Gallardo, J. Johnson, or Josh Beckett: What's a Keeper League Owner To Do?

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Gallardo, J. Johnson, or Josh Beckett: What's a Keeper League Owner To Do?
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I’m in a predicament.  I’m mocking out my 2010 draft while pragmatically assessing who I should roster with my third round pick.  Note that this is a 5X5 keeper league format with 14 teams.  We are halfway through a 10-year franchise and players can be drafted and signed for up to three years.

My pitching staff is above average.  I return Tommy Hanson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Max Scherzer, and Ervin Santana, with Mariano Rivera and Andrew Bailey in the bully.  Lots of upside in that group, lots of strikeouts, but no true fantasy ace.  That brings me to my current quandary. 

In the third round, I’ll be looking to draft a front-line starter.  The top four free agent arms on the 2010 board (Lincecum, Sabathia, Wainwright, Lee) should already be gone by the time I pick in the third.  That leaves me with Yovani Gallardo, Josh Johnson and Josh Beckett.

This trio is certainly above average and all three were top 20 pitchers in 2009, but is there a true ace here?  Trust me, I’d much rather be deciding between Halladay and Sabathia, but this is all we have to work with.  Let’s break them down and make a choice.

Yovani Gallardo is coming off of a wonderful season.  In 2009, he posted a K/9 ratio of 9.9.  He broke out.  He turns 24 in February and looks like he is one of the best young hurlers in the National League. 

What’s not to like?  His only injury of record is from a freak collision resulting in a torn ACL in his right knee.  He’s on a contending team that will back him with great run support and he’s coming into his third season—a year when many young pitchers put it all together.

Josh Johnson just inked a hefty contract (four-years, $39 million guaranteed) and will remain in Florida as he continues to blossom into one of the NL’s best young pitchers.  Johnson is two years older than Gallardo and already has a Tommy John tattoo on his wing.  He proved healthy and dominant over the course of 2009, winning 15 games with a WHIP of 1.15 and a K/9 of 8.2.  In a word, impressive.

Boston’s ace, Josh Beckett , turns 30 in May, plays for a perennial World Series contender and is in his prime pitching into a contract year.   Even with Theo Epstein locking up John Lackey for the next five years, the Sox will want to do the same for Beckett.  He’s one of the best big game starters around and the Red Sox will have plenty of big games in the near future.  

Beckett’s 2009 was superb: K/9 ratio of 8.4 (199Ks in 212.3 innings), 17 wins, 3.86ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

All three are solid bets to make in a keeper league, but my staff already inherits quite a bit of risk.  Hanson is young, Ubaldo still has control issues, Max has yet to throw 200 innings and Ervin has injury history and just one truly good season under his belt.  Taking all of those factors into the equation, Josh Beckett is my guy. 

He is the safest bet for 200 Ks, 15+ wins and a low WHIP, and has the proven ability to exceed all of those statistics.  If Beckett is gone and I am left with either Gallardo or Johnson, I’ll flip a coin...then probably select a hitter instead.  Let’s hear your thoughts.

Follow me on Twitter!  @pavlovic

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