StrategyFebruary 17, 2008

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Two up, Two down ‘08: Starting Pitchers

By David Allinger

Starting pitching has been so unpredictable the past couple of years that some people are scared to take an ace early in the draft. Others are more than happy to fill their staffs with aces and use their later picks to grab sleeper hitters. When discussing rankings, draft positions, who to snag, and who to avoid, there’s always heavy discussion. We’ll take a look at two pitchers that are being drafted later than they probably should, and two that are being drafted earlier than they probably should in this edition.

Two Up:

Carlos Zambrano

It is popular to avoid Carlos Zambrano like the plague this year. Conventional wisdom says he is a bad investment. After a down year where went 18-13 with an earned run average that pushed 4.00, he seems to have taken a step back. Many fantasy managers immediately point their finger at long time manager of Zambrano – the noted “killer of young arms” – Dusty Baker.

While all signs point to avoid, I believe many are avoiding a little too much. This causes his stock to plummet so far that he becomes a bargain. This popular sentiment has been picked up by most, causing his average draft position to plummet precipitously. In the Cafeholics Mock Draft of 2008, which just was completed two weeks ago, I was able to draft Zambrano at pick number 72 overall. Considering the fact that just last year, he was flying off draft boards in the late 30’s and early 40’s, this is quite a fall for a guy who still managed to win 18 games with 177 K’s after an ugly start to his season.

Moral of the story? Avoid him at his 2007 ADP of roughly 40, but if you see that your league is avoiding him in the 7th round or later – pounce.

Scott Kazmir

Scott Kazmir is being drafted around pick number 65 overall in 2008 drafts, which is around the 10th starting pitcher off the boards. While he is certainly getting recognized as a talented pitcher, he is still slipping further than he should in most drafts.

Kazmir is going to emerge as no worse than a top five pitcher this year, and could even make a push to be the number three starting pitcher behind everyone’s favorite super studs – Johan Santana and Jake Peavy. In 2007, even after altering his mechanics at the request of his team, he still managed to strike out an AL best 239 (1 off the ML league). His stuff is beyond filthy.

But perhaps the most important detail in his success is that the Mets traded him for almost nothing. We all know that this means that he has multiple Cy Young awards in the very near future.

Two Down:

Roy Halladay

A seemingly obvious choice in my mind for a pitcher not worth his draft position is Roy Halladay. After years of seeing him drafted in the third and fourth round, it finally hit me – everyone is crazy. (Including me, as he has been a favorite of mine for years.) Halladay is the epitome of a fine pitcher whose real life value far exceeds his fantasy usefulness.

Halladay is so efficient in recording outs that he manages to pitch deep into games at the cost of strikeouts. While this is an excellent combination for success, it is not ideal in fantasy baseball. He is a non factor in the strikeout category, and actually harmful to your staff in a roto league as he will easily eat 200 innings of your pitching limit while strikeout a paltry 120.

This is not the type of pitcher you want anchoring your fantasy staff, yet I seem him listed in far too many top ten starting pitchers lists.

Erik Bedard

While Erik Bedard is no doubt a talented pitcher, you won’t find me making him my staff ace. Bedard is flying off draft boards in the third round, usually as the fourth or fifth starting pitcher selected. While he did have a Cy Young like season in 2007, he has never proven to be that durable, and his durability issues likely cost him the Cy Young award last season.

Bedard also has only had one great year. I do not see why so many people are willing to invest such a high draft pick on him while offensive talents such as Hafner, Rios, Markakis, and the like are still on the board. As was the case heading into 2007, there is an abundance of pitching talent still available in the middle rounds. I’d much rather draft Hafner with my third round pick and take someone like Scott Kazmir (who I believe will out perform Bedard across the board this year) a few rounds later.

David is an avid New York Mets fan and you can also find him around the boards as your resident poker nut, the one and only pokerplaya.
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