By the Fantasy Baseball Experts at FantasyFanatics.com
It's about time for many leagues to start drafting. If you're like me, you've already etched the top starting pitchers available on draft day.
Here are numbers 16 to 20 to look for!
Cole Hamels is a 23 year-old left-handed starting pitcher. When Hamels was first called up in 2006, he struggled mightily in the first half of the season, posting a 5.44 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, and walking 24 batters in just 44.6 IP. Despite his initial struggles, Hamels bounced back in the second half of 2006 by posting a 3.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 24 BB’s in 87.6 IP (the same amount as the first half, but in double the IP). In 2007, Hamels proved why experts love looking at second half stats. In 183.3 IP, Hamels posted 15 wins, a 3.39 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 177 K’s, and just 43 BB (2.11 Ctl). There is just one small reason why Hamels isn’t higher on this list – health. Towards the end of 2007, Hamels was shut down by the Phillies for a month due to an “elbow strain.” Anything arm or elbow related should immediately send off red flags. If not for this injury, Hamels would certainly be in the top 15. Regardless, Hamels is a fantastic fantasy pitcher, and hopefully he’ll have a healthy season for his fantasy owners.
Rich Hill is a 28 year-old left-handed starting pitcher. Hill is sort of a late bloomer considering he only had his first full major league season at age 27, but that shouldn’t deter fantasy owners in the least. Hill has one of the game’s best curveballs, and kept hitters off-balance all season, striking out 183 of them in 195 IP. He first started turning heads in 2006 when he won 6 games while posting a 4.17 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and striking out 90 batters in just 99.3 IP. Unlike some young pitchers in recent memory who have had good stints in the majors then folded in a full-season (i.e. Zach Duke), Hill followed up his successful 2006 stint with a great 2007 full-season. In 2007, Hill posted 11 wins, a 3.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 183 K’s in 195 IP. While his ERA, WHIP, and K total are all impressive, the one thing holding Hill back is his control. He walked 63 batters in 2007 (2.90 Ctl), which was a big improvement over his 39 walks in 2006 (3.53 Ctl), but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Considering he only scattered 170 hits in 195 IP in 2007, shaving off some of those walks would really propel Hill into the elite class of pitchers.
John Smoltz is a 40 year-old right-handed starting pitcher. Unlike his former Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine (well, Glavine is a Brave again, but whatever), Smoltz has not shown any signs of fading. Maddux has lost his once notable dominance and has instead relied on his pinpoint control. Glavine isn’t nearly the pitcher he was in any realm (dominance or control). Smoltz on the other hand has been consistently dominant and has also maintained his control through the years. At age 40, Smoltz posted 14 wins, a 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 197 K’s, and just 47 BB’s in 205.6 IP. Even “Baseball Prospectus” doesn’t see a decline until the 2009 or 2010 season. So while you might be more inclined to take a chance on a youngster, Smoltz has been a sure bet for quite a while, and proves every season why he is still an elite pitcher in the majors.
Roy Oswalt is a 29 year-old right-handed starting pitcher. Oswalt has been a fantasy and NL ace for the past 6 or 7 seasons. Despite this, fantasy owners felt that Oswalt is starting to decline already. There is some truth to this, but a good case can also be made for the opposite. While it is true that his K/9 rate has steadily dropped from 7.8 in 2004 to 6.5 in 2007, his control has stayed pretty consistent throughout. Granted, he did walk 60 batters in 212 IP last season (2.5 Ctl) which was more than the year before, when he walked just 38 batters in 220.6 IP (1.6 Ctl), but Oswalt’s second half Ctl of 1.7 in 2007 indicates that his first half Ctl of 3.2 was a fluke. Essentially, Oswalt is indeed striking out fewer batters, but his second half indicates that there is still hope of a return to the 7.0 K/9 plateau. Overall, Oswalt posted 14 wins, a 3.18 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 154 K’s in 212 IP. An interesting stat about Oswalt is that he pitches much better at home (one of the worst pitcher’s parks) than he does on the road. His 2007 away ERA of 4.77 was much higher than his career ERA of 3.66, so I also expect that number to decrease quite a bit in 2008.
(San Diego Padres):
Chris Young is a 28 year-old right-handed starting pitcher. Young is just one of many great examples of how fantastic a GM Padres GM Kevin Towers is. To be able to snag Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka is astonishing. Anyway, enough about Kevin Towers. Chris Young has developed into one of the more reliable starting pitchers in the league. No one doubts how good his overall numbers are, but his home/away splits prevent him, at least in my opinion, from being a top 10 starter. Just like many fans don’t fully credit many good hitters who play their home games at Coors (one of the best hitter’s parks), Young’s stats are equally as influenced by the fact that he plays his home games at Petco Park (one of the best pitcher’s parks). Young had a fantastic second season as a Padre in 2007, posting a 3.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 167 K’s in 173 IP, but his home/away splits suggest that he is a mere product of a great pitcher’s park. At home, Young posted a 1.69 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and only surrendered 50 hits in 85.3 IP. But away, Young posted a 4.52 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and surrendered 68 hits in 87.6 IP. First of all, to give up just 118 hits in 173 IP is not only impossible to do, but is also impossible to sustain. Second of all, Young’s control is suspect. He walked 72 batters in just 173 IP, which gives him a Ctl of 3.74. Considering his hit total will be impossible to maintain, and that a “good” starter is someone who can maintain around a hit per IP, I expect to see a much higher ERA and WHIP in 2008. This shouldn’t deter you from drafting Young, but it should deter you from drafting him before a lot of pitchers which more consistent and well-rounded stats.