If you’ve never drafted in the Windy City, you are missing out. There’s nothing quite like a live draft and the camaraderie. I remember talking strategy to Chicago veteran David Van Der Stuyf after the Main Event on Saturday, contrasting heavy hitting vs. heavy pitching approaches. It truly is a pick your poison proposition. Sure, there’s plenty of pitching to be found on the wire...eventually. The challenge is finding and acquiring those pitchers before your ratios are destroyed. It doesn’t take long. Let’s look at some pitchers that have sabotaged those ratios in the early going and try to figure out if they can turn it around. We'll also check in on some other prospects to track in the coming days as we try to separate the wheat from the chaff.
It’s easy to look at Bud Norris’ track record and dismiss last year as an outlier. ERA today is not what it was two or even three years ago. The strike zone is expanding; consequently ERA’s and WHIP’s are falling. Even if pitchers were static entities that never changed (they aren’t), we still shouldn’t expect them to regress to a baseline formed around a different set of rules. In this case, a different strike zone and a brave new world of defensive shifts. Time will tell but Norris can be another boring, serviceable piece once he gets the kinks worked out. I love boring and productive assets. Note that he was especially useful at home last year (2.44 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). The velocity is fine and with better command, better days lie ahead.
NFBC owners have grown tired of the lumps they’ve received from Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. Lohse has posted a WHIP of 1.17 or lower four consecutive seasons. Which should you give more weight to? Four years of steady production or one bad month to start the season? Garza is the other Brewer cast upon the wire. Don’t be that guy, and grab him if someone else makes that mistake.
Jered Weaver’s velocity has crept slightly back up to 84, but it's still down about two ticks from 2014. That should terrify his fantasy owners. Last time I checked, my fastball sat at 75 mph. Jeff’s younger brother is simply unplayable right now until/if that velocity comes back. If you are burning a roster spot here, you’re betting that it does. You can only finesse so much.
Who might be able to fill in until these guys turn it around? In the coming days, there are a few prospects I’ll be watching to see if I should make a bid:
Michael Lorenzen was not so impressive in his first start. In the first couple of innings, he didn’t mix speeds well. When you fail to do that, it’s easy for opposing hitters to time things up, and that’s exactly what an ice-cold Milwaukee Brewers lineup did. Everything was crushed, both hits and outs, and he served up three homers in just five innings pitched. He started working in his changeup later on and had some success (five strikeouts), but most every contact seemed to be scorched. He yielded just three earned runs but it should have been much worse. I didn’t see his second start that yielded only one run. He travels to the south side to face the White Sox on Sunday.
The Houston Astros may be the latest "smartest team in baseball" and are doing their best to transform Roberto Hernandez back into the old Fausto Carmona. He may be useful as a #9 starter that steals a few wins while you wait for other pitchers with more upside. Token bids only here.
Injuries in the Dodgers stable have opened the door of opportunity for a number of younger arms. Joe Wieland got roughed up right out of the gates in his first career start. Mike Bolsinger is probably next in line if Wieland continues to struggle. Carlos Frias tops out just under 100 mph but remains a risk due to lack of off-speed offerings. It doesn’t seem that he varies speeds frequently enough to disrupt a hitter's timing. The differential between his fast and "slow" pitches is minimal. Perhaps good location and deception will be enough. Good win potential here.
One of my partners, Dale Morgan, picked up Chase Whitley in two of our auction leagues. His dominating line at the Rogers Centre certainly got my attention. While I remain unconvinced that he can keep this up, I will watch his next start with great interest to see if he’ll pull a Shane Greene. He’s still available in some NFBC leagues.