Friday, March 26, 2010

FANTASY BASEBALL: Hot and cold pitchers

When it comes to drafting pitchers for your fantasy baseball team, there are some Major League Baseball spring performances that can't be ignored.
The key is spring training can reaffirm your confidence in a pitcher but it can also send up some red flags. There are three pitchers who you need to be wary of and three who should continue to be fantasy studs.
The obvious No. 1 red flag is the struggle of starting pitcher Ben Sheets. After being solid with the Milwaukee Brewers the guy has moved on to the Oakland A’s and it hasn’t been pretty.
In his first three spring training starts he posted a 31.15 earned-run average and had only one strikeout. In a game against Cincinnati he faced 10 batters and allowed 10 to score.
Against the Chicago Cubs he went a little better, allowing a run in four innings on three hits and three walks.
Sheets is certainly a sleeper. But at this point do you really want to use a high draft pick on this guy? Probably not.
Next, be wary of Tim Lincecum. He’s the hottest commodity in fantasy baseball drafts these days and typically the first pitcher being drafted. Sure, he’s been a fantasy stud the past two years and he’ll likely be a fantasy stud in years to come. But I have a bad feeling about this guy in 2010.
Sometimes you have to play your hunches and this season I’m rating Roy Halladay, C.C. Sabathia and a few others ahead of Lincecum in my draft cheat sheets.
For the second straight spring training Lincecum has been struggling.
At one point he had a spring training ERA of 18.00. In a 59-pitch performance against Seattle, he went 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on six hits and two walks and struck out four.
Recently against the Cleveland Indians he gave up four runs and four hits in four innings and has an ERA of 9.39.
There are always a lot of highs and lows in sports and I think this could be an off year for Lincecum. I never wish anything bad for any athlete. But throwing as hard as he has the past two seasons I wouldn’t be surprised if he’ll need time off to rest for something injury related.
Another pitcher to worry about is New York Yankee project Joba Chamberlain.
The question these days isn’t whether this guy is a starter or closer. The Yankees answered that question by placing him in the bullpen. The question is can he still pitch?
In two starts Chamberlain has a 27.00 ERA. But we shouldn’t be surprised by this because he struggled the last two months of the regular season in 2009. He had a 6.85 ERA for the month of September and 8.22 ERA in August.
Recently against Cleveland he lowered his ERA to 16.20, allowing one run, two hits and a walk and struck out three in three innings of relief work.
Who knows where Joba will ultimately end up?
Pitchers to key on who are having a decent spring training are actually two fantasy studs and a 2009 dud who could emerge as a huge, huge fantasy baseball come-back player in 2010.
Felix Hernandez and Johan Santana have been solid and Ervin Santana has pitched well enough to indicate a return to form is in the offering.
Hernandez, the No. 1 starter for Seattle and American League Cy Young runner-up in 2009, was spectacular recently against Arizona. He threw five shutout innings, allowed only two hits and struck out two. On March 14 against Colorado, he went 2 2/3 innings and allowed no runs on four hits and two walks and struck out three.
He has the potential to even improve on last season’s 19-win, 217-strikeout performance.
In 2009, Johan Santana had his season cut short in August after needing surgery to clean out bone chips in his left elbow. He ended up 13-9 with only 146 strikeouts.
Despite rough outings his first and third starts this spring training, there is some indication that he could return to the fantasy stud form he produced from 2004-2008 with Minnesota.
What I’m keying on is his second spring training start against Florida. He pitched four scoreless innings and allowed only three hits. He had great control and his slider was working perfectly. He even picked off Bryan Peterson at second base.
This is the Johan Santana we’ve come to know and love in the fantasy baseball world and I think that is the guy we’ll see in the regular season.
The final pitcher is the wild card.
Whether you love Ervin Santana or hate him, and you had to hate his performance in 2009, you can’t take away the solid effort he is giving this spring.
He missed the first five weeks in 2009 with a sprained right elbow and it contributed to Ervin Santana’s dismal 8-8, 107-strikeout performance last season. He ended up with a 5.03 ERA.
A healthy Ervin Santana in 2010 and a great spring indicates he should return to his 2008 form where he went 16-7 with 214 strikeouts.
He has been throwing consistently in the mid 90 mile per hour range as opposed to the high 80s last season.
In three scoreless innings against Kansas City he allowed one hit and struck out five. His curve, changeup and fastball were all working to perfection.
Prior to that start he allowed one hit in two scoreless innings against Texas.
Ervin Santana could be a great steal in the middle rounds of your draft.

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