One of my favorite draft day pickups from the scrap heap last year was Brandon McCarthy. He put together a campaign better than even his supporters expected, going 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 123 Strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings, after significant changes to his pitching style over the previous offseason. He's a hard guy to get a clear picture of his fantasy worth, as it's tempting to write it off as a fluke. Here's the argument for both sides of the coin:
Bust - McCarthy has been extremely injury prone his entire career, and even last year after a new approach was hit by the injury bug. The kind of injuries he has had were not "fluke" injuries either... most have been shoulder-related, which can often recur and severely impact performance or require surgery. His walk rate is likely to rise, as his F-Strike% was pretty good but not good enough to be 3rd best in the league again, since it was close to his 2009 F-Strike% when he had 3.3 BB/9. Add in a shaky A's defense, an even more horrific offense for run support (and a departed closer to boot), and a meh K rate, and he's just not that great a fantasy commodity and likely to be overrated on draft day. His ERA will attract fantasy owners, but all of the risks involved should make him worth no more than a late-round flier.
Sleeper - From a FIP standpoint, McCarthy actually underperformed his peripherals in 2011. His FIP was 2.86, best in the AL right in front of Verlander and Sabathia, and his XFIP was 3.30, still a tad lower than his ERA. The A's Crisp signing will help keep outfield defense solid, and the A's are unlikely to repeat the infield defensive collapse of 2011 (especially Barton, who is normally a great defender). While he had an injury this year, the fact that he not only recovered well, but was better afterwards is also encouraging. The biggest thing people overlook, however, are his season splits: He had a 3.52 ERA pre-All Star Break with a 46/12 K/BB in 76 1/3 Innings, and drastically improved in the second half to the tune of a 3.15 ERA with a 77/13 K/BB in 94 1/3 Innings in the second half with two 10-K games in September. That's a 7.35 K rate and 1.24 BB rate, and if he can come close to maintaining those rates in 2012, he can be a Roy Halladay-lite still available in the middle to later rounds.
What's your prediction for McCarthy for 2012?