BY ROB SHAW
To say that Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg has lived up to expectations so far this season would be an understatement. The Opening Day starter is a perfect 2-0 while allowing just three runs to score in 25 innings. He also seems to be pitching with little exertion, as his 25:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests fine control, but we have not seen the 100 MPH heat that Strasburg is capable of.
It is clear that hitters have little chance off him, as he has not surrendered a home run in two years and the opposing batting average remains well under .200 in his nine starts over that period. At 23 years old, Strasburg still remains very young and for that reason the Nationals are handling him with gloves.
In fact, the biggest strike against Strasburg’s fantasy value is the fact that the Nationals have already announced that he will throw only 160 innings this season. That equates to just another 135 innings of dominance for those keeping track.
Even Strasburg limited to 160 innings works out to be one of the best pitchers in fantasy baseball. However, to maximize his value, fantasy managers should consider trading the ace around the All-Star break. By then they should have enjoyed a dominant stretch with Strsburg potentially ranking as the best hurler in baseball. However, with his innings limited in the second half of the season, Strasburg becomes little better than a dominant reliever.
While the Nationals are keeping his future in mind with hopes that the franchise has many years of dominance ahead, fantasy managers must realize that Strasburg is only a short-term fix in this year’s fantasy leagues.
For more fantasy insight visit Bloombergsports.com
BY ROB SHAW
Edwin Jackson is young, durable, and has been a winner with 10-plus wins in each of the last four seasons. The solid track record begs the question why did so many teams pass on him.
The 28-year-old hurler is now on his seventh Major League team and he hasn’t played for losers either. He went 5-2 down the stretch for the Cardinals last season, playing a role in the team’s World Series Championship.
One of the hardest throwing hurlers in baseball, Jackson has improved his control over the years. His greatest weakness recently is that he is just too hittable. Even in his successful run with the Cardinals the opposition hit .300 against him. The good news is that he keeps the ball in the yards, but for fantasy managers looking for a low WHIP, Jackson is not a solution.
The move to Washington means he’ll now don the jersey for his sixth team over the last four years. However, Bloomberg Sports likes his fantasy value. The larger ballpark and National League setting should translate to 170 strikeouts, double-digit wins, and a 4.21 ERA.
Jackson is a fine low-risk, high ceiling option in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. After all, it was just a few years back that he threw a no-hitter while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s see if he can finally sustain such dominance over a full season.
Once one of the hurlers in the most demand in the Major Leagues, Erik Bedard hopes to build on his improvement from last season while joining the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bedard was a disaster in Seattle. Because of injuries, he never lived up to the hype and while the Mariners traded away top prospect Adam Jones to the Orioles for him, they ended up letting him go for very little in return last season to the Red Sox.
The good news is that Bedard showed that even after all of the injury-ravaged seasons, he still has some potential right now. He offered fine control last season and fanned a batter per inning throughout the year.
A move to Pittsburgh should lead to some good results for Bedard’s fantasy managers. Pittsburgh’s ballpark plays neutral and he will no longer have to deal with designated hitters in the majority of his starts. Most importantly, he has sustained his health, which is the key to his performance.
BloombergSports.com projects a solid 3.74 ERA and 1 .30 WHIP from the veteran hurler this season, and with some luck he could reach double-digit wins for the first time in five years.
The loss of CJ Wilson could be crushing to the Texas Rangers. Just a year removed from a second World Series, the Rangers lost their ace for a second time. First it was Cliff Lee who bolted to rejoin the Phillies. Now it’s Wilson, and while he may not be as dominant as Lee, the fact that he joins the rival LA Angels of Anaheim makes matters worse.
The Rangers were desperate to respond and without many proven stars on the market they had to compete with teams including the Toronto Blue Jays to land Yu Darvish, an ace from Japan. With an enormous bid, the Rangers land the hard-throwing hurler who will enjoy the loftiest expectations by a free agent to join the Rangers perhaps since Alex Rodriguez signed his now infamous $252 million deal.
As far as realistic projections for Darvish, BloombergSports.com offers a 13-8 record, 185 strikeouts, and a 3.63 ERA for the hard-throwing hurler. That makes him the 16th best starting pitcher, and a top-50 fantasy talent.
Despite the lofty projections, there is still a great deal of risk for fantasy managers. After all, Darvish is new to America and will have to adapt culturally to Major League Baseball, plus he calls home to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. He will not get away with many mistakes and the media will be hounding him all season long.
For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
The 8th pick of the 2003 draft, Paul Maholm finishes his Pirates career with 53 wins and 73 losses in 185 starts. He did not carry much momentum at season’s end, as he lost his final five decisions as the opposition hit .355 against him following the All-Star break.
The Cubs are hoping that the southpaw will perform at a higher level outside of Pittsburgh similar to former Pirates hurler Jon Lieber, who excelled with the Cubs. The big question is whether Maholm has the making of an above average pitcher.
Prior to the All-Star break Maholm dominated, limiting the opposition to a .227 average and a .298 OBP. The problem here is that a larger sample size is the 2010 season and the opposition hit .303 against him then.
A move to Chicago does not seem like a career-saver for the 29-year-old veteran. In fact, he will have enough pressure on him simply to stay in the starting rotation.
Despite a run of six straight seasons with 11-plus wins a few years back, Jason Marquis is not considered one of the better hurlers in baseball. After some success including an 8-5 record and 3.74 ERA through 20 starts with the Nationals last season, the New York native did not fare as well when he was dealt to the Diamondbacks. Marquis imploded with a sky-high ERA of 9.53 in three starts.
The main problem for Marquis is that he is simply too hittable. The opposition hit .291 against him prior to the All-Star break and that’s when things were going well for him. He is a junkball pitcher (46% of his pitches are off-speed), who eats innings and gives his team a shot at staying in the game.
The good news is that Marquis moves to a pitcher’s park in Minnesota, which should help keep the ball in play and lead to more outs. While he could reach double digits in wins once again, his fantasy value remains limited due to his lack of strikeouts and soaring WHIP.
The Rays have been known for taking underachieving relievers and making them a part of an elite bullpen. The latest hurler to be added to the mix is former Tigers closer Fernando Rodney, and his potential is sky high.
Rodney has been solid in the past, racking up 37 saves for the Tigers in 2009. However, last season was a step in the wrong direction as he walked more batters than he struck out for the first time in his career. Rodney has a high velocity fastball, and he can be unhittable at times. In fact, last season the opposition mustered just a .224 average against him all season, but because of his wildness, his ERA ballooned to 4.50.
Part of the issue last season was that Rodney was not 100% healthy. This season he should be able to bounce back, and with the Rays pitching tutelage working in his favor, a fine ERA and many strikeouts is very realistic. Regardless, without saves his fantasy value is limited.