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AL Starters: Day Five
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Starting Pitchers without 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.

Orlando Hernandez915.121.469150137128.1
CH White Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:R    B:R016.56.5

Ostensibly acquired by Arizona as the primary return for Javier Vazquez, I fully anticipate Hernandez will impact the Diamondbacks far less than Chris Young or even Luis Vizcaino. El Duque turned 36 in August and seems on track to follow every 125 IP/22 start season with a 90 IP/15 start flop. Of course, that analysis even ignores the fact he missed all of 2003, so you absolutely cannot rely on him for steady innings. Taking more than a Dollar Days flyer even in deep leagues just doesn't make much sense.

Jason Grilli103.381.25561416
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-1-14.34.3

Although Grilli's 12-9 record and a 4.14 ERA on a 120:58 K:BB in 167.1 IP over 28 GS for AAA Toledo(IL) earned him a quick look in September, the Tigers want one of their younger players to win the fifth starter's job. I also don't believe Grilli would excel if given the opportunity due to his weak command in past big league trials. His decent walk rate suggests some upside if he hits a hot streak, but you generally don't want to own him given his established skill level.

Ryan Franklin805.101.449362212190.2
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:R    B:R-1110.210.2

No more than a marginal pitcher to own in Safeco, Franklin's move to CB Park in Philly collapses his fantasy value. His .95 G-F qualified as a career best, demonstrating the severe downside of transferring Franklin from a park that minimizes homers to one that boosts them by twenty percent. Think Jose Lima in Minute Maid or Eric Milton in the GAB. The true irony here is that Franklin missed a golden opportunity to extend his career by shifting roles to take advantage of his superior stats in relief. Perhaps Franklin will win a dozen games as a capable replacement for Vicente Padilla, but he instead appears far more likely to depart the rotation once Randy Wolf returns. I see little reason to draft Franklin in standard leagues.

Francisco Liriano105.701.103371923.2
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21P:L    B:L-1-1-0.5-0.5

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Minnesota for my comments on Liriano.

Carl Pavano404.771.475618129100
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-1-19.49.4

Pavano's three months on the DL seemed a self-fulfilling prophecy considering he stayed almost fully healthy during the three previous years. Yet shoulder problems still cost him half the season and now he appears slow to begin throwing in camp. The good news is that developing command, a higher ground-fly rate, and the defensive improvement implemented by the Yankees give Pavano a superb platform to rebound if healthy. Bid to the high single digits with the full recognition Pavano could push $20 or miss the majority of the year with continued health problems.

Jorge Campillo000.001.001112
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-1-21.41.4

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Seattle for my comments on Campillo.

Dave Gassner105.871.302197.2
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:L    B:R-1-2-0.3-0.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Minnesota for my comments on Gassner.

Seth Etherton106.621.191051617.2
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-1-1-2.4-2.4

A very brief stint in Oakland's rotation quickly pushed Etherton back to AAA Sacramento(PCL), where he compiled a very respectable 2.72 ERA on a 99:30 K:BB in 112.1 IP with 93 H and 11 HR. Kansas City smartly signed him in November but then unfortunately lost him to San Diego in the Rule 5 draft, placing Etherton in an ideal situation to reemerge as a contributor in the majors. He at least should snag a long reliever job, and with his established level of command, Etherton appears primed for success with the Padres and therefore merits a minimal bid in most leagues.

Sean Douglass505.561.4355339287.1
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R-2-1-0.4-0.4

Registering a 9-1 record and a 2.87 ERA on a 76:27 K:BB in 81.2 IP over 14 GS with 61 H and 5 HR for AAA Toledo(IL) earned Douglass an extended look with the Tigers. Despite a respectable initial month with Detroit, he bombed so badly down the stretch that Douglass headed to Cleveland on waivers before signing with the Hiroshima Carp. He obviously doesn't belong on any fantasy roster that doesn't count stats from Japan's Central League.

Bobby Madritsch006.231.151144.1
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:L    B:L-2-3-0.4-0.4

Madritsch headed into 2005 as one of the AL's top pitching sleepers following his impressive second-half performance the previous summer. He lasted into the fifth innings of his first start before tearing a shoulder ligament, eventually requiring labrum surgery. Apparently his unconventional approach to rehab really irritated the Mariners, who waived him in October after determining he likely wouldn't pitch for them again. The Royals smartly took a flyer here, and while Madritsch may miss most of 2006, his skills give him a chance to succeed in almost any role once he recovers, making him a marginally intriguing sleeper in extremely deep AL leagues.

D.J. Carrasco604.791.574951129114.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-2-210.510.5

The former Rule 5 pick unexpectedly returned to starting after a couple years in the bullpen and unsurprisingly suffered further erosion of his poor command. Carrasco requires superb infield defense to succeed, which simply left him a bad fit in Kansas City. The SoftBank Hawks in Japan purchased his contract from the Royals, so hopefully this somewhat unconventional path will leave Carrasco better positioned to succeed once he returns stateside in a year or two.

Gil Meche1005.091.578372153143.1
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-2-17.87.8

Another round of physical problems limited Meche's effectiveness even when theoretically healthy. His command dropped for the second straight season, leading to a career-worst ERA and little chance of experiencing a significant rebound any time soon. However, he only turned 27 in September and still owns a decent skill set, so if Seattle ever realizes Meche belongs in the bullpen, his stock could skyrocket very quickly. Consider him an endgame flyer in the rotation and a superb Dollar Days' choice of the Mariners wisely turn to one of a half-dozen superior options for their fifth starter's slot.

Denny Bautista205.801.4923173635.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 25P:R    B:R-2-3-1.2-1.2

Go write down Bautista's name wherever you keep your list of non-rookie reserve round options. The Royals badly blew a chance to immediately capitalize on one of the most lopsided trades this decade by pushing Bautista to the majors far too quickly, repeating Baltimore's mistake from 2004 that led to his move to Kansas City. He opened the year in the rotation, pitcher rather poorly in seven starts, and then spent the rest of the year alternating between AAA and extended stints on the DL due to right shoulder tendonitis. Of course, Bautista belonged in the upper minors at the beginning of 2005, and if he avoids further injury, he owns the skill history necessary to emerge as a middle-of-the-rotation option. Definitely look to roster him in almost any relatively deep league.

Ted Lilly1005.561.539658135126.1
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:L    B:L-21-0.4-0.4

Shoulder and then biceps problems led to two DL stints that again left Lilly a major disappointment to the Jays. He only pitched particularly well in July, but considering he turned thirty in January, continues to improve his ground-fly rate, and still can dominate hitters when healthy, Lilly really just needs to avoid injury to reemerge as a quality starting option. I fully expect the improved Toronto offense will result in a career-high win total even while his ERA heads nicely below his 4.67 norm.

Ricardo Rodriguez205.531.4724176757
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-2-300

Rarely will a pitcher move from Texas into an even worse park for pitchers, but the swap of Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez tosses the latter into CB Park in Philly, which simply does not place him in an environment particularly conducive to a breakout for any hurler. Rodriguez's shoulder problems and declining dominance similarly suggest far too much downside here for anyone to consider Rodriguez as more than a reserve-round flyer. Even a potential move to the bullpen shouldn't translate into fantasy success for this somewhat fading former prospect.

Joe Saunders007.711.5044109.1
LA Angels4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-2-2-2.5-2.5

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Los Angeles(A) for my comments on Saunders.

Wade Miller404.951.5764479691
BOS Red Sox4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-2-26.66.6

Rehabbing a frayed rotator cuff didn't prevent Miller from joining the Red Sox in early May. He pitched reasonably well for three months before missing August and September with biceps tendonitis. Labrum surgery at the conclusion of the regular season again should shelve Miller during April, but his new deal with the Cubs provides an excellent opportunity for him to emerge as an impact pitcher in some capacity. Absolutely target him in any league where you can grab him for a couple of bucks during the endgame.

Brian J. Anderson106.751.401743930.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:L    B:R-2-3-4.6-4.6

I know I can think of worse mutual decisions than a contract that places one of baseball's most homer-prone pitchers into one of the league's most homer-friendly parks, but nothing about Anderson's deal with Texas offers any real upside for him, the Rangers, or any fantasy owners. Given his Tommy John surgery in July and recent ineffectiveness even when healthy, absolutely do not risk rostering Anderson in any league this summer.

Justin Verlander007.151.76751511.1
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-3-3-2.3-2.3

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Detroit for my comments on Verlander.

Dustin McGowan106.351.4634174945.1
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 23P:R    B:R-3-3-4.6-4.6

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Toronto for my comments on McGowan.

John Maine206.301.5824243940
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-3-3-3.8-3.8

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Baltimore for my comments on Maine.

Ryan Glynn006.881.821572417
OAK Athletics4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:R    B:R-3-4-2.8-2.8

Sold from Toronto to Oakland after a highly unimpressive six weeks in Syracuse, Glynn managed a 2.78 ERA on a 54:23 K:BB in 55 IP over 11 GS with 46 H and 4 HR for AAA Sacramento(PCL). Of course, he once again flopped in the majors, and given all the benefits of pitching for the Athletics, Glynn's minor league deal with Minnesota simply doesn't provide him sufficient upside to warrant a roster spot in any league.

John Webb0018.002.502464
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 26P:R    B:R-3-4-6.2-6.2

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on Webb.

Runelvys Hernandez805.521.528870172159.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-3-20.10.1

I completely failed to understand the fascination with Hernandez last spring. Yes, he appeared recovered after missing all of 2004, but he never owned great skills before needing Tommy John surgery. Nothing in Hernandez's skill set suggests he deserves the rotation slot handed to him for the second straight season, especially after an injury-plagued second half that resulted in a 7.69 ERA on a 23:19 K:BB in 50.1 IP with 61 H and 10 HR. I find no reason to believe we'll see anything more from Hernandez than slight improvement in his qualitative stats, so please let your competitors waste their money on someone whose only fantasy virtue involves owning one of the coolest names in the game.

Hayden Penn306.341.7518214638.1
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 20P:R    B:R-3-4-3.8-3.8

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Baltimore for my comments on Penn.

AL Starting Pitcher Week concludes tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: The only veterans I feel comfortable recommending today look like Carl Pavano, Ted Lilly, and Wade Miller, and each of those endorsements comes with significant injury-induced caveats. Taking a chance on either of the top prospects listed likely will provide a better return, as might investments in less-hyped rookies like McGowan, Maine, and Penn.

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