411 Question of the Week (12/11)
Assuming you wait until the double-digit rounds to draft your first starting pitcher, discuss one player who you will be targeting as a “soft ace.”
This year’s List of 12 is chock full of rising young arms who could fit the bill, but it’s no secret I am most bullish on Ricky Nolasco. His hit rates and strand rates were beyond unlucky last year, to the point where his underlying stats were more that of a pitcher with a 3.75 ERA, not one over 5.00. The hit rate should improve as the Marlins seek to shore up their defense (Maybin in center, Uggla likely to be traded, Coghlan likely to return to a more natural infield position, Bonifacio relegated to bench play, etc.), and the strand rate will improve on its own as Nolasco does a better job of putting away hitters with 2-strikes, as he was more and more able to do as the season progressed. He’s at the right age, has enough experience, and clearly has the skills to be a breakthrough pitcher in 2010.
In some drafts, Matt Cain may go late single digits and in others around the 12th, so he falls right in the middle for me. The Giants have developed into a half decent team so wins may not be as scarce as once thought for Cain. Add in a 3.00 ERA or lower and 175 to 200 strikeouts and it's a good start to a bargain staff that can produce results.
Chad Billingsley opened 2009 looking very much like the pitcher who dominated for much of 2008. He struggled in the second half, however, going 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA. The fact that he ended the season on a down note offers a great opportunity for owners to scoop him up at a discounted price on draft day. Billingsley still needs to fine tune his control but the strikeout rate remains strong and the NL West, at least offensively, remains weak. At 25 years young, it’s safe to say that the best is yet to come. I’d gladly gamble on a 2010 rebound.