Efficiency in your rotation is how you win leagues. Cheap, replaceable, effective starting pitchers mean more picks and/or budget for bats and closers. In order to be successful most of your rotation needs to be composed of pitchers that can be acquired at something of a value. Here are some to target on draft day – if the price is right.
1. Ryan Vogelsong, SF – Who? At age 34 Vogelsong delivered nearly 180 quality innings seemingly out of nowhere. He generates a 45% GB% and has the requisite 2 to 1 K/BB rate to be a competent fantasy pitcher. He’ll correct a little bit but the skills are real. Just don’t pay for a dime of upside, you’re looking at it.
2. Derek Holland, TEX – We don’t like the fact that the K rate dropped but so did the walks. This netted out a nifty 2.42 BB/K ratio that pairs well with his 46% GB%. Holland is still young and mixes four pitches that he sets up with a 94 mph fastball. He’ll get better as he learns his craft and he’s in the right system for developing power pitchers. A repeat is worth buying, and the upside is enough to win a championship. Spend an extra dollar or two on draft day.
3. Brett Anderson, OAK – TJ last July means he is good for a half season at best in 2012. When healthy he has ace-like stuff with a 3 to 1 K/BB rate and a GB% well north of 50%. Definitely worth stashing for a second half run if he comes cheap enough on draft day.
4. Chad Billingsley, LAD – Billingsley’s K rate has dropped four straight years and his control has never been good – a dangerous combo. His stuff appears to be the same as it ever was and his mid-to-high GB% helps to mitigate his other flaws. He may never become the ace many had hoped for but he could bounce back and be a solid fantasy starter that you can get at a bit of a discount.
5. Ted Lilly, LAD – Nothing flashy, but Lilly has a skill set that ages well and the home park and division help. The WHIP is the key stat; he’s posted a sub-1.20 in four of the last five seasons. That’s a skill to build around. No upside whatsoever, but the WHIP will free you up to take some chances with other pitchers.
6. Colby Lewis, TEX – There was regression in 2011 but Lewis is a quality fantasy pitcher that puts together stretches where he’s great. The FIP and xFIP say he is what he appears to be and should post numbers that look similar to the last two seasons: low-4.00 to mid-3.00 ERA, ~1.20 WHIP, 170 Ks and a dozen or more wins. Some may have jumped off the bandwagon but you’ll at least break even if you invest in line with market value.
7. Ryan Dempster, CHC – Dempster has four straight seasons with 200+ innings and 170+ Ks. In 2011 his ERA ballooned by a full run from the previous season but FIP and xFIP say last season was identical to the previous three from a skills standpoint. This is a nice buy low opportunity on a sure fire innings eater. He’ll never help your WHIP so if you invest on draft day be sure to target low-WHIP starter to counter balance.
8. Ricky Nolasco, MIA – Nolasco is maddening to sabermetricians. He flaunts a high K rate and historically a 4 to 1 K/BB rate, which are close to elite among starting pitchers. If he builds on those skills a Cy Young would be doable. Last season his K rate was down as was the velocity on his fastball. However, he posted a career high in GB% at 45%, which may indicate that he’s trying to pitch smarter. Many fantasy owners have given up on Nolasco, but I’m dumb enough to keep investing in the 29-year-old in the hopes that he finds his groove.
9. Jonathan Sanchez, KC – Sanchez had a career year in 2010 but once again struggled with control in 2011 and missed significant time with an ankle injury. The trade from the pitcher friendly NL-West to Kansas City doesn’t help either. The 9+ K/9 is exciting and a 42% GB% is nice but the rest just looks like poison.
10. Brian Matusz, BAL – Matusz was something of a blue-chip prospect not long ago and at age 23 delivered a respectable season in 2010. 2011 however is the kind of season that will cause the vast majority of fantasy owners to pass in 2012. He’s been working out in the offseason, blah, blah, blah…take a flier based solely on his pedigree and he could prove to be a decent spot starter in deeper leagues.