Aaron Gleeman

Baseball Daily Dose

print article archives RSS

AL-Only Pitching Sleepers

Friday, March 12, 2010


My previous two columns highlighted AL-only and NL-only hitting sleepers, so now I'll shift to the pitching side of things with my favorite AL-only sleepers today and my NL-only picks next time. It's important to note that NL-only and AL-only leagues are far different than mixed leagues and require dipping much deeper into the player pool, so the players who qualify as "sleepers" are much smaller names.

In fact, in order to qualify for my AL-only and NL-only sleeper lists a player can't be among the top 250 picks in mixed leagues according to the constantly updated Average Draft Position data found in our Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide. In other words most of these guys are going completely undrafted in mixed leagues, but the following 10 pitchers are definitely worth targeting in AL-only leagues.

Kevin Gregg (RP, Blue Jays) - I'm just about the opposite of a Gregg fan, but am convinced that he was signed to be the Blue Jays' closer and those odds will rise even further if trade rumors swirling around Jason Frasor come to fruition. Gregg won't be especially effective if he claims ninth-inning duties in Toronto, but you certainly won't find a better bet for 20-plus saves going off the board 300 picks into mixed league drafts.

Luke Hochevar (SP, Royals) - He'll never fulfill the promise of a No. 1 overall pick, but Hochevar's secondary numbers have been much better than his ugly 13-26 record and 5.88 ERA through 285 career innings. Last season's 106/46 K/BB ratio in 143 innings is decent for a ground-ball pitcher, and he had several dominant stretches amid the overall ineptitude. Don't expect greatness, but 10-12 wins and a 4.50 ERA is doable.

Brandon League (RP, Mariners) - League was dominant last year despite a mediocre ERA, posting a 76/21 K/BB ratio in 74.2 innings while inducing a grounder on 56 percent of his balls in play. That combination of missed bats and ground balls is hard to find, especially from someone with a legitimate mid-90s fastball, and while he'll begin 2010 in a setup role League has closer potential after coming to Seattle for Brandon Morrow.

Colby Lewis (SP, Rangers) - Lewis is a former Rangers top prospect who went bust and then thrived in Japan before getting a two-year, $5 million deal to return to Texas this winter. His big-league numbers are ugly, but Lewis had a 2.82 ERA and 369/46 K/BB ratio in Japan, which are numbers that would have earned a Japanese-born pitcher huge money. He's guaranteed a rotation spot and should surprise people.

Justin Masterson (SP, Indians) - Shipped to Cleveland in the Victor Martinez trade, Masterson went from the Red Sox's bullpen to the Indians' rotation while posting a 4.55 ERA in 10 starts. His control could use some work, but Masterson is a rare ground-ball machine who also racks up plenty of strikeouts. He's a solid mid-rotation guy for now and refining his changeup versus lefties could take him to the next level at age 25.

Brian Matusz (SP, Orioles) - Matusz somehow seems to avoid a ton of prospect hype despite being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft, reaching the majors in his first pro season after going 11-2 with a 1.87 ERA in the minors, and holding his own with a 5-2 record and 4.63 ERA in eight starts for the Orioles at age 22. He has a strong fastball-changeup combo with good control and 159 strikeouts in 158 pro innings.

Carl Pavano (SP, Twins) - Pavano was finally healthy last season after never-ending injuries ruined his time in New York, but you wouldn't have known it when he went 0-3 with a 9.50 ERA in April. He turned things around after that, going 14-9 with a 4.67 ERA and 131/34 K/BB ratio in 29 starts. The rough April kept his overall ERA north of 5.00, but Pavano had the AL's second-best walk rate and should be closer to 4.00 in 2010.

Chris Perez (RP, Indians) - Kerry Wood trade rumors are already swirling and if the Indians pull the trigger on a deal they'll likely turn to Perez at closer after getting him from the Cardinals in the Mark DeRosa swap. His control comes and goes, but Perez had a 20-inning scoreless streak after the trade and misses so many bats with his mid-90s fastball that the 24-year-old will have some value even remaining in a setup role.

Jon Rauch (RP, Twins) - Ron Gardenhire won't name closer Joe Nathan's replacement because the Twins are holding out hope that he can avoid Tommy John surgery, but when the time comes my guess is Rauch will get first crack at the job. Minnesota has no shortage of capable bullpen options, but Rauch is the only one with double-digit career saves and moving him to the ninth inning would least shake up the relief hierarchy.

Ryan Rowland-Smith (SP, Mariners) - Jarrod Washburn showed last year that Safeco Field and Seattle's fantastic outfield defense is an ideal combo for lefty, fly-ball pitchers, and Rowland-Smith has the perfect skill set to take similar advantage. He's logged 253 innings in various stints over the past three seasons, quietly going 11-7 with a 3.62 ERA, and could emerge as the No. 3 starter behind Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee.

For more analysis of underrated and overrated pitchers, plus complete profiles, projections, and dollar values for nearly 1,000 players, get the Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.


Aaron Gleeman is Rotoworld's senior baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. Also find him at AaronGleeman.com and on Twitter.
Email :Aaron Gleeman



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    Short: Plug in Despaigne?

    Short: Plug in Despaigne?
  •  
    Short: Buy, Hold or Sell

    Short: Buy, Hold or Sell
  •  
    Short: Trade Chris Davis?

    Short: Trade Chris Davis?
  •  
    Short: Cain hits rock bottom

    Short: Cain hits rock bottom
  •  
    Short: Buy, Hold or Sell

    Short: Buy, Hold or Sell
  •  
    Short: Struggling starters

    Short: Struggling starters
  •  
    Short: Will Mauer rebound?

    Short: Will Mauer rebound?
  •  
    Is Chisenhall the real deal?

    Is Chisenhall the real deal?