MLB: National League Pitchers


There was a time when my entire pitching strategy was to take National League pitchers when competing in a mixed league. One of the reasons remains legit; they don’t have to face the designated hitter. It used to be the NL parks were also more pitcher friendly, and while some remain, others like Minute Made Park have replaced cavernous old parks like the Astrodome.  As we have with each position, we will break down the different tiers. Several elite starters are already out for the season and are addressed later. St.Louis’ Chris Carpenter and the Philadelphia big four of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are at the top. The next tier are top tandems from four teams that figure to compete for division crowns in ’11. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the World Champion Giants, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley from LA, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson of Atlanta and Milwaukee’s Zac Grienke and Yovani Gollardo. A trio of “young guns” continue to make their mark; Florida’s Josh Johnson, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jiminez and Arizona’s Daniel Hudson. If you can end up with any combination of these, you should be on your way. Youngsters for your consideration; San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, Colorado’s Jholys Chacin, Arizona’s Ian Kennedy and Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman.

When figuring out your budget, allocate at least 60% for hitting, leaving 40% for pitching. I would recommend making sure you get saves with that 40% first, then getting best pitching available with what’s left. With that in mind, no $20+ starters should be on your roster. From a draft perspective, certainly none in your first five picks. Just my opinion, pitching is too volatile.

How do you handle closers? Much depends on your league’s categories. If you are in a standard roto league then they are quite valuable. 5×5 leagues which include strikeouts as a category put more emphasis on the starter. There are more question marks than in recent memory when looking at bullpens. I really can’t say anyone is a sure thing. New York’s Francisco Rodriguez, LA’s Jonathan Broxton, Chicago’s Carlos Marmol, San Diego’s Heath Bell and San Francisco’s Brian Wilson appear to be the most reliable.  All, with the possible exception of Bell, have questions marks entering 2011.  An older trio appear to be in the next tier; Cincinnati’s Francisco Cordero, Arizona’s JJ Putz and Ryan Franklin of St.Louis. Those three may come at good value. Also to keep an eye on, three relative newcomers on the scene; Atlanta’s fire balling Craig Kimbrel, Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan and Washington’s Drew Storen.  Four setup men should also be on your radar, they will pick up lots of wins, an occasional save and often are next in line if a change is made at closer. Washington’s Tyler Clippard, San Diego’s Mike Adams, Cincinnati flamethrower Aroldis Chapman and Atlanta’s Jonny Venters fit that bill.

A number of pitchers will begin the season on the disabled list. You will need to bid accordingly, then also plan for a replacement in their place until they heal. The premiere hurlers that will begin on the shelf include: New York’s Johan Santana, San Diego’s Matt Latos, Kansas City’s Zac Grienke, Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto and closers Wilson of San Francisco and Philadelphia’s Brad Lidge.

If you are in a keeper league, there are a number of injured studs you may want to set money aside for. If Stephen Strasburg is available, grab him, worst case he is throwing smoke in Spring training 2012. Adam Wainwright is another long term option. While he won’t contribute this year, he should be returning early next season.


Wainwright’s Injury Hurts Franklin’s Value

Adam Wainwright won twenty games last year with the Cards so how many less save opportunities will closer Ryan Franklin have this year?

Analysis: The Adam Wainwright injury is devastating to keeper league owners but Ryan Franklin’s fantasy value take a pretty big hit as well. Franklin will see fewer save opportunities and have smaller leads to work with. Franklin goes from a closer that has averaged 32.5 saves over the last two years and a middle tier reliever to a guy that is a Chris Carpenter injury away from being Ryan Madson with a higher ERA. Sure he’ll get you some saves but if Carpenter was to get injured you’d think the Cards would move in a differerent, younger direction at closer.

Projection: The potential loss of Wainwright for the year moves Franklin from a middle tier 17th-24th ranked closer to having as much value as a Kevin Gregg. Franklin isn’t a strikeout pitcher with his 5.8K/9IP line last year and for a guy who won’t touch thirty saves don’t bother touching him on draft day.

Adam Wainwright May Be Lost for Season

In what would be a devastating loss for the Cardinals and Wainwright owners alike, the runner-up for last year’s NL Cy Young is headed back to St. Louis for further tests on his right elbow after a Monday throwing session went awry. Reports indicate that the 6’7″ righty felt pain and stiffness yesterday, and further evaluation by trainers have led the team to believe that a significant ligament injury is possible.

Analysis: Panic has set in around Tony LaRussa’s club, as the cornerstone of their pitching staff may be headed for Tommy John surgery. Amassing 39 wins over the past two seasons, Wainwright and Chris Carpenter form one of the best 1-2 tandems in the game. A budding workhorse, the 29-year-old has established himself as an elite and irreplaceable arm within a divison that has suddenly become much more competitive considering the Brewers’ beefed up rotation. Fantasy owners who claim Wainwright as a keeper will certainly be holding their collective breath over the next 48-72 hours, along with all of St. Louis.

Projection: Although the verdict may not be in for several days, you can be sure that the Cards are already scrambling behind the scenes for a potential replacement in the rotation. Internal candidates include P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, and veteran Ian Snell, with the upper hand probably going to Walters. However, a very serviceable option still remains on the free agent market in the form of Kevin Millwood. The two time 18-game winner could certainly benefit from a return to the National League, and has made it known that he is holding out for a Major League deal; something other rotation-thin teams such as the Yankees have been unwilling to offer thus far. I believe that Millwood would slot in nicely right behind Jaime Garcia, and could be good for 12-14 wins in 30+ starts.