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February
14th
2007
Your Daily Fantasy Rx
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AL Starters: Day Three
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

American League Starting Pitchers with Positive Draft Value

Quick Key to the tables:
P = Pitches.  B = Bats.  Age = Player's Age as of October 1, 2006.
Proj. = Rotohelp's projected 2006 stats and fantasy values for each player.
2006 = Each player's final 2006 stat line and fantasy values.
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.  
4x4 = BA, HR, RBI, and SB in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
5x5 = BA, HR, RBI, SB, and R in 12-team, $260 leagues with 23-man rosters.
RAR = Runs Above Replacement; aRAR = RAR adjusted 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.


34.  Brad RadkeMIN TwinsAge: 33P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1403.881.1710722201190151533.933.9
20061204.321.418332197162.16629.929.9

Facing labrum surgery that would prevent the 34-year-old from pitching for much of 2007, Radke retired after a dozen seasons as the Twins' most reliable player. He only pitched fewer than 200 innings once from 1996 through 2005, and despite only making a single All-Star team, he leaves the game with the thirty-second best walk rate and seventeenth best strikeout-to-walk rate in baseball history. While also not a Hall of Famer by any measure, Radke also ranks fourth in club history in wins, fifth in strikeout and total innings, and seventh in games pitched, a deserving franchise bridge between the Kirby Puckett and Joe Mauer eras of Minnesota baseball.


35.  Jeremy SowersCLE IndiansAge: 23P:L   B:L
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.104.501.20621010-1-211
2006703.571.1935208588.16524.624.6

Selected sixth overall in 2004, Sowers started thirteen games for both A+ Kinston and AA Akron in 2005. He spent the first half of 2006 at AAA Buffalo(IL), where he compiled a 9-1 record and a 1.39 ERA on a 54:29 K:BB in 97.1 IP with 78 H and 1 HR allowed over 15 GS. Promoted in June, Sowers looked solid but never dominating, contributing for a little over three months until the Indians shut him down in mid-September due to obvious workload concerns. Pitched with a 3.6 K/9 rarely interest me, however with impressive control and a 1.54 G-F that minimizes his downside, Sowers certainly appears capable of emerging as one of successful soft-tossing southpaws in the majors. Yet limited strikeouts often means limited upside, so certainly don't bid into double digits for someone capable of struggling if the Indians' remolded defense doesn't jell.


36.  Gil MecheSEA MarinersAge: 28P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.704.351.3979521151202314.514.5
20061104.481.4315684183186.25730.830.8

No team spent more money more foolishly this winter than the Royals, who gave Meche $55M over the next five seasons despite the minor fact that he never emerged as more than the Mariners' fourth starter during his years in Seattle. His skills actually appear fairly comparable to Royals' #2 starter Odalis Perez, except Perez owns a far superior track record. Meche only exceeded 145 innings twice in his career, never managed a strikeout rate over 7.0 nor a ground-fly rate over 1.00 until 2006, and now moves from the best AL pitchers' park in 2006 to the worst. Given that he also slumped to a 5.42 ERA in the second half, Meche's contract already rivals the Chan Ho Park and Russ Ortiz deals for the worst allocation of pitching resources in baseball history in the non-Darren Dreifort category of nominally healthy pitchers. The five bucks Meche earned last summer seems a reasonable ceiling for bid in most leagues, though avoid him and all Royals entirely if net wins is one of your categories.


37.  Jarrod WashburnSEA MarinersAge: 32P:L   B:L
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1104.051.2997511811809928.428.4
2006804.671.35103551981875626.626.6

With three new starters and a 20-year-old wunderkind joining Washburn in Seattle's rotation, the 32-year-old southpaw ranks as the true veteran on the pitching staff. Although he saw an ERA spike in the first season of his four-year deal with the Mariners, Washburn remains a fairly reliable soft-tosser who appears likely to post better numbers as the young position players on the club gain experience in the field. He relies upon excellent defense for much of his value, and given his stable skill set, I won't be surprised if simply better luck pushes Washburn back toward $10, though bidding past that level looks like a bad idea in standard leagues due to his limited upside.


38.  Boof BonserMIN TwinsAge: 24P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.104.801.471361615-1-211
2006704.221.288424104100.14519.919.9

With only Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, and Ramon Ortiz promised rotation slots, Bonser still easily leads the pack of youngsters and retreads vying for starting jobs in the Twin Cities. The third player netted by Minnesota in the A.J. Pierzynski deal, Bonser, with nothing left to prove in the minors after compiling a 2.81 ERA on an 83:35 K:BB in 86.1 IP over 14 GS for AAA Rochester(IL) last spring, just might emerge as the most valuable player from that trade on the 2007 Twins. He excelled down the stretch, registering a 3.62 ERA on a 57:12 K:B in 64.2 IP over eleven second-half starts, and if he cuts his homer rate, Bonser could reach 200 innings with an ERA under 4.00. I consider him more likely to finish the season as Minnesota's #2 starter than to return to Rochester, so budget about $9 for Boof and hope to grab him for half that price.


39.  Kris BensonBAL OriolesAge: 31P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1104.101.2897541771809927.327.3
20061104.821.4088581991834522.622.6

Benson's trade to the Orioles saved the Mets $16M while netting them a comparable pitcher in John Maine, though his departure from the Big Apple created plenty of problems for the veteran as Kris and Anna nearly divorced last spring. However, he overcame the distractions to pitch decently in April and June, only truly slumping after the All-Star break after elbow tendonitis decreased his effectiveness. He finished his first American League campaign with the worst strikeout and strikeout-to-walk rates of his career, which gave us little reason to expect any significant rebound even before Monday's announcement that he'll require surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff that will sideline him for the year. Benson only belongs on your draft list in established AL keeper leagues where you can grab him at a $1 and look to deal him to the first team that rebuilds.


40.  Tim WakefieldBOS Red SoxAge: 40P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1304.201.33101651741808825.125.1
2006704.631.3390511351404420.620.6

With a perpetually renewable contract for a very reasonable $4M, Wakefield faces no penalty for slipping to 140 innings for the first time since millennium. A fractured rib sidelined him for all save five starts in the second half, and with his skills also headed south, he appears at risk of falling out of Boston's rotation once Jon Lester returns to full strength. For now, Wakefield remains no more than a decent late-round option to bolster your innings, adding perhaps ten wins but dragging your qualitative stats closer to the league mean.


41.  Mark HendricksonTB/LADAge: 25P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.705.271.497033176140-3-211
2006604.211.439962173164.24532.732.7

The 6'9" former NBA journeyman appeared headed for the best season of his fairly young baseball career when the Rays packaged him with Toby Hall to the Dodgers in late June for Dioner Navarro and Toby Hall. While he appeared past the shoulder tightness that forced a brief DL trip in April, Hendrickson never seemed comfortable in the National League. His hit rate surprisingly skyrocketed, leading to a higher walk rate and a 4.68 ERA with Los Angeles. I still see hints of long-term potential here, but considering his success as a middle reliever, the Dodgers appears unlikely to let Hendrickson see much time as a starter in 2007, especially with Chad Billingsley, Brett Tomko, and Hong-chih Kuo just three of the pitchers ahead of him on the rotation depth chart. You generally just should consider Hendrickson when seeking any decent arms with upside during Dollar Days.


42.  Esteban LoaizaOAK AthleticsAge: 34P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1603.981.2612745195190121331.731.7
20061104.891.429740179154.23417.817.8

Signing a year early as Barry Zito's effective replacement to a $21M/3 deal that looks increasingly reasonable with every free agent signing, Loaiza significantly slumped in his return to the American League. His skill set slipped across the board as he faired very poorly on the road, though after spending the first half suffering from a strained shoulder muscle likely resulting from his participation the WBC, Loaiza managed a perfectly respectable 4.01 ERA on a 72:19 K:BB in 98.2 IP over 16 second-half starts. He enters 2007 as Oakland's #3 starter, and unless the defense collapses, Loaiza should blow vault back to double-digit value. Consider him a solid choice as your third or fourth starter in all AL leagues and a perfectly capable back-of-the-rotation option in mixed leagues.


43.  Joe BlantonOAK AthleticsAge: 25P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1503.841.251096117719013133535
20061604.821.5410758241194.13524.124.1

The sole returning Athletics' starter still pitching for a long-term deal, Blanton pitched in September down the stretch that he spent the playoffs in the bullpen. However, while his respective 5.2 and 5.0 K/9 rates over the past two seasons bode ill for his long-term success, the 1.29-point ERA increase he suffered in 2006 stems directly from a hit rate that shot from 8.0 to 11.2 H/9. With my full expectation that Blanton's hit rate will trend at least as low as 10.0 H/9, any ERA above 4.25 in 2007 would surprise me. He seems a very safe investment, comfortably worth the roughly $10 he should cost in most leagues as Oakland's somewhat underrated fourth starter.


44.  Mark BuehrleCH White SoxAge: 27P:L   B:L
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.1603.761.1713441229230191944.644.6
20061204.991.459848247204342121

With the White Sox publicly refusing to pay the current free agent rates to keep Buehrle in Chicago, his departure appears a foregone conclusion, most likely to one of the franchises in his home state of Missouri. Despite his seven seasons of service to the franchise, the Sox even might deal the veteran during the season if a club like the Cardinals or Mets offers a couple of young pitchers in return. Conversely, a return to form from Buehrle, a scenario I consider quite likely considering an All-Star campaign from the veteran southpaw could result in a Zitoesque contract, should keep Chicago in contention all year long, cementing his place in the Cell for all of 2007. With no injury apparently responsible for his second-half implosion, you should expect nothing less than a full-season echo of his 4.02 ERA from the first half of last season. Given his pervious success, even a surge down to a 3.50 ERA seems perfectly reasonable. Landing Buehrle anywhere around $12 offers you a great chance for seeing several bucks of profit on one of the most consistent starters in the game.


45.  Jaret WrightNY YankeesAge: 30P:R   B:R
WSERAWHIPKBBHIP  4x45x5RARaRAR
Proj.605.401.666556110100-6-5-0.9-0.9
20061104.491.528457157140.1342323

As Wright posted the best stats of his career under Leo Mazzone's guidance in Atlanta, his return to Mazzone's tutelage following his trade from the Yankees for Chris Britton makes him a surprising sleeper in his walk year. Wright only turned 31 in December, so a strong 2007 will insure he receives another significant contract. Further improvement appears moderately likely considering he avoided the DL in 2006 and the Orioles rebuilt their bullpen with veterans to relieve the pressure on the club's starters. While I don't expect Wright to exceed 160 innings, we could see his ERA dip toward 4.00 with any luck, making him a solid gamble for a few bucks.


AL Starting Pitcher Week continues tomorrow.


Today's Fantasy Rx: Both Loaiza and Blanton remain good buys, though the real upside here rests with Boof Bonser, Jaret Wright, and Mark Buehrle. This endorsement of Chicago's long-time lefty ace may surprise long-time readers as I've rarely touted him in the past, but after experiencing the worst season of his career, Buehrle appears poised for a rebound that could produce welcome returns from owners willing to bid the extra buck this spring.


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