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AL Starters: Day Six
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.

Doug Waechter505.621.468738191157
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-4-2-1.7-1.7

Two years of awful qualitative stats nearly blot out Waechter's previous success while rising through the Rays' system. He even pitched very solidly in a 2003 cup-of-coffee before collapsing the following year. However, Waechter boosted his ground-fly rate from .53 to a .91 mark, and with his improving control, only another season of limited defensive support should keep him from breaking out. Considering he only turned 25 in January, I still expect him to enjoy an extended run as a big league starter, so don't be afraid to snatch up Waechter for a couple of bucks as your draft winds down.

J.P. Howell306.191.5454397372.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:L    B:L-4-3-5.9-5.9

Just drafted in 2004, Howell shot to the majors as part of the Royals' plan to let every pitcher in the system gain major league service time in 2005. His seemingly extraordinary 1.96 ERA for A+ High Desert(Cal) hid a 48:24 K:BB in 46 IP that doesn't wow me. Although his control improved in a couple of AA outings, Howell's 4.06 ERA on a 29:19 K:BB in 37.2 IP over 7 GS for AAA Omaha(PCL) better illustrates his limited immediate potential. He desperately needs no less than a few more months of seasoning before seeing another outing in Kansas City. Let someone else run the risk of owning Howell this summer.

Joel Pineiro705.621.4810756224189
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 27P:R    B:R-4-2-2.1-2.1

Shoulder problems sidelined Pineiro for a couple weeks in April, yet he demonstrated decent skills throughout much of the year aside from when hit rate spiked in May and July, triggering across-the-board deterioration. Pineiro still managed to improve his walk rate, homer rate, and ground-fly rate, so if his strikeout rate rebounds after a couple seasons of injury troubles, he could reemerge as an excellent value. Although I see no reason to gamble more than a few bucks here, Pineiro remains in an enviable situation and only truly needs good health and good luck to return to double digits.

Jaret Wright506.081.7734328163.2
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:R-4-4-4.3-4.3

The Yankees' probable rotation features Randy, Mussina, Carl Pavano, Chien-Ming Wang, and Shawn Chacon, leaving Wright as no more than a weak contender for more starts. Of course, given his extended injury history and inconsistent control when starting, I thoroughly hope New York gives Wright the chance to develop into a dominant late-inning option. Only offer two bucks if Wright looks reasonably likely to open the year in the bullpen, otherwise avoiding one of the highest-risk players in the game.

Sean Henn0011.122.563111811.1
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:R-5-5-7.8-7.8

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: New York(A) for my comments on Henn.

Aaron Sele605.661.625341147116
SEA Mariners4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 35P:R    B:R-5-4-1.9-1.9

Over the past three seasons Sele owns a meager 157:150 K:BB in 369.2 IP, along with a high homer rate that virtually insures he'll post another ERA over 5.00. I just don't see his shift from the Mariners to the Dodgers providing him with sufficiently improved support to offset his unimpressive skills. We don't plan to own Sele in any league, and neither should you.

Seth McClung706.591.549262106109.1
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:R    B:R-5-3-14.2-14.2

An absolute disaster in the bullpen, McClung regained his confidence in the minors and then managed a 5.66 ERA on a 77:43 K:BB in 91.2 IP over 17 GS with 84 H and 19 HR, acceptable stats for his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Although his homer rate concerns me, McClung's solid strikeout and hit rates suggest plenty of upside. Don't expect any overt leap forward unless he sees several more minor league starts, but he owns the skill foundation necessary to emerge as an impact pitcher within the next few years.

Mark Hendrickson1105.901.558949227178.1
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:L    B:L-5-3-8.2-8.2

Despite the seemingly intrinsic potential of any 6'9" southpaw, Hendrickson's consistently sub-4.5 strikeout rate completely prevents him from dominating hitters. He demands superb defensive support to post acceptable qualitative stats, so although he doesn't fit badly in the Rays' rotation, he also lacks more than marginal fantasy upside. Generally don't bother rostering Hendrickson in most standard leagues.

Ryan Drese705.781.614646162129.1
Age: 29P:R    B:R-5-4-3.9-3.9

Washington stole Drese off waivers from Texas despite his $1.75M salary this year. A torn labrum mercifully ended Drese's 2005 in late August, concluding a season wherein he failed to post an ERA below 5.14 in any month. The complete collapse of his strikeout rate essentially negated his consistently excellent ground-fly rate, so although I see plenty of upside here if his dominance rebounds, Drese won't even belong in the Nationals' rotation until the inevitable injury sidelines Tony Armas. Do not risk more than a reserve-round pick here.

Wil Ledezma207.071.7130246149.2
DET Tigers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 24P:L    B:L-5-5-9.4-9.4

Inconsistency plagues Ledezma more than outright skill limitations, but considering the southpaw only turned 24 last month, he still should develop into a solid starter. Of course, after this performance in Detroit and a 5.29 ERA on a 44:27 K:BB in 51 IP for AAA Toledo(IL), Ledezma appears unlikely to improve his stats to an acceptable level in 2006 barring an abrupt role change. Even gambling on him in a late reserve round doesn't make much sense right now.

Joe Mays605.651.565941203156
MIN Twins4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 29P:R    B:S-5-4-2.4-2.4

Perhaps the second season of pitching after Tommy John surgery will allow Mays to rebound, but with his strikeout rate decreasing in every year of his career, I absolutely don't anticipate Mays pitching better after departing Minnesota for Kansas City. Significant skill deficiencies and very limited upside provide no reason for anyone to bother rostering Mays as anything more than a reserve-round flyer.

Kevin Brown406.501.72501910773.1
NY Yankees4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 40P:R    B:R-6-5-8.8-8.8

With growing back problems rendering Brown effectively useless even when able to pitch, rumors regarding his potential retirement seemingly make more sense with each passing week as we approach spring training. Perhaps Brown could reemerge as a useful reliever, but after starting 476 of his 486 career appearances and still managing an extremely respectable 3.28 ERA and 211-144 record, concluding his twenty-year big league odyssey appears eminently more logical than departing from his long-established role at his age.

Chan Ho Park1205.741.6711380180155.1
Age: 32P:R    B:R-6-3-3.9-3.9

Park quietly returned to double-digit wins for the first time since leaving Los Angeles after the 2001 season. Although he shockingly slipped to worse qualitative stats after departing the Rangers, Park still flashes hints of his former dominance. I refuse to give up on Park as he enters a virtually ideal environment for a contract year push. Anything less than a couple bucks of positive value from Park seems inconceivable to me right now.

Chad Gaudin1013.152.851263113
TOR Blue Jays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-6-6-12.2-12.2

Toronto grabbed Gaudin from Tampa for Kevin Cash, left him in the minors almost all year, and then tossed him to Oakland in December for A-ball outfielder Dustin Majewski. While Gaudin now faces tremendous competition, he also registered a 9-8 record and a 3.35 ERA on a 113:35 K:BB in 150.1 IP with 140 H and 12 HR over 23 GS for AAA Syracuse(IL). Absolutely attempt to add Gaudin whenever he sneaks onto the big league roster this summer.

Edison Volquez0014.212.7611102512.2
TEX Rangers4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-6-6-13.6-13.6

Please refer to our Post-2005 Prospect Review: Texas for my comments on Volquez.

Zack Greinke505.801.5611453233183
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 21P:R    B:R-7-5-6.2-6.2

Thankfully Greinke's ground-fly rate improved from .81 to 1.02, keeping his home run rate relatively low and preventing the young ace from posting a 6.00 ERA in his sophomore season. A defensive collapsed shattered his confidence, propelling his WHIP from 1.17 to a 1.56 mark that nuked his fantasy value. His 5-17 record also seemed inevitable given he received some of the worst support in the majors. However, he compiled a 4.04 ERA with a 58:23 K:BB in 98 IP in April, May, and September, so if we ignore the months where the Royals switched clothes with their Jesters as an aberration in Greinke's otherwise stellar stats to date, we can expect a welcome return to form this summer. I look for as many as a dozen wins, an ERA under 4.50 ERA, and about $10 of overall value as he begins looking like a staff leader.

Sidney Ponson706.211.736848177130.1
BAL Orioles4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 28P:R    B:R-8-7-11-11

Guaranteed almost nothing other than a comparatively negligible million bucks and a chance to win a rotation spot in St. Louis, Ponson appears perfectly positioned to reverse his sagging career. Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, and the Cardinals in general seem to spur veteran pitchers to greatness, and given Ponson's potential, he could blow past $20 without shocking me. Of course, Anthony Reyes possesses more long-term upside, but if you don't object to Ponson's off-field peccadillos, you could snag a giant bargain for a few bucks in most spring drafts.

Hideo Nomo507.241.775951127100.2
TB Devil Rays4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 37P:R    B:R-9-8-21.3-21.3

Nineteen horrendous starts with Tampa preceded seven unimpressive AAA appearances that might conclude Nomo's otherwise solid career. He simply lacks the control necessary to remain effective in the majors, so despite any fond memories of his past success, do not roster Nomo in any league.

Jose Lima506.991.668061219168.2
KC Royals4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 33P:R    B:R-13-10-30.4-30.4

Although Lima landed a useful $2.5M payday with the Royals, departing the Dodgers for baseball's worst team thoroughly sabotaged the second stage of his career. No AL pitcher devastated more fantasy teams than Lima, who merely sent qualitative stats skyrocketing in most leagues while truly destroying the championship aspirations of anyone in leagues with net wins. Even his move to the Mets doesn't provide any assurance of a rebound toward his 2004 numbers, so don't spend even one moment considering him in any league until you see Lima begin succeeding in the majors once again.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Normally pitchers don't turn up in this article without some fundamental skill flaw that prevents him from succeeding in the majors or even possessing any noticeable upside. Of the nineteen starters listed above, only Greinke, Pineiro, Park, Waechter, Ponson, and possibly Wright and Henn merit even Dollar Days bids in any leagues.

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