Go back and look at last season’s rankings of the top 10 pitchers prior to the season. Now look and see how many finished the season in the top 10. I’m betting Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke, Chris Carpenter, Justin Verlander and Javier Vazquez weren’t on those lists to begin the season. If you decide to wait or not spend big bucks on starting pitchers, here are some to target.
Ricky Nolasco (Marlins): A lot of people will shy away from Nolasco because of a 5.06 ERA last season and recall that he was sent to the minors in May. If you analyze Nolasco with a microscopic eye, you see he didn’t pitch as bad as the ERA indicates. He had 9.49 K/9, a 2.14 BB/9 and still had a 1.25 WHIP. The ERA was high due to an unlucky Batting Average on Balls in Play (.336) and a very low strand rate (61 percent). Nolasco has great stuff and will be a top-20 pitcher.
Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies): The days of avoiding pitchers from Colorado are done. Jimenez has all the tools to succeed. He improved his control and increased his strikeout rate. Jimenez gets a lot of groundballs, gets strikeouts and is very difficult to hit. If he can improve on his 3.51 BB/9, he can contend for the Cy Young.
Cole Hamels (Phillies): Hamels had almost the exact K/9, BB/9, HR/9, fly ball, line drive and groundball rates that he did in 2008, but his ERA went up 1.23 and his WHIP went up .21. The difference was Hamels had a .325 BABIP compared to .270 in 2008. Draft Hamels at a discount.
Jon Lester (Red Sox): Lester got off to an atrocious start last season before being one of the most dominant pitchers the rest of the season as he improved his K/9 to 9.96. He’ll be one of the elite.
Wandy Rodriguez (Astros): Rodriguez has shown improvement and been excellent for two straight years. Rodriguez mixes his pitches well and has a good curveball.
Matt Garza (Rays): Garza is one example why you don’t look at wins when drafting pitchers. He went 8-12, but had a 3.95 ERA with a career-high 8.38 K/9 with little run support. Garza is capable of getting 200 strikeouts.
Scott Baker (Twins): Baker has excellent control (48 walks in 200 innings) and a good K/9 (7.29). Baker struggled through a shoulder injury in the first half before finishing strong.
Brett Anderson (A’s): Anderson had a very impressive rookie season, especially after the All-Star break with almost one strikeout per inning, a 3.48 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 88 innings. Anderson had a 51 percent groundball rate, a 7.7 K/9 and 2.31 BB/9. He’s the real deal.
Gavin Floyd (White Sox): Floyd saw his wins decrease by six and his ERA rose .24, yet he had a better season. His K/9 rose to 7.6, his BB/9 decreased to 2.75 and his fly ball rate declined by six percent. A good value pick.
Kevin Slowey (Twins): Slowey has pitched well in the spring coming off wrist surgery. He has excellent command and will be a bargain.