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February
14th
2006
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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AL Starters: Day Two
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Starting Pitchers with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
W = Wins.  S = Saves.  ERA = Earned Run Average (ER*9/IP).
WHIP = (Walks + Hits)/IP aka Ratio.  K = Strikeouts.  BB = Bases on Balls aka Walks.
H = Hits.  IP = Innings Pitched.  P = Pitches.  B = Bats.
Age = Player's Age as of October 2, 2005.
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters in 2005.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement in 2005; Adjusted RAR = RAR modified to
consider whether a pitcher qualified as a starter in Scoresheet fantasy baseball .

We ranked players in order from the highest draft value in a 4x4 league to the lowest. As the majority of fantasy leagues allow you to keep anyone traded to the other league, we listed each player in the league where he started the season.


13.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Joe Blanton1203.531.2211667178201.1
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R121349.649.6

With no injury history and a full season at AAA Sacramento in 2004, Blanton moved right into Oakland's rotation and emerged as the club's best starter down the stretch. If we remove his five May starts, his stat line drops to a 12-9 record and 2.56 ERA with a 110:53 K:BB, 147 H, and 18 HR in 184 IP. Although he never should dominate hitters, Blanton could hit $20 without much effort if his consistency improves and the club's offense rebounds as expected. I view him as one of the best starting pitchers to own over the rest of the decade.


14.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Paul Byrd1203.741.1910228216204.1
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34P:R    B:R12124545

The surprisingly dependable Byrd at least should hold these stats upon moving from the Angels to the Indians. A sharp drop in his strikeout rate does not concern me as he also cut his walk rate, leaving him with a very useful WHIP. You should not bid into double digits as I do not believe you can expect more than 160 innings from Byrd, however he looks like a good target as a fourth or fifth starting pitcher.


15.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Carlos Silva903.441.17719212188.1
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R121148.548.5

A second season in the Twins' rotation resulted in marked improvement for Silva, who managed a miniscule .4 walk rate, which allowed him to emerge as an excellent WHIP asset. His performance appears even more shocking when you consider the fact that he tore most of his right meniscus near the end of spring training and seemed set to miss much of the season. He instead returned after only spending a couple of weeks on the DL, managing to avoid a return trip until September. With an expected clean bill of health heading into spring training, Silva ranks as the unquestioned #3 starter in Minnesota and even might improve on these numbers despite the downside suggested by his slowly dropping ground-fly rate and negligible dominance. Bid to $10 in any league where you need the qualitative support and hope that an offensive rebound boosts his value to near $15.


16.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Freddy Garcia1403.871.2514660225228
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R121346.746.7

With five straight seasons of no less than 31 starts and 200 IP, Garcia ranks among the most reliable pitchers in the majors. He turns only 29 this spring and enjoys a remarkably comfortable position pitching for Uncle-in-law Ozzie Guillen. A career-best 1.60 G-F helped compensate for an otherwise troubling 5.8 K/9, Garcia's lowest strikeout rate since 2000. He otherwise continues to own a solid, balanced skill set that should keep him on the edge of the Cy Young competition for the next few years.


17.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Tim Wakefield1604.151.2315168210225.1
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 39P:R    B:R121338.238.2

A career-high IP total secured Wakefield's place as Boston's most dependable starter as he unexpectedly posted the best mark on the club among AL ERA qualifiers. Of course, he remains unpredictable due to the vagaries of his knuckler, and with about eight starters currently vying for spots in the rotation, his skill set may fit better in the bullpen. I nevertheless do not see the Red Sox removing Wakefield from the role he has established over the past three years, so although I cannot recommend bidding much more than several bucks on him, he at least offers double-digit wins and relatively minimal qualitative risk at that price.


18.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Josh Towers1303.711.2711229237208.2
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R111146.946.9

Anyone with a 1.3 walk rate will receive plenty of attention from us, but a high hit rate placed Towers in a rather precarious position even before the Jays eviscerated their infield defense. All his two-year contract secures is a superb chance to win another dozen games. Towers' limited dominance gives him very little margin for error, and if his control hiccups at all, he could follow former teammate Miguel Batista into the bullpen, ceding his rotation slot to one of Toronto's half-dozen impressive starting prospects. You should not bid into double digits simply to secure a decent WHIP from Towers.


19.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
John Lackey1403.441.3319971208209
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R111353.853.8

The Angels need to sign Lackey to a long-term deal as soon as possible. Attaining career-best marks in his strikeout, ground-fly, and hit rates gives him the skill foundation necessary to emerge as a consistently dominant starter just entering his prime. His 8-1 record and 2.57 second-half ERA appear fully supported by his 91:29 K:BB in 98 IP with 89 H and 5 HR. Fifteen dollars looks like Lackey's probable floor on his way to surpassing reigning Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon as the Angels' ace.


20.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Kenny Rogers1403.461.328753205195.1
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 40P:L    B:L10105050

Apparently neither mediocre skills nor assaulting a cameraman can dissuade the Tigers from spending money foolishly every winter. Rogers somehow landed $16M for two years even after his mid-season actions cast a pall over All-Star Weekend. He turned 41 in November, broke a bone in his hand by punching a water cooler in June, and has not posted back-to-back campaigns with a sub-4.00 ERA since leaving the bullpen nearly fifteen years ago. However, Rogers continues to succeed because he allows so few baserunners that even his non-existent dominance does not prevent him from helping his teams win. I cannot justify a projection any worse than 12 wins and a 4.40 ERA in 180 IP, but I still recommend you let someone else go that extra dollar on Rogers.


21.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
C.C. Sabathia1504.031.2616162185196.2
CLE Indians4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:L    B:L101236.536.5

Sabathia seems so close to a true breakout that I feel comfortable ignoring his extremely high workload as a youngster. He pitched about 200 innings for the fifth straight season, posted the second-best ERA of his career, and really reduced his downside by bumping his ground-fly rate from .98 to a 1.55 mark. A dominance rebound and a lower walk rate similarly portend lower qualitative stats, so if his failure to emerge as a superstar scares off other owners, you could land a sizable bargain. Do not forget about Sabathia when prospecting for a competent second starter with obvious ace potential, even if you need to push $15 to secure his services.


22.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Brad Radke904.041.1811723214200.2
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:R    B:R10113737

Repeated rumors regarding Radke's retirement firmly push him from the ranks of the AL's most reliable pitchers. However, he totaled over two hundred innings for the ninth time in ten years, walked less than thirty men while striking out five for every base on balls, and did not suffer any obvious skill degradation to justify the spike in his homer rate. The 33-year-old primarily suffers from an annoying platoon split, so if he improves against southpaws at all, a dip back below a 4.00 ERA looks automatic. An expected offensive rebound similarly will shoot him toward fifteen wins and a similar roto value.


23.WSERAWHIPKBBHIP
Bruce Chen1303.831.2713363187197.1
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:L    B:L101141.441.4

Chen's initial failure to benefit from Leo Mazzone's teaching did not prevent him from finally harnessing his considerable potential in his eighth big league season. Now he again falls under Leo's tutelage, and without superb skills supporting this putative breakout, some regression seems inevitable, though Chen's continued problems with left-handed batters leave him the opportunity to achieve real dominance with one new pitch. Split the difference in potential fantasy value, halting all efforts to acquire Chen at twelve bucks.


AL Starting Pitcher Week continues tomorrow.


Today's Fantasy Rx: Surprisingly unheralded contributors like Blanton and Garcia remain good bets, but only Lackey appears on the cusp of true stardom. The best fallback option may be C.C. Sabathia, who still owns an impressive combination of tools and skills, requiring only additional consistency to begin registering those perennially expected $20 seasons.


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Please e-mail your comments to tim@rotohelp.com.
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