Rookie Pitcher Keepers for 2011: Mat Latos is a Must!
2010 has blessed Major League Baseball with a memorable rookie class.
Fantasy owners in Dynasty and Keeper leagues were quite familiar with this cast of characters long before they arrived in the show.
In commemoration of their foresight, let's take a gander at the top 10 pitching keepers for 2011.
1. Mat Latos*, SP San Diego Padres
Latos turned ace potential into ace performance in one off-season.
His arm strength was never in doubt. His secondary pitches and command are much crisper in 2010. His 0.98 WHIP and .192 batting average against are sick. He's not a product of PETCO Park either. This is proven by his 9-3 record and 2.41 ERA away from home.
His innings are being monitored, but Latos is showing no signs of slowing down in the home stretch: Through 58 innings in June and July he's allowed 39 hits, struck out 66 and pitching with a 1.40 ERA.
He had minor elbow discomfort earlier in the season, but it’s not a major concern at this point.
*Missed MLB rookie threshold by 2/3 of an inning, so he can’t win ROY, but he tops our list regardless.*
2. Neftali Feliz, CL Texas Rangers
Once upon a time Feliz was envisioned as a front of the rotation starter, but he's found his true calling finishing games.
He's converted 32 of 35 save opportunities, storming through June and July without blowing a game. His control, once gazed upon as an area of weakness, is now a virtue. He's walked 16 batters in 56 innings.
His easy heat is a sight to behold. It looks like he's playing soft toss, but he's hitting 101 on the radar gun.
Most importantly, Feliz appears unfazed by the pressures of a pennant race and is blessed with a rare 'extra gear.' Top three closer (minimum).
3. Jhoulys Chacin, SP Colorado Rockies
The 22-year old Chacin has filthy stuff and is capable of utter dominance.
He's allowed 82 hits and struck out 109 in just 102 innings. He's a nightmare on right-handed hitters (.178) with his sinker, late breaking slider and change.
He's carried over his ground ball mastery from the minor leagues, posting a 1.31 GO/AO ratio in the pros.
He has all the tools in his toolbox, but needs to hone his command and find a consistent arm slot.
4. Jaime Garcia, SP St. Louis Cardinals
Garcia is a Tommy John Surgery success story, undergoing the procedure following the 2008 season. He came from out of nowhere to win a rotation spot in spring training and has put together a remarkable campaign.
He's posted a 2.33 ERA and has been a ground ball machine (1.93 GO/AO). He's allowed seven home runs all season and only one to a left-handed batter. His critics popped up after a rough June, but he's responded with a 2.68 ERA since the All Star Break.
His major flaw has been length, averaging under six innings per start.
5. Brian Matusz, SP Baltimore Orioles
Matusz is far from overpowering, but his pitches are refined and his mound intelligence is outstanding.
He's still learning on the job at 23, so it's hard to put much credence in his 6-12 mark.
Matusz has been devastating against left-handed hitters, striking out 40 in 31 innings of work. He has a tendency to leave pitches up in the zone and simply doesn't possess the stuff to overcome lack of pitch precision.
His 0.79 GO/AO ratio must improve.
6. Daniel Hudson, SP Arizona Diamondbacks
Hudson has been on a tear since being traded to the National League.
He's pitched at least seven innings and allowed no more than three ER in all six starts.
He appears to be on the verge of harnessing the command issues that have prevented his breakthrough (eight BB in 43 2/3 innings).
Hudson has natural movement and late life on his pitches that make him a real difficult at bat.
It looks like the White Sox gave up on his front line potential too early.
7. Wade Davis, SP Tampa Bay Rays
Davis is the quintessential bulldog on the mound with a power arm to back it up.
He uses his fastball often, challenges opposing hitters. The problem is his secondary offerings have been erratic at best. He's struck out only 82 batters in 126 2/3 innings, a figure hard to fathom with his repertoire. He gets ahead, but can't put the finishing touches on hitters.
In spite of a low strikeout total and inducing predominantly fly ball outs, Davis has managed to accumulate ten victories (5-0 last seven).
He had a 15-day DL stint with shoulder soreness.
8. Jeremy Hellickson, SP Tampa Bay Rays
Yep. Back-to-back Rays.
After toying with AAA (finalist for MiLB POY), Hellickson burst onto the major league scene going 3-0 in his first four starts, going at least six innings in each.
At 6'1 185 he's not a big man, but features a sneaky fastball and power breaking stuff. He uses a deliberate windup, but jumps towards the batter at release making him tough to center up.
His 25:4 K:BB ratio is sparkling. Hellickson is not a lock for the Rays 2011 rotation. He likely faces a spring training battle with Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann for the 5th spot.
Hellickson is definitely a top high-level pitching prospect, though. He's a keeper.
9. Madison Bumgarner, SP San Francisco Giants
Much like he did in AAA, Bumgarner continues to get it done with mirrors. Despite allowing 83 hits and ten HR in 73 innings pitched, he's won five games with an ERA below four. How?
He doesn't issue many free passes (19) and gets the ground ball when he needs it. He won't 'wow' you, but he's a winner.
Bumgarner just turned 21 and he will be a fixture in the Giants rotation for years to come.
Ace projections might have been a tad strong, but he can be a solid #2 or #3 starter.
10. Drew Storen, RP/CL Washington Nationals
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman calls Storen the "closer of the future."
Whether it's closing or setting up, he's been impressive.
In 43 innings of work he's surrendered 34 hits (1.19 WHIP) and just a single home run. He's closed three of four save opportunities and has ten holds.
There's no question he's equipped to handle late game pressure, but needs the experience. Young closers are tough to come across, making Storen a cherished keeper asset.
He's far and away the Nationals top option in 2011.
* Stephen Strasburg, SP Washington Nationals
The exploits of Mr. Strasburg have been well documented, from his lights out curveball to his 92:17 K:BB ratio.
Unfortunately, after being labeled the savior of the Nationals organization, Tommy John will sideline him for at least a year.
Full recovery from the procedure has become the expected outcome, so use your DL spot wisely and stash him there.
Honorable Mention: Mike Minor, ATL; Andrew Cashner, CHC; Jonny Venters, ATL
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Written by Adam Ganeles exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com.
Check back weekly for Adam's insight into Major & Minor League Baseball.
Anyone else you think should have made the top ten list?
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