Given that Oliver Perez and Jake Peavy are right up there with your other three, you have to gamble on guys like Josh Beckett, Jeremy Bonderman, Zack Grienke and Brad Penny. I am also going to be taking a flier on Runelvys Hernandez if his name is on the boards late in any of my drafts as well.
AJ Burnett. He might outperform Zambrano and can be had later. Bonderman had a great 2nd half, but he is on a lot of peoples radars. To gwet him, you would probably have to reach in a draft or overpay at auction.
Harden is best bet. If your league gives big points for K's and doesn't kill you on loses, then Kazmir, Bonderman, and even Francis in CO will give you good returns, and likely will slip to later rounds.
I think he may already be there, but I would expect Peavy to step it up another notch this year, and join the elite.
Runelvys Hernandez is a pitcher for the Royals. He will be turing 27 this March. Hernandez was off to an amazing start at the age of 25 as the 2003 season begun. He then went on to struggle mightily and soon after had to go under the knife for Tommy John sugery.
Due to the timing of his injury, he was just beggining to throw at full speed last September. Look for Hernandez to win a rotation spot, defy uninformed critics and show up on everyone's radar by the 2005 All-Star break.
When I followed Runelvys Hernandez during his first stint in the big leagues (2002), I recall thinking he and Oliver Perez were some of the better young, rising arms in baseball. Hernandez had a 8.23 K/9 ratio in the minors compared to Oliver Perez's 9.97.
Of course Hernandez is not the next Oliver Perez, as he is older and less proven. And I know that one slight similarity from the minor leagues does not mean a ton. But if Runelvys Hernandez is worth keeping an eye on.