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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:
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.

58.  Tim CorcoranTB Devil RaysAge: 28P:R   B:R

Almost always an effective reliever in the minors despite questionable control, Corcoran unsurprisingly struggled when promoted in 2005. Removed from the 40-man roster for Ruddy Lugo at the end of spring training last year, he quickly compiled a 1.91 ERA on a 32:9 K:BB in 37.2 IP with 30 H and 2 HR over 3 GS(19G) for AAA Durham(IL), earning another shot with the Rays in June, an opportunity that quickly morphed from a late-inning role to a starting job when Seth McClung headed to the minors to begin closing. Corcoran remained Tampa's fifth starter the rest of the year, and although his lack of dominance left him little upside, he also pitched pretty respectably given his mediocre skill set. A likely return to the bullpen could result in even better numbers, however due to his lack of upside, Corcoran really fits best as no more than roster filler on any reasonably competitive team.

59.  David WellsBOS/SDAge: 43P:L   B:L

San Diego's promise of $3M guaranteed cash and another $4M of incentives kept the portly left-hander in a major league uniform for another season. While Wells turns 44 in May, he still possesses remarkably control and should continue succeeding following his return to the Padres, who reacquired him in August from the Red Sox for George Kottaras in a seemingly lopsided but understandable deal that helped spur San Diego into the playoffs. I don't expect a recurrence of the bruised knee that sidelined him for most of last summer, but given his age and physique, expecting more than maybe twenty starts from Wells isn't reasonable. Keep your bids mostly in the $6-8 range, though if you field a deep reserve squad, pushing a little higher makes sense since you can roster and then deploy viable alternatives when Wells spends his inevitable stint on the DL.

60.  Robinson TejedaTEX RangersAge: 24P:R   B:R

Acquired from Philadelphia at the end of camp last year with Jake Blalock for David Dellucci, Tejeda spent a month in late spring in the rotation with absolutely no success. However, he fared far better at AAA Oklahoma City(PCL), where he managed a 3.15 ERA on a 79:42 K:BB in 80 IP over 15 GS that earned him another shot with the Rangers in August. Tejeda's final second-half numbers featured a sterling 2.32 ERA on a 25:15 K:BB in 54.1 IP over 9 GS, which makes him the significant favorite for the #4 slot in the Rangers' rotation this year. Unfortunately, between Tejeda's limited dominance and gopherball tendency, he appears unlikely to echo those stats in 2007, so don't even bid a buck unless you can reserve him at your leisure for extended periods of the season.

61.  Darrell RasnerNY YankeesAge: 25P:R   B:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: New York(A) for my comments on Rasner.

62.  Adam EatonTEX RangersAge: 28P:R   B:R

Reported as the key player in the deal that also brought Akinori Ostuka and Ben Killian to Texas while dispatching Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, and Terrmel Sledge to San Diego, Eaton started just 13 games for the Rangers before signing with the Phillies, his initial organization, for a three-year, $24M contract that didn't even provide any draft compensation for Texas. Of course, Eaton lacks skills necessary to replicate his Padres' numbers in Philadelphia, but moving from Ameriquest to CB Park at least places him in a marginally friendlier environment. He also should enter camp fully recovered from the torn hand tendon he suffered last spring, so although I don't view Eaton as someone to target, bidding a few bucks isn't a bad idea due to the respectable chance he'll hit double digits in wins.

63.  Devern HansackBOS Red SoxAge: 28P:R   B:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Boston for my comments on Hansack.

64.  Jon LesterBOS Red SoxAge: 22P:L   B:L

Kept over Anibal Sanchez last winter when the Red Sox dealt for Josh Beckett, Lester opened the year with a respectable two months at AAA Pawtucket(IL), where he posted a 2.70 ERA on a 43:25 K:BB in 46.2 IP with 43 H and 5 HR over 11 GS. He reached Boston in June, pitched effectively yet never dominated during nearly three months with the Red Sox, and then suffered a strained back in a car accident in late August. While on the DL, doctors diagnosed Lester with lymphoma, and he spent the next few months undergoing chemotherapy, which apparently sent the cancer into remission. Current reports suggest he otherwise appears in good health, though after the club acquired Daisuke Matsuzaka this winter and shifted Jon Papelbon to the rotation, Lester almost certainly will return to Pawtucket until a rotation spot opens in Boston. Treat him as if Lester spent 2006 in Triple-A and remains a rookie with no job guarantee, making him a high reserve round pick in general and an end-round gamble in leagues with looser rules on draft eligibility.

65.  Kason GabbardBOS Red SoxAge: 24P:L   B:L

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Boston for my comments on Gabbard.

66.  Scott ElartonKC RoyalsAge: 30P:R   B:R

Rather than remain in Cleveland, the only played where he found any extended big league success to date, Elarton opted for the two-year deal for $8M offered by Kansas City. He unsurprisingly collapsed in the tougher environment as a career-worst groundball rate led to a terrible 2.0 HR/9, and a 3.9 K/9 also clearly didn't help. A partially torn rotator cuff ended his season right after the All-Star break, and that surgery should sideline him until at least this June. Of course, given his weak skills and the limited support provided by the Royals, Elarton won't merit any fantasy consideration until he demonstrates some ability to post positive value in 2007.

67.  Ryan FeierabendSEA MarinersAge: 21P:L   B:L

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Seattle for my comments on Feierabend.

68.  Casey FossumTB Devil RaysAge: 28P:L   B:L

Seemingly poised for a breakout year after signing a two-year contract last spring, Fossum struggled through April, suffered a groin strain that required a short DL stint in May, only pitched well in June due to great defensive support, and then finally managed a 35:12 K:BB in 30 IP over 6 July starts. Of course, that improved command only resulted in a 4.50 ERA, and he quickly backtracked to a terrible 7.59 ERA in August, courtesy of a 24:16 K:BB in 21.1 IP over 5 GS. A sore shoulder shut him down at the end of the month, which quickly led to surgery to repair a frayed labrum and rotator cuff. He enters camp as Tampa's likely third starter, though despite the upside inherent in his respectable strikeout rate, Fossum only will remain in the Rays' rotation until one of the club's prospects supplants him. Don't be surprised if also heads elsewhere by the trade deadline, though since his potential still intrigues me, consider spending a few bucks on Fossum if he lasts to the latter rounds of your draft.

69.  Adam LoewenBAL OriolesAge: 22P:L   B:L

Never having pitched above A-ball prior to last season, the fourth player selected in the 2002 draft opened at AA Bowie(EL), where registered a 4-2 record and a 2.72 ERA on a 55:26 K:BB in 49.2 IP before a promotion to Baltimore in mid-May. After a couple of relief appearances, Loewen moved into the rotation in June, whereupon he compiled an ungodly 6.66 ERA on an 18:18 K:BB in 25.2 IP over 5 starts. A two-week stint at AAA Ottawa(IL) at the end of the first half convinced the Orioles he deserved another chance, a reasonable assumption given he managed a 1.27 ERA on a 21:3 K:BB in 21.1 IP over 3 GS in Triple-A. Loewen looked much better in the second half, registering a 4.72 ERA on a 73:41 K:BB in 82 IP over 14 GS(15G) with 76 H and 4 HR allowed over the balance of the year, a performance that effectively secures him at least the fourth starter's job this year. Despite his lack of upper-level experience, between Loewen's overall dominance and his 1.53 G-F, I don't see significant downside here. I won't recommend treating him as a particularly strong single-season investment, generally looking at him around $5, but pushing a few bucks higher in keeper leagues appears justified by his long-term fantasy potential

70.  John WasdinTEX RangersAge: 34P:R   B:R

The 34-year-old journeyman returned to the Rangers for a third straight season, splitting the first four months of 2006 between Texas and AAA Oklahoma(PCL), where Wasdin posted a 2.00 ERA on a 62:17 K:BB in 63 IP over 9 GS(13G). However, his failure to remain successful as a swingman in the majors resulted in his release at the trade deadline, and Wasdin still hasn't found a team for this year. Despite a perfectly respectable skill set and significant potential if employed as no more than a middle reliever, he appears unlikely to find the niche he needs to carry his minor league effectiveness into The Show. Don't risk rostering Wasdin anywhere unless he first compiles several solid outings this summer.

71.  Bartolo ColonLA AngelsAge: 33P:R   B:R

Apparently stealing the 2005 Cy Young award from Johan Santana cost Colon far too much karma as he spent last winter dealing with back and shoulder issues yet still pitched in the WBC. Shoulder inflammation forced him to the DL in mid-April, keeping him out of action for two months, and although he looked pretty good in seven summer starts, a partial rotator cuff tear sent him back to the DL for the rest of the year. As Colon still qualifies as an ace when healthy, he looks like a massive potential bargain this spring. Yes, he could hit the DL at any time, but if you can grab him under $10, take the chance that Colon returns to his previous level of success as a pending free agent pitching for a new contract in 2007.

72.  John KoronkaTEX RangersAge: 26P:L   B:L

Stolen from the Cubs at the of camp last year for Freddie Bynum, Koronka surprisingly remained in the Rangers' rotation until August, although a complete collapse in the second half kept him from even returning to the majors after roster expansion. While Texas correctly kept him on the 40-man roster, Koronka's general lack of upside leaves him as no more than a tertiary option for the fifth starter's job this spring. Right now Koronka appears little more than a respectable AAAA pitcher, and although he could develop into an inning eater over the next few years, he doesn't merit any fantasy consideration at this time.

73.  Shaun MarcumTOR Blue JaysAge: 24P:R   B:R

Probably the most impressive of all the young pitchers tried in Toronto's rotation last year, he posted a 3.42 ERA on a 60:9 K:BB in 52.2 IP over 4 GS(18G) for AAA Syracuse(IL) to earn two separate stints with the Jays. Although he struggled rather badly in relief in the spring, he blossomed after given a shot to start in the second half, registering a respectable 4.72 ERA on a 54:28 K:BB in 69.2 IP with 73 H and 13 HR allowed over 14 GS. While not spectacular numbers in any way, Marcum enters camp as the club's sixth starter, and if any of the five injury-prone pitchers slated for the rotation visits the DL, he could spend most of 2007 continuing to develop in the majors. Spending an end-round pick on Marcum could pay surprising dividends, but I also advise against rostering him in leagues where you can't reserve him as needed. I don't expect to see him accumulating significant fantasy value until he finds a home park more amenable to pitchers a few years down the line

74.  J.P. HowellTB Devil RaysAge: 23P:L   B:L

Added to the Rays' reservoir of young pitchers in June for Joey Gathright and Fernando Cortez in Dayton Moore's first deal as the Royals' GM, Howell seemingly blossomed in Tampa, registering an impressive 2.62 ERA on a 49:15 K:BB in 55 IP over 10 GS for AAA Durham(IL) after posting a more pedestrian 4.75 ERA on a 33:14 K:BB in 36 IP over 8 GS for AAA Omaha(PCL) during the spring. He spent the last six weeks of the season strongly echoing those stats in the Rays' rotation, and if the club's defense improves, he could see his ERA plummet toward 4.00. Although Howell enters camp competing against four other pitchers for the fifth starter's job, he appears more prepared to succeed in the majors than anyone save perhaps Jason Hammel, making Howell virtually certain to spend the majority of the summer in Tampa. With a combination of high strikeout and groundball rates giving him both plenty of long-term potential and surprisingly strong short-term upside, spend the extra dollar to acquire the undervalued southpaw in all AL leagues.

75.  Brian StokesTB Devil RaysAge: 27P:R   B:R

Please refer to our Post-2006 Prospect Review: Tampa Bay for my comments on Stokes.

76.  Jeff WeaverLAA/STLAge: 30P:R   B:R

While Weaver likely erred in departing St. Louis for a one-year deal with Seattle, moving to the second best pitchers' park in the majors should prevent a repeat of his disastrous 2006, which therefore should insure a massive payday next winter. I attribute most of his problems to the pressure in Los Angeles of essentially competing against his brother for a single rotation slot. He won't face any significant expectations in Seattle, where the club desperately needs someone to pitch 200 innings of league-average ball. I believe Weaver can exceed those minimal hopes, making him a good gamble just about anywhere under $10.

77.  Ty TaubenheimTOR Blue JaysAge: 23P:R   B:R

Acquired with Lyle Overbay in a deal that cost the Jays David Bush, Gabe Gross, and Zach Jackson, Taubenheim unexpectedly found himself in Toronto's rotation by May after only starting eleven games above A-ball prior to 2006. He didn't impress as a starter, slipped into long relief after six weeks of work, and then returned to the minors in the second half after a staph infection allowed other pitchers to assume his role. However, Taubenheim also managed a 2.85 ERA on a 48:18 K:BB in 75.2 IP over 14 GS(18G) for AAA Syracuse(IL), suggesting that he should develop into a decent big leaguer in some capacity. He just looks unlikely to find much success with the Jays this summer.

78.  Mark RedmanKC RoyalsAge: 32P:L   B:L

One of the worst All-Star selections in history last summer, Redman at least provided some stability to the Royals' rotation once he returned from minor knee surgery that sidelined him the first two weeks of the season. However, Dayton Moore's inability to deal Redman to a contender cost the pending free agent needed exposure, likely leading to his shocking failure to find a job this winter. Perhaps Redman's trek to six different franchises in the last six years illustrates why he didn't accept any offers during the off-season, but if he hasn't signed with a pitching-desperate club like Washington, Houston, or even St. Louis by now, Redman likely won't return to positive fantasy value in 2007. Exercise extreme caution when considering him for your team once he inevitably signs and then appears on your free agent list, only initially offering even a buck or two if Redman lands in a good pitchers' park.

AL Starting Pitcher Week continues tomorrow.

Today's Fantasy Rx: With even most of the high-upside youngsters discussed above likely to post a weak WHIP when pitching in the majors this summer, don't count on any of these guys as more than your third or fourth starter. However, both Jeff Weaver and Bartolo Colon for anything around $10 or less, and David Wells also remains an intriguing option for a few bucks less. If interested in obtaining a long-term keeper, eschew the higher-profile prospects like Loewen and the Red Sox, instead targeting J.P. Howell as one of the safest investments among the less-experienced potential starters for 2007.

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