Potential 2009 Fantasy Baseball Busts: Pitchers

Lawrence BarrecaAnalyst IFebruary 15, 2009

Now that I have given you my “busts” for the hitters, it’s now time to move on to the pitchers.

Looking back at last season, I remember thinking about how spectacular the Seattle Mariners would be after they acquired Erik Bedard in a six-man deal this past offseason.

The baseball world was rattled. Analysts had them taking the American League West. Even I had them making a run at the playoffs in 2008.

So how did it all work out?

He would finish the year going 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA and 72 strikeouts.

Not the greatest season from a pitcher who was expected to be in the running for the American League Cy Young Award. Injuries hit him hard by mid-season, halting any opportunities at having a successful year.

So what pitchers do I believe could be “busts” in ‘09?

Here are ten arms that could hurt your fantasy squad:


A.J. Burnett (SP) (NYY)

We begin this list with Yankees’ newly acquired starter A.J. Burnett. What has been the main cause for concern fantasy owners must deal with year-in and year-out? It all comes down to one word: Injuries.

Burnett dodged this bug last season, though, as he went 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts. So what seems to be the problem? The key for Burnett is his health.

Throughout his career, he has sustained numerous shoulder and elbow problems, sending him to the disabled list on several occasions. Just because he was able to survive ‘08 doesn’t mean that he will live through ‘09.

As of now, analysts predict that he will be one of the top-15 starters taken on Draft Day, largely due to his solid performance last season and his new pinstripes. Don’t be fooled by all the hype. Burnett will always be an injury-risk, and taking him high in a draft may kill your chances at a fantasy title.

If anything, take him in the middle rounds if he remains available. Otherwise, try and grab another top starter to replace him. Many owners may be deeply upset if (or when) they watch Burnett have to go into the clubhouse mid-game.


Vicente Padilla (SP) (TEX)

Ahhh, Vicente. I remember how highly I thought of you last season.

After dominating for the first four months (he picked up 12 wins during that span), I picked you up on my fantasy team and never looked back.

So how do I feel about you now this season? Not in the same manner to say the least.

Padilla proved that he could be effective in ‘08, going 14-8 with a 4.74 ERA and 127 strikeouts. In ‘09, however, don’t look for the same results. If you watched him last season (which I’m sure most of you didn’t), you would have noticed that after those first four fantastic months, he would begin to die down.

In fact, he would not even pick up his final two victories until his last two starts of the year.

This just proves how streaky Padilla can be, making him an unreliable fantasy starter.

The one thing that many fantasy owners may do is look at his stats before they draft him.

After glancing over his numbers, they will say to themselves, “Wow, he looked pretty solid last season. He should be a nice pick in round six.” This is a huge blunder.

If you want Padilla that badly, I suggest that you wait until the later rounds to grab him.

Otherwise, avoid Vicente on Draft Day.


John Maine (SP) (NYM)

We continue with our lists of “busts” for 2009, as we now touch on Mets’ starter John Maine. In 2008, Maine went 10-8 with a 4.18 ERA and 122 strikeouts. Like Burnett, though, Maine also has his share of shoulder problems. Last year, he would miss the final month of the regular season in order to have surgery to shave down bone spurs, a problem that can affect a pitcher’s arm in the long run.

Maine has great upside, yet his injuries affect his overall value from a fantasy standpoint. With a lineup boasting Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright, Maine should have no problem when it comes to run support.

The only thing that he has to worry about is whether or not he will be able to stay on the mound for an entire season. Many analysts have him as a top 60 starter going into ‘09, something that I won’t argue with.

If you wish to have him pitch for your fantasy squad, be sure to grab him in the later rounds. If you decide to grab him early, you may be faced with the disheartening fact that he will be out for the year after the first month of the season.


Troy Percival (RP) (TB)

“The old man’s still got it!”

That’s what many of us were saying as he was closing out games for the World Series-bound Tampa Bay Rays.

After going 2-1 with a 4.53 ERA and 28 saves in ‘08, it seemed as though he would go into the 2009 season remaining the Rays closer. Not so fast!

It looks like his age may finally be getting to him, as he is already heading into next season with a back injury that will have him riding the bench until mid-March.

That in itself is not a good sign for the aging veteran. Now we have to add in the fact that he may very well lose his job before he even returns.

After watching the Rays progress last season, we marveled at their young stud bullpen filled with many promising arms, including Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, and J.P. Howell.

As of now, any one of these men have the opportunity to take Percival’s spot as the team’s closer. Going into Spring Training, it seems as though Wheeler is the current front-runner to grab the spot, leaving Balfour and Howell to work the seventh and eighth innings.

So what happens to Percival on Draft Day? Simple. In the end, he will most likely be avoided until the later rounds. In fact, I would not be surprised if he wasn’t drafted at all. If I were you, I would take the second approach. Avoid Percival on Draft Day, for he shouldn’t be of any use to you squad in 2009.


Aaron Cook (SP) (COL)

Looking back at his 2008 season, some may believe that Cook would be a top fantasy starter going into next year. Oh, how wrong they are. Cook’s numbers were above average (and expectations), as he went 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA and 96 strikeouts.

At the beginning of the year, Cook found his way onto many fantasy rosters due to his quick start.

However, as the season wore on, so did he.

After the All-Star Break, Cook’s numbers steadily declined as he would end the season on a sour note. Like Padilla, many will think Cook will be a solid fantasy pickup due to an excellent year just one season before.

If you are a smart fantasy owner, you will be sure to avoid Cook. For one, he is not a strikeout pitcher, one stat that can rake in the fantasy points during the year.

It also seems as though Cook cannot handle an entire season’s worth of quality pitching, leaving many fantasy owners to search for other options late in the season.

Come Draft Day, he should be picked sometime in the later rounds, though I’m sure someone will grab him earlier. That’s just how some people are.


Kerry Wood (RP) (CLE)

In 2008, Kerry Wood was one of the more pleasant sleepers in the pros, but in 2009, he finds himself on my “busts” list. Last season, Wood finished with a 5-4 record, posting a 3.26 ERA and 34 saves.

Many might believe that I have him on this list due to his past injuries.

Actually, he is here for a different reason. We begin with the Indians’ starting rotation.

Other than American League Cy Young Award Winner Cliff Lee, the Cleveland starting five is currently a hit-or-miss, with Fausto Carmona serving a five-game suspension, Aaron Laffey coming off of an elbow injury, and Carl Pavano attempting to make an impact in the pros once again.

With so many questions facing the starting staff, it is uncertain how many save opportunities Wood will actually get.

Another problem may be in the lineup itself. I won’t lie, the Indians do have several top-notch position players, including Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Garko, and Shin-Soo Choo.

Outside of them, though, the lineup is barren. Catcher Victor Martinez is coming off a horrific 2008 campaign. Mark DeRosa is now making the transition from the National League back to the American League.

Travis Hafner’s career has gone down the tubes over the last year. Finally, Asdrubal Cabrera hasn’t shown much from an offensive standpoint at the second base position.

In other words, the real question is this: “Will the lineup, matched with an uncertain rotation, be able to provide enough chances for Wood?” My guess is no.

Wood could very well be a solid closer before ‘09 is said-and-done, but for now, I’m going to trust my gut and say that he won’t be going to the mound as much as some people may think.

If you wish to draft him, take him in the mid-to-late rounds.


Joel Hanrahan (RP) (WSH)

Whew, there’s a lot going wrong in D.C. these days. First, they couldn’t sign their 2008 first-round draft pick Aaron Crow.

Next, they finish the year with a 59-102 record. After that, they head into the new year attempting to improve their pitching staff with starters Daniel Cabrera and Scott Olsen.

Finally, they sign Adam Dunn to round out a quite pathetic offseason.


Enough about them, let’s get to the player at-hand, Joel Hanrahan. Last season, Hanrahan finished with a 6-3 record, while also posting a 3.95 ERA and nine saves.

Hanrahan’s numbers make him seem like a potential sleeper for 2009, and I wouldn’t doubt it if he had one thing: A starting rotation.

Let me map out that beautiful rotation for you: John Lannan (9-15, 3.91 ERA), Scott Olsen (8-11, 4.20 ERA), Shawn Hill (1-5, 5.83 ERA), Daniel Cabrera (8-10, 5.25 ERA), and Collin Balestar (3-7, 5.51 ERA).

Honestly? Is that the best they can throw out there? None of the pitchers named above had a winning record in 2008, and three out of the five had an ERA above five.

Though the Nationals seem to have a promising lineup brewing in D.C., they must worry about putting plenty of runs on the board in order to remain alive during the season.

Hanrahan shouldn’t have many save opportunities next year, and for this reason, he should be avoided on Draft Day.


Randy Johnson (SP) (SF)

The big man is back on the mound once again in 2009, as he chases one of the better achievements in baseball, the 300-win mark.

In 2008 with the Diamondbacks, Johnson went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 173 strikeouts. Though he is a sure Hall-of-Famer, 2009 shouldn’t be one of his proudest years.

The now 45-year old pitcher is going into his 22nd big league season.

Sure, he can still blaze the ball past opposing hitters, yet he’s got to wear down some time.

The only extra motivation that Johnson has going into next season is chasing the 300-win mark. Despite him potentially having a bad year in ‘09, I’m sure that someone will take him off of the draft board before it is all said-and-done.

Come Draft Day, be sure to avoid the “Big Unit.” He shouldn’t provide too much fantasy help for next year, and having him in your rotation may only hurt your chances at winning a title.


Justin Duchscherer (SP) (OAK)

Life is so complicated when it comes to Oakland baseball.

Last season, it seemed as though the team did everything in their power to deal away the starting rotation. Dan Haren, Rich Harden, and Joe Blanton were all traded at some point last season, paving the way for the young talent to come to power.

Justin Duchscherer led the way.

In 2008, he went 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 95 strikeouts, leading the team in wins. So what seems to be the problem? Like many potential “busts”, Duchscherer had his share of injury woes in ‘08, as he found himself on the disabled list twice during the year, mainly due to his hip.

Duchscherer has great potential and upside, and a lineup with newly added Matt Holiday and Jason Giambi can only help his chances to succeed.

However, his injury-prone status should make fantasy owners weary of grabbing him in their respective drafts.

If you wish to grab Justin, take the risk in the later rounds. Otherwise, just avoid him completely on Draft Day.

I would not be surprised if he weren’t taken in many mixed-league drafts. Like I said, he has all the potential in the world, just a high injury-risk.

It’s your move, though, not mine.


Matt Capps (RP) (PIT)

We conclude our list with Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer Matt Capps.

In 2008, Capps went 2-3, with a 3.02 ERA and 21 saves. Not such a bad year, figuring that he missed July and August with a shoulder injury.

This ailment is not why he makes my list.

Like Joel Hanrahan, Capps is currently pitching for a squad that rarely gets into a save opportunity.

With the two best hitters in the batting order being Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit, the Pirates offense is not known for getting many runs across the plate.

We can’t forget the rotation. With a starting five whose ace in 2009 will be Paul Maholm (9-9, 3.71 ERA), Pittsburgh will just be looking to survive on a day-to-day basis.

Oh, and how could we even think to forget what division they compete (or don’t compete, for that matter) in: The National League Central.

Trust me, the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, and possibly even the Reds should make the Bucs feel like fools midway through the year.

They have a pleasant future ahead of them, though, especially with outfield prospect Andrew McCutchen making his way up to the big leagues in the near future.

All in all, the concept is simple: Capps won’t get many save opportunities.

End of story. If you want to draft him, he is most likely worth a mid-to-late round pick.


Lawrence Barreca is a fantasy baseball/football columnist for www.fantasyfootballmaniaxs.com.  For more fantasy sports information, be sure to visit the Maniaxs.


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