Thursday, April 29, 2010

Early fantasy surprises, Part 2. Pitchers

It's probably not a coincidence that 4 out of these 5 pitchers are in the NL, or that 4 out of 5 make their homes in pitcher-friendly parks.

Mike Pelfrey (age 26)
Pelfrey is off to a hot start, due to an increased strikeout rate and suddenly stingy hit rate. This could be a breakout season, but Pelfrey is still walking too many, and doesn't project to have the K/inning upside needed to be a top fantasy pitcher. Verdict: sell high

Barry Zito (age 31)
Zito definitely changed something over the offseason. His stuff looks good, he's throwing more strikes, and he's enjoying a microscopic WHIP and ERA over his first 4 starts. The underlying numbers say he's been very lucky so far, but Zito should finally be able to notch an ERA under 4 for the first time as a Giant. Verdict: sell high

Brad Penny (age 31)
Once again Dave Duncan has worked his magic with a retread pitcher. Penny has only walked 3 in 28.2 innings, by far the lowest walk rate of his career. Unfortunately, Penny's strikeout rate hasn't been useful since 2006. He did pitch 173 combined innings last year, but even if he can stay healthy all season, his lack of strikeouts means he's expendable. Verdict: sell high

Kevin Correia (age 29)
Correia was solid over 198 innings last year and is off to a great start in 2010. His strikeout rate is up in 2010, but he may actually sustain some of that increase. Probably still not a K/inning guy, but should be able to top 150, with an ERA a shade under 4 and WHIP around 1.35. His numbers at PETCO are stellar. Verdict: believe

Doug Fister (age 26)
Fister has been lucky so far, but is strictly streaming or AL-only material due to hittable stuff and lack of K's. He's probably OK to start at Safeco, but that only makes him half a pitcher. Verdict: sell high

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Early fantasy surprises

Vernon Wells (.324, 7 HR, 13 RBI)
He looks healthy, and has been mashing everything in sight. Is he back to being the .303/32/106 guy of 2006? His batting average has fluctuated wildly in his career but we can safely bank on his career average of .281, with 25+ HR and close to 100 RBI. Verdict: believe.

Jose Guillen (.352, 6 HR, 15 RBI)
The early favorite for comeback player of the year, since he narrowly avoided death during the offseason due to blood clots. He played full seasons in 2007 and 2008, and averaged around .280/21/95 RBI. There's no reason to think he can't equal or surpass those numbers this year, but a .300/30/100 season is highly unlikely. Verdict: Sell high.

Chase Headley (.379, 14 R, 5 SB)
Up and coming young player, whose minor league numbers (.301/.399/.500) suggest a solid major league hitter. He has already stolen more bases this season than in any of his minor league seasons. Expect fewer steals and more home runs, although 20 HR might be his ceiling this year. He's only going to get better. Verdict: believe.

Kelly Johnson (.327, 6 HR, 13 R)
Unceremoniously dropped by the Braves, KJ has found a new home atop the Dbacks order and has been cranking home runs at a prodigious rate. He is 28, so this could be a step forward, but let's remember that his career high in the majors is 16 HR and a .287 average. As a 2B, those are nice numbers, but someone in your league might believe he can hit .300 with 25 HR and 100 runs scored. Verdict: Sell high.

Scott Podsednik (.397, 7 SB)
The Scott Pod did hit .304 in 132 games in 2009, but he's 34 years old and a career .279 hitter. He hasn't played more than 139 games in a season since 2004. Pencil him in for 30 steals, but expecting him to be anything more than a steals specialist on your team is asking for trouble. Verdict: Sell high.