There wasn't a whole lot to like about former All-Star Ubaldo Jimenez's 2011 season. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Going into a fantasy draft, there are stars you pay big money for, there are the sleepers you hope to get bargain value for, and then there are the guys who you should just avoid at all costs. I'm not referring to the common sense roster zombies. Any idiot knows that disasters like John Lackey are draft poison (even before he was shut down for the season), and that low-upside veterans like Livan Hernandez or Tim Wakefield should be generally ignored.
I'm talking about the pitchers who aren't so obvious, the pitchers with superficially good stats or formerly successful track records that could trick you into thinking they're good. Some pitchers will put up deceptively low ERAs or high win totals despite the fact that they really aren't that good. After the jump, five pitchers to avoid on draft day. Get ready to cross these guys off your list before you even begin your draft.
Let's get in our DeLorean and go back in time to the 2010 All-Star Break. Jimenez was 15-1, he had thrown a no-hitter in April, and he was routinely hitting 100 mph on his fastball. He was named the National League All-Star starter and he looked like a lock to become the first 25-game winner since Bob Welch in 1990. Baseball pundits everywhere prematurely crowned him the 2010 Cy Young Award winner.
Ever since the second half of that season, however, he's been somewhere between mediocre and downright terrible. A farcical showcase start at the 2011 trade deadline preceded a trade to Cleveland, where continuing control issues and a drastically decreasing velocity (yeesh) plagued him until the end of the season. The elevated WHIP, despite the move to a park that isn't a sandlot, is disconcerting; the plummeting velocity is terrifying. He still put up good strikeout numbers in spite of it all, but a shift to the DH league isn't going to do him any favors in his quest to rediscover his 2010 first half magic.
2. Jonathan Sanchez
It pains me to put Sanchez on this list (and first, no less), because without him the Giants don't win the World Series in 2010, and that's an alternate universe that i just couldn't survive in. Sanchez has always struck out a ton of batters, but with those strikeouts came boatloads of walks. Most of the time you could live with the free passes, but last year his walk rate rose to unacceptable levels. I'm sorry, but six walks per nine innings isn't going to get it done, unless you're Nolan Ryan or something.
For all the acclaim Sanchez gets for his stuff, and for all the supposed trade value he's had since he was a sprout in 2006, if you actually look at his resume you'll see that he's only had one truly good season. The rest has been moments of brilliance (no-hitter in '09, numerous high-strikeout performances) peppered in a stew of walks and fantasy manager hair loss. Now he's coming off an injury and a career-worst walk rate, and he won't get to face the opposing pitcher anymore. Jonny, I love you for your 2010 contributions, but stay the hell away from my fantasy team.
Collmenter was a revelation for the Diamonbacks in 2011, an out-of-nowhere rookie who solidified the back end of the Arizona rotation and played a major role in their division championship. Collmenter's success came as a result of tremendous control. He walked only 1.6 batters per nine innings, a somewhat shocking development given that he didn't show anything like that kind of pinpoint accuracy in the minors (3.1 BB/9).
Will Collmenter continue to be this good in 2012? Let's see, he's an extreme fly ball pitcher (0.50 GB/FB ratio), who pitches in a bandbox and doesn't strike many batters out. Oh, and his BABIP was .260, well below the league average. This is exactly the type of pitcher who could suddenly see his ERA balloon into the 5.00s, as some baffled commentators prattle on about his lost confidence or some tripe like that. The more enlightened of us know that a statistical correction is on the horizon, and as Collmenter's HR/FB rate goes up, up, up, his fantasy value will go down, down, down.
Fantasy keeper league owners who have Moscoso on their team must have had a coronary when they got the news that he had been traded to the Rockies for Seth Smith. Like Collmenter, Moscoso rose from the depths of the unknown to put up a fine 2011 season. Also like Collmenter, there's very little chance Moscoso repeats that success.
Moscoso's fly ball-tastic stylings (.037 GB/FB ratio!) were somewhat cancelled out by cavernous Oakland Coliseum (or Network Associates Coliseum, or whatever the hell they call it now). All those fly balls were turned into outs, and a ridiculously low .222 BABIP helped immensely, as well. Now, of course, he's moving to the best hitter's park in the history of the sport. These things will not repeat themselves. Avoid!
I hate to be a hater, because Santana is one of my favorite pitchers of all time (his 2005 Cy shafting is one of baseball history's great injustices), but even if he is ready for Opening Day, there are red flags abound. Even before he missed more than a season due to injury, his strikeout rate was sinking like a rock and he was nowhere near the dominant ace of his Minnesota days, ERA be damned. Now he's 33, coming off a lost year, and not even guaranteed to be ready to start the season.
I'm sure he'll still be okay, but he's no longer a top 10 starter and definitely not worth the gamble. Somebody in your league will draft him too high based on name value alone. I'll personally be applauding his past brilliance while staying 100 yards away from him at all times during draft day.
Francisco Liriano. A sky-high walk rate, declining stuff, and an injury-riddled background are quickly taking the shine off of his once-bright career. For sunny-side-up types: he does have sort of a Bret Saberhagen on-year/off year thing going. So there's that.
Phil Hughes. Time is running out for this former Bronx golden boy. There's still the potential for him to pull a 2010, where he put up a high win total simply by hanging around for 176 innings in front of that Yankee offense. Given his fly ball-happy ways in that ballpark, though, I'm going to make like Sir Robin and bravely run away.
Brian Matusz. Some managers will be tempted to nab Matusz because his stock is at an all-time low and he was once a top pitching prospect. However, with a sharp drop in velocity and a total loss of control, and the fact that he plays for a horrible organization, there's not much to like here anymore. There's digging for sleepers, and then there's wasting your time.
Which of these pitchers has the best chance of defying my grumpy pessimism and providing good fantasy value in 2012?
Ubaldo Jimenez (162 votes)
Jonathan Sanchez (47 votes)
Josh Collmenter (20 votes)
Guillermo Moscoso (6 votes)
Johan Santana (33 votes)
268 total votes