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Updating Keeper Ranks, Part 1: Starting Pitching

I've begun the monumental task of updating RotoWire's keeper cheatsheets, and I elected to start with perhaps the hardest position to rank – starting pitching. My ranks – you can see them here, or to see all the keeper ranks together, here – are reflective of expected performance this season and next season, with added consideration for the possibility of high-quality performance in the seasons to follow.

Javier Vazquez (retirement) and Brett Myers (closing) were removed from the list.


16. Dan Hudson, ARI (from 26) – I'm a big Hudson guy, and this rank is more reflective of his rank on the standard cheatsheet (17) while taking into account his youth (he's 25) and growth potential. Hudson has the kind of stuff and makeup that pitching coaches dream of, and being stuck in hitter-friendly Chase Field hasn't hurt him.

23. Adam Wainwright, STL (from 35) – Wainwright, apparently fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, could very well rise into the top 10 by the end of the season. We all know what he can do.

24. C.J. Wilson, ANA (from 31) – Gotta love the 200-strikeout potential, and he moves from hitter-friendly Arlington (No. 1 in last year's ESPN Park Factor) to the downright pitcher-friendly Disneyland, or whatever they call the Angels' stadium.

28. Corey Luebke, SD (from 57) – Luebke hasn't gotten a whole lot of respect from fantasy laymen, but a 27-year-old lefthanded K-per-inning pitcher in Petco Park gets a ton of respect for me. You'll find me fully invested wherever it's an option. Guys like Luebke are why I don't invest in pitching early in drafts.

36. Chris Sale (from 102) – Sale was buried when the concept of him converting from reliever to starter was more nebulous, but now he's here and he looks good. Let's remember that this was really always the plan for Sale, and he's got ace potential.

45. Johan Santana, NYM (from 64) – Santana appears to be fully recovered from the torn anterior capsule surgery that made him miss the better part of two seasons, and he's looked good on the mound – velocity around 90-91, changeup great as it's ever been. He'll probably never be an ace again, and this ranking reflects that, but Santana should have several impressively efficient years ahead of him.

61. Brett Anderson, OAK (from 83) – Anderson seems to be moving along well in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he's expected back after the All-Star break. This somewhat aggressive ranking reflects his expected value down the stretch this year and next year. There's top-of-the-rotation stuff here, and Oakland is a good environment for pitchers.

66. Brandon McCarthy, OAK (from 99) – Long known more for being injury-prone than the top prospect he once was, McCarthy finally put together almost a full season for Oakland last year and delivered impressive results. He's got a better body and better delivery now, and this ranking reflects an expectation that those oft-injured days are behind him.

Others who rose significantly: Carlos Zambrano, MIA (77 from 105 – new digs, possibly favorable – though hideous – home park); Edinson Volquez, SD (78 from 123 – Petco!); Henderson Alvarez, TOR (79 from 113 – low strikeout upside, but he throws hard and doesn't walk anyone, and minor-league numbers are strong); Tyler Skaggs, ARI (76 from 88 – a future star with massive K potential); Dillon Gee, NYM (121 to 102 – easy to forget how solid he was first half of last season; potentially Mark Buehrle lite).

Additions: Robbie Erlin, SD (103); Drew Smyly, DET (110); Chris Capuano, LAD (121).


29. Michael Pineda, NYY (from 17) – I love Pineda (own him in RotoWire Staff 2) and this really isn't a reaction to the early reports of low velocity. Rather, it remains to be seen how Pineda's fly-ball stuff will play in Yankee Stadium, that joke of a ballpark. If he can develop his changeup, he'll find a more prestigious spot on this list. My projection for Pineda this year: 18 wins and 200 strikeouts, but a 4.20 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Welcome to New York.

31. Ricky Romero, TOR (from 19) – Don't get me wrong; I like Romero fine, but I don't think he's a top-20 arm. He's never been as good as he was last season (not even in the minors), his strikeout upside is not ace-level, and one look at that .247 BABIP (his career mark is .287) and 4.37 FIP from last season tells you all you need to know about the coming regression. Plus he's in the AL East.

31. Mat Latos, CIN (from 21) – Latos does have a top-20 arm, but like Pineda, there's cause for concern with a change in home venue, as Great American Ballpark the opposite of Petco. Latos also has seen his fastball velocity decline each of the last two years, which is somewhat concerning. Still, he does have ace upside.

52. Clay Buchholz, BOS (from 22) – Buchholz is another long-time favorite, but his midding strikeout rate and tendency for injury send him plummeting down the list. He does have one of the best curveballs in the game, though, and is certainly an upside arm. He's not a guy you want to be reaching for, though, and there are a lot of pitchers with more strikeout potential, if not as great of a supporting cast.

55. Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE (from 28) – Show me something, Ubaldo. He's had a disastrous spring, which is just not good to see coming off a disastrous 2011 season. There's 200-strikeout potential here, but also serious bust potential. Ubaldo's never been a control artist, and the American League is arguably a tougher place to pitch (in general) than post-humidor Coors Field.

92. Ricky Nolasco, MIA (from 69) – Has there ever been a more frustrating pitcher to own in fantasy than Ricky Nolasco? Maybe Francisco Liriano, but at least he has ace upside (and disaster downside). Ugh, Ricky Nolasco. They can keep him. I'm well off that train.

Others who fell significantly: Ryan Dempster, CHC (80 from 55 – coming off a bad year, not getting any younger, arguably never that good in the first place); Alexi Ogando, TEX (109 from 93 – probably would rank in the 70s if he was actually a starter instead of potential fill-in); Roy Oswalt (116 from 45 – still not signed, and could just pack it in after playing a fraction of this year); Jake Arrieta, BAL (117 from 96 – still has good stuff, but the clock is ticking).

Next up: Infielders, if I can fit them all into one post.