SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field on September 18, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Ongoing advice for your fantasy baseball aspirations.
After a slightly depressing review of the Mariners' hitters from last week, let's turn to happier things today: Mariner pitching. There are three things a fantasy owner should look for when evaluating a pitcher: talent, park and offense. Talent is the most important and most obvious. I mean, the only, I mean ONLY, reason Clayton Kershaw is a better pitcher than I am is that he is really good at pitching and I am not. Seriously. So pursue talent.
Looking at the home park a team pitches in can help, especially when trying to fill out the bottom part of you pitching staff. After his disastrous last two seasons, Edinson Volquez was pretty much unownable. But after a move to Petco, he becomes a pretty decent upside play in 2012. Especially consider players that are homer-prone. For example, C.J Wilson is a good pitcher. Moving to Anaheim will help keep more flyballs in the park, making him an even better fantasy player.
Offense really only comes into play in a single category - Wins. It's often frustrating chasing wins, as it seems a handful of pitchers every year get seemingly snakebit, unable to overcome an anemic offense or a bullpen mess. Use a team's offense to break a tie when considering a handful of pitchers for the same spot.
Fortunately, the M's have the park in their favor. With a (hopefully) improving offense, Mariner's pitchers might have a lot to offer this year.
Felix Hernandez: A healthy Felix will anchor your staff. He contributes terrific strikeouts, WHIP and ERA. He will get more then his share of wins, making him a great 4-category stud. In the past, Felix, was a player to target early and often and to start against any team without fear.
This year, a dip in velocity has created a worrying stir around the team, but I tell everyone not to worry about it. The King is a pitcher in the truest sense, capable of beating batters with movement, placement and a mix of offerings when he is at his best. He doesn't need to throw it by batters anymore.
That being said, I am suggesting to some that in the early going, if you own Felix, put out feelers in the trade market. I meant what I said about not fearing the dip in velocity. What is disconcerting is his propensity in his early outings to miss his spots, leaving the ball over the plate. Combined with a drop in velocity, this is a deadly mistake. Not many professional hitters will fail to capitalize on that type of pitch. Now I'm not advocating a fire sale, because if anyone has the talent to overcome this, it's Hernandez. But this type of knowledge comes to local fans first. If you can stomach it and get a fair return, this might be the year to trade the King off.
Hector Noesi: I am very excited to see what Noesi does this year. We seem to have plucked him from the Evil Empire just at the right time. His minor league strikeout rate didn't suggest he had much of a chance to be anything special, at least for fantasy purposes. However, after seeing him pitch, it seems the potential is there for a good amount of punchouts. I know his first start was rough, but it's a long season, and I recommend keeping a close eye on him, especially his first few starts in Safeco. He may benefit greatly from the boost the Safe gives pitchers, making him a great sleeper this season. (I write that before his start on Saturday, I swear. But see, I told you!)
Jason Vargas: Vargas is a great buy low candidate. As a lefty flyball pitcher, he is a great fit for Safeco. Over the last two years, he has posted nearly-usable ERA and WHIP rates. If he takes one more step forward in his development, he would be a good fit on your roster if you targeted high strikeout/high-ish WHIP types earlier in the draft (think Morrow, Gio or Ubaldo), and you need to buy down your WHIP numbers with a good ERA and a chance for some wins.
Kevin Millwood: I was all ready to dismiss Millwood as a non-option, until I realized, as recently as 2009 I owned Millwood on some teams. He's crafty and still able to punch a few batters out. In Texas, Baltimore and Colorado he dealt with some home run problems. Safeco should help suppress that, enough so that I'll be keeping an eye on him all year.
Blake Beavan: Unfortunately, until Beavan strikes more hitters out, he won't really be a viable fantasy option. We know he has the stuff, he was drafted as a flamethrower, but has traded velocity and whiffability for control. That's a trend that may help him make the team, but hurts his fantasy stock. However, if he decides to start reaching back for more speed, he becomes worth an add, or at least being put on a watch list.
Danny Hultzen/James Paxton: These are two arms you should grab the moment it appears one might be getting the call. Expect K's, with an ok ERA but possible shaky WHIPs, as is the case with a lot of young pitchers.
Brandon League: A great source of saves, as the M's will play a lot of close games, but a likely trade candidate this season, which means he runs the risk of becoming a setup man this summer, and therefore a lot less valuable fantasy-wise. If he's on your team, monitor the local news closely for him. If rumors abound, move him immediately. With League this year, where there's smoke there's bound to be fire. I would be shocked if he's a Mariner after the deadline.
For more on Fantasy Baseball, make sure you head to my column on drafting and maintaining your fantasy baseball roster - you might just thank me later. After that, go to SB Nation's Fantasy Sports Hub, Fake Teams, and for more on the Mariners, stick with us here at SB Nation Seattle or head to Lookout Landing.