Jeff Karstens (SP – Pirates)
Jeff Karstens continued the early-season success of the Pirates’ starting pitching by allowing 1 ER, 3 hits, and 2 walks through 6 innings on Tuesday. Buccos fans around the globe can be heard singing the praises of pitching coach Joe Kerrigan at this very moment. Finally, Pirates’ fans can put to rest the painful memories of wildly unpredictable performances from starting pitching from one season to the next (Oliver Perez, Ian Snell, and Tom Gorzelanny immediately come to mind). Well, maybe I am jumping the gun on this one. Nevertheless, Karstens is clearly the least-likely of the Pirates’ pitchers to have a great season. Karstens had a successful stint in the majors last year after coming over via the Xavier Nady trade (4.03 ERA, 1.34 WHIP). However, his K/BB ratio of 1.77 suggests that he may have been somewhat overmatched at the major league level. Additionally, his K/BB ratio in the minors experienced a steep decline at the AAA level versus lower levels (2.41 AAA; 3.78 AA). Karstens is very much a SP that relies on control rather than stuff, and can be moderately successful at the major league level if he limits his walks. The aforementioned Tom Gorzelanny has a much higher upside, and I would expect Karstens to be bumped from the rotation in favor of Gorzo at some point during the season.
Clayton Kershaw (SP – Dodgers)
Clayton Kershaw was knocked around by the Astros on Tuesday night by allowing 6 ER in just 4 IP. Surprisingly, control was not his issue on the night, as he threw 64% of his pitches for strikes and walked two batters. It was singles that did the damage to Kershaw on Tuesday night (6 of the 8 hits he allowed were singles). This start may look superficially poor, but it is a definite positive that it was singles and not walks that were problematic for Kershaw. Last night was obviously disappointing for Kershaw owners after his brilliant performance in his previous start, but the circumstances that surrounded his performance last night are not concerning, as he may have been the victim of some bad luck (8 of the 16 balls in play against were registered as hits - .500 BHIP%).
Jason Jaramillo (C – Pirates)
The drop-off in production from Ryan Doumit to the Pirates next best alternative is immense, while the difference between the possible alternatives is negligible. Jason Jaramillo has a career .272 / .343 / .384 line in the minors; Robinzon Diaz has a career .304 / .338 / .391 line in the minors. Jaramillo won the backup catcher “competition” in spring training, so he figures to get the first crack at the majority of the playing time. I am using “competition” in the hypothetical sense, because Diaz vastly out-performed Jaramillo in spring training, but lost out on the job somehow (Jaramillo - .227 / .320 / .227; Diaz - .423 / .464 / .769). Jaramillo got the start tonight and supplied an RBI double. If Jaramillo can hit well within these first few weeks, he should be in for the lion’s share of the catching duties for the next couple months. Even if one of these two candidates does separate himself, he will still only be worth owning in NL-only leagues.
Rich Harden (SP – Cubs)
Rich Harden continued to miss bats at a prolific rate last night by striking out 8 batters in 6 innings, while only allowing 5 batters to reach base. To prove how ridiculous he has been this year, last night’s performance actually caused his K/9 rate to plummet from 18 to 15.6 on the season. In Harden’s five seasons in the majors, he has managed to eclipse 150 IP in just two of the seasons, which has resulted in an average of 108 IP per season. It is important to remember just how influential a half season of owning the most dominant pitcher in the league can be in rotisserie-style leagues. Sure, it can be insanely frustrating to constantly be holding your breath with Harden, but if he is able to reach around 150 IP this season, which historically he has a 40% chance of accomplishing, he will still be one of the best SP in roto formats. Due to the feast or famine nature of Harden’s seasons, he is easily one of the most influential players in fantasy baseball.
Cameron Maybin (OF – Marlins)
Cameron Maybin hit his first HR of the season on Tuesday night against the Pirates. A surge from Maybin within the next week would be coming at the most opportune time, as Emilio Bonifacio continues his rapid descent back to earth. I’m not exactly sure how much time Bonifacio’s torrid start bought him in the lead-off spot, but I am sure that he won’t be able to fight off Maybin if he gets hot for an extended period. As I’ve stated before, Maybin’s superior on-base skills (.389 OBP in minors) make him a more logical choice in the lead-off spot than Bonifacio (.341 OBP in minors). Additionally, Bonifacio’s hot start looks to be smoke in mirrors aided by a .395 BABIP. In fact, even though Maybin has struggled in the contact department (69.2% in ‘09), his EYE has been superior to Bonifacio’s on the season (.27 to .15), due to a BB rate of 10% compared to Bonifacio’s 3.4%. Maybin is clearly the better choice for the lead-off spot, and this should play out as the season progresses. I would still expect a very inconsistent and at times frustrating season from Maybin in ’09, but if he is able to claim the lead-off spot, he will be a fun player to own.
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