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2012 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Top Five Starting Pitchers
There are a number of variables I consider when I'm scouting for overlooked starting pitchers.
Like everyone else, of course, I'm looking for players about to register a breakout season. Personally, I lean toward younger pitchers who have demonstrated steady improvement over the last few years. I also keep an eye on those that have switched teams or leagues, especially when the move matches a pitcher's upside with a manager's philosophy, a club's dynamics, or a ballpark's reputation.
The most important factor in weighing SP sleepers, however, is strikeouts. I'm not drafting any starters unless they strike guys out. A 10-win pitcher with 200 Ks can have as much value as a 15-game winner in fantasy.
The following are my five starting pitcher sleepers for 2012. Keep in mind that I don't consider a pitcher a sleeper if he is pre-ranked in the top 40.
Cory Luebke - The 2007 first-round pick started last season in the bullpen, but the San Diego Padres handed him the ball in late June with promising results. Luebke went at least five innings in 16 of 17 starts, and failed to strike out five or more batters only once. His poor 5-8 record belied more important starter numbers: 111 K in 101 IP, 3.31 ERA, and 1.09 WHIP. It's reasonable to expect his wins and strikeouts to double, making him a top-30 fantasy SP. Put him down for a 12—225—3.50—1.15 stat line in 2012.
Hiroki Kuroda - Some starters don't have the makeup to pitch in the Big Apple, and the list of New York Yankees pitching busts include Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, and Randy Johnson. Not only do I believe Kuroda is going to thrive, I think he challenges CC Sabathia for the team lead in wins. In four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his offense provided him with two or fewer runs in about one-third of his starts; with three or more runs of support, he went 38-19. It's not a stretch to expect the Yanks to match last year's 5.35 runs scored per game.
As such, I project Kuroda to be in the neighborhood of 18—160—3.75—1.25. Those numbers will return top-10 SP fantasy value.
Brandon McCarthy - The Oakland Athletics' right-hander had an impressive second half in 2011 (8-4, 77 Ks in 94 IP, 3.15, 1.07), and I'm expecting him to ride that into his best season. If you knew he was second in the AL in complete games, you're probably an A's fan or you owned him in fantasy last year. The A's don't hit, so he's not going to win a bunch of games. Mark him down for 13—175—3.75—1.20.
Felipe Paulino - This is a shot in the dark, considering the Kansas City Royals pitcher is 9-26 in his career as a starter. After he was traded to the Royals in May last year, he averaged over 6 innings per start and struck out 119 in 125 IP. I have a hunch he has found his niche in K.C. Make him your last pick in the 2012 draft, and you will be rewarded with numbers close to 10—150—4.00—1.30.
Erik Bedard - Say what you want about Bedard, but begin with this: Only 11 pitchers in MLB history (minimum 950 IP) have better strikeouts-per-9-IP ratios than the new Pittsburgh Pirate. There is extensive evidence that pitchers who have pitched in both leagues are more successful in the NL, and Bedard's interleague resume is eye popping: 8-3, 1.82 ERA, 133 K in 114 IP, 1.00 WHIP.
He hasn't won 10 games since 2007, so he undoubtedly will slide way down the board on draft day. Grab him and expect a stat line of 13—190—3.15—1.15.
Trevor Crovitz has been playing Fantasy Sports for nearly 20 years, dating back to the era when stats and standings were tabulated by hand on notebook paper.
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