And our second nominee is … Justin Verlander.
After a Rookie of the Year season in which he went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA, Verlander is sure to be a popular fantasy pick this year. I have two major causes for concern, however.
The first -- and this is the lesser of my worries -- is that Verlander’s skills weren’t great last year. The Tiger’s 6.00 K/9 and 124/60 K/BB were decidedly mediocre. Verlander will definitely improve in both of these areas as he gains experience; he’s only 24 years old and is still getting his feet wet in pro ball. But if his skills don’t show marked improvement THIS YEAR, he might struggle a bit. After all, six strikeouts a game and a 2.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio don’t scream “17-9” or “3.63.”
My bigger concern is Verlander’s durability, or lack thereof. Verlander battled some shoulder discomfort last year, and he faded down the stretch: 6.83 ERA in August, 4.82 in September. As mentioned in RotoWire’s outlook on Verlander, a hefty workload increase was probably the culprit. The righty threw 130 innings in 2005, 207 2/3 in 2006.
Perhaps Verlander will now be used to tossing 200-plus innings and will stay effective from April through September.
Perhaps he won’t.
Maybe his shoulder will start barking again. Maybe he doesn’t have it in him to stay effective for a full season. We just don’t know yet.
And until I know, I won’t be spending big bucks for Verlander.