2010 Fantasy MLB Starting Pitchers ~ Breakouts, Busts and Sleepers
This time we’re looking at the Starting Pitchers. Perhaps the hardest position to draft for. There is no sure thing in fantasy sports, but starting pitchers may be the hardest to count on. Last season saw Brandon Webb and Johan Santana got hurt, while Cole Hamels and Jamie Shields had meltdowns. Taking a stud pitcher early may be the most dangerous drafting strategy. This season Tim Lincecum is going in the first or second round. He's young, seemingly healthy, but are his numbers enough to justify the risk as your first pick when there is so much talent that can be had later with less risk? Our 'perts will give you some other names to think about, and some names to avoid.
So here we go, our various picks for 2010 Fantasy MLB Starting Pitchers
Tab Bamford (Once glued fake hair on his chest for a high school dance)
Breakout: Clayton Kershaw, LAD - Kershaw's had the hype, and shown the stuff, and this year he'll be thrown into the mix full time. He's been described as Cole Hamels Light, and could put up Hamels-like numbers this year.
Bust: Yovani Gallardo, MIL - With Gallardo, I think his numbers could suffer because there isn't much around him in Milwaukee and the NL Central is better across the board than it was last year.
Sleeper: Ryan Dempster, CHC - Dempster pitched far better than many of his fantasy number indicated last year, and could have improved gross numbers if the Cubs bullpen does him any favors this year. That is, however, a big IF.
Breakout: Brian Matusz, BAL - Matusz is a special young pitcher who gets buried under the Strasburg-Chapman chatter, but he has a better chance of being with the big club on Opening Day than either of the two bigger names
Bust: Josh Beckett, BOS - Beckett's working on a contract extension, and the BoSox just spent a lot of money to put John Lackey at the top of their rotation. If he's a dead man walking, this might not be his best season.
Sleeper: Jake Peavy, CHW - Peavy missed a lot of last year hurt and is falling on a lot of draft boards, but remember that he still averaged more than 1 K/IP last year and has a good bullpen in Chicago
Ray Tannock (Created the first X-rated pop up book)
Breakout: Randy Wells, CHC - Wells is a dominate pitcher with a solid arsenal of weapons and old Lou is just bananas over him. Remember that, last year’s performance was often marred by a shoddy bullpen, which the Cubs feel, has been repaired so look for Wells to breakout and afford some solid fantasy numbers this year to those who own him.
Bust: Mike Pelfrey, NYM - If there is any argument out there that suggests otherwise that Pelfrey IS NOT a bust, I would love to hear it. A bloated career ERA, never was good for strikes, overestimated, and an overall fantasy dud.
Sleeper: Wandy Rodriguez, HOU - Say what you will but this guy has all the tools to be a top five fantasy pitcher. He was great at home last year, and his one glaring weakness was his road p performance which should be a lot different this year. He will tighten up those splits and I think everyone will be very much surprised. Last year he nearly eclipsed 200 SO and the last two years he has provided a K/9 average of 8.5 which is top notch.
Breakout: Kevin Slowey, MIN - Quite possibly the most underrated pitcher in the AL, Slowey was cruising along before his wrist began shutting him down in 2009. Now, completely healthy and showing the same lights out potential the Twins know he has in ST, Slowey is destine for a breakout year. He’ll be good for at least 8.0 K/9 and his stat line is very misleading so beware if you choose to base your decision on him with stats alone.
Bust: Freddy Garcia, CHW - Forget about him, take him off of your fantasy radar, there won’t be a comeback year in 2010. He should be proud he lasted 10 years in the league.
Sleeper: Francisco Liriano, MIN - Liriano was a huge disappointment in 2009 despite being heavily favored as a comeback candidate—that’s why he’s 2010’s sleeper of the year in the AL. Liriano has been doing quite a bit of work in the off-season and all of it has been yielding solid results. He looks like he has his command back, his speed, and if so that make him a dangerous pitcher and a solid fantasy option. I say he’s worth taking a chance on.
Jon Schuman (Still sleeps in Ninja Turtle pajamas with feet)
Breakout: Jon Sanchez, SF - He's long been a reliable source of strikeouts, but entering his third season as a starter and with an improved offense, I think the Sanchez take the next step in 2010.
Bust: Randy Wolf, MIL - He is coming off a good year, but has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. The move away from one of the best pitcher's parks in baseball won't help him.
Sleeper: Ian Kennedy, NYY - Yankee's prospects tend to be overhyped, but Kennedy definitely is a talented arm, and now that he is being given an opportunity, I expect him to take full advantage. He's a nice keeper option as well.
Breakout: Brett Anderson, OAK - Anderson has a decent rookie season, but like many young pitchers, should take a big step forward in his second season. He won't be an ace in 2010, but he'll take a step in that direction.
Bust: Javier Vazquez, NYY - Didn't Vazquez pitching in the Bronx already fail once? Why would it work this time? He isn't nearly the same guy in the AL that he is in the NL.
Sleeper: Wade Davis, TB - He's should come cheap, and could easily be the best of the Rays young starting pitchers. While on the subject, I like Jeff Niemann and David Price to be quality sleepers in 2010 as well.
Mike Sholty (Once got an F in his sex education class)
Breakout: Brett Anderson, OAK - Anderson has shown us great ace-like stuff in his first year in the big leagues. He almost had a 4:1 K/BB ratio which is what you look for in an ace, and he pitches in a great pitchers park. The defense behind him is questionable and the offense supporting him might not be high powered, but Anderson will make the best of his situation and post 13W, 3.80 ERA, 180K and 1.25 WHIP
Bust: Javier Vazquez, NYY - Vazquez had a career year last year with a 2.87 ERA and 1.03 WHIP but do you really want to pay for those stats this year when he'll be pitching in Yankee Stadium? He'll post 15 wins and over 200 Ks, but I'm suspecting his ERA and WHIP to climb considerably. Don't pay for his 6th round value when he'll be more along the lines of a round 10-12 pitcher.
Sleeper: Brian Matusz, BAL - Depending on how well your league mates keep up with baseball, Matusz may not be a sleeper anymore. Nonetheless, his value is ridiculously low for the potential he has. He has been tearing it up in spring training and I expect that to carry over to the season. Two things to consider about him if you're planning on getting him this year: Draft him two rounds earlier than you normally would and don't expect a sub-4.00 ERA. He's going to hit a few road bumps this year but he's going to be a super source of Ks for where you draft him, and the ~4.25 ERA won't ruin that category for you.
Breakout: Homer Bailey, CIN - Unlike Matusz, no one is talking about Homer Bailey. He was considered only a few years ago the top pitching prospect in the Cincinnati farm system. He had a really rough transition to the majors but last year he matured on the job quickly. He learned some new tricks to support his fastball (which tops out in the high 90s) and had eye-dropping stats in his last nine games: 53K, 1.70 ERA, 6 W, 1 L. If you take one piece of my advice that I give all year, please take this one. I guarantee Bailey is going to be great for fantasy.
Bust: Clayton Kershaw, LAD - Forget the "sleeper" talk for Clayton Kershaw. He is no longer considered a sleeper at all with all the hype he is getting. People are expecting him to become the next big thing. I can understand the hype: hitters had a harder time hitting his pitches than any other pitcher (even Lincecum!) but BBershaw had a jaw-dropping 91 walks last year. I can see him dropping that to around 70 BB this year, but if you are expecting anything less than that you are expecting too much of a leap for him. No ace walks 91 guys in 170 innings.
Sleeper: Carlos Zambrano, CHC - Zambrano might be a household name, especially in Chicago homes, but people are looking at him like he's and old man. Last time I checked, he is only 29 years old. He is still in his prime years. His numbers from last year were better than his 9 wins would tell you: He let up less than a hit per inning. The Cubs had a lackluster offense last year which didn't help Zambrano at all. With a rejuvenated team, expect Zambrano to compete like an ace. He's going outside the top 55 pitchers this year and that is a great value for him. Here's to hoping he stays off the DL now...
Rustyn Rose (Pulled out his own tooth when he was 8 because someone told him Wonder Woman was also the tooth fairy)
Breakout: Homer Bailey, CIN - Once a touted pitching stud, Bailey's ascension last season to the big leagues was more of a dud; with 1.47 WHIP and ERA of 4.53. Still the skills are there, and he seems like a lock for the 4th spot in the Reds starting rotation. 2010 could be the year of the Homer for the pitching side of the ball.
Bust: Stephen Strasburg, WAS - I must be out of my mind. The top rookie pitcher, and I'm pegging him as a bust. Yes and no. Strasburg is an amazing talent, and at some point he's going to be a fantasy goldmine, but IF it happens in 2010 it's not likely to happen until after the All-Star break, perhaps even September call ups. Unless something changes in Spring Training and he has a guaranteed rotation spot or you have a very deep bench, he should not be going ahead of guys like Carlos Zambrano, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, Daz Matsuzaka, Mark Buerhle and Ted Lilly. Which according to average draft results, he is. Keep in mind, even when he comes up, he's still a rookie on a bad team.
Sleeper: Ricky Nolasco, FLA - Nolasco was a surprise in 2008, and then he came back to earth in 2009 with a gaudy era of 5.07. However, Nolasco's numbers were deceiving last season and his K/9 ratio actually went up to 9.49. He could be quite a nice surprise in 2010 for someone savvy enough to grab him late.
Breakout: Matt Garza, TB - In his second full season with Tampa Bay, Garza's ERA went up .20 points, but his BAA dropped.13, which suggests he pitched better than he fared. His strikeouts went up by 60, and his K/9 was nearly 8.9.
Bust: Javier Vazquez, NYY - Not to be a bandwagon jumper, but Vazquez has never been high on my list of trustworthy guys. He had his best season in 2009, followed a move to New York. He's going to come back down to earth this season. His career ERA is over 4, and I expect it to be about 4.40 this season with a 1.31 WHIP. He may get 15 wins again in NY, but he'll hurt you most other areas. For a guy going as the 15th pitcher off the board he's going to be a bust.
Sleeper: Kevin Slowey, MIN - Slowey is just one of those guys that's easy to overlook, but the Knuckleheads are not overlooking him in 2010. Most of us see big potential in him this season. His numbers were fairly ugly in 2009, but he's been lights out this spring, and he will likely but a nice upside late pick in most drafts.
Deep Sleeper: Shaun Marcum, TOR - Marcum lost his 2009 season to shoulder surgery in late 2008, but prior to his disappearance he was a solid strike out pitcher showing great promise. He can be had late and has great upside.