Fantasy Baseball: Can Dontrelle Willis Return to Elite Fantasy Status?

Matthew BeckCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27 :  Pitcher Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers pitches in relief against the Toronto Blue Jays February 27, 2009 at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

In 2005, Dontrelle Willis was a 22-game winner with a 2.63 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting only to Chris Carpenter.  It seemed as if Willis was going to be an elite pitcher for the years to come. 

But what went wrong?

Each of the following years after 2005, his numbers decreased in wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, which has made him almost unusable to fantasy owners. 

On June 10, 2008 Willis was sent down to the minor leagues after starting only seven games in which he pitched a total of 24 innings with a 9.38 ERA.  He finished the season in the major leagues, but only as a September call-up.

After a poor spring training at Tigers camp, Willis was placed on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder.  It seemed as if the former 22-game winner would never be able to pitch in the majors again.

But in his recent minor league outing, Willis showed signs of his old, dominate form.

On Wednesday, Willis finished with a stat-line of 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 BB and 4 K for the Tigers Triple-A affiliate.  This was a great sign for the Detroit Tigers and for fantasy owners looking for a possible sleeper pitcher.

With the Tigers paying Willis $10 million this season, you can expect to see Willis rejoining the rotation at some point in the near future.  He is expected to start at least one more minor league game and then the decision should be made as to what the Tigers will do with him.

The Tigers will have to decide whether to put Willis in the fifth spot in the rotation or put him in the bullpen as long-relief. 

It is unknown whether or not Willis will ever return to him original form, but he is definitely worth a look if your fantasy team is lacking pitching in the near future.