2011 All-Breakout Team Pitchers
After selecting the 2011 All-Breakout Team hitters last week, it’s time to turn our attention to the hurlers. Pitchers tend to be more volatile than hitters, so there was no shortage of breakout arms. Here are my picks for the pitchers who really raised their games in 2011.
2011 Stats: 21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 198 K’s
The Skinny: After a solid 2010 season, Kennedy ramped up his production big-time this year, becoming the Majors’ least likely 20-game winner and lowering his ERA by nearly a full run.
2012 Outlook: Kennedy is one of the leaders of the D-backs’ resurgence and will serve as their staff ace in 2012. At age 26, it’s likely that 2011 was the first of several elite seasons for the right-hander. It doesn’t hurt that Kennedy pitches in the NL West and will see plenty more starts against the light-hitting Giants, Dodgers and Padres.
2011 Stats: 11-13, 2.83 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 146 K’s
The Skinny: Fister took a 3.09 ERA into the All-Star break, but had just three wins to show for it thanks to the Mariners’ anemic offense. A trade to Detroit changed the 27-year-old’s luck, as he won eight decisions in the season’s final two months.
2012 Outlook: Assuming that he’s back in Detroit in 2012, Fister has the chance to take his production to an even higher level. If he can post an ERA around 3.00 as a Tiger, he should have the offensive support to win at least 15 games.
2011 Stats: 13-7, 2.71 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 139 K’s
The Skinny: An injury to Barry Zito gave Vogelsong a chance to join the rotation and he thrived in the first half, going 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA. While his second half was less impressive (7-6, 3.26), the 34-year-old was still an asset to mixed-league owners and one of 2011′s biggest surprises.
2012 Outlook: Vogelsong’s numbers could regress in 2012, as he posted a 1.25 WHIP and mediocre strikeout rate. Those stats usually correlate to an ERA in the 3.50-4.00 range. At Vogelsong’s age, a rise in ERA is more likely than a drop in WHIP next season.
2011 Stats: 13-8, 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 126 K’s
The Skinny: Ogando owned opposing batters during the first half, going 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA. But the 28-year-old went 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA after the All-Star break and made only three September starts as the Rangers limited his innings and prepared the right-hander for an October relief role.
2012 Outlook: At first glance, Ogando’s declining numbers give fantasy owners reason to be skeptical heading into 2012. But a full season of experience as a starter could mean six months of solid production next year.
2011 Stats: 6-10, 3.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 154 K’s
The Skinny: Luebke was primarily a starter in the Minors, but began the 2011 season in the Padres bullpen. Injuries gave him a chance to join the rotation on June 26, and the left-hander never looked back. A 4-7 second-half record was simply bad luck, as his 3.76 ERA deserved a couple more wins.
2012 Outlook: The future is bright for this 26-year-old. Luebke strikes out more than a batter per inning and Petco Park should help him maintain a low ERA. Don’t expect the Padres offense to provide more than 15 wins, but this is a great player to target in 2012 drafts.
2011 Stats: 5-5, 32 SV, 2.98 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 67 K’s
The Skinny: Entering the season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia planned to use a closer committee led by Fernando Rodney. Rodney wasn’t able to handle the ninth inning in April and the job was quickly transferred to Walden. With 10 blown saves, the 23-year-old wasn’t among the game’s most reliable closers, but his other numbers were solid.
2012 Outlook: It looks like the Angels have finally found the anchor to their bullpen. With lefty Scott Downs on hand to set up, Walden should be in line for plenty of save chances in 2012. The right-hander can’t afford to blow 10 saves again next season, but his ERA suggests that he can drop that total to a more reasonable number.
2011 Stats: 4-5, 30 SV, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 92 K’s
The Skinny: Matt Thornton entered the season as Chicago’s closer, but the left-hander struggled in April while Santos threw 11 2/3 scoreless frames. That earned Santos the closer role and he showed he was up to the task with only six blown opportunities. Lefty Chris Sale picked up a few saves when the situation called for a southpaw, but early 2012 rumors have him heading to the starting rotation.
2012 Outlook: The White Sox recently inked Santos to a contract extension and plan to have him open the season as their fireman. The 28-year-old allowed three September home runs, but a high strikeout rate ensures he’ll rarely blow a save when the ball stays in the yard. If Sale is out of the picture, Santos has a chance for a 40-save, 90-strikeout season in 2012.
2011 Stats: 1-5, 37 SV, 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 45 K’s
The Skinny: League was expected to handle the April closing duties while David Aardsma was on the DL with a hip injury. Aardsma was never able to return, and League took the closer role and ran with it. The right-hander struggled during May but was otherwise a reliable saves option for fantasy owners.
2012 Outlook: League won’t be challenged for ninth-inning duties during Spring Training. The rest of Seattle’s relievers will compete to set up the 28-year-old. A mediocre strikeout rate and below average team keeps League out of the top tier of closers, but he’s safely in the second group.