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Bogfella's Notebook: Bogfella's $1 Pitching Staff

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

For more than 25 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.


This is an article I truly enjoy writing. Each year I put together a staff of pitchers who will go for about $1 in most drafts. Some might even sneak up to $2 or $3 but all are generally considered fillers. Some of the names might be a bit controversial, but I try to be as realistic as possible - I would have included Shelby Miller if I thought there was any chance he could be bought for a buck. The staff typically consists of eight starters with two alternates to cover for injuries or significant role changes, and four relievers with one alternate. I have two goals in mind when constructing this staff. First, I am hoping for a solid contribution to a fantasy staff in 2012, and because I play almost exclusively in keeper/dynasty leagues, I am always looking for that inexpensive long term guy.

Introducing Bogfella's 2012 $1 Pitching Staff:

Dustin McGowan (TOR)- This spring has been an extension of his late season in 2011 where he began the long path back from a series of injuries. A few years ago he was one of my top young guns, and with the returning velocity and sharp movement, he may get there again - just not so young anymore. There's a very good chance he opens the season as the Jays' fifth starter, and if his command continues to improve with more work, he could be a solid middle of the fantasy rotation steal. I am inclined to see if that happens with this high reward flier. I just can't erase the memories of his performance before he got hurt. He is perhaps my favorite $1 flier for 2012.

Jarrod Parker (OAK)- It's hard to say where Parker will go in your draft. Early in the spring he was rarely mentioned, but then after showing his stuff, the murmuring about a possible sleeper stud began to circulate. Like McGowan, Parker was one of my favorite kid arms before he lost some time following Tommy John surgery. However, again like McGowan, his velocity quickly came back and his command is showing signs of stability as well. He has the upside to be the A's top starter and benefits from a forgiving park. If he is being ignored in your league - jump!

Liam Hendriks (MIN)- There aren't many things I like better than a young pitcher who has the ability and the tenacity to pound the strike zone with a variety of quality pitches. Meet Liam Hendriks. The Twins aren't the strongest team, but their home park is a nice place to pitch and he has the skills to take advantage. He isn't well known, and playing in Minnesota could help keep him off the radar in most leagues. Like most of the guys mentioned here, he isn't even guaranteed a spot in the rotation, but he'll be there every five days sooner rather than later. With Scott Baker's ongoing elbow problems it could be very soon.

Ross Detwiler (WAS)- This might be one of those opportunity picks. Entering spring training, the Nationals had the front of their rotation penciled in but had a developing competition for the fifth spot. Detwiler was considered a longshot behind Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan, despite having considerably more upside than either. Now, Wang is hurt and likely to miss some time early, and Lannan is a good candidate to be dealt. The door opens for Detwiler. He really looked sharp in the second half last year, and given a shot I think he could lock in a rotation spot and not look back.

Chris Capuano (LAD)- As much as I'd probably like to, I can't fill my whole One Buck staff with kids, so here is a senior citizen for some veteran presence. He has a long medical record but tossed about 186 innings last year while showing some of the old spark he had earlier in his career. He pitched in the then friendly Citi Park, but now moves to an even more comfy home with the Dodgers. That move, and advancing in his comeback consistency could see his ERA drop while he rings up a nice strikeout total for a minimal investment. While many fantasy owners like to focus in on Dodgers pitchers, Capuano is not a glamour pick so he could be had for a buck or two in most drafts.

Jake Arrieta (BAL)- The Orioles suffered through a dismal season where a few of their promising young arms, most notably Brian Matusz, struggled mightily. However, there were some very positive signs provided by Arrieta. Before some minor arm problems darkened his stats and eventually shut him down later in the season, he was flashing some of the stuff that had him right at the top of their prospects list. He appears to be healthy this spring, and he isn't getting too much attention in the fantasy world so he will probably be an inexpensive flier on draft day. He still doesn't have the upside of Matusz if Matusz comes all the way back, but he is only a couple of notches behind.

Danny Duffy (KC)- A little earlier I commented on my love of young pitchers who can pound the strike zone with quality pitches. Looking at Duffy's record with Kansas City in 2011, he would appear to be the antithesis of that preference. Don't be too quick to cross him off. His minor league record suggests he is capable of that consistency, and I would be inclined to write off his command struggles with the Royals to first time up jitters. Many young guns are hesitant to trust their stuff early on. When they discover that they don't have to make the perfect pitch with every delivery, the command comes back and they begin to enjoy success. Duffy could be that guy in 2012.

Rick Porcello (DET)Actually, Porcello should be higher up in these spots in this rotation, but I have my doubts regarding his availability for a $1 buy in. His numbers the past couple of years would seem to qualify him for a high risk pick, but I think there are still people out there (like myself) who feel his stats will improve as his experience level catches up with his talent. I expect him to become more consistent with an improving strikeout rate and a higher percentage of quality pitches. It seems like he's been around a long time, but he's still just 23. Don't give up on him.

Alternates:

Trevor Bauer (ARZ)- Okay, I have to have some alternatives in case my guys get too expensive. This name is strictly for redrafts. In keepers, Bauer is either long gone or his price will be too high to warrant a spot on this staff. The Diamondbacks have said they will come out of spring training with a preset rotation, and that is the perfect excuse to get Bauer some work at Triple-A. He'll benefit from that experience, and when Josh Collmenter and/or Joe Saunders face what will likely be inevitable struggles, he should be prepared to step in. For me, as a Stephen Strasburg owner, Bauer could be an ideal alternative when Strasburg gets close to his projected innings limit. He'll give you a lot of strikeouts - maybe too many as he could become even more effective as he learns the benefits of pitching to contact - and he has the dominating array of pitches to have a very positive impact right away.

Dan Runzler (SF)Every list like this has to have an absolute moon shot, and Runzler earns that distinction. He is wild, he has been in the bullpen for quite awhile, and at this writing, he is hurt. All that said, I have seen glimpses of good things between the pitches sailing out of the strike zone. Think former Giant Jonathan Sanchez, but with even less consistency. If Runzler ever gets his release point locked in, he could be a pretty effective starting pitcher. The Giants think that is his calling - we just have to see if they can get his mechanics smoothed out enough to allow his talents to surface. I think I can guarantee you a $1 price tag on this one.

And, now the Bullpen:

Chance Ruffin (SEA)- My top two $1 non-closer relievers (Kenley Jansen and Addison Reed) have been so hyped that they won't be available at anywhere near a buck so the top slot goes to Ruffin. Brandon League is an adequate closer in Seattle, but their rebuilding program is likely to include dealing League while he has considerable value. I like Ruffin's stuff and his makeup so I think he gets a crack at the role sometime this summer, and he probably hangs onto it long term.

Andrew Cashner (SD)- Always a sucker for exceptionally live arms, Casher fits that bill with his triple-digit fastball. His opportunity is based on Huston Street's inability to make it through a full season without a trip or two to the disabled list. Unfortunately for Cashner, his health history isn't much better so he'll have to hope Street's missed time doesn't coincide with his own downtime. Just as a safety net, also keep tabs on Ernesto Frieri who could wiggle into the saves equation as well.

Rex Brothers (COL)- He's left-handed, he pitches in Coors Field, and he has Rafael Betancourt in front of him, but he could find a save chance here and there when the matchups are right. And, Betancourt doesn't have an especially good track record when it comes to finishing games. It wouldn't surprise me to see him struggle at times, and if those struggles go on for a prolonged period of time, Brothers could find himself in the primary closer's role. He just needs a bit better control to make his nasty slider an appealing end game option.

Koji Uehara(TEX) - The Rangers went out and signed the capable (though aging) former all-star Joe Nathan, and they already have a solid back up in Mike Adams - not to mention a dark horse in Alexi Ogando if he doesn't push his way back into the rotation mix. Uehara is a luxury on this staff, and if he stays healthy, some team is going to be willing to pay an inflated price for his services in the ninth inning. Be ready to snap him up when a contender panics. Uehara could be a very solid addition.

Alternate:

Phillippe Aumont (PHI)- Aumont makes the alternate spot here for two reasons - I have always been a huge fan of his raw stuff (which is getting more refined), and he might be a very competent option if Jonathan Papelbon incurs any type of injury. He has the stuff to dominate like a true power closer, and it's only a matter of time before he gets that chance somewhere. Having less experience than most pro pitchers his age, he has been brought along slowly, but watch for him to make a statement when he arrives.

There you have it - Bogfella's 2012 "I NEVER pay for pitching" pitching staff. You like 'em? Love 'em? Now I know you don't hate 'em! At least a couple of these arms will help someone win their league by providing numbers that far exceed their price tags. Let's hear from the Bogfella faithful - who makes your $1 staff, and why?

For up to the minute updates on all things pitching, be sure to follow @bogfella on Twitter! Get your pitching questions answered, and my take on the latest role changes on the mound!

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