready then — after the recovery period comes the period of no control. Matsuzaka didn’t have much of that when he was injured, either. Stay away this year, but if he shows promise late, maybe target him at the end of your 2013 draft, depending on where he lands in free agency.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/11/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Brian Matusz was astonishingly horrible in 2011. In 49 innings he had a 10.69 ERA — over twice the league average — and managed to give up over three home runs for every nine innings he pitched. Even after being demoted to Triple-A to work on his velocity, he was mediocre, with a strikeout rate less than seven and a walk rate over three. Once one of top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Matusz has lost over three mph on his fastball and dealt with injuries. In 270 career major-league innings, he has an ERA of 5.53 and a FIP of 4.72. At this point it’s hard to project him as anything more than a replacement level player in 2012, even with a slight return to form on the radar gun late in the year. Unless you expect Matusz to regain even more of his lost oomph and form, he is not worth drafting. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Brian Matusz is no longer the player that once made him one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Unless you expect a return to form, stay away.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/28/1981 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Cuban managed to earn a Major League call-up last year, despite posting a 5.00 ERA at Triple-A over 129.2 innings. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t fare any better with the Nationals, as his strikeout rate dropped to just 4.1 and he posted another 5.00+ ERA. On the positive side, he has shown pretty good control and his first strike percentage has been impressive. He has little experience in the minors though, and needs to prove he can handle Triple-A before being given another shot in the Nationals’ rotation. Having not even averaged 90.0 MPH with his fastball and possessing a four-pitch mix, maybe he has a chance to be the next Livan Hernandez. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Signed out of Cuba, Maya has been unimpressive during his short time in the minors and his cup of coffee with the Nationals. He needs to prove he could get Triple-A hitters out first before he gets another shot at a rotation slot.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/27/1986 | Team: Royals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: A couple of years ago, Mazzaro looked like a number four starter for the A’s with maybe a bit more upside. Apparently that was enough for Dayton Moore to jump all over the chance to trade David DeJesus for him as soon as possible after the end of the 2010 season. It now looks like the trade was little more as a salary dump, as Mazzaro spent most of 2011 at Omaha, and was horrible in limited time in Kansas City (albeit much of that was in one terrible relief outing). Mazzaro is not without potential for being a back-of-the-rotation starter, but that’s about it. If it is between him and Sean O’Sullivan, you have to take Mazzaro. Other than that, there’s not reason he should grace your roster. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: “Hey, he’s better than Sean O’Sullivan!”
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/7/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: The subject of a great piece by Ryan Campbell that broke down his path to his breakout season in 2011, Brandon McCarthy does not have superstar stuff. And he’d probably tell you the same while being @BMcCarthy32 on twitter. His fastball barely cracks 90, his changeup was almost a scratch pitch before he pretty much scratched it last year, and over the last year and a half his pitch percentages have been all over the place as he’s tried to find himself. Apparently abandoning his four-seam fastball, for the most part, has been a boon, and pitching mix is the easiest way for a pitcher to make sustainable gains. The results, in 2011, included his highest ground-ball percentage (46.7%) and the lowest walk rate (1.32) of his career. No doubt, his home park also helped, and while those rates might regress some, he’ll still call Oakland home for the time being. Expect an ERA closer to four than to three, and he won’t get many wins or strikeouts — that makes him a bottom-of-the-staff fantasy pitcher. But it also makes him valuable. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The prolific tweeter with the refined approach to self-improvement, McCarthy is easy to admire. Don’t fall too far in love with him in fantasy though — even if he holds on to his 2011 gains, he won’t offer many wins or strikeouts.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/12/1984 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: McClellan had a strong 2010 season as a reliever, but was asked to come into the rotation to help cover for the loss of Adam Wainwright, an experiment that yielded relatively poor results. McClellan eventually fell out of the rotation, but couldn’t recapture his prior success he had in the bullpen either, though there’s reason to believe that reason for his end-of-season ineffectiveness was the fatigue of throwing nearly twice as many professional innings as his previous career high. If a full-time return to the bullpen helps iron out his issues, he’ll get plenty of holds at the end of games and could be the next in line to close if Jason Motte can’t keep the job. Draft McClellan only if you need holds from an SP-eligible reliever, though, as there’s no way to predict how new manager Mike Matheny will handle a closer change if one is even necessary. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: The Cardinals aren’t likely to use McClellan as a swingman the way they did in 2011, which ought to help him perform much better than he did. However, he doesn’t yet appear to be in a position that will net him much in the way of counting stats, except maybe a few holds.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/26/1982 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: McCutchen the Lesser was a starter in both the Yankees’ and Pirates’ systems and was a swingman for Pittsburgh in 2010, but he was shifted to the bullpen full-time in 2011. The results call to mind McDonalds: mass-produced and not that good for you. McCutchen worked 84.2 innings and had a decent-looking 3.72 ERA, but his mediocre strikeout (five per nine) and walk (3.5 per nine) rates point to an ERA a run higher once his high rate of stranding runners and low home run per fly ball rate regress toward the mean. Clint Hurdle used McCutchen as a long reliever in low-leverage situations (0.84 Leverage Index), and that’s where he’ll be again in 2012. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: McCutchen’s fantasy value is basically zilch –- he’s the guy Hurdle calls on when one of the Pirates starters that you steadfastly avoided gets knocked out in the third inning.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: From April 5th to June 21st, McDonald had a 4.58 ERA, a 7.04 strikeout rate and he had allowed a .816 OPS to opposing hitters. From that point to the end of the season, he had a 3.65 ERA, a 7.91 K/9 and allowed a .748 OPS to opponents. However, his FIP wasn’t particularly thrilling in August and September at 5.26 and 4.53, respectively, reflecting ugly fluctuations in his strikeouts (6.63 K/9 in August) and walks (nearly five per nine in September). McDonald, 27, is young enough that he could take a step forward in 2012 and he does have the potential for good strikeout numbers with a plus fastball. But to date he hasn’t lived up to pretty high expectations, failing to get a grasp on his control and struggling mightily versus left-handed batters (5.61 FIP). He’s an interesting late round flyer due to the strikeout potential and pedigree, but you shouldn’t be relying on him as any kind of mainstay. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: McDonald has strikeout stuff, but his control needs a lot of work and he hasn’t developed a way to get left-handed batters out. His inconsistency will likely frustrate fantasy owners.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/6/1986 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Injuries forced McGee — at one time a top starting rotation prospect — into a relief role in 2010, where he has yet to find his stride. The lightning-arm’d McGee throws 97 mph with his golden left limb and profiles as a potential closer. He will likely start 2012 in middle relief, be a few trades or free agent departures could have him closing as soon as 2013. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: The hard-throwing lefty looks like a solid closer prospect with the potential to sport a 3.50 or lower ERA in 2012.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/24/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: It’s difficult to put any fantasy value on Dustin McGowan, who made his return to a Major League mound in 2011 after not pitching — in any league — since 2008. Just the fact that McGowan returned at all was a testament to his work ethic, love for the game, and, well, medicine. McGowan’s injury-history is well documented, but he’s back, healthy, and will be competing for a job in Toronto in 2012 — likely as a starter. Or out of the bullpen. It’s unclear. Toronto’s not sure what’s left in McGowan’s arm, but they’ve shown patience as an organization in wanting to find out. McGowan’s first appearance in September 2011 was out of the bullpen, but he made four starts after that and was hit hard, posting a 6.43 ERA and 5.60 FIP. That had to be expected, though, after so much time away. The good news: In 21 innings, McGowan struck out 20 batters, good for a strikeout rate of 8.57. (He posted similar strikeout rates in High-A and Double-A before joining Toronto as a September call-up.) McGowan also posted a ground-ball rate of 50.0%. There’s some more bad news, though: he struggled with his control, posting a walk rate of 5.57. Again, hardly surprising. But it’s clear, there’s some excitement left in that arm, and, with McGowan turning 30, there’s still time for him to be a fantasy contributor. Keep an eye on him in spring training, as he could be a low-risk, high-reward player you scoop in the later rounds of your draft at the right price, especially if he’s starting games. Toronto had high hopes for McGowan once upon a time. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: McGowan’s appearances as a September call-up Toronto in 2011 were his first on a Major League mound since 2008. He’ll be fighting for a spot with the Blue Jays in 2012, and, if he’s starting games, keep your eye on him. His was once a most-intriguing arm with high-strikeout — and high-walk — potential.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: It’s unclear why Medlen hasn’t been given a role in the Braves’ starting rotation. He gets whiffs at an above-average rate (even if his strikeout rate is about average), walks fewer than the league average, and gets groundballs at about an average rate (42.1% career, 44% is average). Maybe the Braves knew that he wasn’t the sturdiest of pitchers. Unfortunately, their reluctance suggests that Medlen will be behind the trio of young star prospects trying to push their way into the Braves rotation (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor). That probably means more time in the pen, where Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters rule. It’s a shame that he won’t have much fantasy value — Medlen’s a good pitcher. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: He gets whiffs at an above-average rate, has shown great control throughout his career, and has about an average ground-ball rate, but Kris Medlen has been slowly moving towards being a full-time bullpen arm as he’s moved up the ranks in the Atlanta orginization. And the Braves have a fine closer and setup man tandem.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/12/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: A year after busting out, Meek was just plain busted while missing four months with a shoulder injury and losing a few ticks on his fastball. Joel Hanrahan is entrenched at closer, so it would take a hampered Hammer and renewed health from Meek for him to sniff save chances. (David Golebiewski)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/28/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Melancon’s fantasy outlook changed quite a bit after being traded to the Red Sox. He went from being a potential great late-round pick as a good closer on a bad team to potentially unrosterable depending on how the Red Sox use him. The right-hander saved 20 games for the Astros during his first full season in the big leagues, using his fastball-curveball combination to rack up huge ground-ball totals (56.7%) and a solid strikeout rate (7.99 K/9). Melancon cut down on his walks considerably as the season progressed, which could allow him to get into sub-3.00 walks per nine and sub-1.20 WHIP territory next year. He had little competition for saves in the Houston bullpen, plus he was a very good vulture wins candidate (eight wins in 2011) because Brad Mills was willing to use him late in tie games. Melancon has all the tools necessary to close for the Red Sox, but they might not let him, at least not right away. He’ll be a must-own in holds leagues, however. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The trade to the Red Sox clouds Melancon’s fantasy outlook just a bit, but his second half improvement in walk rate suggesting a drop in WHIP is forthcoming. He’ll be a mus- own in holds leagues with a chance for saves at some point.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/29/1984 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Mijares has been long on talent but short on results ever since his big league debut in 2008. His velocity took a big hit in 2011 — down nearly two miles per hour from 2010 and perhaps signaling injury. The Twins have moved on, non-tendering him in December, and he’s landed back in the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals, where he’ll likely start out as a lefty specialist. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Mijares will likely only factor as a LOOGY for the Royals, at least at first. It would take a career renaissance for him to get a shot in the late innings or as the closer in Soria’s stead, but there are too many frogs to leap in a sneaky good Royals pen.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/13/1986 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: The time is now for Miley, who has good young arms ahead of him in the big leagues and some great young arms coming up behind him in the minors. He’ll be in the mix for a rotation spot come Spring Training, but there’s not much strikeout or ERA potential here. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/21/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: In the scope of his entire big league career, 2011 was successful for Miller. Of course, he entered the season with a career 5.84 ERA and the mounting burden of failed promise as a former top-10 prospect in the entire league, so saying it was a relatively successful year in that context isn’t saying a ton. Like hitters, pitchers can also hold the dreaded quad-A tag, and that appears to be where Miller is headed. The strikeouts have always been plentiful for Miller, and in the bigs that hasn’t been the problem. Miller’s big league WHIP is 1.75, due in large part to a career walk rate of 5.4, and 2011 was really no exception in that regard. Miller will return to the Red Sox on a non-guaranteed big league deal, so spring training will be pivotal in deciding his 2012 fate. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: What do you think Big Ben McDonald is up to? Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh, Andrew Miller. Unless he gets the walks in check — and perhaps even if he does — keep him way off your fantasy radar. His only real chance at relevance would be getting 10-12 wins on a high-scoring team. Hands off.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/5/1985 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: If you were to look up the term “career minor leaguer” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Brad Mills. A fly ball pitcher, it was never going to work in Toronto, but in Los Angeles, Mills could be an intriguing option late in your deep draft, considering he’ll be pitching in Anaheim, in front of stellar defense, and against the Oaklands and Seattles of the world. There isn’t much upside, but in deeper leagues, you might do worse than take a flier on Mills to plug a hole. (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 12/24/1974 | Position: SP|
Profile: After nurturing Kevin Millwood on the farm for much of the season, the Red Sox let him opt out of his contract and sign with the Rockies, then watched longingly as Millwood put up some pretty decent numbers in August and September while the Red Sox rotation came crumbling down. Millwood’s strikeout rate hasn’t recovered, but back in the National League he was able to work efficiently, posting a career-best 1.33 walk rate in a small 54.1 inning sample. The Rockies are said to be interested in bringing him back again on a Minor League deal, but with so much competition already abounding for the Rockies rotation, Millwood will likely explore other options first as he attempts to pitch in a 17th Major League season. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Millwood worked hard in the minors all season and was rewarded with a trip back to the Show in August, but he will have to fight hard again to pick up another opportunity — he is someone you should avoid on draft day.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/26/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: In just over half a full season of pitching, spread over his first two years in the bigs, Minor has shown that he can strike out (8.76 per nine) and walk (2.99 per nine) batters at a better-than-average rate. That’s two parts of the pitching triumvirate, so maybe we can ignore the fact that he’s a fly ball pitcher. The results haven’t been there yet, either, but a career .359 batting average on balls in play is destined to regress to league norms. When it does, Minor should be able to manage an ERA in the high threes with close to a strikeout per inning, and that has fantasy value. He’ll have a rotation spot with Derek Lowe gone and Jair Jurrjens rumored to be next, but he’ll also fall far in drafts because of his unsightly career ERA. Let others’ loss be your gain and pick him up for cheap, now — he’s no Minor sleeper. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: A tall lefty that can throw strikes, induce whiffs, and limit the walks is interesting even if he gives up too many fly balls. Ignore the ERA so far and pick Minor late in your draft.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 2/16/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: After starting 2011 in Milwaukee, Mitre was sent to New York at the end of June in exchange for cash. After four appearances with the Yankees, he went on the DL with a pinched nerve in his shoulder. At his best, he gets ground balls (58.2% career) and limits walks, but injuries and a lack of strikeouts have limited his effectiveness. He’s a free agent as of press time. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/18/1989 | Team: Rays | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Matt Moore is the real deal. Despite being selected in the eighth round of the 2007 amateur draft, Moore has been compared favorably to Stephen Strasburg in terms of youth and potential. Now, with a massive-in-length-not-in-price Major League contract, Moore is as good as a lock to start the 2012 season as the third or fourth starter for the Rays. Moore has never had a FIP above three in the minors, and has been under 2.85 since 2008. He is an elite of the elite, and he deserves early round and high bid consideration in all leagues. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: The young phenom from New Mexico is already a candidate for 2012 Rookie of the Year. He could very easily sport an ERA under three in his first season in the majors.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/24/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Morales can get the swinging strikes, but gives up tons of fly balls, home runs, and walks. With all the talent that is suddenly in the bullpen around him in Boston, he’ll need to start to have fantasy value — and he hasn’t done that more than twice in the bigs since 2008. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/26/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Morrow continues to confound. In 2011, he finally put almost everything together, combining his awesome strikeout rate with a walk rate finally below 4.00 and a batting average on balls in play right around the league norm. But no, this time it was his strand rate which bit him, as 35.5% of baserunners came around to score, leading to an ERA of 4.72. For the second straight season, Morrow recorded an ERA a full run higher than his FIP. He could end up being the next Ricky Nolasco, but at 28 it may be too early to give up. He’ll be elite in terms of strikeouts, his team will win him double-digit games (assuming health), and therefore he’s at least worth a flier. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Morrow continues to study at the Ricky Nolasco School For Pitchers With Great Peripherals Who Can’t ERA Good. Still, his elite strikeout rate and an improved Toronto squad make him a good bet to be solid in at least two of the four standard starting pitcher categories.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/12/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: After going 2-12 with an ERA near eight in 2010, you could say that Charlie Morton kind of “arrived” in 2011, going 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA (3.77 FIP). There are land mines galore with Morton, however. He didn’t fool many hitters with just a 7.4% swinging strike rate, a 5.77 strikeout rate, and he benefited from an abnormally low 5.8% home run per fly ball rate while walking over four batters per nine innings pitched. He struggles mightily versus left-handed batters, with career splits at 5.37 FIP vs. lefties and 3.68 vs. righties. Until he can discover a pitch as effective versus left-handed batters as his two-seamer is versus right handed batters, he’s going to have trouble succeeding. If he can get the walks under control, he could be somewhat useful, but the best you can expect from Morton is probably 10 wins, 120 strikeouts, a 4.40 ERA, and 1.50 WHIP. If that floats your boat, there will be a lineup of managers willing to play in your league. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: After nearly a decade in the minor leagues, Charlie Morton finally put together a solid season in 2011. But he continues to be bothered by control issues and major problems with left handed batters, severely limiting his fantasy value. He won’t help you much in any standard category.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/14/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: Moscoso appears to be one of the great mirages of the 2011 fantasy season. He won eight games with Oakland on the back of a 3.38 ERA, but a mere 5.2 strikeout rate leads to an uninspiring 4.23 FIP and a 6.2% home run per fly ball rate brings him to a downright scary 5.02 xFIP. His ground-ball rate of 26.8% was among the majors’ worst, and the combination of a high amount of fly balls and a high amount of contact does not bode well for his future. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Moscoso posted a glittery 3.38 ERA in 2011, but a combination of few strikeouts and a ton of fly balls could spell doom in 2012.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/26/1981 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite a 3-10 record — and a poor 4.80 strikeout rate — Moseley posted a shiny 3.30 ERA last season. While his 3.99 FIP indicates that he could be a useful pitcher, he probably won’t contribute much to fantasy teams. Moseley keeps the ball on the ground and doesn’t walk many batters to succeed. If his strikeout rate falls any further — or his walk rate rises slightly — things could get ugly real fast. His home park helps, but his home team isn’t going to win him many games next season. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Moseley can be a decent option for the Padres, but he’s not likely to contribute much to your fantasy team. He’s not a strikeout pitcher and his team won’t win many games.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/25/1973 | Position: RP|
Profile: The 38-year-old right-handed Mota makes a return to the Giants in 2012 after posting solid numbers last season. He threw just over 80 innings last year and managed and 8.63 strikeout rate with a 2.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 3.81 ERA. The season truly showcased the reliever’s durability as, on more than one occasion, he was asked to throw multiple innings in long relief and managed to do so in strong fashion. He probably won’t throw as many innings this season which should spare his arm the additional wear and tear and allow him to try and build on last season’s strong strikeout totals. Consider him a decent option in 2012 for leagues that count holds as a category. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Still on the right side of 40, the well-traveled Mota returns to the Giants in 2012 and resumes his role in the bullpen. If he can maintain his career averages of a 7.23 strikeout reate and 2.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio,then he’ll be a valuable asset in fantasy leagues that count holds.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: From Minor League catcher to closer on a World Series Champion in the span of five years, Motte rose from the ashes in the Cardinals’ bullpen to grab hold of the ninth inning down the stretch. He struck out more than eight batters per nine innings for the fourth straight year, but also dropped his walk rate for the second consecutive season. Motte has gotten his control together to the point where he’s a possible sub-1.00 WHIP guy going forward, assuming he gets just a smidgen of luck on balls in play. The 29-year-old right-hander will begin the season as the undisputed ninth inning guy in St. Louis, a far cry from the sixth and seventh inning work he was receiving at the same point a year ago. Motte has a chance to emerge as one of the better fantasy closer options out there, but it’s almost guaranteed that he’ll be a bit overvalued given his dominant finish to the season and lights out playoff run. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Motte was the model for fantasy bullpens in 2011, going from interesting high-strikeout middle reliever early in the season to dominant closer in the World Series. He’s continued to improve his control as he’s gotten further away from catching, which is a very good sign going forward.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/2/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Major shoulder problems sabotaged Moylan’s 2011 season, but even when right, he’s little more than a spare holds candidate in deeper leagues. The strikeout numbers just aren’t there for the ground-baller to be rosterable. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/10/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: Edward Mujica looked to be in the Marlins closer mix for 2012. Then the Marlins signed Heath Bell. Edward will now likely be used in the seventh and eighth innings again. He has been transforming himself from an extreme fly ball pitcher (55% in 2006 to 34% in 2011) to an extreme ground-ball pitcher (26% in 2006 to 48% in 2011) because of a split-finger fastball he has used more and more often. Over the last three years, his strikeout rate has been 8.0 and his walk rate was at 1.5 for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.41. Only five pitchers (minimum 150 innings) have had a better K/BB over that time frame. Heath Bell only had a 3.0 K/BB rate over that same time frame. Much of Mujica’s value is that he doesn’t walk many batters (1.5 walks per nine, career). In 2011, five of the 14 batters he walked were intentional. Mujica has quite a bit of value going into 2012, especially in leagues that count holds. The chances of him moving into the closer role are slim because Heath Bell has spent a total of zero days on the disabled list in his career. Mujica’s value is maximized in deep leagues where he can be counted on to added to some rate stats. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Mujicas value dropped when Heath Bell was signed as the Marlins closer. He is still useful for his rate stats in deeper leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1980 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: After the 2010 season, it looked as though Myers had gotten his home run tendencies under control, which made him an appealing option as a sleeper in 2011. While he kept similar ground-ball tendencies, he struck out fewer hitters and the home runs came back again, pushing Myers’ ERA back to nearly 4.50 and generally rendering him a pretty poor option, even in NL-only. As it stands, there’s no good reason to believe he’ll stop giving up bombs as long as he’s in Houston, a park that does little to dissuade hitters from swinging for the fences. If he struck out a few more hitters, it might be worth grabbing him and hoping for the best, but when his strikeout rate may not even break seven, there’s too little reward for the amount of risk. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: In sufficiently deep leagues, there can be precious few pitchers who aren’t rostered at all. For those in that position, Myers is likely to be less detrimental than rostering someone like Livan Hernandez, which makes him an okay SP5 option. For everyone else, let someone else take this gamble and live to fight another day.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Narveson entered the starting rotation full-time in 2011 and posted career highs in ground ball rate (42.4%) and swinging strike rate (10.4%). However, the walk-rate increased from 3.0 to 3.6, and he once again posted an ERA nearly a half-run higher than his FIP, this time 4.45 against 4.06. The 30-year-old lefty is in line to be the Brewers’ fifth starter for a second straight season and could be a viable mixed-league starter with a tiny step forward. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Narveson continued to put up good peripherals in 2011. He’ll need to cut down on the walks to take the next step in 2012.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 11/22/1974 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: The first half of 2011 was a bit rocky for Nathan, who was coming back from Tommy John surgery prior to the 2010 campaign. At the break, Nathan carried an ERA approaching 6.00, and a very uncharacteristic 2.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In fact, April was the main culprit, as Nathan had walked as many as he fanned, and was allowing a ghastly .929 OPS. Eventually, as the scar tissue dissipated in his right arm, Nathan was able to cut loose a bit more, and was able to rein in his control while fanning a hitter an inning throughout the entire season. Overall, Nathan’s average heater was a tick below his career mark, but it gained steam as the season wore on. As a 38-year-old, it’s by no means a guarantee that he’ll ever return to his old ways of 10.0 strikeouts per nine, or a nasty hammer that he can drop 0-2 or 3-2, but it seems the Rangers are paying him to do just that. He’ll still be a useful reliever, but by no means will he be better than Mike Adams. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Nathan will have plenty of save opportunities in the Lone Star state, but it’s still to hard to gauge exactly how effective he’ll be. He’ll be paid to have a ton of chances to lock down games, but there’s a pretty darn good Mike Adams just lying around that could fill that role admirably as well. Monitor the situation closely.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/31/1986 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: In one of the more chilling plays of last, or really any season, Nicasio took a line drive off the bat of Ian Desmond in the right temple, which was bad enough by itself. But then Nicasio landed directly on his head. One or both led to him fracturing his neck, and he underwent immediate surgery to correct it. Miraculously, Nicasio was mobile soon thereafter, visited the Rockies clubhouse before the end of the season, and is on track to be ready for the start of the season. Colorado will obviously be cautious with him in Spring Training, but they could use Nicasio on the hill, as he was putting together a pretty promising rookie campaign up to that point — his 3.43 xFIP was the best in the Rockies’ rotation. His hallmark is good control. He had some gaudy strikeout numbers in the minors, but while those didn’t fully translate to the majors, his good walk rates mostly did. He is one to monitor during Spring Training. If it looks like he will start the season in the Rockies’ rotation, he should be a good sleeper, but if he starts in Triple-A or extended Spring Training, then hold off and grab him on the waiver wire when he makes it back to Denver. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Nicasio is lucky he wasn’t paralyzed, so pitching in a Major League game will really be gravy. If he is as effective when he returns to the mound as he was before taking the line drive to the head, he should be a good sleeper.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/28/1983 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Over 500 innings of 107 FIP- pitching is not how we typically envision a former No. four overall pick to perform through his age 28 season, but injuries and occasional ineffectiveness have plagued the once highly-touted Niemann. A healthy Niemann should get 175 innings in 2012, and if his 2011 xFIP and SIERA were predicting the real deal, he could finally start turning corners and manage a nice 3.50 to 3.70 ERA, given the Rays’ elite defense. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Niemann looks as poised as he ever has been for an improvement in 2012 — if he can stay healthy. A 3.50 ERA is within reach, with a chance to be even better.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/27/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: Niese hasn’t shown an ERA better than his peripherals in any of his first three seasons, but that trend is not likely to continue if he keeps showing the same peripherals. Using a 90-MPH fastball, a cutter, and a curveball for the most part, he’s garnered average swinging strikes and strikeouts throughout his career. Niese’s control and ground-ball rate have also been above average, so there’s not really a ‘problem’ to point to. The fences moving in Citi Field might not affect him much either, since he gets over 50% of his contact on the ground. One of these years, he’ll show a batting average on balls in play under .300 and suddenly his ERA will be under four and fantasy managers will wonder why he’s on your team. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Niese has a nose for the game, but he hasn’t gotten the results that his peripherals deserve — yet. Late in your next deeper draft, you might as well take a shot on Niese, since he could be a good back-end option for very cheap.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/26/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Noesi, a starter by trade, stepped into the Yankees’ bullpen in 2011 and showed off his four-pitch arsenal in route to mediocre results. The 25-year-old flashed a good fastball and extremely effective breaking balls, but those pitches will take a hit with Noesi’s return to the rotation in 2012. Since Michael Pineda headed to the Yanks and Noesi landed in the Northwest, and since Seattle’s stable of pitching prospects are not all quite ready, Noesi is a favorite to take a spot in the Mariner’s rotation in 2012. His new home park should help mitigate his fly ball tendencies, and even if his strikeout rate upside is more limited than his above-average 2011 swinging strike rate would suggest, he has shown the control to make it work in Fister-ian fashion. Keep an eye out for Noesi in your deeper and dynasty drafts. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Noesi may not have been one of the Yankees’ most-heralded pitching prospects, but he could end up being a nice late round grab in dynasty leagues, especially now that he will call SafeCo home.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/13/1982 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: The anti-Matt Cain, Nolasco has confounded stat nerds for three consecutive years now. Of course, this season he made it a bit easier to believe that he isn’t all that good to begin with, as his strikeout rate dropped more than a full point, while his SIERA jumped to its highest mark since 2007. With a .309 career batting average on balls in play and a .316 mark representing his lowest over the last three seasons, is it just sustained bad luck, or does Nolasco actually lack even league average BABIP reduction skills? That’s the million dollar question and one that we simply just don’t know the answer to yet. However, there are red flags unrelated to the luck metrics, such as a drop in swinging strikes and a decline in fastball velocity. With potentially better defensive support after Jose Reyes’ arrival, he is still worth speculating on, assuming he comes quite cheaply. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Nolasco continues to underperform his peripherals, and this year his peripherals actually declined. However, you will rarely find a pitcher who has posted a 4.50+ ERA for three straight seasons that has the kind of upside he offers at a potentially cheap cost.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/8/1986 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: Acquired in the Brandon Allen/Brad Ziegler deal with the D-Backs, Norberto is a mid-twenties lefty who cooks with gas but is also prone to burning down the whole friggin’ building, as his 19/29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26.2 MLB innings over the past two years attests. He has a steep climb just to make the lefty-laden A’s ‘pen, much less pitch in high-leverage situations. (David Golebiewski)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/2/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Was last season the breakout saber-nerds have been waiting for? Norris traded fewer strikeouts for fewer walks last season, en route to his strongest season in the majors. Even with the reduced strikeouts, Norris posted a solid 8.52 strikeouts per nine last season. His slider is a thing of beauty, and continues to wreak havoc on hitters. Home runs, however, will always be a problem for Norris — his 40.6% ground ball rate isn’t going to do him any favors in that park. Still, 2011 was a pretty big step forward for Norris, and he looks like a strong breakout candidate next season if he can keep the walks down. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Norris posted strong strikeout numbers, got his walks under control and could pitch 200+ innings for the first time in his career in 2012. He also flies under the radar because he plays for the Astros. Sounds like the ideal sleeper candidate next season.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/12/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Nova flashed some very fancy numbers in 2011, with a sparkling 16-4 record to go with his 3.70 ERA. And while he only fanned 5.3 per nine, his FIP (4.01) and xFIP (4.16) suggest he wasn’t as lucky as first glance might indicate. Nova’s season has to be chalked up to groundball tendencies (52.7 percent), a solid but sustainable BABIP (.283), and an average strand rate (73.2 percent). Unless he ratchets up the whiffs a bit — and with a heater approaching 93 miles-per-hour, that’s a distinct possibility — he’s due for some sort of regression. However, he’s a hurler well suited to his home park (HR factors of 143-115), so regression isn’t likely to be as mean to Nova as it has been to say, Nick Blackburn. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Nova will likely be extremely valuable as a fantasy commodity in 2012. Backed by a potent Yankee offense, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he wins 15 or so games again, with perhaps a slightly lower ERA. He’s not a sexy option in real-life or fantasy, but should continue to be a steady one.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/14/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: Leo “Juan Carlos Oviedo” Nunez had three good seasons with the Marlins, but the honeymoon has come to an abrupt end. In the three seasons with the Marlins, he averaged 31 saves with a sub-four ERA. He did this by putting up a strikeout rate around eight and walk rate around three. Not ideal for an reliever, but his 92 saves with the Marlins was good enough for the eighth-highest total in the majors over the three-year period. Going into 2012, we don’t know when J.C./Leo will be pitching, but we do know he’ll be setting up Heath Bell in Florida when he gets here. His core stats are just not good enough to take a chance on without the saves though. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: J.C. Oviedo/Leo Nunez has limited value until he returns to the country, which may take a while.
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