If you missed my predictions for the Three Late-Round Bargain hitters, click: here
I refuse to place any closers in this article, since they should always be left undrafted and picked up in free agency.
I live by the "Don't Pay For Saves" mantra, because Health Bell (42), David Aardsma (38), Ryan Franklin (38), Andrew Bailey (26), and Leo Nunez (26) were among the MLB save leaders in 2009.
If you heard of or drafted any one of these players prior to the 2009 season, either come forth as Nostradamus and email me next week’s lottery numbers, or admit to being a liar.
If there’s one constant in fantasy baseball, its change. I’ll give you a second to marinate in that.
According to Ron Shandler’s 2010 Baseball Forecaster, over the past ten years, a whopping 40 percent of relievers drafted for saves failed to hold the role for an entire season. Put simply, closers are the preeminent “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” position in all of sports, and most managers tend to have extremely short leashes for pitchers who can single-handedly wipe away eight innings of work with a few misguided throws.
Let other less knowledgeable owners get all giddy about drafting Jonathon Broxton, Jonathon Papelbon, and Joakim Soria before the 10th round – you know better, and will use those picks to stockpile talent.
There will always be saves in the free agent pool.
Now, the following three starters may find themselves floating around on your free-agent pool as well long after your draft is over—if that's the case, remember this article, and swipe these guys up and become the envy of the rest of your league.
Yes, just hearing the name brings visions of 5.00-plus ERAs and control terrible enough to make WHIP-ped cream (Get it? No? Moving on…).
But a closer look reveals a quietly dominant pitcher finally harnessing his immense talent over the past two seasons.
He won 16 games last year (who knew?) and actually ranked ninth in the NL in strikeouts.
While the Rockies have a clear No. 1 in Ubaldo Jimenez, the well traveled de la Rosa makes an intriguing case as their No. 2, after a surprisingly effective and under-the-radar 2009.
Although his ERA (4.38) leaves something to be desired, he sported an xERA under 4.00 for the second straight season (3.56 in ’09) meaning his surface numbers don’t tell the whole story as to how effective he really was.
He’s equipped with a cannon for an arm. His high K-rate over the past two seasons seems to be the difference maker in de la Rosa finally realizing his potential, and at 29, he’s the perfect age to reach it.
Forget the stigma of being a Rockies pitcher; he keeps the ball on the ground at an above-average rate, although nothing too outlandish to assume he was simply getting lucky.
WHIP has improved every season since ’05 (2.04, 1.66, 1.64, 1.47, 1.38), which means the best may be yet to come.
Hochevar is probably more of a household name than most others on this list due to an unexpectedly remarkable first half (8-4, 3.41 ERA in 93 IP) and some late-season salvaging of his otherwise vomit-inducing second half (4-10, 7.27 ERA in 98 IP), including a complete game, three-hit shutout of the White Sox on Sept. 18.
It’s worth noting, however, that the shutout turned out to be his only victory in the second half. He went a frightening 1-10 with an 8.21 ERA over his final 13 starts.
Nevertheless, the 1st overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft is still on the verge.
Age: He’s still only 26. And although in the major leagues 26 may be considered elderly for a top prospect that has yet to reach his potential, there is still time to improve.
Despite the second half hit parade (.290 OBA), he developed a new out pitch (splitter), which may have led to some errant pitches he probably wanted back while he was trying to harness it.
His low second half strand rate means more likely than not he was unlucky, not fatally flawed. Surprisingly, he showed upper-tier ability to get the ball over the plate and nearly doubled his strikeout totals from the first half (49 to 85).
Armed with an entire offseason to develop his splitter, a sub-4.00 ERA is certainly a possibility given his under-the-radar improvements.
I know, I know, it’s almost sacrilegious to endorse two Rockies pitchers on the same page, none of whom named Ubaldo.
But what can I say—an early round stud like Jimenez isn’t going to win you your league, although late round steal like Hammel might.
He doesn’t have a sexy name or sexy stats (and the jury’s out on whether or not he has a sexy wife), but the 27-year-old Hammel is a certifiable sleeper in 2010.
His ERA has dipped exponentially since ’06 (6.10, 5.50, 4.60, 4.33), and he actually cracked a sub-4.00 ERA during the first half of last season (5-4, 3.93 ERA in 80 IP).
Like de la Rosa, he’s a true ground ball pitcher, which is always a plus (especially at Coors), thus he doesn’t allow the thin Colorado air to affect his pitches.
He has made noticeable improvements in his fly ball rate and hr/fly ball ratio, and unlike de la Rosa, Hammel has always been an effective strikeout pitcher, fanning over 100 in every season in which he’s pitched over 100 innings. He makes for a shrewd pickup at the end of any draft.