In 2011 mock drafts, I’m avoiding pitchers until around pick 60. That means the sixth round in 10-team leagues and the fifth round in 12-team leagues.
Now, this is not an absolute. Sometimes I’ll reach a half round, or let SPs ride a half round. But in every mock I end up with the same couple of pitchers, and they are pretty good. The ADP from www.mockdraftcentral.com doesn’t quite match up with the rankings on ESPN, which also don’t quite match up with the rankings from Yahoo, so your results may vary.
Bottom line: Don’t overspend, but make sure you get at least one or two pitchers you like to anchor your rotation.
ADP Top 30 starting pitcher rankings
(Recent ADP in parentheses)
1. Roy Halladay, PHI (14.63): There is no pitcher more worthy than Halladay. Unfortunately, taking a pitcher in the top 15 will set your offense back considerably in most leagues.
2. Tim Lincecum, SF (21.36): People are looking at 2009’s numbers and expecting a return to form. He’ll probably be between 2009 and 2010. It’s still fantastic enough to make him one of the top pitchers in the game.
3. Felix Hernandez, SEA (29.82): If I felt like gambling and felt a need to pick a pitcher early, King Felix is probably the guy. You can get him almost a round later than Lincecum (end 3rd/start 4th). Still, there are hitters at this spot that you cannot replace. SPs throw once every five days. Hitters play every day.
4. Cliff Lee, PHI (38.12): If he can stay healthy he’ll avoid the dropoff he experienced in the second half last year (+1.62 ERA in second-half 2011). With Lee, health is a big if.
5. Jon Lester, BOS (40.15): More strikeouts in the second half. He also had more walks and ratios. He still had the best season of his career. If you need a pitcher early, Lester is an option.
6. Ubaldo Jimenez, COL (43.30): Jimenez didn’t come out of nowhere in 2010. He had 198 Ks and 3.47/1.23 ratios in 2009. Jimenez got a little lucky in 2010, but he’s an ace.
7. C.C. Sabathia, NYY (48.45): Has shown significant declines in walk and strikeout skills in the last three years. He’s also posted at least 230 innings (253 in 2008) in each of the last four seasons. He’s still an ace, but I can’t recommend buying him at this price because the end will not be pretty for a player that’s thrown so much.
8. Clayton Kershaw, LAD (48.69): Continues to improve. He had 212 Ks last season. There’s an NL K title in his MLB future. Great pitcher to build around in a keeper league.
9. Dan Haren, ANA (48.92): In ESPN mocks Haren drops farther than this slot. This is about where he should be picked. Like Kershaw, Haren has top-5 pitcher potential.
10. Zack Greinke, MIL (48.95): Injured rib is, supposedly, only going to cost him three weeks. That means you figure on 200 innings instead of 220. It’s not that big of a deal… Unless the parties aren’t being completely honest about Greinke’s injury and recovery time. That never happens.
11. Jered Weaver, ANA (50.82): Ace stuff in the sixth round. He won’t be as good as he was last year, but Weaver is still a value at this pick.
12. David Price, TB (61.03): Put up ace numbers in 2010. Don’t look at those numbers and reach too far, but he’s among the young pitchers in the league ready to take over.
13. Cole Hamels, PHI (62.45): Maybe, just maybe, the Phillies can score some runs in his games. Might win 20 as a No. 4 pitcher.
14. Yovani Gallardo, MIL (63.99): Gallardo’s K rate is always awesome, but be ready to counter his always high WHIP.
15. Justin Verlander, DET (66.25): Didn’t decline nearly as much as I expected from 2009 to 2010. His Ks and innings dropped, but his ratios improved. Don’t be afraid to buy.
16. Mat Latos, SD (71.85): Beware: Latos, like Verlander last year, is coming off a huge increase in innings.
17. Josh Johnson, FLA (72.45): Second half (3.10/1.33) is more representative of the real Josh Johnson than the first half (1.82/0.96). He did hold his K per inning rate through both halves though.
18. Francisco Liriano, MIN (79.25): Injuries are always a concern, especially after pitching (almost) 200 innings the year before. Still, he’s a fantasy No. 1 or No. 2 if he stays healthy.
19. Tommy Hanson, ATL (79.38): Better second half tells me that a 200-inning workload is not going to be a concern. He did K fewer batters and walk fewer in the second half. Let’s see what kind of pitcher he is this year, 2010 was his first full season, but he looks like the real deal. Take a chance in keeper leagues.
20. Chad Billingsley, LAD (85.33): K rate has declined slightly in each of the last three years, but he showed improvement in BB/9 last year. His 4.03 ERA in 2009 looks unlucky and his 3.14 in 2008 looks lucky.
21. Matt Cain, SF (87.48): I read a lot of articles tearing down Matt Cain, predicting bad things. Don’t buy it. Cain is a fantasy ace.
22. Ryan Dempster, CHC (90.28): At age 33, Dempster has found the secret to health, throwing 200+ innings for the third consecutive year. However, his second-half decline is a bit disturbing, especially considering that age.
23. Trevor Cahill, OAK (93.27): He’s only 23 but will likely never develop enough strikeouts for me to recommend him for more than an in-season streaming starter. This is a high price to pay for a pitcher who’s not going to give you Ks.
24. Chris Carpenter, STL (97.32): A 35-year-old pitcher who hurt himself during our first glimpse at 2011 baseball? You should want no part of that at your draft.
25. Clay Buchholz, BOS (98.05): He stranded a lot of runners last year and batters had a low BABIP against him. Buchholz doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, so there’s nothing to fall back on if his ERA and WHIP regress to normal levels.
26. John Danks, CHW (102.52): Only 25 and his K rate is up, his walk rate is down and the White Sox are going to score some runs this year.
27. Shaun Marcum, MIL (105.53): Great big health concerns – huge – but despite a mid-season trip to the DL, Marcum had more strikeouts and less walks in the second half last season. In 2011, he gets to face a couple pitchers a game.
28. Max Scherzer, DET (106.30): Ace, ace, ace. His K/9 and BB/9 were virtually the same in the first half and second half. However, some time during his demotion he figured out what to do with those skills. The result was a 2.39 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in the second half. Unless he developed amnesia in the offseason, I can’t recommend this pick enough.
29. Matt Garza, CHC (107.15): Looked like an ace in 2009, but that year is looking like a bit like an outlier. He also gave up more line drives and fly balls last year. If that trends into this year, Garza’s going to be a bad pick here.
30. Roy Oswalt, PHI (108.30): Who let’s Oswalt drop this far? He’s thrown at least 209 innings in every year but one the last five years. 2009’s 4.12 ERA is the outlier, expect an ERA near 3.00, 15-20 wins 180 Ks and a 1.20 WHIP. Yes he’s 33, but he’s a better option than Garza, Marcum, Danks, Buchholz and Cahill.
There are many other starting pitchers of note. Here are a few notable names after the top 30: Colby Lewis, TEX; Wandy Rodriguez, HOU; Brandon Morrow, SEA; Dan Hudson, ARI; Madison Bumgarner, SF; Jeremy Hellickson, TB; Phil Hughes, NYY.