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2012 Fantasy Baseball Preview: John Danks and the Chicago White Sox Starting Rotation

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The most interesting thing about the 2012 Chicago White Sox when it comes to starting pitching, is that their new manager was once beaten up by a starting pitcher. That doesn’t mean that the Pale Hose are devoid of players that can help fantasy owners this season, however. The White Sox offer a nice mix of proven starters, once-upon-a-time fantasy aces, and some up-and-coming young arms. The trick to finding value on this team will be picking the right players out of that grab-bag (and avoiding the wrong ones), so let’s take a look at the White Sox’ starting rotation and see if we can fare a little better than Robin Ventura did in that link above…

At 26, John Danks is the de facto ace of the White sox and has been going somewhere around the 16th or 18th round of the most drafts that I’ve done this year. Going into last year, he had posted three straight seasons of 12+ wins, 140+ K’s, and an ERA/WHIP combo that didn’t drop below 3.77/1.28. Danks stumbled to a 0-8 record to start 2011, however, which contributed to his final total of 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA/1.33 WHIP. He managed to turn things around in the second-half, at least, and ended up posting a 7.13 K/9 IP (2nd-best of his career). Danks was also able to lower his walk-rate for the second year in a row, so that’s definitely good news as we head into 2012. This is a classic case of “Forgive, but don’t forget”. His 2011 season shouldn’t be forgotten, but his second-half turnaround suggests there should be more of a reversion back to his 2008-2010 numbers.

The White Sox’ number two starter, Gavin Floyd (29), was the subject of offseason trade rumors, but he managed to escape having to call the movers since Kenny Williams didn’t pull the trigger on any moves involving the right-hander. Floyd’s numbers won’t bowl anyone over (he hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2008), but there’s still value to be had here. He kept his walks down in 2011 and posted a career-best 1.16 WHIP, while topping 150 K’s for the fourth straight season. Floyd also had ridiculous home/road splits last year (5.66 ERA at home/3.41 ERA on the road), so picking the right spot-starts could prove highly beneficially for a shrewd owner. Floyd has been going somewhere between the 20th to 22nd round in drafts, and is well worth a flier towards the end of the draft.

In my opinion, Chris Sale (22) could be the most valuable starting pitcher on the 2012 White Sox for fantasy owners. I’m not saying he’s the best pitcher (well, maybe I am), but I am saying he could be the most valuable in terms of draft position. He struggled as a closer last year, but excelled as a set-up man on his way to a 2.79 ERA/1.11 WHIP with 79 strikeouts in 71 innings. I’ve been seeing him drafted somewhere in between Danks and Floyd, respectively, so he could provide great value if he can carry his ridiculous career numbers of 10.59 K/9 IP into 2012. The youngster could very well flame-out as a lot of prospects do, but I’ll definitely be buying if he falls to me in the 18th or 19th round.

Jake Peavy represents the classic case of paying for a name, rather than actual production. Don’t get me wrong…his 2007 season won me more than a few leagues, but that was also back when diehard dynasty league owners were the only ones who had heard the name Clayton Kershaw. The fact of the matter is that Peavy is 30 years old, and hasn’t topped 115 innings (or 100 strikeouts) since 2007 due to a long-running list of injuries. There is absolutely no reason to spend a pick on Peavy and I’d be willing to be that anyone who didn’t play fantasy baseball before 2009 has ever drafted him either.
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Philip Humber (29) is the leading candidate for the fifth spot in the White Sox’ rotation, and actually provided fantasy owners with a very solid 2011 (9 wins, 3.78 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 116 K’s). Humber isn’t worth drafting since he doesn’t have a lock on the job, but he’s a player worth keeping an eye on if he strings together a couple good early-April starts.

Zach Stewart (25) and Dylan Axelrod (26) round out the trio that will be competing with Humber for the fifth rotation spot, but neither is worth drafting. Stewart managed to pitch a one-hitter last year, but he also posted a hideous 4.86 ERA/1.86 ERA/WHIP combo in 8 starts. Axelrod has some upside in that he is a groundball pitcher and has had some early success with a career 2.89 ERA, but that was in a very small sample size (18.7 innings to be exact). That being said…he may not even start the year in the majors, so he’s pretty much irrelevant for fantasy owners right now.

The White Sox aren’t the best team for fantasy owners to looks towards for starting pitching, but they aren’t the worst either. Looking at the glass half-full: John Danks and Chris Sale provide solid value (and upside) in the mid-to-later rounds, while Gavin Floyd can be useful as long as owners are mindful of his home/road splits. Looking at the glass half-empty: Jake Peavy raises all sorts of red flags, while three fringe players don’t provide much fantasy usefulness. Just like any other team’s, Chicago South’s rotation has its diamonds and it has its warts. But as long as the right players are targeted, the White Sox could actually provide fantasy owners with some value in 2012.

Written by Nick Raducanu exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com. Nick Raducanu is the founder and mystery man behind TraderX at www.FantasyTrade411.com. You can follow him and ask him for fantasy advice on Twitter @FantasyTrade411.

Remember to check out our 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, with Ranks, Auction Values, Expert Mock Draft and tons of articles. Click here to learn more or purchase.

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