The baseball season is under way and for most of you that means the much anticipated fantasy baseball season has began. Even if you have drafted your team, you still have time to get your hands on one of these four under-the-radar pitchers. If you have or can acquire one or more of these pitchers you will surely reap the rewards.
I have compiled a list of two veterans that people may have forgotten about and two up and comers that you need to get before these lefties become too difficult to trade for.
Mark Buehrle, LHP, Miami Marlins
Mark Buehrle has been one of the most reliable pitchers in all of baseball that past 12 years. Since he joined the Chicago White Sox’s starting rotation in 2001, Buehrle has thrown over 200 innings in 11 straight years. He has never had tremendous support around him and despite that he had compiled 161 wins before he left the White Sox as a free agent in the offseason.
Buehrle has joined the trendy Miami Marlins and will be a dependable lefty to pair with their ace Josh Johnson. However, fantasy players should care that he will only get better now that he is in the National League.
He gets a virtual automatic out every time he faces a pitcher and since Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have left and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are hurt there less premiere hitters to be concerned with.
Lastly, Buehrle is leaving U.S. Cellular Field and will now call Marlins Park home. In this he moves to a larger field and as a pitch-to-contact pitcher; he will greatly benefit from this during the twilight of his career. He won’t wow you with strikeouts, but he will win because of his ability and the offense that will support him in Miami.
Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Since defecting from Cuba, Aroldis Chapman has pitched as advertised. He is a flame-throwing lefty that has filthy stuff, but also has a wild side. In his first full season last year, Chapman showed that he has the stuff needed to be an elite closer or a top of the rotation starter. In just 50 innings, he struck out 71 batters, but also issued 41 walks.
Chapman is still young and raw—at 24 years old—and having spent little time developing in the minors, he has room to grow. As of right now he is a weapon coming out of the bullpen for the Cincinnati Reds, but with closer Sean Marshall struggling and the urge to put him in the starting rotation, there is a huge upside for fantasy players.
If Chapman becomes the closer, there is a chance that he could earn upwards of 40 saves with his electrifying stuff. However, if the Reds decide that they are better off with him in the starting rotation then Chapman will have an opportunity to be a strikeout machine.
Depending on the league you are in, if walks aren’t an issue then Chapman would be the perfect pitcher. Pick him up before he gets a more defined role and you could have a difference maker on your team.
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore is a superstar in the making and despite some early season struggles, he should be a pitcher that every fantasy baseball player should want on their team. After getting called up late last season, Moore dazzled in his second start as a major leaguer. The Rays were so confident that they started Moore in Game 1 of the ALDS, and they were rewarded when he dominated the Texas Rangers holding them to just two hits over seven innings.
In his first full season as a starter, Moore is expected to draw comparisons to fellow lefty David Price. While he wasn’t as coveted when he was drafted, Moore is an elite prospect in what has become a pitching factory in Tampa Bay.
Even though I don’t expect Moore to dominate this year, he will be better than most pitchers and the upside is undeniable. The Rays were so confident that they signed Moore to a five-year contract with options that could extend it to eight years (via ESPN).
Fantasy baseball players you should take notice, the last time the Rays made a similar commitment was with Evan Longoria, and look what he turned into. If you are in a keeper league, getting Moore before he becomes a superstar should be a priority as he will anchor your pitching staff for years to come.
Johan Santana, LHP, New York Mets
Johan Santana for some reason or another has had a slew of injury problems since joining the New York Mets in 2008. However, after missing all of the 2011 season, Santana looks like he has regained his health and his form and is again the ace of the Mets staff.
Don’t forget how great Santana was. It was just three years ago that he was voted as third on a list of the 50 greatest players in baseball by Hall of Famers and previous MLB award winners (via AOL Sporting News).
Santana still has the same dominating repertoire of pitches, but now that he is in the tail end of his prime, don’t expect him to try and mow down hitters like he did in the past. He will take advantage of the spacious Citi Field and pitch more to contact. With his arsenal of off-speed pitches and his great control over his fastball, Santana will induce weak pop-ups and ground balls in his return from injury.
With a large team option looming on his contract after next season, Santana has to prove that he is worthy of being a $25 million player. He will earn the option by returning to Cy Young form or he will set himself up for his next contract.
Either way, expect great things from Santana in 2012.