Shuffle Up, Starting Pitchers: Exhuming McCarthy

Alright, amigos, let's get to the prices on the mound. Here's how I rank the Top 90 arms or so for the 2013 season, 5x5.

Players at the same prices are considered even. Don't worry about the numbers in an isolated sense; what matters is how the players relate to one another. I reserve the right to tweak the list as the evening goes along. Win the debate, win the rank.

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And remember the golden rule: a player doesn't gain 15-20 percent of bonus value simply because you roster him.

I'm sure there's more to the preamble but it's not coming to mind right now. Let's get to it.

$33 Clayton Kershaw
$32 Justin Verlander
$30 Stephen Strasburg
$29 Cole Hamels
$27 Cliff Lee
$26 David Price
$25 Matt Cain

As terrific as the Top 3 pitchers are, I'm fine to sit back and try to get Hamels at a nicer price (Yahoo! ADP: 33.8). Consider his Three-Year averages: 2.95 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 207 strikeouts; that's not too far from what we might expect from the holy trinity. And don't let the home ballpark throw you at all: Hamels posted better numbers in Philly for each of the past two seasons. Hamels doesn't turn 30 until December, so everything falls nicely into line here.

$23 R.A. Dickey
$23 Felix Hernandez
$23 Adam Wainwright
$22 Yu Darvish
$22 Madison Bumgarner
$21 Gio Gonzalez
$21 CC Sabathia
$20 Jered Weaver
$20 Chris Sale
$20 Johnny Cueto
$19 Max Scherzer
$19 Yovani Gallardo
$19 Zack Greinke
$19 Mat Latos
$19 Jordan Zimmermann
$19 Kris Medlen

Most other years I'd have Weaver a lot higher – extreme fly-ball pitchers tend to be underrated, as Gene McCaffrey has always said – but Weaver's velocity and strikeouts dropped last year and he's had trouble succeeding on the road. I'm not discounting him, but I'm no longer targeting him.

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$17 Brandon Morrow
$17 Josh Johnson
$17 Matt Moore
$17 Jeff Samardzija
$17 James Shields
$16 Ian Kennedy
$15 Jon Lester
$14 Anibal Sanchez
$14 Jake Peavy
$14 Tim Lincecum
$14 Doug Fister
$13 Homer Bailey
$13 Jonathon Niese
$13 Mike Minor

There was plenty of Bailey hype early in his career, so it's easy to forget he doesn't turn 27 until May. If you rank all of roto's starting pitchers for their road-only starts in 2012, Bailey surprisingly grades out first. That's not going to help him in Cincinnati's cozy ballpark, of course, but given the mild upgrade most teams get when they play at home, perhaps we'll see more balance (and better overall returns) in 2013. (And yes, once and for all – Bailey over Jennifer.)

Why isn't Peavy higher? Simple case here: it's about durability. Peavy didn't get to 20 starts in any of the three seasons before 2012, and even his 2008 campaign was capped at 27 starts and 173.2 innings. He has a 4.08 ERA for his career at U.S. Cellular, though it's tied to a 1.15 WHIP. Someone in the room wants him more than I do, and I'm fine with that.

$12 Matt Harvey
$11 Ryan Vogelsong
$11 Lance Lynn
$11 Hiroki Kuroda
$11 C.J. Wilson
$10 Alex Cobb
$10 Jeremy Hellickson
$10 A.J. Burnett
$10 Trevor Cahill
$10 Wade Miley

I'm going to go down as a Cahill apologist for a while, I suppose. The walk and strikeout rates are moving in the right direction, the ground-ball clip is dreamy, and he just turned 25. He's still got a level to climb for us.

$9 Jarrod Parker
$9 Brandon McCarthy
$9 Derek Holland
$8 Edwin Jackson
$8 Dan Haren
$7 Matt Garza
$7 Josh Beckett
$6 Brett Anderson
$6 Ryan Dempster
$6 Jason Hammel
$6 Tommy Milone
$6 Wandy Rodriguez

I can't help but root for the McCarthy story. He's coming back from a scary injury; he's smart; he's an engaging follow on Twitter (the best of all the baseball follows, at least from what I've seen). McCarthy's strikeout rate has never been outstanding but it's just about guaranteed to get a spike in the National League, and we know he hardly walks anyone. He doesn't turn 30 until July. Plausible upside is here, let's write a ticket.

I'm not touching Haren this year at that price, obviously. His back problems from last year could be a chronic thing, and he's been throwing batting practice this spring (6.39 ERA, seven homers, albeit with a tidy K/BB rate). I know you're not supposed to put a lot of stock into March performances from established players, but after Haren's 2012 season, I want to see reasons for optimism. He's all yours.

$5 James McDonald
$5 Marco Estrada
$5 Chris Tillman
$5 Hisashi Iwakuma
$5 Phil Hughes
$5 Matt Harrison
$5 Roy Halladay
$5 Clay Buchholz
$4 Jaime Garcia
$4 Julio Teheran
$4 Kyle Lohse
$4 Alexi Ogando

McDonald's nightmarish second half left a scar, sure, but we can't ignore what he did in the first half (nine wins, 100 strikeouts, 2.37/0.97). He's entering his Age-28 season. I welcome him to the back end of my rotations, as a short-leash lottery ticket.

$3 Dillon Gee
$3 Daniel Straily
$3 Mike Fiers
$3 Andrew Cashner
$3 A.J. Griffin
$3 Wei-Yin Chen
$3 Paul Maholm
$3 Rick Porcello
$2 Tim Hudson
$2 Jason Vargas
$2 Hyun-Jin Ryu

All winter I waited and hoped for the Tigers to ship Porcello to an NL club – what good is a ground-ball pitcher in front of Detroit's current infield? Alas, Porcello isn't going anywhere, and maybe that's a good thing as he steps into his Age-24 season. He's been a marvel in spring training (21 strikeouts and zero walks over 24 innings) and let's not forget there's a first-round pedigree here. Keep an open mind, gamers. … Maholm and Vargas are two of my favorite "just don't mess things up" options for the back end of deeper-league rotations. Both pitchers figure to get plenty of help from an outstanding outfield defense.

$1 Shaun Marcum
$1 Andy Pettitte
$1 Ross Detwiler
$1 Vance Worley
$1 Shelby Miller
$1 Jeff Niemann
$1 Mark Buehrle
$1 Chris Capuano
$0 Tommy Hanson
$0 Francisco Liriano
$-1 Ubaldo Jimenez

It's going to be a while before I can trust Jimenez again. Even if the fastball velocity makes a comeback, there's the matter of those messy mechanics – over the past few years, no two consecutive deliveries were ever alike. You can't pitch like that and be successful.

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