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Michael Harmon

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As I sat down to start breaking down pitchers, my mind drifted south to Anaheim and the staff assembled by Mike Scoiscia’s squad. Of course, the city’s preoccupation is with their new power hitter, whose image adorns billboards along the freeway system. The message is simply, “El Hombre.” I think everybody knows the translation of those words.

I don’t believe that the idea of obsessing over power hitters is confined only to southern California. The spotlight remains on Detroit and the arrival of Prince Fielder, the lingering talk of suspension for reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun and even the minor league contract signed by Manny Ramirez.

The fact that 20 pitchers produced at least 15 wins last season stands as an afterthought. Everyone still looks for highlight-worthy fodder and loud home radio and television calls. 

>>> Check out Harmon's Pitcher Rankings 30-1

31. Gio Gonzalez, WAS:
2011 Stats: 16 Wins, 3.12 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 197 K
Analysis: Gonzalez became a fantasy hero during his two-year run as a starter in Oakland. He earned 31 wins in 65 starts and logged back-to-back 200-inning campaigns. Gonzalez averaged 8.22 strikeouts per nine innings to help offset his bloated walk rate (4.1 walks per nine IP).

32. Matt Moore, TB:
2011 Stats: 1 Win, 2.89 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 15 K
Analysis: Fantasy owners anxiously anticipated the arrival of this 22-year old lefty last season. Moore had pitched to a record of 12-3 with a ridiculous 1.92 ERA in 27 starts before getting called up by the Rays. He mowed down opposing batters at a rate of 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and is considered the “can’t miss” hero of 2012. Moore has even knocked Stephen Strasburg’s comeback down a couple pegs.

33. Jeremy Hellickson, TOR:
2011 Stats: 13 Wins, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 117 K
Analysis: Hellickson posted a strong first half for the Rays, earning eight wins in his first 16 starts with a 3.21 ERA. He elevated his game in the second half, producing a fantastic 2.64 ERA in 13 starts. Overall, Hellickson allowed just 6.95 hits per nine innings.

34. Brandon Beachy, ATL:
2011 Stats: 7 Wins, 3.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 169 K
Analysis: The Braves are reloading the rotation with young arms, and Beachy was the first to arrive. He logged 25 starts last season, producing seven wins with solid peripheral numbers. Beachy averaged 3.7 strikeouts per walk and 10.7 batters per nine innings.

35. Johnny Cueto, CIN:
2011 Stats: 9 Wins, 2.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 104 K
Analysis: Cueto has been tabbed as the Reds’ opening day starter by Dusty Baker. Between injury issues, the 26-year old righty produced a career year for Cincinnati in 2011. He allowed 7.1 hits per nine innings and significantly reduced his home run rate. Cueto will need to keep the ball down to offset his low strikeout rate (six strikeouts per nine IP).

Top 300

The Fantasy Department reveals the Top 300 players for the 2012 season.

36. Matt Garza, CHC:
2011 Stats: 10 Wins, 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 197 K
Analysis: Garza’s name has swirled around in trade rumors for quite some time, but nothing has come to pass as pitchers and catchers report to camp. He pitched well for the Cubs in 2011, setting new career marks in ERA and strikeout rate (one per IP). Garza also struck out more than three batters per walk issued.

Garza has been a workhorse during the past four years, taking the ball at least 30 times each season and pitching at least 184 2/3 innings. His WHIP has been essentially constant during this period (1.24-1.26).

37. Yu Darvish, TEX:
2011 Stats: 18 Wins, 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 276 K
Analysis: Given the bidding process that took place for the rights to talk to Darvish about a contract, expectations are high in Texas for the 25-year-old righty. I believe that he can meet those lofty projections and yield top-20 numbers. 

He obliterated opposing batters during his five years with the Hakkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Darvish pitched to a ridiculous 1.72 career ERA with a record of 76 wins and 28 losses. He allowed just 39 home runs in over 1,000 innings pitched. Oh, Darvish also struck out 4.9 batters per walk.

Darvish’s potential is being examined against Daisuke Matsuzaka’s arrival to Boston. If he can avoid the hefty walk total that has plagued Matsuzaka, then the sky is the limit behind this potent Texas lineup.

38. Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE:
2011 Stats: 10 Wins, 4.68 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 180 K
Analysis: Will we ever see the “old” Ubaldo again? I just liked having the ability to toss the name “Ubaldo” into the mix.

Jimenez struck out batters in buckets (180 in 188 1/3 innings pitched), but he also continued to surrender a high number of walks (3.7 walks per nine IP). As a result, his ERA and WHIP numbers regressed markedly from his 2010 heroics. Jimenez may not reclaim his “Ace” status, but he’s potential fantasy bargain as a SP3 selection.

39. Anibal Sanchez, MIA
2011 Stats: 8 Wins, 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 202 K
Analysis: Sanchez was one of the few every fifth day starters who failed to achieve a double-digit win total last season. He matched his total of 32 starts in 2011, but earned just eight victories. Still, I’m intrigued to see Sanchez pitch in the new park behind an improved lineup. He pitched to a solid 3.67 ERA last year, and his strikeout rate exploded (9.26 strikeouts per nine IP).

40. Cory Luebke, SD:
2011 Stats: 6 Wins, 3.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 154 K
Analysis: Luebke transitioned to the starting rotation after appearing in 29 games as a reliever last season. He acquitted himself nicely, pitching to a strong 3.15 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings pitched in his 17 starts. He averaged 3.8 strikeouts per walk during this period as well.

Luebke dominated in 23 road appearances last season, there’s room for improvement in his home totals. Look beyond the 4.04 home ERA. Luebke struck out 66 batters against 20 walks while pitching to a 1.13 WHIP. There’s room for improvement, and I suspect that a few additional wins are in the offing.

41. Brandon Morrow, TOR:
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 4.72 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 203 K
Analysis: Morrow is a prime power pitcher in Toronto. In two years as a starter, he’s averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. However, Morrow has struggled markedly in front of the home crowd. He pitched to a dismal 6.31 ERA and bloated 1.50 WHIP at home. He owned a 3.07 road ERA with a dominant 1.07 WHIP.

Interestingly, Morrow flipped the script from his 2010 totals, when he recorded a record of 8-1 with a 2.74 ERA at home and pitched terribly on the road.

42. Tim Hudson, ATL:
2011 Stats: 16 Wins, 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 158 K
Analysis: Hudson delayed having back surgery following the 2011 season, a delay that will keep him sidelined for at least one month to start the season. He’d produced fantastic back-to-back seasons following his injury-shortened 2009 campaign, winning 33 of 67 starts with a composite 3.02 ERA. You’ll have to wait a while, but you’ll be rewarded with solid SP4 totals if Hudson can avoid a setback.

43. John Danks, CWS:
2011 Stats: 8 Wins, 4.33 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 135 K
Analysis: Danks joined the parade of Chicago players suffering through a downturn of production in the 2011 season. He had enjoyed three consecutive seasons of at least 12 wins prior to last year’s downturn and appeared on the disabled list because of an oblique injury. Danks was limited to 27 starts and saw his ERA rise by one-half of a run.

He’s never been a power pitcher, but he’s been a consistent performer in a difficult ballpark. Danks’ overall totals from 2011 don’t tell the whole story. I would be remiss if I failed to note that Danks was dominant during an 11-game span from June through August (including a DL stint). During this period, he pitched to a record of 6-1 with a scintillating 2.03 ERA and 5.23 strikeouts per walk. Danks will receive more offensive support than he did last year, and a full season of health pushes him back to a double-digit win total (he won a career-high 15 games in 2010).

44. Shaun Marcum, MIL:
2011 Stats: 13 Wins, 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 K
Analysis: Marcum essentially matched his 2010 totals from Toronto in his first year in Milwaukee. He matched his win total and the differences in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts were negligible. Marcum loses some of his offensive support with Fielder’s departure and the lingering questions about Ryan Braun, but I can’t dismiss the fact that he strikes out 2.8 batters per walk issued.

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45. Derek Holland:
2011 Stats: 16 Wins, 3.95 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 162 K
Analysis: Holland needs to cut his walk rate and keep the ball down (22 home runs allowed), but he generated 16 wins in his first year as a full-time starter. Look into the splits. Holland mowed through hitters in the second half of the season, generating a record of 9-1 with a tremendous 3.06 ERA, a full 1.5 runs lower than his first-half efforts.

46. Ervin Santana, LAA:
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 3.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 178 K
Analysis: Santana’s win total regressed from his 2010 career-high of 17, but he pitched more consistently than he had since the 2008 season. He struck out 2.47 batters per walk and completed a new career-high total of 228 2/3 innings with a career-best 1.22 WHIP.

Santana is going to give up his share of home runs (21 or more in six consecutive seasons) and his career ERA (4.22) and WHIP (1.30) are hardly imposing, but he’ll see far more support than he did a year ago. He’s a solid SP4 option with upside.

47. Max Scherzer, DET:
2011 Stats: 15 Wins, 4.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 174 K
Analysis: Scherzer won a career-high 15 games in 2011 with great support from the Detroit bullpen. He continued to strike out batters at a high rate (8.6 per nine IP in the past three seasons) while posting a low walk rate. Unfortunately, Scherzer’s hit rate soared and surrendered a career-high 29 home runs to raise his ERA by nearly one full run.

48. Jaime Garcia, STL:
2011 Stats: 13 Wins, 3.56 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 156 K
Analysis: Garcia’s hit rate exploded in 2011, thereby contributing to his 0.86 rise in his ERA from his 2010 heroics. However, he matched his win total (13) and struck out three batters per walk while improving his walk rate overall.

49. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY:
2011 Stats: 13 Wins, 3.07 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 161 K
Analysis: The Dodgers were terrible in 2011, but the pitching staff had its moments. Kuroda built on a strong 2010 season to win a career-high 13 games while tossing 202 innings. I know that he also lost 16 games, but circle his 3.07 season ERA. To put things in perspective, Kuroda pitched to a 2.12 ERA in June while generating a record of 0-4.

The change in ballparks and departure from the National League project to boosts in his ERA and WHIP numbers, but Kuroda does a great job in limiting walks and will get more consistent offensive support in the Bronx.

50. Clay Buchholz, BOS:
2011 Stats: 6 Wins, 3.48 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 60 K
Analysis: Buchholz made his final start of the 2011 season in mid-June before he was sidelined because of a back injury. He won six of his 14 starts in 2011 while pitching to a solid 3.48 ERA, though his WHIP rose to 1.29.

Fans and fantasy owners saw Buchholz’s potential on display in 2010 when he won 17 games and pitched to a phenomenal 2.33 ERA. He’s not a power pitcher, so pitching to contact in the AL East likely boosts his ERA from that fantastic level. Buchholz does carry significant risk, as he’s only pitched more than 92 innings in a season once.

51. Doug Fister, DET:
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 146 K
Analysis: Fister’s record in Seattle prior to his acquisition by Detroit obscured what was a fine first half (3-12 record). He pitched to a 3.33 ERA while posting 2.8 strikeouts per walk.

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Fister arrived in Detroit and pitched lights-out ball in his 11 appearances. He won eight games and generated a 1.79 ERA with 11 strikeouts per walk. Fister has a great opportunity ahead of him while pitching behind a fierce lineup and one of the best bullpens in the game.

52. Roy Oswalt, FA
2011 Stats: 9 Wins, 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 93 K
Analysis: Oswalt remains available on the market as the rest of the baseball world descends on Arizona and Florida. He missed time in 2011 because of a back injury, so questions remain about his health and ability to get through a full campaign. Oswalt’s 23 starts in 2011 marked his lowest total since 2003.

Oswalt’s strikeout rate dipped to 6.02 per nine innings in his 20 starts, and his hit rate rose (9.9 per nine innings). He did, however, strike out 2.8 batters per walk issued. I’ll keep an eye on his whereabouts as camp gets underway.

53. Wandy Rodriguez, HOU
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 3.49 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 166 K
Analysis: Rodriguez’s 2009 season now stands as the outlier in his seven-year career in Houston. He pitched to an ERA a full run lower than his career mark (3.02 against 4.07) and a career-low 1.24 WHIP. Rodriguez isn’t overwhelming, but he eats innings and takes the hill every fifth day (182 2/3 or more innings pitched in four of the past five seasons) and strikes out 7.7 batters per nine innings (2.38 strikeouts per walk).

54. Trevor Cahill, ARI:
2011 Stats: 12 Wins, 4.16 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 147 K
Analysis: As expected, Cahill’s numbers fell off from his 2010 heroics. As a low-strikeout generator, it stood to reason that more batted balls would fall in safely for hits. Cahill’s ERA rose by 1.19 runs and his hit rate rose markedly.

His propensity to pitch to contact is a dangerous proposition in Arizona, as he won’t have the huge power alleys of the Coliseum to save him. I love that he eats innings (196 2/3 and 207 2/3 in the past two seasons) and will be just 24 years old when the season begins.

55. Vance Worley, PHI:
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 119 K
Analysis: The highly-touted Philadelphia rotation received a nice surprise from the back of the rotation when Worley was promoted to the staff in late-April. He pitched to a fantastic ERA overall (3.01), but was positively dominant at home (2.34 ERA). He struck out 2.7 batters per walk and 8.1 batters per nine innings pitched.

56. Bud Norris, HOU:
2011 Stats: 6 Wins, 3.77 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 176 K
Analysis: Norris was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season in Houston, though his record wouldn’t serve as a true indicator. He won five of his 18 starts before the All-Star break and pitched to a strong 3.46 ERA while striking out one batter per inning. Though Norris’ ERA and WHIP rose sharply in the second half, he still struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings.

The main issue facing Norris is his propensity to keep the ball up in the zone (tied for 41st with a 0.74 groundball-to-flyball ratio). He surrendered 24 home runs last season.

57. Justin Masterson, CLE:
2011 Stats: 12 Wins, 3.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 158 K
Analysis: Masterson came into his own last year for the Indians. He started a career-high 33 games and reduced his ERA by nearly 1.5 runs from his 2010 mark. Masterson struck out 2.4 batters per walk and kept the ball in the ballpark.

He didn’t blow up the win column in the first half of the 2011 season, but look at that 2.64 ERA. I’m intrigued.


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58. Alexi Ogando, TEX:
2011 Stats: 13 Wins, 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 126 K
Analysis: Following a one-season stint in the Texas bullpen, Ogando moved into the rotation and acquitted himself nicely. Ogando won 13 games and averaged nearly three strikeouts per walk. He was dominant in April and May before experiencing a slide in June (4.26 ERA) and suffering through a dismal August (7.14 ERA). The adjustment to starting every fifth day wore on him as the season progressed, but the punch is there to make noise behind this potent offense.

I rank Ogando here with the expectation that he cracks the Texas rotation. It’s also possible that he eventually slides back into the bullpen.

59. Jhoulys Chacin, COL:
2011 Stats: 11 Wins, 3.62 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 150 K
Analysis: Chacin struck out nearly seven batters per nine innings last season to help mitigate the damage of his high walk rate (four per nine innings). I can’t ignore his hit rate (7.8 per nine IP) and the fact that he induced 1.3 groundballs per flyball allowed in 2011.

Chacin was dominant in the first half (3.16 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 116 IP) before faltering down the stretch. The 23-year-old righty will post more consistent results in his second full season.

60. Neftali Feliz, TEX:
2011 Stats: 2 Wins, 2.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 54 K, 32 Saves
Analysis: Feliz moves from the bullpen to the rotation for 2012. He saved 72 of 81 chances during his two-year run as the closer while generating 2.6 strikeouts per walk. Feliz’s hit rate was positively filthy, as he surrendered just 5.8 hits per nine innings pitched. Obviously, there will be some rough spots as the 23-year-old adapts to the starting role, but the tools and run support are there for immediate dominance.

>>> Check out Harmon's Pitcher Rankings 30-1

>>> Check out Harmon's Dome Player Rankings Index

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