CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Coco C... (02/25)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Focus: Right F... (02/24)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Star... (02/28)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Closer S... (02/25)

February 25, 2011

Fantasy Focus

AL Starting Pitcher Rankings

by Marc Normandin

These are the American League starting pitcher fantasy rankings for 2011. Check out our previous first base, second base, third base, shortstop, catcher, left fielder, center fielder, right fielder, and closer installments. NL starting pitcher will be published Monday.

Get your combined outfielder rankings list through the Player Forecast Managercheck this link for details.

Like last year, the fantasy rankings are broken into tiers. Generally speaking, five-star players should be worthwhile in five categories and have an auction dollar value of $30 or more in your standard, mixed leagues. Four-star players should be worth at least $20 and useful in four categories, three-stars $10 and up, two-stars are more of your single-digit buys that you hope fill a hole or return some bargain value, and one-star players are, most likely, roster filler in the deepest leagues that you hope can be worth the buck you throw down on them.

This year we are listing stats like we have in the past (innings pitched, wins, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, and saves projections from PECOTA) but are also including dollar value estimates produced by the Player Forecast Manager. In order to make these columns fit into the tables, I had to shorten them: "2L-$" is for mixed leagues, and "1L-$" is for AL- or NL-only leagues, depending on the player. The dollar values may not match up perfectly with the tiers, but those are just cases of PECOTA and I disagreeing on a player.

For reference, the dollar values were created with the PFM using standard 5x5 roto scoring, 23-player rosters—broken down as C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) Util (1) P (9)—and $180 of the $260 budget allocated for hitters and $1 minimum salaries. A minimum of 20 games needed to be played at a position in the previous season to qualify (though I snuck a few brand-new players likely to qualify in). If your league uses different settings, be sure to plug them into the PFM to see what kind of differences in dollar value we are talking about—I set these to be as close to standard roster construction as possible.

Five Stars

Player

TEAM

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

2L-$

1L-$

Felix Hernandez

SEA

230

15

210

2.56

1.12

$33

$32

Hernandez was well over the $30 mark last year, and PECOTA thinks he can do it again. He may not get the wins, but if his ERA is that shiny and he stays healthy, he won't need to. Hernandez is one of just two five-star pitchers in either league. Since starters contribute to four categories maximum against the five categories that hitters can contribute to, it's more difficult for them to crack the $30 mark. That makes for deep middle tiers, though.

Four Stars

Player

TEAM

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

2L-$

1L-$

CC Sabathia

NYA

235

15

201

3.20

1.18

$23

$25

Dan Haren

ANA

229

15

201

3.12

1.14

$25

$27

Jered Weaver

ANA

197

14

178

3.04

1.17

$20

$22

Justin Verlander

DET

212

14

198

3.24

1.24

$17

$21

Jon Lester

BOS

202

14

191

3.40

1.28

$12

$18

Sabathia is not the greatest pitcher in the four-star tier, but he can throw a whole lot of innings and has a ton of offensive support behind him. Dan Haren now gets a full season away from the Diamondbacks' defense and a park he was never a good fit for. Jered Weaver was one of the top starters in the AL last year, and if he can maintain his punch-out rates will beat that $20 projection. Justin Verlander is kind of a beast, so I'm more interested in his upper-level projections than the one listed here. Same goes for Jon Lester, who may be the top lefty in the American League.

Three Stars

Player

TEAM

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

2L-$

1L-$

Max Scherzer

DET

200

14

197

3.54

1.28

$11

$17

David Price

TBA

210

14

185

3.38

1.26

$14

$19

Colby Lewis

TEX

204

14

176

3.72

1.27

$10

$16

Brett Anderson

OAK

200

13

157

3.60

1.27

$9

$15

Francisco Liriano

MIN

185

12

171

3.67

1.32

$6

$13

Clay Buchholz

BOS

180

12

150

3.56

1.30

$7

$13

Brian Matusz

BAL

195

13

161

3.97

1.33

$4

$11

I'm a total Max Scherzer fanboy, but you already knew that. I think he can make the leap to four-star status, but first he'll need to show he can keep that ERA down. David Price is pretty overrated, but he's also eventually going to be a pretty special pitcher. Just don't pay for him in 2011 like he's already the guy he will become. Fresh off the three-star ranking he received last year on his return to the States, Colby Lewis sits here once again. I'm a big Lewis fan as well. Brett Anderson has four-star talent, but coming off some injuries in 2010, he needs to show me he can last the year before I'll grant him that much in the rankings. Francisco Liriano is also capable of much more than this weighted-mean forecast—as will likely be seen in his upper-level forecasts—but the Twins' apparent worries about his health have me nervous. If you're not as nervous, bump him up.

Clay Buchholz gets a lot of flak because his BABIP was low in 2010 and his ERA was much better than it should have been, but don't get distracted by that. Regressing is not the same thing as totally falling apart, and Buchholz, a very talented pitcher with fantastic stuff—his slider, which isn't even his best pitch, increased in velocity once again in 2010, this time up to 90 mph—is going to be very productive. PECOTA thinks so, I think so, and hopefully 2011 will convince you all. Brian Matusz is poised for a breakout, so don't miss out on that. He has tough competition in the AL East, but he did last year too, and handled himself pretty well then.

Two Stars

Player

TEAM

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

2L-$

1L-$

Phil Hughes

NYA

195

13

177

3.65

1.26

$10

$16

Jeremy Hellickson

TBA

165

12

152

3.45

1.22

$10

$14

Jake Peavy

CHA

164

12

159

3.17

1.20

$13

$16

James Shields

TBA

205

13

167

3.94

1.25

$8

$14

Josh Beckett

BOS

188

12

168

3.88

1.26

$7

$13

Trevor Cahill

OAK

190

12

128

3.58

1.29

$7

$12

Ervin Santana

ANA

198

12

161

3.89

1.28

$7

$13

John Danks

CHA

210

13

165

3.92

1.30

$6

$13

Scott Baker

MIN

185

12

142

3.81

1.27

$6

$12

C.J. Wilson

TEX

202

14

178

3.73

1.35

$6

$13

Brandon Morrow

TOR

175

11

182

4.04

1.39

$1

$9

Gio Gonzalez

OAK

205

13

195

3.79

1.38

$5

$13

Ricky Romero

TOR

195

11

147

4.66

1.46

-$6

$4

Jeff Niemann

TBA

185

12

143

3.84

1.31

$5

$11

Joel Pineiro

ANA

166

11

85

3.70

1.25

$4

$9

John Lackey

BOS

203

12

153

4.06

1.32

$3

$11

Jason Vargas

SEA

190

12

124

3.91

1.32

$3

$10

Gavin Floyd

CHA

190

12

146

4.16

1.33

$2

$9

Edwin Jackson

CHA

198

11

151

4.55

1.44

-$5

$5

Brandon Webb

TEX

100

7

73

3.56

1.27

$0

$4

Dallas Braden

OAK

190

13

129

3.49

1.26

$9

$14

Kevin Slowey

MIN

175

11

127

3.91

1.25

$5

$11

The two-star tier in the American League is full of pitchers who could be so much more. I'm not as excited about Phil Hughes as PECOTA, especially with his park. But if PECOTA is right, then I'm underrating him by a tier. If Jeremy Hellickson throws more innings than is listed, and doesn't deal with the same first-year AL East struggles that Wade Davis did, then he's more deserving of three-star status. Jake Peavy, if his shoulder stays attached to the rest of his body this year, could be excellent. I'm not betting on it with my auction money, though. James Shields lives in the strike zone a bit too much for an AL East pitcher, but when he gets away with that act he's quite the hurler. If Josh Beckett's back is feeling fine, he's going to be excellent. That "if" is roughly the size of his ego and/or gut based on how often his back bothered him in 2010, so the Texan gets to stare at all the two-star scenery.  

Rob McQuown says I'm underrating Trevor Cahill, which I grant is certainly possible. I don't think he'll be worth much more than $10-12 total, but that would be enough to push him to the three-star level. Where is the Ervin Santana from 2008? I want that guy back. You know what you're getting from John Danks—he's a good inexpensive pick to shore up your pitching stats. Scott Baker would worry me less if he weren't suffering discomfort in his surgically repaired elbow when he throws his changeup in bullpen sessions. I dig C.J. Wilson, but his walk rate keeps him from being any more than a two-star pitcher.

Brandon Morrow is going to give you excellent strikeout numbers, but until he nears the 200 inning threshold and shows he can keep his walk rate down, I'm not about to rate him in front of what is a very deep starting pitcher pool. He has loads of upside, though, and I think he can be great—much better than the pessimistic forecast above. Gio Gonzalez's control will hold him back from being a must-own starter, but he'll get you strikeouts and benefits from the pitcher-friendly Coliseum in Oakland. Ricky Romero isn't an ace by any means, but between his groundball tendencies and above-average whiff rates, he should be much better than above. I'm sure I would be pleased with his 70th percentile forecast.

Jeff Niemann has been solid in his career, but he doesn't have great fantasy numbers, and I worry about his health a little. Joel Pineiro lacks excitement to the point where I still haven't bothered to figure out how to spell his name right off the top of my head. This "i before e" stuff in school messed with my future as a baseball writer. John Lackey was much better in the second half of the season thanks to improved command of his secondary stuff and a better K/BB ratio, but he also beat up on the Mariners, Athletics and Indians in that timeframe. Of course you would already know about that if you bought Baseball Prospectus 2011.

Jason Vargas isn't great at suppressing runs, but his home park is. Abuse that. Gavin Floyd and I have had our differences in the past, but we've worked things out, and I've accepted him as a useful piece late in drafts. Edwin Jackson will either be infuriatingly inconsistent as usual, or become pitching coach Don Cooper's Pietà. Pay for the former, hope for the latter. If Brandon Webb is healthy, he's going to be pretty good. The Rangers' infield defense—now with less Michael Young!—is nothing short of fantastic. Of course, the last time Brandon Webb was healthy was two Diamondbacks GMs and a Rangers owner ago, so draft accordingly. Dallas Braden shouldn't be ranked higher unless he were to face the Rays all the time (yes, I'm trolling R.J. Anderson within an article). I wish Kevin Slowey threw harder so we could all debate whether his last name is ironic or not.

One Star

Player

TEAM

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

2L-$

1L-$

Carl Pavano

MIN

195

11

112

4.18

1.31

$1

$8

Jeremy Guthrie

BAL

200

11

113

4.24

1.30

$1

$8

Justin Masterson

CLE

185

12

143

4.16

1.40

$0

$7

Wade Davis

TBA

170

11

131

4.04

1.37

$1

$7

A.J. Burnett

NYA

185

11

167

4.50

1.40

-$2

$6

Brandon Mccarthy

OAK

150

11

104

3.98

1.34

$1

$6

Daisuke Matsuzaka

BOS

157

11

141

4.15

1.40

-$1

$6

Mark Buehrle

CHA

210

12

110

4.44

1.36

-$2

$6

Brett Cecil

TOR

175

10

129

4.38

1.37

-$2

$6

Derek Holland

TEX

185

11

147

4.52

1.40

-$3

$6

Justin Duchscherer

BAL

115

8

76

3.61

1.24

$2

$5

Fausto Carmona

CLE

190

11

116

4.27

1.40

-$2

$5

Douglas Fister

SEA

170

11

99

4.27

1.36

-$1

$5

Michael Pineda

SEA

103

8

87

3.50

1.27

$1

$5

Rick Porcello

DET

185

11

91

4.30

1.38

-$2

$5

Phil Coke

DET

147

10

110

4.14

1.42

-$2

$4

Bruce Chen

KCA

156

11

113

4.49

1.40

-$3

$4

Carlos Carrasco

CLE

162

10

126

4.59

1.41

-$4

$4

Jake Arrieta

BAL

146

9

109

4.36

1.44

-$5

$3

Jeff Francis

KCA

150

10

95

4.57

1.40

-$5

$3

Josh Tomlin

CLE

129

7

85

4.38

1.33

-$3

$3

Luke Hochevar

KCA

144

9

100

4.73

1.42

-$6

$2

Brad Penny

DET

146

9

84

4.50

1.43

-$6

$2

Mitch Talbot

CLE

146

10

99

4.58

1.47

-$7

$2

Scott Kazmir

ANA

150

10

130

4.10

1.36

$0

$6

Kyle Davies

KCA

180

11

124

4.77

1.50

-$9

$2

Brian Duensing

MIN

140

7

71

4.27

1.41

-$5

$1

David Pauley

SEA

100

7

60

4.26

1.38

-$5

$1

Brad Bergesen

BAL

170

10

76

4.86

1.42

-$8

$1

Kyle Drabek

TOR

165

9

112

4.84

1.48

-$9

$1

Lucas French

SEA

163

9

83

4.70

1.46

-$9

$1

Vin Mazzaro

KCA

160

10

104

4.83

1.50

-$10

$1

Tommy Hunter

TEX

160

9

85

4.92

1.43

-$9

$1

Oh boy. Things drop off pretty fast. Pavano might reach 200 innings, but unless the Twins are giving him lots of run support (a plausible scenario), that's not necessarily a good thing. Jeremy Guthrie could be moved this summer to a contender (the O's talked about it last summer), but anywhere out of the AL East would do him worlds of good. Justin Masterson needs a defense that can actually, like, play defense behind him. That and for opposing managers to forget that left-handed batters take his lunch money. I like Wade Davis' potential, but if the AL East has its way with him again in 2011, then his production for you will not be pretty.

A.J. Burnett is less infuriating in fantasy baseball because you don't have to watch him pitch, and he didn’t cost $16.5 million. That being said, he's still a one-star guy: there is no shortage of arms, and if wins is the lone category he's helping out in, he's not worth the money. Brandon McCarthy is somewhat intriguing given his park. Other than that, I'm nonplussed. I spent a few days this offseason over at Red Sox Beacon talking about how Boston should either convert Dice-K into a reliever, or move him to open up a rotation spot for a free agent or prospect. I think that should explain his placement here.

Scott Kazmir is basically the opposite of Mark Buehrle. He's not dependable, he's an injury risk, he runs up pitch counts, and he doesn't work fast. Somehow they end up with roughly the same fantasy value, and I can't really dispute that. Still, I'm putting a stop to that by keeping Kazmir farther down in the rankings. Brett Cecil might be my least favorite of the four Toronto starters listed here—Kyle Drabek is ranked farther down solely because I'm not confident he'll start out pitching very well given his youth and inexperience at the level. By the end of the year Drabek could outclass Cecil. Holland intrigues me, but any pitcher in Texas has to deal with that park—that could cut into his value.

Justin Duchscherer would rank higher if your league ended after 28 innings, like his seasons do. The way some people have written about Fausto Carmona's trade value, you would think they had him on their fantasy team and just wanted to squeeze some more wins out of him courtesy of a contender. I'm not sure if I'm pleased or upset that Chip Caray doesn't announce Douglas Fister's starts. Michael Pineda got more of a full rundown here. When Rick Porcello decides to throw his four-seamer more often, he can leave timeout. C'mon, Rick, I ranked you next to Phil Coke. Isn't that reason enough to try something new?

We have officially hit the Bruce Chen portion of the show, which means it's time for me to throw up my hands and say I hope you finished drafting your pitchers before this point. This isn't even the bottom of the barrel anymore: the wood rotted and Royals pitchers started falling out. 

12 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Coco C... (02/25)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Focus: Right F... (02/24)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Star... (02/28)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Closer S... (02/25)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: A Three-Act Tragedy, A T...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: My Personal Scorecard: Pa...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of October 17-18,...
The Week in Quotes: October 13-19, 2014
Pebble Hunting: The Best Teams Should Make T...
Transaction Analysis: Silverman's Kohn Job
Playoff Prospectus: World Series Preview: Gi...

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 25, 2011
Premium Article Prospectus Hit and Run: Are You Experienced?
Premium Article On the Beat: Seeking Starters in Yankees Cam...
Baseball ProGUESTus: Home Runs and Humidors:...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Closer Strategies for Draft Da...
Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Coco Crisp
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks in the Rotation
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Scoresheet Draft Prep, BP King...

MORE BY MARC NORMANDIN
2011-02-28 - Premium Article Collateral Damage: Let the Games Begin
2011-02-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Starting Pitcher Rankings
2011-02-25 - Premium Article Collateral Damage: Springing for Surgery
2011-02-25 - Fantasy Focus: AL Starting Pitcher Rankings
2011-02-24 - Fantasy Focus: Right Fielder Rankings
2011-02-23 - Purpose Pitches: Wainwright Go Bye?
2011-02-23 - Premium Article Collateral Damage: To Each According to His ...
More...

MORE FANTASY FOCUS
2011-03-09 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: My Beef With Andre
2011-03-04 - Fantasy Focus: A Tour of the 2011 Player For...
2011-02-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Starting Pitcher Rankings
2011-02-25 - Fantasy Focus: AL Starting Pitcher Rankings
2011-02-24 - Fantasy Focus: Right Fielder Rankings
2011-02-23 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Center Fielder Rankings
2011-02-22 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: Left Fielder Rankings
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2011-04-18 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: The Road to Hellickson Is Pav...
2011-04-04 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Weekly Planner #1
2011-03-30 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Spring Hurlers
2011-02-28 - Fantasy Article Fantasy Focus: NL Starting Pitcher Rankings