2010 Echelons of Starting Pitching: Part 5

Continuing the monster starting pitcher list…

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Echelon 4, Part II – Wishing Well

(Note: this entire group has at least some MLB experience)

26 Year Olds

1. Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians – I bet you are at least a little surprised to see that he is just 26 years. He is two years removed from a brilliant Cy Young-worthy season, but since then his control has been absolutely horrible with 5.1 BB/9 in 246 innings. Though he continues to induce groundballs at a tremendous rate, he has a weak strikeout rate (just 5.0 K/9 the last two years and it was only 5.7 in his great year) and his batting average against has risen yearly (including two major jumps in LHB OBA). If he can show anything remotely resembling command, then he is worth a flier as 2007 remains a viable upside.

2. Charlie Haeger, Los Angeles Dodgers – Like any knuckleballer, he’s essentially at the mercy of the wind. Just take a look at Tim Wakefield’s year-to-year ERA for an idea of how wild the ride can be if you choose to invest in Haeger.

3. Matt Maloney, Cincinnati Reds – Maloney displayed some pretty solid skills in his 41-inning debut last year including a miniscule 1.8 BB/9 rate and usable 6.2 K/9 rate. But the 2.0 HR/9 rate sank him and led to his 4.87 ERA. In the minors, his K rate has dipped each year since 2006, but so has his walk rate culminating in a 5.0 K/BB in 150 innings last year between AA and AAA. He’s back end of the rotation NL-Only guy who won’t hurt much, but isn’t leading you to victory, either.

4. Brandon McCarthy, Texas Rangers – Another guy you may be surprised to find in the 26 year old list as he has seemingly been around forever. Once a top prospect, McCarthy cracked Baseball America’s Top 100 back in 2005, but he just hasn’t panned out at the major league level in parts of five seasons. His minor league strikeout rate (10.1 in 528 innings) has never translated to the majors (6.1 in 373 innings) nor has his walk rate for that matter (1.9 compared to 3.4) leaving him with an uninspired K/BB rate of 1.8. On top of all that, he has never been able to stay healthy with his 102 innings in 2007 standing as his career high. A clean bill of health under Mike Maddux with the minor league skills he owns would be worth a flier in AL-Only leagues. Monitor him this spring.

5. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates – The year was a baby step for Morton so while his K/9 held tight at an OK 5.8, he cut his BB/9 from 4.9 to 3.7 and his HR/9 rate from 1.1 to 0.6. The latter was especially instrumental in his ERA drop from 6.15 to 4.55. Control has been an issue even throughout his 665 minor league innings (4.3 BB/9) so last year’s step in that area was a big one. There isn’t a ton of upside here, but for a buck you could do a lot worse to finish off your rotation.

6. Felipe Paulino, Houston Astros – He missed all of 2008 so last year was a first step back meaning he may still be another year away from legitimate production. That said, he still managed 8.6 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 rates in 98 innings but his 1.8 HR/9 rate crushed him and led him to his 6.27 ERA. The walk rate is actually an improvement on his 4.4 BB/9 in 386 minor league innings so if he holds those gains, he could become a viable option. The key will how close he can get to his minor league 0.7 HR/9 rate. Like so many of these 4th and 5th tier guys, their success is predicated upon improving their control and/or home run rate. For Paulino, it’s the latter.

27 Year Olds

1. Alfredo Aceves, New York Yankees – I included him in the starting pitcher list just because of the slight possibility that he wins the fifth spot in the rotation. It’s a longshot without question, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibilities and thus he gets a nod. He showed some excellent skills last year in relief striking out 7.4 batters and walking just 1.7 per nine innings. Whether he wins the fifth spot or not, he is worth a look in AL-Only leagues as a middle reliever option.

2. Brian Duensing, Minnesota Twins – Standard Twins starting pitcher profile: low strikeouts/lower walks. He didn’t bring all of his control from the minors so he stayed below the 2.0 K/BB threshold, but still managed some solid results (3.64 ERA, 1.37 WHIP). He doesn’t have a set rotation spot right now and frankly, he doesn’t deserve one over the guys they have. At the same, the Minnesota rotation isn’t the bastion of health so he will likely grab some starts.

3. Scott Feldman, Texas Rangers – One of the biggest fantasy all-stars from 2009, Feldman came out of nowhere to 190 strong innings and rack up 17 wins with a 4.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. However, his mediocre skills (5.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9) suggest a repeat would be tough. One key to his success was inducing more groundballs than in 2008 allowing defensive star Elvis Andrus to vacuum them up at shortstop. If he can take another step forward in that area, then he can get by with his uninspiring 1.7 K/BB rate. I wouldn’t completely avoid him on draft day, but tread cautiously.

4. Josh Geer, San Diego Padres – Geer refuses to give up walks, but if you want a hit then he is very accommodating (10.2 H/9 in majors; 9.7 in 620 minor league IP) . He doesn’t strike nearly enough batters out either (4.7 K/9 in 103 IP) and home runs absolutely destroyed (2.4 HR/9) him which explains how someone who walks just 2.0 batters per nine can still have an ERA approaching 6.00 in PETCO Park. I love that he limits walks, but it isn’t nearly as cool if you are just trading them for hits. If he gets his act together, he could be a decent filler in NL-Only leagues thanks to his generous home park.

5. Tom Gorzelanny, Chicago Cubs – Well hello there, new Tom Gorzelanny who wants to strike everybody out. It’s nice to meet you. Never known for dominating hitters at the major league level, Gorzelanny finally brought his big strikeout rate to the majors with him (9.0 K/9) albeit in 47 inning sample. Meanwhile his command stayed sharp at 3.3 BB/9 yet he still yielded a 5.55 ERA. He has had significant success in the majors before (2007) and if he can hold some of those strikeout gains then he would be a nice endgame option as the Cubs’ fifth starter. He’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

6. Sean Marshall, Chicago Cubs – Gorzelanny is worth keeping an eye because for some reason the Cubs hate this guy. While he has been better working out of the bullpen, the Cubs haven’t really given him a legitimate shot at starting in either of the past two seasons (seven and nine starts, respectively). He’s got nice skills across the board and he’s a lefthander so it is a bit surprising that the Cubs have given up on him so quickly in the rotation lately. He did start 43 games across 2006 and 2007 with limited success, but his entire skillset has improved since that time. Gorzelanny and 2009 rookie surprise Randy Wells are question marks at the backend of that rotation so Marshall could get a mini audition at some point this season, but the Cubs will likely throw him back in the pen at the first sign of trouble.

7. Daniel McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – A solid minor league profile earned him a cup of coffee with the big league club last year and his results were OK given the lackluster skillset. He’s got some pretty good control, but a 4.7 K/9 won’t cut it if he hopes to have any long term success. I like what the Pirates are doing with their overall direction and little is set at the backend of their rotation so I wouldn’t be surprised if McCutchen got another legitimate look just so the Pirates can accurately what, if anything, they have with him.

8. Micah Owings, Cincinnati Reds – *Insert tired joke about his hitting prowess*. Owings’ 2009 was essentially a throwaway thanks to injuries including a bum shoulder and then a baseball to the head that messed up his eardrum. His pre-2009 profile was shaping up nicely with enough strikeouts and decent enough control to match. Home runs have always been a bit of an issue which has only been exacerbated by his two home parks (ARI and CIN), but I don’t think he should be completely tossed to the side just yet. Aroldis Chapman likely won’t break camp with the team meaning the fifth spot is open. If Owings is able to snatch that with solid production, then he could delay Chapman indefinitely.

9. Manny Parra, Milwaukee Brewers – One of my bigger whiffs of 2009, Parra imploded under the weight of horrible control likely due in large part to shoulder issues that seemed to nag him as he tried to fight through them. He has the kind of talent that could make him 2010’s Ervin Santana circa 2008. Santana always elite talent, but his 2007 was a disaster but he bounced back with a breakout campaign that netted him an All-Star bid and some Cy Young consideration. The strikeout is just tantalizing enough to drop a couple of bucks on him and try him out. Be prepared to jump ship mercilessly if things don’t go according to plan.

10. Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins – See also: Duensing, Brian except Perkins couldn’t finagle any good results from his work.

11. David Purcey, Toronto Blue Jays –He was one of my deeeeep sleepers for 2009, but his control completely abandoned him (5.6 BB/9), which isn’t good when it wasn’t starting from a great place (4.0 BB/9 in 2008). Things were worse in the minors where he posted a 5.0 BB/9 after two seasons in the mid-2.0s. He still owns the skills he has shown previously, but 2009 was a big step backward for Purcey. There doesn’t appear to be an opening for him in the rotation right now and frankly, I’m not sure he could earn one if the fourth or fifth spot were up for grabs.

12. Andrew Sonnanstine, Tampa Bay Rays – A pinpoint control artist whose skills faded across the board in 2009, including that usually strong control. One issue throughout his career has been the inability to strand runners which when paired with his control gives him a real David Bush feel minus a few strikeouts. Unfortunately for Sonny, the Rays’ rotation is ridiculously deep so he won’t get a chance to prove himself as a starter. A good spring could get him shipped out a la Jason Hammel in 2009, which would be great for his chances at being a starter. His is a skillset I generally like if he’s holding at 5.8 K/9 or above, but that K rate has faded yearly since 2007. Monitor closely, but don’t rush to roster him in any format just yet.

13. Jeremy Sowers, Cleveland Indians – I don’t really have anything nice to say about Sowers and if the Indians’ rotation weren’t so wide open, I wouldn’t even have bothered listing him. I probably wouldn’t even roster him in a 12-team AL Central-Only league.

14. Tim Stauffer, San Diego Padres – The former top pick from 2003 coming back from a completely lost 2008 fared quite well across two minor league levels and in 73 major league innings. If he could get close to his minor league walk rate of 2.5 (in 569 IP), then he would be onto something. In the meantime, he will fight for a rotation spot with the likes of Clayton Richard and Jon Garland. NL-Only leagues should monitor his progress because the raw talent is there.

28 Year Olds

1. Armando Galarraga, Detroit Tigers – Took the league by storm in 2008 with some decent skills that led to a 3.73 ERA, but the 1.4 HR/9 rate portended trouble without vast improvement. The improvement didn’t come (1.5 in 2009) and the walk rate went up over 1.0 to 4.2 BB/9 and the result was an ugly 5.64 ERA in 144 innings. He’s probably the 7th or 8th option to start in Detroit, but that could change overnight when risks like Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis stand between him and a rotation spot. I wouldn’t touch Galarraga without seeing significant improvement in the homerun rate.

2. Oliver Perez, New York Mets – He will get every opportunity in New York for no other reason than the fact that they simply don’t have any starting pitchers after Johan Santana. He allegedly looks great so far this spring, but the same thing is being said of Dontrelle Willis so take it with a pound of salt. The sexy strikeout rate teases and fantasy owners conjure up images of 2004 and 2007 when talking themselves into rostering Ollie, but you’re only hurting yourself if you bid much more than $1 on this partially scratched lottery ticket.

29 Year Olds

1. Brian Bannister, Kansas City Royals – Added a legitimate groundball rate to his limited arsenal that essentially starts and ends with his solid control. If he can hold or build on that trend, then he could be a worthwhile situational play for AL-Only leaguers. His strikeout rate is rising incrementally and another move up would put him past the coveted 6.0 rate. When combined with the already sharp control and developing groundball rate, Bannister’s skillset could be viable enough to produce a repeat of his rookie season when he went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA. I wouldn’t rush out to invest in him, but I wouldn’t discard him out of hand, either.

2. Jeff Francis, Colorado Rockies –The forgotten former ace is returning from a torn labrum that cost him all of 2009, but he has been successful in the recent past with 414 innings of 4.19 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 across 2006 and 2007. He likely won’t come back and immediately perform like that, but it is the upside to keep in mind. Don’t go crazy based on his name as his last two years include a 5.01 ERA and a completely lost year.

30 Year Olds

1. Jon Garland, San Diego Padres – His skills remain virtually unchanged year-to-year leaving luck and run support to determine where in the 4.00s his ERA will be and how many wins his ho-hum performance will net. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one owner in your league talked himself into Garland dipping below 4.00 ERA because of the PETCO pop and thus bumping his cost. That’s a situation I wouldn’t to be involved in. If I can get Garland for next to nothing, then I might give him a look and at least stream him at home.

2. Rich Hill, St. Louis Cardinals – Will he be Dave Duncan’s latest reclamation project? Duncan’s reputation is strong enough that it could raise Hill’s price to an unreasonable level and kill his sleeper value as a rebirth candidate. Keep in mind that Hill is just two years removed from nearly 200 innings of 3.92 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. The health and mental hurdles are holding Hill back right now, not talent. Watch closely this spring for reports on Hill’s control and WebMD report.

3. Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers – Returning to the majors for the first time since 2007, Lewis is an intriguing option after performing well in Japan and latching back on with his original team in Arlington. GM Jon Daniels has been quoted as saying that Lewis will be in the rotation and the MLB.com depth chart has him set up as the third starter behind Scott Feldman and Rich Harden. He has a live arm and as with other Texas pitchers I’ve mentioned, he gets a little boost from being under the tutelage of pitching coach Mike Maddux. He’s drawing some attention as a very deep sleeper right now so he will be worth monitoring during spring for no other reason than to make sure he holds the rotation spot Daniels said he is in line to get.

4. Carlos Silva, Chicago Cubs – No. Just no. Even moving to the National League won’t do much for Silva. In his last three full seasons (2006-2008), he has walked just 1.7 batters per nine which is literally the only redeeming quality for Silva.

31 Year Olds

1. Chris Capuano, Milwaukee Brewers – Capuano hasn’t thrown a pitch in two full years thanks to two Tommy John surgeries which instantly makes him little more than a flier regardless of how good he looks this spring. He has displayed solid career skills with 7.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 712 innings. He is someone to keep an eye on in deep NL-Only leagues, but investing more than a dollar at this point would be an unnecessary risk.

2. Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore Orioles – The jump in ERA from 2008 to 2009 is hardly surprising considering how tenuous his skills were when he managed back-to-back sub-3.70 ERA seasons (6.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9). He managed to top 2.0 in K/BB, but the K rate was falling while the BB rate was rising and in 2009 things came to a head with a 5.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and a grotesque 1.6 HR/9. This is not a profile I would buy into.

3. Todd Wellemeyer, San Francisco Giants – Another notch on Dave Duncan’s reclamation belt, Wellemeyer had a brilliant season (by his standards) in 2008, though many didn’t believe he could repeat the magic in 2009 because the skills profile wasn’t that great and home runs have always been a problem for him. The naysayers were proven right as Wellemeyer’s strikeouts fell and his walks went back up while the problematic home runs rose, too. Wellemeyer is no longer with Duncan out in San Francisco and he will have to battle uber-prospect Madison Bumgarner for a spot in the rotation. If he wins the spot, Wellemeyer might be worth spot starting here & there depending on matchup and venue.

35 Year Olds

1. Braden Looper, Free Agent – He hasn’t struck out more than five batters per nine innings since 2004 while his BB/9 rate has been below 2.5 just once in that same span. He somehow managed to go 14-7 last year, but that’s merely Exhibt 4,938,247 that a W-L record doesn’t tell you how well a pitcher has pitched in a given season. He is currently teamless because of a high asking price and even if he does find a team this spring, it is unlikely he will start the season with a rotation spot. Of course what we find valuable in fantasy baseball doesn’t always match what teams value in real life. Looper has averaged 190 the last three seasons and though he’s posted a below league average ERA+ (89), someone will find value in that reliability.

2. Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers – A poor man’s version of Looper gives you an idea of just how bad Suppan is in fantasy baseball terms. However, his inning-eating track record is lengthy dating back to 1999, but he hasn’t posted a 2.0+ K/BB since 2003 and it was just 2.2. Prior to that, he hadn’t broken the mark since 1998. In other words, Suppan is not someone you want to roster in 2010.

37 Year Olds

1. Bartolo Colon, Free Agent – He hasn’t been worth much since he stole the 2005 Cy Young award. His 21 wins “earned” him the award. His subsequent suckiness and inability to stay healthy is probably karma for the thievery.

38 Year Olds

1. Pedro Martinez, Free Agent – Came back for 45 innings last year and showed some solid skills with a 4.6 K/BB ratio, but 1.4 HR/9 limited his overall success. Still, he went 5-1 with a 3.63. Health and how many innings he can reasonably go will be the major hurdles for Pedro in 2010. He is rumored to be discussing a return to the Phillies and the 5th spot is a bit wide open with no clear option to fill the role. I wouldn’t bet on more than 100 innings from him, but if he lands with a spot where he can win a rotation role, I’d drop a few dollars on him.

39 Year Olds

1. Miguel Batista, Washington Nationals – With little set in the backend of their rotation, Batista has a legitimate shot to win a role with the Nats this year. His skills plummeted last year with a sub-1.00 K/BB ratio and barring a dramatic improvement in his 6.2 BB/9, you will want nothing to do with him in 2010.

43 Year Olds

1. Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox – The knuckleballer continues to get it done year in and year out despite pushing his mid-40s at this point. Injuries cut short his season last year, but he’s apparently ready and expecting to be a part of the rotation out of the gate. He will have to fend off youngster Clay Buchholz, but it’s hard to argue with nine straight seasons of at least league average ERA+, including seven above average. He’s a million years old and he’s not going to strikeout a ton of batters, but you could do worse than Wakefield for your last rotation spot in an AL-Only league.


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