|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: The rare side-arming righty that doesn’t get totally crushed by lefties, O’Day could see significant high leverage work with the Orioles if Jim Johnson manages to stick in the rotation. He’s got some sneaky good holds potential. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/5/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: One of the very best holds relievers in 2011, O’Flaherty became just the third pitcher since 1917 to throw at least 70 innings in a season with a sub-1.00 ERA. A 92.3% strand rate helped him to a 0.98 ERA despite being used almost every other game by Fredi Gonzalez, though his 8.19 strikeout rate and 2.57 walk rate with a 55.5% ground-ball rate certainly helped matters as well. The southpaw improved his strikeout and walk rates by nearly one event per nine innings in 2011, in part by getting batters to swing at his pitches out of the zone roughly 4% of the time more often than in the two previous years. O’Flaherty appeared in the fifth most games (78) of any reliever last year (73.2 IP), so the carryover effect is a concern heading into 2012. Don’t expect another sub-1.00 ERA, but he has the tools to be a valuable holds guy for Atlanta again next season. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Don’t expect another sub-1.00 ERA again, but Flaherty gets strikeouts, limits walks, and keeps the ball on the ground. That’s the recipe for a successful reliever, though his high 2011 workload is a concern heading into 2012.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/1/1987 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: It would be one thing if the Royals just had a guy like O’Sullivan stashed at Triple-A “just in case,” it is another that they traded actual talent (Alberto Callaspo) for him (to be fair, they also received Will Smith). I guess O’Sullivan is “young” at 24, but that does not mean much for pitchers, and especially not terrible ones like O’Sullivan. His reputation for ground balls in the low minors never translated to the majors, he never strikes anyone out, and, in fact, he actually walked more batters than his struck out in 2011 in the majors. I suppose someone will make an injury excuse for him, but the fact is that O’Sullivan has been terrible for a long time. Unless you are in a 40-team AL-only league with 14 required spots for pitchers, you should probably be kicked out of your league if O’Sullivan makes an appearance on your roster. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: “S.O.S.” might make a pretty good fifth starter in very deep Triple-A fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: It was a tale of two halves for Ogando in his first year in the rotation after starting only three games previously. After opening the season with back-to-back months with ERAs in the 2.30 range, he eventually saw his good luck run out, leading to a gruesome 7.14 ERA in August. As the media assumed he was just tiring down the stretch, we notice that his skills were essentially the same every month of the season. His fly ball tendency is dangerous in Texas, especially since he managed to post a below league average home runs per fly ball ratio, which is due to rise. That said, with the highest average fastball velocity in baseball among qualified starters, an increased strikeout rate next season would be no surprise. He may need to improve his change-up first and throw it more frequently though, as right now he is primarily a two-pitch pitcher. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Ogando was one of the season’s bigger surprises, transitioning to the rotation seamlessly, armed with a 95.0 MPH fastball. Although that fastball velocity suggests an impending spike in strikeout rate, he may need to become more than a two-pitch pitcher.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/8/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: After a cataclysmic 2011 season, Ohlendorf probably pines for the good ol’ days of 2010 when he went 1-11. He missed a big chunk of time in 2010 with a shoulder injury, and another lat strain cost him four months this past year. He made his season debut the same day as a major East Coast earthquake, and that basically set the tone for his brief, brutal year: a 5.11 xFIP in 38.2 innings, and an ERA three runs higher. At his best, Ohlendorf was a cheap, competent starter capable of a mid-fours ERA. Now, he’s damaged goods. The Pirates released him rather than pay him $2+ million in arbitration, and it’d be a surprise if he lands a Major League deal this winter. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: It doesn’t take a finance degree from Princeton or a USDA internship to know that Ohlendorf is a junk stock, or Grade D meat.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/13/1977 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Ohman gives up far too many walks and home runs to take advantage of his solid strikeout rate (career 8.91 strikeouts per nine). Lefty relievers can always find a home, but that home probably shouldn’t be on your fantasy team. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/25/1975 | Position: RP|
Profile: The Yankees will give Okajima a shot to make the big league roster, but his once deceptive stuff no longer fools hitters. As a LOOGY in a relatively deep bullpen, Okajima won’t have any fantasy value unless he brings back the strikeouts we saw in 2007 and 2008. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 1993 | BirthDate: 10/6/1970 | Position: RP|
Profile: A lefty specialist extraordinaire, Oliver posts decent enough strikeout rates to go along with his usually low ERA and WHIP to make him a sneaky good candidate in holds leagues. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/3/1987 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: 2011 came and went for Detroit Tigers left-hander Andy Oliver and he once again failed to establish himself as a viable starter at the Major League level. With a perfect pitchers’ frame, easy arm action and fastball touching the mid-90’s, Oliver possesses a base package scouts dream upon. Unfortunately, slowing down his mechanics failed to alleviate command issues and Oliver stagnated in triple-A posting even worse walk rates than the previous season. At this point in his development, it appears Oliver’s ceiling appears to be that of a number four starter due to underdeveloped secondary offerings and aforementioned command/control issues. In the end, Oliver’s ultimate role may be out of the bullpen where his fastball would play up in short spurts, hiding his suspect off-speed pitches. Avoid Oliver in single season fantasy formats and strongly consider selling in keeper and dynasty leagues if he’s already owned and an opposing manager comes calling. (Mike Newman)
Quick Opinion: Oliver stagnated in Triple-A, creating questions about his ceiling and just how much projection remains the young left-hander.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/13/1985 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Once, during a spring training game involving the Reds, site founder David Appelman announced, after consulting the FanGraphs iPhone app, that Ondrusek is tall — something that Dave Cameron and others had discovered moments earlier via their eyes. This story is now part of the Official FanGraphs History. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 5/23/1973 | Position: RP|
Profile: Ramon Ortiz slung 22.1 innings for the Cubs in 2011, innings forgettable to most Cubs fans as they came with a 4.86 FIP and a likewise ERA. However, a free agent after the season, Ortiz may catch on somewhere as a swing man, and considering his 3.90 SIERA in 2011, that may not be a bad move. Either way, his fantasy value is minimal. (Bradely Woodrum)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/29/1977 | Position: SP|
Profile: For the first time since 2003, Roy Oswalt failed to start more than 30 games in a season. Limited by injuries to his back in 2012, Oswalt had an up and down campaign for the Phillies, struggling mightily in June and then returning to form after coming off the disabled list. On the season, Oswalt posted a 3.69 ERA (3.44 FIP), an uncharacteristically high 1.34 WHIP, and an uncharacteristically low 6.03 strikeout rate. It’s worth noting, however, that his strikeouts were much closer to normal in August and September after returning from the DL and while many will point to a significant drop in velocity on the fastball (91.4 vs. 92.6 in 2011), it did bounce back after his return, averaging 93.4 MPH in his last start. Another consideration is that Oswalt has never had the benefit of throwing in anything other than a bandbox. Citizens Bank Park and Minute Maid Park are two of the friendliest places for hitters, and yet he owns a career ERA just north of 3.00. Should Oswalt land in a more neutral or pitcher-friendly location and avoid the injury bug, he could be a pretty great target in later rounds. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Oswalt’s value is very much wrapped up in his health and his home team, and at 34, it’s hard to suggest he’s going to provide consistent innings. But when he’s on, Oswalt can be among the better starters in the league and his results late in 2012 were encouraging. If you’re risk averse, look elsewhere, but Oswalt could provide good value assuming he slips in standard drafts.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/14/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Outman returned from Tommy John surgery to fight — though his old nemesis, control, was a pest at times. He could continue to stand for truth, justice and outs as he joins the million-man scrum for the Rockie’s fifth slot in the rotation. (David Golebiewski)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/28/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: The converted starter and utility bat spent most of the season in the bullpen and saw a nice bump in his strikeout rate to 7.2 per nine. Although his walk rate was just mediocre, his first-strike rate was an impressive 67.7% (versus a 59.4% league average), suggesting a better walk rate could be on the way. Unfortunately, he is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and without top-notch strikeout ability, he is quite prone to the long ball. Whether he remains in the bullpen all year or makes the occasional spot start, Owings is unlikely to generate any fantasy value. Of course, if fantasy leagues ever counted batting stats from pitchers, his prospects would soar. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With a mediocre strikeout rate, average control and an extreme fly ball tendency, Owings is your standard bottom of the barrel reliever. As a non-closer or even set-up reliever, he is unlikely to generate any fantasy value.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 9/27/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: After throwing only 8.2 innings for the Dodgers last season, Padilla underwent surgery to fuse vertebrae in his neck. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever pitch again — let alone effectively, but the Red Sox will give him a shot in some capacity. (Chris Cwik)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: Papelbon’s 2011 season was an excellent rebound campaign from a relatively rough 2010. Not only did Papelbon ratchet up his whiffs from an already impressive 10.2 per nine to 12.2, but he slashed his walks by more than half, resulting in a scintillating 8.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Oddly enough, even that mark didn’t qualify as Paps’ career best, as he posted a 9.6 mark back in 2008. All of this is to suggest that while closer contracts are rarely — if ever — lived up to, Papelbon would seem to have a good chance of holding his relative value over the next four years. That vesting fifth year is scary, but obviously not as scary as say, Ryan Howard’s deal. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: If he’s not the first, Papelbon will be among the first two closers selected in your draft. He’ll have plenty of games to nail down in the city of Brotherly Love, and as long as he keeps whiffing ’em at a rate of a dozen per nine, he’ll keep on woodchuckin’ his way into the record books.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/24/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: As the key acquisition in the deal that sent Trevor Cahill to the Diamondbacks, Parker now gets a shot at winning a rotation spot with the Athletics. He missed all of the 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and then posted underwhelming peripherals at Double-A upon his return to the mound in 2011. It is likely that his walk rate improves as he moves further away from his surgery, but his strikeout rate still leaves something to be desired. Another issue is that he has yet to pitch a single inning at the Triple-A level. Having not even dominated Double-A, it would be a stretch to believe he could perform respectably at the Major League level. Then again, scouts love his stuff, so don’t count him out completely. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With no Triple-A experience and unexciting peripherals posted in his time at Double-A, Parker is not necessarily worth gambling on. He is likely to improve as he gets further away from his surgery, but he could be avoided for now.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/8/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Captain Fastball’s control problems returned last season, and he failed to build on his strong 2010. He was still effective, however, as his 9.71 strikeout rate was the highest of his career. After Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to the Brewers, Parnell even managed to pick up six saves. Unfortunately, there’s a new Francisco in town who will be racking up saves for the Mets. With both Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch on the roster, Parnell is now likely third in line to receive save opportunities new season. Even if he does crack triple digits on the gun. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Parnell is now third in line to receive save opportunities on the Mets. If he gets a shot to finish games, he’s got some value as a low-end closer.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/3/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Patton posted good numbers in 2011, but he’s already homer prone and playing in Baltimore just pushes him over the edge. He may get a few holds, but he’s not draft worthy in 2012. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/17/1983 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Pauley found some success as a middle reliever with the Seattle Mariners in 2011, before being traded to Detroit, where he struggled, eventually leading to hisbeing left off the Tigers’ postseason roster, which Brad Penny made. Yeah. Brad Penny. Anyway, Pauley will be fighting for a job in the Detroit bullpen come spring training, and you’re better off looking for relief help elsewhere. (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: For three straight years now, Paulino has shown an above-average swinging strike rate and a strikeout rate close to one per inning. His control is not great, but it’s never been too far from his career 3.75 walk rate. He gets ground balls at exactly the league average rate (44%), too. He even has 95 MPH gas shooting from his right hand. So why is his career ERA over five if his career FIP is closer to four (4.18)? It’s possible he’s a batting average on balls in play outlier (.340 career), but there’s also something going on with that fastball of his. It has a wicked platoon split, for one. And he also likes to throw it down the heart of the plate. If he can figure out his platoon issues and get just a little BABIP luck, he could finally put up an ERA closer to his mid-threes FIP from the last two years. That makes him a sleeper. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Armed with 95-MPH gas and legit secondary stuff, Paulino has been getting the strikeouts. One year, the ball will bounce his way and he’ll finally put up an ERA with a three on the front. Get him late in your deep league draft just in case it’s this year.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 1/8/1976 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Pavano has done a nice job shedding his “American Idle” image from his time in New York, when he amassed such head-scratching injuries as “strained buttocks.” Over the past three seasons, Pavano has averaged nearly 215 innings with a 4.36 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and 3.2 strikeouts per walk, all respectable rates for a mid-to-back end starter. There’s virtually no projection in Pavano’s numbers, however. In those three years, he’s allowed an average of 241 hits while only fanning 5.1 per nine, with the whiff rate largely buoyed by a 6.6 mark in 2009. He’s a good pitcher to have around when the price is right, and the finances aren’t tight, but the Twins may do well to fill his role more cheaply, and maximize on his value come deadline time if the team falters for a second straight season. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Pavano should improve a bit with a better outfield defense, and the addition of Jamey Carroll to his infield squadron. Still, even the now-“durable” starter’s ceiling is relatively low with his lack of strikeouts, so draft him as you might pick him in real life, as a fourth or fifth starter.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/2/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Peacock’s fantasy stock rose considerably at the end of December — not because of anything he did, but because that’s when he was traded from D.C. to Oakland (along with A.J. Cole, Tom Milone, and Derek Norris). As a Nat, Peacock’s chances of starting the season in the rotation were slim. The A’s, however, enter 2012 without four of their core starting staff: Brett Anderson (Tommy John surgery), Dallas Braden (Tommy John surgery), Trevor Cahill (traded to Arizona), and Gio Gonzalez (traded to D.C. for Peacock, et al). That leaves 2010 success story Brandon McCarthy and then a bunch of guys, of whom Peacock is one. Peacock was excellent in 2010 at Double-A (34.3% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate in 98.2 IP), less dominant at Triple-A (23.5% K, 11.8% BB, 48.0 IP) and, despite an impressive-looking 0.75 ERA, actually not that impressive at all in his brief Major League stint (8.3% K, 12.5% BB, 12.0 IP). He throws his fastball at 92-93 mph and has a curveball that profiles as a definite strikeout pitch, so there’s some substance here. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: The trade that sent Peacock (and others) to Oakland increases the right-handers’ likelihood of beginning the season as a starting pitcher. He’ll need to improve upon the peripherals, however, from his brief Major League stint.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/31/1981 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Well, the White Sox are probably regretting their trade for Jake Peavy, and he now he seemingly gets hurt every season. Yes, his earlier reputation was inflated by his former home park in San Diego. But you probably are not going to be stuck with something like Peavy’s contract for him. His ERA was not great in 2011, but his strikeout and walk rates were still there. He’s barely pitched over 100 innings a season the last few years, but at this point he might be a good option for drafting or buying low. Of course, there is someone in about every league who hasn’t paid attention for a while and probably still thinks of Peavy as an “ace.” He isn’t close to that, of course, so let that person do his or her thing. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Peavy gets hurt every season, and when he’s healthy he isn’t the ace he was in his San Diego heyday, so don’t treat him that way. However, there is a chance that in some leagues people will stay away and you can get a bargain on an above-average pitcher with upside.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/14/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: We’ve known forever that Mike Pelfrey doesn’t get swinging strikes. It’s kind of hard to do that if you throw some version of a fastball over 70% of the time — offspeed stuff gets many more whiffs. The best he could hope to do is iron out his platoon splits, improve his control, and make sure to get ground balls by the bucket. So far, not so good. Well, Pelfrey has actually managed to trim his walks to just better than league average, so let’s give him credit for that. However, that’s come at the expense of ground balls, where he is now only a few ticks above average. Even at his peak (51.3% ground balls in 2009), he wasn’t elite in the category. In the end, it’s all just too mediocre. If you want to hold out hope that he starts using the split-finger more often in order to improve against lefties and get more ground balls, then do so. But even if he accomplishes those feats, he probably won’t be much better than a four-ish ERA guy with a bad WHIP and few wins. Pass. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: No. Don’t do it. Whatever size league, however much of a Mets fan you are, don’t draft Pelfrey. Just don’t.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/9/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: Pena has seen his ERA balloon the last two years. While he isn’t as bad as his ERA suggests, he isn’t very good. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/24/1978 | Position: SP|
Profile: For a guy who has consistently been a valuable player to his Major League team, Penny has rarely held much value for fantasy. Seven times he has had more than 25 starts in a year, his career FIP is 4.08, and he has accumulated 27.7 WAR over his career. But over that time, he has only broken 15 wins twice, cracked 150 strikeouts once, and had a 4.23 ERA and 1.36 WHIP — not much help in any of the traditional categories. He has created value as a pitcher by putting up league-average numbers (career ERA- of 100) while staying healthy and eating innings for six different teams. His numbers have been down since 2009, and his 2011 season was brutal, but he did throw 181.2 IP and that will likely be enough to earn him a job in 2012. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: League-average inning eaters (even late in their career, when the results are falling off) will always have Major League teams interested in them. Fantasy teams will have less interest, and Penny will likely not have much fantasy value.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/23/1976 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: The Rays took a gamble on Joel Peralta, betting his 2010 success against lefties was repeatable. Well, his 1.93 FIP against southpaws in 2011 suggests they we right, even if he ended up with a career-worst 4.79 FIP/xFIP against righties. Barring the continued growth of some strange reverse split in 2012, Peralta figures to be the Rays’ setup man and high-leverage / fireman specialist. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Peralta will get a few saves, but his main role will be as the bullpen fireman. He could easily be in a sub-3.00 ERA again in 2012 with maybe around five to 10 saves.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/15/1982 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Once one of the most dominant left-handed relievers in the American League, Rafael Perez has been far less impressive the past three years. After striking out more than a batter per inning in 2007 and 2008, Perez has seen his strikeout rate drop to 6, 5.3 and 4.7 the last three seasons. His FIP has also fallen the past three years, though, landing at 3.30 in 2011. His success the last two seasons has come from limiting walks and home runs, and without the punch-outs he put up in the late ’00’s, he will need to maintain low home run and walk rates if he is going to have success in 2012. Perez may be on a short leash with Cleveland this year — Tony Sipp and Nick Hagadone may very well be more effective lefties out of the pen for the Tribe in 2012. Perez could still bounce back if he can bring his velocity back up, but the most likely scenario is a mid-3’s ERA, minimal strikeouts and few save opportunities, if any. Not much worth grabbing on draft day. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Even if he wasn’t getting saves, the 2007-08 Rafael Perez was worth owning in fantasy leagues. The 2009-11 Rafael Perez was not, and 2012 figures to be more like the latter.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/1/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Chris Perez could be the poster-child for those who do not believe the save is a meaningful stat. The Indians closer put up 36 saves on a sub-.500 team, and blew only four opportunities over the course of the season. But he did this without striking anyone out (5.88 strikeouts per nine) and while walking way too many (3.92 walks per nine). He survived thanks to home run rate lower than his career rate (.75 vs. .89 for his career) and an unsustainable batting average on balls in play (.234). Other teams have inquired on Perez in the off-season, and the bullpen-rich Tribe has been listening, but does not seem anxious to move their incumbent closer. As a result, Perez seems likely to return to that role for the Indians in 2012, and figures to get a decent number of opportunities, as the Indians should be close to .500 and will again feature a bullpen that holds a good number of leads into the ninth. The strikeouts almost have to come back (at least a little), but even when he was striking out almost a hitter per inning, he featured a FIP of 3.54, and that might be optimistic for 2012. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Perez rewarded fantasy owners with 36 saves last year, but did so with poor rate stats and even poorer peripherals. He’ll likely be holding down the ninth to start the year in Cleveland, but don’t expect much help in any other categories
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/20/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Luis Perez made his debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, primarily out of the bullpen, although he did make four starts. His future in Toronto is as a reliever, and as a southpaw, his success against left-handed hitters will give him a situational role in the Blue Jays bullpen in 2012. While he induces ground balls, Perez walks too many batters and likely won’t get enough work to be a relevant fantasy bullpen option. (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/2/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: What a difference a year makes. The 2010 season wasn’t kind to Perkins, as his comeback from an arm injury led to a 5.81 ERA with Triple-A Rochester before a similarly mediocre 13 appearance stretch with the big league club. This, coming on the heels of Perkins filing a grievance in 2009 that the club had held him back after a disabled list stint to save on his service time. Nonetheless, Perkins was shifted to the bullpen, and took to the assignment with aplomb. For one, Perkins’ fastball climbed to an average rate of 94 miles-per-hour — three whole ticks above his previous average — and helped afford him more than a whiff per frame. He also was able to add a tick to his slider, which turned into a well above-average offering for him as he carved a niche in the back end of the Twins bullpen. He won’t close — at least not at the outset — in 2012, but with Matt Capps’ strikeouts reaching an all-time low in 2011, Perkins will be on-call most of the season. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: As a setup man, Perkins will have value in leagues that use holds. He’ll also be the likely closer-in-waiting. So keep your eye on the Matt Capps implosion factor, because if/when that takes place, Perkins is the direct in-house favorite to lock down saves in Minneapolis.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/13/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Ryan Perry was half of what very well may have been the least talked-about trade of the off-season when he moved from Detroit to DC on December ninth. The soon-to-be 25-year-old right-handed reliever posted the worst season of his short career in 2011. In 2009 and 2010, he posted sub-4.00 ERAs, despite FIPs above 4.50. In 2011, he completely stopped giving up home runs (just one allowed over 37 innings), but he also walked 21 while striking out only 24 over those innings, and posted a career low 36.7% ground-ball rate. The result was a 5.35 ERA and a one-way ticket to the National League. The league change should help Perry, but not enough to make him a viable fantasy option, particularly since he won’t be earning saves. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Perry’s weak 2011 earned him a trade to the Nationals, and he should benefit from the league switch. But he still won’t be earning saves and won’t post the rate stats needed for fantasy relevance.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/20/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: There were a number of rookies who had stand-out years in the pen in 2011, and Vinnie Pestano deserves to have his name listed among the best of them. He struck out 84 in just 62 innings, posted a 2.67 FIP, and was part of a lock-down bullpen that helped the Indians jump out to a shocking fast start. And if his Minor League track record says anything, it’s that he could even be due for some improvement as a sophomore. Pestano has struck out more than 11 per nine innings pitched the last three seasons, so there is no reason to expect fewer strikeouts, and his 3.48 walks per nine innings in 2011 was his worst rate (not counting five MLB innings in 2010) since he was in A-ball. Pestano had some good luck in 2011 with a lower than expected batting average on balls in play and a higher than expect strand rate, but if he can bring down his walks, he could easily post another FIP well below 3.00. If Chris Perez gets traded or loses his job — either before or during the season — Pestano could be in line to get a shot at the closer’s role and, if he does, he could be a very valuable fantasy player. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Relievers hold little fantasy value when they don’t get saves, and Pestano will start the year going for holds. But he could get a shot to close if Chris Perez gets moved or struggles, and he’ll provide great rate stats and lots of strikeouts in the meantime.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/18/1989 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Sometimes a little success can be a bad thing. Not too bad a thing, of course. Pineda exceeded all expectations in 2011, throwing one of the best fastballs in the league and immediately establishing himself as one of the strongest second starters around. Perhaps the only complaint one could have about him is that he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher; they’re good pitches, but he’s yet to master his changeup (6.3% of pitches thrown). He’s also an extreme fly baller (36.3% ground-ball rate), so his numbers, especially his home run rate, will probably suffer away from the friendly confines of Safeco Field. Pineda tired down the stretch, predictably, although fortunately the Mariners’ ineptitude removed any temptation to overuse him. The resulting workload wasn’t too much of a jump over 2010, but he’s still a young arm and he does have some injury flags in his past. Lastly, Pineda is no Ed Whitson: he’ll have no trouble with the New York media, and he’ll enjoy the concept of run support. There’s plenty of potential here, and if you can stomach the moderate risk, it’ll be fun to watch him fulfill it. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Perhaps the only complaint one could have about Pineda is that he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher; they’re good pitches, but he’s yet to master his changeup. He’s also an extreme fly baller, so his numbers, especially his home run rate, will probably suffer away from the friendly confines of Safeco Field. There’s plenty of potential here, and if you can stomach the moderate risk, it’ll be fun to watch him fulfill it.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/25/1978 | Position: SP|
Profile: Pineiro looked great during his time in St. Louis, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that performance in the two years since. Granted, he did move the American League and into a less friendly stadium, but he wasn’t even able to stay healthy enough to start 25 games in either of his two seasons in Los Angeles. Now with the Phillies on a Minor League deal, he’ll have to leapfrog three or four guys to get a starting gig again. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Pineiro is a risky bet that should probably be waiver wire fodder in every league out there.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/22/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: The Rockies prize in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Drew Pomeranz represents much of Colorado’s present and future. The lefty isn’t going to overpower anybody, but he makes up for it with good control and an even better yellow hammer. Pomeranz zoomed through the Minor Leagues last season, making his Major League debut before he accumulated 100 Minor League innings. He was effective in three of his four starts down the stretch for the Rockies, particularly in his debut when he threw five shutout innings. The Rockies will take things slowly with Pomeranz, but if he doesn’t make the Opening Day rotation, he will likely force his way into the picture in short order. If you don’t already have him in your keeper league, you should grab him now. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: The fifth pick in the 2010 draft, Pomeranz reached the majors quickly, and has only scratched the surface of his potential thus far. He might not be a good play off the bat in standard leagues, but you’ll want to lock him up if you play in a keeper format.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Once hailed as the next Josh Beckett, Porcello has not lived up to the hype that made him receive the largest bonus ever given to a high school player through 2007. Last year was basically a repeat of 2010, and Porcello did not show any progression. The young right-hander attacks batters with two 90 MPH fastballs, a slider that he rarely threw in the minors, a decent changeup, and a rarely thrown curveball that was supposed to be a strikeout pitch. Since his debut he’s thrown less fastballs and curves, replacing them with sliders. The change has made little difference overall though. Last year Porcello threw his 500th inning — the threshold at which ERA becomes equally as predictive of future performance as FIP. At this point it’s hard to expect anything more than a mid-4’s ERA with few strikeouts. And now with the defensive infield that the Tigers are ‘fielding,’ the ground-baller’s floor just lowered. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Don’t expect Porcello to pitch like the frontline starter he was supposed to become. He won’t provide much more than around 190 innings with a below average ERA and few strikeouts.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/26/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Some look at Price’s 2011 season as a disappointment. He had a losing record and his ERA of 3.49 was nearly a full run higher than 2010. The thing is, he pitched better. His strikeout rate increased to 8.75 per nine while his walks fell to 2.53 per nine. His 3.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked eighth in the AL. He encountered some bad luck with men in scoring position, allowing a .331 batting average on balls in play in those situations. He pitched well enough to win more than 12 games, but the Rays offense had trouble scoring for him, as evidenced by their 3.93 runs per nine in his starts. Given better luck, the type he had in 2010, there’s no reason Price shouldn’t return to fantasy prominence. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Price is still one of the best pitchers in the game. Advanced metrics point toward a lower ERA, and improved luck, both of the offense and batted ball variety, should help his win total improve.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/2/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: If your Fantasy league counts Korean stats, Scott Proctor should almost certainly be on your radar. Who wouldn’t want a member of the Doosan Bears on their team?
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 2/22/1977 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: It’s been four years since Putz was dominating the end game for the Mariners, but he’s now strung together two very strong back-to-back years with the White Sox and Diamondbacks. In his return to the closer’s role last year, he struck out 9.47 batters per nine while walking just 1.86 per nine, helping him keep his ERA (2.17) and WHIP (0.91) firmly among fantasy’s elite. The only problem with Putz is his durability, or lack thereof. He missed four weeks with elbow inflammation and a handful of games with a balky back in 2011, and he’s visited the disabled list at least once every year since 2007. Putz is unlikely to get more durable at age 34 (35 in February), so count on him for about 45 excellent innings and nothing more. The spectrum of possibilities next season is quite wide for the veteran righty. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Production has never really been an issue for Putz, it’s all about his health. He’s been on the disabled list at least once in each of the last four seasons, but is a safe bet for a strikeout an inning with a WHIP near 1.00 and an ERA near 2.00 when healthy.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Qualls knocked nearly four full runs off his ERA last season despite relatively unchanged peripherals thanks to roughly 100 points of bad luck on balls in play. He could rack up a nice number of holds and maybe even steal the occasional save, but the ERA and strikeout rate just aren’t good enough to make him rosterable. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/16/1982 | Position: P|
Profile: Coming off a solid 2011 campaign that saw him post a strikeout rate of 8.65 with a career best 2.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Ramirez, along with outfielder Andres Torres, was dealt to the Mets in exchange for outfielder Angel Pagan. The 30-year-old right-hander immediately slots into the late-inning plan in the bullpen and should produce fairly well for New York. If there was concern of his leaving pitcher-friendly AT&T Park for a stadium in which the fences have been brought in and the walls lowered, you can turn to his increased ground-ball rate for consolation. The increased use of his slider should continue to force hitters into knocking it in the dirt and Ramirez should continue to post solid relief numbers in 2012. He could be next in line if (when) Frank Francisco goes down. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Ramirez is one of the new components added to a revamped New York Mets bullpen in 2012 and should provide decent relief if he can continue to maintain the vastly improved ground-ball totals we witnessed last season. He’s a short reliever who can get the job done, but his fantasy impact isn’t as strong unless your league counts holds.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 9/27/1978 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: For a big man, one of the biggest ever in baseball history, Jon Rauch doesn’t throw very hard, and the reliever regressed after a 2010 that saw him register some of the better numbers of his career. Moving from Toronto’s Rogers Centre to the New York Mets’ Citi Field will certainly help the fly ball pitcher. But for Rauch to have fantasy value as he did in 2010, when he was closing for the Twins, he’ll have to keep the ball in the ballpark — something he struggled to do last year. While Rauch has collected over 50 saves over the past four years, he isn’t an ideal closing candidate, as he doesn’t strike out enough batters and gives up far too many home runs. He is your classic middle reliever, with little fantasy value, and look for him to be the go-to guy in the seventh inning for the Mets. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Rauch will be one of two set-up men for Frank Francisco in Queens, New York, and has limited fantasy value as a middle reliever who should strike out more batters based on his intimidation factor (and height) alone.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/12/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: After a ghastly April in the set-up role (14.21 ERA), Ray was actually pretty decent cleaning up the trash for a last place team, earning a 2.86 ERA the rest of the way. It might have even earned him the chance to clean up the trash for a last place team in 2012. Quick opinion on Ray’s beer, Homefront IPA: upcoming. (Patrick Dubuque)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: It seems like a foregone conclusion that Addison Reed will be closing in Chicago sometime soon, but whether that is Opening Day, August, or 2013 is anyone’s guess. The 22-year-old has absolutely dominated the Minor Leagues – if you were to take his worst season in terms of strikeouts (11.81 per nine), walks (2.61 per nine) and home runs (.84 per nine) you would have a stellar reliever, but this is really the ground floor for Reed. Any time a pitcher is regularly pushing 1.5 strikeouts per inning while walking almost no one, you have the recipe for success. Reed saw seven-plus innings of Major League action in 2010 and the big league hitters didn’t fare any better than their Minor League counterparts — in less than a game’s worth of innings, he had 12 strikeouts and just one walk, alll while allowing a single home run as well. The 3.68 ERA isn’t stellar, but the 1.93 FIP is. Reed may not start 2012 on the 25-man roster, and if he does, he may not be used as a closer yet, but he is worth owning for strikeouts alone once he gets the call, and once he is closing, his value could be sky-high. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The biggest question mark for Reed is whether or not the White Sox are willing to hand him the closer’s cap on day one. He has the stuff and it shows; now he just needs a shot.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/4/1982 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: In his first season spent entirely in the majors, Resop pitched better than his 4.40 ERA would have you believe. The righty used his 93-96 mph fastball and sweeping breaking ball to compile 10.2 strikeouts per nine, 3.9 walks per nine and a 3.67 FIP, but a .344 batting average on balls in play obscured that decent work. He seemed to lose favor as the season progressed, pitching more often in garbage time in August and September (though high-leverage situations were few and far between for the Bucs). Resop got 15 holds in 2011, but he’ll have to compete with the likes of Evan Meek, Jose Veras and Jason Grilli next year. You can forget about saves unless half the ‘pen comes down with scurvy. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Resop is a good middle reliever, but his bouts of wildness and fly ball-heavy approach make managers’ stomachs churn at times.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 11/20/1984 | Position: SP|
Profile: Reyes may be most known for his inability to win games, which is never a good thing to be semi-famous for. He was actually serviceable for the Blue Jays, as he posted about an extra win compared to a replacement level pitcher over 110 innings in Toronto. As far as fantasy went, though, Reyes was unownable. I don’t care what kind of league you played in; even if you played in a league where you could only draft players with hyphens in their first name, you shouldn’t have taken Reyes. The left-hander will likely get a chance to win a job during spring training in 2012, and unless he manages to pitch for the Padres and learns to throw a knuckleball, you shouldn’t draft him. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Reyes isn’t an absolutely terrible pitcher, but he won’t be winning a Cy Young award any time soon. Don’t draft him.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/2/1984 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Though it didn’t show up in his ERA, Matt Reynolds had a pretty decent season, compiling a 3.63 xFIP. Though his innings-per-game ratio seemingly paints him as a LOOGY, Reynolds actually faced an even number of left- and right-handed hitters. He still isn’t nearly as effective against righties, who tend to lay off his stuff and take their free base with alarming frequency. As a fly-ball pitcher, Coors Field isn’t Reynolds’ best friend, but pitching there has not yet been a death sentence for him either — he actually allowed more homers on the road last season. He should once again be an important part of the Rockies’ bullpen mix, but if the club needs a lefty to close out a game, it’s more likely that it will be Rex Brothers getting the call than it will be Reynolds. Until he gets his homers under control, he will be a volatile reliever, but a lefty that strikes out nearly a batter an inning is going to get a lot of chances to fail. (Paul Sywdan)
Quick Opinion: If you need holds, you could do worse than Reynolds, but his homer prone tendencies make him a risky play — look to pick up the more stable members of the Rockies’ bullpen first.
|Debut: 1991 | BirthDate: 10/24/1969 | Position: RP|
Profile: After a five-year run as a strong lefty specialist, Rhodes got smacked around by same-side hitters in 2011 and is pretty much a bad month away from a forced retirement at this point. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/12/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: In his first full Major League season (2009), Clayton Richard struggled with his control and gave up too many home runs. The next year he earned a mid-season trade to San Diego, giving him a chance to pitch in a far less homer-friendly park. Sure enough, he allowed fewer home runs since the move west, and he is actually giving up fewer walks, but his strikeouts have fallen off a cliff. Last year, Richard managed an ERA below 4.00 despite striking out less than five hitters per nine innings, thanks in large part to a significant home-road split. The lack of strikeouts significantly hurt his fantasy value, but as a back-of the-rotation option used only in home games, Richard is usable. He had a 3.34 FIP at Petco last year, with a 1.11 WHIP. He won’t win a ton a of games with that offense, nor will he get many strikeouts, but he will provide half a season worth of solid rate stats, as long as he is a Padre. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: At first glance, Clayton Richard does not appear worth owning in fantasy leagues, but PetCo has a way of making mediocre pitchers look good. In deeper leagues where you can use a guy like Richard only in home games, he will provide good rate stats.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/27/1988 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: A supplemental pick in 2009, Richards has become the top arm in the Angels’ system. Nearly big league-ready, the 23-year-old righty debuted late in 2011 after holding down Double-A hitters all season (12-2, 3.15 ERA, 1.14 WHIP). His stuff isn’t swing-and-miss, but he has good control (2.4 career walk rate) and should be an innings-eater with spot-starter potential in AL-only play. Richards could get a long look in March, but the Angels won’t need to rush him. (Jason Catania)
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 11/29/1969 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: The greatest reliever in baseball history was superb yet again in 2011, as Rivera put together another sub-2.00 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, 35+ save season for the Yankees. He also got back to striking out a batter an inning (8.80 strikeouts per nine) following a one-year blip (6.75 strikeouts per nine in 2010), which is just icing on the cake. Relievers aren’t supposed to be this effective at 41 years old, but apparently Father Time can’t figure out Rivera. With his trademark cutter actually seeing an uptick in velocity as he gets further away from 2008 shoulder surgery, there is little reason to expect anything less than greatness from Mariano in 2012. He’ll have his usual one bad week in April and one bad week in August, then continue to mow down hitters like no one else. The only thing to watch for it how the Yankees use him, as David Robertson and Rafael Soriano will allow them to reduce the number of back-to-back-to-back appearances he makes. Otherwise, Rivera should be one of the first three or fourth closers off the board come draft day. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The greatest reliever ever was his usual masterful self in 2011, and there’s little reason to expect Rivera to slow down in 2012 despite his advanced age (now 42). Expect a sub-2.00 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, and 34+ saves for the fifth straight season and seventh time in eight years.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/9/1985 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Robertson was a solid high-strikeout holds candidate in 2009 and 2010, but he took a major step forward in 2011 and put together one of the best reliever seasons in all of baseball. He employed a new cut fastball, which helped get some ground balls (46.3% grounders in 2011 after 38.0% from 2009-2010) and keep the ball in the park (he gave up just one homer all season). Combine that with a 13.50 strikeout rate (12.03 career), and you’ve got a recipe for a 89.8% strand rate and 1.08 ERA. Robertson walks way too many guys (4.73 per nine in 2011, 4.72 career) to sustain sub-2.00 ERAs forever, but if the new cutter is the real deal, there’s no reason he won’t be one of the game’s top setup men again. You won’t see him usurp Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning anytime soon, but he could vulture some saves if the Yankees take it easy on their aging closer. Otherwise, just count on him for oodles of strikeouts and holds. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: An 89.8% strand rate and 1.08 ERA probably isn’t sustainable, but Robertson’s high strikeout ways are. If his new cutter and strong ground-ball rate prove to be real improvements, then he’ll settle in as one of fantasy’s best holds candidates going forward.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 3/18/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Fernando Rodney’s 2011 was not what he was hoping for in a contract year, but it’s too late to change anything now. Rodney walked more batters then he struck out, and the Angels somehow allowed the right-hander to pitch in thirty-nine games. He still has good velocity, but without a offseason of throwing the ball through a children’s bike tire 1000 times a day, he’s going to have a hard time holding down an MLB job. The Rays will give him a shot, though, and there’s even a little daylight at their closer’s spot, since Kyle Farnsworth hasn’t been the picture of consistency. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Rodney walked more batters than he struck out last season. Don’t even think about drafting him.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/18/1979 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Nearly all of “Magic Wandy’s” peripherals slipped last season, but he still remained an effective pitcher. While he’s always been slightly less effective against righties, his splits were more drastic last season. Righties teed off against Wandy — to the tune of a 1.44 home run rate and a 4.71 FIP. His fastball (-13.2 pitch value) lost some effectiveness, but his curve remains one of the best in baseball, trailing only Roy Halladay’s in pitch type value last season. The 33-year-old is older than you might expect and may be experiencing the first stages of decline, but he should still be a useful fantasy starter this season. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Rodriguez may have lost some effectiveness last season, but he’s still a solid fantasy option. He’s posted a mid-threes ERA in each of the last four seasons, and can be counted on to do the same next year.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/13/1987 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: After starting the season in the bullpen, Rodriguez was given a shot in the Astros rotation. It didn’t go all that well. After just eight starts — and a 5.80 ERA — Rodriguez was banished back to the pen for the rest of the season. As a reliever, Rodriguez has little value unless he starts racking up saves for the Astros next season. Given that he didn’t receive a single save opportunity last season, it looks like he’s fighting an uphill battle. There’s talk of the Astros moving Rodriguez back to the rotation, but he’ll need to develop a third pitch if he hopes to succeed in longer stints. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Rodriguez seems ill-equipped to move to the rotation at this time, and doesn’t seem like a strong choice to rack up saves for the Astros. Unless he wrestles away the closer role from Mark Melancon, he isn’t worth a pick next season.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/25/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Forget CERN -– Rodriguez’s fastball proves that objects can travel faster than the speed of light. If only he had a clue as to where that fastball was going. The Joel Zumaya-in-Training averaged 98 MPH with his heat (fastest among qualified pitchers) and struck out 9.6 batters per nine innings, but he also placed behind only K.C.’s Tim Collins and Cincy’s Aroldis Chapman among qualified relievers in walks per nine innings (6.2). He had a 3.56 ERA, but his peripherals suggest a mark closer to four due to an ultra-low home run per fly ball rate (1.8 percent). While Rodriguez could turn into a shutdown reliever if his control becomes just passable, don’t expect that to translate into saves with Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard also in the Nats’ bullpen. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: Presently, Rodriguez is an average-ish reliever overall who can strike out the side in one appearance and walk the bases loaded in the next. He has to throw more strikes to earn high-leverage work, and it’s hard to see him ascending to the closer’s role with two young, lights-out relievers standing in his way.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/7/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Despite being relegated to a setup role upon a trade to Milwaukee, Rodriguez put up one of his best statistical seasons in 2011. His strikeout rate nearly topped 10 per nine innings, his ground ball rate was a career high 51%, and hie managed to keep his walk rate below 3.3 for the first time since his 5.2 innings as a rookie in 2002. His acceptance of arbitration in Milwaukee means few saves but potentially huge hold numbers behind John Axford. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Rodriguez will remain the Brewers’ setup man thanks to his acceptance of arbitration, and he still has what it takes to excel in that role — or any relief role, for that matter.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/14/1985 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Rockies gave Rogers more of an opportunity to stick in the starting rotation than they did in 2010, but he was tattooed worse than before. While his 2010 numbers painted him as a soldier of misfortune, there were no silver linings in his 2011 performance. He walked more than five batters per nine innings, gave up a mammoth-sized 1.52 homers per nine innings and saw his impressive strikeout rate drop as well. It all added up to an unsightly 167 ERA-. A converted infielder, Rogers has good raw stuff, but has never been able to harness it long enough to be a positive contributor at the Major League level, and is in danger of losing his job. The Rockies have imported a bushelful of starting pitchers since the trade deadline, and as a result Rogers is facing some pretty stiff odds to keep his roster spot. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Armed with some filthy stuff, there has always been the hope that Rogers would put it all together, but that ship appears to have sailed, and his prospects for a spot in the Rockies’ rotation have probably sailed away with it.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/6/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: At first glance, Ricky Romero had a breakout season in 2012. He kept his strikeout rate up, brought down his walks, and posted a sub-3.00 ERA. However, Romero had the third-lowest batting average on balls in play among qualified starters, leaving him with an FIP of 4.20 — a far cry from his 2.92 ERA. Considering what we’ve seen the last three years from Romero, it seems safe to assume just over seven strikeouts per nine, around 3.5 walks per nine and around one home run per nine. All of that would likely leave him with an ERA in the high three’s or low four’s. Not enough to make him a fantasy ace, but certainly worth owning. He becomes even more valuable if you can avoid pitching him in division games. Last year Romero gave up five or more runs in a start five times, but four of those came against AL East opponents. By being cautious about when and how you use him, you can likely ride Romero to decent strikeout numbers and an ERA closer to 3.00. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Romero has been very steady in terms of control and strikeouts, but has had fluctuating batting averages on balls in play, left on base percentages, and home run rates move his ERA from a high of 4.30 to a low of 2.92. Expect him to settle closer to 4.00 and draft accordingly — but know that if you keep him away from New York and Boston, his numbers look much better.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/4/1983 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: No matter what numbers you look at for Romo in 2011, the results are simply phenomenal. He finished the season having thrown just 48 innings due to elbow inflammation that sidelined him for three weeks in August, but posted a 13.13 strikeout rate with an insane 14.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had a 1.50 ERA with a 0.96 FIP, had a strand rate of 83.3% and posted just 4.9% home runs per fly ball. To say that he was vital to the success of the Giants would be an understatement. Romo returns to the same role in the Giants pen in 2012 and while you might not be able to expect results as strong as they were in 2011, you can still expect him to be one of the more productive relievers in the National League provided the elbow doesn’t flare up again. One last thing to note – with Brian Wilson set to be a free agent at the end of 2012 there is always the chance of a trade which could land Romo in the closer’s role. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Romo was one of the most productive set-up men in the NL in 2011, posting a 1.50 ERA with an insane 13.13 strikeout rate and 14 strikeouts per walk. He returns to the Giants pen in the same role in 2012 and, barring another elbow flare up, should continue to produce at a high level. The original beard to fear, Romo is one of the top options for leagues that use holds as a category.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/22/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Tyson Ross made his big-league debut in 2010 and pitched decently, primarily in a relief role, putting up an FIP of 4.30 in 39.1 innings. At 23 years old, he put up good strikeout numbers (7.32 strikeouts per nine) but struggled with his control. He appeared to be at the start of a promising career. For the first couple months of 2011, he seemed to be advancing just how you would like — he made nine appearances, six as a starter with a FIP of just 3.14. While his strikeout numbers went down, his walk rate improved and on May 14, he made the best start of his young career, allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out eight and walking just one in a home start vs. the White Sox. Five days later, he injured his oblique and never returned to the A’s rotation. He spent the rest of the year in Triple-A with a FIP of 4.92 over nine starts. He walked more than five per nine IP, gave up too many home runs (1.23 home runs per nine), and found himself pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where the homer-bug continued to torment him (1.6 HR/9). However, there may be some hope for Ross. The Trevor Cahill trade opens up a rotation slot, and his 2011 struggles in Triple-A were heavily influenced by a .385 batting average on balls in play and a strand rate below 60%. He probably isn’t worth drafting, except in the deepest of leagues, but if Ross can find his form, his home park should help keep that home run number down. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Ross fell off a cliff after a solid start last year, suffering a rough campaign in Triple-A. There is a rotation spot for him to try to win in 2012, but until he shows that he can limit the walks and home runs, he is not going to provide much fantasy value.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/8/1986 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Russell figures to compete for a rotation spot in 2012, but looks better-suited to a long-man relief role. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/14/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: Russell started the season as a Rays’ long man / middle reliever, but his strong ERA (3.03) masked an otherwise unbearable performance (5.14 FIP). His control problems continued in the minors and likely foretell a great struggle to make the majors in 2012, given the deep Atlanta bullpen. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Do not expect to see much of Russell, who really needs to turn around his strikeout-to-walk ratio before he can expect to break into the deep Atlanta pen.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/29/1985 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Marc Rzepczynski, the relief pitcher whose last name gives us all fits. Scrabble, as he’s affectionately — and efficiently — known, put together a solid 2011 out of the bullpen for both Toronto and St. Louis, but especially the Cardinals. The left-handed relief pitcher induced ground-balls at an alarming rate in 2011 — 64.8% — and saw his strikeout rate jump to 11.12 in 22.2 innings once he joined the Senior Circuit. Rzepczynski’s sinker toyed with batters throughout the fall, and in the postseason Scrabble walked only one batter in 8.1 innings of relief. There’s a lot to like about him, and while there’s no doubt his walk rate needs to improve, the good outweighs the bad, and he could be worth your middle relief selection. Up and down with the Blue Jays, it seems Scrabble’s found a home in St. Louis. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Rzepczynski’s strikeout rate went through the roof once he became a National League relief pitcher, and that makes him a candidate to round out your fantasy team’s bullpen. Still only 26 years old, should he improve on his walk rate with the Cardinals in 2012, he could be that much more valuable. A valuable middle relief option.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/21/1980 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Sabathia reversed a three year decline in his strikeout-to-walk ratio, as his strikeout rate jumped to its second-highest mark ever and his walk rate fell. That combination, along with an above-average ground ball rate, allowed Sabathia to post the best SIERA of his career. After his swinging strike rate declined in 2010 to its lowest mark since 2003, it rebounded back above 11%, while his first strike rate bounced over 60% again as well. Given his rotund figure and the number of innings he has thrown over the last five years (he has pitched the most number of innings in baseball in that time), it will be interesting how long he lasts before he breaks down. Until there is some sort of sign though, Sabathia will remain one of the top pitchers in baseball. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Sabathia posted the best SIERA of his career last year and there are no signs of a slow down any time soon. Though his weight and number of innings he has thrown over the last five years should be in the back of your mind, he should remain a top pitcher until further notice.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/14/1970 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Saito has made one of the most effective transitions from NPB to MLB, recording an ERA under 3.00 each season as a major leaguer. However, at 43 he may not be able to pitch consecutive games effectively any more. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/30/1985 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: The capricious ways of Tony LaRussa landed Salas in the closer’s role for part of 2011, but the same waves that put him in, then took him out in favor of Jason Motte. It’s hard to pin down exactly what the Cardinals’ bullpen is going to look in terms of who will get the primary set up job, but however it shakes out, Salas is a good option for deep league players looking to steal a few strikeouts from a middle reliever. His fly ball rate is somewhat concerning at 52 percent, but he doesn’t give up many home runs and his WHIP and ERA are both well within usable ranges. For shallow leagues, Salas probably doesn’t have much value unless either Motte or Kyle McClellan gets hurt or completely loses the ability to find home plate. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Salas is a decent option for those looking to grab strikeouts without worrying about picking up holds or saves at the same time. His ERA and WHIP won’t hurt owners much and he’s typically good for at least one strikeout every time he pitches.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: The 2012 season will mark the third in which Sale has pitched professionally, having made his way to the majors just two months after having been drafted 13th overall by the White Sox in the 2010 draft. In this sense, we have data off of which to make statements about Sale, who’s posted an excellent 71 xFIP- in his first 94.1 career innings. However, the White Sox have announced that they plan to insert the left-handed Sale into the starting rotation for 2012, which creates a broader spectrum of outcomes. On the one hand, Sale could continue to flourish even in an expanded role; on the other, he could be hamstrung by increased exposure to right-handed batters (right-handers made up 55.5% of the batters he’s faced in the majors; average for lefty starts is about 75%). A changeup that Keith Law calls a plus pitch suggests that the former outcome is the more likely. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: After about 100 dominant relief innings, Sale enters the rotation in 2012. Provided his changeup keeps right-handers at bay, he should be an above-average starter.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/23/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: The former Notre Dame star wide receiver once looked like the pearl of deep Chicago Cubs pitching system, but through 2010, he became a mediocre swing man. In 2011, he rebounded strong with a 2.97 ERA and 3.66 FIP, but his xFIP (4.27) suggests he had serious home run luck. If we can trust his FIP or SIERA (3.85), the 27-year-old Samardzija should have a fair chance at grabbing a fifth starter spot. Otherwise, it will be long man duty again for the former fifth rounder. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Long man or bottom of the order starter? It depends on if his SIERA (3.85) or his xFIP (4.27) is the real deal. His personal history suggests the xFIP knows what’s up.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/8/1988 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After making a decent debut for the Marlins in 2010, Sanabia only pitched 11.0 innings last season due to elbow issues. He has excellent control, but with a fastball that barely averages 90.0 MPH, he induces swinging strikes at a below-average clip, leading to a mediocre strikeout rate. He has also been an extreme fly ball pitcher, which is dangerous for a pitcher who allows so many base hits. With only 35.2 innings pitched at Triple-A, he is likely to spend some more time down on the farm as he continues his recovery from the elbow problems that plagued him last year. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Recovering from elbow issues and only possessing mediocre skills to begin with, it will be difficult for Sanabia to get another shot in the Marlins’ rotation. An injury or another poor season from Chris Volstad could accelerate his chance, but he would only be a low-tier NL-Only league flier anyway.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/8/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Brian Sanches, a soft-tossing (88 MPH), aged (32) right-hander, has about zero fantasy value heading into 2012. His best trait is a decent strikeout rate of 7.7 in 2011 and a 7.8 value for his career. That decent strikeout rate is completely offset by a bad walk rate (5.2 in 2011 and 4.7 for his career). He is also a fly ball pitcher (47% for his career) which has led to a decent batting average on balls in play (.261). The low career BABIP in turn has kept his strand rate high (79%) and his ERA (3.58) lower than his FIP (4.87) and xFIP (4.77). Even with the low ERA, his value is about as low has it can be for reliever. A sub-1.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio is just not going to be useful for a non-closer. He could see his value improve if he is able to drop the walk rate below three. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Brian walks too many batters to be considered a viable relief pitcher option.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/19/1982 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: 2011 was not a good year for Sanchez. He struggled with his command in virtually every start (he posted a 5.86 walk rate for the year), saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio drop to 1.55, and watched his ERA climb to 4.26. To make matters worse, he only made three starts after the All Star break due to an ankle injury. His emotions on the mound tended to get the better of him and it was no wonder the Giants jumped at the opportunity to trade him to Kansas City during the offseason. How Sanchez will fare in the American League as the Royals number two starter is yet to be seen. His interleague numbers aren’t too bad (career 3.73 ERA in 89.1 innings) and he’s had some success in the limited matchups with AL Central opponents, but the expectancy for a rise in ERA and decrease in strikeouts is certainly there. Kauffman Stadium plays better to hitters than AT&T does, so you might want to steer clear until he can prove himself. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Sanchez heads to the American League as the number two starter in the Royals rotation. No longer benefiting from things like AT&T Park’s dimensions or facing a pitcher in the batter’s box, Sanchez could struggle early on. If he continues to let his emotions get the better of him, the results could be even worse. Be wary of drafting him in 2012.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/27/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Anibal had another good season in 2011 after a breakout year in 2010. Signs point to him having just of good a season in 2012. The key to his success the last couple of years is his improving control. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has over doubled from 1.5 in 2009 to 3.2 in 2011. This change is fuel by an increase in his strikeout rate from 7.4 to 9.3 and a decrease in his walk rate from 4.8 to 2.9. The increase in K/9 moved him from the 150 strikeouts per season level to the 200 strikeouts per season level. The one knock against him is that he puts in just over six innings per start. If he was able to go seven per start, his strikeout total would go up by 30. With the his newfound control, there is no reason that he can not repeat 2011 again with a sub 3.5 ERA, double digit wins and 200+ strikeouts. He is undervalued come draft day — look at his average draft position to see if you can get him cheap. (jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Sanchez’s new found control has led him to be an undervalued asset on draft day.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/16/1989 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: The Cardinals had a revolving door at closer before Jason Motte stepped in late in the season, and Sanchez held ninth inning honors for a while. A rotator cuff strain ended his season in mid-June and could impact his future outlook if his mid-80’s heat and power slider don’t come all the way back. Sanchez struck out 35 in his 30 innings, but he also walked 16 and has battled control problems for most of his career. Sanchez figures to be one of Motte’s primary setup guys next year, making him a strikeout friendly holds candidate in most leagues. In the best case scenario, he steps into some saves opportunity and manages to keep the job for the rest of the season. In the worst case, he winds up back in Triple-A fighting his walk problems again. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Shoulder problems ended Sanchez’s season prematurely in 2011, but he figures to step back into a setup role next year and offer a ton of strikeouts. Walks are a concern though.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/12/1982 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: Thanks to his stretch from 2005 to 2010, you likely view Santana as fragile and flaky. Well, Santana’s performance seems to have flattened out and found its’ mark, and the right-hander just posted his second consecutive 200+ inning season, his third in four years. Santana’s strikeout rate sits in the high-sixes and low-sevens while his walk rate tends to stay around three per nine. Santana added grounders to his arsenal in 2011, which was a nice treat for fantasy owners. Santana may get to face off against lesser fourth starters a little more often now that the Halos have brought C.J. Wilson into the fold, so you can expect around 13 or 14 wins in 2012, assuming Santana gets a full season on the mound. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Santana should win 13 or 14 games while posting an ERA in the mid-to-high-threes. He’s not a fantasy stud, but he’s worthy of a pick late in standard-league drafts.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/13/1979 | Team: Mets | Position: P|
Profile: Old Johan Santana, he ain’t what he used to be. Since 2007, he’s seen his swinging strike rate decline every year, down from excellent to slightly above average, and his strikeout rate has dived with it. He still showed excellent control and somehow still managed to give up fewer home runs per fly ball than the league (9.1% career) … until a shoulder capsule injury felled him for 2011. That’s the same injury that robbed Chien-Ming Wang of much of his velocity and effectiveness, so be vary wary of spending on Santana, especially with the Mets moving the fences in. On the other hand, Santana is falling off a better peak than Wang, he’s now had a full year to recover, and there will be more than a few good spot starts on his schedule. He could still round out the back end of your fantasy rotation, particularly if you are in a deep league or have multiple DL slots. Don’t completely forget about Johan, yet. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Already in a full-on decline that started in about 2007, Santana went down with a shoulder capsule injury that robbed him of 2011 completely. Projecting him — or depending on him — for 2012 is an iffy proposition, but at some point (late) he should be interesting in most drafts.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/4/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Santos joins Kenley Jansen in the fascinating realm of bad-hitters-turned-amazing-relievers. Santos was actually a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2002, but after flailing away with a .699 OPS after eight minor league campaigns, the White Sox put him on the mound and turned him loose in spring training of 2010. Santos was a bit wild, issuing seven free passes in 10.1 innings, but he also fanned 16, so the club invited him up north. He rewarded the Sox’ faithfulness by not allowing a run for the first month, and hasn’t looked back since, fanning nearly 12 per nine while reeling his WHIP in a bit in 2011. Santos is on his way to Toronto to close in 2012 as part of the White Sox odd ‘rebuilding’ phase, and will likely rack up a bunch of saves for a Jays club that could be sneaky good. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Santos is going to be a fun closer to watch north of the border. On a team that’s likely to be pretty darn good, Santos should come close to saving 40 games, and likely will whiff well over a hitter an inning. The only thing that may derail him is his command, which tends to be extremely erratic when it’s off at all.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: The fantasy value of Joe Saunders is very limited. In 2011, he was able to post a 3.69 ERA with 12 wins. His FIP (4.78) and xFIP (4.38) showed that he was a little lucky. This difference can also be seen by his .271 batting average on balls in play which was 18 points lower than his career value of .289. The lower number of hits helped him to a career low strand rate (78%) and a decent WHIP (1.31). Joe will always rely on his defense with a ~4.5 strikeout rate. His strikeout rate is down from his 2008 six per nine level because he lost 1.5 MPH off of his fastball since that season. Since Arizona is a good defensive team in the National League, that helps. Unfortunately, he’s probably the fifth starter now and will get skipped, lowering his ability to eat innings — his best asset. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Saunders has limited upside. His value is maximized on a good defensive team in a home-run suppressing park. At least Arizona has one of those things.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/27/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: While many still view Max Scherzer as a young, inexperienced starter, he turned 27 in 2011 and has over 600 innings to his name; it’s pretty likely that we know who he is at this point. Despite an ERA last year of 4.43 — nearly a full run worse per nine innings than 2010 — he was pretty much the same pitcher. He struck out eight per nine last year — the lowest rate of his career — but he compensated by dropping his walk rate. He gave up 29 home runs last year — sixth most among qualified starters — but this can be traced to a very high home run per fly ball rate that we should not expect to continue. He’s lost over a tick on his fastball since his debut in 2008, but his stuff is still very good, and it’s natural for pitchers to lose velocity after their early twenties. Next year Scherzer is a safe bet for about 190 innings with an ERA around 3.8 and a high rate of strikeouts. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Despite being portrayed as a volatile starter, Max Scherzer’s peripherals have been pretty consistent. We can confidently expect a performance a little better than the average of his 2010 and 2011 seasons.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/9/1986 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Schlereth wasn’t just a throw-in in the deal that brought the Tigers Austin Jackson and Max Scherzer, but two years later, that’s about where his value is. Locked behind Jose Valverde, Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit, and potentially others, he isn’t grabbing saves or even many holds. If he gets his walks under control, maybe he becomes a decent middle relief option for people in need of cheap strikeouts, but he isn’t one right now. (Dan Wade)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/22/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: “Family Night” Schwinden is your typical control-and-command Triple-A guy and none of his pitches are good enough to get strikeouts or ground balls in the Major Leagues. Even if he makes the rotation in New York, his peripherals suggest you should wait and watch — at best. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/19/1977 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Strictly a lefty specialist at this point, Sherrill is a decent holds candidate that could provide a nice amount of strikeouts if platooned properly. More real life value than fantasy value, unfortunately. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: No single player had a bigger bounce-back season than Shields. While he was better than his ERA indicated in 2010, fantasy leagues don’t count FIP or xFIP as categories. The belief in Shields paid off in spades as he ran rough shod over the American League in 2011. He decreased the usage of his fastball by 10 percent and implemented his curveball eight percent more; helping him keep hitters off balance and going deeper into games, resulting in a league high 11 complete games. He’s not likely to duplicate that type of success but maintains a very good strikeout rate and is a workhorse, ranking sixth in total innings pitched over the past five years. That durability combined with his high number of whiffs places him just below the very top tier of fantasy pitchers. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: He’s one of the more reliable arms in the game, and the amount of strikeouts he racks up helps offset the home runs he allows. He’s a safe bet for 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, and an ERA in the mid-threes.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/8/1981 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Alfredo Simon’s done it all for the Orioles over the past couple of years — He’s thrown in relief, started, been the long-man, and even closed, registering 17 saves in 2010. In 2011, after pitching out of the bullpen in May and June, Simon was slotted into the Baltimore rotation, and made 16 starts, putting up below-average numbers across the board. A few of those starts were impressive, but Simon struggled as the season went on. It was the first time Simon hit the 50-inning mark in the majors, and he ended up logging 115.2 innings. While he improved on his disastrous 2010 homerun rate of 18.2%, he still struggled to keep the ball in the yard. My point is: Simon showed signs of promise as a starter, and he throws hard, but his up-in-the-air status for 2012 — Will Simon start? Will one of Baltimore’s younger pitchers push Simon back into a middle relief role? — hurts what little fantasy value he has. If you’re thinking about drafting Simon, you need to find another league; yours is far too deep. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Simon had some fantasy value a couple of years ago because he was given a chance to close. Those days are gone. As a starter in 2011, Simon’s numbers were underwhelming, and while he’s been able to show potential — some flashes of brilliance — his undetermined role with Baltimore in 2012 means you’re better off looking elsewhere for pitching help.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/12/1983 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Sipp was once the future closer of the Indians, but he has settled in as a solid lefty out of the pen. He’ll provide an ERA in the mid threes, with decent strikeouts and holds. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/6/1984 | Position: RP|
Profile: A typical quad-A reliever who has relied on deception to rack up strikeouts in the minors (12.2 K/9), Slama was removed from the Twins 40-man roster in October and doesn’t appear to be in the club’s long-term plans. (Brandon Warne)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/4/1984 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: So much went wrong for Slowey in 2011, it’s hard to figure out where the season positions him with respect to his future. He was demoted the bullpen, fought injuries, managed to get his rotation spot back, then lost eight straight decisions with an ERA of 7.25 and a WHIP of 1.41. He is almost certainly better than that, and his new home in Clevleand could help him return to relevance. He’s now in the pole position for the fifth-starter role, with only Jeanmar Gomez and even more mediocre pitchers behind him. His minuscule walk rate will always make him somewhat interesting, but there’s enough risk with too little upside here to make him a great play in anything but deeper leagues. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Getting out of Minnesota was the best thing for Slowey’s career prospects as he had worn out his welcome there, and landing in Cleveland was far landing place than his rest stop in Colorado.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/22/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Smith’s strikeouts were down last year, but it didn’t show in his 2.01 ERA. Expect a few more strikeouts in 2012, but look for an ERA closer to his 2.91 FIP, and few, if any, saves. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/18/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Andy Sonnanstine’s split MLB/MiLB contract with the Cubs almost ensures Chicago intends to use him in the majors in 2012, but before that he will need to regain his former control. In his first two seasons as a starter, Sonny walked only about 4.5% of batters, but that number ballooned to 8% while his strikeouts diminished. He will likely start the season in Iowa, but should be the first option to fill in for an injured starter if he can look at least a little solid in the minors. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Do not be surprised to see Sonnanstine play fifth starter a few times in 2012, but he should not be any better than 4.15 FIP in that role.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/18/1984 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Joakim Soria used be a nice buy-low closer candidate on draft day. His stock slowly rose and now he was considered to be an overrated closer. It is again time to buy low on him. He was fairly consistent from 2008 to 2010 with a near 2.00 ERA, ~10 strikeouts per nine and between 30 and 40 saves. In 2011, he messed around with a new pitch, a cutter, which he ended up using less as the season went on. In the first half of the season, he had a strikeout rate of 7.8 which is about two batters below his previous average. In the second half of the season, when he quit using the cutter, the K/9 number jumped to 10.9. Besides the drop in strikeouts, he also saw a career high in batting average on balls in play (.312) and home runs per fly ball (10.4%). For 2012, see him rebound to his previous form from 2008 to 2010 and expect a K/9 over nine with a near-two ERA and 30+ saves. Just make sure to check the radar gun to make sure his velocity does not decline further. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Soria messed around with a cutter in the first half of 2011 and his stats declined. After he dropped it, he became the same great pitcher of old.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/19/1979 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Soriano surprised many by signing to be a set-up man in the Bronx, but it was largely figured that he was just the heir-apparent to the legendary Sandman, who appears to be ageless. Nonetheless, the 2011 season was a big step back for Soriano, who missed a huge chunk of the middle of the season, and even when healthy, never was really right. His 3.97 FIP was his worst since 2007, and his strikeout and walk rates were also considerably worse than his typical recent season. Since he has $25 million due to him over the next couple seasons, Soriano obviously didn’t opt out of his contract to wade in an exceptionally deep reliever pool, and certainly looks all the wiser. With Mariano Rivera still basically churning out carbon copy seasons in his early-40s, it still remains to seen when or if Soriano will get to close for the Bombers. Either way, he figures to be in the late-inning mix in a very good Yankee bullpen in 2012. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Soriano should be the first man out of the pen in the unlikely occurrence of a Rivera injury or scuffle, but it’s really hard to project that for the Sandman. Soriano will likely get his share of holds, along with David Robertson, in what is shaping up to be a very, very good Yankee bullpen.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/2/1982 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Stauffer was just a notch below an ace for the first three-and-a-half months of 2011, pitching to a 2.83 ERA with a 6.61 strikeout rate and 1.20 WHIP. His last eleven starts didn’t go as well (5.55 ERA, 4.96 K/9, and 1.36 WHIP), and the right-hander finished the season on the shelf due to stiffness in his throwing arm. Stauffer’s strikeout (6.34), walk (2.58) and ground ball (52.6%) rates were basically unchanged from 2010 to 2011 despite the move into the rotation, though his homerun rate spiked significantly (0.33 HR/9 in 2010 vs. 0.97 in 2011). It’s worth noting that 12 of the 20 homers he allowed came in his final eight starts of the year. It’s entirely possible that fatigue caused his late-season decline following a big jump in innings, but Stauffer is unlikely to be anything more than back of the fantasy rotation fodder going forward. The ERA and WHIP might be shiny, but he’s unlikely to provide many strikeouts or wins given the team around him. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Stauffer’s late-season drop-off could have been the result of fatigue following a 100+ IP jump from 2010-2011, but even when he’s right he won’t offer much beyond a decent ERA and WHIP. The strikeout and win potential just isn’t there.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/28/1986 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Zach Stewart spent time with three teams in 2011: New Hampshire in Double-A, Toronto, and the Chicago White Sox. Acquired by Chicago in the three-way-trade that sent Edwin Jackson to St. Louis and Colby Rasmus to Toronto, Stewart made 11 starts last year, along with two relief appearances. A starter through the Reds and Blue Jays farm systems, he will likely pitch out of the Chicago bullpen in 2012, though he could battle for a job at the end of the rotation in spring training. Stewart struggled last year with Chicago, and a .357 batting average on balls in play and some shoddy White Sox defense didn’t help. The opposition batted .331 against Stewart last year, and even though he did end the year with a 3.79 xFIP, the sample size was certainly small. Stewart is a ground-ball pitcher, and certainly won’t overpower or strike out a ton of batters, but has good control. He’s got limited fantasy value in 2012, whether he’s the fifth starter or the White Sox long man. He’s got to be tougher to hit. It’s too easy right now. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Stewart showed good command in his first Major League season in 2011, but there’s no hiding behind the fact opponents hit him to the tune of a .331 batting average. He will battle for a spot on the Chicago White Sox roster, either at the end of the rotation or out of the bullpen, and it’s best to take a wait-and-see approach on him, since the right-handed pitcher doesn’t strike out enough batters to get fantasy consideration.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/11/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Relievers taken high in the first round of the MLB draft have a dubious track record (Ryan Wagner and Casey Weathers say hello), but Storen established himself as a top-shelf closer during his sophomore season. He increased his strikeout rate (from 22.4 percent of batters faced to 24.4 percent), issued fewer walks (9.5 percent in 2010, 6.6 percent in 2011) and induced more grounders (47.3 percent, compared to 39.6 percent in 2010) while notching 43 saves. Storen dominated by getting ahead in the count. He got a first pitch strike just 57 percent of the time as a rookie, but bumped that up to 66 percent in 2011. Tyler Clippard is himself closer-worthy, but Storen is firmly established as the Nats’ stopper. A sub-3.00 ERA might be a stretch, though, as Storen won’t post a batting average on balls in play under .250 or strand rate north of 80 percent again. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: With 95 MPH heat, a nasty slider, and a more aggressive approach, Storen has the goods to rack up another 35-40 saves in 2012. He’s not Mo or Papelbon, but he’s in the next tier.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/20/1988 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: One of the most hyped pitching prospects in recent memory, Strasburg broke our hearts when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in 2010 and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. After missing the rest of that yearn and the majority of the 2011 season, he returned in September and reminded us why we were so enamored with him to begin with. Though the strikeout rate had understandably declined a bit, he still posted a ridiculous 24/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 24.0 innings. His velocity was down, dropping from an average of 97.3 MPH pre-surgery to a still fantastic 95.8, but that should rebound at least somewhat during this coming season. Assuming his continued progress from the surgery also leads to a recovery of his above average ground-ball rate, he truly has the chance to lead all of baseball in SIERA. The risk is high, obviously, but he has real potential to be the best pitcher in baseball given the quality of his stuff and the peripherals it produces. Just watch out for a possible innings limit. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: With a repertoire that includes three killer pitches, Strasburg has the chance to be historically dominant. The return from surgery does increase the risk, but his draft cost is likely to be the lowest it will be for many, many years.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/2/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Street is never listed among the elite late-inning relievers in the game today, and while he really falls just shy of that grouping, he does exactly what a reliever should. He fans plenty of hitters (9.1 K/9 career), limits his free passes (2.3 BB/9), and other than his time in the Mile High city, has kept the ball in the ballpark. Now on his way to Petco, Street should really be able to take a huge step forward as an elite closer, as his career 42.3 fly ball rate will certainly play up. He still may not rank among the elite closers fantasy-wise — how many games will the Padres truly have to save in 2012 — but he’s going to be a very valuable hurler in real-life, and likely a good trade chip come July. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Street was a good reliever before, as he played in Coors Field, which didn’t exactly cater to his fly ball tendencies. Now in Petco, where he’ll be free to let his fly balls roam as they please, Street may be one of the better closers in the National League.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/4/1986 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: A pretty vanilla right-handed reliever. Throws his slider about 40% of the time. Effective against right-handed batters (26.4% strikeout rate, 7.9% walk rate, 3.64 xFIP in 2011); much less so against left-handers (17.7%, 14.3%, 4.99). Could get a chance to set-up, but unlikely to excel in role. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/16/1987 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: After dominating Double-A hitters this season with a 10.4 strikeout rate, 2.8 walk rate, and 2.4 FIP in 142 innings, Surkamp received a call-up to the Giants in August. In six starts he was horrible, walking more than he struck out and getting hammered by everyone. The 24 year-old lefty sports a mid-to-high eighties fastball, a pair of breaking balls, and a changeup. He delivers the ball from a low arm-slot, not unlike teammate Madison Bumgarner. This helps his fastball and curveball to approach the batter on the same plane, which helped Surkamp to plow through Minor League hitters. His best pitch is his curveball, which he threw a quarter of the time when pitching in the majors. The pitch is decent, but the rest of his stuff simply isn’t Major League quality. He doesn’t have the movement on his fastball to be a ground-ball pitcher, and he likely won’t pick up enough strikeouts to compensate. Don’t waste time on Surkamp on draft day. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Eric Surkamp may dominate Minor League hitters, but don’t expect his mediocre stuff to translate at the Major League level. Surkamp is like a young Barry Zito…with a much worse curveball.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/10/1985 | Team: Twins | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Anthony Swarzak was the long-relief pitcher in Minnesota for most of the 2011 season. At times he filled in as a spot starter, including six straight starts to end the season. During the time he was a full time starter, he struggled to a 5.85 ERA. While he is better than a near-six ERA pitcher, he has very little fantasy use. His lifetime five strikeouts per nine and 2.5 walks per nine are serviceable for a spot starter. The problem is that his role is not totally defined yet. Once he gets a role, it is not going to help his value. He will either be the long reliever again with sporadic playing time or the fifth starter who will have his starts skipped over from time to time. The best case for him is to become a regular setup man and have some value as a starter-qualifed reliever. Hopefully, though, there will be other SP/RP with better peripherals. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Bad fifth starters and set up men have little fantasy value. Anthony Swarzak is no exception.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/2/1975 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Takahashi is a serviceable Major League reliever who has the arsenal to deal with hitters on either side of the plate. With guys like Jordan Walden and LaTroy Hawkins in the bullpen, Takahashi won’t be be seeing any save opportunities anytime soon; and with Scott Downs also sitting in the ‘pen, Takahashi isn’t even the top lefty on the team. He’ll find a niche as a middle reliever, but Takahashi won’t have much in the way of fantasy value. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Takahashi is a serviceable MLB reliever, but he won’t have much in the way of fantasy value in 2012 unless a few other pieces fall out of place.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/17/1983 | Position: SP|
Profile: Unless your fantasy league covers international leagues (and I don’t mean the International League), Mitch Talbot won’t be of much interest. After two not-so-good years with the Indians, Talbot has signed with the Samsung Lions in Korea. So what are the Lions getting? Well, here’s hoping they play solid defense in Korea — Talbot’s strikeouts per nine rate was just 5.09 in 2011, and that was a career high. He also walked 3.96 per 9 IP, and gave up an impressive 1.41 home runs per nine. It was enough for the Indians to outright Talbot to Triple-A in August and outright him completely in October. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Talbot was entirely unimpressive in two years in Cleveland, and is now taking his talents to Korea.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/26/1975 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Tateyama is a sneaky good holds candidate heading into 2012, a funky little right-hander with a huge platoon split primed for matchup work. You can do worse for your last bullpen spot in a deep mixed league. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/6/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Tazawa looks to be in good form after missing the 2010 season thanks to Tommy John surgery. He could rack up strikeouts and grab a few holds in the Red Sox pen, so feel free to snatch him up as reliever depth in dynasty formats. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/27/1991 | Team: Braves | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: One of the best starting pitching prospects in baseball, Julio Teheran has a bright future ahead of him. But don’t expect to see him blossom into a star quite so soon. In Triple-A last season, Teheran struck out 20.7% of opposing batters — good, but not commensurate with his gaudy scouting reports. In his brief Major League stint, he induced opposing batters to swing and miss at just 6.3% of his pitches, which is considerably below average. He will improve if he refines his curveball and changeup, but right now if he is put in a Major League rotation he will post low strikeout totals. This isn’t helped by the fact that he is a heavy fly ball pitcher, based on PITCH F/x data and his Minor League groundball totals. He will also have to compete with Mike Minor for a rotation spot unless the Braves deal a starter, so playing time is another concern. Teheran is a great young pitcher, but he’s not a good bet to provide value as a starter in 2012. Let others get caught in the hype on draft day. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Julio Teheran is a special prospect, but do not expect big returns from him this year. Let others get sucked in by his prospect hype.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/24/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: Robinson Tejeda was a quietly dominating reliever for the Royals in 2009 and 2010, racking up many strikeouts and turning his extreme flyball ways to his advantage at Kauffman Stadium. In 2011, things fell apart, and he simply could not strike anyone out. The Royals demoted him and nobody picked him up off of waivers. Tejeda currently does not have a team, having elected to go to free agency. Some team will at least give him a Minor League deal, but something was clearly wrong, so don’t take a chance on him until he has a team and looks like his stuff is back. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Tejeda has shown enough potential for domination as a reliever in the past that he is worth keeping an eye on, but definitely not on Draft Day.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/1/1984 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Thompson had been toiling away in Triple-A prior to the 2011 season, but when given a chance in the big leagues, the right-hander proved he was here to stay (at least for one more year). He doesn’t have a big time fastball, but does throw the almighty cutter and does so well. Thompson won’t see saves or very many holds, so fantasy value will be hard to come by in almost all leagues. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Thompson has a nice cutter and he should be in the bullpen all year long, but he doesn’t have much in the way of fantasy value.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/15/1976 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Sample size gets cited quite often to explain away poor (or great) performances in baseball, but nobody gets bit by the sample size bug like relievers. Matt Thornton is no exception. After three straight seasons and 200.1 innings of sub-3.00 ERAs, matching FIPs, and more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, Thornton’s 2011 looks ugly on the surface: his strikeouts per nine dropped to 9.50, his ERA jumped to 3.32, and he blew four saves in seven chances. But almost all of this damage was done in a brutal April, when he walked six and gave up two home runs in 8.1 IP. This was enough to get Thornton demoted from the closer’s role. But by July, Thornton was the power lefty the White Sox had come to know and love — back up over 10 strikeouts per nine, an FIP under 2.00, and just one home run over 30.1 IP. With Sergio Santos being traded to Toronto, Thornton may get another shot to close, at least before rookie Addison Reed takes the job for good. Either way, he is likely to put up great rates and high strikeout numbers, much like he did 2008-2010 and the second half of 2011. His draft cost will be low, but if he is closing, he could be a steal, especially in all ottoneu formats. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Thornton had a brutal start to 2011, but don’t let that overshadow the fact that for three and a half out of the last four seasons, he has been a shutdown bullpen arm. He will have fantasy value for strikeouts and rates alone, but if he gets a chance to close again, he could be a draft day steal.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/15/1988 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Chris Tillman bounced between the Orioles’ Major League and Triple-A rosters in 2011, although for most of the season, he posted very solid MLB numbers. In April, May and July, he had FIPs under 4.00, but in two August starts he struggled mightily, allowing eight runs in 9.2 innings. To make matters worse, his Triple-A numbers paled in comparison to his numbers in Baltimore — a 6.25 FIP in the minors compared to 3.99 in Baltimore. As with many young pitchers, Tillman needs to work on his control and avoid home runs to find success. In 13 starts for Baltimore, he allowed 3.63 walks per nine and .73 home runs per nine. If he can keep his numbers at that point, or lower, he could continue to post a sub-4.00 FIP and may find an ERA to match. Unfortunately, without a serious uptick in strikeouts, his fantasy value will be limited. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Tillman pitched decently for Baltimore last year, posting a 3.99 FIP over 62 Major League innings, while struggling mightily in Triple-A. If he can maintain decent control, he can continue to be a decent starter for the O’s, but probably won’t have a spot on your fantasy roster.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Homer-prone pitchers who don’t get strikeouts do not tend to have long careers, but Tomlin has earned the right to start another year in the Indians rotation by pairing those stats with an incredibly low walk rate. In 2011, Tomlin struck out 4.8, walked just 1.1, gave up 1.3 home runs per nine innings pitched, and ended up with a 4.25 ERA (almost a perfect match for his 4.27 FIP). Those numbers don’t make an ace, but if Tomlin can repeat his 2011, he will once again be a perfectly viable back-of-the-rotation starter. The problem is his margin of error is so thin. His next home-run-allowed always seems to be just around the corner, and he is only able to hold his value to the Tribe if he can keep the walks obscenely low, limiting the damage those homers do. Of course none of those adds up to a useful fantasy player. Tomlin will likely give you a solid WHIP, but he is going to hurt you everywhere else. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: By avoiding walks, Tomlin has managed to turn brutally bad strikeout and home run numbers into a totally reasonable rotation option for the Indians. He is not, however, a reasonable option for a fantasy rotation, and is not worth owning.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/16/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Once thought to be a potential closer, Troncoso has done nothing but go backwards these last three seasons. Sure, last season could be blamed on an outrageous .419 batting average on balls in play, but with a steadily decreasing strike out rate and a home run rate almost at two, he’s not providing much in the way of relief at the Major League level. Unless he improves, he’ll be riding that shuttle back and forth to Triple-A all season long. (Howard Bender)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/21/1991 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Jacob Turner had a good season in the minors in 2011 and is considered a top pitching prospect by many. His throws a low-to-mid nineties fastball, a high 70’s curve that he has tightened up a lot, and a mid-eighties changeup. In limited action in the majors both his changeup and curveball generated a lot of swings-and-misses, but we must be wary of the sample size. His fastball is purported to have great downward movement, but based on his groundball rates in the minors it’s unlikely that he will generate a lot of grounders in the majors. A concern about his numbers in the minors is that at Double-A this year he struck out 7.13 per nine — not what we would expect given the glowing scouting reports and hype. While Turner could use more seasoning, the Tigers are known to be aggressive with their prospects, so it’s possible that he could start next season as the fifth starter. Given the playing time and performance concerns, it’s best to be cautious about Turner. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Despite glowing scouting reports, Turner needs more seasoning in the minors. While he provides a good deal of upside, don’t expect him to provide much value in 2012.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/3/1975 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Always homer prone due to extreme fly ball tendencies (just 29.3% grounders in his MLB career), Uehara was traded to Texas at the deadline and promptly served up eight homers in 19.1 IP with the Rangers (including playoffs). He did continue to strike batters out (career 9.63 strikeouts per nine) and keep his WHIP down (0.98 career) thanks to his allergy to ball four (career 1.33 walks per nine), but the fly balls and homers will continue to be a very real problem as long as The Ballpark In Arlington is his home base. Uehara, 37 in April, is still a safe bet for strikeouts, WHIP, and holds next year, but expect his ERA to move out of sub-3.00 territory. With Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, and possibly even Neftali Feliz (if starting doesn’t work) in the bullpen, his shot at save chances is almost nil. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Uehara’s fly ball and homer problems turned into outright disaster following his trade to Texas, but he’s still a solid bet for holds, strikeouts, and a low WHIP in 2012. Just don’t expect another sub-3.00 ERA.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/27/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: The Cuban defector has bounced around five organizations and made brief appearances in 2011 with the Yankees and the Cardinals, amassing just 12 total innings. The bulk of his time was as a reliever in Triple-A where his combined stats were a 4.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and an impressive 9.3 K/9. Signed by the Phillies, he’ll likely be invited to Spring Training to compete for a left-handed specialist gig out of the bullpen.
Quick Opinion: Valdes is 34, so there’s not much in the way of upside. He can get lefties out, so he’s got a job. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/24/1978 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Papa Grande did an adequate job closing for the AL Central champions in 2011. And while converting 49 of 49 save chances is good enough to merit a fifth-place finish according to Cy voters — or is it sigh, voters — there’s plenty of evidence in plain view that suggests Valverde is due to regress quite a bit in ’12. For one, Grande’s home-run-per-fly-ball rate was three percent below his career rate, which is probably not sustainable for someone who induces his share of bird chasers. Additionally, Valverde experienced a considerable velocity drop from the past three seasons on his heater, which he oddly threw over 30 percent more frequently than he did in 2011. In fact, there’s really nothing ordinary about Valverde, as he almost completely abandoned his splitter in favor of a declining heater, and he’s scrapped the slide piece altogether. The Tigers will be good in 2012, and there’s no immediate in-house competition in case Valverde should falter, so he’ll be a valuable fantasy commodity regardless. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: He’ll probably take a pretty hefty step back in 2012, but he should still be one of the better fantasy closers in the American League. Don’t expect such a low ERA, don’t expect a perfect save rate, and for the love all all that is sacred, don’t expect a fifth-place Cy Young finish. Or do expect all those things. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/2/1983 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Jason Vargas has value as a starter, but his tendency to give up long balls limits his value in games away from Seattle. Vargas’ 2011 stats look okay with a 4.25 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 131 strikeouts and 10 wins. The problem is that he is two different pitchers on the road and at home. On the road in his career he is 8-21 with an 5.41 ERA, a 1.3 home runs per nine and 1.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Now at home, in Seattle, he is 16-15 with a 3.63 ERA , a 0.9 HR/9 and a K/BB rate of 2.4. He is also a decent bet to use at other home-run-suppressing parks. Vargas’ overall skills (strikeout and walk rates, and fastball speed) are relatively constant, so there are no signs of his skills degrading. Don’t draft him expecting to use him in each start — use him for starts at home and sit him on the road. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Vargas is only a platoon candidate and should also only be started at home because of his home run tendencies.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 7/25/1976 | Position: SP|
Profile: Javier Vazquez had a resurgent season after failing miserably in 2010 with the Yankees. Most of his problems centered on a 2.5 MPH drop in in fastball velocity with the Yankees, which was a problem even if the Yankee gun is calibrated a little differently. It was up almost 1.5 MPH in 2011 with the Marlins. With the increase in velocity, he saw an an improved strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.86 in 2010 to 3.24 in 2011). Also, his home run rate went from 1.83 to 0.98. The 100-million-dollar question is how much does he still have in the tank to keep going in 2012. As with any pitcher, it would be best for him to sign with an National League team, but 35-year-old pitchers have limited options. Monitor where and if he signs becuase he could again be a good buy-low candidate. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Vazquez had a nice rebound in 2011 because his velocity returned. His 2012 value will be determined by him keeping this velocity and finding a role on a team.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/20/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Venters combined with Craig Kimbrel to create one of the most fearsome bullpen tandems in Major League Baseball. Kimbrel was the more valuable pitcher — both in fantasy and in real life — and thus received the save opportunities for the Braves. If Kimbrel collapses, or succumbs to injury, Venters would immediately become a top-five closer. His 9.82 strikeout rate proves that he clearly has the stuff to succeed in the role if given an opportunity. The only concern with Venters is his 4.40 walk rate. He can hide that deficiency somewhat as a reliever, but it’s never a good idea to put men on base, especially when the game is on the line. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Venters is one of the top set-up men in the game. He should accumulate strikeouts and holds in bunches next season. If Kimbrel goes down, Venters would become a top-5 closer.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/20/1980 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Signed to a Minor League deal with the Bucs last winter, Veras dialed down the use of his mid-90s fastball, threw more curves and showed at least passable control while ascending to set-up man status. The journeyman, who has used his fastball over 60 percent of the time during his career, threw the pitch less than half the time while going to his breaking ball 40 percent. The result was a modest decrease in walk rate (4.3 per nine, compared to over five per nine in 2009-2010) with no decline in strikeouts (10 per nine). Veras was traded to Milwaukee in December for Casey McGehee, putting him squarely behind K-Rod and John Axford and eliminating any chances of picking up saves. (David Golebiewski)
Quick Opinion: At best, Veras will pitch the seventh inning with the Brewers. It’s a role he’s better suited for, given his control hiccups, but it means his fantasy value is nil.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/20/1983 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: The year after Roger Clemens (the last AL starting pitcher to win the MVP award) won his honor, he repeated as the Cy Young award winner. He regressed in nearly every category, whether fantasy relevant or not, yet was still the AL’s best pitcher that year. That’s the type of year Verlander owners should be hoping for. He has substantial competition to repeating as the Cy Young winner, but he’ll have as good a shot as anyone, even if he can’t repeat his 2011 level of success. Saying that Verlander isn’t going to be as good in 2012 as he was in 2011 isn’t heresy, it’s just the law of averages. Even if he regresses to his career levels, he’ll still be one of the best three pitchers in the game, and worthy of a high draft pick. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If he’s anything other than one of the five best pitchers in baseball this season, consider it a big upset. Verlander is a dominant pitcher in the prime of his career; no matter how narrow the definition of a true ace pitcher is, Verlander fits.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/28/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Carlos Villanueva did yeoman’s work for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, both out of the bullpen and as a starter when injuries arose during the middle of the season. For the third time in his career, he threw more than 100 innings of work. However, Villanueva’s workload, especially his career-high 13 starts, seemed to catch up to him, and he struggled as the season progressed, finally landing on the disabled list with a strained right forearm in early August. Working mainly off of his offspeed stuff, Villanueva is a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t strike a lot of batters out. An ERA and FIP above 4.00 are what you can expect from him, and his fantasy value is limited to if and when he steps into the rotation for a spot start. Because, hey, we all need a spot start every now and then. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Villanueva’s makeup as an off-speed throwing, fly ball pitcher who will be primarily used out of the Toronto bullpen in 2012, good for a spot start here and there — all that makes him a non-factor, fantasy speaking.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/13/1990 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Vizcaino zoomed up three Minor League levels last season, making his Major League debut in early-August after being shifted to the bullpen. The Braves figure to keep the hard-throwing 21-year-old in that role for the foreseeable future, and he should have a chance to make a serious impact after Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel wore down under Fredi Gonzalez’s workload late last season. Always a high-strike, low-walk arm in the minors, Vizcaino suffered through bouts of wildness with Atlanta (nine walks and five wild pitches in 17.1 IP), but that’s not completely surprising for a kid that young thrust in a race for a playoff spot. There’s a non-zero chance the Braves will send him back to the minors to start in 2012, but more more than likely he’ll be a sleeper holds candidate for a team with about three legitimate closer candidates ahead of him on the depth chart. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The Braves figure to use the now-able-to-legally-drink Vizcaino out of their bullpen next season, taking some of the load off Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel. Expect a healthy amount of strikeouts, but also the unpredictabality typically associated with pitchers this young.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 7/22/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Ryan Vogelsong was a surprise in 2011 to say the least. The last time he had pitched in the majors was 2006 — a five year break. After spending time in Japan, he returned to the states in 2010. Before 2011 he was basically a mediocre Minor League journeyman. After a blink of an eye, Ryan Vogelsong had 172 innings of 2.71 ERA ball. Despite the shiny ERA, Vogelsong is remarkably average. His SIERA and xFIP had him as average, and Vogelsong is mundane in other ways too. He had average strikeout, walk, and ground-ball rates, and his stuff itself is also average. He throws five pitches — a four-seam, two-seam, curve, cutter, and change — all with average velocity, movement, and pitch results. Next year he should be a good bet for around 170 innings or so with an average ERA. He does have a rotation spot locked up, so playing time is not a concern. Don’t expect a repeat of 2011, but don’t be afraid to draft him either. (Josh Weinstock)
Quick Opinion: Ryan Vogelsong is due for regression in 2012 thanks to the fourth highest strand rate among qualified starters in 2011, but don’t forget about him. He is a good bet to provide around 170 innings of average performance in 2012.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/3/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Volquez is one of the only Major-League-ready pieces headed to the Padres in the Mat Latos-for-prospects swap, and while common sense says that moving to the NL West and to PETCO Park in particular will be helpful to his ERA and WHIP, that may or may not be the case for Volquez. In 2011, 41 percent of plate appearances against Volquez ended with either a strikeout or a groundout, which is how Volquez is his most successful, but it’s not a style that’s aided or altered by PETCO’s cavernous dimensions. His walk rate is way too high, which is much of what pushed his WHIP over 1.50 last season, but the strikeouts are there and the NL West isn’t baseball’s best division right now. He’s worth a grab in the middle rounds of NL-only, and he’s at least an intriguing choice to fill out a rotation in mixed, but banking on him as anything more is hoping against hope. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If the great expanses of PETCO help encourage Volquez to stick in the strike zone and avoid the walks that killed him in 2011, then the trade will have been a great success for fantasy owners. In all likelihood, because of his groundball tendencies, Volquez won’t be much better or worse than he was last season.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/23/1986 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Chris Volstad’s 2011 season was unlucky and hopefully he can turn it around in 2012. He will not strike out a ton of batters with a near career six strikeouts per nine, so his value won’t come in that category. His biggest advantage is his high ground-ball rate (52% in 2011 and 50% over his career). The problem is that whenever a batter does put the ball in the air off of him, it is more likely to be a home run than usual, as seen by his 15.5% home run per fly ball ratio in 2011 and a career 12.3% HR/FB rate. His propensity to give up the long ball can be seen with his career 4.19 xFIP while his ERA (4.59) and FIP (4.52) are much higher. The home run rate might also increase in the future depending on how he takes to Wrigley. He has given up only 0.9 home runs per nine innings at home in the past and 1.4 HR/9 on the road. Besides giving up the long ball in 2011, he also had a career high batting average on balls in play of .310. Volstad looks like he could end up with better results if he wasn’t unlucky on his home runs per fly ball rate and his BABIP. There is little reason to own him in all but the deepest of leagues and only then when he is pitching at a park that suppresses home runs. Wrigley is unpredictable, too. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Home runs are a thorn in Volstad’s side and moving to a new stadium in Chicago will probably not help the cause.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/28/1983 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Despite not pitching at the big league level in 2010 due to injury and ineffectiveness, Wade pitched extraordinarily well in a half-season audition in a very good Yankees bullpen. Wade doesn’t have ‘blow it by you stuff’, and won’t ever ring up the strikeout totals needed to maintain his 2.04 ERA, but he is what he is, a decent middle relief arm who should help a team far more than he’ll hurt it. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Wade will have virtually no fantasy value, though his 2011 season was a nice surprise.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/30/1981 | Team: Cardinals | Position: P|
Profile: We don’t seem to worry about Tommy John surgeries any more, but if there is one piece of conventional wisdom regarding the surgery, it is that the velocity comes back first — and the control comes next. That could be a little scary for the Cardinal’s hurler, as a big part of his excellence has come from the fact that he’s walked a full batter per nine inninings fewer than league average over the last three years. He strikes guys out — over eight per nine over the last two years — but his swinging strike rate usually hovers around league average. He gets ground-balls — over 50% the last two years — but his career average is only ‘above-average’ (49.1%). That control is his elite skill. Without it, he’ll still be an above-average pitcher. With it, he could be a fantasy ace for you. The best strategy puts Wainwright early in the second tier of starting pitchers — if you pick him as your second starter, you’ll have a chance at two aces, and you’ll also mitigate your risk. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Tommy John surgery isn’t the scary thing it used to be — Adam Wainwright could be as good as new in 2012. Then again, there is some risk involved, so take him as your second starter to hedge your bets.
|Debut: 1992 | BirthDate: 8/2/1966 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Tim Wakefield turned 45 in August and was far and away the oldest pitcher in baseball, although his results looked pretty familiar. 2011 was every bit as effective as his last seven seasons with a strikeout rate in the low teens and an FIP in the mid to high fours, which is pretty much where he’s been for the better part of a decade. For the past two seasons, the knuckleballer has been an emergency starter and long guy out of the bullpen, which diminishes his fantasy value, not to mention his spotty control which tends to drive his WHIP up. It’s possible that if a team gives him a chance to start he could have fringe value in deeper leagues, but he’s currently without a contract and at his age, retirement is a real possibility. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Wakefield is 45 years old and is without a job. You really ought to be looking elsewhere for pitching solutions.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/16/1987 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Walden built upon a solid 2010 debut by seizing the closer role from Fernando Rodney and finishing the year in the back of the Angels’ bullpen. Walden isn’t perfect, but his average fastball sits above 97 mph and he walks less than a batter every two innings. He also tends to keep his fastball low in the zone when he’s not looking for strikeouts, so while he could stand to mix in a changeup, he is one of the more electric closers in all of baseball. The Angels don’t seem to have the utmost confidence in him and his jump-step delivery, but unless he struggles for an extended period of time, the job will remain his. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Walden is absolutely electric and still has room to improve. The competitive Angels may have a short leash for their young reliever, but Walden looks to be one of 2012’s top closers.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/31/1980 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Wang finally returned to the mound after the disaster that was the 2009 season and his recovery from shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2010. Although he went right back to inducing ground balls by the boatload, he took his walk and strikeout rates to the extreme. Though Wang was never much of a strikeout pitcher, a 3.6 strikeout rate would have ranked him dead last among all qualified starters. At least Wang managed to post the best walk rate of his career to offset all those base runners. With his velocity down a full mile per hour, it will be difficult for him to even keep his rotation spot if he cannot get that strikeout rate up. There is little chance he posts another 1.9 BB/9, so when those grounders are finding holes, teams will have a field day circling the bases. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Wang has always been a more valuable real-life pitcher than fantasy due to his terrible strikeout rate. Now, he may not even carry much value in real life due to a loss of velocity and an utter lack of ability to miss bats.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/4/1982 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: Weaver’s breakout 2010 campaign didn’t totally carry over to 2011, but he still posted a better ERA and WHIP than he did in his past career year. Weaver’s strikeout rate dropped from over nine to a more Weaver-esque 7.56 in 2011, but his walk rate remained low and he remained durable. The 29-year-old’s sub-3.50 ERA was helped by a batting average on balls in play that was low for even Weaver’s standards, a high strand rate and a lucky home run per fly ball ratio. Basically, he won’t be putting up an ERA like that again. The Angels’ starter should still win 15-plus games in 2012, and his ERA shouldn’t be much higher than three if he can repeat his side of his 2011 performance. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Weaver didn’t repeat his breakout season, but he posted better fantasy numbers in a few categories. Weaver, like one of his teammates, is a fantasy ace who should benefit from the Albert Pujols effect.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/5/1986 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: There is little chance Ryan Webb will have any fantasy value in 2012. Webb looked like he could be a good reliever in 2010 when he had a 6.7 strikeout rate, 2.9 walk rate, 0.2 home run rate and a 2.90 ERA. In 2011, he still had a fairly low home run rate (0.4) due to a 61% ground-ball rate. A mid-shoulder injury cost him some control and speed — his fastball averaged one MPH less and both his walks and strikeouts got worse as seen by his strikeout-to-walk rate going from 2.3 to 1.6. For 2012, he will have little chance of getting any saves and the only real chance for him to have value may involve a move to the starting staff. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: An okay pitcher in a deep pen. There are just so many better options available.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/28/1982 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: After missing over a month with a forearm strain, Randy Wells certainly did not have the 2011 for which he hoped. His true talent level has come into clearer focus over the last three seasons, and it appears he may be something of an average pitcher (102 FIP- in his career). At the age of 29, Wells may still improve as time goes, but he’s not much more of a waiver wire watchlist type until that happens. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Randy Wells might be worth a waiver wire watchlist or late draft grab in a deep league, but do not expect much more than average production.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/29/1977 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: With the return of Adam Wainwright to the rotation, the possible signing of Roy Oswalt, the presence of Lance Lynn already in the Major League bullpen, and top prospect Shelby Miller knocking at the door, Westbrook is not exactly on the surest ground with respect to his spot in the rotation. He seems healthy, having made 30 or more starts for the first time in back-to-back seasons since 2005-2006, but he’s struggling to keep runners off base, which makes his double-digit home run per fly ball rate all the more painful. There’s just too little upside here: medium-high ERA, decent WHIP, and an unstable spot in the rotation. Look elsewhere. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Westbrook’s starting role on the Cardinals is in jeopardy with a possible crowd at the number five spot. If he can cut down on either his walks or his home runs — or better yet, both — he’ll be in much better shape, but as it stands now, his spot is extremely vulnerable. There are less risky picks out there with more upside.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 12/10/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Dan Wheeler had a decent season for the Red Sox in 2011, relying on a mid-to-upper 80’s sinker/slider combination resulting in a 7.11 strikeout rate and a 3.78 FIP which was actually below his career rate. His stock has diminished considerably since his high strikeout, low-ERA days in Houston, but even though he only signed a Minor League contract with the Indians, he could be a decent source of holds. He’s definitely on the wrong side of the age curve at 34, but he can still shut down right handed batters (career 3.49 FIP) and it’s possible he could even pick up some cheap saves. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Wheeler is only relevant in holds leagues or very deep league-specific formats. There’s no guarantee he’ll have late-inning duties with the Indians, but if he does, he could be a decent source of strikeouts and shouldn’t kill you in ERA or WHIP.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/29/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: The number two guy in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, White had a rocky (no pun intended) introduction to the Major Leagues last year. In seven starts with Colorado, White posted a 7.65 FIP, largely thanks to allowing 12 home runs in just 36.1 innings. His results in Cleveland — a much friendlier park for pitchers, particularly with regards to home runs — were not much better: in 15 innings over three starts, he allowed three home runs and his 5.69 FIP calls into question a decent 3.60 ERA. To adjust to Major League hitting, White needs to keep the ball in the zone and in the yard. He does not figure to be a strikeout heavy pitcher (expecting much more than 6.5 strikeouts per nine is probably not wise), and in the minors, he had his greatest success when he avoided walks and home runs, even if it came at the expense of strikeouts. This may make the move to Colorado a troublesome one — White’s fly ball percentage was not terrible, but it wasn’t great either, and unless he can learn to get far more ground balls, Coors Field is going to be a house of terrors for him. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Alex White’s first 50 Major League innings were not what he hoped for, and he seems to be a poor fit for Coors Field. If he can start getting more ground balls, keep his walks down, and keep the ball in the park, he can increase his value, but he isn’t there yet.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/4/1981 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Williams is a very fun story; the 30-year-old pitched over 350 innings between 2003 and 2005, but he struggled with ineffectiveness and injuries before getting a shot with the Angels in 2011. Williams’ fastball still sits in the low-90s, and he tends to throw a sinker in favor of a straight four-seam fastball, allowing him to post a nice ground-ball rate. He still isn’t anything special on the mound, and his durability is going to be the Angels biggest concern. Take a flier on him as a one-year depth option in large keeper or dynasty leagues. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Williams makes for a great story, but getting more than 120 innings out of him seems unlikely. Give him a chance to be your depth in large AL-only leagues and dynasty leagues.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 1/12/1982 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Philadelphia signed Willis in mid-December — very likely with a view to utilizing him in a LOOGY-ish role, where he’s likely have some success. Relative to where he seemed like he’d end up after his brilliant 2003 season, it’s maybe disappointing. Relative to where he appeared to be headed between 2008 and ’10, it’s a huge victory. He might even give some fantasy teams holds from the Starting Pitcher spot this year. (Carson Cistulli)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/16/1982 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Like so many other Giants, Wilson failed to build on the success he enjoyed in 2010 and saw a downturn in virtually every aspect of his game. His strikoeut-to-walk ratio dropped from a 3.58 to a very pedestrian 1.74, his WHIP climbed to a 1.47, and although he was only charged with five blown saves on the year, every outing became a nail-biting, tension-filled moment. To make matters worse, Wilson also missed a substantial amount of time in the second half with elbow problems. It seemed the only thing he did right was score endorsement deals and that helped neither the Giants nor his fantasy owners. Wilson enters 2012 as both the Giants’ closer and an impending free agent. Perhaps with a shave and a clean slate he can return to his upper tier form. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: In the final year of his contract, Wilson needs to prove that 2011 was an aberration and that he is ready to return to elite closer status. If the elbow problems are a thing of the past and he can regain the command he apparently lost, then Wilson should be able to produce numbers worthy of a top five closer. Understand the level of risk that comes along with him.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/18/1980 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: The lefty joins the Angels rotation after proving last year that his success after transitioning into the rotation in 2010 was no fluke. Though aided by a bit of good fortune, he displayed a nice set of skills last season including strong strikeout and ground-ball rates, while showing above-average control. However, some caution is warranted, as his swinging strike rate was actually below league average as was his first strike percentage. Those metrics suggest both his strikeout and walk rates will regress next season. The good news is that he moves from a home park that inflates wOBA by 3% and 7% against right-handers and left-handers, respectively, to a home park that suppresses those marks by 1% and 2%. It will still be difficult though to match the sub-3.00 ERA he posted last year even in his new more pitcher-friendly stadium. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Wilson enjoyed an even better season in his follow-up to his surprising performance in 2010 after his transition into the rotation. With above-average strikeout and ground ball rates and acceptable control, along with the move to a more pitcher-friendly home park, he should continue to pitch well.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 8/22/1976 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: One of the best things Wolf has going for him is that he’s playing on one of the best teams in a relatively weak division, meaning he’ll be in position to amass a good number of wins without having to pitch particularly well. Of concern is a strikeout rate that has dropped every year since 2007 and is now down under six, meaning Wolf’s value in most leagues is dependent on his ERA and WHIP. He’s been close to his career level in both categories over the last few years, a 4.09 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP, and if he’s close to those levels again, he’s a decent, back-end option in NL-only. But he is working his way out of playability in most mixed leagues. If he can reverse his trend of declining strikeouts, he becomes worth rostering in more formats. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If the Brewers were to add another starter, Wolf may well be the man who loses his job. If he does remain in the rotation, he’s playable in NL-only, but mixed players may end up using him less as a draft target and more as an injury replacement when someone inevitable tears a UCL during spring training.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/6/1987 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Whether the Cubs got enough from the Reds for Sean Marshall is a matter of some debate, but at 25, he still has some projectability left in his left arm. His Minor League numbers portend more strikeouts than he’s had when in the majors, so that’s something to look forward to for Cubs fans. The difference between his 2010 and 2011 numbers comes down to balls falling in: in 2010, his batting average on balls in play was .259 and his WHIP was 1.08; in 2011, his BABIP was .324 and his WHIP was 1.49. While there’s reason to believe he’ll be improved in 2012, it isn’t likely that his WHIP will fall all the way back to 2010 levels, so his WHIP — and by extension, his ERA — will probably fall within the extremes of his previous two seasons. He’s a player to watch on the wire if your drafted pitching doesn’t work out quite as planned, but he has shown too little upside in the majors to take on this level of volatility. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: If he can strike out hitters in the majors the way he struck them out in the minors, the Cubs may have done well in this trade. 2012 should give owners a reasonable sense of what Wood’s value will look like going forward, but it will likely show a WHIP between 1.20 and 1.30 with a commensurate ERA, making him an average option at best
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 6/16/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Wood’s return to Chicago as the seventh inning guy in front of Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol went about as well as one could reasonably expect. The 34-year-old appeared in 55 games, recorded a 3.35 ERA, and once again posted an excellent strikeout rate, topping 10 strikeouts per nine innings for the third time in four seasons. He doesn’t have the durability for teams to count on him in big roles — he is Kerry Wood, after all — but he should be counted on for his typical high strikeout, high walk effective relief again in 2012. And if the team finally moves Carlos Marmol, he could be in the mix for saves. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Wood continues to be a solid — if flawed – reliever, posting another ERA in the low-3.00s, this time back in Chicago. That earned him a return engagement, and if the team could ever jettison Carlos Marmol, perhaps a shot at saves.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/8/1985 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Blake Wood came up in 2010 and was pretty bad for the Royals relief corps, with a strikeout rate under six per nine innings despite a 95 MPH fastball. Whatever he did in the offseason leading up to 2011, it worked, as his strikeout rate shot up to over eight. Like many young Royals pitchers, he also had a problem with his walk rate at over four, but he was still good for an ERA and FIP under four. Wood could help a lot of teams, but the Royals 2012 bullpen is getting crowded. Barring a trade, Joakim Soria, Gregg Holland, Jonathan Broxton, Jose Mijares, and Louis Coleman are all probably ahead of him, and maybe Tim Collins (gotta have that lefty!), as well. Wood is not awesome or anything, but he can help with strikeouts. Just make sure he looks like he’s going to make the Major League team out of Spring Training before wasting an end-of-draft pick on him. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Wood is another decent bullpen arm for the Royals with (wait for it) control issues. He could help your team… if he makes the big-league team out of Spring Training.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/25/1987 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Like the Phillies really needed a breakout starter, Vance Worley bounced between the minors and majors to amass 130 impressive innings at the big league level, resulting in a 3.01 ERA (3.32 FIP), 8.13 strikeouts per nine and a stingy 0.68 home runs per nine. Worley, 24, achieved his results in a bit of an unconventional way, producing few swinging strikes but generating a high number of punch-outs on the called strike. Over 430 Minor League innings, he produced a 6.9 K/9 so plan on a strikeout rate a little closer to 7.0 in 2012, but there’s not much else in his peripheral statistics that screams fluke. A good bet is Worley has an ERA in the 3.75 range and unless he can improve upon his walk rate, a WHIP above 1.20 — but pitching for the Phillies should provide double digit wins and he’s deceptive enough to deliver around 150 K’s over 180 innings. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Worley has a bright future, but being so young, he comes with some risk and questions persist about his strikeout ability. If his 2011 is any indication of his true talent level, he’s a very valuable fantasy starter, but expect a degree of regression in 2012.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/28/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: An up-and-down lefty specialist over the last few years, Wright does a nice job missing bats (career 8.92 strikeouts per nine) but doesn’t do much of anything else. If he’s on your fantasy radar going into the season, your league is too deep. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 12/24/1974 | Position: RP|
Profile: Wright was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners last year, and though his ERA (3.16) was a full run below his FIP (4.30), his other peripherals weren’t that out of line, beyond a high strand rate. The once-wretched walk rates have now become merely subpar, but he makes up for those extra baserunners by doubling them up using one of the league’s best cutters. He’s the Princess Beatrice of the M’s line of succession for closer, but in a league that counts holds, you could find some value here. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Wright was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners last year, and though his ERA (3.16) was a full run below his FIP (4.30), his other peripherals weren’t that out of line, beyond a high strand rate. He’s the Princess Beatrice of the M’s line of succession for closer, but in a league that counts holds, you could find some value here.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 12/15/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2009, Wuertz was one of the best relievers in baseball, striking out more than 11 per nine innings pitched and posting a 2.37 FIP in his first season in Oakland. After two poor seasons, featuring climbing FIPs (5.46 in 2011), declining strikeout rates (8.55 K/9 in 2011) and rising walk rates (6.95 BB/9 in 2011), Wuertz finds himself out of a job and hoping to catch on somewhere for 2012. Wuertz will turn 33 this off-season — not young, by any means, but certainly not old when you consider the longevity of many relief pitchers — and has seen declining velocities the past couple years, to match the declining performance, suggesting that this fall-off isn’t just a fluke. That said, he has also been battling injuries to his hamstring and thumb, and how that has impacted his performance is hard to tell. Wuertz is unlikely to end up in a closing role, limiting his fantasy value in most formats, and he hasn’t shown enough the past couple years to justify grabbing him for his rate stats. If he proves to be healthy come opening day, watch his velocity — if the speed is back, the performance may follow. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Wuertz may be nearing the end of his career, as declining velocity has led to a significant drop-off in performance. Keep an eye on those velocities early in 2012 — if they are back up where they were in 2009, the results may improve as well, otherwise, steer clear.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1979 | Position: SP|
Profile: It’s puzzling that someone so big could be so fragile. Injuries have limited Young to just 120.0 innings pitched spread over the last three seasons. Somehow, his fastball velocity dropped again last season (84.6). Yet, he still managed to pick up strikeouts at a decent rate. Too bad he can never stay healthy enough to sustain his performance over a longer period of time. He was pretty useful between 2005 and 2007, but that was a long time ago. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: To echo Dave Cameron from last season’s Second Opinion, if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably on the wrong page. You’re looking for Chris Young the outfielder, not the oft-injured pitcher.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 6/1/1981 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: A trade to Florida means that Zambrano gets a fresh start with a new organization and a new set of fans. He’ll probably still the same old Z. His swinging strike rate and velocity have both been in a long decline, and he always showed bad walk rates even when he was ‘on.’ The new park in Florida is a mystery, but it should play slightly better than Wrigley on a day with the wind blowing out, so it might be a slight help. Do not expect too much from Zambrano, though, who at his best was just above average. Something around a 4.00 ERA or a touch below is a reasonable expectation. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: He will get another chance to start in Florida, but at this point, Zambrano is a No. 3 or 4 starter. Do not expect and ERA any better than 3.70 — or prepare for disappointment.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/10/1979 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: In 58.1 innings of relief in 2011 for Oakland and Arizona, Brad Ziegler didn’t allow a home run. An impressive stat, wouldn’t you agree? A groundball-inducing machine, Ziegler’s had four straight seasons with an ERA under 3.30. He set career-highs in both FIP and xFIP last season. If he was able to strike out a few more batters — Ziegler’s career strikeout rate is 6.04 — he could be one of the better middle relief men in the game. But Ziegler’s no slouch, and worthy of you taking note; you could do a lot worse when it comes to middle relief. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: The ground-ball submariner doesn’t give up home runs in a middle relief role. Is that interesting in your fantasy league?
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/23/1986 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Zimmermann returned to the mound relatively quickly in late 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009 and then missing most of that following season. Despite only winning eight games, Zimmermann was excellent last season, displaying pinpoint control and posting an 84 ERA-. However, there were some warning signs hidden beneath the surface. His strikeout rate was down significantly from his 2009 debut and nearly another full point after returning in 2010. His whiff rate was below the league average, which suggests the decline was deserved. Next, his ground-ball rate plunged and he suddenly became a fly ball pitcher. Though the overall effect of these peripheral changes did not alter his SIERA much from 2010 to 2011, it does make his outlook a bit murkier. The good news is that his velocity has fully rebounded, but we will have to wait to see if that will lead to more strikeouts. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Zimmermann has made an impressive recovery from Tommy John surgery and has shown some nice skills. However, a decline in strikeout and ground ball rates, along with fortunate strand and home run per fly ball rates, in 2011 mean he is a bit of a risk given his likely draft day cost.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/13/1978 | Team: Giants | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: With Jonathan Sanchez traded to the Royals, Zito is expected to be the Giants’ fifth starter in 2012. If the freshly minted groom can just return to the form he showed in 2009 and 2010, he’ll be serviceable as a fifth starter. In those seasons, he tossed nearly 200 innings, had a strikeout rate that sat between 6.5 and 7.0 and a low-range 4.00 ERA. Even Zito’s peripherals looked good then, with a walk rate of 3.8/9, a strand rate of 73.5% and a FIP fairly close to his ERA. But Zito spent time on the DL in 2011 for the first time in his career after taking a line drive off his foot in April. When he came back, he saw his K/9 drop, his BB/9 rise and his ERA and FIP head above 5.50 for the first time in his career. The Giants still owe Zito $19 million for 2012 and $20 million for 2013, so expect him to pitch every fifth game unless something drastic changes. (Wendy Thurm)
Quick Opinion: The $20-million fifth starter does take half of his turns in a nice ballpark. And he’s been useful in deep leagues as recently as 2010, so don’t forget about him completely.
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