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Shuffle Up: Brandon Beachy’s crazy season

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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High-powered trio (USP)

Here's how it works, my friends: I rank 133 starting pitchers so you don't have to. You peruse the list, we have respectful and smart debate, everyone wins. What a wonderful world we live in.

The ranks are in Phase 1.0 right now, with is the pre-burrito phase. I never commit to any rank until I have my Thursday evening Mexican food (that's why I overrated Ismael Valdéz all those years). After the meal, I'll return here, smooth some ranks here and there, add extensive comments. (Update: full comments are now added, and prices are locked in. Your witness, your honor. Burrito? Delicious.)

What's happened to this point is an audition, not a ranking mandate. I'm trying to figure out who's worth the most going forward. Yes, I know Cliff Lee is winless, and yes, I know Philly's offense is a joke — right now. But that doesn't mean those things will continue in that direction.

Anyone currently on the DL or in the minors is considered verboten to the ranks. You'll find wide-ranging, league-dependent values on those guys; you can decide what they're worth. For everyone else, assume a 5x5 format (we're not pagans, we're reasonable) and rotisserie scoring.

Make the jump and let's figure out these crazy pitchers, together.

$32 Justin Verlander
$31 Clayton Kershaw
$30 Cole Hamels
$28 Cliff Lee
$27 Jered Weaver
$27 Gio Gonzalez
$27 Felix Hernandez
$27 CC Sabathia
$26 Roy Halladay
$25 Matt Cain

Justin Verlander hasn't thrown less than 100 pitches in a regular season start since June 22, 2010. Think about that for a second. He's made the mark in the last 53 starts since then. It doesn't get any more automatic than that. … Cliff Lee's HR/FB rate is in uncharted waters (17.9); he's never been close to there before. No need to worry about it. He's outstanding at getting a ground ball (55.4 percent) or a double play when he needs it (11 of 25 instances this year, best among starters). The Phillies have scored just 14 runs in his six starts, which explains the win column. … For some talk about Jered Weaver's home/road splits and the idea of potentially steering him from Arlington in the future, head over to the bottom of Thursday's Closing Time.

$23 Stephen Strasburg
$23 David Price
$22 Zack Greinke
$22 Madison Bumgarner
$22 Anibal Sanchez
$21 Yu Darvish
$21 James Shields
$21 C.J. Wilson
$21 Dan Haren
$20 Brandon Morrow
$20 Jake Peavy
$20 Brandon Beachy

I've been a Brandon Beachy guy from the moment he hit it big last year. He has a wide arsenal of pitches; he challenges hitters and can put them away; seems like a good guy off the field too (by all accounts). I see his ridiculous 2012 numbers and trust me, I want to rank him higher. But we have to see the downside here, and all the odd trends floating around.

That glittering 1.77 ERA could easily be a mirage. Beachy's strikeout rate has plummeted to 6.5/9 (that's down from 10.74 last year) and he's been the beneficiary of a .209 BABIP. I'm all for inducing weak contact (and there's also been a ground-ball spike), but that hit rate isn't sticking. A 5.7 HR/FB rate has to be taken with a grain of salt, too. The peripheral-suggested ERAs paint a different Beachy picture: 3.11 FIP, and 3.84 xFIP.

But I've got a second reason to push Beachy down my list: workload concerns. How deep into the season can Beachy pitch before a tax is paid? This is someone who came into the Atlanta system as a reliever and has just 450 innings in pro ball, from 2008 to the present. Last year's log of 146.2 innings is the furthest he's gone. What happens to a young arm when you ask it to go far past the previous benchmark? Does a regression kick in? Will the team pull back on the reins? We can't ignore this vital concern, and that's why I have to stay grounded with the price.

I like David Price but he's still a "very good, not great" arm to me. We've yet to see a dominant ERA or WHIP on his resume: his numbers are routinely valuable, but never pushed into an elite area. You know all about the division context and risk, obviously. Price also needs to be more effective away from the catwalk: the lefty carries strong career ratios in Tampa (2.71/1.11), but they jump up to 4.02 and 1.30 on the road (and the split has been even more extreme in 2012).

$19 Adam Wainwright
$18 Jordan Zimmermann
$17 Mat Latos
$17 Jon Lester
$16 Yovani Gallardo
$16 Tommy Hanson
$16 Matt Garza
$16 James McDonald
$15 Lance Lynn
$15 Johnny Cueto
$15 Ian Kennedy
$15 Colby Lewis
$15 Bud Norris

A spot of gopheritis has affected Colby Lewis on the road (10 homers), though he still has a 1.04 WHIP and 29 strikeouts (against just three walks) in his suitcase turns. He's been one of the more underrated AL starters for a while. … The only downside to James McDonald right now is the awful offense he's tied to (clearly the worst in baseball). But this is a potential ace, a power righty with swing-and-miss stuff, and the park plays along nicely as well. How did the Bucs ever steal this guy for a two-month rental of Octavio Dotel? … I gave Ian Kennedy a good look through the car wash and I don't see any problems that slightly-better location and sequencing can't fix. Velocity is stable, and while strikeouts are slightly down, he's still getting 3.2 whiffs for every walk. Might be a good time to try to trade for him.

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The Ricker (USP)

$14 Wandy Rodriguez
$14 Tim Lincecum
$14 Josh Johnson
$14 Jeff Samardzija
$13 Ryan Dempster
$13 Doug Fister
$13 Chris Sale
$13 Ricky Romero
$13 Chris Capuano
$12 Tim Hudson
$12 Shaun Marcum
$12 R.A. Dickey
$12 Jeremy Hellickson
$11 Johan Santana
$11 Jason Hammel
$11 Carlos Zambrano
$10 Ted Lilly
$10 Kyle Lohse
$10 Jason Vargas
$10 Erik Bedard
$9 Josh Beckett
$9 Felipe Paulino
$9 Derek Holland
$9 Anthony Bass
$8 Wade Miley
$8 Matt Moore
$8 Edwin Jackson
$8 A.J. Burnett
$8 Dan Hudson

There's never going to be a consensus on Tim Lincecum this year. Let's accept that. Maybe a 2.4 mph drop in his velocity means nothing to you, perhaps you don't care that he's throwing his slider less, maybe you can live with the spotty command, figuring he'll get it back sooner or later. Here are some of the things I don't like:

Just one quality start - hard to win if you can't go deep and keep the runs down; a recurring walk problem, which has his K/BB rate barely over two (you expected and need much better); very messy numbers on the road (8.15 ERA, 2.04 WHIP). Lincecum's BABIP has been unlucky at .351, sure, but he's also rolling with a 5.1 HR/FB, which might be good fortune. And opponents are squaring the ball up against Linecum like never before, rocking a 24.3 line drive rate. When you're lacking your best velocity and missing your spots, line drives happen.

I see more fleas and red ink than I'm willing to absorb. Unless the price is dirt cheap, I don't want him. What's the best pitcher you'd trade for Lincecum right now, 1-for-1?

If Ricky Romero can't reel in his control problems, it's going to be a brutal summer in the YYZ. He's walked 21 men (against 20 strikeouts) over his last four starts, and that's been over a reasonable schedule (at Oakland, Minnesota and Tampa, and home against the Mets). It's surprising that he doesn't do better against lefty hitters: for his career he allows a .727 OPS to lefties, as opposed to .578 when batters have the (theoretical) platoon advantage. …Ryan Dempster looks like a lock to be dealt when trading season kicks in, so he could be hitting a spike in the middle of the summer in a better short-term situation. And some of the extreme hitter parks are probably off the table: Colorado won't be a buyer, and it looks like Arizona won't be, either

Josh Johnson has been tripped up by two things: a puny strand rate, and an increased line-drive rate (strikeouts are down an eyelash but the K/BB is still in a good place). There's no reason he can't get both of these things in line, but I'm a little leery on his long-term physical prospects, given that he's only had one season over 184 innings. … The amateurs in the crowd dismiss A.J. Burnett because of the 12-run nightmare in St. Louis. The open-minded and shrewd players note that he's been excellent in his other five turns (8 ER, 9 BB, 31 K). The ballpark fit (and low-pressure fit) is perfect for this type of pitcher and personality.

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Bravo, Max (USP)

$7 Ryan Vogelsong
$6 Jerome Williams
$6 Tommy Milone
$6 Max Scherzer
$6 Jaime Garcia
$6 Gavin Floyd
$6 Ervin Santana
$6 Bronson Arroyo
$6 Andy Pettitte
$5 Wei-Yin Chen
$5 Trevor Cahill
$5 Jake Westbrook
$5 Henderson Alvarez
$5 Edinson Volquez
$5 Bartolo Colon
$4 Kyle Drabek
$4 Jonathon Niese
$4 Joe Saunders
$4 Joe Blanton
$4 Drew Smyly

The strikeout numbers look good with Edinson Volquez and he still has a cosmetically-acceptable 3.49 ERA, but this story doesn't hold up in the splits. Volquez has build that ERA through seven Petco starts and just three road turns. He's only won a single home start, which is part of what you get tied to the Padres offense, I suppose. On the road he has a 4.24 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts. This is a stock that could collapse at any time. … Max Scherzer's 15-K parade was a clear invitation to trade him in deeper leagues. Maybe you can't really sell high on someone this inconsistent, but the video at least gives you a promotable item. I'm reluctant to buy into a mixed-league hurler who has trouble lasting seven innings; Scherzer's game would improve significantly if he could trade a little of the swing-and-miss stuff for weakened contact and quicker outs. … The Mayday Milone story lines up neatly: he's been super at home (0.60/0.79), if somewhat lucky, and messy on the road (7.16/1.52), if somewhat unlucky. The gap between those results will obviously normalize and narrow as the year goes along, but the case for him in Oakland is obvious (fly-ball bias, big park). You'll enjoy watching him pitch: he's around the zone and he works quickly. But you can't trust him in any hitter-favorable park on the road. … It would be nice to see Ryan Vogelsong push his K/BB rate over 2, just so we could trust him a little bit more. I've always enjoyed watching him pitch: competitive, smart, good curveball (and most of the NL West parks are enjoyable backdrops). His stats are significantly slanted towards the home work over the past year and a third, so make sure you're streaming him primarily by the bay.

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Charmed life (USP)

$3 Zach McAllister
$3 Ricky Nolasco
$3 Mark Buehrle
$3 Justin Masterson
$3 Jeanmar Gomez
$3 Jarrod Parker
$3 Felix Doubront
$3 Derek Lowe
$3 Bruce Chen
$3 Brad Lincoln
$3 Alex Cobb
$2 Ubaldo Jimenez
$2 Scott Diamond
$2 Randall Delgado
$2 P.J. Walters
$2 Kevin Millwood
$2 Jake Arrieta
$2 Ivan Nova
$2 Dillon Gee
$2 Daniel Bard
$2 Christian Friedrich
$2 Chad Billingsley
$2 Barry Zito
$1 Ross Detwiler
$1 Philip Humber
$1 Phil Hughes
$1 Mike Minor
$1 Matt Harrison
$1 Marco Estrada
$1 Juan Nicasio
$1 John Danks
$1 J.A. Happ
$1 Brian Matusz
$1 Aaron Harang

The key for Mike Minor going forward is finding a way to dress up his fastball so it stays in the park. It's too flat a pitch right now, and batters are just teeing off and reaching the seats regularly. Sometimes a lofty HR/FB rate tells us more about the pitcher than it does about bad luck. The zesty K/BB numbers remind us that Minor has superb potential, but there have been too many disaster starts in a row for me to use him right now. I'll need to see a few get-well auditions before I risk my precious innings on this case. … Derek Lowe's extreme sinker makes for some of his good luck, but a 83.7 strand rate and a 5.1 HR/FB rate aren't things you should be betting on. And more walks than strikeouts? Please. Forget him in a mixed league, especially if you're limited in innings or starts. I'm reluctant to suggest him as a sell-high because I respect the common roto player more than that; no need wasting time giving you unexecutable advice. Basically you use Lowe in AL-only (obviously) and maybe you stream him now and then in uncapped leagues, and that's it for me. I'm in on this Cleveland story — I think it's misguided to assume the club folds like last year, this team looks a lot better — but Lowe is one area where I'm fully expecting a mad correction. … My buddy Mike Salfino likes the case for Dillon Gee as a deep sleeper, and I think Mike's on-point (as usual). Gee's solid K/BB rate and ground-ball spike suggest he's a lot better than his surface ERA shows, and I dare any pitcher with his component skills to maintain that bloated 18.4 HR/FB rate. In shallow and medium mixers, no need to watch this one: you need to aim higher. But in deeper leagues, keep an open mind: Gee could easily be someone who gives us a sub-4 ERA and reasonable strikeouts and innings the rest of the way.

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Fraggle Rock (USP)

$0 Tommy Hunter
$0 Rick Porcello
$0 Mike Leake
$0 Josh Tomlin
$0 Homer Bailey
$0 Hiroki Kuroda
$0 Clayton Richard
$0 Carl Pavano
$0 Blake Beavan
-$1 Paul Maholm
-$1 Clay Buchholz
-$1 Hector Noesi
-$2 Jeremy Guthrie
-$3 Randy Wolf
-$3 Luke Hochevar

The Clay Buchholz rank got some jeers on Twitter: he's not worth $0, a few of you say. You might have a point; let's push this one into the red. The Red Sox really should send Buchholz down to Triple-A for a tune-up (and maybe a wakeup call), but they've been reluctant to do it for some reason. Buchholz was seen as an attractive trade piece a few years ago; Theo Epstein surely regrets not moving while the market was optimistic (that is, if Theo even bothers to look back these days; he has his own problems to deal with in Chicago). One other piece of Buchholz advice: trust in your catcher and defense and work quicker. Being the slowest starting pitcher in the majors isn't helping you, and it's nothing to be proud of. And for all the talk of Buchholz's three good pitches, how come his strikeout rate isn't showing any growth?

I'll break the rules from the introduction and briefly discuss two unlisted pitchers, if only for a moment. I'm guessing Roy Oswalt eventually signs with an AL club, albeit my NL Tout Wars squad could desperately use him over there. The best real-life fits are mostly in the AL, but unfortunately most of the logical landing spots are with clubs that play in offensively-friendly parks (Baltimore, Texas). Oswalt still could be a $8-10 arm in a good NL fit (can we twist your arm, Washington?), but he won't come close to that in an AL city, not that I can see.

It's hard to tell how the Diamondbacks are going to spin their ugly start to the season. Can they hop back in the race? Can they get the infield solidified? My guess is that we'll see Trevor Bauer around mid-June, but that's just one intelligent (but random) guess to go along with your morning coffee. What's your gut feel on this one?

Because Bauer has significant strikeout upside, he has a chance to be a double-digit arm right out of the box. I'm not guaranteeing anything, just endorsing the legitimate upside. It's not that unusual to see a high-pedigree arm pile up strikeouts immediately. I'm holding onto Bauer for now in the Yahoo Friends & Family League, though I could easily drop him at any moment for a different flavor of the week. In high-volume mixers with short benches, I'm reluctant to waste resources on someone with an extended (and indefinite) waiting period attached.

I'm not someone who looks too far back with the shuffling exercise — any rank that's multiple weeks old is just about dead to me — but I know many of you want the look-back links, so here they are. I'll keep them parked at the bottom of future shuffles. And following the established cycle, we'll revisit the corner infielders next week. Go study Brian LaHair for a week and we'll tackle it on May 31.

Previous Shuffles: Outfielders (5/17), Catchers (5/14), Middles (5/10), Corners (5/4).

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