Carl Pavano, Jeff Niemann, Colby Lewis. According to ESPN’s Player Rater (PR), these three have been top 25 starting pitchers to date… and none of them were drafted in ESPN standard ten-team leagues. In fact, of the top 60 pitchers on the PR, 22 of them went undrafted.  Think pitching is deep? 

Moreover, the guys at the top are truly elite.  Of pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, an astounding 17 of them have an ERA under 3.00.  So, you may not be hurting for pitching, but there are still plenty of guys out there who remain undervalued for you to target either through trade or on the waiver wire. All ownership percentages are from ESPN. (stats as of Sunday, July 25, 2010)

1.    Adam Wainwright (100% owned)
2.    Josh Johnson (100% owned)

Each has a WHIP right around 1.00, and Johnson has a marginal five strikeout lead over Wainwright.  The only differences between them are Johnson leads in ERA 1.61 to 2.02, and Wainwright has four more wins.  Johnson is more likely to see his ERA regress towards 2.00 than he is to win more games than Wainwright the rest of the way.  So, while wins are not the best way to evaluate pitchers, they still count in fantasy, and their value cannot be ignored.

3.    Roy Halladay (100% owned)
4.    Cliff Lee (100% owned)
5.    Tim Lincecum (100% owned)
6.    Jon Lester (100% owned)
7.    Jered Weaver (100% owned)

Weaver is striking out almost ten batters per nine innings while walking just over two batters per nine, and all of his peripheral numbers indicate that what he has been is what he is going to be.  If you have a stud starter with a lot of name value (say, Justin Verlander or Johan Santana), do not hesitate to swap them straight up for Weaver.


10.    Zach Greinke (100% owned)

In his last 7 starts, Greinke is 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 7.98 K/9.
The “buy-low window” is probably closed by now as Greinke looks poised for a monster second-half.

11.    Justin Verlander (100% owned)
12.    Ubaldo Jimenez (100% owned)
13.    Yovani Gallardo (100% owned)
14.    David Price (100% owned)
15.    Chris Carpenter (100% owned)
16.    Clayton Kershaw (100% owned)
17.    Dan Haren (100% owned)

Haren has always been a notorious first-half stud and second-half bust, but this year he had a disappointing first half.  This led many to wonder how much worse it would get once he hit the inevitable second-half decline.  However, if he broke the trend in the first-half, why can he not do the same in the second-half?  He is third in the league with 141 K’s.

18.    Matt Cain (100% owned)
19.    Johan Santana (100% owned)
20.    Roy Oswalt (100% owned)
21.    Colby Lewis (98.5% owned)
22.    Tommy Hanson (100% owned)

With a record of 8-6, a 4.12 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, Hanson has not exactly given fantasy owners the return they were expecting on a top 80-ish draft pick.  However, Hanson has pitched better than those numbers indicate.  He is striking out almost a batter more per inning than he did last year at a clip of 9.03 K/9 , his walks are down, and his BABIP is .348 (the higher the number is over .300, the more unlucky the pitcher has been).  If your league redrafted today, Hanson still might be worth a top 80 pick.

23.    John Danks (100% owned)
24.    Tim Hudson (100% owned)
25.    Jeff Niemann (100% owned)
26.    Stephen Strasburg (100% owned)
27.    Mat Latos (100% owned)

Both Strasburg and Latos are going to have their innings limited as we get deeper into the season, but if they were pitching through September, they would both be top 15 pitchers.  Just keep running them out there every time they pitch, and then, use their roster slot to stream pitchers once they hit the shelf.  By doing so, you can still get top 20 value out of that slot in your rotation.

28.    Jaime Garcia (99.9% owned)

Garcia was one of the most difficult guys to rank.  You keep expecting the rookie pitcher with the unusually low HR/9 rate (0.41) and good but not great K/BB rate (2.09)  to regress, but so far it just hasn’t happened.  He is currently third in the majors with a 2.21 ERA and could absolutely continue to be a top 25-30 starting pitcher.

29.    Francisco Liriano (100% owned)
30.    Clay Buchholz (100% owned)
31.    Matt Garza (100% owned)
32.    Max Scherzer (84.1% owned)
33.    Ricky Nolasco (97.9% owned)

In 2009, Nolasco had a 5.76 ERA and 8.93 K/9 before the All-Star break.  He rebounded nicely with a 4.39 ERA and 10.02 K/9 after the break.  This year, he had a 4.55 ERA and 7.64 K/9 before the break, but in his two starts since the break, Nolasco has posted a 4.05 ERA and 10.99 K/9.  See where this is going?

34.    Jonathan Sanchez (99.4% owned)
35.    Wandy Rodriguez (55.4% owned)
36.    Cole Hamels (100% owned)
37.    Ryan Dempster (100% owned)
38.    Carl Pavano (93.1% owned)

Pavano in 2010: 12-6, 3.26 ERA, 1.01 WHIP (!), and 81 K’s to just 19 BB’s. Really?!?!  As mentioned above, the undrafted Pavano is providing substantial value to his owners.  In a 16-team league with 30 man rosters, I got Pavano with pick No. 433.  Now that is value!  The only reason he is not ranked higher is because, well, he is still Carl Pavano.

39.    Gavin Floyd (90.4% owned)
40.    Jason Hammel (26.2% owned)
41.    Javier Vazquez (94.7% owned)
42.    C.J. Wilson (72.3% owned)
43.    Ervin Santana (88.9% owned)
44.    Scott Baker (65.5% owned)

Baker’s increased strikeout rate, decreased walk rate, high BABIP, and inflated FIP all indicate that he has pitched better than it looks on paper.  FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, shows how well a pitcher pitched regardless of how the defense played behind him.  The nice thing about FIP is that it is based on the same scale as ERA.  So, while his ERA is right at 5.00, Baker’s FIP is just over 4.00, and his xFIP (Expected FIP predicts future ERA by adjusting home run rates) is actually below 4.00.

45.    Phil Hughes (100% owned)
46.    Brett Myers (21.3% owned)
47.    Chad Billingsley (95% owned)
48.    Edinson Volquez (73.2% owned)
49.    Kris Medlen (9.8% owned)
50.    Tommy Hunter (67.4% owned)

Both Medlen and Hunter are nice young pitchers with which to fill out the back end of your rotation.  While Hunter’s ownership percentage is substantially higher, Medlen is the guy you would rather own.  He has an impressive 3.57 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 92.1 innings, and nothing in his peripherals suggests that he has just been lucky.  Meanwhile, Hunter is 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in nine starts, but he is striking out less than five batters per nine innings and is receiving 7.3 runs per game of support from his offense.

Just missed the cut: Trevor Cahill (84.8% owned), Jason Vargas (20.8% owned), Shawn Marcum (66.3% owned), Barry Zito (88.2% owned), Ricky Romero (91.4% owned)

Agree or Disagree with the rankings?
Leave a comment and let us know, or reply to us on Twitter@TheFantasyFix

Article written by Brett Talley exclusively for Brett is a blackbelt and taught Steven Seagal everything he knows.

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