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Don't Forget About Edwin Jackson

So much potential.  So much man.
So much potential. So much man.

Let's start with a fun exercise. Here are two pitchers and their 2011 stats:

Player A: 12 wins, 6.67 K/9, 3.79 ERA, 3.73 xFIP, 9.2% SwStrike

Player B: 16 wins, 6.85 K/9, 3.49 ERA, 3.79 xFIP, 9.9% SwStrike

If you're comparing the two side-by-side, sure you probably want Player B. But look at those numbers and see how far apart you'd think they were in ADP. If you found out that Player A is being taken 57 pitchers ahead of Player B, you'd be pretty surprised -- I know I was. And yes, that's PITCHERS, not players. I'm sure you've guessed by now, based on the title of the article, that Player A is Edwin Jackson (79th overall among pitchers). But did you guess that Player B is Daniel Hudson, who is the 22nd SP off the board at Mock Draft Central?

So what is driving Edwin Jackson's perceived value down this off-season? I think it really breaks down into three parts. First, his drawn out free agency (which finally culminated with a one-year deal from the Nationals) put it into the back of people's minds that he isn't very good. Secondly, he's been around for too long. Jackson was supposed to be a star back when he was with the Dodgers and it just never happened for him. That was 8 seasons ago. What shocked me was that without looking it up, I figured Jackson was at least 30 or 31 years old. Amazingly, he's still only 28 and will be that age pretty much the entire season. Lastly, because he was supposed to be a star, he's burned a many fantasy owners in his career. And you know what they say about a fantasy owner scorned..

As with any important decision in life, Edwin Jackson ownership can be broken down into a manageable group of pros and cons. We'll start with the cons.

Edwin Jackson has never had the breakout season that many thought he would have by now. In fact, if you take his best statistical output in each of SP fantasy categories across any season and combine them, you'd get a line of 14 wins, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 181 strikeouts. The problem is that those four numbers came in three different seasons, which highlights Jackson's inconsistency. Though it also doesn't help that Washington will be his 6th different team since 2008. On top of that, the biggest negative sign from last season was his spiked line drive rate (24.9% -- not only his career high, but also led the majors), which contributed to him allowing 225 hits in less than 200 innings.

Now that I've surely scared you off, it's time to reel you back in with the pros. The best sign for Jackson in 2011 for his success going forward is that he had a career best walk rate of less than 2.8 BB/9. And while his strikeout rate did dip to below 6.7 K/9, his swinging strike rate was still an impressive 9.2%. In fact, according to research done by our own Michael Barr over at Rotographs on this subject, Edwin Jackson was the #2 strikeout underperformer among starters in 2011 -- his expected K rate was closer to 7.8 per 9. Finally, even more important than his underlying statistics is that Jackson still has untapped potential inside of him. Yes, you likely know what you're getting with him and it's going to be more of the serviceable variety rather than performance fitting of a top fantasy starter. But the same carrot that other owners have been frustrated with is still there. He remains one of the most likely pitchers outside the top 75 to generate top 20 value, regardless of how unlikely it actually is.

In the rankings here at Fake Teams, E-Jax is currently outside the top 50 NL starters, behind fantasy stalwarts such as Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Julio Teheran and Johan Santana. In my personal ranks, he's #52 among all starters, ahead of guys like Hiroki Kuroda, Wandy Rodriguez and Doug Fister. For me, I think I know what I'm getting from Jackson as a base line. He hasn't missed a start since 2006 and he misses enough bats to prevent some of his downside risk. If he finally puts it together, great, but that would just be gravy with where he's currently being drafted.

My 2012 Edwin Jackson prediction: 14 wins, 3.85 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 177 K's in 213 innings.