Fantasy Baseball 2012: Five Pitchers I Am Targeting Late in Drafts

March 23, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) throws a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, I wrote about 10 players I am targeting in drafts this year. Today, I will list 5 pitchers I am targeting late in drafts. Fake Teams writer Mike Gallagher asked me last night who I like to target late in drafts, and I usually like to target a hitting or pitching prospect who could get an early call up in 2012, or a reliever who could grab the closers job due to injury or ineffectiveness of the current closer.

So here are some pitchers I am targeting late in drafts this year:

1. Brian Matusz, BAL - Matusz is a former top 10 prospect who struggled mightily in 2011. Fantasy owners usually look to the previous years stats and determine that that is the baseline for a player for this year. That does not always hold true, and I think Matusz can be had late in drafts, or in the end game in auction drafts.

2. Andrew Cashner, SD - Cashner is another former #1 pick who has struggled to stay healthy in his minor league career. He was traded to San Diego in the deal that sent first base prospect Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs this offseason. In San Diego, he is currently the set up man for fragile closer Huston Street. Street is signed through the 2012 season, so he can become a free agent in the offseason. Padre GM Josh Byrnes would like nothing more than for Street to stay healthy this season so he can deal him for more prospects. In fact, I would not be surprised if he isn't talking to the Reds right now. Once Street is traded, or eventually gets hurt, Cashner should step in to close.

More late round pitching targets after the jump:

3. Mike Leake, CIN - Leake struggled to begin the 2011 season and ended the first half with an ERA over 4 and a WHIP of 1.204, but he turned things around in the second half with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.107 WHIP. He won 12 games in 2011 and I think he can build upon his second season in the big leagues. Leake went straight from college right into the Reds rotation in 2010, so I chalk up his first two years as him learning how to pitch at the big league level. Leake keeps the ball on the ground ?(47% last year) and strikes out just over 6 batters per 9 innings, so he is approaching Bret's Holy Trinity. I see Leake winning a few more games in 2012, with a mid-3's ERA.

4. Chris Sale, CHW - Sale will be a starter this season, after dominating hitters in a relief role in 2011. Sale struck out 10 batters per 9 last year and kept the ball on the ground as well (50%), so he has the talent to be a solid late round starter in 2012. Anytime you can gets a guy who strikes out a ton of batters and keeps the ball on the ground late in drafts, you grab him. Baseball HQ's Ron Shandler says Sale has the potential to strike out 200 batters a year. That is a mid-round talent.

5. Francisco Liriano, MIN - Liriano is coming off a horrible year in 2011, but looking deeper into his peripheral stats you see he still owned a K rate of 7.5 and he induced ground balls at a 49% clip. He was a bit unlucky last year as his strand rate was around 67%, so that should improve in 2012. This spring, he has struck out 23 and walked just 3 in 18 innings with an ERA around 2.00. Sure, it's spring, but remember that Liriano won 14 games with a 3.62 ERA and 2.66 FIP back in 2010. Fantasy owners have a short memory, and that can be valuable when guys like Liriano are still on the board late in your drafts over the next few weeks.

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