Chin music: Pitchers to look at
Trevor Cahill, RHP — Oakland Athletics
Oakland's highly touted sinkerballing prospect has disappointed this season, but better things surely lie in store for him in the 2010 season. He'll be 22 years old on Opening Day and brings a career minor league ERA of 2.68 over more than 200 innings. Since he'd never pitched above Double-A before this year, some shakiness had to be expected. His home run rate has gone way up, while his strikeout rate has gone way down, so he needs to work on keeping the ball down in order to regain his minor league success. With his stuff and his track record, that shouldn't be a problem. In his last seven starts, he's gone 3-1 with an ERA of 2.79, so he's clearly on the right track.
Brett Cecil, LHP — Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto's young lefty has had a forgettable first season in the big leagues, posting an ERA of 5.30. However, he comes with a ton of upside. In his year and a half of minor league experience prior to this season, he posted an ERA of 2.41, with a rate of over a strikeout per inning. He's not overpowering, throwing a fastball that averages about 90-91 miles per hour, but he has enough command of all of his pitches to ensure him future success.
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP — Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore's ace has been a disappointment for the majority of this year, posting a career high 5.05 ERA with the lowest strikeout rate of his career. However, he's shown flashes of brilliance recently, with a stretch of four starts where he has given up a total of only five runs in 27 innings. He got knocked around in his one start since then, but since it was against the powerhouse Yankees, we can cut him some slack. Look for him to regain his form next year and become a solid starter once again. Expect a lot more consistency, but not a ton of strikeouts from him.
Derek Holland, LHP — Texas Rangers
Holland's another young pitcher who has suffered from first year jitters, going 7-11 with a 6.00 ERA. However, he's still very young (he'll be only 23 at the start of the 2010 season), and there's no doubt he can bring the heat, offering up a mid-90s fastball he'll use the vast majority of the time. His fastball gets incredible movement at times, as he throws both a four-seam and a two-seam variety. His minor league track record is short, but very impressive, so it's easy to imagine success in his near future. Once he builds up his confidence and develops his secondary pitches a little more, he should be a valuable fantasy option, even in the cozy confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
David Huff, LHP — Cleveland Indians
Huff's had a rough time in his first taste of the major leagues (as many players do), posting an ERA of 6.14 and a WHIP of 1.61, with only 57 strikeouts in 114 innings. A healthy dose of run support helped him to a 10-7 record. So, what's there to like about him? For his minor league career, spanning over 200 innings, he's posted a very impressive 2.70 ERA, with a good strikeout rate of almost one per inning. Huff won't blow anyone away with his 90 mph fastball, but he has a pretty decent changeup, he throws strikes, and he'll be only 25 years old on Opening Day 2010. He's got nowhere to go but up.
Scott Kazmir, LHP — Los Angeles Angels
Kazmir's overall numbers for this year are unimpressive to say the least. He's currently sporting a 5.31 ERA, with the lowest strikeout rate of his career. However, he's managed to bring that ERA down more than a run per game since August 9 and has an ERA of 1.86 in three starts since his trade to Anaheim. Injury concerns were clearly to blame for his lackluster performance earlier on, but they seem to be a thing of the past. Many fantasy owners will stay away due to his miserable 2009 numbers, but 2010 is a brand new season.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP — Boston Red Sox
Matsuzaka's suffered through an injury-plagued 2009 season, and the results have been horrific. He's posted an ERA of 7.02, with a 2-5 record and a WHIP of 2.02, so things can only get better for him in 2010 if he stays healthy. In his only start since coming off the DL with a right shoulder injury, he shut down the Angels through six innings, giving up only three hits while striking out five. Dice-K has a proven track record of success, so he should return to form next season.
Ricky Nolasco, RHP — Florida Marlins
Nolasco emerged as the ace of the Marlins' staff in 2008, then quickly regressed this year, with an ERA of 5.45. However, he's posted a respectable WHIP of 1.32, and after a demotion in late May his ERA has come down over three and a half runs per game. While I don't think he'll be quite as good as his 2008 season (15-8, 3.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP), he also won't be nearly as bad as his overall 2009 numbers either. Expect an ERA in the low fours, with great strikeout numbers.
Manny Parra, LHP — Milwaukee Brewers
I'm sure Parra would like nothing more than for this season to be over, so he can put it behind him. It's been an ugly year for him from start to finish, as he's logged an absurd 6.42 ERA and a WHIP of 1.84. However, he's still relatively young and inexperienced and has a great minor league track record behind him (a career minor league ERA of 3.05 in over 500 innings, with a great strikeout rate). His potential, and the fact he throws left-handed, should ensure him another chance to prove himself in 2010, and he shouldn't disappoint. Expect an ERA closer to 4.50, with strikeout rate in the neighborhood of 7.5 K/9IP — not great by any means, but still of some value, especially in deep leagues.
Jake Peavy, RHP — Chicago White Sox
Peavy's season has been decimated by a partially torn tendon in his right ankle, limiting him to only 13 starts so far. While his ERA before the injury was unimpressive by his standards at 3.96 (in a pitcher's park), he's still managed to strike out 92 batters in 82 innings and post a WHIP of 1.19. He's now moved to a hitter's park, which will likely scare away a lot of potential owners. However, he's consistently been one of the best starters in baseball for the last five years, and a change in scenery shouldn't affect his performance as much as some would think.
Mike Pelfrey, RHP — New York Mets
Pelfrey was fast-tracked to the major leagues in 2006 with less than a season of minor league experience behind him, and he's been up and down since then. He posted a very respectable 3.72 ERA last year and fell to a dismal 5.09 this year. Since reaching the majors, his strikeout rates have dropped significantly and his ERA's climbed. He's still young (26 years old on Opening Day 2010), so there's still time for him to put it all together. If he can regain the magic formula that helped him to a 33-7 mark and 2.17 ERA in three years at Wichita State and a 3.11 ERA in the minors, then he'll be solid.
David Price, LHP — Tampa Bay Rays
An early favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year award, Price was expected to break camp with Tampa Bay this year. The Rays decided instead to give him some extra time to refine his craft at Tripe-A to start the season. Since his minor league experience consisted of only 19 starts, it was understandable. He's had a bit of a rough year since he was called up in late May, posting a 4.59 ERA, but that can be chalked up to inexperience. His repertoire features a mid-90's fastball and a hard slider, and his stuff looks downright nasty at times. He'll be only 24 years old on Opening Day, and he's got the credentials to back him up. Don't let his mediocre major league debut scare you away, as he is a potential ace in the making.
Ervin Santana, RHP — Los Angeles Angels
Santana's season started late, thanks to an elbow injury that sidelined him until May 14. After his return, he labored to a 1-3 record and a 7.47 ERA before going down with inflammation in his right forearm in mid-June. He struggled to get on track for the first month after his return, but since August 6, he's managed to lower his ERA from 7.20 to 5.52. He appears to have put his ailments behind him and will hopefully go into the 2010 season healthy and productive.
Joe Saunders, LHP — Los Angeles Angels
Saunders got off to a good start this season, posting an ERA of 3.66 with an 8-4 record through June 24. However, he ended up on the disabled list in early August with shoulder stiffness after a string of eight disappointing starts. During that stretch from late June to early August, he gave up 41 runs in 38 innings and brought his ERA up to 5.33 and his record down to 9-7. Since his return in late August, he's lowered his ERA to 4.75 and has gone 4-0. As long as he can stay healthy, he should be a valuable asset again in 2010.
Brandon Webb, RHP — Arizona Diamondbacks
Webb made one start in April before injuring his right shoulder. He underwent surgery which cost him the remainder of the season, but the outcome of the surgery was better than expected. It was feared that he suffered a torn labrum (a tough injury to recover from), but that proved not to be the case, and he's now expected to be ready for the start of the 2010 season. Armed with one of the best sinkers in the game, Webb's been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball ever since he came to the majors in 2003, with a career ERA of 3.26. He's also gone 56-25 over the last three years. If he comes out of the gate healthy, he should once again be a force to be reckoned with.
Article first appeared 9/18/09