Dominate Your 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft with These Sleeper, Value Pitchers

John ZaktanskyCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2011

Shaun Marcum will thrive away in his new digs, on a team much more potent than the Blue Jays were last year and away from the dreaded AL-East. His arrival with the Brewers and likely spot at No. 3 in the Brew Crew's rotation will pay big dividends.
Shaun Marcum will thrive away in his new digs, on a team much more potent than the Blue Jays were last year and away from the dreaded AL-East. His arrival with the Brewers and likely spot at No. 3 in the Brew Crew's rotation will pay big dividends.Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Overpay [oh-ver-pey]: To pay at too high a rate; To pay more than is due, as by an error; To draft a pitcher in the first three rounds of any regular fantasy baseball draft.

Any pitcher, you ask? Even Roy Halladay? Even Tim Lincecum? You betcha.

It isn’t that these guys are great pitchers. I’d love to have one of them on my roster. I don’t think I will, though, because I refuse to take a starter before the fourth round, and in many drafts, I’ll wait even later than that.

That’s because I can fill up my roster with these guys:

Zack Greinke, KC and Justin Verlander, DET. OK. These guys definitely aren’t sleepers. Then again, it is, in my book, highway robbery for either to fall to the fourth round (or later) in drafts while pitchers like Josh Johnson and CC Sabathia go a full round or two earlier. For more on both, check out my rankings.

Yovani Gallardo, MIL. The 3.84 ERA will scare some drafters away. But under the surface, there are some things to like. Especially his strikeouts per nine innings. His 9.67 mark in that category over the past two seasons puts him among the top five at the position.

Factor in, too, that with Greinke coming to town, Gallardo won’t have to pitch out of the No. 1 hole, reducing some of the pressure on him to be the ace. The Brewers lineup will one again provide plenty of run support.

The best part is that Gallardo is falling farther and farther in most drafts.

Shaun Marcum, MIL. Might as well make this a Brewers trio to start things off. Marcum has a lot of changes going in his favor. He moved from the AL to the NL. He moved from a division that had the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays to one that a slew of several good, but not elite, offenses and then the Astros and Pirates for dessert.

Marcum also finds himself in the third hole of the rotation, where he won’t be expected to carry the team. When you look at his stats last year minus the games against the fearsome threesome of the AL-East, his stats are very, very sweet.

Francisco Liriano, MIN. Not necessarily a deep sleeper himself, but Liriano is vastly under-rated this spring. He had no trouble regaining a high level of strikeouts last season, more than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but lacked control at times, ballooning out his ERA in stretches.

The control will slowly come back, and I fully expect his ERA to get better over the season.

Madison Bumgarner, SF. With pitches in the mid-90s and a full arsenal of backup options, this left-handed sophomore is coming off a solid rookie campaign where he notched a 3.00 ERA in 111 innings pitched before compiling a 2-0 record with a 2.18 ERA in the playoffs.

Bumgarner may run into some growing pains during the season, but considering the upside, he’s a steal in many drafts at the moment.

Gio Gonzalez, OAK. A young pitcher with a growing track record of improvement during his three years of major league action, Gonzalez is definitely undervalued in drafts.

His 171 strikeouts and 3.23 ERA only stand to improve moving forward, despite the lack of run support he’ll have with the Athletics.

Brian Matusz, BAL. Each of Matusz’s four-pitch arsenal (fastball, curveball, slider and changeup) has shown improvement during the young Oriole’s major league tenure.

Some will balk at his bloated ERA, but look at the second half of last season, where his numbers got increasingly better.

Brett Anderson, OAK. Anderson was one of my sleepers for last season. His talent is well documented. Unfortunately, so is his injury track record as of late.

When Anderson finally did get healthy last season, he finished the season strong (2.80 ERA). He isn’t going to win you a strikeout total, but he will produce well enough in other categories to warrant a draft pick in the 11th to 13th rounds, where he is currently going in drafts right now.

Brandon Morrow, TOR. People can tell you that Morrow turned in a woeful 4.49 ERA last season, and they’d be right. But do they realize his strikeouts per nine innings was phenomenal during the 2010 campaign? He produced a wicked 13.08 K/9 during the second half of the season and was nearly unhittable down the stretch.

Morrow was drafted ahead of pitchers you may know. Like that Tim Lincecum character. And Clayton Kershaw. And Max Scherzer. There is a reason for that, and those who are wily enough in the 14th rounds or later will greatly benefit from taking him at a great value slot.

For more on starting pitchers, check out my 2011 SP rankings. The rest of my positional rankings: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

My other positional value players and sleepers can be found here: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | SP | RP

And, be sure to see our extremely popular composite ultimate Top 50 fantasy baseball players for 2011.

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