We’ve tackled where to draft the top twenty catchers, 1st basemen, 2nd basemen, 3rd basemen, shortstops and outfielders. It’s time to toe the rubber and try and make sense of the starting pitchers for ‘08. Pitching always rates as the most valuable category for fantasy baseball and also the least predictable. You build your dream house overlooking the ocean. Every accouterment you can imagine; Sub-Zero refrigerator, 50” wall-mounted plasma and a top-of-the-line hibachi grill. Unfortunately, the cost for the personal Benihana chef forced you to skimp on plumbing and you end up with a river of feces running through your living room. A fantasy team is similar. You don’t want to build your dream team by splurging on offense, because then you’ll have to skimp on pitching, leaving you with a river of feces in the form of Kip Wells.
Without further ado, the top twenty pitchers to draft for ’08. If you want to see how the pitchers did fantasy-wise for ‘07, here’s our player rater.
2. Johan Santana – See our top twenty overall for projections.
3. Brandon Webb – Full disclosure: I got burned on Webb the year he was simply average (‘04) and I haven’t gone near him since. I’ve seen him garner top twenty overall status for ’08 drafts and, at this point, I can’t really argue. I would never draft a pitcher in the first or second rounds unless Peavy or Santana fell to me at the end of the 2nd round, but, with that said, Webb’s looking more and more solid. Only injury can stop him. Projections: 19-7/190/3.10/1.20
4. C.C. Sabathia – I’ve never had the fat Dontrelle on any team ever, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t. He’s in his prime and his numbers are peaking. Carrying around that extra poundage can’t be great for his legs, but he’s still young. Projections: 20-9/210/3.40/1.15
5. Erik Bedard – Filthy stuff, awful division to be a pitcher in. Not sure he can build on his ’07, but if he can maintain the torso, he’s easily a top ten pitcher. Projections: 16-10/230/3.30/1.10
6. Aaron Harang – Maybe this will be the year he gets draft early by flb-ers or maybe not, but I definitely will. He’s a workhorse that only struggles in the win department, and that can’t really be helped by him. One caveat: Dusty might have him averaging 140 pitches/game. Projections: 17-10/220/3.75/1.15
7. Cole Hamels – The future has arrived for the Phillies ace. If he stays away from injury, he battles Peavy for the Cy Young. Not sure how early I’m going to draft him, but he’ll be on one of my ’08 teams. (Conservative bet, I’ll probably have to draft him in the fourth round overall.) Projections: 20-7/210/3.20/1.10
8. Dan Haren – He was dominant before the trade and going to the NL is a boon to his value. He’s a bit prone to the longball and now that he’s in a hitter’s park has me a bit concerned. Projections: 17-9/210/3.60/1.20
9. Josh Beckett – Everything broke right last year for Beckett. He only walked forty batters all year. 40! He’s still an injury risk, but he can win seventeen games for the Sox with a 4.50 ERA (No arrigato, Dice-K), and I think his ERA will be better than that. Projections: 19-9/190/3.90/1.20
10. Roy Oswalt – Wins might be a problem for him, but getting hitters out has never been. His strikeouts have begun to decline and he’s said himself that he’s just trying to get hitters out, no matter how. Seems like he’s treading close to the NL version of Roy Halladay. Projections: 15-7/150/3.60/1.22
11. John Lackey – This is my preseason pick for ’08 AL Cy Young. (Remember, Cy Young doesn’t always equate to best pitcher.) The Angels have some more experience for their younger players and Torii Hunter. They should get Lackey the wins and he can do the rest. Projections: 20-5/180/3.00/1.20
12. Carlos Zambrano – He was out of his mind wild at times last year and he was still a quality starter to have on a fantasy team. If he got through Dusty and Barrett, the rest is icing and he obviously loves icing. Projections: 16-7/210/3.60/1.30
13. Roy Halladay – Is it me or is he starting to seem like he’s getting old? He no longer strikes out hitters at a good enough rate to rank him higher, but he doesn’t walk hitters either. Unfortunately, he does give up a lot of hits. I’m worried about Halladay and won’t be drafting him this year. You can do what you do. Projections: 15-7/120/4.00/1.25
14. Chris Young – He’s a flyball pitcher in the best flyball pitcher park. His division is light-hitting and he’s on a contender. What more do you need to know? Oh, I know. His height causes him to have back pain and his height is not going away. Projections: 15-5/160/3.00/1.10 and he only pitches in a 150 innings.
15. John Maine – He’ll be 27 in ’08, he’s got the experience under his belt from the last two years and he’s on a team that will score for him. He can easily be in the top ten for the ’09 preseason, act accordingly. Projections: 18-9/210/3.60/1.20
16. Justin Verlander – I was surprised by his ’07 season. There’s was no letdown from his ’06 campaign. If he continues to top his numbers, Lackey may have company for the AL Cy Young. Projections: 19-7/200/3.75/1.20
17. John Smoltz – At some point, he’s going to get old, right? I mean, he has to, doesn’t he? You don’t want to be there when it happens. If you can get him at a bargain rate, take the gamble. Projections: 16-7/160/3.75/1.22
18. James Shields – Kazmir gets the attention and Shields will win you your league. He had 184 Ks to 36 walks last year. Phenomenal. His wins may not be great on the Rays, but his ratios and Ks will be outstanding. Projections: 14-6/185/3.75/1.10
19. Felix Hernandez – Don’t forget about F-Her just because you want to forget about his ‘07 season. With nasty stuff and only turning 22 this year. He could shoot to the top five pitchers by as early as next year. This may be the last time you’ll be able to get him at a bargain for a decade. Projections: 16-5/185/3.50/1.15
20. Rich Hill – This year will be a great year to have Hill. He doesn’t seem to be too high on anyone’s radar. Reach in and grab him in the middle rounds and you will have what Hamels did last year, this year. Projections: 18-7/200/3.60/1.15
After the top twenty obviously a ton of pitchers (we’ll be putting together the draft list of 21-40 soon), but here’s one name people are giddy about and I’m not:
Fausto Carmona – K/9 was 5.74 and his K/BB was 2.25 in ’07. He’s not going to come at a bargain this year, so take a pass on him and see how he does. Not saying he’ll be egregious, but he may not be what he was last year. Projections: 15-9/120/4.25/1.22 and he has people scratching their heads wondering what happened.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the top twenty closers to draft in ’08.