In a little over a month pitchers and catchers report to camp, so it's not too early to turn an eye toward the 2012 fantasy baseball season, not that it's ever too early for a little old-fashioned prognostication.
Can Justin Verlander repeat his 2011 in 2012? How about what to make of each of Philadelphia's Big Three?
It's time for a little buy-or-sell action on the top 25 starting pitchers. Let's do it.
In no particular order, here are a handful of guys who just miss making the list: Josh Johnson (Marlins), Matt Latos (Reds), Jordan Zimmerman (Nationals), Michael Pineda (Mariners), Jeremy Hellickson (Rays) and Daniel Hudson (Diamondbacks).
A BOLD SELL
Sell on Verlander? Say what!?
Drafting Verlander won't sink your ship nor will holding on to him in keeper leagues. But take a look at his stats.
Is Verlander on track to repeat his 2011 in 2012? Does have a proven best-of-the-best track record? He's a bold sell but a pretty smart sell—his value will never be higher.
That is, unless he goes out and repeats his MVP season next year...
Roy Halladay will turn 35 in May but he's showing no signs off letting up—just yet. At some point it will be a more than a little bold but more than a little wise to cry "sell" on Doc but that's not the case in 2012.
Draft him, keep him, trade for him, do whatever it takes—then enjoy the show.
A PRICY BUT WORTHY BUY
Clayton Kershaw turned the corner from good to great last season, winning the NL Cy Young at only 23. Kershaw is young and healthy and appears ready to continue the groove he got into in 2011 in 2012.
Kershaw may not be able to exactly match his Cy Young form from last year but he'll still be good. He's a particularly justifiable pick in keeper formats.
Cliff Lee put together the full package fantasy-wise last season, finishing well north of 200 strikeouts (238) and well south of a 3.00 ERA (2.40).
It's worth noting that 2012 will be Lee's first time beginning a new season in the same place he finished his previous one since 2009.
All signs point to Lee continuing to flourish. He'll cost a pretty penny but he'll bring home the bacon and then some.
A PRICY BUY & A SEXY SELL
Fantasy players should be cautious of taking CC Sabathia. The AL East is no friend to pitchers and name players like CC tend to go higher than they should. He's obviously a productive and valuable player, though.
At the same time, Sabathia remains a very good sell, especially in keeper formats. He finished to lower than fourth in Cy Young voting all three of his seasons in the Bronx. Is this a pace he can keep up?
AN EXCELLENT BUY
It can be easy to forget how young—26 next April—Felix Hernandez is. Next year will be his eighth seasons in the bigs.
King Felix regressed a bit from his Cy Young-winning 2010 in 2011 but still made 33 starts and struck out 222. But come on, he still totally kicked butt!
Hernandez's 2011 is what the savvy fantasy owner feasts upon—Hernandez has a decent shot now of being a late second- or early third-round steal after last season's Cy Young candidates are off the board.
A VERY GOOD BUY
A bad August and a pedestrian September took some of the shine off of Jered Weaver's 2011, which saw him finish second to Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young.
Weaver saw his strikeout rate decline last season after leading the majors in that category in 2010. The fact remains, however, that this guy is good and worth the high pick.
A DECENT SELL BUT WAIT AND SEE
Tim Lincecum may be on the trading block as he and the Giants are reportedly at an impasse in contract talks. A trade involving the two-time Cy Young winner could obviously throw his value into flux.
With his crazy delivery and slight build Lincecum is a prototypical candidate for a major injury however the fact remains that he's one of the game's best and has never been anything but durable.
BUY! BUY! BUY!
After missing April and enduring a rocky first half, Zack Greinke had a superb second half to round out a solid first year in Milwaukee. He led all of baseball with a 10.5 SO/9.
Greinke has clearly but his post-Cy-Young malaise of 2010 behind him and is kicking butt as a Brewer. Get him while the getting's good.
Cole Hamels keeps on rolling, bringing the full fantasy package on the ridiculously deep Phillies' pitching staff.
He doesn't have quite the reputation that his teammates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have so he's almost more valuable. He's essentially as good as these guys but he won't go as soon in drafts, so buy away...
A FIRM SELL
Ian Kennedy exploded out of nowhere for a career year in 2011. eye-popping 21-4 record, which, not surprisingly, was good for a MLB-best .840 winning percentage.
Any smart fan knows wins and losses are a result of factors beyond a pitcher's control. Yes, the D-Backs figure to still be a good squad next season but there are many other pitchers that will fall behind Kennedy that will be as good as him if not better.
BUY HIM, BABY
A bit overshadowed by his teammate, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren is a very worthy fantasy option in his own right.
What's not to like about ole Danny boy? He presents the complete fantasy package and has made no fewer than 33 starts every season since 2005. Boom.
BUY HIM UP, BOYS
Yovani Gallardo's birthday is next month and he's only turning 26.
Gallardo has now strung together three straight seasons of at least 200 strikeouts. He could stand to lower his ERA and WHIP a bit, but he's a solid third or fourth round option.
C.J. Wilson is on the wrong side of 30 and does not have a particularly lengthy track record of proven durability or success.
Yes, Wilson been solid the past two years and could even be considered great this past season. But don't draft this guy early and move him in keeper leagues if you got him.
A SAVVY BUY
Matt Cain sort of looks like a 30-something veteran and he's certainly been around long enough, but he actually just turned 27 last October.
Cain flies under the radar a bit in the shadow of Tim Lincecum, which is to the benefit of the wise fantasy owner that waits a few rounds to take Cain.
A MODEST BUY
David Price's 2011 ERA was three-quarters of a run higher than his 2010 ERA (3.49 from 2.72) despite slightly improving his WHIP, making more strikeouts and giving up fewer walks.
Indeed, Price was a victim of bad luck and big hits. He's too big a name to "steal" in a draft but he's likely to last longer than the Justin Verlanders and Roy Halladays when he's just as capable of putting up those kind of numbers.
A CAUTIOUS BUY
Beer, chicken and a stinky September sunk the Red Sox ship last season and Jon Lester's stock, both fantastical and otherwise, has taken a bit of a hit.
Lester has been good for a while now but has yet to really turn the corner toward fantasy greatness. He's never got his ERA below 3.20 nor has he brought his WHIP south of 1.20—but he'll get his wins, he'll rack up his K's and maybe, finally, Lester can consistently pitch like the top-notch ace he's shown hints of becoming.
A SOLID BUY
Ricky Romero will have a tough time living up to his terrrific 2011, however he still figures to be a top-rate pitcher who's capable of getting the job done in the AL East. Heady stuff.
It's worth noting that if Romero comes out of the gate next April guns blazing that he'd be a hot sell candidate on the fantasy trade market.
A BIG-TIME BUY
Madison Bumgarner arrived in a big way last year and is a totally hot pick for 2012. Only 22, Bumgarner is an especially savvy buy in any keeper formats.
Bigger names will go before him but this guy is a total lock to be a fantasy stud, especially if he's capable of maintaining his 8.4 SO/9 rate from last season.
SELL, BABY, SELL
James Shields followed up a lackluster 2010 with a spectacular 2011. He came into last season with a career ERA of 4.25 and pitched a full season nearly a run-and-a-half below that. So what gives in 2012?
"Big Game" James enamored himself to many a fantasy owner last season with his penchant for complete games, throwing 11 after having thrown a total of five in his previous five seasons in the majors.
It's a mean thing to say perhaps, but 2011 has "aberration" written all over it for Mr. Shields.
A SOFT SELL
Josh Beckett enjoyed one of his finer statistical seasons in 2011. Unfortunately, 2011 had a month September.
While Beckett could be a bit undervalued with an eye toward 2012, he's also has a bad habit in Boston of totally sucking every other year.
That said, Beckett's always been a emotional pitcher. Next season he'll undoubtedly have a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas. He'll be pitching for a feisty new manager in Bobby Valentine. He could totally kill it.
A WEAK BUY
Tommy Hanson is a buy right now only because he isn't much of a sell.
Hanson missed the final two months of 2011 with a minor rotator cuff tear. He has yet to take his game from good to great and this injury, while not major, has to be considered a warning sign for any potential fantasy owner.
Hanson, however, remains a good pick, especially if he drops a few rounds.
Stephen Strasburg put together a nice little run at the end of 2011. It seems to safe to say he's successfully bounced back from his Tommy John surgery.
There's little doubting Strasburg's potential and his likelihood for real success. That said, he's a known name—he'll be overvalued. Don't bite on him too early and be mindful of smart chances to trade him away.
Gio Gonzalez has put together back-to-back high quality seasons of 30+ starts, however his value at the present if rather inflated.
Gonzalez is a very good pitcher with a promising future, however owners should be wary of drafting him too early and mindful that the NL East promises to be punishing on pitchers.
A COOL BUY
If it all works out for Nolan Ryan, Yu Darvish will be a Texas Ranger in 2012. What about his fantasy value?
Darvish has the full-package fantasy-wise and he'd pick up wins at a good clip on a team like Texas. If anything, he's likely to enjoy an above-average first season in MLB before hitters learn his stuff.
He's probably a top-25 starting pitcher, so take a chance and roll the dice on the Yu-dawg.