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2012 Fantasy Baseball Preview: San Francisco Giants and AL West Starting Rotation

If you’re not aware, we’ve been doing these starting rotation previews.  I’m actually not sure how you couldn’t be aware if you’re ever been on our homepage as there are three, four, or five of them on there at any given time.

I was tasked (and by tasked I mean I volunteered) to write the San Francisco Giants preview.  There are probably several ways you could stretch that subject out to 500+ words, but those ways eluded me.  As far as I can tell, the Giants rotation can be covered in just three bullet points.

·  Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner are probably top 20 pitchers, but probably none of them are top 10 pitchers.

·  Just take my word for it that Ryan Vogelsong was far more lucky than he was good last year and remember that last year was the first time he had pitched in the majors since 2006.

·  Barry Zito sucks.

With that task completed, let’s move on to my other task *slash* thing I volunteered to do: Rotation previews for every team in the AL West. 

In the interest of Spring Break brevity, I’m consolidating those four articles into one.  Many of the 20 or so starters in the AL West are, for the most part, properly valued.  Guys like Felix Hernandez (MDC ADP: 28), Dan Haren (41), CJ Wilson (83), Brandon McCarthy (203), Colby Lewis (201), and Derek Holland (168) are all going about where they should.  Other starters in the division are irrelevant for fantasy purposes.  Jerome Williams, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Jason Vargas, Matt Harrison, and Kevin Millwood (how does he have a job?) are useless in most mixed leagues.  However, Harrison (wins), Peacock (strikeouts) and Milone (WHIP) might have some value in deeper mixed or AL/NL only leagues.

But there are also some potential busts, sleepers, and interesting arms out West.

Jered Weaver (34) was 8th among pitchers in WAR last year.  And two of his current teammates (Haren and Wilson) bested him in that stat.  So the Angels pitching will be top notch.  But Weaver could easily be the third best of that bunch again, and this time more distantly so. 

Weaver’s BABIP has always been lower than league average because he’s a fly ball heavy pitcher, but his .250 mark last season was low even by his standards.  When you combine that with the highest strand rate in the league among starters it’s obvious that he was one of the luckiest pitchers in the game last season.  And unfortunately his K spike in 2010 (9.35 K/9) was an aberration as Weaver returned to his 2008-09 K rate in the mid-sevens last season.  He’s still a top 20 starter, but taking him as one of the first ten pitchers off the board would be a mistake.

Another of Weaver’s teammates, Ervin Santana (150), gives the Angels depth in the rotation that few teams have.  But Santana, like Weaver, is being drafted before he should.  He’s just not a top-150 caliber player. 

Once upon a time, Santana exhibited excellent control (1.93 BB/9 in 2008).  But more recently he’s been about a 3.00 BB/9 type of pitcher.  Absent BABIP luck, his WHIP will sit around or above 1.30.  He got some of that BABIP luck last year and rode it to a 1.22 WHIP and 3.38 ERA.  However, his xFIP and SIERA show his ERA should have been near four if he had been luck-neutral.  Without more luck, expect Santana to post an ERA just under four, a WHIP around 1.30, and slightly above average K numbers.  Solid, but not worthy of a top 150 pick.

Because a couple of ballparks on the West Coast are very favorable to pitchers, there are always going to be some sleepers coming out of Seattle and Oakland.

Bartolo Colon (460) was a sleeper that no one saw coming last year.  Which is amusing because you can almost always see a man of Colon’s size coming.  But thanks to a very solid 3.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Colon was one of the biggest surprises of 2011.  Because that success was based on his rediscovered skill to get the ball over the plate and not aided by luck, a move to Oakland and all of its spacious foul territory goodness gives Colon a chance to repeat his success.  And because no one apparently believes he can do it again, he could once again be one the biggest draft day values.  Ha! Biggest...

Up the coast, Hisashi Iwakuma (435) and Hector Noesi (undrafted) will try take advantage of Safeco.  Iwakuma hasn’t gotten much hype as he has understandably played second fiddle among the Japanese league imports behind Yu Darvish.  And while Iwakuma won’t match Darvish’s production, there’s some definite potential.

I spoke with Kevin Goldstein of last week (listen here) and he said Iwakuma has very good control.  And that control comes with some actual stuff, not necessarily just the deception that Japanese pitchers often rely on.  WHIP is hard to come by late in drafts, so if you took some iffy WHIP guys early like Yovani Gallardo or Jon Lester, Iwakuma might be an option as the last guy on your fantasy staff.

Noesi was the other player the M’s got in that monster Montero for Pineda trade, and he might end up being what determines who “won” that trade.  He posted very solid numbers through AA.  His strikeout numbers dipped quite a bit at AAA, but he only spent about 60 innings there.  In roughly 60 innings out of the Yanks bullpen last year he struck out over seven per nine and had a SIERA under 4.00.  If he can keep the strikeouts above seven per nine as a starter in Seattle, there will be value there.

And finally we come to the not-so-west Texas Rangers and two of the more interesting starters in baseball, Darvish (123) and Neftali Feliz (158).

I’ll admit that initially I was wary of Darvish.  I’m just a see-it-to-believe-it kind of guy.  But Goldstein sung Darvish’s praises on my podcast, and he has convinced me that Darvish is capable of producing at level on par with his ADP.  He’s being drafted as the 35th starter, and he could easily justify that draft spot.

Feliz is a riskier proposition.  Only 9 starters are being drafted after Darvish and before Feliz.  Because Feliz has thrown fewer than 70 innings in each of the last two seasons (not counting playoffs) and because we’ve yet to see that he can throw more than two pitches effectively for more than an inning or two, I don’t see how Feliz can be expected to produce at a level all that close to Darvish.

Written by Brett Talley exclusively for  Brett is a law student in Dallas who name drops Kevin Goldstein.  You can tell him to shut up and/or ask him for fantasy advice on Twitter @therealTAL.

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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