One strategy that I have employed over the past few years is the 7/10 Split. Basically, I try to target my first starter in round seven and first closer in round ten. As should be the case with any strategy, the 7/10 round guidelines are not set in stone. I know what type of pitchers I want on my team, but when I draft them is determined by what the other fantasy GM’s do. If there is a big run on starters early, I might end up taking my first starter in round six. Same thing with the closer market.
Below are my top starting pitcher targets that, according to latest ADP from Mock Draft Central, can be had in rounds six and seven.
1. Francisco Liriano – Peripherally speaking, Liriano was one of, if not thee, most dominant starting pitcher in baseball last season. Liriano was hurt by some sketchy infield defense in 2010, but with Danny Valencia, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla and Justin Morneau slated to be the starting infield four this season, he should see a regression in BABIP (.331 in 2010). He has the offensive club behind him to win 16-20 games in 2011.
2. Josh Johnson – Like Liriano, Johnson was essentially one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball last season, but his 11-and-6 record left his overall value lower than it should have been. He seems to be over the back issues that shut him down last September, but unfortunately, wins may be hard to come by once again in Florida. Since I don’t endorse drafting pitchers based on projected wins, I’ll glady take Johnson as my ace and hope the good days for the Marlins offense come when he starts.
3. Cole Hamels – Despite a 3.06 ERA and a career high 211 strikeouts, Hamels had a mediocre 12-and-11 record last season, which just goes to show that you can’t simply pencil the Phillies starters in for 20-plus wins each. A little help from his friends in 2011 could mean a jump in wins and in fantasy value.
4. Justin Verlander – Aside from 2008, Verlander has been one of the most consistent fantasy pitchers in the game. He has lowered his home run rates every season since 2006 and an improvement in his changeup last season should lead to more good results in 2011.
5. Mat Latos – One thing that gives me pause about Latos in 2011 is the large jump in innings he had from 2009 to 2010. Other than that, he should once again post excellent strikeout, ERA and WHIP numbers. It might be tough, however, for him to win more than the 14 games he won in 2010 due to the departure of Adrian Gonzalez, which leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the Padres’ offense.
6. Tommy Hanson – Mark it down; this will be the last year Tommy Hanson is available this late in the draft. His background suggests that an increase in strikeout rate is very likely. In 2010, he produced a low 16.7 percent line drive rate against, which shows how tough of a time major league hitters had making solid contact off of his offerings. Don’t let his 10-11 record last season fool you, Hanson has the stuff to be a fantasy ace.
7. Yovani Gallardo – For the second straight season, Gallardo failed to reach 186 innings. Still, his strikeout numbers are top-notch and he even showed some progression in his walk rate in 2010. Look for him to push past 186 innings in 2011 and end up in the top 10 in strikeouts. Another improvement in command/control could push him into the elite category.
8. Chad Billingsley – The big inning hurt Billingsley more than a couple times in 2010, but he still posted good strikeout numbers and a good ground ball rate. Just now entering his prime years, there is a good chance that Billingsley takes a significant step forward in 2011.