Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Answering Your Pre-Draft Questions

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I’m looking for some late round (15th round or later) starting pitching options. I’ve been going with Homer Bailey, Jeremy Hellickson, James McDonald, Michael Fiers, Scott Baker, and Edwin Jackson in mock drafts. What do you think of these guys — specifically Baker and McDonald — and can you give me some better options?

There really are a ton of great options after round 15. I will list a few here. I like Baker, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery and probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. He is someone to look at more after round 20 and in a 12-team, 23-round league; he probably won’t be drafted. McDonald is another player I would consider after round 20. He had a great first half, but poor control led to a bad second half. There’s still good potential there. Erasmo Ramirez of the Mariners is someone I am looking at late. He was very impressive last season and has pitched well in the spring. He appeared in 16 games, including eight starts in 2012. In 59 innings, he struck out 48, walked 12 and had a 3.36 ERA. In 47 innings as a starter, he posted a 3.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and a 41:8 K:BB ratio. He has excellent control, will keep the walks down and has a very good changeup.

Dillon Gee of the Mets is another sleeper. Gee had his season cut short in 2012, when he felt numbness in his right hand and it was revealed that he had a blood clot in his throwing shoulder. He had surgery that moved an artery from his groin to his shoulder. Doctors told Gee there is little chance the blood clot returns. Due to the injury and because he pitching for the Mets (who many perceive to be a bad team), he will go undervalued. Gee made strides in 2011, with a good start before struggling in the second half, something he attributed to a lack of conditioning. He really turned it up last season. In 17 games over 109 2/3 innings, Gee had a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He increased his strikeout rate to 7.96 K/9 and cut his BB/9 from 3.98 to 2.38. Gee had a 50.3 percent groundball rate and 29.6 percent fly ball rate. He has an excellent change-up. In his final 10 starts he had a 2.99 ERA.

One more pitcher I like is Jason Hammel of the Orioles. The knee injury he had in the second half will only depress his value. Since we have really only seen one good half season from him, many won’t believe when you look at his entire career. He had a 34-45 record and 4.99 ERA going into last season. He got off to a great start last year before he needed surgery to remove cartilage from his right knee in July, and he returned for two starts in September in addition to pitching Games 1 and 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees. The big difference for Hammel with the Orioles was the addition of a two-seam fastball. Hammel had a career best 8.62 K/9 and career high 53.2 percent groundball percentage. In 20 starts, he pitched 118 innings with a 3.20 BB/9, 3.43 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. A swinging strike percentage of 10 percent shows this isn’t a fluke.

I am in search of some keeper advice. I have a $260 cap with three OF, one catcher and no middle infield or corner infield spots. I can keep a max of three from Prince Fielder ($45), Matt Kemp ($41), Andrew McCutchen ($34), Mike Trout ($18), Adam Wainwright ($5). I thought about going really big and keeping all three OFs.

I don’t think you can keep all three outfielders and the main reason is because of the discount on Wainwright. I cannot pass on Wainwright at that price. In some drafts I have seen so far, he is being slightly undervalued. Some pitchers with one good year of success are being taken ahead of Wainwright because people are looking at last season’s numbers. Wainwright missed the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery and started slowly last season. He had a 4.56 ERA in the first half before posting a 3.28 in the second half. Overall, he had a 3.94 ERA, but the peripherals were right in line with the great seasons he produced in 2009 and 2010. Wainwright had an 8.34 K/9, 2.36 BB/9, a 51 percent groundball rate and a 3.23 xFIP with a 1.25 WHIP. Wainwright is an easy call for me. Trout also has to be kept at that price, no matter how much regression occurs. Since it is close between Kemp and McCutchen, I will save the seven dollars and keep McCutchen. You’re getting two players at big discounts and are off to a nice start.

I just dropped James McDonald and picked up Bobby Parnell. I know he will start the season as the closer but do you guys see him keeping that job if he pitches well even when Frank Francisco comes back?

I believe you made the correct call. McDonald can be replaced. There is a lot of starting pitching out there. Closers are very difficult to find since everyone is grabbing setup men to try and find the next closer with all the turnover at the position. If Parnell pitches well to being the season and is successful, he will keep the job. Parnell has the skills to close. The questions are: can he handle the pressure of pitching the ninth inning, and how does he bounce back if he has a bad outing or two? The Mets need to find out if he is the closer of the future and the only way to do that is give him a long period of time to close. A stint of one month won’t provide the answer. There is a lot to like about Parnell. He had an 8.00 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, 2.49 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Parnell gets a ton of groundballs with a 61.5 percent rate last season. He averaged 95.7 with his fastball in 2012. I think Parnell keeps the job.

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