Fantasy Baseball 2012: John Danks, 3 Other Must-Draft Chicago White Sox Pitchers
The White Sox did a good job pitching last season. Mark Buehrle led a pitching staff that had been one of the better groups in the American League for most of the year. They ended up at or near the top in a couple of key areas. The White Sox were second in strikeouts (1,220) and allowed the second fewest walks (439) and fewest unintentional walks (389).
The Yankees had two more strikeouts than the White Sox.
The White Sox had by far the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the AL (2.78).
Now, Mark Buehrle is gone and the starting rotation looks a bit different. The rotation is a collection of five pitchers (John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale, Phil Humber and Jake Peavy) that seems to most to be a motley crew of middle-of-the-rotation starters.
However, the White Sox, which will also have a new closer, have a few players fantasy owners would want when drafting in the coming weeks. Sale, a newcomer to the rotation, is a solid strikeout pitcher. Danks and Floyd should be on the upswing.
Following is a breakdown on that short list.
John Danks didn't have a very good year in 2011. He lost his first eight decisions en route to going 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA. He had the fewest innings (170.1) since his rookie year and had career highs in hit batsmen (seven) and wild pitches (six).
However, Danks had 10 starts in which White Sox hitters gave him two or fewer runs of support, eight of which were losses for Danks. Danks pitched seven no-decisions, in which he had a 2.76 ERA.
While he struck out only 135 batters, Danks had a 7.1 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate, his best in three years. Combined with only 46 walks (good for a career best 2.6 walks-per-nine-innings rate), that made for a career-best 2.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Thus, despite an ERA that rose 0.7 in September, Danks showed promise in the year before he would become the de facto ace of the White Sox staff. A decrease in walk rate and a rise in strikeout rate signals improvement for Danks. He's doing better in areas he can control.
Thus, fantasy owners could get a steal in drafting Danks.
Gavin Floyd's core numbers were ugly last year, but he's worth a pick. He had a disappointing 12-13 record to go with a dismal 4.37 ERA. After starting 3-1 with a 3.78 ERA in April, Floyd didn't have many strings of impressive starts.
However, Floyd demonstrated great control. He had a premier 2.1 walks-per-nine-innings rate, 0.9 lower than the year before. That allowed him to go a nice 193.2 innings. Also, Floyd's seven strikeouts per nine innings were nice.
He did hit 11 batters and throw 12 wild pitches, seventh and fourth in the AL respectively.
However, those numbers should go down.
Floyd's stinginess in giving up walks should indicate a drop in ERA this season. As long as he can last a good amount of innings, strike out batters, and avoid losing control, Floyd will be effective.
Fantasy owners should consider him as a third or fourth starter.
Now that the two most recognizable value pitchers for the White Sox are out of the way, it's time to address the two best White Sox pitchers. Chris Sale is the fastest rising pitcher in the White Sox organization.
He's a fireballer who is on track to be a star. Sale had a 2.79 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 27 walks in 71 innings. He struck out 10 batters and walked 3.4 batters per nine innings. The No. 13 pick in the 2010 draft might not strike out batters at such a high rate as he did out of the bullpen last season, but he'll be able to mow down batters.
Also, he'll continue to keep run-scoring low while starting.
The question on the minds of many is whether Sale can take up the innings load. Sale told Comcast SportsNet Chicago that he wants to pitch 200 innings this season. He may be able to do that. In 2010, Sale pitched 136.2 innings across Florida Gulf Coast University, Single-A Winston-Salem and the White Sox.
With that number of innings, Sale could make the jump. A more reasonable step would be 180 innings for this year. However, if Sale handles himself well and doesn't throw too many pitches per start, he could hit 200 innings.
Sale has all the tools to succeed as a starter, and that he'll do as one of the two best starters for the White Sox this season. At that, he might even be better than Danks.
With that, Sale should be the second or third starting pitcher owners go for in a draft.
Addison Reed, like Chris Sale, is rising quickly through the White Sox organization. Reed rocketed through all levels of the minors in 2011 with a 1.26 ERA and a 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings rate. Then, Reed pitched 7.1 innings in six games, posting a 3.68 ERA to go with 12 strikeouts and one walk.
Those numbers are nothing less than amazing.
The former San Diego State Aztec looks certain to beat Matt Thornton for the closer role. Once he does, Reed is one of the better bets for a closer on a fantasy team. Finding a good one is hard to find.
Reed will be a solid major league closer. His crackling stuff will fly past hitters. That he avoids walking batters is promising. He rarely gets blown up, which should still hold up while pitching at U.S. Celllular Field.
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