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2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Starting Pitcher Rankings

March 21, 2012 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Mat Latos heads north to the Cincinnati Reds.
Mat Latos’ adjustment to life outside of Petco will be fascinating to watch.

By Tim McLeod, RotoRob and Buck Davidson

The 2012 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit continues today with the release of another cheat sheet.

So while you wonder if settling the Bernie Madoff victims’ lawsuit will help the Wilpons maintain control of the Mets, let’s review the top 172 (!) Fantasy starting pitcher options for 2012.

Never have so many young starters risen to the top of the draft lists. The young guns include the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Mat Latos and Stephen Strasburg. The options at the top, in the middle, and later — with those late-round gambles — are plentiful.

Some of the more interesting scenarios we should be watching this year include:

  • Can Yu Darvish transition from the Japanese game that he totally dominated over the past five seasons to his new role as ace of the Texas Rangers?
  • Does Gio Gonzalez take that next step with his move to Washington?
  • Is Brandon McCarthy ready to assume the role of staff ace in Oakland?

When formulating your plan of attack for 2012, finding a stud to anchor your rotation is imperative. Leaving your draft with nothing but latter round upside gambles is a recipe for disaster.

Note that we did not include Javier Vazquez in these rankings with the speculation that he planned to retire. However, he hasn’t officially announced his intentions, so if he did plan to pitch this year, he’d rank just inside the top 80.

Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.

1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (1): Two-time Cy Young winner Halladay enjoyed an even better season in his second campaign as a Phillie last year, massively reducing his home run rate while setting a new career best in strikeouts. His walks were up a tad, but not enough to worry about, and he remains among the best control pitchers in the game. To top things off, Halladay enjoyed his lowest ERA ever and he continues to head a rotation that’s the envy of every other big league squad. He’ll be hard pressed to continue to average 20 wins per season as he’s done since getting dealt to Philadelphia, but thanks to his deadly splitter, Halladay remains the best starting pitcher option in Fantasy baseball for 2012.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (5): Kershaw took home the NL Cy Young last year, perhaps largely driven by his unbelievable head to head performance (4-0) against two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. After tossing just one complete game in his first three seasons, Kershaw broke through with five, and while he gave up more homers, he remained quite stingy in that regard. A 21-5 record for a team that was barely over .500? Woah. We love the fact that he was able to get through at-bats quicker while raising his strikeout rate – that’s a very impressive feat. Considered by some to be the next Sandy Koufax, Kershaw will probably be dinged with a few more losses this season, but the fact that he’s refined his slider to the point where it’s his go-to pitch has allowed him to take his game to a whole new level.

3. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (14): Gifted with overpowering stuff, Verlander took home both the Cy Young and MVP after a season for the ages in which he reached 250 strikeouts for the second time and not only put up his first 20-win season, but fell just short of 25 victories. He busted his career best ERA by almost a full run and while his strikeout rate remained dominant in the postseason, his results weren’t nearly as good. Verlander averaged a whopping 115.9 pitches per start, which would be alarming if he weren’t such a beast. Believe it or not, his WAR of 7.0 last year wasn’t actually a career high; that came two years earlier when he had a mark of 8.3. Verlander’s fastball velocity was down slightly last year, but at an average of 95 mph, it remains among the most dominating offerings in the game.

4. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants (3): Lincecum enjoyed a nice bounce back season, doing a superb job of keeping the ball in the yard and reducing his hit rate to help shave almost three-quarters of a run off his 2010 ERA. His strikeout total dipped, but he still enjoyed his fourth straight season of at least 220 Ks as he went over 1,100 for his career in just his fifth season. Lincecum’s strand rate reached career high levels last year, so it’s reasonable to assume his ERA will rise somewhat this season, and he’s probably due to give up a couple more long balls as well. The fact that he spurned a five-year extension and opted for just a two-year deal should keep him motivated as he heads towards a huge free agent payday after the 2013 season.

5. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (2): Most pitchers would hate to face the New York Yankees on a regular basis, but given his results against them (5-1, 2.13 in seven starts over the last three years), perhaps Hernandez should lobby for a transfer to the AL East. Last year, King Felix continued to be a bull capable of going nine often, but his ERA rose 1.2 runs per game from his 2010 Cy Young effort. And on a crappy, punchless Mariner squad, he’s managed to go just one game over .500 in the past two seasons combined after posting a 19-5 mark in 2009. On the plus side, Hernandez’s K/9 rose to career high levels as he narrowly missed averaging a punchout per inning. We’re a little worried that his HR/FB rate has risen in each of the past two seasons, and that’s a trend that will be cause for serious concern should he ever leave the safety of Safeco. Still, if the King’s K rate keeps rising, the rest of his numbers will continue to be sweet.

6. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels (8): Weaver heads a fine rotation that should be even better this season. After leading the majors in strikeouts in 2010, he failed to reach 200 last year, but the improvements in wins, ERA and WHIP were well worth that sacrifice for his owners. Weaver trimmed his homer rate while going deeper into his starts than ever before. His peripherals weren’t substantially different than what he’s done in the past, so Weaver is a prime candidate to see his ERA bounce back over 3.00 this season. That’s still awesome, but if you’re drafting him expecting another sub-2.50 mark, you are going to be disappointed. The .250 BABIP Weaver enjoyed last year is also likely to rise, and that will affect his bottom line numbers.

7. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (9): It’s a bit worrisome that Lee was dealing with an abdominal injury this spring, as that’s a woe that’s sent him to the DL multiple times, but from the sounds of it, it’s a minor issue this time around. He’s coming off his best season yet, shattering his career high in strikeouts while enjoying his first sub-2.50 ERA campaign. However, in his one playoff start last year, Lee was unable to build on his previous postseason brilliance. One of the most popular Phillies, Lee was slightly more vulnerable to the long ball last year, but it’s hardly a serious issue with him. Expect more brilliance from the 33-year-old lefty this season.

8. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees (7): Sabathia opted out of his contract this winter, but the Yanks moved quickly to re-sign him after he enjoyed one of his finest seasons last year. He was more hittable, but compensated by upping his strikeout rate significantly. Sabathia put up his lowest ERA since joining the Yanks, although he got hit hard in the playoffs for the second straight year. The Yankees’ ace had a higher strand rate than usual last year, so it’s wise to expect him to give up a few more runs this season as that corrects itself. On the plus side, Sabathia’s xFIP last year suggested that his ERA was pretty much right in line with expectations.

9. Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels (13): Haren would be the ace of most rotations, but on the Halos he’s just the No. 2 man on a brilliant staff that got even better this winter. The extraordinarily durable hurler was a bigger bull than usual, setting new career highs in both complete games and innings pitched last year. Haren did a much better job of limiting long balls and he enjoyed a solid record despite the Angels’ disappointing effort last season. With Haren, Weaver, Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson all among the top 10 in IP in the AL last year, will the Angels even need a bullpen? Haren’s strikeout rate dropped quite a bit last year, so it wasn’t all rosy for his Fantasy owners, but the fact that he cut his walks and enjoyed near career-best command levels made up for that.

10. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox (6): As we discussed in an early June Podcast, Lester had some struggles in the early part of the season (5.50 ERA in May), but he turned things around and got on a nice roll – until finishing poorly, just when the BoSox needed him the most. He had some home run issues last year, but thankfully he walked a few less hitters, so it didn’t hurt him too much. Lester won at least 15 games for the fourth straight season, but his K rate dipped to its lowest since 2008. Expect him to again log plenty of innings this year, and look for his strikeouts to bounce back somewhat.

11. Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers (19): As we discussed in our 2011 Milwaukee Brewers team review, Gallardo heads what was a very solid front four for the Brew Crew last year. Improved curveball location towards the latter part of the season could portent an even bigger breakthrough for him this season. By pitching a bit deeper into his games last year, Gallardo racked up way more decisions, including a career-best 17 wins. In the postseason, he was even sharper, putting up a sweet 2.84 ERA in his three starts. Gallardo just missed breaking the 3.50 ERA barrier, and here’s betting that happens this season, although his won-loss record may suffer on a team that’s been weakened offensively somewhat.

12. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (15): Armed with an overpowering fastball, Price jacked his strikeout rate to new career highs last year, but his bottom line results weren’t as impressive as 2010, and he was touched up in his only playoff start. The Rays think he’s poised to bounce back in a big way, and so do we, but perhaps not to the same extent. We’re definitely projecting a better record for Price this season, and he should be the sixth or seventh AL starter off your board at your draft.

13. Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies (18): Hamels is heading into his walk year, but all indications are that he and the Phils will work out an extension before it ever comes to that. And coming off his best season yet, you can bet there will be a lot of zeroes in that deal. Hamels also looked brilliant in his only playoff start last year, and we were really impressed with his ability to get through innings quicker during the season. It just boggles the mind that this dude in only third in the Phillies’ pecking order of starting pitchers. Embarrassment of riches! One caveat: Hamels’ BABIP last season was on the low side, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll allow more hits this season.

14. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants (12): As good as Cain and Lincecum are, they couldn’t save the Giants from their own awful attack, as we discussed in a Podcast in August. Cain is motivated by free agency at the end of the season, but there’s no way San Francisco is going to let him leave; in fact, that extension could be coming any day. He’ll pitch all of next season at the age of 27 and is coming off his finest season yet. Cain was able to get through hitters quicker, and while his BABIP was low, it has been similarly low for three years running, so it doesn’t look like a major correction is coming. Expect Cain to continue to be an innings hog, and perhaps even more so as he reaches his strength peak. In fact, this could be the season that he breaks through as a legitimate Cy Young candidate.

15. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers (11): Greinke is another young, talented hurler heading into his contract year, but in his case, he could be dealt at the deadline, depending on how Milwaukee fares this season. With free agency looming, Greinke finally has decided to hire himself an agent. In his first season with the Brewers, Greinke’s walk rate was up slightly, but he lowered his hit rate enough to improve his WHIP from 2010. Unfortunately for him and Milwaukee, things didn’t go as well in his first taste of the postseason. Greinke was also more susceptible to the long ball than at any time since 2006, so it’s a damn good thing he limited the baserunners. He had the highest K/9 among all qualified starters last year, and with big money on the line, he could be in line for a monster season.

16. Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks (47): In last year’s Fantasy Baseball Guide, RotoRob identified Kennedy as one of his picks and he was bang on there. Kennedy put up a sub-3.00 ERA and he was filthy good in the second half (2.11), buoying hopes that he can keep the party going. We loved his improved control, but he failed to win either of his playoff starts in his first taste of the postseason. Kennedy’s BABIP was right around his career mark, so there’s no red flag there, but it would be surprising to see him record an ERA in 2012 as low as he did last season.

17. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (55): In his first full season in the Giants’ rotation – most of which was spent at the tender age of 21 – Bumgarner was able to work deeper into his starts, and while he failed to garner a winning record, he did tie for the team lead in wins on a staff that’s stacked. We love the fact that his strikeout rate was up significantly, and his command continues to elevate into a stratosphere that is limited to the truly elite. An increasing groundball level was another good sign for Bumgarner. Would it completely shock anyone if this kid is the team’s ace by season’s end?

18. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (140): Strasburg heads a young and improving rotation in Washington and while the rust from missing most of last season may still show during the early part of the season, no one doubts that this kid is destined for greatness. With a heater that touches the high 90s, Strasburg is going to rack up his share of Ks. Last year, recovery from Tommy John surgery limited him to just five starts, but he looked nearly unhittable and didn’t yield a single long ball. The expected rust sure didn’t show up in his bottom line results, but we’d be surprised if there wasn’t a bit of a lull this season. Strasburg is going to be awesome before all is said and done, and with his strikeout per inning rate, he’s going early in the third round in most drafts – which may be a bit of a stretch, considering Washington plans to cap his innings at around 160 this year.

19. Daniel Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks (52): Fantasy owners may not give a crap, but it’s interesting to note that it was Hudson’s work at the plate that earned him hardware last year. While he’s established himself a decent No. 2 Fantasy starter, asking for more from Hudson may be unwise even if he just turned 25. The improved control last year was real nice to see, but that was offset by a much higher hit rate and the BABIP numbers suggest that 2010 was more of the outlier than 2011. Hudson’s K rate dipped last year, and he needs to bring that up to be considered an elite hurler, and while he very well may bounce back in that regard this season, we’re also expecting his ERA to continue to rise, perhaps close to as high as 4.00 this season.

20. Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers (NR): Darvish has had tongues wagging since it was announced he was coming to the bigs this year. Now that he’s here, Tim McLeod, for one, can barely keep his pants on. The Japanese hurler is reportedly not much of a hitter, so it’s a damn good thing he landed in the AL with the Rangers. His first taste of North American ball should be a fascinating story to watch.

21. James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays (59): Shields’ tremendous effort last year earned him consideration as the 2011 RotoRob Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year. The 30-year-old was an All-Star, thanks to a 16-12 record with a whopping 11 complete games – including four shutouts. Shields enjoyed his lowest hit rate ever, and although his walk rate rose, he compensated by shattering his career high in Ks. Expected to get the ball Opening Day for the Rays, Shields’ xFIP suggests he was a bit lucky with his ERA last year, so don’t be surprised if he’s unable to put up another sub-3.00 mark. Now if he can ever sharpen his slider, such low ERAs will likely become the norm.

22. C. J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels (58): Wilson bolted Texas for the Angels, a move many believe will improve his Fantasy value, a topic we explored more in-depth in a recent Podcast. Along with Albert Pujols, Wilson headlines a new look Los Angeles squad that should compete with the southpaw’s old team for AL West supremacy. In his second season as a starter, Wilson carried a bigger workload, went deeper into his starts and managed to up his strikeout rate. His record may not be as good this season with less offensive support than he had in Texas, but he’s got the stuff to emerge as the ace of a supremely talented rotation.

23. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox (34): Another starter we considered for 2011 RotoRob Fantasy Baseball Comeback Player of the Year, Beckett stayed healthier last year and gave up 24 less runs – in 65 1/3 more innings. His strikeout rate dipped ever so slightly, but remained dominant, and he remains one of three Red Sox pitchers that are slam dunks in the rotation this year. It’s worth noting that Beckett’s BABIP was abnormally low last year, so a correction is likely in order. As a result, his ERA will likely be closer to 4.00 this year rather than his sub-3.00 mark last season. But long-time owners of Beckett should be used to his undulating ERAs over the years.

24. Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals (29): The acquisition of Gonzalez signaled to the baseball world that the Nats are a team on the rise. Last year, the southpaw continued to post excellent hit rates and he improved his bottom line results, but he was moved this offseason as part of the latest great purge by the A’s. Gonzalez still walks too many, but his rate of free passes has slowly been improving. If he make further strides in that area this season, his results will continue to get better.

25. Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds (17): Latos was touched up a bit more last year, and his strikeout rate declined. Now that he’s been dealt away from Petco to the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark, there are questions about how well he’ll adapt. His ERA wasn’t even half a run higher on the road last year, so it’s clear Latos wasn’t simply a product of Petco. We’re expected less losses now that he’s on a good team, so you should target him around the ninth round – or earlier if you think his stats won’t take too big a hit in Cincy.

26. Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): One of our Top 10 Rookies for 2012, Moore dealt with some abdominal issues early this spring, but it sounds like that’s no longer a concern and he’s ready to make his assault on the AL as the Junior Circuit’s odds-on fave for ROY honours. After tearing through Double-A and Triple-A last year, Moore arrived in Tampa Bay for a few late season appearances including two starts – one of which was an absolute gem in the playoffs. No pressure, kid. Fifteen Ks in his first 9 1/3 IP against big leagues? Yikes. This dude is going to rack up the whiff count. Expect an ERA in the mid 3s with well over a punchout per inning from Moore, who will be either be RP-only eligible or dual eligible to start the season, but will obviously qualify as an SP in all formats in short order.

27. Josh Johnson, Miami Marlins (10): As we discussed in our 2011 Florida Marlins team review, the return of oft-injured ace Johnson will provide a huge boost to the Fish’s chances of competing this season. You know the drill with him – it’s all about health. He’s looking great in the spring so far, but he generally always looks great… until he’s on the DL. Shoulder problems limited Johnson to just nine starts last year and despite an increase in his walk rate and decrease in his strikeout rate, he was putting up superb numbers before getting hurt. Miami’s ace is a risky bet, but the fact that you won’t have to shell out as much as normal to get him means he has a chance to provide a great return on investment.

28. Anibal Sanchez, Miami Marlins (53): Sanchez, who had the distinction of being the first player to win an arbitration case this winter, should be good for 200 IP of quality pitching this season. Last year, he was actually scored on a bit less, but gave up more earned runs, and was much more susceptible to the gopher ball. Shoulder problems derailed his first spring start, but he’s reportedly okay now, so owners have averted crisis for now. Sanchez’s BABIP was a bit on the high side last year, so there’s opportunity for a better ERA this season, but not dramatically so. Still just 28, Sanchez has possibly even more value in keeper leagues, assuming he is over his health problems.

29. Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals (69): Another key component of a young and improving rotation in Washington, Zimmermann was on a 160-inning limit last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery the season before. That didn’t stop him from taking a nice step forward as he surrendered fewer baserunners and improved his bottom line results dramatically. In his second season back from the procedure, it’s reasonable to expect Zimmermann’s strikeout rate to rise, so don’t be afraid to pluck him around the ninth round or so.

30. Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays (37): When we ranked Romero 37th last year, we suggested he had a chance to win 17 games and whiff 200 batters. Well, he fell a bit shy of those expectations, but not by much, hence his bump up the rankings this season. Romero’s become a real workhorse and he shaved close to a run off his 2010 ERA, improved his control, and reached the 15-win mark for the first time. The red flag here: his FIP was 4.20 and his BABIP was very low, suggesting his sub-3.00 ERA was rather lucky last year. Romero’s a solid No. 3 starter, but don’t pay for another ERA like he had in 2011.

31. Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels (46): As long as Santana doesn’t have to face the Orioles of all teams, he’s a pretty darned good pitcher. We got a bit of a scare this spring when he was pelted in the arm by a line drive, but he’s already feeling better, so this won’t be a factor going forward. Last year, Santana trimmed over half a run off his ERA, but he remains prone to occasional wildness (21 wild pitches in the last two seasons). He enjoyed his lowest ERA ever (and tossed a no-no for good measure), but was saddled with a losing record thanks to poor run support. Santana’s FIP was 4.00, so he might have been on the good side of fortune. The other worry here is that because of his reliance on the slider, he’s an injury risk.

32. Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays (40): Our No. 5 prospect a year ago, Hellickson graduated to the majors with a super impressive rookie season. Many point to his unsustainable BABIP (an MLB-best .223) and suggest he won’t have as low an ERA this year, and it’s a reasonable notion, but those that follow the team closely say that Hellickson induces a lot of weak contact with his stuff, so his hit rate might not regress as much as expected. Last year, his record wasn’t outstanding and his WHIP was up slightly, but his 2.95 ERA was the lowest mark by an AL rookie in 21 years. A key component of the best rotation in the AL East, Hellickson did a better job of keeping the ball in the yard last season and, with a superb defence behind him, he should continue to fare well, even if he keeps pitching to contact as much as he did as a rookie. Having said that, you can expect Hellickson’s strikeout rate to rise in his second full season.

33. Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (89): A year ago at this time, Pineda was on our top prospect list; now he’s completed an impressive rookie season with the Mariners. His reward? A trade to the Yankees, where the move to a tougher pitcher’s park should be offset by the run support that will lead to more wins. Expect Pineda’s ERA to rise above 4.00 after posting a 3.74 mark as a rook. Last year, he walked more than usual, but that’s not uncommon for a youngster and either way, walks have never been a problem for Pineda. He certainly pitched better than his record would indicate, but as discussed, that should even itself out on the Yanks. With the acquisition of Pineda and the signing of Hiroki Kuroda on the same day, New York addressed its rotation issues, so it’s unclear how the return of Andy Pettitte will affect the situation. Pineda did a great job of keeping the ball in the park, but the move to Yankee Stadium will likely also affect that number. Of mild concern is the fact that his velocity has been down this spring, so keep an eye on this as we near the regular season.

34. Brandon Beachy, Atlanta Braves (100): In mid-June, we recommended picking up Beachy as he was about to come off the DL. We hope you listened, as he really rolled for two and a half months before finishing poorly. This promising righty will be part of what should be an excellent rotation in Atlanta this season. Beachy enjoyed a very nice hit rate in his surprisingly good rookie effort, and he should be good for 30 or more starts with a lower ERA this year.

35. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (NR): Wainwright’s return from Tommy John surgery is vital for the Cardinals this year, especially with Chris Carpenter hurting this spring. You never know how a pitcher will bounce back after TJS, and the key here will be how his command fares. Watch that very closely this spring and early in the season to see if Wainwright is improving in that regard. Despite fine results this spring, he has been having command issues. Before getting hurt, he was a serious bulldog, racking up major innings in recent seasons, and doing a solid job of keeping the ball in the yard in 2010. Oh, and he also reached 20 wins for the first time that year. Expect Wainwright to go around the eighth round of your draft.

36. Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers (25): When we ranked Scherzer 25th on this list last year, it was mostly based on his phenomenal second half. Unfortunately, he again struggled in the first half last year, and while he was better in the second half, he wasn’t out of his mind better. Mad Max’s flyball rate keeps rising, and that manifested itself in a career-high 29 homers allowed last year. He didn’t work as deep into games and had the highest WHIP of his career, yet still reached 15 wins for the first time. Scherzer is as inconsistent from start to start as they come, but his xFIP last year suggests he deserved a better fate, ERA wise. Expect him to surpass his 2011 win total and improve his ERA this season – think 17 or 18 wins with an ERA of around 3.50.

37. Derek Holland, Texas Rangers (114): The former swingman nailed down a full-time rotation spot in 2011, and some very big numbers followed. Okay, one big number followed: wins. Apart from his 16 victories, Holland’s numbers were nothing special — and it’s important to remember that he received an MLB-best 9.23 runs per game of support. That almost certainly won’t repeat, so don’t be shocked if Holland tumbles back toward the .500 mark in 2012. That being said, his seven-plus strikeouts per nine is mixed-league worthy, and his improving command should help keep his ratios in the tolerable range. Consider Holland an option in deeper mixed leagues on draft day. – BD

38. John Danks, Chicago White Sox (23): The usually rock-steady Danks was a Fantasy Tilt-A-Whirl in 2011, reeling off ERAs of 1.14 in June and 3.15 in August, and just plain reeling to a 6.89 mark in May and 7.76 in September. There was some bad luck involved, as Danks’ .313 BABIP was a sizable jump over his career mark of .290. It is encouraging that he had his ERA down to 3.63 at the beginning of September, and his track record would indicate that he’s a much better pitcher than he showed during most of 2011. It’s also a good sign that he posted the lowest BB/9 mark of his career, and his strikeout rate was his best effort since 2008. Danks probably won’t win many games for what looks to be a rebuilding White Sox team, but he should bounce back enough to make him worth a spot at the back of your mixed league rotation. – BD

39. Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays (35): Morrow logged a strikeout rate in excess of 10 for the second straight season in 2011, and his walk rate dipped to a career-low 3.46. He established several career highs in just his second year as a full-time starter, and Morrow’s overall line — with the notable exception of his ERA — was a step forward from his promising 2010 campaign. There is still some upside here — one look at Morrow’s .237 BAA should tell you that his stuff is top-notch, and if he can continue to improve his command, his WHIP should remain serviceable. It’s all about the Ks with Morrow, though, so don’t hesitate to look his way should you find yourself in need of punch-outs halfway through your Fantasy draft. – BD

40. Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds (48): The 2.31 ERA Cueto posted last season looks awfully tasty, but let’s consider the side dishes before we dig in. He was among baseball’s luckiest pitchers a year ago, logging a miniscule .249 BABIP, and his 0.46 HR/9 was exactly half his 2010 showing. It’s hard to buy in on either of those numbers repeating in 2012, so expect Cueto to regress back close to the 3.50 ERA line. His strikeout rate dropped for the fourth straight season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him tack 0.5 or so onto his K/9 in 2012. Whether he can sustain his 53.7 ground-ball percentage is another story, but he’ll need to keep the ball down in his hitter-friendly home yard. Don’t set the bar too high for Cueto, but if you can land him at the right price, he can be a decent asset at the back of your Fantasy rotation. – BD

41. Jaime Garcia, St. Louis Cardinals (45): Garcia followed up his outstanding rookie season with more solid numbers in 2011, and it was especially encouraging to see his command improve from 3.5 to 2.3 BB/9. Though his homer rate rose a bit, his ground ball-inducing ways should allow him to continue to keep the ball in the yard more often than not. Garcia does not have dominant stuff, and he will take the occasional shelling, but he still misses enough bats to be a plus performer in the strikeout category. His bumpy second half was troubling, as was the 30-point jump in his BAA over his 2010 standard, but Garcia should again be a solid mid-rotation guy in most mixed Fantasy formats in 2012. — BD

42. Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians (122): Masterson was one of the top AL pitchers that could have been had off the wire last year. He was dominant at times, and continues to look extremely sharp this spring. If Masterson had a bit more run support last year, his record would have been much better. As things stood, he made great strides in improving his control while cutting his loss total. Masterson didn’t get as many ground balls, but remains mostly a groundball pitcher, which is one of the reasons he’s done so well in terms of limiting long balls. He continues to have problems against left-handed hitters, but he did make strides in that area last year.

43. Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs (41): The Yankees were apparently interested in trading for Garza, but he remained in the Windy City. The hyper righty enjoyed one of his finest seasons in his first campaign with the Cubs last year, even though his record for the sad-sack team didn’t reflect how well he pitched. Garza, who is in consideration to be the Opening Day starter, enjoyed his finest strikeout season last year, not surprising with the move to the NL. Consider him in the 10th round or so on draft day.

44. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals (21): Well, you still hear the term “injury risk” thrown around when discussing Carpenter, but the fact is that he has tossed 472-plus innings over the past two seasons. The news isn’t all good, though: his 11 wins last year was his lowest full-season total since 2001 — which also happens to be the last time his full-season ERA was higher than his 3.45 effort in 2011. Carpenter’s .312 BABIP suggests that he was a bit unlucky, but he is clearly a pitcher in decline. He is dealing with a bulging disk in his neck this spring, but there’s been no talk of a DL stint just yet. The loss of Albert Pujols should hurt Carpenter’s win total, but his impeccable command and decent strikeout pitch should make him a solid Fantasy asset again in 2012. Don’t overpay for past heroics, but Carp — if healthy — makes a fine choice as your No. 3 or No. 4 starter in mixed leagues. — BD

45. Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros (30): After going 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA last year, Rodriguez will take the bump on Opening Day for the Astros. Given Houston’s lousy offense, it was reasonable for us to wonder in an early August Podcast whether he’d be able to even win three more games for the remainder of the season. Well, Rodriguez won four more, but an elbow injury in late-May cost him nearly a month, limiting him to his lowest start total since 2008. Worse yet, he gave up more homers than ever and also saw an increase in his walk rate. That’s not a good combo, needless to say. However, thanks to a nasty curveball that he employs more than any pitcher in the bigs, Rodriguez was able to improve his ERA a tad.

46. Bud Norris, Houston Astros (71): Norris is someone we recommended early last season and we hope you listened, because he took a major step forward. The home rate is worrisome, but it didn’t hurt as much as it could have given that Norris made big strides with his control. He’s become one of the faces of an otherwise mostly anonymous Astro team, and we’d be surprised if he doesn’t enjoy his first double-digit win season, despite Houston’s tepid offense. Consider Norris a must-own NL-only asset who could easily hold value in mixed leagues if the wins start to come.

47. Cory Luebke, San Diego Padres (123): When a Padres pitcher logs the kind of tasty numbers Luebke put up in 2011, it’s easy to chalk it off to his cavernous home yard and relegate him to situational status. Not so fast, Splitsville: Luebke’s road ERA last year was a stellar 2.55, so there’s obviously something more here than just a favourable home address. He has solid command, and possesses swing and miss stuff thanks to a plus fastball and slider. However, there are worries: Luebke only started 17 games last season, and he will have to adjust as the league builds its book on him. In addition, his 9.9 K/9 rate last season was a significant jump over the seven-ish rates he carded at Double and Triple-A. His BABIP and FIP, though, suggest that his 2011 numbers were in line with expectations, making Luebke a potential steal in Fantasy drafts this season. – BD

48. Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees (49): Kuroda’s move to the Big Apple is a good news, bad news kind of arrangement. The “good” side of this situation is that the veteran sinkerballer can expect a heck of a lot more run support from the Bronx Bombers than he received from his old mates in L.A. On the flipside, though, Kuroda’s ground-ball rate dropped from 51 per cent in 2010 to 43 per cent last season, while his line-drive rate jumped from 16.8 to 22 per cent. Pitchers that throw a lot of strikes, but don’t induce ground balls are typically not a good fit for the American League East, so don’t expect Kuroda to come anywhere close to his outstanding 2011 ratios this season. He should be in line for more wins, but those victories figure to come with a rather hefty price tag. – BD

49. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta Braves (16): Hanson looked like a budding ace entering the 2011 season, but shoulder tendinitis cut his campaign short and derailed his trip to the upper echelon of Fantasy starting pitchers. He suffered a concussion in an off-field incident this spring, but that should not be an issue going forward. The same cannot be said for his problematic shoulder, though, as word has come down that Hanson has changed his delivery in hope of preventing further shoulder woes. An established pitcher that alters his delivery is a huge red flag, so adjust Hanson’s draft-day value downward accordingly. Having said that, if he can stay healthy, Hanson has shown that he can be a dominant starting pitcher, so don’t sleep on him come draft day. – BD

50. Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves (67): Jurrjens was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the first half of the 2011 seasons, going 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit him once again in the second half, as he made just seven starts and posted a 5.88 ERA due to an injured knee. Jurrjens has shown that he can be brilliant over a relatively brief period, but the fact that he has exceeded 189 innings pitched only once in his career should rightly label the 26-year-old as an injury risk. Don’t look for big strikeout numbers from Jurrjens, but his ability to work the zone should translate to decent ratios as long as he can remain healthy. He should be deployed in all mixed leagues, but be sure you have a back-up plan in place. — BD

Others to Consider

51. Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers (NR)
52. Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks (26)
53. Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox (20)
54. Shaun Marcum, Milwaukee Brewers (32)
55. Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics (NR)
56. Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers (28)
57. Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians (4)
58. Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Rockies (62)
59. Edwin Jackson, Washington Nationals (76)
60. Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins (68)
61. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (36 at RP)
62. Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers (NR)
63. Vance Worley, Philadelphia Phillies (NR)
64. Ivan Nova, New York Yankees (103)
65. Jonathan Sanchez, Kansas City Royals (39)
66. Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins (24)
67. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves (27)
68. Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds (104)
69. Ted Lilly, Los Angeles Dodgers (43)
70. Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers (38)
71. Roy Oswalt, Free agent (22)
72. Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado Rockies (56)
73. Jon Niese, New York Mets (108)
74. Luke Hochevar, Kansas City Royals (NR)
75. Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs (42)
76. Tim Stauffer, San Diego Padres (95)
77. Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers (81)
78. Ricky Nolasco, Miami Marlins (50)
79. Dillon Gee, New York Mets (NR)
80. Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics (107)
81. Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres (54)
82. Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox (87)
83. Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves (106)
84. Joe Saunders, Arizona Diamondbacks (101)
85. Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers (53 at RP)
86. Johan Santana, New York Mets (109)
87. Henderson Alvarez, Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
88. Randall Delgado, Atlanta Braves (NR)
89. Brad Peacock, Oakland Athletics (NR)
90. Philip Humber, Chicago White Sox (NR)
91. Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics (NR)
92. Randy Wolf, Milwaukee Brewers (74)
93. Mark Buehrle, Miami Marlins (70)
94. Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers (4 at RP)
95. Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners (NR)
96. Josh Collmenter, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
97. Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (NR)
98. Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore Orioles (NR)
99. Felipe Paulino, Kansas City Royals (138)
100. Jerome Williams, Los Angeles Angels (NR)
101. Wade Davis, Tampa Bay Rays (51)
102. Clayton Richard, San Diego Padres (65)
103. Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals
104. Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay Rays (61)
105. Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants (NR)
106. Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox (49 at RP)
107. Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds (116)
108. Phil Hughes, New York Yankees (31)
109. Jake Arrieta, Baltimore Orioles (118)
110. Carlos Zambrano, Miami Marlins (64)
111. Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals
112. Aaron Harang, Los Angeles Dodgers (125)
113. John Lannan, Washington Nationals (124)
114. Danny Hultzen, Seattle Mariners
115. James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates (135)
116. Alfredo Aceves, Boston Red Sox
117. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
118. Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners (NR)
119. Carl Pavano, Minnesota Twins (72)
120. Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (73)
121. Josh Tomlin, Cleveland Indians (NR)
122. Jake Westbrook, St. Louis Cardinals (82)
123. A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates (77)
124. Bruce Chen, Kansas City Royals (126)
125. Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics (NR)
126. Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals (NR)
127. Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds (60)
128. Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers (115)
129. Chris Narveson, Milwaukee Brewers (113)
130. Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Phillies (84)
131. Jeff Karstens, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR)
132. R.A. Dickey, New York Mets (80)
133. Tyler Skaggs, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
134. Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox (99)
135. Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh Pirates (129)
136. Trevor Bauer, Arizona Diamondbacks (NR)
137. Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers (NR)
138. Nate Eovaldi, Los Angeles Dodgers (NR)
139. Randy Wells, Chicago Cubs (96)
140. Freddy Garcia, New York Yankees (NR)
141. Blake Beaven, Seattle Mariners (NR)
142. Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (43 at RP)
143. Jason Marquis, Minnesota Twins (NR)
144. Erik Bedard, Pittsburgh Pirates (86)
145. Dallas Braden, Oakland Athletics (79)
146. Tsuyoshi Wada, Baltimore Orioles (NR)
147. Paul Maholm, Chicago Cubs (130)
148. Dustin McGowan, Toronto Blue Jays (NR)
149. Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets (94)
150. Juan Nicasio, Colorado Rockies (NR)
151. Jordan Lyles, Houston Astros (NR)
152. Chris Volstad, Chicago Cubs (NR)
153. Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals (NR)
154. Derek Lowe, Cleveland Indians (91)
155. Nick Blackburn, Minnesota Twins (NR)
156. Jon Garland, Cleveland Indians (105)
157. Jeremy Guthrie, Colorado Rockies (57)
158. Alex White, Colorado Rockies (NR)
159. Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles (33)
160. Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs (92)
161. Dustin Moseley, San Diego Padres (NR)
162. Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles (98)
163. Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies (NR)
164. J.A. Happ, Houston Astros (78)
165. Eric Surkamp, San Francisco Giants (NR)
166. Charlie Furbush, Seattle Mariners (NR)
167. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants (111)
168. Luis Mendoza, Kansas City Royals (NR)
169. Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays (NR)
170. Guillermo Moscoso, Colorado Rockies (NR)
171. Livan Hernandez, Houston Astros (112)
172. Duane Below, Detroit Tigers (NR)

Cheat Sheet Archives

2012 Preseason

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2011 Preseason

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2010 Preseason

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2009 Preseason

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2008 Preseason

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2007 Preseason


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