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Debut of the Top 40+10

March 9, 2009

The first forty entries on this list are the top 40 starting pitchers for fantasy baseball purposes. The final ten comprise a Youth Watch list, which at this time is more of a Bargain Bin or $1 Watch list. Some of the players listed there will be prospects, but at this time, there are some players coming off of severe injuries and/or very bad seasons. Maybe not players you’ll want to take in your draft or auction, though you will be able to get them for a dollar in most auction drafts or in the last round or two of most snake drafts, but they’re all players you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Next to each name, you’ll see their Yahoo! Average Draft Position (Y! ADP) and ESPN Auction Value (ESPN $). A brief description of each choice is below this line. The main focus of these will be value and injury risk. Since none of the players on the Youth Watch are being drafted, those categories have been omitted.

And…here…we…GO!

Top 40

1.) Johan Santana – Y! ADP: 15.4 ESPN $:25

Multiple Cy Young awards, career 3.11 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, at least 219 innings, 206 strikeouts in every year as a full-time starter, elbow’s fine…so, what’s not to like? Well, dropping K-rate coupled with a rising BB-rate. Oh, and that ADP. I can see the appeal, but taking Johan Santana over Jimmy Rollins (14.0) and/or BJ Upton (17.4) seems ill-advised.

2.) CC Sabathia – Y! ADP: 22.4 ESPN $: 24

Signing with the Yankees viewed as a boon to his win total, but he already had seventeen last year, and nineteen the year before. Big contract, big innings total, and big weight have scared away some, but once again it’s his ADP keeping me at bay. It’s more likely Carlos Beltran (22.1) or even Brandon Phillips (29.3) return on their value.

3.) Tim Lincecum – Y! ADP: 17.9 ESPN $: 24

Good, actually, great pitcher. But I still won’t advise taking any of this year’s pitchers that early. There isn’t a prime Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens or Curt Schilling to be had. Maybe he’ll one day make that class, but you can find better value further down this list. (If you’re in a keeper league, all of this can be ignored. He should be the first pitcher off of the board, and a first round selection.)

4.) Brandon Webb – Y! ADP: 39.2 ESPN $: 23

You won’t be able to get great value for him in auction leagues, but look at the drop-off in ADP from the top three. Statistics surely don’t warrant him going two rounds later than Lincecum: four straight years of 225+ innings, 170+ strikeouts, sub-3.60 ERA.

5.) Roy Halladay – Y! ADP: 46.8 ESPN $: 23

Don’t expect as many strikeouts as last year, but he’s a proven three category (W, ERA, WHIP) stud. Late fourth round? Yes, please.

6.) Dan Haren – Y! ADP: 58.9 ESPN $: 20

As consistent as they come.

2005: 217.0 IP, 14-12, 163 Ks, 3.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
2006: 223.0 IP, 14-13, 176 Ks, 4.12 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2007: 222.2 IP, 15-9, 192 Ks, 3.07 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
2008: 216.0 IP, 16-8, 206 Ks, 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

Peripherals say he should be even better this year.

7.) Jake Peavy – Y! ADP: 47.1 ESPN $: 22

Strikeouts: Yay! ERA: Yay! WHIP: Pretty Good! Health: Seems OK! Wins: Boo!

8.) Josh Beckett – Y! ADP: 67.9 ESPN $: 15

I’m not quite sure what ESPN is up to, but I’m definitely buying on Josh Beckett at $15. Healthy, (and throwing all of his pitches again?), should be primed for a huge season. 20 W, 200 K upside. All with a sub-3.50 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP.

9.) Cole Hamels – Y! ADP: 38.0 ESPN $: 22

A tall, attractive man with ruffled beach bound hair. Oh, he’s pretty good on the mound aussi. Just don’t expect more than last year. (He’s going ahead of Halladay and Webb in Y! drafts. Ick.)

10.) John Lackey – Y! ADP: 85.4 ESPN $: 19

No serious downturn in numbers from injury last season. Expect good returns in a possible contract year.

11.) Rich Harden – Y! ADP: 91.6 ESPN $: 13

Rate statistics off the charts. (No really, he beats Lincecum across the board.) However, he’s been unable to stay healthy, and he was diagnosed with a minor shoulder injury during the offseason. You may not get a full season out of him, but what you do get should be excellent. (Though I can’t help but wonder, when does “luck” become a trend?)

12.) Chad Billingsley – Y! ADP: 76.2 ESPN $: 15

Last season feels like the high water mark, so bid accordingly.

13.) Ervin Santana – Y! ADP: 87.0 ESPN $: 16

Would gain a few spots if healthy. Unfortunately he isn’t. Likely to start the season on the DL.

14.) James Shields – Y! ADP: 99.2 ESPN $: 18

Two straight seasons of greatness, both took us by surprise. I’d bet on a third, but a rebound in his K-rate is up for speculation.

15.) Felix Hernandez – Y! ADP: 88.4 ESPN $: 17

Are people still overpaying for him? Apparently. More strikeouts and a lower WHIP would be nice.

16.) Francisco Liriano – Y! ADP: 72.3 ESPN $: 16

Harden is my dominant albeit injury-prone pitcher of preference. ADP seems quite steep. Four picks behind Beckett? Really?

17.) AJ Burnett – Y! ADP: 94.8 ESPN $: 12

I may be in the minority here, but I’m betting on a repeat. He’ll certainly climb if he starts strong.

18.) Roy Oswalt – Y! ADP: 90.9 ESPN $: 20

Yahoo! users seem to undervalue him, ESPN seems to overvalue him. So, who knows? You know what you’re going to get, which is a very valuable asset on this list.

19.) Scott Kazmir – Y! ADP: 100.1 ESPN $: 13

Two Rays in the top 20? They must have gone to the World Series last year or something. Oh wait, that’s right, they did. Gotta love the strikeouts, gotta pray he makes 30 starts.

20.) Jon Lester – Y! ADP: 100.5 ESPN $: 13

Seems undervalued. I might target him in drafts, though that’d take some approach altering.

21.) Yovani Gallardo – Y! ADP: 114.9 ESPN $: 14

Top ten if you could guarantee me 200 innings.

22.) Edinson Volquez – Y! ADP: 108.5 ESPN $: 9

Seems ridiculously undervalued based on last season’s statistics. Next season everyone will have him higher.

23.) Cliff Lee – Y! ADP: 78.2 ESPN $: 16

Much like Volquez, only more likely to regress drastically. Age being one of the significant factors here.

24.) Joba Chamberlain – Y! ADP: 94.8 ESPN $: 12

Unproven as a starter in the majors, better value can be found elsewhere. Pass.

25.) Daisuke Matsuzaka – Y! ADP: 98.0 ESPN $: 13

WHIP not a strong suit, but you should get wins and strikeouts from him.

26.) Adam Wainwright – Y! ADP: 132.2 ESPN $: 13

Killer curveball. But everyone knows that. I’m betting on 150 innings. I’d encourage you to do the same.

27.) Carlos Zambrano – Y! ADP: 107.5 ESPN $: 10

One season could be considered a fluke. Two season at this level, and I’d only expect more of the same. (See Harden, Rich)

28.) Javier Vazquez – Y! ADP: 125.6 ESPN $: 11

They love him over at The Hardball Times, which is enough for me to bump him up a few spots. Though maybe he’s just unlucky.

29.) Matt Cain – Y! ADP: 123.4 ESPN $: 12

Still unlikely to get many wins, as the Giants still refuse to hit for him. I’d like to see him avoid bats a bit better as well.

30.) Justin Verlander – Y! ADP: 127.5 ESPN $: 10

I’m not betting on a rebound. All signs point to another disappointing season.

31.) David Price – Y! ADP: 126.1 ESPN $: 7

Super rookies are almost always overrated. This is no exception. Byron did a nice write-up on him last week.

32.) Brett Myers – Y! ADP: 148.6 ESPN $: 8

Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. AJ Burnett 2008 upside in contract year, reported to camp 35 pounds lighter than end of last season.

33.) Zack Greinke – Y! ADP: 139.9 ESPN $: 14

I think ESPN has his value about right. Which means in most Y! snake drafts, you’ll be getting a steal. Don’t worry about the fact he pitches for the Royals, their bullpen is very solid and he had thirteen wins last season.

34.) Ricky Nolasco – Y! ADP: 133.8 ESPN $: 12

Absolutely unhittable for extended stretches last season. Greinke’s a better choice for this season.

35.) Chris Young – Y! ADP: 145.8 ESPN $: 1

Seems an absolute steal in ESPN auction drafts. Recurring theme of good when healthy. (See Zambrano, Carlos)

36.) Scott Baker – Y! ADP: 165.7 ESPN $: 13

I like him at $13. No reason to believe he won’t repeat or better last season’s line: 172.1 IP, 11-4, 141 Ks, 3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP.

37.) Randy Johnson – Y! ADP: 174.4 ESPN $: 9

He’s ancient (45), but still putting up good rate statistics (11.44 K/9, 5.54 K/BB). If back holds up, should return good value.

38.) Derek Lowe – Y! ADP: 149.4 ESPN $: 12

He’s been consistently good over the last four season, while flying completely under the radar. Shouldn’t cost much to acquire.

39.) Aaron Harang – Y! ADP: 151.6 ESPN $: 9

Last season was bad. Very bad. Worth a late pick banking on the rebound.

40.) Gavin Floyd – Y! ADP: ESPN $:

Everyone thinks he’ll regress due to low BABIP last season, among other factors. I watched both of his near no-hitters, he’s the real deal. Expect BABIP to rise, along with strikeouts. Another ERA under 4 is likely, as are 15 wins.

Youth Watch

1.) Rick Porcello

While he reminds Byron of Roy Halladay, a comparison to Kevin Brown was my first instinct. Hopefully everyone remembers how great Kevin Brown really was.

2.) Homer Bailey

The once highly touted prospect has been great so far in spring training. He’s deadlocked with Micah Owings for the final rotation spot in Cincinnati, but he obviously has the higher upside. Let’s hope the drop in velocity was a temporary occurrence and not a sign of chronic shoulder pain.

3.) Kevin Millwood

Three reasons to keep an eye on Millwood’s early season starts:

1999: 228.0 IP, 18-7, 205 Ks, 2.68 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
2002: 217.0 IP, 18-8, 178 Ks, 3.24 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
2005: 192.0 IP, 9-11, 146 Ks, 2.86 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

I know 2005 was a long time ago, and he’s been completely unownable since, but he’s down 15 lbs and looking good in spring training, so just keep an eye out.

4.) Phil Hughes

He’s bound to put it all together sooner or later. For the record, I’m betting sooner, be it in New York or elsewhere.

5.) Wade Davis

In some ways, he’s in the same boat as Phil Hughes. Both pitchers are likely to start in the minor leagues, with their major league affiliates both having stacked rotations. The main difference is that Hughes has previously had a shot in the majors, multiple shots actually, while Davis is still waiting for his. He’s impressed Rays coaches so far in spring training.

6.) Mark Prior/Jason Schmidt/Curt Schilling

Prior and Schmidt are reportedly healthy, and both have great upside pitching in pitcher’s parks. Prior more so, since he’s considerably younger (28 vs. 36). Schilling has said he’d like to pitch for the Rays or Cubs, though I don’t see where he’d fit with Tampa, leaving Chicago as this speculator’s best guess. Keep an eye on all three.

7.) Scott Olsen

Where has all that promise he showed in 2006 gone? If his velocity’s back into the low 90s, he might be worth a shot. Otherwise, write him off.

8.) Rick VandenHurk

I’m not sure why every talent evaluator has ignored my favorite Dutchman, but he possesses a plus fastball and a hammer curve. If he had spent the last two years lighting up the minors instead of getting hammered in the majors, it might be a different story. As it is, his tools will likely land him as a number 2 or 3 starter at some point.

9.) Luke Hochevar

The former number one draft pick has had his struggles, but his stuff is better than Brian Bannister’s, who he is in direct competition with for the fifth starter’s job in Kansas City. An established groundball pitcher and innings eater, a few more strikeouts would do him good.

10.) Stephen Strasburg

Wrapping up our list is a college pitcher (at San Diego State) likely to go number 1 in this June’s draft. In three starts, he’s striking out 58% of those he faces. If you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, picking him up as soon as he becomes available would be the desired plan of action.

~ Corey

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