Going from the starting rotation to the bullpen is like going from the penthouse to the outhouse if you are a pitcher—especially when you aren’t even getting a chance to be the closer.
The Chicago Cubs' hotheaded workhorse Carlos Zambrano has made the move from the first inning to the seventh and eighth innings, and while his fantasy value will definitely dip in the short term because of the job change, this might not be the Titanic-like disaster some fantasy owners are making it out to be.
Here are two things to consider about Zambrano’s new role.
This is a temporary situation.
This is a temporary situation.– The chances of Zambrano staying in the bullpen all season long are about as slim as a prisoner on a 30-day hunger strike. Chicago is paying Z-Man $18 million this year. Closers don’t even make that kind of cash, let alone middle relievers, so Chicago is not going to keep a man making that money in that spot the entire time.
Remember that this move was made more because of Chicago’s woeful bullpen than because of Zambrano’s ineffectiveness as a starter. Zambrano’s opening start of the season—eight earned runs in 1.1 innings—inflated his ERA to astronomical heights. His ERA was 3.99 in the three starts that came after that fiasco, so it is not like he was Jason Marquis before this decision was made.
Tom Gorzelanny is no sure thing (career 4.78 ERA) to stick in the rotation, and Ted Lilly could always get re-injured, plus Chicago is supposedly shopping for a reliever (anyone want Alfonso Soriano?), so it is doubtful Zambrano will end up being the next Joba Chamberlain.
Holds are a fantasy category these days.
Holds are a fantasy category these days.– The hold has become a trendy fantasy stat in recent years. It makes setup men more valuable, which makes fantasy baseball a little more intriguing. The category is getting used more and more, especially in NL-only or AL-only leagues.
Zambrano earned a hold in his first relief appearance and should be in line for several more during this trial experiment. He will be the main setup man for closer Carlos Marmol, and considering Chicago’s solid starting pitching and the mediocre competition in the NL Central, Zambrano could rack up two to three holds per week. He should also grab a couple relief wins and lower his bloated ERA and WHIP numbers.
Is Zambrano more valuable to fantasy owners as a seven-inning starter or a one-inning reliever? Dumb question. Of course it is the former. But Zambrano should not be dropped in fantasy leagues because (A) this is temporary, (B) he still has value, and (C) this demotion will likely help straighten him out mechanically and mentally.
Here are three pitchers whose fantasy values are thriving:
Jonathon Niese, New York Mets
His fastball cannot break a windshield, and he has a knack for putting runners on base (1.86 WHIP), but give the crafty southpaw credit for working his way out of jams and keeping batted balls in the ballpark. Niese has only allowed one earned run over his last two starts (11 innings), and pitching half the time at spacious Citi Field can only help him.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
Liriano’s fantasy value is flying higher than that volcanic ash cloud is over Europe. Being three years removed from Tommy John surgery is normally better than being two years removed from it, and Liriano is proving that theory correct. He is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA after three starts.
Carlos Silva, Chicago Cubs
If there was ever an example of how the National League is inferior to the American League, Silva is it. He was easily the worst pitcher in the AL between 2008-09 when he was with Seattle, going 4-18 with a 6.81 ERA. Yet somehow his slow sinkers are befuddling batters in the NL, because he is currently 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 0.63 WHIP.
Here are three pitchers whose fantasy values are diving:
Doug Davis, Milwaukee Brewers
Step right up if you need a little batting practice. Davis has not fared so well in his second go-round with Milwaukee, getting battered around like a Shane Carwin opponent to the tune of an 8.35 ERA and 2.07 WHIP.
Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh Pirates
Four starts, four losses, and a 16.20 ERA. Enough said.
Mat Latos, San Diego Padres
The Padres’ best pitching prospect might not be ready for prime time just yet. Latos has struggled in his first four starts of the season, posting a 6.20 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Meanwhile, teammate Jon Garland’s ERA is only 2.86 despite his WHIP being higher than Latos’.
Three weeks in we have Kansas City’s Scott Podsednik and Atlanta’s Martin Prado leading their respective leagues in batting average. You would have had a better chance of picking the winning Mega Millions lottery numbers than predicting that those two would be the batting leaders at this point.
Did you get the same feeling I did during your fantasy drafts and auctions that people forgot about Tampa Bay’s David Price? He slipped farther or went cheaper than I thought he should have considering he was the first pick overall in the draft just three years ago.
For Price to fall way below Stephen Strasburg was just blatantly ridiculous, and he is making fantasy owners pay for snubbing him with his early-season efforts (3-1, 2.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 26 strikeouts).