Here is the next part, just 82 more! 🙂
Echelon 3, Part II – Getting There
100. Kevin Millwood, 34, Baltimore Orioles – He had no business ending up with a 3.67 ERA last year with an ugly 1.7 K/BB and 1.2 HR/9 found behind the curtain of that undeserved mark. Unfortunately that performance has driven his price up well beyond what he’s worth (15th round ADP) making him someone to leave alone completely unless that price comes way down. He will pile up the innings, but they won’t necessarily be any good and you should thank your lucky stars if he gives you anything below a 4.50 ERA in 2010.
99. Dallas Braden, 26, Oakland A’s – Braden has back-to-back seasons with good end results, but the skills backing those figures up are a little disconcerting. He came through the minors with a 10.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 347 innings, but only brought 5.7 K/9 with him to the majors. His long term success seems to hinge on whether or not he can elevate that strikeout rate up into the 7-8 range if not all the way to the elite levels he reached in the minors. Fueling his 3.89 ERA from a year ago was also his 0.6 HR/9 which was a vast improvement over his 1.0 from 2008. Even if he only bumps the Ks to 6.5 while holding the walk rate steady around 3.0 and maintains the HR/9 gains, then he is a great endgame pick with a very favorable home ballpark. There is so much starting pitching talent in Oakland that someone is going to get squeezed and whoever that is will have their value squeezed. Braden is in line for a spot right now so he’s worth a late look and that is exactly what he is getting at a 20th round pick at MDC right now.
98. Luke Hochevar, 26, Kansas City Royals – It’s not coming along as quickly as you would expect from a #1 overall pick, but not everyone progresses the same. You would probably call me crazy if I told you his second half, during which he posted a 7.35 ERA, was a major growth period. But alas, it was. He refined a splitter and became a strikeout machine (8.4 in 86 IP) and turned the walks way down (2.7 BB/9) leading to a sparkling 3.1 K/BB. So what the hell happened that gave him such an ugly ERA and WHIP? Bad luck was a factor, but so was the major case of gopheritis (14 HR!). Zack Greinke might finally have the 2 to complete the 1-2 punch in KC in the form of Hochevar. And you can have him for pennies on the dollar as he is a 21st round pick in AL-Only leagues representing an excellent value late.
97. Jake Westbrook, 32, Cleveland Indians – Missed all of 2009, but he’s a better version of Kevin Millwood who can actually be relied upon for a 4.00-4.30 ERA in 200 innings of work. His strikeout rate will sit somewhere between 4.7 and 5.2, but that’s not why you’re going for someone like Westbrook. In his last five full seasons, he has a 0.7 HR/9 which has allowed him to have success with such middling skills. As a 22nd round pick, his price is just right, too.
96. Mat Latos, 22, San Diego Padres – I like the long term potential and love the home park, but he is going to have an innings ceiling (around 150) and might not even have a starting spot for a while how Tim Stauffer, Wade LeBlanc and Sean Gallagher shake out this spring. All four of the guys are pitching, so it won’t be easy. Stauffer and Gallagher are out of options while Latos has just 47 innings at AA and has yet to pitch in AAA, so he could end up as the odd man out. Draft the skill, but you may want to look elsewhere if your league doesn’t have a reserve or minor league roster to stash Latos.
95. Gio Gonzalez, 24, Oakland A’s – A messy when you look at the things that matter in fantasy baseball (5.75 ERA, 1.71 WHIP), but his 9.9 K/9 rate is so very enticing. He is a premier talent still developing even though it seems like he has been around forever. If he can avoid the implosion games (like his 11 ER in 2.7 IP vs. Minn in July), get some good luck to counterbalance last year’s bad luck and keep blowing batters away, then he can be an effective low-to-mid 4.00s ERA, 150+ strikeout guy. That’s just a good case scenario, if everything breaks PERFECTLY for him, then he can have an Oliver Perez circa 2004 season (2.98 ERA, 239 K in 196 IP).
94. Clayton Richard, 26, San Diego Padres – Is there anything better than finding out you are moving from home run friendly US Celluar Field to everything stifling PETCO Park? Richard turned up his strikeout rate to an appetizing 6.7 after just 5.5 in his 48 inning debut back in 2008, but his walk rate also rose from 2.5 to 4.2. If he can balance that figure somewhere close to 3.0, he is poised to be the next big time PETCO benefactor. Use Kevin Correia’s 2009 as a guide for Richard’s upside in 2010 (3.91 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 142 K).
93. Chris Young, 31, San Diego Padres – Despite three straight solid years from 2006-2008 with an ERA below 4.00, many were a little skeptical of Young and saw him as a product of PETCO. His walk rate was ticking upward from 2005 on and things came to a head in 2008 when it topped 4.0 and took his K/BB below 2.0 for the first time ever. Things got much worse last year in an injury-shortened season as the BB rate ticked up again but the strikeout rate plummeted to 5.9, well off the 8.1 K/9 career mark he had coming into 2009. One thing that always angers me is when people would say, “Can you believe Texas gave up this guy!?” when talking about Young because he would have a career ERA approaching 6.00 if had stayed in Texas with his +50% FB rate. He is best suited for PETCO and if you can get him in a league where you can spot start him at home until he proves something on the road, then I’d invest in him. If you have to start him fulltime, expect a low-to-mid 4.00s ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning.
92. Paul Maholm, 28, Pittsburgh Pirates – Maholm is a perfect example of how middling the ceiling of an average K/9 pitcher can be no matter how sharp the control. He has three straight seasons with virtually the same skills of 5.6 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 yet three vastly different ERAs: 5.02, 3.71 and 4.44. His highest K rate in that three year span was 6.1 in 2008. That was also the year he posted that 3.71 ERA, not surprisingly. At 28, he’s unlikely to raise his K rate significantly, so he’s basically a WYSIWYG guy who will give you 190 innings with a passable ERA and average-to-below average WHIP because of how many hits he allows.
91. Gil Meche, 31, Kansas City Royals – Meche lost his way a bit last year after back-to-back strong seasons with the Royals. His control abandoned while his strikeout rate dipped and his ERA exploded to 5.09 in 129 innings. Injuries derailed the season and were a likely cause for the struggles prior to packing it in for the year in August, so he’s coming in at a great value for 2010. Plan for a 4.10 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 200 innings, which isn’t bad for the 13th round of an AL-Only or 21st round of a Mixed League.
90. David Bush, 30, Milwaukee Brewers – There is usually a guy in your league who still has that glimmer of hope for Bush to finally put it all together for an ERA and WHIP that match his skills. If I’m in your league, it’s probably me. Since coming to Milwaukee, Bush has a 6.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 yet his ERA in that time is 4.86 because he completely falls apart with runners on and can’t keep the ball in the yard at an acceptable rate (1.3 HR/9). He isn’t costing anything right now (20th round ADP in NL-Only) setting him up to be a tremendous value if he can just get back to what he did in 2008 (4.18 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
89. John Maine, 29, New York Mets – Maine’s underlying stats are all the map, but he has remained productive throughout posting passable ERAs in each of the past four seasons even though it has risen each year. His strikeout rate has dipped in each of the past two years, but his HR/9 has fallen each of the past four years, too. His walk rate the past two years has been above 4.0 which has taken his ERA above the same mark, if he can get back to the 3.5 mark from 2007 (or better) then he could be poised for a strong comeback season. Of course, above all he needs to stay healthy as he has lost significant time the last two years. If he can go 180 innings, he can be a useful mid-rotation starter.
88. Kevin Correia, 29, San Diego Padres – Correia is not just a PETCO product, rather the Padres finally gave him a real chance and let him throw 198 innings. He posted skills similar to what he had done in his career prior to 2009 and the results were solid as he maintained an ERA below 4.00 (3.91) and a solid 1.30 WHIP. I wouldn’t pay for more than a carbon copy of 2009 this year, but if the Padres improve a bit, he could reach the mid-teens in wins and two years of a better than 7.0 K rate suggest he could reach 160 strikeouts, too.
87. Chris Volstad, 23, Florida Marlins – After being a bit overrated based on an 84 inning sample coming into 2009, I think Volstad has shifted to the other end of the spectrum and now he’s being overlooked after a 5.21 ERA in 159 innings last year. He had a rough patch late in the season and was eventually demoted and thus a bit forgotten, but he’s a groundball pitcher with above average strikeout (6.1) and walk rates (3.3). Those rate were at 6.6 and 2.7 in the first half of the season of the season showing what he is capable of when he is going well. He’s got a 187 ADP in NL-Only leagues right now so he’s a great value that I highly recommend eyeing late. His profile is a recipe for success and now he has 243 major league innings under his belt.
86. Joel Pineiro, 31, Los Angeles Angels – Pineiro had a brilliant season last year, his best since 2003, thanks to impeccable control (major-league best 1.1 BB/9) and an elite groundball rate (60%). He also had an absurdly lucky 0.5 HR/9. Pineiro has always been OK at inducing groundballs and limiting walks, but last year he was amazing at both and it fueled the 3.49 ERA. He will need to repeat both to sniff that ERA again, especially if he plans to keep striking out 4.4 batters per nine innings or even the 4.9 K/9 he had in 2008. He’s moving back to the AL and his last two full seasons in that league yielded ERAs of 6.36 and 5.62. In other words, be careful here. I think we will see at least a 0.50 ERA jump but he could pile up the wins again thanks to the offense and bullpen supporting him. He might just be a better control version of Joe Saunders, which isn’t awful, but hardly great either.
85. Ricky Romero, 25, Toronto Blue Jays – Why does an up & coming pitcher with a great groundball and very good strikeout rate have to get stuck in the AL Beast? Such is the fate of Romero which will probably cost him at least 0.30 runs of ERA each year right out of the gate. He baffled the league the first time around posting a 6-3 record with a 2.87 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 72 innings in the first half, but they caught up in the second half tattooing for a 5.27 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 106 innings. His groundball rate held strong across both halves, in fact it improved in the second, but he dropped a full strikeout to 6.8 and his walk rate ballooned to 4.7 from 3.0. It’s his move now and how he answers the adjustments the league made will determine how successful he can be in 2010. His is the perfect profile (high K/high GB) to bet on, so don’t be afraid to risk that extra dollar on Romero.
84. Brandon Morrow, 25, Toronto Blue Jays – Morrow has been Joba’d to date and his results have borne the brunt of the abuse, but now he gets a fresh start with Toronto and they seem set on putting in the rotation and leaving him there. He’s got a tremendous arm and can blow batters away at better than one per inning, but he has yet to show any control in the majors thus far (5.8 BB/9 in 198 IP). He is still very young so that control should develop, but until it does his wildness will limit his upside. For now, think of him as a right-handed Jonathan Sanchez capable of a boatload of strikeouts, but middling ratios.
83. Koji Uehara, 35, Baltimore Orioles – He’s essentially removed from the list because it looks like the O’s have permanently moved him to the bullpen. Just removing him and moving forward would’ve messed up all the numbers so I thought I’d mention him and let you see where I had him assuming he was going to be a starter. I definitely liked him in the rotation, but I still like him a middle relief option if you are someone who goes for that strategy.