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The Next Chris Carpenter

Good look finding the next Chris Carpenter.  The St. Louis ace did something extremely rare: he finished third in the Cy Young voting in 2006, was a complete non-factor for the next two seasons, and finished second in the Cy voting in '09.  That path won't be repeated anytime soon, but let's widen our criteria in hopes of finding a pitcher who can have a similar fantasy impact in 2010.

My criteria: the pitcher received Cy Young votes in 2006, '07, or '08, but had a disappointing 2009.  The 11 pitchers:

  • Chien-Ming Wang - Wang had surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule in July of '09.  We've heard a May 1st return date tossed around, but mixed leaguers are right to ignore him for now.
  • Roy Oswalt - Oswalt's last Cy vote came in '06, but he was plenty valuable in '07 and '08.  Now 32, Oswalt was just a six-inning pitcher last year.  But even in this off-year, he had a 3.29 K/BB.  His 93.1 mph average fastball was his best since '05.  His 4.12 ERA and 1.24 WHIP becomes 3.86 and 1.19 if we subtract one ugly September effort against the Braves, during which his back was acting up.  Oswalt busted out a new training regimen this winter and hasn't had any problems this spring.  He's a solid 13th-round pick.
  • Fausto Carmona - Carmona is not being drafted in mixed leagues.  He was a surprise ace in '07, but walks have plagued him since.  The problem appears to be a good part mental, as MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince explains here.  Castrovince notes that Carmona didn't allow any walks in winter ball, and two free passes in seven spring innings is a good sign.  The killer groundball rates of 2007-08 slipped last year, but 55.2% is still strong.  A return to 2007 form is unlikely for Carmona, but monitor his April walk rate just in case.
  • Erik Bedard - Even in the 20th round, Bedard seems like a lousy pick.  Coming off August labrum surgery, he's targeting a June 15th return.  Even if he does reach that goal of 2.5 months of baseball, there's a good chance he pitches poorly.
  • Brandon Webb - Webb is coming off a lost 2009, and may not make his 2010 debut until May.  He's going in the 13th round, and is a high risk, high reward choice since you can get Scott Baker, Brett Anderson, and Oswalt around the same time.  Those drafting him are hoping he can still provide 175 innings of vintage 3.20 ERA Webb.  He's in his contract year and seems unlikely to return to the D'Backs, which implies they might ride him hard.
  • Brad Penny - Even when he did get those Cy votes, Penny had unimpressive peripherals.  He still brings the heat, though, and now he'll be under Dave Duncan's tutelage.  The upside could be Kyle Lohse's '08 - decent ratios, 13+ wins.
  • Aaron Harang - Harang makes for a solid 21st round pick.  My big concern is that his groundball rate has been down the last two years.  His strikeout and walk rates remain respectable.  Reds pitching coach Bryan Price has quite a positive outlook: "What I think is his best days are ahead of him."
  • Carlos Zambrano - Big Z getting a Cy vote in '07 just reflects poorly on the voter, as he didn't pitch particularly well but won 18 games.  He'll likely continue to be a high strikeout, high walk guy.  The hope is that he'll return to his 215 inning days and somehow rediscover whatever led to a hits per nine rate below 7.0.  I'll be surprised if everything comes together for Zambrano, but he is only 28.
  • Jeff Francis - He had shoulder surgery in February of last year and missed the entire season.  He hasn't impressed this spring, and seems unlikely to be a factor in mixed leagues even if he can muster up a 4.25 ERA in 180 innings.
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka - Dice-K had very good control in Japan, but it hasn't carried over in his three seasons in the States.  Like Zambrano, he'll give you Ks and an ugly WHIP, and you'll hope he avoids hits inordinately.  His most recent injury is a back strain.  Even in the 17th round, I'd rather take Kevin Slowey, Ervin Santana, Jonathan Sanchez, Francisco LirianoJohnny Cueto, or Ben Sheets
  • Ervin Santana - Santana was an ace in '08.  His elbow started barking in March of last year, but he's supposedly healthy now.  Gamble on that upside.

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