Fantasy: Starting Pitchers, Part Two

Well, this is the last of it. Thanks for hanging in there with me for all the positions, and sorry if I didn’t get everything done in time for your draft. (Note: rankings based on 5×5 Rotisserie scoring.)

31. Freddy Garcia, White Sox: When you look at Garcia’s stats from last season, it looks like he excelled in Seattle (3.20 ERA) and struggled in Chicago (4.46 ERA), but he really didn’t pitch much differently in either city. And overall, he showed definite improvement from the previous two disappointing seasons.

Garcia’s not going to duplicate that impressive 2001 season when he went 18-6 with a 3.05 ERA, but he can still be a very solid pitcher. I’d expect at least 13-15 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.20-1.25 WHIP and 165-180 strikeouts in 200-210 innings.

32. Carl Pavano, Yankees: Pavano had a fantastic fantasy season last year, with 18 wins, a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 139 strikeouts in 222.1 innings. He’s not even going to come close to duplicating that this season. First of all, his already poor strikeout rate (5.63 K/9IP) is likely to drop even more with his move to the AL. Second, he didn’t pitch that much better last year than in 2003, when he had a 4.30 ERA (although it should have been a little better.

Pavano’s also still something of an injury risk because even though he’s pitched 423.1 innings the last two years, he hadn’t pitched more than 136 innings in any season before these two. I wouldn’t expect better than 14-16 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 115-125 strikeouts in 200-215 innings.

33. Bartolo Colon, Angels: Colon’s 5.01 ERA was pretty ugly last year, but he salvaged some fantasy value by winning 18 games. He was also much better late in the season than at the beginning, posting a 3.63 ERA after the All-Star break.

I don’t think Colon will have that 3.63 ERA over an entire season, but I do think he’ll be better than last year’s 5.01 ERA. He should be good for 15-17 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 160-175 strikeouts in 220-230 innings.

34. Bronson Arroyo, Red Sox: Last year was Arroyo’s first full season in a major-league rotation, and he posted a solid 4.03 ERA. The only thing that prevented him from being a top 25 or 30 fantasy pitcher is that he only won 10 games.

Arroyo’s only 28 years old, and I think he’s more likely to get better than he is to get worse, and he should definitely win more games. I’d expect 12-14 wins, a 3.80-4.00 ERA, 1.20-1.25 WHIP and 140-160 strikeouts in 180-190 innings. The biggest concern about Arroyo is that there have been rumblings that if all six of Boston’s pitchers are ever healthy at once, Arroyo will be the one sent to the bullpen.

35. David Wells, Red Sox: Wells is old (42 in May) and doesn’t keep himself in the best shape possible, but he’s a consistently solid performer. He pitched 195.2 innings last year, and he topped 200 innings in eight of the nine previous seasons. He had a 3.73 ERA last year, and his ERA was below 4.15 in three of the previous four seasons.

Wells is something of a risk because of his age and physical fitness level, but he’s made it work for this long. I’m expecting 14-16 wins, a 3.80-4.20 ERA, 1.15-1.20 WHIP and 110-125 strikeouts in 200-215 innings.

36. Zack Greinke, Royals: The great hope in Kansas City, Greinke arrived on the scene at age 20 last year and posted a 3.97 ERA in 145 innings. There’s no doubting that Greinke has impressive potential, but there are some concerns. First, he’s really young, and young pitchers tend to be inconsistent. Second, he allowed 26 homers last year, which works out to 1.61 HR/9IP. Third, he doesn’t strike out many batters (6.21 K/9IP).

On the other hand, Greinke has impeccable control (1.61 BB/9IP last year), and his strikeout rate isn’t at the point where it’s on the verge of being unacceptable, and he’s young enough that it could improve. I’d expect 10-12 wins, a 3.80-4.20 ERA, 1.15-1.20 WHIP and 125-140 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

37. Jeff Weaver, Dodgers: Weaver certainly wasn’t great last year, but moving to the NL and Dodger Stadium helped him make a huge recovery from the 5.99 ERA he put up with the Yankees in 2003. In his first season in LA, he won 13 games with a 4.01 ERA in 220 innings.

Weaver clearly has some talent, but he’s 28 years old now and it’s a bit foolish to think he’s ever going to develop into a really good pitcher. He should be good for 12-14 wins, a 3.80-4.20 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 140-150 strikeouts in 210-220 innings. Expect much more than that and you’re asking to be disappointed.

38. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: Carpenter missed all of 2003 (and most of 2002) with an injury, but he came back strong last year before another injury cut his season a little short. He went 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 182 innings.

Carpenter only turns 30 in April, but he’s a definite injury risk and I don’t think he’ll pitch as well as he did last year even if he’s healthy. I’d expect 13-15 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.20-1.25 WHIP and 140-150 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

39. Dontrelle Willis, Marlins: Willis took the baseball world by storm in 2003, going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 160.2 innings. His sophomore season wasn’t nearly that good, as he went 10-11 with a 4.02 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 197 innings.

Willis may not be as good as he pitched in 2003, but he’s better than what he did last year. He’s only 23 years old, and young pitchers sometimes go through growing pains. I expect him to bounce back somewhat this year and post 12-14 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 145-160 strikeouts in 190-210 innings.

40. C.C. Sabathia, Indians: It may seem hard to believe, but Sabathia’s still only 24 years old, despite the fact that he has four seasons with at least 180 innings and has 54 career wins. Sabathia hasn’t been a great pitcher, but he’s never been below average and he’s been pretty good the last two years.

He’s going to miss the start of this season with an injury, but it sounds like he’ll be back in the middle of April. I’m expecting him to have another solid season with 12-14 wins, a 3.80-4.20 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 135-150 strikeouts in 180-200 innings.

41. Andy Pettitte, Astros: Pettitte’s first season in Houston was a disaster, as injuries limited him to just 83 innings. It was the second time in the last three years he’s missed significant time because of injury, and he’s not getting any less risky as he gets older (33 in June).

When he’s healthy, Pettitte is generally a very good pitcher, but you have to begin to wonder how healthy he’s going to be. He’s also not going to get the run support he used to get with the Yankees, or even the run support he would have gotten last year. I’d say it’s safe to expect 11-13 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 140-150 strikeouts in 165-180 innings.

42. Jake Westbrook, Indians: Westbrook was very good last year, coming out of nowhere to win 14 games with a 3.38 ERA. I don’t think he’ll be quite that good this year, but he’s only 27 years old and there’s no reason to think he’ll suffer a huge decline.

The concern I have is that he doesn’t strike many people out (4.84 K/9IP) last year, and he doesn’t have the impeccable control you usually need to succeed with a low strikeout rate (2.55 BB/9IP). Still, I’d expect 12-14 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 110-120 strikeouts in 200-215 innings.

43. Jon Lieber, Phillies: Lieber was solid, but not spectacular in his return to the mound after missing all of 2003 with an arm injury. He won 14 games with a 4.33 ERA in 176.2 innings, which is more than a lot of people were expecting.

He turns 35 Saturday and he’s still an injury risk, but he’s also a decent bet to pitch better than he did last year. I’d expect 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 110-120 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

44. Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks: After a great rookie season (2.84 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 180.2 innings), he wasn’t one of the top 60 fantasy starting pitchers last year for two reasons. First, he only won seven games thanks to Arizona’s offense. Second, he posted a 1.50 WHIP thanks to his 119 walks.

Webb still had a 3.59 ERA (although it probably should have been higher), and I expect him to have a solid ERA again because he shouldn’t walk as many hitters. I think he could win 10-12 games with a 3.50-3.75 ERA, 1.35-1.40 WHIP and 160-175 strikeouts in 190-210 innings.

45. Jeremy Bonderman, Tigers: Bonderman showed some improvement last year at age 21 over what he did in 2000 at age 20. He cut his ERA from 5.56 to 4.89, and upped his strikeout rate from 6.00 K/9IP to 8.22 K/9IP.

I think Bonderman will develop into a very nice pitcher, but you can’t expect too much this year. He’s still only 22 years old, and he’s still going to be inconsistent. I’m expecting 11-13 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 170-180 strikeouts in 180-200 innings.

46. Brian Lawrence, Padres: Lawrence gets overlooked a lot, but he has a career ERA of 3.91 and he’s never had an ERA above 4.20 in any of his four seasons. He’s never going to be a spectacular pitcher, but he’s solid and gets the job done.

He’s only 28 years old, so there’s no reason to expect him to suddenly toss in a terrible season either. He should be good for 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 120-130 strikeouts in 200-210 innings.

47. Jaret Wright, Yankees: As with Pavano, I’m concerned about Wright’s move from the NL to the AL. There’s no questioning what he did last year (15 wins, 3.28 ERA, 159 strikeouts in 186.1 innings), but there are some definite concerns.

The first is his health. He made 32 starts last year, but that’s the first time since 1998 that he’s made more than 26 starts (and just the second time since 1998 he’s reached double digits in starts) and the first time since 1998 he’s topped 135 innings.

He’s also going to see his ERA and WHIP rise and his strikeouts drop in the AL, it’s just a matter of how much. I think he can provide 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 130-150 strikeouts in 175-190 innings. That’s nearly as good as what I thought Pavano might do, but Wright’s the bigger injury risk.

48. Ted Lilly, Blue Jays: Like so many other pitchers it seems, Lilly will not be healthy to start the season but is expected to be back very shortly and not miss more than a start or two. He had his best season last year, when he won 12 games with a 4.06 ERA in 197.1 innings.

Lilly’s 29 years old now, so it doesn’t look like he’s going to turn into a really good pitcher, and I don’t know that he’ll even be quite as good as he was last year. I’m expecting 11-13 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 145-160 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

49. Brad Penny, Dodgers: Penny was having a fantastic season last year before it was abruptly ended by injury. He finished with nine wins, a 3.15 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 143 innings. Penny’s always had good stuff, but it looks like he’s started putting things together the last two seasons.

Now, the big question is whether or not he can stay healthy, and you have to be somewhat concerned to be safe. I wouldn’t expect much more than 10-12 wins, a 3.60-3.80 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 115-125 strikeouts in 150-175 innings.

50. Kris Benson, Mets: Why the Mets wanted Benson so badly, I’ll never understand. But they got him, and he’s not a bad pitcher, just not as good as people seem to think. His 4.31 ERA last year was the best since a pre-injury 3.85 ERA in 2000, and I don’t know if it’ll get much better for him.

Benson could keep progressing the further he gets from his injury, but I don’t see him ever turning into a really reliable pitcher. I think he’ll win 11-13 games with a 4.20-4.40 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 120-135 strikeouts in 180-200 innings.

51. Tom Glavine, Mets: Glavine responded to a dreadful first season in New York by cutting his ERA by nearly a full run (from 4.52 to 3.60). That was nice to see, but I expect him to give some (though certainly not all) of that back this year.

He’s 39 years old now, and while I think he’ll be a solid pitcher, he’s a risk for injury and just plain decline. I’d expect 11-13 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 100-115 strikeouts in 190-210 innings, but don’t be shocked if he falls apart.

52. Al Leiter, Marlins: Following the two Mets, we now have a former Met. Leiter was an interesting pitcher last year. He had a very nice 3.21 ERA, but he only won 10 games in part because he only pitched 173.2 innings. His peripherals are a big concern, as he had 117 strikeouts again 97 walks, which is a terrible ratio.

If Leiter doesn’t cut down on the walks (and maybe up the strikeouts a touch), he’ll see a definite drop in his production. As it was, he wasn’t tremendously useful because the only category he really helped in was ERA. This year, I’d expect 10-12 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.35-1.40 WHIP and 110-125 strikeouts in 160-175 innings.

53. Kevin Brown, Yankees: Brown’s a tough call, because he could be really good or he could be pretty much useless. He’s 40 years old now, and he’s pitched fewer than 135 innings in three of the last four seasons. In the other one, however, he won 14 games with a 2.39 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 211 innings.

Even if he’s healthy, Brown won’t approach that success he had in 2003. In general, I’d expect him to have 9-11 wins, a 3.75-4.00 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 100-110 strikeouts in 135-150 innings.

54. Derek Lowe, Dodgers: Lowe was not good last year, but he probably wasn’t quite as bad as his 5.42 ERA suggests. And this year, with the move to the National League and Dodger Stadium, he should be much better.

Lowe should be this year’s Weaver, coming off a terrible year in the AL East to cut at least a run off his ERA in Los Angeles. I’d be surprised if he’s not around 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.35-1.40 WHIP and 125-135 strikeouts in 200-215 innings this year.

55. Doug Davis, Brewers: Davis had a very good season last year, posting a 3.39 ERA in 207.1 innings. I don’t think he’ll be nearly that good this year, and his back problem, while apparently not serious, doesn’t make me any more enthusiastic about him.

Davis was only an average starter in 2001, and then he pitched just 169 innings combined the next two seasons. So while he was both good and healthy last year, I’m skeptical that he can do it again. I wouldn’t bank on more than 10-12 wins, a 3.80-4.20 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 135-150 strikeouts in 180-200 innings.

56. John Thomson, Braves: Thomson was very solid last year, winning 14 games with a 3.72 ERA in 198.1 innings. He’s another pitcher who I don’t expect will do as well this year, and is also something of an injury risk.

Thomson was only an average pitcher in 2002 and 2003, and I think he’ll move back toward that status this year. I’d expect 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.40-1.45 WHIP and 125-135 strikeouts in 190-210 innings.

57. Matt Morris, Cardinals: Morris will not be healthy to start the season, but he hopes to be back by the time St. Louis needs a fifth starter in late April. Morris struggled mightily with a 4.72 ERA last year, but that was his first season with an ERA above 3.80.

I don’t know what was wrong with him, but his career ERA is still 3.53 and he obviously has the potential to be a good pitcher. Despite his struggles last year and his injury problems at the moment, you can’t forget about him completely. He could easily win 12-14 games with a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.25-1.30 WHIP and 120-135 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

58. Woody Williams, Padres: Williams is 38 years old, but he’s never had an ERA significantly below average in his career, and the last time he had an ERA above 4.20 was 1999. He had a short season in 2002 thanks to injuries, but he pitches well when he’s healthy.

After 3.5 seasons in St. Louis, Williams is back in San Diego this year, and he should be a solid producer despite his injury risks. I’d expect 12-14 wins, a 4.00-4.25 ERA, 1.30-1.35 WHIP and 125-140 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

60. Rodrigo Lopez, Orioles: After an amazingly bad 2003 season (5.82 ERA in 147 innings), Lopez had a surprisingly good 2004 season (3.59 ERA in 170.2 innings). Part of his impressive ERA came from the 1.99 ERA he had in 31.2 innings as a reliever. As a starter, his ERA was a slightly less impressive 3.95.

Basically, I don’t think Lopez is quite as good as he was last year, but I don’t think he’s nearly as bad as he was two years ago. He’ll probably win 13-15 games with a 4.20-4.40 ERA, 1.35-1.40 WHIP and 125-140 strikeouts in 175-190 innings.

60. Jason Marquis, Cardinals: Marquis had a surprisingly good season last year, winning 15 games with a 3.71 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 201.1 innings. He probably shouldn’t even have had that good an ERA, and he almost certainly won’t come close to it this year.

I think Marquis can be a decent pitcher, but he’s certainly capable of being bad as well, and last year wasn’t quite as good as it appeared (4.61 DIPS ERA). I’d expect 11-13 wins, a 4.25-4.50 ERA, 1.40-1.45 WHIP and 125-135 strikeouts in 185-200 innings.

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