Winning or losing a fantasy baseball title usually comes down to small margins. Last season who would you rather have had, Cliff Lee or Carl Pavano? Pavano was drafted on average in the 8th round. Lee was mostly going after the 10th round. That solitary pick right there could be the difference maker in your fantasy destiny. Every draft has those intriguing players who don’t have a long track record of success, whether because of injury or youth, but are primed for breakthrough seasons. These guys are the sleepers in a draft and are the subjects of daily fantasy debates. Their true value lies hidden in the future, behind the murky statistics that can easily mislead an aloof fantasy owner. In part two of INSIDE PITCH’S Fantasy Preview we continue our look at the potpourri of pitchers on the cusp of stardom. Who will become the Jon Garland or the Chris Carpenter of 2006? Here now is an in depth look at three more pitchers who could turn into fantasy studs come this spring.
Mets’ fans are still squawking over the 2004 trade that sent their
best minor league pitcher to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Two years later,
Mets’ fans may get even more upset as Scott Kazmir continues his
ascension into baseball’s pitching elite. Kazmir possesses a 94-96 mph
fastball and a sharp, tilting slider that can be unhittable when
hitters are hacking (174 K’s in 186 IP in 2005). The problem for Kazmir
comes when batters lay off his breaking stuff. He must become more
efficient with his slider if he wants to go deep into games. The key
though to his breakout success will be the harnessing of his changeup.
When Kazmir is able to throw that pitch consistently for strikes, he
will turn into one of the top three lefties in the American League (AL).
Round To Draft
will stack their lineups with as many righthanded hitters as possible
this season when Kazmir is on the mound. Lefthanded hitters best chance
might be to try and draw a walk. Last season lefty’s hit .175 with only
one home run against him. If he can get his pitch counts down by 15-20
pitches a game he could top 200 K’s for the season- a feat only two
pitchers in the AL accomplished in 2005. With a potentially explosive
offense behind him, Kazmir could win 15-17 games this season and
establish himself as the first dominant starter in the Devil Rays’
short history. Look for this young gun to go anywhere between rounds 7
and 12. Reaching for him in the 6th round should still net you great
value by season’s end.
John Patterson (Washington Nationals)
A long lying seed has finally sprouted! John Patterson, 28 years
old, could be this year’s Chris Carpenter— a hard throwing, highly
talented righty who had a devastating arm injury and whose former team
gave up on him because they had grown impatient with the rehabilitation
Patterson, was originally drafted out of high school with the 5th
overall pick in the 1996 amateur draft. He was part of the baseball
signing-bonus revolution that mega-agent Scott Boras initiated. Boras’
ridculous bonus requests caused the Expos to not tender Patterson a
contract within 15 days, making him a free agent. He signed later that
year for the fourth largest signing-bonus in baseball history ($6.075
million) courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He made steady
progress over the next three years in the minors, but blew his elbow
out and missed the entire 2000 season. By 2003 he was finally
regaining some of the lost speed on his fastball, but Arizona had grown
tired of waiting for their ‘bonus baby’ just as Toronto had with
Carpenter earlier that year. So, while St. Louis made a great deal to
steal Carpenter, the Nationals were quietly robbing the D’Backs of
Patterson (traded for little used reliever Randy Choate).
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late emergence of John Patterson began last year when he held hitters
to a .233 average in almost 200 IP. Patterson had 185 K’s in 2005 and
benefitted greatly from pitching his home games in hurler friendly RFK
stadium. His arsenal centers around a 90-92 mph fastball with great
late movement. He likes to punch guys out with his drop-dead curve that
he offsets with a hard slider. Like Kazmir, his improving changeup
could be what pushes him into the pitching elite. In 2005 he was a
fantasy darling and among the top ten in the National League (NL) in
several categories, including: 9th in ERA (3.13), 10th in K’s (185) and
8th in Batting Average Against (.233). While Patterson is not a secret
anymore, he will still slide into the 8th or 9th rounds in most drafts
because of his past arm woes. If you feel another fantasy owner is as
excited as you at the prospects of adding Patterson, then take him in
the 7th round and watch the other owner boil!
This guy could be the absolute pitching steal of a fantasy draft.
The Giants drafted him with their first pick in 2002. At just 21
years old, he is the second youngest player in the majors (Felix
Hernandez is 19). In three professional seasons, except for a minor
elbow injury in 2003, Cain has breezed through the minors. Like most
young pitchers he is still learning to control an impressive
repertoire. Cain dominates hitters with some serious heat (95-96 mph)
early in games, but must develop a third pitch and continue to refine a
potentially deadly curve.
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In 2005 Cain showcased his mighty arm with seven late season starts.
He dominated hitters with a 2.33 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Overall, batters
hit .151 against him. There won’t be any September call-ups to face
come this April, but the Giants believe he is ready for Prime-Time.
Playing in the weakest division in baseball, the NL West, Cain should
be able to pad his fantasy stats in inter-divisional play. There isn’t
a scout out there who doesn’t speak highly of Cain’s potential. The
question is can he hold up for an entire major league season? Look for
the Giants to treat him very carefully if his past elbow tenderness
returns. But, if his endurance can stand up, Cain could be the NL
Rookie Of the Year in 2006. Most fantasy owners won’t even consider
Cain until after the 15th round, somewhere between the 16th and the
25th. I say grab him in the 14th or 15th round and revel as he propels
the Giants into the playoffs.
Carl The Cabbie