In New York, it's out with the old, in with the new.
Retired Roger Clemens is embroiled in a bitter battle with Brian McNamee. Monetary disaster Carl Pavano is perpetually broken. And Mike Mussina is one injury away from the taxidermist. As Brian Cashman has hinted recently, it's time to "Free Joba" – but likely not until June..
The bazooka-armed 22 year-old possesses a legendary arsenal – high-90s fastball, nasty slider, deceptive curve and a plus change. His meteoric rise through the Yankees system last year proved his electric combination of power and polish was far beyond his years.
Prior to being recalled on Aug. 6, Chamberlain posted an otherworldly 13.8 K/9 mark in 88.1 innings between High-A and Triple-A. Exclusively used as a reliever for the senior club, the robust righty allowed only one earned run, issued six walks and notched an equally dominant 12.8 K/9 in 30.1 innings.
Still relatively green, occasional bumps and a 140-150 innings cap are forecasted in '08. But, when compared to Clay Buchholz, his command and mound muscle are far superior. If he can log 140-plus innings, Chamberlain is capable of 9-12 wins, 150-175 strikeouts, an ERA under 3.50 and an extraordinary WHIP in range of 1.15-1.25.
Joba the Hutt may be going some 40 picks earlier than Buchholz, but his sparkling WHIP and potential 20-30 more strikeouts reign supreme.
Oh, and he could annihilate Buchholz in any eating competition.
Look, these two are very close in terms of projected fantasy value. They're so close, in fact, that for many of you the decision to draft either will come down to some personal allegiance to their employers.
Fantasy draft guides aren't likely to settle this debate for you. Chamberlain and Buchholz are ranked near the top of everyone's list of prospects, and usually adjacent to one another.
Both were dominant in the minors, holding hitters to sub-.200 averages and striking out over 12 per nine, and they both carried their dominance into the majors in spectacular ways. Chamberlain's minor league ERA was 2.45 and his WHIP was 1.01; Buchholz's minor league ERA was 2.44 last season, and his WHIP was 0.97.
It doesn't get much closer than that.
Both pitchers will find themselves on strict innings-limits, which gives their value a ceiling. Neither is a lock to begin the season in their team's starting rotation. They both have arsenals with multiple plus-pitches, and they'll both receive terrific run support. Value-wise, they're just amazingly close.
Except people aren't drafting that way.
Chamberlain's ADP at MockDraftCentral is 147 and Buchholz's is 190. Joba goes ahead of Chad Billingsley, Pedro Martinez, Dustin McGowan and a pack of similarly interesting pitchers. Clay goes four rounds later … For that reason, Buchholz will find his way onto more of my fantasy rosters.
Don't ignore the bullpens, either. I'll take Papelbon and Okajima over Rivera and New York's collection of failed Cubs.