Oakland fans get to enjoy watching some of the game's best young pitchers. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden have dazzled fans with their performances and could form one of the top rotations for years to come. But which of these hurlers is the best choice for fantasy? Braden doesn't have the strikeouts to matter in fantasy baseball and is due for some regression with his 3.50 ERA. Trevor Cahill is also out of the equation thanks to a similar lack of punchouts and expected decline in numbers. This leaves Gonzalez and Anderson. Which pitcher is the better pick?
After a shaky first 2 seasons in the majors the volatile Gio Gonzalez kept the ball in the zone just enough for his nasty arsenal to do its thing. Crossing the 200 innings threshold with a solid 3.23 ERA he was a key player on a lot of fantasy teams last year. Of all the young Athletics pitchers he has the best track record for Ks. He also has a good history of keeping the ball on the ground. Where his game is flawed is in the walks. He hands them out like the were fliers to his band's next gig. Control is the only thing between him and another dominant season.
Gio has a history of improving with experience and he has certainly shown improvement each year he's been in the bigs. Given the history of striking out bunches I see no reason to think he can't improve his K/9. His career BB/9 in the minors is 4.1 so he should be able to keep the walk rate around 4. Yes his strand rate is likely to come down and the .274 BABIP should rise but those effects should be lessened by an improved K/9. 180 innings of 4.00 ERA with 170 K is a reasonable prediction and personally I think it could be low. He got better down the stretch and he looks like a 25 year old with nasty stuff figuring out how to harness it. Reports on his stuff early on in spring training have been great. I wouldn't be surprised to see Gio build on his 2010 numbers and cement himself as a go to fantasy pitcher.
Brett Anderson will almost certainly top Gio in WHIP and a good chance at beating him in ERA as well. However, Anderson will have to close the gap in K/9 if he wants to match Gonzalez in production. He will improve his 6.00 K/9 but by how much could he possibly increase it? He will likely sit around 7.5 K/9 which is hardly ace-like.Anderson also has arm issues to deal with and is an injury risk. He should be under 4.00 ERA and could reach low 3s so if you need ERA he is the better choice but aside from that he is a bigger risk than Gonzalez.
Either one of these pitchers are capable of putting up a top 30 fantasy performance. Both are supremely skilled and it could come down to who has the better luck and in that case I would want to side with the guy who brings the Ks and the health.