Ask any GM--fantasy or part of professional baseball--and they will likely agree you can never have too much pitching.
I confess I never really appreciated this until last year, when in the NFBC Draft Champions League--which is set so participants draft 50 players and that is it. Well, I took 22 pitchers and halfway through the season injuries hit me such that I could not put a starting rotation out there. This was complicated by four of my starting hurlers and one of my closers going lame in NL LABR.
And, while that does not mean I will never be caught short again, it does mean I will try not too, although I also confess I don't know what the correct number of pitchers to draft and stash is, aside from maybe "as many as you can."
Still, in the drafts I have done so far, there is a gaggle of arms that just don't get picked up, and while pitchers are always an adventure in Prozac, the guys I want to highlight today have had more ups than downs, yet still get very little respect. But, they do have experience, which is generally a good thing.
Let's start with my annual favorite last-round pick in just about every mock draft in the world: Mark Buehrle. Now, exactly what Mr. Buehrle did to be so dismissed is beyond me, but if you compare the now Toronto lefty to say, Tommy Milone, who has a similar skill set, it is hard for me to understand. Buehrle, who will be 34 next weekend, has never made less than 28 starts in a season, and that number was set his rookie year. Well, over 421 starts, the lefty, who did throw a perfect game, averages 35 starts, a 14-11, 3.82 mark over 223 innings with 127 whiffs and a 1.273 WHIP. Still, in my 2013 NFBC Draft League, Milone was drafted pick #252 while Buehrle was #345, five rounds later.
It is true that starters were what killed me last year, but a reliever who similarly just goes at the bottom of the pile seems to be Luke Gregerson of the Padres. Over four years, Gregerson averages 3-3, 2.92 over 66 innings, with 68 strikeouts and a 1.112 WHIP. And this year he is behind Huston Street, a closer who is a DL trip waiting to happen. With all the fuss around the instability in the closer world these days, it is hard to imagine why the 28-year-old is not higher on drafters' lists.
It is true that Bronson Arroyo has had some funky seasons during his 13 years as a starter, like in 2011 when he was 9-12, 5.07, but generally his numbers have been closer to Buehrle's. As in over 13 seasons, Arroyo is 12-11, 4.23, over 207 innings, with 127 whiffs and a 1.305 ratio. And, while that might not seem so dazzling, it is steady. Better, as a fifth or sixth starter, guys like Arroyo or Buehrle's totals make your #1 and #2 guy's numbers that much more stable. Arroyo was picked at the #378 slot in my NFBC league.
OK, Carlos Zambrano has certainly struggled some his last few years, so his dropping down to the bottom of lists might be understandable. In fact, Big Z has not thrown 200 innings since 2008, but, believe it or not, he does not turn 32 until June. And, while he has beefed up (Baseball Reference lists his weight at 275 lbs.) and while he does pitch for Miami, as a late gamble or reserve pick in a deep league (as in where we are drafting 50 players each) what is the risk taking Zambrano in the 37th round?
Barry Zito has become sort of Buehrle/Arroyo light over the years, being much more hittable, and sometimes with fits of control issues as his career 1.315 WHIP suggests. Still, he is pretty steady, having missed earning 30 starts only once since 2001, and that was in 2011 when he broke his ankle. True, as the season wanes, Zito generally loses his command over hitters, but he has been deadly throughout his career over the early months of the season (last year over 27 April innings, he was 1-0, 1.97), so streaming him is not a bad thing. Neither is having Zito on your reserve list in case Cory Luebke or Brandon Beachy throws their arm into a food processor. Zito was picked #465 in my NFBC league (by me as a matter of fact).
OK, I love the term Saberhagenmetrics, coined a while back during a mock curated by my bud Cory Schwartz. It is basically the principle that every other year a guy is really good, a la Bret Saberhagen, or for hitters Aubrey Huff (at least until last year). So, who is this Saberhagenmetrics darling, with ERA's of 3.68, 2.60, 4.64, 2.96, and 6.89 going back to 2008? How about Jair Jurrjens? OK, so a crap shoot, but again in a league where we can keep 50 guys, is that a better gamble than say the Dodgers' Matt Magill (whom I love, but, well, the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers in camp)? You tell me.
I have been a Kevin Correia fan since the Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. And, the right hander has had his ups and downs for sure. Similarly, Correia has not necessarily pitched for the strongest teams on the planet over his decade of major league pitching. Correia is still just 32, and last year with the equally up and down Buccos, he was 12-11, 4.21, with a 1.298 WHIP over 171 innings. Correia managed just 89 strikeouts, but again, we are looking at guys who are either at the bottom of a rotation in a very deep league (like my Scoresheet 24-team, 40-man roster squad that drafts tomorrow) or as a reserve list plug-in should Zack Greinke fall to Dr. Lewis Yocum.
I am going to finish with a couple of relief pitchers, starting with Oakland's Sean Doolittle. One of the things i love about Doolittle is that between 2007-09 he was a first baseman with Oakland, and since 2011 Doolittle has been a pitcher. The lefty clocks a fastball at nearly 100 MPH with pretty good movement and also has a change and slider to complement his repertoire. Either way, this is a dramatic climb for a guy who was on the verge a few years back because he could not hit Triple-A pitching and had a bad hip. Now, he is a tweak away from getting a chance to close. Even in an AL-only format, Doolittle is worth a #3 reliever spot as his 60 strikeouts over 41.2 innings last year show.
Finally, I am not sure if Aaron Crow was even drafted in any league I am in before I selected him as pick #540 in the NFBC league. Crow was the Royals' first round pick in 2009 (#12 overall) and was a starter in the Minors (32 starts over 33 appearances) but converted to relieving in the Majors (7-5, 3.13 over 126.2 innings, with 130 whiffs). Crow is often talked about as moving to the rotation, but at worst, in middle relief, he will not hurt you and who knows? Like Doolittle, Crow is worth a #3 relief spot in a deep AL format. I am figuring I can get him for a buck at Tout next week.