Sixty Feet Six Inches: AL Rotations
We're only one long, meaningless weekend of games away until the start of the 2007 season. Every year we salivate over Opening Day, forgetting that there are 2,429 other games scheduled, which means we're starting a marathon with a 100-meter dash. While I am dying for real stats to crunch as much as you -- heck, moreso, because it is my job -- take my advice and pace yourself. Your team won't win or lose in April (unless of course you drafted Toby Hall, Mark Prior, and Chone Figgins), so don't go cold turkey on the other things in life until, say, Memorial Day. You'll thank me later. If you have time, that is.
Baltimore Orioles: E. Bedard, D. Cabrera, A. Loewen, J. Wright, S. Trachsel
This is the pitching rotation that tries men's souls. Even with talent and Leo Mazzone, it still faces the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays 54 times this year. Having said that, we all know Erik Bedard is poised for a breakout season after his great second half. But after that, there are nothing but question marks. Daniel Cabrera could win a Cy Young, or he could have a WHIP above 1.50. Adam Loewen could be the best value third starter of any rotation, or he could repeat last year's 5.00-plus ERA. Jaret Wright and Steve Trachsel could end up being themselves. So take Bedard early, beware whatever Cabrera is selling, take a good mid-to-late round chance on Loewen, hope (don't bet) Mazzone will work his magic again with Wright, and leave Trachsel on the waiver wire.
Boston Red Sox: C. Schilling, J. Beckett, D. Matsuzaka, T. Wakefield, J. Tavarez
Curt Schilling is pitching like a strong No. 1, but you can get him later than that. Josh Beckett finally threw 200 innings last year but at the expense of his strikeouts. I'd prefer high-strikeout/low-innings to the alternative. I've been thinking all day about what hasn't been said already about Daisuke Matsuzaka. Here goes: his name is an anagram for "Takes aim as a kudzu." Now everything's been covered. I'm still expecting 200 strikeouts and 12-plus wins, with a ceiling of about 18 wins. Tim Wakefield's 2007 numbers should look like his 2005 ones. There are few things I'm sure of, but one is Julian Tavarez will not last long as the fifth starter. Jon Lester is being brought along slowly, but we should see him take the job by mid-May.
Chicago White Sox: J. Contreras, J. Garland, M. Buehrle, J. Vazquez, J. Danks
For the last three seasons, Jose Contreras' walks have decreased, but so have his strikeouts. That means his WHIP has settled in around 1.25, but his ERA is staying north of 4.25. He should provide 12-plus wins, but remember that he's 35. Jon Garland is getting hit hard in spring training. This year it may not be worth the ratios to get his double-digit wins. The only thing that should improve for Mark Buehrle this season is a slight bump up in strikeouts. Don't expect 15-plus wins. This year is Javier Vazquez's last stand. He'll approach 200 strikeouts, but he has to keep men off base and win games. He's either a $13 pitcher or a $25 one. For their fifth starter the White Sox had to choose between John Danks and Gavin Floyd. You shouldn't have to, however. Neither is a good choice this year.
Cleveland Indians: C. Sabathia, J. Westbrook, C. Lee, J. Sowers, P. Byrd
C.C. Sabathia is lucky that second-pitch liner off his wrist didn't end his season. Instead, he'll be ready for Opening Day. Jake Westbrook will be relying on his infield to turn his ground balls into outs. It may not be up to the task, but he could still give you 15 wins with ratios better than, say, Jon Garland. Cliff Lee should be back in April, so I won't list him as on the disabled list. He's still a good draft target this year. Jeremy Sowers is a ground ball pitcher who isn't as good as Westbrook. He won't kill you, but he's still a year or two away from good value. Paul Byrd and Fausto Carmona will both likely get starts with Lee out, but the one you really want is Adam Miller, who should have been given a spot in the rotation out of spring training. In three starts this spring, Miller gave up no runs.
Detroit Tigers: J. Bonderman, J. Verlander, N. Robertson, M. Maroth, C. Durbin (DL: K. Rogers)
Anyone want to bet the rotation took a few fielding drills this spring? Jeremy Bonderman is the guy you draft right after the true elite pitchers are gone, and you realize you didn't get one. What some will call a sophomore slump for Justin Verlander I'll call a correction. However, still expect 12-plus wins. Nate Robertson will have a better year than Verlander. Mike Maroth's journey back from 21 losses in 2003 is the feel-good story of the year. But it's over. Stay away. Kenny Rogers is on the disabled list with a dead arm. At best, he could be back the second week of April, but there's been no timetable (that would only embolden the Tigers' enemies). He's worth a late-round flier, but he's likely not lasting that long. Chad Durbin will see starts with Rogers out.
Kansas City Royals: G. Meche, O. Perez, Z. Greinke, J. De La Rosa, B Duckworth (DL: L. Hudson)
Gil Meche has skills, but he's never thrown more than 190 innings in a season. He won't do that this year, either, and his walks will catch up to him. Odalis Perez has been bothered by a blister and by being Odalis Perez. In case you hadn't noticed, Zack Greinke has been gobbled up in most leagues as a prime sleeper because of his second half and spring training stats. I won't argue his skills, but he still has to show he can keep his head in the game. Jorge De La Rosa and Brandon Duckworth will see starts with Luke Hudson fighting biceps pain. If I say "back of the Royals rotation," is that enough to keep you from drafting them? Poor Brian Bannister. One minute he's a Mets sleeper starter, the next he can't make the Royals' rotation. Kids, let that be a lesson to you: Learn how to slide properly.
Los Angeles Angels: J. Lackey, K. Escobar, E. Santana, J. Saunders, J. Weaver (DL: B. Colon)
One of the longer discussions among our columnists this offseason concerned John Lackey. Some said 2006 was a career year. I say they're a year early. Talk up the injury concerns of Kelvim Escobar (that sounded like a Sergio Leone western, didn't it?) and draft him. He's fine and a great source of strikeouts. Ervin Santana's knee problem from last year worries me. He wont hurt you, but he won't see 16 wins, either. Joe Saunders isn't worth drafting even though he'll get starts until Bartolo Colon returns in May. Colon is draftable, but I wouldn't take him before the 15th round. Jered Weaver is hurt but should be back in mid-April. I still say the league catches up to him (or at least bad luck does), and he won't deserve the draft respect he's getting. Hector Carrasco or Dustin Moseley will get Weaver's starts. And by the way, he may not see time this year, but Nick Adenhart looked great against the A's starters at a spring training game I attended. File his name away.
Minnesota Twins: J. Santana, R. Ortiz, B. Bonser, S. Ponson, C.Silva
The only debate over Johan Santana is whether he should be drafted ahead of Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes and Alex Rodriguez. Let me end it here: he should not. Ramon Ortiz has pitched like the Little Pedro we expected him to be years ago. But then again, it's spring training. He's worth a late-round pick right now, but be ready to launch him if he pulls out that big WHIP of his. I've picked up Boof Bonser in every league I could this year. You should, too. Sir Sidney Ponson hasn't pitched terribly (I can't say he pitched well I just can't) this spring, but keep in mind two of those were blankings of his old employer, the Orioles. I'm not buying it. Carlos Silva is the exception to the rule that says a pitcher with good control should succeed. He simply gives up too many hits. So remember these names as starters for this year: Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey. And if you're in a keeper league, you can do worse than storing away Francisco Liriano for a buck.
New York Yankees: A. Pettitte, M. Mussina, C. Pavano, K. Igawa, J. Karstens (DL: C-M Wang)
I know he's not placed in the order as the No. 1, but Andy Pettitte is the best the Yankees have right now. I like him to see north of 15 wins. Last year I said Mike Mussina would have low ratios and high wins. This year, I say he sees the same wins, but with higher ratios and lower strikeouts. When the Yankees are trotting out Carl Pavano as their Opening Day starter, there are problems in the Bronx. Pavano will get taken sooner than he should because he's a Yankee, so let him go. Kei Igawa has to cut down on the walks and keep the ball in the park. I say he does so until August. However, he'll give you good strikeouts. Jeff Karstens still isn't healthy, but the Yankees want him to start over Darrell Rasner. Unfortunately, Phil Hughes didn't look good enough in spring training to be on their radar, but he may still get a call-up. Expect a trade for another starter. Chien-Ming Wang will be out for a month, but even when he returns, unless he can keep his K/9 above the 3.0 danger mark, he could see a 50 percent decrease in wins this year.
Oakland Athletics: R. Harden, D. Haren, E. Loaiza, J. Blanton, J. Kennedy
I took some flack from all sides when I say Rich Harden was an elite pitcher who should be taken early. Average Draft Position numbers show he's being taken after the 10th round of most drafts. So yes, you can take him later, but realize three things: (1) everyone uses ADP, and still 11 out of 12 fantasy teams lose; (2) ADP is an average and doesn't ensure you'll get your guy by taking him a round earlier; and (3) in every expert draft I've been in this year, Harden has gone early or has been bought for around $20. Of course I'd take Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb and Roy Halladay before him, but not too much before. Last year Dan Haren's walks were down, but his homers were up. If he can keep the ball in the park, he and Harden could win 35 games between them. It's simple with Esteban Loaiza: when he strikes batters out, he wins. When he doesn't, he loses. This year I say he doesn't strike guys out. Joe Blanton appeared to take a step back last year, but now he'll take another one forward. Blanton could get you 14-plus wins very cheaply. The Patriarch, Joe Kennedy, is Oakland's No. 5 starter , but don't chase him.
Seattle Mariners: J. Washburn, F. Hernandez, M. Batista, J. Weaver, H. Ramirez
There's no reason to think Jarrod Washburn turns things around and becomes the 2002 version. Ten wins might be a reach. Last year I said to let Felix Hernandez go because he would be a more expensive version of Esteban Loaiza. This year, gobble him up, because he should be a cheaper version of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Miguel Batista will give you the same stats as Washburn, but about 15 rounds later. Oh, Jeff Weaver. Don't you remember what the AL West did to you last year? Funny how a World Series ring can kill your memory (or perhaps it's just the mind's way of protecting him from a traumatic memory). The good news is as fifth starters go, Horacio Ramirez is above average. The bad news is he still shouldn't be drafted.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: S. Kazmir, J. Seo, J. Shields, C. Fossum, E. Jackson
Last year Scott Kazmir lowered his walks and raised his strikeouts. If he stays healthy, only the ceiling on wins by his team will be disappointing. Don't buy Jae Weong Seo's spring ERA. It's fool's gold. James Shields, on the other hand, is a legitimate strikeout and ratio threat who, like Zack Greinke, is flying off the shelves right now. The added bonus will be felt by Kazmir, who will have competition as Tampa's best pitcher, which should make both better. Casey Fossum's lowest WHIP in four years was 1.41. Hopefully that scares you away. And speaking of guys that keep fooling me, Edwin Jackson has posted good spring numbers. However, Jackson may be the poster boy for small sample size; he is usually inconsistent, and 20 2/3 innings isn't enough to gauge his performance. I'm still staying away. But rather than end on a down note with the Devil Rays, for those of you thinking long-term, take a look at Jacob McGee.
Texas Rangers: K. Millwood, V. Padilla, B. McCarthy, R. Tejada, J. Wright
Yes, we should be cautious with pitchers in the Launching Pad at Arlington, but the Rangers are my sleeper World Series team and some ratio issues could be balanced by wins from strong run support. It's easy to figure out Kevin Millwood: play him on the road, sit him at home. However, if you don't have that luxury, then discount for his ratios in your valuations. Vicente Padilla is the pitching equivalent of Mike Piazza: He doesn't care how unfavorable the park is, he's going to get his job done. I just got him for $2 in an AL-only keeper league. That's insane. Don't be afraid to get him. I have no faith in flyball pitcher Brandon McCarthy pitching in Arlington. You shouldn't, either. This isn't the year to get Robinson Tejeda. Think about next year. The over-under on wins for Jamey Wright is five. I'm taking the under, which leads me to this question: Why is he starting over Kameron Loe? Expect the roles to be reversed soon.
Toronto Blue Jays: R. Halladay, AJ Burnett, G. Chacin, T. Ohka, V. Zambrano (DL: J. Thomson)
I'm worried about Roy Halladay's falling strikeouts, but the only time he's broken 200 is when he threw 266 innings. Since we (and the Blue Jays' insurance carrier) don't want that to happen, just enjoy the wins and ratios. Both times A.J. Burnett has thrown more than 200 innings in a season, he's followed it up with an injury-shortened year. It looks like the Blue Jays realize this, because he's only thrown 10 innings this spring. Assume they baby him and base your numbers on 180 innings. Gustavo Chacin's strikeouts were down while his walks were up. Don't chase him. Tomo Ohka will get eaten alive in the AL East. Stay far away. The last spot in the rotation is up for grabs, at least until John Thomson is healthy. It looks like Victor Zambrano will get the job for now, but he's a huge risk. Personally, I didn't expect him back so soon. If it were up to me, I'd say Casey Janssen should be given a chance. Assume he will get a chance and will be at least as good as Chacin.
David Young is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. E-mail him at MrSnappy@TalentedMrRoto.com
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