Efficiency in your rotation is how you win leagues. Cheap, replaceable, effective starting pitchers mean more picks and/or budget for bats and closers. In order to be successful most of your rotation needs to be composed of pitchers that can be acquired at something of a value. Here are some to target on draft day – if the price is right.
1. Tim Stauffer, SD – Stauffer is proof positive that any pitcher in San Diego or Seattle is worth a closer look. The formula is: super friendly home ballpark and incredibly weak hitting throughout the division = fantasy gold. In 2011 he had a 2.57 ERA at home but it nearly doubled on the road. Stauffer has just enough skill to make it work in that environment – 6 Ks per 9, 2.5 K/BB ratio and 50% GB%. He’s worth a roster spot and a no-brainer start in virtually any format when he’s at home.
2. Bud Norris, HOU – Norris has the big K rate and if the walks ever settle down he’ll be a stud. That was the case in the first half of last season when he maintained 9 Ks per 9 and backed it up with a 2.56 K/BB rate. Unfortunately he seemed to wear down in the second half.
3. James McDonald, PIT – Lot’s of Ks, lots of walks and he’s a fly ball pitcher. He has flirted with a 2 to 1 K/BB rate, which could make him somewhat useful. He’s a WHIP killer, with 1.46 for his career, but might be worth spot starting in deeper leagues if you need help with Ks. Handle with care.
4. Jorge de la Rosa, COL – De la Rosa was having a career year before TJ surgery. His success was mostly fueled by a career best 3.36 BB/9. For his career he has generated ground balls at a 45% clip and has nearly 8 Ks per 9. There’s a lot to like if he can come back healthy, although it may take a few months for the control to settle down as he learns to feel his pitches again. He’s projected to be back by late May or early June so project one solid half of a season.
5. Derek Lowe, CLE – Lowe was a model of consistency in LA but after three seasons in Atlanta he’s nearing the end of the line. He was traded to the Indians this offseason and will turn 39. He’s throwing a cutter nearly 9% of the time, which is something new, and provides a glimmer of hope. On balance he should be nothing more than waiver wire fodder in 2012.
6. Homer Bailey, CIN – Bailey is finally putting it all together with a nice K rate and a BB/K ratio north of 3.00. FIP and xFIP say he was even a bit unlucky last season. It’s now all about health as he twice spent time on the DL last year with shoulder problems. Shoulders tend to linger and he has lost 2 mph off his fastball over the past two seasons. Don’t draft him expecting 200+ innings, but bet better than expected results.
7. Gavin Floyd, CHW -A Low to mid 40% GB% and BB/K rate better than 3.00 equates to a really solid fantasy pitcher. Despite fluctuations, his WHIP should land no worse than the mid-1.20s. He’s a buy opportunity because he’s been a bit unlucky over the past three seasons. A jump in control to only 2 BB per 9 last season also hints at more upside than others would assume.
8. Clayton Richard, SD – Shoulder surgery and major drop in K rate are reasons that the vast majority of owners will pass on Richard. In deeper leagues focus on 50% GB rate and Petco. If he’s ready in Spring Training he’ll be worth starting whenever he’s at home in all but the shallowest of formats. You’re just hoping for 10 solid starts at home and those odds are good.
9. Jonathon Niese, NYM – Not a big ‘stuff’ guy but has 3 to 1 K/BB rate, 50% GB rate and takes a 7.5 K per 9 rate to the bank. Despite the nice home ballpark he’s been unlucky with BABIP in the past couple of seasons. It all suggests more upside. He’s got the tools to be really useful from a fantasy perspective and lacks the flash to inflate his price. Draft him late and be confident in profit.
10. Cory Luebke, SD – Topped 9 K per 9, for a roughly 3 to 1 BB/K rate, and has awesome home ballpark in a soft division. Last year may have been a fluke but he did the same thing in a 17-inning audition in 2010. Most owners will consider this a ‘show me’ season for Luebke and they might be right. I’ll take the chance this is for real and reach a smidge on draft day.