Sifting through the gems
There are always starters who surprise everyone with like ace-like performances in the first week of the season. Deciphering who is for real and who got lucky is a tricky process.
Last season, owners who capitalized on the early gems of Wandy Rodriguez, Edwin Jackson and Randy Wolf felt like geniuses all season. Those who pounced on Kyle Davies and Armando Galarraga were only rewarded with aggravation.
Here are a few intriguing under-the-radar guys to watch closely after their first outings opened a few eyes (I’m not including Bronson Arroyo because it’s a crime if he’s not owned in all leagues).
Luke Hochevar: 7 2/3 IP, ND, 0 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 Ks vs. Tigers
Up until this year, that sound you heard from the Kauffman Stadium stands when Hochevar was pitching wasn’t “LUUUUUUKE” — the fans were actually booing. The first overall Draft choice from 2006 has yet to live up to the billing, compiling a 13-26 record with a 5.88 ERA in 284 2/3 career innings. However the 26-year-old right-hander put it all together Wednesday, throwing 96 mph gas consistently and harnessing his offspeed stuff to keep the Tigers off-balance all night. It’s tough not to bite when a recent first overall pick shows flashes like this, so if he pitches well next Monday in Detroit, I’d take a flier on him.
Ricky Romero: 7 IP, ND, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks at Rangers
Romero was a hot April pickup last year, when he racked up a 1.71 ERA through three starts before getting injured. After missing a month, the 25-year-old southpaw returned with a great June but struggled the rest of the way. The sixth overall Draft pick in ’05, Romero looks primed for a solid season after a stellar debut on the road against a strong Rangers lineup.
Brad Penny: 7 IP, ND, 1 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 4 Ks at Reds
After looking like a lost cause in 2008 and for most of ’09 with the Red Sox, Penny quietly went 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in six starts after a trade to the Giants. Now with the Cardinals and pitching coach Dave Duncan, who has a history of rejuvenating veteran starters (Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro), the 31-year-old Penny appears to have his career back on track. Even after Thursday night’s gem, Penny is owned in just 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues, so act quick.
Dallas Braden: 7 IP, ND, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 10 Ks vs. Mariners
In 2009, plenty of owners flirted with Braden and his sub-4.00 ERA before he was lost for the final 53 games with a foot injury. Probably the biggest reason he is currently owned in only 23 percent of Yahoo! Leagues is last year’s modest 81 Ks in 136 2/3 innings. So his 10-strikeout outing Tuesday was quite the revelation, as he mowed down one Mariner after another in a masterful performance. Maintaining a solid K rate would make him a nice back-of-your-rotation starter, as he’s a good bet for an ERA in the mid- to high 3.00s and a decent WHIP.
C.J. Wilson: 7 IP, ND, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 9 Ks vs Blue Jays
Carl Pavano: 7 IP, W, 1 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 6 Ks @ Angels
Justin Masterson: 5 IP, ND, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 Ks @ White Sox
Ian Kennedy: 5 IP, ND, 3 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 8 Ks vs Padres