In honor of Valentine's Day - and for those of you who are without a sweetie don't worry, I feel your pain - I thought I would review the big league pitchers who have last names that start with "V." I know, how original right? Here are my thoughts on their value for 2011.
Jose Valverde, Tigers: Consistently going off the board as a top-12 closing option, Valverde has at least 25 saves in each of the past four seasons - something only five others have done (Bobby Jenks, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Cordero, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez). Valverde also has more K's than innings pitched in his career (533 in 449) while posting a WHIP under 1.20 in each of the past four years. Injuries are always a concern, as is his explosive personality, but the guy still brings it (career .205 batting average against).
Jason Vargas, Mariners: This hurler had a solid set of ratios last year with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 192.2 innings, helping many a club to win a fantasy championship given that he was a waiver-wire pickup. At the same time, a repeat seems unlikely. His K/9 rate was just 5.42 leading to a slightly below average 2.15 K/BB mark (league in 2010: 2.17), and his 0.77 GB/FB ratio is a concern. That last mark troubles me. Somehow Vargas allowed 47 percent of batted balls to go skyward, a high mark. If that happens again, he'll have no shot keeping his HR/9 mark below 1.00 (it was 0.84). Look at it this way - his HR/F rate last year was 6.1 percent, this after 3-straight years of at least 11.7 percent. Tread carefully.
Javier Vazquez, Marlins: He was never going to have success in the pressure cooker with the Yankees, or in the American League. Will he rebound from his 10-10, 5.32 ERA, 1.40 WHIP now that he is back in the NL? I think he has to considering that he owns a career ERA of 4.26 and a WHIP of 1.26. However, I'm concerned that his K/9 dropped to 6.92, the first time its been below 8.00 since 2004 (when he was also with the Yankees). Add in the fact that his average fastball dipped below 91 mph for the first time since 2004 (it was 88.7) and that his BB/9 rate was 3.72 (career 2.42), and I'm not expecting a full rebound, just a moderate one.
Jonny Venters, Braves: Most assume that Craig Kimbrel will open the year as the closer for the Braves, but Venters figures to be heavily involved in the late innings. Venters, a lefty, dominated as a rookie last year with a 10.08 K/9 mark, though he needs to work on the walks (4.23 per nine). If he can cut down the walks while maintaining his insanely high 4.15 GB/FB ratio, he'll be a late inning ace for years to come.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: An ace, it would be a surprise if he fell outside the top-15 amongst starters and the top-75 overall. Verlander has been a complete beast the last two years after a bit of a hiccup in 2008 as he has 37 wins (4th in baseball), 488 strikeouts (2nd in baseball behind Tim Lincecum's 492), a 9.46 K/9 mark (6th in baseball) and a 3.41 ERA (22nd in baseball). Told you he was a stud.
Edinson Volquez, Reds: He reportedly turned down a 4-year deal because he didn't think the Reds offered enough money (he is playing on a $1.6 million 1-year deal). While he should be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, there continue to be concerns about his ability to throw strikes (he has a walk per nine rate well in excess of five the past two years). His arm is dynamic, he'll strike out a guy per inning, and if he throws strikes we already know what the upside looks like (17-6, 3.21 ERA, 206 Ks in 196 IP in 2008).
Chris Volstad, Marlins: One game over .500 (27-26) over nearly 420 career innings, Volstad is a ground ball hurler who depends on his defense and the ball ending up in his fielder's gloves. He won't strike out many (5.62 K/9 career), his walk rate is merely average (3.33 per nine), his HR/9 mark is average (1.05) as is his BABIP (.289 in his career). That's a whole lot of average. Volstad can eat innings, and he is still young, but there is little in his pitching line that suggests he will ever be a top echelon arm.
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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