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NL Starters: Day Seven
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

National 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.

Gavin Floyd1010.041.7717163026
PHI Phillies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 22P:R    B:R-5-5-15.7-15.7

Rated among baseball's top rookie pitchers entering the season, Floyd lasted all of two starts before moving to the bullpen, where he held out for only two more appearances before returning to the minors until September, just barely blowing his rookie status in two final starts. Somewhat disturbingly, he failed to build on his solid 2004 campaign at AA Reading, compiling a 6-9 record and 6.16 ERA on a 97:66 K:BB in 137.1 IP with 155 H, 11 HR, and a 1.40 G-F for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre(IL). While the signing of Ryan Franklin does not automatically mean that Floyd will spend another year in the minors, he apparently slots behind both Rob Tejada and Ricardo Rodriguez, forget about the five likely rotation members. Fortunately, Floyd just turned 23 in January, so while he may continue stumbling this summer, his future remains very bright, easily worthy of a reserve-round gamble if he slips in your draft.

Jamey Wright805.461.6510181201171.1
COL Rockies4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:R    B:R-5-4-6.8-6.8

Wright possessed poor skills during his tours with the Rockies, Brewers, Cardinals, and Royals, so expect continued uselessness in 2006 despite his move to San Francisco. He possibly could help from the bullpen, but until we see him register several successful outings in relief, absolutely avoid Wright in all your fantasy leagues.

Paul Wilson107.771.8330176846.1
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 32P:R    B:R-6-6-15-15

Re-signed to an insane two-year, $8.2M deal prior to last year despite spending most of the previous two seasons near replacement level, Wilson lasted just nine terrible starts before requiring surgery to repair his second torn labrum in the past decade. While he should return fairly early in 2006, Wilson hopefully will head to the bullpen given the presence of a half-dozen superior starting options. I do not consider him someone likely to deserve a regular rotation slot on any team in most standard leagues, so do not spend more than a reserve pick on Wilson even when looking to add innings in the endgame.

Kirk Rueter205.951.662547131107.1
SF Giants4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 34P:L    B:L-6-6-10.8-10.8

San Francisco rewarded Rueter's near decade of mostly mediocre yet surprisingly effective service by releasing him in August shortly after he hit the DL for gout. Even if he unexpectedly receives a late NRI, Rueter owns a 122:160 K:BB in 444.2 IP over the past three seasons, providing ample reason to ignore the veteran regardless of his future franchise or role. Rueter's qualitative stats alone prevent any stat-savvy owner from drafting him.

Joe Kennedy806.011.689764192152.2
Age: 26P:L    B:R-7-5-16.4-16.4

Oakland acquired Kennedy with Jay Witasick for Eric Byrnes and Omar Quintanilla over the All-Star break. He demonstrated decent skills in eight starts despite a high ERA and then watched his skills droop as a reliever while somehow finishing with a 3.00 ERA in eleven innings out of the bullpen. I thoroughly suspect Kennedy will manage a couple bucks of positive value as Oakland's lefty reliever this summer, especially since he almost certainly will not see more than a couple of starts. However, due to his significant skill fluctuations and limited experience in his new role, I cannot recommend him as more than roster filler until we see him string together several strong outings this spring.

Tim Redding0010.571.9919174430.2
Age: 27P:R    B:R-7-7-20.5-20.5

Shoulder problems limited Redding's effectiveness with the Padres, leading to his inclusion with Darrell May in their early July trade for Paul Quantrill. He spent all of one game with the Yankees, instead compiling a 5.08 ERA on a 47:13 K:BB in 51.1 IP over 10 GS for AAA Columbus(IL). Signing with the White Sox could give Redding another shot in the majors given the club's surprisingly shallow pitching depth beyond the expected eleven-man big league staff, but I see no reason to risk rostering Redding until his command improves.

Eric Milton806.471.5512352237186.1
CIN Reds4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 30P:L    B:L-8-5-30.6-30.6

Merely the second-worst free agent signing of last winter only due to Dan O'Brien's decision to merely offer $24M for three years rather than $32M for four, Milton moved his .60 career ground-fly rate into the GAB and watched his homer rate somehow merely increase from 1.925 to 1.932 HR/9. The real devastation occurred courtesy of a hit rate explosion from 8.8 to 11.5 H/9. Many of those extra baserunners headed home on those forty roundtrippers, pushing his ERA to a level truly terrifying for any roto owner. Milton almost certainly will improve this year, but considering he never owned a great ERA in a first place, even an average WHIP and a dozen wins do not warrant much more than a couple of bucks in the endgame. Skipping him completely is the safer course considering the dramatic downside he demonstrated last summer.

Al Leiter706.131.779798154142.1
Age: 39P:L    B:L-8-7-17.4-17.4

A half-decade of declining command finally resulted in Leiter's ERA almost doubling. He perhaps single-handedly cost the Marlins a playoff berth with his atrocious 6.64 first-half ERA and then nearly wrecked the Yankees in a similar fashion with his 5.49 ERA over 14 GS(16G) in the American League. While he returns to New York on a minor league deal, ostensibly to join the bullpen, he does not belong in a bullpen already featuring Mike Myers and Ron Villone. I suspect the part-time broadcaster will not see many more big league innings before hanging up his spikes.

Russ Ortiz506.891.844665147115
ARI Diamondbacks4x45x5RARAdj. RAR
Age: 31P:R    B:R-10-9-24.8-24.8

As the recipient of what looked like the year's worst free agent deal the moment departing GM Joe Garagiola completed the contract, Ortiz rewarded Arizona with a 5.88 ERA in 78 first-half innings before missing several weeks with a broken rib. He returned just in time to start eight more games, posting an unbelievable 9.00 ERA in those thirty-seven innings. Even if Ortiz improves to the point where he merely owns poor command instead of the atrocious 0.7 K:BB he offered last year, his consistently bad WHIP minimizes his fantasy value in any standard league. I see no reason to risk your team's competitiveness in both qualitative categories just to add about ten wins. Do not draft Russ Ortiz in 2006.

American League Reliever Reviews begin tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: Pitchers normally finish a season with roto values ranging from $-5 to $-10 due to a combination of awful luck and bad skills. Two of today's pitchers moved from established roles to the edge of retirement within a season, and most of the rest appear in severe danger of remaining near this level indefinitely. Only Kennedy and possibly Floyd possess any significant chance of helping your fantasy team this summer, and until we see them pitch effectively during the year, do not risk deploying even this comparatively safe duo in your lineup.

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