|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Darren O’Day is a great under the radar relief pitcher for 2013. First, he is good. Taking out his 2011 season when he spent time on the disabled list for his shoulder and hip, the 30-year-old righty has had an ERA under 2.30 in every of the last four seasons. To go with the low ERA, his career WHIP stands at 1.06 and he also owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.4. The K/BB stood at 4.9 last season. The Orioles used O’Day exclusively as the eighth inning set up man over the last month of the season with him getting a hold in each of the last five games in which he appeared. Nothing points to Johnson losing the closer role before the start of the season, but pitchers get hurt or blow up. O’Day looks primed to be a closer and he can generate some great counting stats in the mean time. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Darren O’Day is lights-out as Baltimore’s setup man and could step in if Jim Johnson falters as the closer.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/5/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Eric O’Flaherty has relatively quietly been one of the game’s top relievers over the past four seasons. Since being waived by the Mariners and claimed by the Braves in 2009, the lefty has posted a 1.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Those numbers have improved even more when you drop the sample to just the past two seasons, in which he has posted a 1.31 ERA. As he enters his final year of control in Atlanta, O’Flaherty could be seen as a closer candidate in free agency next season. He will be 29-years-old as a free agent, so he could be an interesting player to speculate on in dynasty formats. Even this season, as the Braves have acquired Jordan Walden and already possess one of the game’s top lefty relievers in Jonny Venters, O’Flaherty could potentially be moved to a team needing late-inning help. For now, however, he is not too viable of a candidate in standard formats unless you desperately need ERA help and have room for a set-up man with non-spectacular strikeout numbers. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: O’Flaherty has seriously reinvigorated his career since being claimed by Atlanta, but he is behind the game’s top closer and may not even be second in line for saves for the Braves. He has a great ground-ball rate and solid control, but pitching in arguably the game’s top bullpen does not help his fantasy value.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/27/1990 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Tough break for Odorizzi in fantasy circles. The trade from the Royals to the Rays sends the 23-year-old righty from a likely rotation spot to waiting his turn to break into the deepest pitching pool in the majors. His repertoire is quality and quantity (emphasis on the latter) so Odorizzi will eventually work his way into a role as a number three or four in real life, which should translate to a solid streaming option in mixed leagues in fantasy. Certain minor league stats — in particular, those career 9.2 strikeouts per nine — won’t accompany Odorizzi to the majors, but he should be reliable enough as long as he gets some help from Tampa’s perennially-plus defense and keeps the ball in the park. Worth a late-game gamble in AL-onlies, as it’s not out of the question he lucks into (or even earns) some starts with the Rays in 2013, but he’s a better bet in keeper style. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: The great Wil Myers Trade wasn’t a great one for Jake Odorizzi. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have any fantasy value this year.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: The Rangers lost Ryan Dempster to free agency and won’t get Colby Lewis or Neftali Feliz back from injury until midseason, meaning the 29-year-old Ogando is all but assured of a rotation spot to open 2013. He pitched to a 3.56 ERA (3.55 FIP) with 6.68 strikeouts per nine (18.1 K%) as a starter in 2011, which is solid but hardly dominant compared to his numbers as a reliever (2.53 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 8.86 K/9, 24.2 K%). At issue is the customary drop in velocity that comes with the switch, as well as the fact that he’s mostly a fastball/slider guy — his changeup is a ‘show-me’ pitch at best. Ogando has fantasy value in either role though, and chances are he’ll be more useful as a slightly better than average starter than as an excellent setup man. The SP and RP eligibility adds an extra layer of flexibility as well. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Ogando, 29, is all but assured of a rotation spot given Ryan Dempster’s departure and the injuries suffered by Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis. His track record as a starter (essentially 2011) indicates a performance that is slightly better than league average while his bullpen work is bordering on elite. In either role, he’s worth a fantasy roster spot.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/8/1982 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Ohlendorf, 30, has bounced around since pitching to a 3.92 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 176.2 innings across 29 starts for the 2009 Pirates. He’s managed a similar peripheral-based performance (4.92 FIP) in 195.2 innings since, but the ERA has skyrocketed (5.80). Ohlendorf doesn’t miss many bats (6.67 strikeouts per nine and a 16.7 K% since 2010) or get many ground balls (31.8%), nor does he limit walks (3.82 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%). That’s not a good combination. Ohlendorf has decent enough stuff to remain interesting, but he’ll open the season in Triple-A with the Nationals. That’s a tough pitching staff to crack, and even if he does, he’s very unlikely to be worth a fantasy spot even in deep leagues. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: It’s been four years since Ohlendorf authored a 3.92 ERA in 176.2 innings for Pirates, and he’s done nothing in nearly 200 innings since to be worthy of a fantasy roster spot. If that’s not enough, the Nationals’ pitching staff will be very tough to crack.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/25/1975 | Position: P|
Profile: It looks like the man with the funky delivery and the 87 mph fastball wants back into the big leagues. Don’t laugh too hard — he was once worthy of high-leverage innings, and he didn’t allow an earned run until August last year in Japan. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 1993 | BirthDate: 10/6/1970 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Darren Oliver, 42 years old, can still get it done out of the bullpen. The question is: does he want to do it anymore? It seems he doesn’t in Toronto. Oliver’s contemplating retirement, according to reports. He’d like to be paid more to pitch in Toronto, or be dealt closer to home, to Texas and the Rangers. The bottom line: if Oliver chooses to stick around and pitch another season, somewhere, he’s worth some fantasy consideration, especially in deeper leagues. Oliver’s 2.06 ERA in 2012 was the lowest of his career, and his 2.95 FIP marked the third season in a row he’s posted a FIP below 3.00. Oliver keeps his WHIP low and strikes batters out — his 8.26 strikeout rate last season was the third-best of his long career. Let’s face it: Oliver, aging like a fine wine, is good at what he does, against hitters on either side of the plate. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: At 42, left-handed reliever Darren Oliver can still get it done out of the bullpen. He keeps his WHIP low, and strikes batters out. If he decides to hold off on retirement — his future’s a bit murky — he’s worthy of consideration, especially in deeper fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/13/1985 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Logan Ondrunsek has shown an odd ability to outperform his peripherals in the Reds’ bullpen over the past few years, with a 3.45 career ERA despite a 4.71 FIP. With his lack of strikeouts and the fact that he is a middle reliever rather than a set up man, it is difficult to see where Ondrunsek adds any value to any fantasy league, even a holds league. (Ben Duronio)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/29/1977 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Oswalt busted hard last season. The 35-year-old served up 11 home runs in just nine starts and eight relief appearances en route to a 5.80 ERA. Despite the disastrous results, there is still some hope for a future seen in his strikeout and walk rates — 9.0 and 1.8 per nine innings respectively — but much of it rests on Oswalt finding a home away from hitter paradises like Texas. Oswalt is currently undecided on a return to the majors, and it would be difficult to justify stashing him on standard rosters should he pursue a midseason entrance once again. Watch him on the wire, though — it wasn’t all bad news last season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Oswalt tanked in Texas, but great strikeout-to-walk rates give some hope of a career revival if the 35-year-old can avoid a hitter’s park this time around.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/22/1985 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: After pitching as a starter for his entire career with the Cardinals, the Rockies made Ottavino a reliever and his strong fastball/slider combo led to a strikeout rate of over a batter per inning. Unfortunately, as long as he remains in the bullpen and calls Coors Field home, he shouldn’t find his way onto your fantasy team. (Mike Podhorzer)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 9/27/1977 | Position: RP|
Profile: Padilla has taken to relieving much like a die-hard fan of the original Star Trek movies takes to unjustly criticizing J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies. Padilla has walked the same percentage of batters since converting to relief (8.0% as a starter, 8.1% as a reliever), but he has upped his strikeout rate significantly in relief (16.1 K% as a starter, 23.9% as a reliever). Padilla still managed to post an abysmal 1.48 WHIP a season ago, but much of that could land at the feet of the Red Sox defense. Heading into 2012, the highest batting average on balls in play that Padilla had posted in the nine seasons in which he had tossed 50 or more innings was .319. Last season, he blew right past that number, as his BABIP was .366. Padilla didn’t see a dramatic shift in any of his batted ball percentages that might help explain explain the BABIP jump. Unfortunately for those looking for holds from a starter, Padilla signed with a Japanese team for 2013. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Now a non-closing reliever, Padilla doesn’t fit any of the traditional fantasy roles, but if you’re in a league that counts holds in Nippon Professional Baseball, Padilla could end up being a cheap source of points.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: There isn’t all that much to say about Jonathan Papelbon — Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and/or Kenley Jansen might have a better 2013, but year after year Papelbon racks up the saves, pitches to a good ERA and strikes out well over a batter an inning. There’s no reason why 2013 will be any different and fantasy owners can fully expect Papelbon to finish with over 30 saves, an ERA ~2.50, and a strikeout rate near 11. Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont are good and/or intriguing bullpen options but nobody is taking over Papelbon’s duties in the ninth inning. With Rivera recovering from his torn ACL, only Craig Kimbrel might be considered of having a stronger lock on the ninth inning. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Since becoming a closer in 2006, nobody has saved more games in baseball than Papelbon. He might not rank as the best fantasy baseball closer in 2013 but in a closer carousel world, Papelbon might be the most consistent in the game.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/24/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: Jarrod Parker is an excellent pitcher. His 2012 3.47 ERA is supported by a 3.43 FIP. His home run rate was helped by O.Co, but he posses an above-average swinging strike rate and his walk rate was almost dead on average. Factor in the fact that he didn’t turn 24 until after last season and consider his prospect pedigree and you have the makings of a fantastic starting pitcher. If Parker can cut down on the walks then he can go from “good pitcher” to fantasy stud. His WHIP is what dragged his value down last year. The issue is that he was never a control artist in the upper minors either. Keeping in mind that he is a TJS survivor, and that control tends to be one of the last things that comes back to a pitcher following surgery, one can remain optimistic about his control. I’ll be grabbing Parker near the end of the second tier of staring pitchers. With a quality defense behind him, a park that suppresses runs by itself, and Parker’s changeup, he makes for a very attractive fantasy target. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: With such a strong prospect pedigree, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Jarrod Parker become instantly fantasy relevant. An excellent ERA combined with swing-and-miss stuff translates to strong foundation to help your rotation. As he continues to refine his control post-TJS, expect Parker’s numbers to continue to rise.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/8/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: For a guy that can hump is fastball over triple digits once he gets a few warmup tosses in, it’s sure taken Bobby Parnell a long time to get into high-leverage innings in Queens. His slider is a good pitch, too, so it’s not all fastball. And his career walk rate is just a smidge worse than league average, so it’s not bad control. So far, he’s suffered from high batting averages on balls in play, or lost control of the ball over the course of a single season. When he’s avoided doing either of those things (2010 and 2012), he’s been very useful for a reliever. And once you look at his career as a whole, neither of those things seem like they are endemic to his stuff. He can show league-average control, and he can give up hits on balls in play at a league average rate. The Mets will start the season with Frank Francisco in the closer’s role probably, but if Parnell can repeat his work from last season, the team should end the season with their homegrown fireballer. He is still under team control until 2015, even though it seems like he’s been around forever. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Captain Fastball is still with the Mets, and he’s still pumping high-velocity fastballs and sliders over the plate in New York. Maybe this is the year he’ll finally get the closer role. Maybe.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/30/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/3/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: The 27-year-old returns to Baltimore’s bullpen as a left-handed specialist working in middle relief. He has put up better-than-league average xFIPs over the last two years, but his situational usage and lack of whipeout stuff makes him virtually worthless in fantasy beyond ultra-deep, holds leagues. (Colin Zarzycki)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Over four seasons in the National League, Paulino had a 5.93 ERA, 1.63 WHIP and a 2.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Since going the Royals, 29-year-old righty’s ERA dropped to 3.55, his WHIP shrunk to 1.34, and his K/BB increased to 2.5. He went from unrosterable in all leagues to starting in deep and AL-only leagues, especially since he showed the ability to strike out nearly a batter per inning. Until the injury last season, his career FIP (4.09), xFIP (4.00) and SIERA (3.94) were all nearly a point better than his career ERA (4.93). When healthy, an ERA around four could be expected if his fastball speed returns to snuff. He will be nice cheap late draft/$1 pickup to place on a team’s disabled list until he hopefully returns in July. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Felipe Paulino was turning around his career in Kansas City when his 2012 season was derailed by Tommy John surgery.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 1/8/1976 | Position: SP|
Profile: A terrible season marred with stunningly low velocity and movement ended early when Pavano hit the disabled list in June and didn’t return. It may or may not have been the nail in the coffin for Pavano’s big-league career, but it certainly hastened the exit of the Twins’ head trainer Rick McWane, as he oversaw a misdiagnosis that essentially caused the right-hander to pitch through an injury — a bruised humerus bone — that could have simply healed with rest and rehab, rather than having Pavano throw through it while on the DL for two-and-a-half months. It was one of the last in what had been many bungled medical situations for the Twins over the past two dreadful seasons. Nevertheless, Pavano has yet to draw any serious bites in free agency and may have to settle for a minor league deal to prove his velocity is up and that he’s capable of rounding out a big league rotation again. Fantasy-wise, it’s likely that he’ll be hands-off except in the deepest of leagues. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Low velocity, no movement, and an injury to boot: Carl Pavano isn’t on a major league roster right now, and he probably shouldn’t be on your fantasy roster ever again.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/31/1981 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Prior to 2012, Peavy’s American League FIP portended a lower ERA than he was posting, and that finally came to pass. His 3.37 ERA was his lowest since moving out of PETCO Park in 2009 and his 1.10 WHIP was the third-lowest of his career. His strikeouts still haven’t quite recovered back to his pre-injury levels. The White Sox clearly believed that Peavy had a few quality seasons left as they signed him to a two-year, $29 million deal just after the season ended. Peavy’s days as an elite starter are behind him, but he’s absolutely worth middle-high pick in mixed leagues. As long as that all those surgically repaired parts hold together. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: It took two-and-a-half years with the White Sox, but Jake Peavy finally gave the Southsiders a full, healthy season.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/8/1989 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: At 6’2, 240, Peralta is a big, sturdy right-hander with a plus fastball. Control has been the 23-year-old’s weakest skill, as evidenced by his career four walks per nine — a number that jumped to 4.8/9 last season at Triple-A and can be attributed to what was an overall disappointing 2012. Following a breakout 2011 across Double- and Triple-A, Peralta looked to be on the verge of a big league role as either a reliever or starter last season, but he got off to a poor start through May and didn’t get his shot until settling down in the second half. Over his first 29 big league innings, Peralta was impressive statistically (2.48 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 23:11 K:BB) and showed a fastball that sat in the mid-90s (95.5 average mph), the kind of heavy heater with boring action that generates both swings and misses and plenty of ground balls. The stuff is good enough to be a number three starter, but the shaky control could flare up and cause enough problems to make Peralta high-risk/high-reward streamer in mixed leagues for 2013, which he should begin as a member of the Brewers five-man. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: There’s risk and reward in the big right hand of Wily Peralta. Just make sure you are aware of the former when you take a shot at the latter.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/23/1976 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Joey Biceps, as he’s affectionately known in Tampa Bay, was a force out of the Rays bullpen as he worked the 8th inning for Joe Maddon in 2012. He used his excellent split-finger fastball to strikeout hitters at a career high rate (11.28 K/9) despite his fastball averaging just 90mph. He has a tendency to give up too many homers, but the strikeouts and holds (37) are well worth the added longballs. He he’s gotten saves here and there and should again this season, when Fernando Rodney is unable to go. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Peralta’s strikeouts and holds make him a very attractive pickup, even for a set-up man.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/15/1981 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: The career of Oliver Perez is an exact baseball transcription of Voltaire’s Candide, minus most of the jokes. The transformation of Perez from wild flamethrower to social pariah to control artist reliever is nothing short of remarkable, although since nobody actually remembers how Candide ends, 2013 is anyone’s guess. There are a couple of clues, however: that 0.3 home runs per nine rate is probably going to go up, though the impact of Safeco’s creeping fences remains to be seen. He actually fared better against righties (.204/.279/.296) than lefties (.281/.328/.351) last season, though of course it was only thirty innings. Oliver the Negligible is unlikely to have a major fantasy impact, with plenty of young guys with fastballs around him in the bullpen, but holds leagues might be able to use him as a cheap fill-in when the M’s have a homestand. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Although the best part about drafting Oliver Perez might be the quizzical tone you can take while uttering his name, Perez could prove value – in certain leagues, under certain conditions, during certain phases of the moon.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/4/1991 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Another year, another “disappointment” from Rangers pitching prospect Martin Perez. Still just 22 on opening day, it seems as if the young left-hander has been around forever. Maybe a bit of prospect hangover has set in, but a debut including a strikeout rate of just under six and ground ball rate near 50% is solid — Especially when Double-A is his age-appropriate level. If he breaks camp as the Rangers fifth starter, Perez is a sneaky matchup play in deeper leagues. In dynasty leagues, an antsy owner may even be willing to deal him on the cheap now that the prospect luster has worn off. (Mike Newman)
Quick Opinion: The numbers don’t look great, but don’t forget one important number for Perez: his age. The 22-year-old still has plenty of promise.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/1/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Life is never simple for a Chris Perez owner. Last year everyone told you a handcuff was needed — Perez seemed sure to lose his job to Vinnie Pestano before long. This year, the Indians are supposedly shopping Perez, and who knows where he might end up! But the number one thing fantasy owners care about with regards to closers is saves, and Perez’s 98 over the last three years is fifth in baseball and, unless something changes, he enters 2013 in position to add to that total. After his strikeouts fell through the floor in 2011, he bounced back and put up more than a strikeout per inning last season, with a career best strikeout-to-walk ratio. Closers are, by their nature, volatile, but Perez seems like a solid bet for 2013, as long as he remains the closer in Cleveland. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The fifth leading relief pitcher in saves since 2010, Perez enters 2013 with his job still intact. And as long as that remains the case, he is a great source of decent rates, good strikeouts, and piles of saves.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/2/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Perkins has firmly taken over for Pat Neshek as every Twins fan’s favorite Minnesota-born reliever/personality. Off the field, Perkins is known for the twitter hashtag #pmki and for being very down-to-earth. On the field, he’s reinvented himself as a flamethrowing lefty with an overpowering slider in the bullpen. Once a diminutive, pitch-to-contact starter from the Twins cookie-cutter starter production line, Perkins has completely shifted gears with a tremendous fastball (94.9 mph, 16.8 SwStr%) and a wipeout slider (18.0 SwStr%) in short stretches to become one of the better late-inning options in the American League. To top it all off, Perkins is an avid FanGraphs reader (hi Glen), who frequently uses PITCHf/x as part of his game preparation. On the fantasy side, Perkins projects to be one of the better closers in the America League in just about everything but saves. Even on bad teams, closers can save 30 games, but is that enough to sway you to pick him over say, Bruce Rondon or whomever closes in Detroit? That could be a tough decision. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: No longer a Twins starting pitcher, Glen Perkins now has fantasy value. Pick him late for his great ratios and rates, even if he might not rack up a ton of saves on that team.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/20/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Vinnie Pestano is the kind of guy who makes you want to stop using Saves in fantasy baseball. He entered 2012 next-in-line to close games in Cleveland and was picked up in most leagues since everyone knew it was just a matter of time until Chris Perez was dethroned. But a funny thing happened on the way to Pestano’s coronation — Perez pitched effectively and locked down the job instead of handing it off. A year later, the conversation has not changed, despite the conversations Perez has had with the press. Pestano is a fantastic reliever who can produce across the board, but will only have true fantasy relevance if a) the Indians trade Perez, b) Perez fails to hold leads or c) you play in a non-saves (or a saves+holds) league. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Still first in line to close games in Cleveland, should the incumbent Chris Perez falter or get traded, but as of now, Pestano is only good for strikeouts and rates. If you need Saves, he’s a handcuff and a flyer; if not, he’s a relief ace.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/22/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Petit spent most of 2012 with the Giants’ Triple-A team where posted a very nice 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 166.2 innings pitched. He started one game for San Francisco in late September. In 4.2 innings, he allowed seven hits, four walks, and two runs. He struck out only one batter. Don’t expect to see much of Petit with the Giants in 2013 unless he’s needed as an injury fill-in. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 6/15/1972 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: After spending a year away from baseball, the 40-year-old Pettitte made a surprise comeback in 2012 and exceeded every possible expectation: 2.87 ERA (3.48 FIP) and 8.24 strikeouts per nine (22.8 K%) in 75.1 innings across a dozen starts. He missed more than two months with a fractured ankle after getting hit by a comebacker, but otherwise was consistently excellent. Pettitte will return for another season in 2013 despite having not thrown more than 130 IP since 2009. His 2012 performance was wildly out of line with his 2008-2010 showings, which could be attributed to the small sample or being completely healthy after the year away. Pettitte should pile up wins and be useful enough in the other categories, but there is blow-up potential. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Pettitte came out of retirement to pitch like an ace for a dozen starts in 2012, but it’s been three years since he last topped 130 innings pitched He’s been a solid fantasy option for years and should continue to be one in 2013, but the big lefty carries more risk than ever.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Last year’s 12th-ranked Yankee prospect, Phelps surprised with a 3.34 ERA (4.01 xFIP) as he split time between New York’s bullpen and rotation in 2012. The re-signing of Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda should banish him to a long relief role to start the season, so Phelps isn’t anything more than a low-upside streamer and only in the event a starter goes down. (Colin Zarzycki)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/18/1989 | Team: Yankees | Position: P|
Profile: By trading for Pineda, the Yankees were looking to solidify their rotation. Instead of helping the rotation, he had shoulder surgery and caused the Yankees to scramble to put together a pitching staff for much of the season. If he had not gotten hurt, he looked to be the number two or three starter for Yankees. In 2011 for the Mariners, he had 9.1 strikeouts per nine and 2.9 walks per nine. His 2013 outlook is murky. Current reports have him returning in June or July, but he is returning from shoulder surgery, whose results are more inconsistent than Tommy John surgeries. The big key to watch is where his 95 mph fastball stands during his return. He should be stashed on the disabled list until he returns, but he may not have much value depending on how he pitches with the new shoulder. Don’t value him more than a late-round flier or a $1 bid. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Michael Pineda is a disabled-list stasher until he returns — potentially in June — but shoulder injuries are always more worrisome than elbow trouble.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/22/1988 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: Drew Pomeranz was Colorado’s big prize in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade of 2011 that, well, did not go so well for Cleveland. As for the Rockies, they are probably happy to not be bearing the brunt of Jimenez’s collapse, but Pomeranz has not exactly set the world on fire, either. He’s a big dude with a big frame, and hey, he’s a southpaw, so he’ll probably be in the big leagues in some capacity into his 30s barring utter injury or collapse. He also just turned 24, so he is still fairly young, although pitchers do not age the same as hitters, and this should not be considered a big plus for Pomeranz. Pomeranz does not throw super hard as one might expect for a guy his size, and in his initial brief forays in the big leagues, did not generate a ton of strikeouts. He did seem to have control problems, however. The park is not going to be forgiving, either. The Rockies have not done a great job with young pitchers recently. Pomeranz could still turn out to be an above-average starting pitcher once you adjust for his home park, but most fantasy leagues do not do that. He is more of an endgame starter or someone to stash on your bench at this point. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Pomeranz has some promising characteristics, and was highly-regarded as a prospect, but is not really at the point where he is reliable as anything more than an endgame fantasy starter in most leagues.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: 2012 was probably Porcello’s best year — a career low FIP, a career high strikeout rate — but there are some serious concerns for fantasy owners. The career high in K/9 sounds good — but it’s still below 5.5. The 3.91 FIP is good, but it is hiding a 4.59 ERA. And while some of that can be chalked up to bad luck with balls in play and runners on base, a high BABIP and a low strand rate are quickly becoming trademarks for Porcello, leaving us to wonder if his FIPs will always tantalize us with a mediocrity he cannot achieve in his ERA. There isn’t anything here to get excited about except, maybe, youth. At only 24, Porcello has time to improve, but there aren’t a lot of signs to get excited about. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: No strikeouts, regularly high batting average on balls in play, regularly low strand rates, and just all around unimpressive numbers. Not exactly an equation for fantasy success (or baseball success, for that matter).
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/26/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: When talking about the reigning AL Cy Young winner, praise comes pretty easy. You know what you’re getting. He’s going to strike out 200+, he’s going to throw 200+ innings, he’s going to have a low ERA, and he’s not going to walk many people. The amount of wins he gets can fluctuate so predicting that is often futile, see Cliff Lee last season. This will be Price’s fourth full season, and he’s gradually gotten better in every one of them. Last season, while leading the American League in ERA, he threw his fastball just 60% of the time, implementing a cutter that helped his ground-ball rate shoot up to 53%. He’s an ace in every sense of the word and will rightly be among the top five pitchers taken in most drafts. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Along with Justin Verlander, the 27-year-old Price is the model of elite consistency, putting up 200 innings and strikeouts while maintaining a low ERA every season.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/23/1989 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Stephen Pryor flew through the Mariners farm system, striking out the world (11.9 K/9 rate), and sometimes walking it too (4.7 BB/9 rate). He’s a very hard thrower, averaging over 96 mph on his fastball, occasionally touching triple digits, but he struggles mightily with his command. He’s a big dude, he’s closed in the minors, and there’s no doubting his stuff. But he’s probably second or third in line to close should anything happen to Tom Wilhelmsen, but any saves vultures out there definitely should keep Pryor tucked away. If he can reign in his control issues, there’s some really interesting potential here. With the arms in that Mariner pen, the team might want to trade their closer to upgrade elsewhere. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Stephen Pryor only lacks some kind of ironic facial hair to look like a classic closer. He can touch 100 mph with his fastball, he throws with a kind of unique recklessness, and he sometimes can’t find the strike zone to save his life. He’s young (23), and there will probably be opportunity in Seattle to close in the coming years, if not sooner. A classic closer-in-waiting.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 2/22/1977 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Putz’s 32-of-37 save effort in twenty-twelve failed to reach the level of his 45-save season in 2011, but the veteran right-hander maintained fine ratios (2.38 FIP, 1.03 WHIP) while striking out over one batter more per nine than the previous year. The spike in strikeouts isn’t exactly flukey, as Putz induced more swinging strikes (13.2 SwStr%) in 2012 than his 12.0 SwStr% in 2011, supporting the increase in the strikeout rate. If you’re an owner taking a chance on Putz, and are (rightfully) worried about his injury history, be sure to add a Heath Bell or David Hernandez to compliment him late in your draft. Putz is usually only good for about 50 innings a year, and someone else in Arizona will get a chance to close for a couple weeks at least. (Alan Harrison)
Quick Opinion: On the heels of a 32-save season, J.J. Putz will enter 2013 as a top-ten closer option for owners willing to pay for saves.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/24/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: There isn’t much about him that is extremely positive or overwhelmingly negative. While being average is a virtue in leagues of sufficient depth, it leaves Quintana with very little margin for error. The biggest piece missing from his game right now is strikeouts; none of his peripherals look grossly out of whack, but if he doesn’t start missing a few more bats, he’s just never going to be more than a back-end starter in real life and an underwhelming fantasy option in all but the deepest leagues. Improving or abandoning his changeup could be the key to his future success as it was by far his weakest offering; he has time to do it, he’s just 24, but the change isn’t going to happen at this stage without serious effort on his part. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Quintana probably wasn’t in the White Sox’s plan when the 2012 season started, but he made his way into the rotation via injuries and ineffectiveness and actually acquitted himself fairly well.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/2/1990 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Erasmo Ramirez might not be tall in stature, but he’s got some big stuff. He consistently sits in the 93 mph range, but can touch 95 and he has thing of beauty for a change up. As a starter in 2012, Ramirez had a 3.64 ERA with a 0.98 whip striking out 22% of opposing batters, walking only 4%, and holding opponents to a .218/.247/.362 slash line. Ramirez won’t be a world beater, but he’s a sneaky late round or inexpensive grab for favorable match-ups. His minor league numbers don’t suggest much in the way of upside in strikeouts, but he’s probably a safe bet for a 20% K rate, an ERA around 3.60 and a WHIP somewhere in the 1.12 range. His terrific control and home park (despite the fences moving in a bit) should certainly help his overall stat line, although wins might be tough to come by for Mariner starters in 2013. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Not to be mistaken for the “other” Erasmo Ramirez, this Erasmo has one of the game’s better out pitches in his change-up and he can bring plus heat when needed. Ramirez is a control expert too, which contributed to his 0.98 WHIP as a starter in 2012. Certainly not a candidate to anchor your staff, Ramirez is a nice starter to have around either as your #5 or frequent spot starter for favorable match-ups. There’s also some potential that he could turn into something more, and at just 22 years of age, he’s a good dynasty league stash.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/31/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: When the Mets acquired Ramirez last season he had just posted years with ERAs of 2.64, 2.84, 2.99 and 2.62. While that’s pretty darn good, his FIPs during that same time period told a slightly different story – 2.84 4.46, 4.23 and 2.94. Those aren’t particularly bad numbers, and the Mets weren’t necessarily wrong not to think of Angel Pagan as being worth $40 million, but it’s a good lesson in not paying for middle relief. Anyway, as bad as you might have thought Ramirez pitched last year based on hearsay, Mets fans or sports radio in New York, he wasn’t all that terrible. A 4.24 ERA/3.93 FIP with 46.7% ground ball rate has some value. Just not fantasy value. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Trading Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez was not Sandy Alderson’s finest hour and after a disappointing 2012 season, Ramirez is now a free agent looking to sign on to a team.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/9/1981 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: When Rapada pitches, he does so well, be it in an important situation or not. For the second straight season, he struck out one-fourth of the batters he faced, and while he walks his fair share of hitters, he frequently uses the walk as a tool to avoid right-handed hitters, which is a good idea since he isn’t any good at getting them out. He is good at getting left-handed hitters out however, and that skill will likely keep the soon-to-be-32-year-old employed for quite some time. On the Yankees however, he takes a back seat to head LOOGY Boone Logan, and as such he doesn’t regularly see late-game action. Last year, Rapada’s pLI was a depressing 0.64, while Logan’s was a much more robust 1.23. And since he is mainly used just against lefties — he faced nearly three times as many lefties as righties last season — he doesn’t log a tremendous amount of innings, which dulls the fantasy impact of his shiny strikeout percentage. Still, if you are in a deep league that simulates games or where you otherwise need to play matchups, Rapada will be a great source of cheap production. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Rapada can LOOGY it up with the best of them, but in New York he is the backup LOOGY to head LOOGY Boone Logan, and as such is unlikely to see many opportunities for holds or pile up enough innings to be valuable in any other fantasy-related manner.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 9/27/1978 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: It’s common to think of taller pitchers as having greater velocity but for every Justin Verlander or Randy Johnson there is a Chris Young, or in this case, a Jon Rauch. Rauch doesn’t throw particularly hard (90.7 mph in 2012) or miss many bats (6.55 strikeouts per nine; 8.5 swinging strike rate in 2012) but he does throw strikes (1.87 walks per nine in 2012). Add it all up and Rauch might be the definition of an average major league reliever — 4.01 career FIP and 4.4 wins above replacement over 10 years and 578.1 innings pitched. This would likely explain why Rauch is still a free agent (as of February 1st) and would also explain why he probably won’t remain a free agent by Opening Day. Another factor in Rauch’s favor is that he is a proven closer. While that might sound silly to us, an average pitcher with closing experience is potentially very attractive to managers. Once he signs, expect Rauch to pitch to his normal, decent ways and if and when an opportunity to pick up saves arises, look for him to be in the mix, wherever he is. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Jon Rauch is one of the tallest players in baseball at 6’11”. Someone has to sign him, right?
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Reed gave the White Sox the stability at the end of games that had been missing since Jenks’ departure and looks set to be their closer for the foreseeable future. He’s a steady source of saves and while his ERA and WHIP weren’t exactly wonderful last year, he’s just 24, so it’s reasonable to assume that he’ll improve as he adjusts to the competition level and finds a good rhythm. His minor league walk rates were miniscule, and he’s garnered enough major league swinging strikes to think his strikeout rate could improve, too. The AL Central has gotten better this offseason, but the Sox look to still be in the thick of it, which means plenty of save chances for Reed this season. He shouldn’t lose any save opportunities fighting the rest of the bullpen for the job. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Being the heir apparent to Bobby Jenks sounds more like a curse than a blessing these days, but before Jenks was an oft injured also-ran in Boston, he was a very solid fantasy closer. So too is Addison Reed.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/12/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: When Richard was dealt from the White Sox to the Padres midway through the 2009 season, it marked a turning point in the now 29-year old lefty’s career, both in reality and in fantasy. While his strikeouts may be virtually non-existent these days (4.40 strikeouts per nine in 2012), Richard has proven that he has solid value when he pitches at home. Over the last three years, he’s posted a 2.94 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP over 39 starts at Petco Park, giving him a decent value in leagues where you can easily sub him in and out of your rotation. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, but as a strong ground-ball pitcher, he gets by just fine, especially when the dimensions of his home park help keep his home run per fly ball rate to a mark of less than 10% (league average). On the road, it’s a much different story as he owns a 4.73 ERA with a 1.51 WHIP and a HR/FB that sits well north of 15%. If you can freely move players in and out of your lineup on a daily basis, then Richard is actually a great low-cost option for help with the ratios. He won’t get you much in the way of wins or strikeouts, but half a season’s worth of solid rate stats isn’t too bad considering he’ll probably be a final round pick or a $1 flier at the end of your auction. And, as a lefty, the fence changes in right field may not be as big a deal as they would be for righties. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Richard is proof-positive that Petco Park can make even the most average starting pitchers look good. Though he doesn’t miss many bats, his ground-ball rates and the dimensions of his home park give him a bit of fantasy value in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues, provided you can use him for just his home starts. If it’s strikeouts that you need, then move along.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/27/1988 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After auditioning Garrett Richards during the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim opted to pursue other options, signing Joe Blanton and trading for Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson to fill our their rotation. Richards sports a 95 mph heater, but his lack of offspeed stuff will likely limit him to bullpen duty in the long run. Richards will compete with veteran Jerome Williams for the long-relief job in the Angels’ pen, but odds are the 25-year-old will start the season in the minor leagues. Hanson and Blanton aren’t exactly durable, though, so Richards could see significant big league action at some point during the 2013 campaign. Should he start for a stretch, he’ll be worth a look for owners playing matchups and streaming pitchers. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Garrett Richards will likely start the season in the minors, but if he makes it back to the majors as a member of the rotation, he’ll be worth a look for owners playing matchups and streaming pitchers.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 11/29/1969 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Rivera’s season ended far too soon for us to glean any relevant statistical info from it. If you want to point to something, it would be the fact that in the 8.1 innings that he pitched, he didn’t do anything to suggest that he will be anything other than the dominant reliever that he had been in the 15 previous seasons. A knee injury is no reason to shy away from drafting Rivera, especially since by the time the 2013 season starts he will have had a comparatively long time to recover from it. He was throwing off a mound in early November, and the Yankees were confident enough in his progress to bring him back for another season, so he should be all systems go for the start of the season. While he will likely be a top-five closer, you would be forgiven for conservatively ranking him towards the back end of the top ten. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: A torn ACL in his right knee suffered while shagging flies in batting practice ended Rivera’s season far too early, but he should be back to challenge Craig Kimbrel for world closer domination again in 2013.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/9/1985 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Few relievers in baseball strike out as many batters as Robertson, who owns a 12.03 strikeouts-per-nine rate and 31.5 strikeout percentage in 262.2 career innings. The 27-year-old pitched to a 2.67 ERA (2.48 FIP) as Rafael Soriano’s setup man in 2012, though he likely would have gotten more of an opportunity to replace Mariano Rivera had he not hit the disabled list with an oblique strain in May. Rivera is a question mark following his knee injury, and Robertson is first in line for saves. Even if that ninth inning opportunity doesn’t come, he’s an elite holds option, especially if that career-best walk rate (2.82 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) proves to be his new norm. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Robertson is one of baseball’s most strikeout-heavy relievers, and he’s first in line for save chances should Mariano Rivera not be his usual self following knee surgery. Robertson is an elite holds candidate either way.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 3/18/1977 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Rodney was perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2012 season. His 0.60 ERA was the lowest ever for a reliever with at least 50 innings pitched and his 0.78 WHIP was second in baseball to Craig Kimbrel. He’d posted an ERA of 4.00+ for five straight seasons and hadn’t had a walk rate below four per nine since 2007. The improved control was the biggest reason for his success. A change in motion and different placement on the rubber helped him walk just 15 men in 74.2 innings. Armed with one of the game’s best changeups, Rodney saved 48 games in 2012 and should do more of the same for a contending Tampa Bay in 2013. There’s always risk that the 36-year-old reverts to career norms, and the Rays seems to find a new closer ever year, but Rodney’s at least in line to start the season in the role. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: One of the best relievers in baseball in 2012, Rodney is expected to do more of the same this season, barring injury.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/7/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: Rodriguez was unable to escape the malaise surrounding the 2012 Brewers bullpen. The 30-year-old posted career worsts in ERA (4.38) and WHIP (1.333) as Milwaukee’s bullpen finished last and 29th in the respective categories. Myriad statistical indicators bode poorly for recovery — hitters made more contact against him than ever, he posted his worst strikeout and walk percentages in three seasons, and he was charged with a career high 14 meltdowns. However, Rodriguez actually picked up velocity on his fastball (91.8 MPH average from 90.5 in 2011) and is young enough and has good enough stuff where a revival could still be in the cards. Keep an eye on where he lands — his closer history may be enough to persuade a team to give him a look in the role. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Rodriguez posted by far his worst statistical season in 2012, and most advanced statistics bode poorly for his future. Still, fantasy players should know better than to completely write off closers with an extensive history of great stuff.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/25/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Fact: Not many people can throw a baseball harder than Henry Rodriguez, who consistently throws over 97 mph. Fact: Not many people have less accuracy than Henry Rodriguez. Although he only threw 29.1 innings in the majors last season, Henry Rodriguez still threw 10 wild pitches (seventh most in baseball) and walked 22 batters. For a brief moment in April and May last year Rodriguez was in control and even earned a few saves for the Nationals but that moment quickly passed as Rodriguez finished with a 5.83 ERA combined with a disappointing 5.11 FIP/4.99 xFIP. It goes without saying, but if Rodriguez wants to return to pitching meaningful innings in Washington he will have to cut his walk rate down. He’ll also have to prove his health as he’s recovering from elbow surgery late last season. Also of note is that Rodriguez is without any minor league options, so if the Nationals want to keep him on the team he’ll have to pitch at the major league level. If not, another team will surely take a shot on Rodriguez’ strong, if inaccurate arm. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Only four pitchers had a greater velocity than Henry Rodriguez last year, but in a revamped bullpen in Washington, Rodriguez will have to improve if he wants to pitch in the late innings in 2013.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/18/1979 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Wandy Rodriguez might be older than you think — he’s already 34 — because it took him until he was 26 to break into the bigs. That makes him definitively post-peak, and you can see it in the numbers. His strikeout and swinging strike rates have now been average or worse for three straight years, he hasn’t sat above 90 mph on his fastball since 2009, and his home run rate has gotten worse in recent years. Somehow, all of that doesn’t matter. He keeps putting up seasons with ERAs in the high threes and decent WHIPs built on good control. Maybe it’s because he can spin that curveball in there with the best of him and he’s excellent at getting strike one on the first pitch. Since he’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, it’s not surprising that he’s mostly been better against lefties (3.35 career FIP) than righties (4.06), but that split has held fairly steady. Call him a steady-eddy, unsexy, back-end option in all but the shallowest leagues. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Though Wandy Rodriguez is without upside at this point, he may be undervalued. His sort of steady production has its uses at the back end of most fantasy rotations, and yet he’s usually an afterthought in drafts. Use him to eat some innings if he comes cheaply.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/4/1982 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: When Josh Roenicke was traded to Toronto from Cincinnati back in 2009, he was considered by many to be the real prize of the trade, along with Zach Stewart. The Jays, dumping Scott Rolen’s salary, also got stuck with Edwin Encarnacion. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Roenicke battled control problems during his major league stints for Toronto, and ended up in Colorado off of waivers in 2011. While he superficially did well for Colorado in 2011 and 2012, and his control improved (although it still was not good), his strikeouts took a big hit. After the 2012 season, we was put on waivers yet again, and was taken by the Twins. Even if he ends up making their 25-man roster out of Spring Training, he is not worth a draft pick to start the year. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Josh Roenicke used to be a promising relief prospect, but control problems have dogged him in the majors, and he has now been waived twice. Even if he makes the Twins’ Opening Day roster, do not draft him.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/30/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: If the Brewers are ever going to get some return on Rogers, who was the fifth overall pick back in — wait for it — 2004, the time is now. It’s taken the 27-year-old right-hander this long because he’s endured multiple arm and shoulder injuries and surgeries, but Rogers still possesses mid-90s heat and has had success in his stints in the majors across 2010 and 2012 (3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.6 K/9 in 49 IPs). The Brewers rotation should have a spot or two open at the back end, and Rogers has shown he’s capable of performing when healthy. Provided he has a solid enough camp, expect him to crack the five-man and serve as a useful streaming option in deep mixed leagues and a potential SP5 in NL-only formats — for as long as his arm is attached to his body. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: Health is more of a key word for Mark Rogers than most pitchers. Don’t forget his history when dreaming on his stuff and 2012 results.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/14/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Esmil Rogers throws hard and that velocity (95.8 average mph on his fastball in 2012) kept him pitching in Colorado even though his ERA was 6.77 over those 184.2 innings. However after a mid-season trade (for cash) to Cleveland, Rogers might have finally put it together, pitching 53 innings with a 3.06 ERA improving his control (2.0 walks per nine) while still showing off his strikeout ability (9.0 strikeouts per nine). Rogers now finds himself in Toronto after being traded for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes, and while Rogers’ performance in Cleveland was certainly promising, the fact that another team felt confident enough to trade for his services is meaningful. The Blue Jays had a very busy and successful offseason but their bullpen remains somewhat questionable. Sergio Santos hopes to reclaim the ninth inning in 2013 and Casey Janssen, Steve Delabar, Brad Lincoln and old man Darren Oliver are also around for the late innings. Also on that list is Esmil Rogers. The success portion on Rogers’ resume is brief — only consisting of 53 innings last year — but he he shows improvement or even maintains what he did on Cleveland, Rogers could be pitching important innings in Toronto and racking up strikeouts on your fantasy team. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: After struggling in Colorado in 184.2 innings over the course of four seasons, Esmil Rogers showed success out of the Cleveland bullpen in 2012 and hopes to have found a home in Toronto in 2013.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/6/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: It’s hard to believe, but Ricky Romero was the Blue Jays’ starting pitcher on Opening Day in 2012. It’s not enough to say that Romero struggled last year, or that he was just plain bad. No, he was awful; arguably the worst starter in the AL. After three successful years to begin his career, Romero took a massive step back in 2012. Romero’s no ace, not for the Blue Jays or for your fantasy team, but he could fill out your roster or ride your bench. You’re unlikely to be drafting him, unless you’re in a deep league — Romero’s career FIP and walk rate, and curiously horrific 2012, should be enough to keep you away. But keep your eye on him, because, frankly, your guess about his future is as good as mine, making Romero a potential buy-low candidate should he be able to figure it out again. In 2012, Romero, more often than not, always seemed to be his own harshest critic, and his own biggest enemy on the mound. He did have surgery in the offseason, yet another red flag. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Ricky Romero was arguably the worst starting pitcher in the American League in 2012, and he’s gone from ace of the Toronto staff to its fifth starter. If the first three seasons of his career were a mirage, he certainly fooled us all. Keep your eye on him, as Romero’s looking to bounce back in 2013; he could be yet a buy-low candidate to fill out your roster.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/4/1983 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: It was a near-impossibility for Romo to not regress from his ridiculous 2011 season that saw him post a 13.13 strikeout rate and a 14.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and while he did, his 10.25 strikeout rate and 6.30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2012 were still incredibly impressive. Though the Giants opted to leave him in his regular set-up role when closer Brian Wilson was lost for the season, they turned to him later on in the year and were nicely rewarded with 14 saves to go with his 1.75 ERA. Even more impressive is that Romo has done all of this without utilizing his fastball the way most closers do. In fact, he threw his fastball just 33.5% of the time — he relies primarily on his slider, which has subsequently helped him to increase his ground ball rate. The only concern is how the increased use of his slider will wear on his elbow, something that was a problem for him in 2011 and was one of the reasons the Giants opted to pass over him for the closer’s job initially. He did make it through all of last year without an issue though, so perhaps the increased usage won’t have much of a negative impact. Romo enters 2013 as the Giants’ closer and should possess a strong fantasy value moving forward. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Romo will enter the 2013 season as the closer for the Giants and, with his strikeout rate and overall ratios, should prove to be a valuable fantasy commodity moving forward. There might be a bit of an injury risk to him as he continues to rely heavily on his slider which taxes the elbow more, but given his durability last season, that might just be splitting hairs to find a con in a tremendous sea of pros.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/29/1990 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/24/1989 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Ross was sharp in his rookie season, but the Rangers bullpen is so loaded he’s unlikely to see late-inning work. Still, he’s more than a LOOGY — the Rangers let him face 152 righties (.632 OPS) against 113 lefties (.612 OPS) last season. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/22/1987 | Team: Padres | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Even after being traded to the San Diego Padres, the place where mediocre pitchers go to shine, it is hard to see any fantasy value for a pitcher who has “walk-em-all-itis.” Now that he calls Petco home, Ross may develop into a decent reliever, but unless you play in 20-team, 30-man roster league with Holds, Ross doesn’t hold much value. (David Wiers)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/8/1986 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Despite the lip service given James Russell by Cubs manager Dale Svuem, the LOOGY with a change is not going to be a serious component of the Cubs late-inning staff. Svuem said, at various times in 2012, that Russell was a member of the closer committee, but despite his strong 3.25 ERA and 3.48 FIP, Russell will likely remain the team’s LOOGY in 2013. If he can continue to improve, he makes for a decent inexpensive reliever in a deep league. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/29/1985 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Better known as “Scrabble,” the left-hander saw a drop in his strikeout numbers and an uptick in the number of home runs he allowed last year. That coincided with a heavier reliance on his fastball than he has shown throughout his career — a career-high 72.3% fastball usage — so perhaps he could get his strikeout rate to bounce back by leaning on his slider more. Even then, he only provides marginal value in holds leagues. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/21/1980 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Sabathia pitched his sixth consecutive season of 200+ innings in 2012, but only barely, just reaching the requisite benchmark after his prized left elbow bothered him off and on down the stretch. He eventually had bone spurs removed during offseason surgery and should be ready for Opening Day. However, these issues caused the Yankees to publicly take the stance that they plan on keeping an eye on Sabathia’s workload next year; meaning his days of 230+ innings might be disappearing into the rear-view mirror — potentially good news for Yankee fans, but certainly less volume for fantasy owners. Sabathia’s velocity was noticeably down last year — his 92.4 mph fastball was the slowest it’s been since PITCHf/x data became available in 2007 (the second-lowest his velocity has been was 93.6 in 2010). There weren’t many other red flags in his peripherals so it appears no free-fall is imminent. That said, with the 300 pound Sabathia heading into his age 33 season, he might not be as safe a pick among baseball’s elite pitching talent as he once was. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Sabathia has now kept his xFIP under 4.00 for eight consecutive seasons but elbow issues late in 2012 coupled with another year of wear and tear on his 300-pound frame make selecting the Yankee ace in the uber-elite tier of AL starters more risky this year.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Sale has the makings of a bona fide fantasy ace, but he lacks the name recognition of a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw, which will push him down in most drafts. Sure, there are a few things that make him slightly riskier than either of those two stars — his arm slot has been linked to elbow issues by some researchers, he does throw lots of sliders, and his frame is slight for a man so tall — but there’s no single aspect of Sale’s profile that portends doom. If he fails in 2013, it will be either because of injury or because something fundamentally changed from the way he did things in 2012. If he continues the same trajectory he’s on right now, Sale will be one of the best values on draft day. Keeper leaguers might be right to be a slight bit nervous about his long-term health, considering he’s already missed a few starts for elbow soreness. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: Sale’s transition from the bullpen to the rotation went pretty much as expected. There were some bumps along the way, he lost a few strikeouts and gained a few points of both ERA and WHIP, but he largely remained the dominant force he had been as a reliever.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/23/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeff Samardzija broke camp as a member of the Cubs 2012 rotation, to the surprise of many pundits and fans. The affectionately nicknamed “Spellcheck” proceeded then to post a 3.81 ERA and 3.55 FIP through 28 starts and 174.2 innings. The former Notre Dame wide receiver now has the chance to take the ace role for the Cubs in 2013. Matt Garza had a down, injury-marred season in 2012, and he and Samardzija head into the season jostling for the Cubs top spot. Garza, the incumbent, should start the season as the team’s “ace,” but given that Samardzija had both a high batting average on balls in play (.296 in 2012, but .282 on his career) and home run per fly ball rate (12.8% in 2012, but 10.0% on his career), it seems reasonable the younger, comparatively healthier F7 could supplant Garza as the best pitcher on a rebuilding staff. Samardzija is definitely worth consideration in any fantasy league, and a continued breakout could make him a fantasy workhorse. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: His breakout season in 2012 may get even better in 2013 if his batting average on balls in play and home run per fly ball rates sink back down to his career rates. If his new role as a starter does not create a new normal in those metrics, then he could be the Cubs’ top pitcher by the All-Star break, and an even hotter fantasy commodity.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/27/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Chicago might have been a better place for Anibal Sanchez to end up — the National League is just so much nicer to pitchers — but at least the pitcher was signed by a team in an okay park for pitchers with a good lineup behind him. Comerica Park does have a basic park factor of 102, but it suppresses home runs by lefties by 2% and that might be good news for the 29-year-old righty. Except that he gives up fewer fly balls and homers to lefties than righties in a strange reverse platoon split. In any case, Sanchez has left that labrum surgery so far in his rear-view mirror that it rarely gets mentioned. Three straight near-200-inning seasons with an above-average swinging strike rate and steady velocity will do that for you. Don’t expect him to strikeout a batter per inning like he did in the National League, but he does get strikeouts and ground-balls. The best change for Sanchez has been a new emphasis on first strikes, which has pushed his walk rate into the above-average territory, joining those strikeout and ground-ball rates as strengths most seasons. The only word of warning is that none of these rates is elite or outstanding. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: No single aspect of Anibal Sanchez’s game is top-shelf. But the results he’s shown, and his ability to stay off the shelf over the past three years, make him a steady mid-rotation starter in fantasy baseball. Even in the American League.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/19/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: After a disastrous start to his season in Kansas City, Sanchez was dealt to Colorado, where his season promptly got worse before it was ultimately cut short by an injury (or possibly an “injury”). Sanchez came out as the rotten milk in two trades in one season, as the Giants got the better of the Royals, and then the Royals got the better of the Rockies in dealing him. Sanchez’s strikeout percentage fell through the floor, dropping nearly 10 percent. It fell so far that he actually walked more batters than he struck out — making him one of just three pitchers to turn that particular “feat” last season (minimum 60 innings pitched). His velocity also continued a slow descent into irrelevancy. In 2009, Sanchez’s fastball averaged 91.6 mph, but in the three seasons since, he has averaged 90.5, 89.7 and 89.1 mph. With his strikeout rate and velocity declining, and his walk rate spiking along with his ERA, FIP and WHIP on the rise, there really isn’t much about Sanchez that is redeeming other than the fact that he primarily throws a baseball with his left hand. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Now a free agent following a haunting 2012 campaign, there is little chance that Sanchez finds an opportunity at the major league level for the outset of the 2013 season.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/12/1982 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Following two above-average fantasy seasons, Ervin Santana saw his stock plummet during the 2012 season. Santana’s ERA rose from 3.38 to 5.16 despite a .241 batting average on balls in play, which is the sort of thing that happens when you allow two homers every nine innings. While Santana wasn’t playing in a hitter’s park in L.A., Kansas City will be friendlier for the right-hander, especially when left-handed hitters step up to the plate — and the righty fastball/slider pitcher does have some troubles against lefties from time to time. KC won’t turn Santana back into the ace he was in 2008, but it should help him get some of his mojo back. If Santana’s ERA is above his 4.33 career mark in 2013, this author will be surprised. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Ervin Santana sucked in 2012, but he’ll be better off in 2013. Take him in the later rounds of deep or AL-only drafts.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/13/1979 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: First the bad. Johan Santana only managed 117 innings, even after he took the entire 2011 season off. He also walked three batters per nine for the second-worst walk rate of his career. The second-worst ground-ball rate of his career, coupled with the second-worst home-run-per-fly-ball percentage, meant the second-most home runs per game for the Mets’ 34-year-old starter. Since the ground-ball rate had been slipping for a while, and this was all paired with the worst velocity of his career, it’s easy to write him off in 2013. The problem is that his changeup and slider are still great at what they do. He still got above-average swinging strikes on his arsenal. His control was still above-average. These are the things that can help an older starter with reduced gas remain relevant. Given the league he pitches in, and the offspeed stuff he still shows, Santana could easily put up a sub-four ERA with decent strikeout-per-inning totals and a good WHIP, even if he won’t threaten 200 innings. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Coming off the best season ever by a starter who’s had anterior shoulder capsule surgery, you might think there should be some optimism this offseason surrounding the former ace in Queens. Johan Santana deserves a look late in your drafts anyway, because the good (relatively) outweighed the bad in 2012.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/16/1987 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: In another universe, the White Sox never drafted Addison Reed, and Hector Santiago was the team’s 2012 closer. In this one, however, Reed seems to have a hammerlock on the job and Santiago and his screw ball must be content as a set-up man. His strikeout rate looks compelling for those in holds leagues, but it’s built on a below-average swinging strike rate and that’s not a strong foundation for repeatability. (Dan Wade)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/4/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: After a monster 2011 in which Sergio Santos struck out 35.4% of the batters he faced, 2012 saw him pitch in only six games and five innings before shoulder surgery ended his season. He’s healthy, though, and reportedly ready for spring training, where he’ll have the opportunity to regain his job as closer, which he lost last year to Casey Janssen, who filled in admirably. If Santos is healthy — a big if, of course, for a hard-throwing pitcher coming off shoulder surgery — and closing, he’ll get you strikeouts and saves. But know this: he’s erratic, and walks batters. When his command goes, his command goes, you know what I’m saying? As a former shortstop, perhaps he’s still developing that ability, but it’s still a fact of life. An arm to keep an eye on; let’s go with that. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Sergio Santos is coming off shoulder surgery that limited him to only five innings in 2012 and is an arm to keep an eye on in Toronto’s bullpen. If he’s healthy and closing on an improved Toronto team, he can get you strikeouts and saves (and walks), something your fantasy team is always looking for more of (except the walks).
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: You know what? Joe Saunders wasn’t bad in 2012. His 4.08 FIP and 4.25 xFIP were the lowest of his career, and his strikeout rate jumped from 4.58 to 5.77, the third-highest of his career. Currently a free agent, it’s best to be honest with yourself about him anyway: if anything, he’s filling out the back of your rotation, especially in deeper leagues, or you’re picking him up for a spot start here and there. He’s not going to strike a lot of batters out — he’s just not that type of guy — and getting to 90 miles per hour on his fastball isn’t as easy as it used to be. But on the right team, in the right ballpark, he can give you innings, and, well, there’s not a whole lot wrong with that. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Joe Saunders put together a rather tidy 2012 season, and while he’s getting a bit older, and his fastball a bit slower, he can still give you innings. And every now and then, you need innings. That’s life. There’s limited fantasy value here, but, especially in deeper leagues, beggars can’t always be choosers.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/17/1987 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Tanner Scheppers throws a 96 mph fastball, and though he didn’t have any elaborate success last year in his 39 games on the Rangers, he proved he belonged. The knock on Scheppers was his control but in 31 innings at Triple-A Round Rock last year Scheppers only walked 3.2% of the batters he faced, and when he was called up to the big leagues that number only inflated to 5.9%. Joe Nathan is cemented as the team’s closer but behind him the door is wide open. At the moment Jason Frasor and Josh Lindblom are options, along with Joakim Soria when he recovers from Tommy John surgery (around May/June), and maybe Neftali Feliz in September — all of which is really a long way to say that Scheppers has a solid chance to earn a solid role out of Spring Training. There is a reason Scheppers was twice ranked by Baseball America as a top-100 prospect, and 2013 might be the year he fulfills on that promise. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: With the shine gone from this former top prospect, Tanner Scheppers is looking to be a major piece in the Rangers bullpen.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/27/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: It was a wild ride for Scherzer and his fantasy owners, but for those who stuck with him, his final ERA and WHIP were likely pretty close to expectations. Whether the entirety of the blame should be given to the porous Tigers defense or if Scherzer also simply made too many mistake pitches, he shouldn’t have to endure such an inflated batting average on balls in play again. Scherzer’s fastball velocity jumped to the level he averaged in 2008, when half of his appearances came in relief. That likely led to the spike in swinging strike and strikeout rates, but the percentage play is to assume some regression in 2013. Even if that strikeout rate does decline, he has the peripherals to post a mid- 3.00 ERA and earn even more value in fantasy leagues. (<a target=”blank” href=”http://www.twitter.com/mikepodhorzer”>Mike Podhorzer</a>)
Quick Opinion: After opening the season with a horrific April, Scherzer improved his ERA every month en route to a fantastic final two months. Increased fastball velocity likely factored into his strikeout rate surge, but even if his strikeout rate regresses, better luck should help him repeat a mid-to-high 3.00 ERA.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/8/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Shaw ended up in Cleveland this winter as a part of the three-team deal between the Diamondbacks, Reds and Indians that included the likes of Shin Soo-Choo, Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer. Despite some fine numbers from the middle reliever last season (3.71 FIP, 6.22 strikeouts per nine), there doesn’t appear to be any immediate fantasy relevant openings at the back end of the Indians’ pen. However, should one of Chris Perez or Vinnie Pestano slip in twenty-thirteen, Shaw could find himself relevant for those in leagues that award holds.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: James Shields has 1454.2 IP in his career and a 3.89 ERA and 3.84 FIP duo that has made him one of the more reliable innings-eaters of the past five years. He enters his age-31 season with a streak of six straight seasons over 200 innings and is fresh off setting a new career high in strikeout rate (23.6%). But the appropriate adage here is perhaps: “Reliable pitchers are reliable until they aren’t anymore.” Or, in other words, James Shields’ future is just as uncertain as any other pitcher on the Royals’ staff. He will assume the ace role for them, and should easily be their top pitcher in 2013, but he could have a repeat of 2010 batting average on balls in play insanity that resulted in a 5.18 ERA, or the growing concerns about his arm angle fluctuations and declining Zone% could portend a serious injury. He is also leaving a pitcher’s park and a great defense for a relatively neutral park and a not-as-great defense, but some have suggested the impact on his numbers could be minimal (parks affect different players in different ways, after all). All said, James Shields, given all the hubbub surrounding him the last two seasons, will draw a lot of interest in most fantasy drafts, and his stat sheet shows why. He has the potential for another 200 IP, 3.50 ERA season or even better. But do not pay more than you would for any other 31-year-old pitcher with a history of success and a few legitimate concerns. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: James Shields had a productive six seasons as the workhorse of the Rays rotation, and now he will serve as the Royals’ ace. There are some of the injury concerns about his flagging Zone% and inconsistent release points in 2012, so avoid overpaying for Shields. In a deep league, he can be many teams’ ace, but keep in mind his age — 31 years old — and his unkind change in park and defense.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/12/1983 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Sipp was once the closer of the future for the Indians, but never really put it all together. He’s managed decent strikeout numbers, but walks far too many and has had a consistent problem with the long ball, giving up more than 1.4 home runs per nine each of the last three years. And now he is moving from a relatively neutral pitchers park to Arizona, although Cleveland was particularly kind with regards to home runs by lefties. Perhaps the move to the National League will help, and if you need holds, Sipp may accrue some. Still not a strong reason to own him in most fantasy leagues. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Sipp probably made his biggest contribution to the 2013 fantasy season by playing a small role in getting Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland. Beyond that, don’t expect much.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/13/1991 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Arizona entered 2012 with a number of talented pitching prospects nearly ready to contribute at the big league level. Although top prospect Trevor Bauer took a step backward, Patrick Corbin and Skaggs — both former Angels’ draft picks traded to the Diamondbacks for Dan Haren — developed into key contributors. Skaggs looked impressive in six big league starts last year but will need to keep the ball down more to continue to succeed, after posting very high fly-ball rates in his debut. If everything clicks, the southpaw has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter with the potential to provide plenty of innings, strikeouts and a shiny ERA. As it stands right now, Skaggs is on the outside looking in at a very talented, young starting rotation but he’s one injury (or trade) away from a regular big league role. At just 21 years of age, with nine triple-A and six MLB starts under his belt, time is on his side. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Skaggs has perhaps the highest ceiling of any of the arms in play for the Snakes’ starting rotation in 2013, but he’s also currently at least sixth on the depth chart. It remains to be seen how many big league innings he’ll throw during the coming season.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/10/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: With so many injuries to the Royals pitching staff in 2012, Smith was rushed up to the majors after having spent all of 2011 at the Double-A level in Northern Arkansas. He spent most of the first three months riding the shuttle between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha acting as a spot-starter for the big club until he was given a permanent spot in the rotation in late July. He struggled for the most part, posting a 5.32 ERA with just a 1.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16 starts and failed to show much growth between outings, but the Royals were forced to go with him anyway. He’ll likely be told that he’s got the opportunity to compete for the fifth starter’s spot this spring, but given the depth the Royals have at pitching now, he’ll be better served staying in the minors to hone his skills. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Smith was fast-tracked to the majors last season, not because of his talents, but out of desperation — the big league club incurred too many injuries to its pitching staff. He doesn’t really project as much of a starter and is probably just back-end of the rotation material at best. Without a spot amongst the starting five, though, he doesn’t really hold any legitimate fantasy value.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/13/1989 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Drew Smyly’s 2012 season would make him an intriguing fantasy option, even if you didn’t know he was only 23 and not going to be 24 until June. 8.5 strikeouts per nine, less than 3 walks per nine and a 3.83 FIP are all good signs. He struck out more than a batter per inning across 15 Double- and Triple-A appearances, so there is no reason to think he can’t maintain the strikeout rate. The big question for him is just development and stamina, as he faded down the stretch last year. Smyly is supposedly trade bait this off-season, and where he ends up will likely impact his value, not only because his low ground-ball rate means he would benefit from a spacious park, but also because he could easily find himself in Triple-A for a bit. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Smyly has a bright future, and will be worth owning in fantasy leagues when he is in the rotation. When that is and how valuable depends if the Tigers keep him or where he gets traded.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/18/1984 | Team: Rangers | Position: P|
Profile: Soira is supposed to return to pitching full time around the start of the season. From 2007 to 2011 (min 200 innings pitches), his ERA and saves were in the top 10 among relievers. He has a complete arsenal of five pitches that can be used to get lefty and righty hitters out. His 2013 season could be all over the place because: he is coming back for his second Tommy John surgery, has a small frame and not many pitchers come back from their second surgery of that sort. Don’t spend more than a buck or a late-round pick on him. Move him to the disabled list if you can, and wait for his fastball speed reports to see how hard he is throwing. Add him to the roster as needed. Be carefully to not overvalue him. He could eventually compete with Joe Nathan for the Texas’ closer role — or he could be done. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Joakim Soria goes to Texas to begin pitching after his second Tommy John surgery.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/19/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Soriano, 33, returned to the ranks of baseball’s elite closers last season with some help from Mariano Rivera’s knee injury. He threw 67.2 innings of 2.26 ERA (3.32 FIP) ball while going 42-for-46 in save chances with the Yankees. That effort resulted in a multi-year contract with the Nationals this offseason, where he’ll take over as closer and push Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard into setup roles. Soriano continues to miss bats (9.18 strikeouts per nine and 24.7 K% in 2012) and post lower than usual batting averages on balls in play (career .249) thanks to his extreme fly ball ways, which will suit him well with the move into Nationals Park and the easier league. As long as he stays healthy — he does have a history of elbow problems, which popped up as recently as 2011 — Soriano will produce gobs of fantasy value in all categories that pertain to relievers. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Mariano Rivera’s knee injury allowed Soriano to rejoin the ranks of baseball’s elite closers, which he turned into a multi-year contract from the Nationals. He’s a high-strikeout, low-ERA right-hander who will be a saves machine in Washington assuming good health.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: The right-hander can be useful to supplement a fantasy owner’s bullpen in deep leagues due to his ability to generate swinging strikes, but the presence of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard should prevent Stammen from nearing the closer’s role and keep him relegated to a seventh-inning role: despite throwing 88.1 innings last season, he only compiled 10 holds. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/2/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: Tim Stauffer was a nice surprise as a starter in 2011 before tailing off at the end of the season, and it may have been a sign of things to come as he made just one 2012 start while missing the rest of the season with elbow trouble (and eventually surgery). It’s the second time in five years that arm woes cost Stauffer a season, and he’ll need to prove both his health & effectiveness in 2013 before he can be seriously considered as a rotation option again. (Mike Petriello)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/11/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Drew Storen isn’t a bad reliever by any means, in fact he’s quite good. In 2011 as a 23 year-old, Storen saved 43 games for the Nationals with a 2.75 ERA. In 2012, after recovering from an injury Storen was successful too, pitching 30.1 innings with a 2.37 ERA and 2.40 FIP. However, with Rafael Soriano most likely closing games for Washington in 2013, Storen is now only a setup man. He will obviously help teams with ERA, but his 8.39 career strikeout rate is a little lackluster for a non-closing relief ace in fantasy. Soriano, Storen and Tyler Clippard might be the best three-headed monster in any bullpen in all of baseball, but so long as Soriano is getting saves, Storen might provide the least value. Again, that’s not to say that Storen can’t be a valuable part to a fantasy team, but when looking for relief aces, Storen’s non-elite strikeout rate might make his name carry more value than it’s worth to draft. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Drew Storen’s fantasy stock took a big hit when the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano, and although he remains a top set up man in the game, his name likely offers more value than the results he will provide.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 12/1/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: By almost every measure, Straily was the top starter in the minor leagues in 2012, recording the highest strikeout total (190) and rate (31.6%) among minor leaguers with at least 20 games started. A 24th-round draft pick out of Marshall University by Oakland in 2009, Straily was originally regarded as a marginal prospect at best; however, a combination of mechanical refinements and improved fitness allowed him to add velocity. Between August and September, Straily made seven major-league starts, with uninspiring results (39.1 IP, 129 xFIP-, -0.5 WAR). That said, his excellent major-league equivalent numbers are backed by a repertoire that ought to play at the highest level. Combined with Oakland’s pitcher-friendly stadium, Straily’s raw numbers should be better than league average. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Originally a 24th-round pick in 2009, Straily has added velocity in the meantime and proceeded to lead the minor leagues in strikeouts in 2012. His seven major-league starts were uninspiring, but the resume at lower levels remains convincing.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/20/1988 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: The Nationals drew much ire last season when they shut down Stephen Strasburg late in the season to preserve his arm. Fantasy owners, however, could be huge beneficiaries of that shutdown, as he projects to be completely healthy and unlimited on the mound. Of pitchers who threw at least 150 innings last season, Strasburg had the best strikeout rate (11.13 K/9), best FIP (2.82), best SIERA (2.82),and a top-20 WHIP (1.15). He also won 15 games in 28 starts — a high win total that projects to continue, as the Nationals should be an elite team in the National League. The only real caveat in Strasburg’s value lies in potential injury, but that can be said with pretty much any pitcher in the league (though perhaps not Justin Verlander) and should not scare fantasy owners away from selecting him as one of the first starting pitchers off the board on draft day. He’s a stud. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Finally free of his highly-publicized innings limitation last season, Strasburg profiles to be an absolute fantasy stud who provides significant value in each pitching category (except saves) and could be the top-producing starting pitcher at the end of the year.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/2/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Looking at Street’s overall numbers, you’ll see that he has everything you want to see in a closer. His 9.24 strikeouts per nine is rock solid, he’s got a 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a decent 3.01 ERA, and has averaged 25 saves per year over an eight year span. And now that he calls Petco his home, the fact that he is more of a fly-ball pitcher tends to matter a whole lot less. But pump the brakes there for a second before you run out to draft him because with all those tasty numbers comes a very large injury risk. Very large. In fact, over the last three years, he’s spent almost as much time on the disabled list as he has in the bullpen. Obviously, injuries are nearly impossible to predict, but when you have a track record like Street’s, you almost have to expect that you’re going to lose him for a fair amount of time in any given year. He’ll still have strong value as the Padres will continue to have him close out games whenever he is healthy, but you better have a strong contingency plan if he finds his way onto your fantasy roster. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Street has all the skills necessary to be a solid, major league closer and has produced as such whenever he is called upon. The problem is that he cannot be called upon all the time as he poses a major injury risk year after year.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/13/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Pedro Strop fastball averaged 97 mph in 2013. That alone helped him to an okay strikeout rate for a reliever — 7.9 strikeouts per nine. The 28-year-old right-hander’s problem is that he walks too many hitters (5.0 K/9). Even with the high number of walks, he has still been able to to maintain a sub 2.50 ERA over the past two seasons despite a FIP over 3.50. The difference is because he has moved to pitching a downward-breaking two-seam fastball with the Orioles after throwing a four-seam fastball with the Rangers. The new pitch has raised his ground-ball rate from around 40% in Texas to ~64% in Baltimore. The ground balls have helped limit his home runs. His value may be limited, though, besides his ERA. Other relievers will have better strikeout numbers and better WHIPs. He lost his setup role in September when he had a 6.48 ERA with 10 BB in 8.1 innings. Unless he regains the eighth-inning setup role, many other relief pitchers will be more useful in your fantasy league. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Pedro Strop would be great relief pitcher if the flame thrower could get his walks under control.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/9/1979 | Team: Padres | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After basically being the definition of a marginal journeyman pitcher for years with the Dodgers and Rockies, Eric Stults returned to the National League West on a trade from the White Sox to the Padres, and may have (at least briefly) found a home in San Diego. Despite, one might generously say, less-than-impressive stuff, he ended 2012 with a sub-three ERA. A big part of that is probably the small sample, and another part of it is probably the Padres’ insanely pitcher-friendly park. At the moment, Stults looks like he is going to make the Padres’ rotation to open 2013. He has decent control, but strikes very few batters out, a constant for him over the years. 33 to start the year, it looks like his dropping velocity (never great to begin with) is probably not coming back. PetCo should help him, but the Padres are going to move the fences in to help their hitters, so even that is a question going forward. Stults was pretty lucky in 2012 considering his peripherals, and seems to have been even more so considering his past. He might make for very cheap endgame option if you are desperate for innings in an NL-only league given his park, but with even that uncertain going forward, try not to put yourself in that situation. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Eric Stults had a nice short run with the Padres in 2012 and seems to have worked himself into the back of their 2013 rotation. However, the sample is so small and his past so shaky that he should only figure in as an endgame plan in very deep leagues.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 1/2/1975 | Position: SP|
Profile: Suppan spent all of 2011 in Triple-A and briefly resurfaced with the Padres in 2012, throwing 30.2 sub-replacement level innings (5.28 ERA and 5.61 FIP) with more walks (13) than strikeouts (seven) across six starts. He hasn’t been fantasy relevant in about six years and that won’t change in 2013. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/16/1987 | Team: Giants | Position: P|
Profile: Surkamp didn’t pitch at all in 2012 after Tommy John surgery in July. He’s not expected back on the mound until mid-2013. He’ll undoubtedly pitch in the minors for some time, while the Giants assess his strength and effectiveness post-surgery. He may see time in the majors in September, but don’t bank on it. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/10/1985 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Realistically, the Twins could do without one or the other — or maybe even both — of Swarzak and Brian Duensing. As a big leaguer, Swarzak has a 5.03 ERA, strikeout rates in the fives, and pretty much ‘meh’ numbers everywhere else. None of which to say Swarzak is a bad guy — though as a younger man, Kyle Waldrop advised me not to try get his autograph — but for some reason he’s got the Twins under his spell. Yes, at one time Swarzak was a top prospect; a fringey top-100 guy with Baseball America dating back to his High-A days. That was seven years ago, and times have changed. One might have thought a disastrous 2010 in Triple-A would have been Swarzak’s death knell, but instead he was rewarded with 100-plus big league innings the next season. It won’t make or break the Twins, but good teams don’t need a ton of Swarzak’s around. He’s off the fantasy radar altogether in 2013. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Don’t worry about Anthony Swarzak.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/6/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: When Tazawa debuted in 2009 to the tune of a 7.46 ERA, it looked like the Red Sox had another bust on their hands, but the team remained patient with him, and were rewarded for that patience. This past season, Tazawa posted excellent numbers in a 44-inning campaign, with most of them coming in the second half after the team had faded into hilarity. However, that didn’t stop the Red Sox from going out and acquiring two veterans for their 2013 ‘pen in Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara. With Andrew Bailey also expected to be healthy, Tazawa may not be given the chance to impact the Red Sox bullpen in high-leverage innings. Should he get the chance however, he should do so with aplomb. Even if he is not able to maintain the remarkable 2.9% walk rate that he posted last season, his strikeout-to-walk ratio should still be well above average. All told, Tazawa’s 41 FIP- was the third-best mark in the majors among relievers who posted 40 or more innings last season. The two who did better? Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. Reliever variance is always high, but Tazawa showed last season that he could be on the cusp of becoming one of the game’s better relievers. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Tazawa was one of the few bright spots during Boston’s second-half tour de sadness, but with Andrew Bailey expected to be healthy and Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara now in the fold, Tazawa will likely be relegated to situations that don’t help your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/15/1984 | Team: Royals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Teaford’s fantasy value is about non-existent. Throughout the minors, he was a mediocre starter, and — as is usually the case with mediocre minor league starters — he’s been the same and worse in the major leagues. He has several problems in his game, mainly everything. He strikes out only 14% of the batters he faces and walks 8% of them. A career strikeout-to-walk ratio under two is not a sign of a successful pitcher. Besides the low K/BB, he has gives up 1.6 home runs per nine innings. Currently he has no fantasy value because he will only be the mop-up man and/or spot starter. I could see him become useful if he becomes a short reliever/LOOGY (see Andrew Miller), especially since he will have dual qualifications. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Teaford fills in the roles as a swing man for the Royals. Some starts, some long relief — no value.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/27/1991 | Team: Braves | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Profile: Julio Teheran was the minor league’s most disappointing pitcher in 2012 due to waning velocity and pitching movement. The culprit? A change in his mechanics which I analysed at the end of the season. Teheran still has the potential to be a front of the rotation starter, so don’t sell low so him. Monitor discussions of right hander’s mechanics and velocity in 2013 along with the development of his secondary pitches before making any hasty decision. Fantasy baseball is all about upside so he may be a strong buy low candidate after off-season prospect lists surface. (JD Sussman)
Quick Opinion: Teheran’s development stagnated in 2012 due to unnecessary tinkering with his mechanics. If he is unable to regain his velocity and improve his secondary offerings his value will continue to plummet. (JD Sussman)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/17/1980 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: The now 32-year old right-hander Thayer wasn’t on anyone’s radar last season but somehow was granted the chance to close out games when Huston Street landed on the disabled list. He notched seven saves for the Padres and finished the season with a 3.43 ERA and an impressive 3.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 57.2 innings. He did, however, struggle down the stretch and after a few blown save opportunities late in the year, was replaced as the closer by Luke Gregerson. While he doesn’t offer too many free passes, Thayer’s 7.34 strikeout rate isn’t really impressive at all, especially for a closer or a set-up man who also doesn’t have a heavy ground ball rate (41.2%). There’s a good chance that he’ll fit into the Padres’ bullpen plans again this season, but likely only in short-relief situations and without closing responsibilities unless injuries deplete the whole pen. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: The journeyman right-hander emerged from virtually nowhere to take over closing duties in San Diego when Huston Street landed on the disabled list in May of last year. He found some success early on, but was replaced late in the year after a series of blown opportunities. He’ll likely return to the Padres bullpen again this year, but given his low strikeout rate and mediocre ratios for a reliever, he won’t offer up much value unless he gets another opportunity for saves… which seems doubtful.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 9/29/1988 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Compared individually to fellow big league ready Brewers pitching prospects Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers, the 24-year-old Thornburg might be safer than Peralta and less injury-prone than Rogers, but he’s definitely not as enticing for fantasy purposes. After putting up great digits in the minors (2.77 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.3 strikeouts per nine career), Thornburg struggled mightily in the majors, giving up eight long balls in just 22 innings. That happened thanks to a fairly flat, straight fastball that he left up too often — something he got away with in the minors. While Thornburg could develop into a back-end starter, his stuff would play up as a reliever, and his fantasy value for 2013 will depend on not only his role but also whether he can beat out — and stay ahead of — Peralta and Rogers, both of whom are more worthy of being drafted in deeper leagues. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: With the Brewers spending less money these days, Thornburg will get his chance. Will it come in the rotation or the pen?
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/15/1976 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: After his disastrous stint as the White Sox closer in 2011, it was unlikely that Thornton was going to get a real chance at closing again in 2012 and that’s exactly what happened. Addison Reed came in, grabbed the job early, and left Thornton as a set-up man with only a week or two of questioning in between. Where the lefty used to be a good option for those searching for strikeouts, he failed to strikeout even 20 percent of the hitters he faced for the first time in his career. Heading into his age-36 season, Thornton’s fantasy value may be well and truly gone at this point. (Dan Wade)
Quick Opinion: How many times can Matt Thornton be the heir-apparent to the closer’s role without ever actually becoming the closer? The answer: As many times as the role is available.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/15/1988 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Any time a player has nine wins in 15 starts and a sub-three ERA, he’ll turn up on watch lists the next season. The 25-year-old Tillman should not necessarily be on those watch lists. First, his 2.93 ERA is somewhat of an illusion caused by a .221 batting average on balls in play. His FIP, xFIP and SIERA were all greater than four. He has shown no signs over his short career of consistently out-performing his ERA estimators — his career SIERA, xFIP, FIP and ERA are all within a 30 point range. Besides out-performing his FIP, he has lost about four miles per hour on his fastball since being called up. The problem is probably linked to his elbow, which caused him to spend time on the disabled list in September to heal. He’d have to be lucky to repeat his 2012 numbers. Look for other owners to over pay and spend your resources elsewhere. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Chris Tillman got by with smoke and mirrors last season — until injuries slowed down his production.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: By far the worst thing about the Indians firing Manny Acta is that we will no longer get to hear him refer to Tomlin as “my little cowboy.” Of course, even had Acta stayed, Tomlin’s performance last year may have left him riding off to Triple-A anyway. After posting a 4.27 FIP over 165.1 innings in 2011, Tomlin’s special brand of tight-rope walking (fly ball pitcher who gives up a ton of home runs, strikes out no one and somehow gets by thanks to his ability to avoid walks), ran a bit thin. The Indians need starters and Tomlin will be among those angling for a rotation spot but, even when he is at his best, his fantasy value is extremely limited. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: If Tomlin could control the gopher ball, he could have value to the Indians, but he is everything you don’t want in a fantasy starter: no strikeouts, way too many home runs, and just too little upside.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: Torres did a few things right last season, but in the end it wasn’t enough to save his job in what is a relatively deep Rockies’ bullpen. To start, he actually pitched in the major leagues. He spent the 2011 season pitching in Japan, so getting back to the majors counts as progress in and of itself. Using his 2010 numbers as a guide, he transformed his batted ball percentage — going from an extreme fly-ball to an extreme ground-ball pitcher. He still has a lot of work to do in this regard — his line drive percentage was still at 27.5% and quite high — but it is a start. Second, while he maintained his strikeout rate, he managed to slice a little off of his walk rate. Again, his walk rate is still too high, but there was progress made. If he continues to make progress, he may just find a role in the Mets’ bullpen, as it is a bullpen that currently has more questions than it does answers. But whether he does or doesn’t make the opening day roster, he probably won’t be of much help to your fantasy squad. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: While he’s no one’s idea of a superstar, the Mets bullpen can use all the help it can get, and it may find some in Torres. Still, since he doesn’t project to be the team’s closer, he will hold little to no value on draft day.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/21/1991 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Acquired by the Marlins in July, the top pitching prospect had a mediocre debut in his second taste of the Majors. While he has shown a slight ground-ball tilt and good control, his strikeout ability was underwhelming. His minor league strikeout rates were also unimpressive; however, he did manage to induce an above league average swinging strike rate, suggesting that maybe his strikeout rate could approach the high-six range. The move to the National League and a pitcher’s park is definitely a positive for his long-term fantasy outlook, but at the moment, he appears to have limited upside. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Turner is expected to open the season as a member of the Marlins rotation after a trade from Detroit brought him to Miami. However, with weak offensive support likely curtailing his win potential and uninspiring strikeout rates dampening his fantasy value, his appeal is limited to NL-Only or deep mixed leagues.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/3/1975 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: After trading for closer Andrew Bailey last offseason, and closer Joel Hanrahan this offseason it’s unlikely that free agent acquisition Koji Uehara will be seeing any saves in Boston — but he might just be their best reliever. Seriously. Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2010 Uehara, has thrown 145 innings with a 2.36 ERA, 0.772 WHIP and 183 strikeouts against just 17 walks for a 10.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Yes, a 10.76 K/BB since 2010, which is the best in baseball. For the sake of comparison Rafael Betancourt is second with 7.82 K/BB. In 2012, Uehara’s K/BB was 14.33, which unsurprisingly led the league. And, if you are opposed to K/BB and prefer strikeout minus walk rate, you’ll be happy to know that Uehara still ranked third in baseball in 2012 behind only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. He doesn’t throw hard, only hitting the upper 80s, but he gets plenty of strikeouts, swings and misses (18.9 swinging strike rate in 2012) and refuses to walk a soul. When you add it all up, although Uehara is 37 and only received a one-year deal worth $4.25 million, he has to be considered one of the best, or at least least-appreciated relievers in the game. Uehara likely won’t receive many saves for the Red Sox or your fantasy team, but if you’re looking for a cheap option to help your ratios and strikeout totals, there might not be a better bet than this man. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Koji Uehara has gone unnoticed as one of the better relievers in baseball. Let’s see if pitching in Boston changes that.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/24/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: After his perfect 49-for-49 season closing games in 2011, Valverde put up another nice seasons of saves, racking up 35 in 40 attempts. But there were some troubling signs, particularly a sudden drop to under seven strikeouts per nine, and those struggles came home to roost in a big way in the post-season. In four appearances, he threw 2.2 innings and allowed nine earned runs. While that is a small sample size, it is also a highly visible one, and with the Tigers moving on, you have to wonder if anyone is going to give Valverde a shot to save in 2013. If he’s closing games, fantasy players will draft him for saves alone, but if not, he won’t have much to offer. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: A drop in strike outs and a poor post-season may mean the end of Valverde’s closing days. If he’s getting saves, he’ll have value, but there are reasons to believe that even if he gets a closing job, he won’t keep it.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/2/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: Jason Vargas has been one of the league’s most durable and reliable starting pitchers over the last three years, and he’s taking his talents to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. One could define Vargas as a crafty left-hander, but his best pitch is his changeup, which allows him to find success against right-handed hitters. Vargas’ strikeout-to-walk ratio sits right around the league average on any given year, but his greatest fantasy skill lies in his batting average on balls in play, which traditionally sits around .275. Vargas’ BABIP comes at the expense of homers, and while leaving the friendly confines of Safeco will hurt, Angels’ Stadium will prove to be almost as equally kind and gentle. Unless you’re chasing wins, Vargas isn’t worth a whole lot in mixed leagues, but he’s a great grab in AL-only leagues. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Jason Vargas has been one of the league’s most durable and reliable starting pitchers over the last three years, and he’s taking his talents to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Unless you’re chasing wins, he isn’t worth a whole lot in mixed leagues, but he’s a great grab in AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/20/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Jonny Venters has the highest ground-ball rate (68.4%) among qualified relievers since 2010. You have to go down to 23rd on the list — Sean Marshall — to find another ground baller with a double-digit strikeout rate on that list, too. Unfortunately, where Marshall adds great control to the package, Venters fails at the third piece. He consistently walks more than four batters per nine innings, and last year that bit him in the butt. Combined with some poor batted ball luck (.357 batting average on balls in play), his walk rate last season blew up his WHIP (1.52). That also blew up his fantasy value, to an extent. Because if he’s not going to be sexcellent across the board, his best fantasy use is as a handcuff to the amazing — and young — Craig Kimbrel. Holds leagues will be happy to use Venters, but then again, that entire Braves pen is pretty good. Venters’ 20 holds last season were not outer-worldy. Best to treat Venters as a bounce-back play in holds leagues, if he’s available for cheap. Whiff guys like that, and keep the ball on the ground almost 70% of the time, and you can swallow up a few walks. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Venters did not follow up his first two knockout years with a stellar third masterpiece. But the trilogy still tells a story of ground-balls and whiffs, so you can ignore the walks… to an extent.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/20/1983 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: After a sensational 2011 season, Verlander kept chugging along last year, striking out a batter per inning, limiting the free pass and acting as a workhorse. However, hopes for another sub-3.00 ERA hinges upon a third straight season of a well-below-average batting average on balls in play. Prior to 2011, Verlander’s BABIP did not deviate too far from the average (except for 2009 when it was well above it). Over the last two years, though, his BABIP has been at levels you might expect from an extreme fly ball pitcher with superb defensive support. If and when that BABIP does rise, the strand rate will fall, and his ERA will creep above 3.00 again. Of course, even if that happens, he’ll still remain a top-five fantasy pitcher, so he remains as safe an investment as it gets among starting pitchers. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Coming off a Cy Young 2011 campaign, Verlander followed up strongly, pitching nearly as well and posting similar skills. Though it’s up in the air how long he can maintain batting averages on balls in play well below the league average, he should once again be a top fantasy starter.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/28/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After two years with the Blue Jays as both a starter and reliever, Carlos Villanueva signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, and could find himself in the Cubs’ rotation come 2013. Injuries to Toronto pitchers created an opportunity for Villanueva last year, and he ran with it, posting an 8.76 strikeout rate, the second-highest of his career and much better than his 2011 K rate of 5.72. Villanueva sputtered down the stretch, though, and the jury’s out on whether he’s a starter, reliever, or both. A fly-ball pitcher, Villanueva’s susceptible to the home run, limiting his fantasy value. And don’t expect an ERA or FIP below 4.00. Villanueva’s an option in your deepest or NL-only league. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Carlos Villanueva could find himself in the Cubs’ rotation, but he’s got limited value as a fantasy option, thanks to his fly-balling ways and concerns about his durability.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/13/1990 | Team: Cubs | Position: P|
Profile: If there is one positive thing you can say about the 2013 Cubs, it’s that the team will have plenty of opportunities for young players to establish themselves in key roles at the big league level. One such player is Vizcaino, who missed almost all of 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on this throwing elbow — a potential scenario that has haunted him since he tore his elbow ligament shortly after being traded from the New York Yankees to the Atlanta Braves. He was subsequently dealt to Chicago during his rehab, hinting at the kind of potential he possesses, given the Cubs were willing to acquire ‘damaged’ goods. Although the success rate with TJ surgery appears to be improving, we still won’t know exactly how well Vizcaino bounces back until he’s six to 12 months removed from the surgery. If he returns to form, though, he has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter, or a high-leverage reliever who could eventually be in line for save opportunities. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: In the bullpen or in the rotation, Vizcaino’s velocity and big curveball are enough to put him on fantasy radars… as soon as his elbow heals from the Tommy John surgery.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 7/22/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Vogelsong followed his breakthrough 2011 campaign with a solid 2012 — at least until a serious slump toward the end of the season. Whether Vogelsong’s slump was brought on by fatigue, mechanical flaws or something else, he righted the ship in the playoffs. In four postseason games, he pitched 24.2 innings, and gave up only 10 walks, 16 hits, and three runs, with 21 strikeouts. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball — which together make-up about 50% of his pitches — along with a cutter, slider and change-up. His average fastball velocity dipped in 2012, compared to 2011, from 91.6 to 90.7 mph. But he seemed to build up arm strength and velocity as the season progressed. He approached 95 mph with both pitches in his last start of the regular season. Nevertheless, my colleague Mike Podhorzer expressed concern in October about Vogelsong’s below-average swinging strike rate and believes the pitcher may be due for a fall in his strikeout rate in 2013. Vogelsong posted 7.50 strikeouts per nine last season, the highest in his career since his rookie season in 2000. But his SwStk% rate is only 7.3%; the league average is 8.6%. In nearly all other respects, Vogelsong’s 2012 was just as successful as 2011. His strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped from 2.28 to 2.55; his batting average against dropped from .239 to .238; his WHIP dropped from 1.25 to 1.23; and his home runs per nine edged up slightly from 0.75 to 0.81. His FIP went from 3.67 to 3.70. You can expect more of the same in 2013. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
Quick Opinion: After years toiling in the minors and in Japan, Vogelsong had a breakthrough season as a starting pitcher for the Giants in 2011. There was a question whether he could repeat that success in 2012. He did, with an improved 2.80 K/BB and a 3.70 FIP in 189.2 innings. There’s some concern that Vogelsong’s below-average whiff rate will lead to a reduced strikeout rate in 2013.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/3/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Last season, Volquez crossed the 10-win and 180-inning plateaus for just the second time in his career, and first time since 2008. That in and of itself should count as a victory. Unfortunately, Volquez has maintained his ridiculously high walk rate — last year, his 13.1% BB% was the worst in the majors among 85 qualified starters. That led to a 1.45 WHIP, a mark that only five pitchers managed to “top.” Volquez still strikes out hitters at a decent clip, but he has never really been able to get his walks under control, as 2012 marked the fourth straight season in which he walked at least 12.7 percent of the batters he faced. He *was* decent and figures to start the season in the San Diego rotation. However, he is certainly not a sure bet to finish the season in the San Diego rotation. Throughout 2013, the Padres are expecting the returns of starting pitchers Andrew Cashner, Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland, and if all three return that means that three veterans could be getting the heave-ho. Volquez may or may not be one of them, but either way, you want to keep a keen eye on how the season progresses in San Diego if you draft him. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: As long as Volquez remains healthy and in San Diego, he will be a decent late-round grab in deep or NL-only leagues, but his walk rate and/or his WHIP (depending on your league parameters) make it unwise to take him off the board too early.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/23/1986 | Position: SP|
Profile: In the Carlos Zambrano trade, the Cubs took a gamble that Christ Volstad could meet his xFIP and break his trend of mediocrity. Instead, his home run per fly ball rate remained high and his peripheral numbers collapsed (12.0% strikeout rate, 8.5% walk rate), making mediocre look like a best-case scenario. Though he performed well in Triple-A, his is a long road to trod before returning to fantasy relevance. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 5/28/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: Walking fewer batters than in the previous season and striking out more batters than in the previous season, simultaneously, generally portends a good season. Such was not the case for Wade in 2012, as his ERA rose from 2.04 to 6.46 despite the improvement. That will happen when your batting average on balls in play rises from .246 to a career-high .328, and your home run per fly ball rate rises from 9.4% to a career-high 16.7%. Whether those figures prove to be his new norms or aberrations will ultimately be decided in the future, but if they were aberrations, then the Cubs — who signed him to a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training — may have found themselves a minor steal. With Carlos Marmol and Kyuji Fujikawa on hand, the back end of the Cubs’ bullpen isn’t quite up for grabs, but spots elsewhere in the bullpen may be. Wade has the potential to claim one of those roles, but even if he does, he probably won’t work into a significant role until later in the season. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: A 6.46 ERA got Wade booted from the Bronx, but he pitched better than that, and should he find an opportunity with his new team — the Cubs — he just may prove it.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/30/1981 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: It took Wainwright about a month to get settled after his return from Tommy John surgery last spring, but by the end of the season it was as if he had never left. His early struggles kept his ERA up at 3.94, but he posted a 3.10 FIP on the season and a 3.28 ERA in the second half. His peripherals were nearly indistinguishable from his 2010 Cy Young runner up season. Wainwright isn’t quite in the first tier of pitchers — the Verlanders and the Kershaws — but he isn’t far behind. Any team — fantasy or real — can thrive with him as its top starting pitcher. And he’ll cost a little less, which is always nice. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Wainwright looked like a staff ace in the second half of the season and posted peripherals indistinguishable from his best seasons in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. He’ll work as a team’s best starter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/16/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Jordan Walden may have been a fantasy stud in 2011, but he was a dud in 2012. The flame-throwing right-hander went from 32 saves to just one, and his innings total dropped significantly. Walden was still able to strike batters out at a high rate, and he’ll be taking his highwire brand of pitching to Atlanta’s bullpen after being traded for Tommy Hanson. With Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, and Eric O’Flaherty all in the fold, Walden won’t be able to pick up many saves, but he will be able to garner holds and dominate opposing hitters. Walden’s WHIP won’t be great — it’s tough to corral the ball when your delivery includes a jump-step — but his ERA and strikeouts should both be able to make up for it. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Jordan Walden won’t be in line for saves in Atlanta, but he’ll still be able to grab some holds and strike batters out.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/12/1985 | Position: SP|
Profile: Walters was one of countless minor league contracts the Twins handed out to pitchers in the offseason which ended up paying dividends on the big league roster. Well, I use the word dividends lightly, as Walters pitched decently well in the first handful of starts before getting rocked and finally hurt. He missed time from mid-June until September, and his 6.12 September ERA didn’t convince anyone in the Twins brass that he deserved anything other than an invite to spring training in 2013. Walters’ breaking balls get pretty good movement, but he has no location on his curveball at all — so he barely throws it — and his slider is pretty much his only plus pitch. It wouldn’t be a shock if Walters made a handful of starts for the Twins in 2013, but he’s not in the long-term plans and shouldn’t be in yours as a fantasy owner, either. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Walters was part of the parade of pitchers in Minnesota, but he’ll only rain on your fantasy parade if you pick him up.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/31/1980 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Suffering yet another injury-shortened season in 2012, the sinkerballing right-hander reportedly may not sign until mid-season, severely negating his fantasy value to perhaps a mid-season waiver wire grab at best. Granted, his 6.68 ERA (5.10 SIERA) and 1.00 K/BB don’t inspire much confidence when he returns, anyway. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/4/1982 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: From 2010 to 2012, Jered Weaver was one of the best fantasy pitchers on the market, but his numbers took a bit of a dip in 2012. Weaver’s strikeout rate dipped below the big-league average, but his ERA and WHIP were still outstanding. Weaver experienced some shoulder problems late in the 2012 season, and his velocity dipped as a result. Even if he isn’t throwing hard or striking batters out, Weaver still has the ability to be an effective fantasy starter. He won’t be the dominant force he was in 2010 or 2011, but Weaver should still be able to be a back-end first starter or top-end second starter for your roto rotation. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Jered Weaver is still a fantasy ace, but he’s no longer on top of the pile. If Weaver can bounce back from late-season shoulder woes, he’ll be able to give owners a great return on their investment.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/12/1986 | Position: SP|
Profile: Weiland really struggled in his first three starts of the season with the Astros and saw a significant decrease in velocity, so it wasn’t surprising to see him miss the entire year following shoulder surgery. Even if he shows up healthy this spring, however, he’s not worth a look in fantasy leagues until he proves he’s not just a home-run machine on the mound (2.13 home runs per nine in 42.1 innings). (JP Breen)
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 4/21/1977 | Position: SP|
Profile: After bouncing around during 2012 Spring Training, the 33-year-old right-hander signed a minor league deal with the Padres and hung out in Triple-A until injuries forced the team to actually scrape the bottom of the barrel and use the muck they found. Wells made seven starts, walked more than he struck out, and was promptly demoted before his 5.85 FIP could do any more damage. He’ll try to land a job somewhere during the offseason, but don’t expect to see him as anything more than minor league organizational depth in 2013. (Howard Bender)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 2/25/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: With a modest strikeout rate and solid ERA/FIP numbers, Werner was fast-tracked through the Padres system and made his big-league debut in just his second professional season. Relying heavily on his sinkerball, Werner induces plenty of ground balls, however, he’s also had issues with both his overall command and keeping the ball in the park. What’s worse is that, oddly enough, the majority of his home runs allowed at the big league level came at home at Petco Park. Werner has since been dealt to the Oakland A’s during the offseason where he will likely be given the opportunity to battle for a back-end of the rotation spot, but given the wealth of young arms in the A’s system and his struggles at both the Triple-A and major league level, Werner will likely spend most of the year in the minors. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Fast-tracked through the Padres system more out of big club necessity than overall talent and performance, Werner now resides with the Oakland A’s thanks to an offseason deal. Though he may get the chance to compete for a rotation spot this spring, the likelihood of him spending most of his time in the minors seems fairly strong thus eliminating any remote fantasy value he may have had.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/29/1977 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Thanks to an August contract extension, Westbrook will remain in the Cardinals rotation for 2013. Prior to a late-season oblique injury, Westbrook was the same guy he’s been since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2010. He doesn’t miss many bats, but like a typical Dave Duncan disciple, he gets ground balls like crazy (over 55 percent each of the last three years) — enough to make him a roughly league average pitcher. Unfortunately, his contact-heavy ways make him an iffy fantasy pitcher — too few strikeouts (5.5 per nine innings in 2012) and too many hits (over 9.8 per nine innings each of the last two years) to be an all-around contributor in standard leagues. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Westbrook should remain the same Dave Duncan special he’s been since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2010 — a lot of contact, a lot of ground balls, and a mediocre fantasy option thanks to few strikeouts.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/29/1988 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Colorado should be happy, one supposes, that Ubaldo Jimenez has flopped so spectacularly in Cleveland, because Drew Pomeranz is not exactly lighting things up for them and Alex White played his way into being traded for a reliever. The Rockies’ follies aside, White was a nice acquisition for the rebuilding Astros, despite his limitations. He was pretty awful for the Rockies in 2012 — if one wants to imitate Aaron Cook, there is more to it than a fantastic ground ball rate, you actually have to avoid walks. He strikes out more batters than Cook (who doesn’t?), but in 2012 White walked almost as many batters almost as he struck out, which predictably ended in disaster. The move out of Colorado should help, although he was never all that impressive in striking batters out in the minors. White may very well end up in the bullpen, and while it is a good move for a rebuilding team like the Astros to give him a long look in the rotation, it does not make sense to take a chance on a player like that in fantasy. Avoid for now. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Alex White is going to get a shot to revive his career as a starting pitcher in Houston after a horrible year in Colorado. He is young, so it might work out, but you should not spend a pick on a player who is a back-of-the-rotation starter on likely the worst team in baseball.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/21/1990 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: As a righty fly-ball pitcher with elite control, above-average command and stuff a tick or two above finesse, the 23-year-old Wieland looked like the ideal young arm for Petco. Alas, after just five starts with the Padres, Wieland was shut down and eventually required Tommy John surgery in July. He’ll be expected to miss most of 2013 but makes for a savvy final-round add or $1 bid by owners in keeper leagues who can hang onto him for 2014 and hope he recovers to something near his top-notch 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: After elbow surgery, Wieland won’t help much in 2013. There’s still some excitement about him long-term, though.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/16/1983 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Forget that Tom Wilhelmsen would have been a terrific story just to make it back to the majors at all. But this once-promising arm turned bartender not only mounted a successful comeback, but he turned into one of the better closers in baseball in 2012. Wilhelmsen spent the first two months of the season waiting for Brandon League to somehow sabotage himself out of a closing job and after saving his first game on June 4, Wilhelmsen went on to post a 1.76 ERA, holding opponents to a .175/.263/.262 slash line with a 26% strikeout rate over 51 innings pitched. You don’t have to guess much when facing Wilhelmsen. He brings a 96-plus fastball two-thirds of the time, and a big looping curve that he used half the time in 1-2 counts. Even on a crummy team, Wilhelmsen managed 29 saves and a pair of wins in the 48 games he appeared in as closer, so if handed the job for a full season, he could be a particularly nice source of saves plus strikeouts. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: He can mix you a killer dirty martini just after he throws a 97 mph fastball by you for the final out in a rare Seattle Mariner win. The price on Wilhelmsen is probably still rather subdued by the fact that he plays for the Mariners, but he combines the attractive package of having blistering stuff, bags of strikeouts, and piles of saves. The M’s have some arms waiting in the wings, so he could be trade deadline bait, but worry about that later.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 12/4/1981 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gave Jerome Williams a chance in their starting rotation in 2012, and while his ERA didn’t necessary reflect it, the right-hander had a solid campaign. Williams used his sinker/cutter combo to pitch to a xFIP and SIERA below 4.00 over 137 innings of work. The Angels acquired a pair of starting pitchers this offseason, so Williams will have to compete with Garrett Richards for the sixth spot in L.A.’s rotation. If Williams is able to stave off Richards, he could end up being a sneaky late-round pickup in AL-only leagues. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Jerome Williams will likely open the 2013 in the Angels’ bullpen, but if injuries strike in spring training, he could be a sneaky late-round pickup in AL-only leagues. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/18/1980 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: In the first year of a massive contract, C.J. Wilson’s performance did not meet expectations. He had problems limiting free passes, as well as keeping the ball in the ballpark, at least compared to years past. But, for the third straight year, Wilson was able to beat his FIP and SIERA numbers. The ground-ball wizard still does certain things well, and he should be able to rack up some wins thanks to the Angels’ offensive fire power. Wilson isn’t a number-one or a number-two fantasy starter, but he could certainly be a back-end number-three or top notch number-four. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: C.J. Wilson’s first year in Los Angeles was a bit of a disappointment, but he should be able to bounce back and positively contribute to your lineup in 2013.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 8/22/1976 | Position: SP|
Profile: Randy Wolf didn’t really pitch as badly for Milwaukee as his 5.69 ERA would indicate, but he was considerably worse in 15 late innings for Baltimore, and it hardly seems to matter now. After October Tommy John surgery, Wolf will miss 2013, and we may have seen the last of the entertaining 36-year-old lefty. (Mike Petriello)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/6/1987 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Before the Cubs’ offseason splurge on veteran pitchers, Travis Wood had a shot at receiving an incumbent rotation spot, but now he may have to prove his late-season spike in strikeout rate was not an accident. The Cubs appear to still have faith their chief product from the Sean Marshall trade will provide them value, but fantasy owners only need to keep on eye on him if he can dominate Triple-A, or if he ends up as a high-leverage LOOGY. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/25/1987 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: The 2012 version of Vance Worley is probably closer to what we should expect going forward. The strikeout rate dropped, but still remained acceptable, and the walk rate is fine, but not particularly strong. Despite not having great stuff, Worley didn’t give up as many home runs as you might think while pitching in a tiny park. The move to Minnesota should benefit him in two ways. He shouldn’t have to fight for playing time, and he will be entering a larger park, which is more suited for his skills. He doesn’t have any standout skills — other than an ability to (so far) outperform his swinging strike rate by garnering called strikes on his front-door cutter/slider — which means he’s not going to have a ton of value in fantasy leagues. But the park improvement could make him a late-round pick or a useful spot starter in a couple of leagues. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Worley should benefit from an increased role and a better park. He doesn’t have a high upside, but could warrant a late-round pick, and will probably be an effective spot-starter in leagues next season.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/28/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: The old adage is that lefties can’t be closers and while there are a few exceptions to the rule it still holds some weight. Wesley Wright is a lefty with a strong platoon split (.350 wOBA against righties in 2012) but he also strikes out batters (9.29 per nine) and the guy in line for saves ahead of him (Jose Veras) probably hasn’t pitched on five different teams in the last four seasons for no good reason. As we all know, closers and saves are extremely fickle, making the next guy up an important player to roster or track throughout the season. Considering that Wesley Wright has put up pretty good numbers (3.27/3.34/3.30 ERA/FIP/xFIP in 2012) Wright stands a chance to gain the closing gig at some point this season. Or at least get a chance to finish the game when a strong lefty or two is due up in the ninth inning. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: If Jose Veras is the closer on the Astros, the guy behind him is worth keeping an eye on. That guy is Wesley Wright.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 12/24/1974 | Position: RP|
Profile: A fact so unlikely you probably won’t believe it without looking it up yourself: Jamey Wright was the only member of the 2012 Dodger bullpen to stay on the active roster for the entire season without being disabled, suspended, or otherwise moved. The camp afterthought pitched mainly in low-leverage situations, but put up a career-best 3.39 FIP, powered largely by a 17.7 strikeout rate, another career high. Wright suddenly turned himself into a groun-ball artist last year — dig that 5.68 ground ball to fly ball ratio — but at 38 years old and after years of mediocrity, it’s unlikely he’s suddenly turned a corner. As a back-of-the-bullpen reliever with few holds or saves, he carries little fantasy relevance anyway. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: This famously well-traveled NRI actually turned in a surprisingly decent age-37 season for the Dodgers, though he’s still little more than the last man out of the bullpen.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/25/1979 | Position: SP|
Profile: Multiple shoulder surgeries derailed Chris Young’s career, so it was a surprise to see him even make it back to the majors. The fact that he wasn’t completely destroyed on the mound was good enough to consider his return a success. Young showed good control, and still has an ability to get strikeouts. He struggles to hit 87 mph with his fastball now, and still gives up too many home runs. He has never been able to stay healthy over long stretches, and there are probably better, higher upside pitchers out there, no matter how deep your league. ( Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Young’s comeback from multiple shoulder injuries was impressive, but he’s hardly the same pitcher he was back in 2007. You can’t count on him to be effective over an entire season, meaning he’s not worth a pick in fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 6/1/1981 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Zambrano started the season with the appearance of reclaiming some of his former Cubs glory, but it couldn’t last. The 31-year-old’s control deserted him, as he walked over 5.1 batters per nine innings, and he continued 2011’s trend of failing to miss bats. Zambrano struck out under 6.5 batters per nine innings for the second straight time and the third time in the last three years. The control isn’t there to maintain a sharp WHIP if he’s giving up that much contact, and as such we’re looking at a starting pitcher with little to offer this season — assuming he even manages to find a starting job. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Zambrano remains a shell of his former self. If he finds reliable work on the open market, it isn’t likely to be as a starter.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/10/1979 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: The depth of the Diamondback’s bullpen will keep Ziegler’s fake baseball value lower than his real baseball value. He puts together fine ratios (3.29 FIP, 1.09 WHIP), but fails to strike out enough batters (career 5.92 strikeouts per nine) or get enough late-and-close chances to retain enough value in anything other than a deep NL-Only league. (Alan Harrison)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/23/1986 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: The 26-year-old gets overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in the Nationals’ rotation, but Zimmermann was the 22nd-ranked fantasy starter last season, according to RotoGraphs’ end-of-season rankings. Though his 7.04 K/9 strikeout rate was slightly below-average in 2012 and he projects to remain below-average in strikeouts this upcoming season, the right-hander atoned last year with a 1.17 WHIP and 2.94 ERA. He’s similar to Johnny Cueto in that way. Of course, both his FIP and SIERA suggest that ERA is due to regress, but even an ERA that matched his 3.51 FIP from last season would match James Shields’ ERA from 2012. That’s still valuable. Keep in mind two other points: (1) Denard Span should improve the Nationals’ defense and give Zimmermann a better chance to continue to outpitch his FIP, and (2) Zimmermann benefits from an above-average offense that was tenth in runs scored last season and is expected to improve, which should present Zimmermann with ample opportunities to rack up the wins. When other fantasy owners are drafting the flashy number-two starters — such as Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, and Mat Latos — don’t overlook Zimmermann. He’s a young pitcher, just hitting his prime, and he’s on what should be a very good baseball team. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: The two-n Zimmermann is seemingly an underrated fantasy starter because he lacks elite strikeout numbers, but his sneaky-good stuff and miniscule walk rate help to keep his WHIP and ERA within the top 20 for starting pitchers.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 5/13/1978 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Zito bounced back in 2012 after suffering through a foot injury in 2011 that put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. But he bounced back only so far as his 2010 performance. In 184.1 innings pitched, Zito gave the Giants a 4.15 ERA/4.49 FIP/4.92 xFIP, which translated to a 110 ERA-/120 FIP-. Zito’s fastball velocity continued its downward trend in 2012; he averaged only 83.75 mph on his two-seamer and four-seamer, and just 80 mph on his cutter. His slider, change-up and curveball sit in the mid-70s, not nearly enough of a velocity difference off of his fastball to fool hitters on a consistent basis. It’s no surprise, then, that Zito’s 5.57 K/9 sits well below the average for National League starters (7.28). At the same time, his 3.42 BB/9 is higher than the NL average (2.59). Zito does give up fewer home runs per fly ball than the average NL starter, but he does play half his games in the home-run suppressing environment of AT&T Park. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
Quick Opinion: After an injury-plagued 2011, Zito returned to form in 2012: a reliable innings-eater at the back end of the rotation. Giants fans will long remember Zito’s two stellar outings in the 2012 postseason — 13.1 innings, 12 hits, two walks, nine strikeouts and only one run scored. But fantasy players shouldn’t expect that kind of performance regularly in 2013.
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