You can never have enough starting pitching in baseball, and the same holds true in fantasy baseball.
The eyes of the fantasy baseball world are honing in on three veteran starting pitchers who have all had up-and-down careers and could turn in 15 win seasons or 5.00 ERA seasons this year, and no one would be surprised either way.
Here are the three pitchers, what they have done early on, and what their fantasy futures might hold.
Brad Penny, St. Louis Cardinals
There are three things people can count on—Angelina Jolie adopting kids, Joan Rivers getting plastic surgery, and St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan turning mediocre pitchers into fantasy forces.
Penny is the latest Duncan project that has gone from .500 pitcher to Cy Young candidate. Remember Penny? He was released last year by the Boston Red Sox after posting an ungodly 5.61 ERA and almost having the Green Monster swallow him whole.
Penny somewhat salvaged his season by pitching well for the San Francisco Giants down the stretch (4-1, 2.59 ERA), yet not many general managers were knocking down his door like they were for Gil Meche two years ago.
Penny is now 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in three starts with the Cardinals. No shock here. Any fantasy owner with half a brain could see this coming. If Duncan could turn the careers around of Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro, and Ryan Franklin—three guys with less stuff than Penny has—he could certainly do the same for Penny.
Fantasy future: 15-8 with a 3.59 ERA is my guess.
Javier Vazquez, New York Yankees
Vazquez has yet to prove that he can pitch in the American League or New York for that matter, and he has not been quieting his doubters with his opening outings this season. Two starts, two losses, 9.82 ERA, 1.73 WHIP.
Another two starts this bad and the The New York Post will begin the “Bring Back Melky” campaign.
There should have been warning signs for fantasy owners when Vazquez was traded to the Yanks in the offseason. His career numbers were telling. In his one and only season with the Yanks, Vazquez had a 4.91 ERA and was subsequently off the roster the following season. In three years with the Chicago White Sox his ERAs were 4.84, 3.74, and 4.67. His National League numbers have always been better, especially last year when he posted a career low 2.87 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with the Atlanta Braves.
Vazquez has been labeled a “National League pitcher,” meaning he cannot handle the power-heavy lineups in the American League, and the stats back it up. He has been pitching 13 years now, so it is not like these numbers come from a small body of work.
By the way, can you believe Vazquez has been pitching 13 years?
Fantasy future: I think 2010 will be a lot like 2004 for Vazquez. He will get hit harder than he does in the National League, but the Yankees’ constant run support should reward him with more victories than he will probably deserve. Look for 16-11 with a 4.50 ERA and 195 strikeouts.
Ben Sheets, Oakland Athletics
Some fantasy owners would rather have Lenny Dykstra managing their finances than have Sheets on their fantasy rosters. Sheets carries the dreaded “injury-prone” tag with him like Shaun White carries around his gold medals. Sheets has not had a 200-inning season since 2004 and has only averaged 19 starts per season over the last five years, including missing all of 2009 due to injury.
New team, new life, no injuries? I don’t know if Oakland can somehow keep Sheets any healthier. Not sure if the Moneyball strategies have anything to do with turning unlucky players into Cal Ripken Jr. clones, but Sheets has been solid so far with a 2.65 ERA over his first three turns in Oakland’s rotation.
Fantasy future: Sheets is as familiar with the disabled list as Dr. Drew is with a sober house, and Sheets will likely spend time on the DL again. Hopefully this time his injury will not be a season-ender, though. I expect a 12-6 record with a 3.85 ERA and about 175 innings.
Here are three players whose fantasy values are jumping.
Jorge Cantu, Florida Marlins: A player who qualifies at both first base and third base and has driven in 195 runs over the past two years should not fly under anyone’s fantasy radar, yet Cantu’s early-season efforts have surprised some. He has hit safely and has knocked in 16 runs in his first 13 games.
Jose Guillen, Kansas City Royals: Meet the most valuable designated hitter in fantasy baseball after two weeks. Staying out of right field is not only helping his fielding percentage, it is helping his batting average, too. Guillen is hitting .377 with five home runs and 10 RBI.
Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets: While teammate John Maine has pitched like a shell-shocked cage fighter who has fought Randy Couture one too many times, Pelfrey is pitching like the top prospect he was two years ago. He won his first two starts in outstanding fashion (1.29 ERA), then recorded a surprise save in New York’s 20-inning win over St. Louis last weekend.
Here are three players whose fantasy values are dumping.
Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves: Somehow it took only one week for Bobby Cox to think McLouth should be sat down against southpaws, opting instead to use Melky Cabrera. McLouth has not helped his case by batting .148.
Chris Davis, Texas Rangers : You knew when the Rangers scooped up Ryan Garko off waivers before the season started that they were not convinced Davis had overcome his propensity for 0-and-4-with-three-strikeouts games, despite how well he hit during spring training. Davis has no homers and just one RBI in 12 games so far.
Jason Marquis, Washington Nationals: If I had $15 million dollars to blow, I think I would buy something better than a 20.52 ERA. Marquis is giving Washington and his fantasy owners bang for their bucks, all right. His 0-3 record and 2.88 WHIP have people flushing their wallets down their toilets, too.