by Kyle Soppe
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a ton of fantasy potential, but it’s not one of the hall of fame level batters or consistent Cy Young candidate pitchers that is a good bet to give fantasy baseball owners the greatest bang for their buck this season. That title belongs to lefty CJ Wilson, who is currently be drafted as the 40th best starting pitcher (ranked 38th on Yahoo and 42nd on ESPN).
Personally, I believe Wilson is capable of duplicating his breakout 2011 campaign, but even if you’re not in that camp, he is worth selecting a round or two early. In terms of ERA, Wilson is at his best in the season’s first three months, making him a sell high option if you draft him and think he is going to fall of as the dog days of summer approach. A solid start last season was derailed by an awful August, but based on his rankings, it seems that the bad month is being blown out of proportion. If you subtract August from Wilson’s 2012 stat line (which I understand you can’t do if you owned him last season, but bear with me), you’ve got a pitcher with a 3.02 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Those ratios aren’t all that different than his 2011 line of 2.94/1.19, which resulted in him being ranked as a consensus top 20 starting pitcher (19th by Yahoo and 17th by ESPN) heading into last season. His 4.26 combined ratio (ERA + WHIP) excluding August was better than the season total of studs like Steven Strasberg (4.31), Madison Bumgarner (4.48), and CC Sabathia (4.52). Does one bad month (7.99 ERA and 1.87 WHIP in August) make 19-25 pitchers that were ranked behind Wilson entering the 2012 season suddenly better than him this season?
Wilson’s stats are enough to convince me that he is currently underrated by the public, and you’re telling me they add Houston (http://rotochamp.com/baseball/TeamPage.aspx?Team=HOU) to their schedule 19 times? The same Astros who are moving from the NL Central, a division where there are more recognizable top 20 prospects than current members of the Stros?
Sign. Me. Up.
The AL West now includes three of the weaker lineups in all of baseball with the Astros, Mariners, and Athletics. Those three teams ranked among the bottom seven teams in sacrifices, the bottom six teams in total hits, and were the three worst teams in terms of batting average. Toss in the fact that Houston, Seattle, and Oakland all struck out more than two thirds of the MLB, and you’ve got yourself a pitcher friendly division. The Angels will play 57 games against these three bottom tier offenses, giving Wilson (and all other Los Angeles/Texas starting pitchers) plenty of upside.
Don’t forget that Los Angeles made noise this offseason by boosting their already potent offense; making an improvement on Wilson’s 13 wins a near lock. Consider this: the Angels won 21 of his starts last year (the same number of games that the Tigers won when Justin Verlander started and only one fewer than the Mets won with RA Dickey penciled in as the starter), meaning that Wilson did a good job of keeping his team in the game and giving them a chance to win. The Angeles are projected to improve on their 89 wins from a season ago, and with Wilson’s ability compete; he is primed for a 15+ win season in his ninth big league season. At 33 years old, Wilson may be identified as a pitcher who has already peaked, but he has only pitched 962.2 innings in his career. The wear and tear on his arm is similar to that of a pitcher in his fifth or sixth season, typically the point in a pitcher’s career when he is ready to peak. Wilson’s ability to stay strong late in games is indicative of him being younger in pitcher years than he is in calendar years. Last season, he had a lower ERA after his 75th pitch of a start than Bumgarner, RA Dickey, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels just to name a few top 20 options.
Wilson isn’t an ace to build your staff around, but he is much more of a low end SP2 than the high end SP4 he is currently being drafted as. Here are two long winded sentences that sum up why Wilson is a player to target in your drafts.
Breath in …
He is a pitcher for a strong team in a weak hitting division that had an awful month last year and ran into some misfortunate when it comes to wins. He remains effective the later he goes into the game and has a lower pitch count on his arm than most players his age.
Breath out …
Now repeat that twice a day until your league drafts and you’ll put yourself in a better position to build a championship contender.
Kyle recently graduated college, with his final credits coming via a fantasy writing internship. Name the place and the time and Kyle is ready to discuss/debate the day’s top fantasy issues. He’s always got updated rankings in his pocket, and is more than willing to offer his insight on any issues you may come across in your quest for a fantasy football crown.
Kyle uses cold hard statistics to back his arguments, and combines humor with numbers when the opportunity presents itself. Kyle is pursuing a potential career in the field of fantasy sports (MLB, NBA, and NFL) as this is his true passion. Follow and tweet Kyle @unSOPable23 for the latest and greatest fantasy information or email him at KylePickinSplinters@rochester.rr.com if you’d like an opinion longer than 140 characters.