Adam Ronis, Staff Writer February 1, 2013
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Yu Darvish had a 10.4 K/9 in 2012. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

Need to pick between Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish as my last starting pitcher keeper. Help!

A lot of people will look at the trio and automatically select Weaver. He has been one of the top pitchers in baseball the last few seasons, is reliable for innings and is coming off a 20-win season. While this may be true, I would not select Weaver. Darvish has a tremendous ceiling. I really believe he has a chance to be a Top 5 pitcher in Fantasy in 2013. Overall, it was a successful debut for Darvish in 2012. He came over from Japan with tremendous hype and had to adjust to throwing every fifth day and acclimate to a new country. People take these things for granted. Although he struggled early with control, he got better as the season went along. Darvish wasn’t throwing enough strikes early in the season, leading to many walks. He began to throw more strikes late in the season and his walk rate dropped. It sounds simple, but if Darvish trusts his arsenal more and throws strikes more consistently he will be elite. Darvish went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 191 1/3 innings. He struck out 221 for a 10.4 K/9 and was able to finish with a 4.19 BB/9. He has several pitches that are nasty and he limits the fly balls with a 31.6 percent rate, which is important pitching home games in Texas. After a 4.65 BB/9 in the first half, Darvish had a 3.65 mark in the second half. Darvish struggled in July and August and one would think the Texas heat played a factor. In September, Darvish had a 39:7 K:BB ratio in 36 2/3 innings. Even with the high walk rate in 2012, Darvish still had a very good season. If he could improve the control, he will be elite. I have some concerns about Weaver. The swinging strike rate continues to decline for Weaver. His 8.5 percent rate was down from the 11.2 percent rate of 2010, and his strikeout percentage of 19.2 percent was below league average. Weaver’s fastball velocity was 89.9 M.P.H. in 2010 and declined to 87.8 M.P.H. in 2012. It’s not a huge deal since he’s never been a hard thrower, but it is a red flag. Weaver did miss three weeks with back pain in 2012 and that may be the cause of some of this, however, this decline occurred over a few seasons. I know people may think it’s crazy to pass on Weaver coming off a 20-5 season with a 2.81 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Weaver consistently pitches better than what the peripherals indicate, as his xFIP of 4.18 from 2012 indicates. Weaver usually has a low Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). His career average is .271 and it was .241 in 2012. He induces a lot of weak contact and while he’s a fly ball pitcher, he pitches in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and has a good defensive outfield behind him. Considering all this, I’ll take Darvish.

I was proposed the following trade in my 12-team mixed league.  I get Jason Kipnis and Clayton Kershaw for CC Sabathia and Paul Konerko. Should I make this deal of keepers prior to the draft?

Not sure about how long you can keep players, but long-term this is a slam dunk in your favor, and even if it’s just for 2013 it’s still a good deal. Kershaw is one of the top Fantasy pitchers and could go in the first round of many drafts. Kershaw turns 25 in March. He has a K/9 of at least 9.05 in four consecutive seasons and a BB/9 of 2.49 or less in two straight seasons. He has posted an ERA of 2.79 or less in four straight years and a WHIP of 1.18 or less in three consecutive seasons, including 0.98 in 2011 and 1.02 last season. Despite an awful second half where Kipnis batted .233 with 33 runs, three home runs, 27 RBIs and 11 stolen bases after the All-Star break, there’s no discount on Kipnis in early mock drafts. For the season, Kipnis batted .257 with 86 runs, 14 home runs, 76 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in his first full season in the majors. He has the ability to hit for more power and second base is a thin position. As long as Sabathia is healthy, he will be good. Kershaw is the better option, though. Konerko turns 37 in March and there haven’t been signs of a steep decline, but there are some warning signs. He slowed down in the second half and that could be attributed to a wrist injury, and that happens as you get older. The power is declining, as he went from 39 to 31 to 26 home runs over the past three seasons. The fly ball rate has declined from 45 percent to 40 to 36.5 percent in the same span. I’d rather have Kipnis. You win on both sides of the deal.

Should I trade Justin Verlander for Stephen Strasburg in a keeper league?

It is really an even trade. Depending on the draft, sometimes Strasburg is going ahead of Verlander. They are both elite arms. Since it is a keeper league, Strasburg is the better option if the trade is just straight up with no loss of a draft pick. Verlander turns 30 in February and is very durable. That doesn’t mean he won’t get injured since he is a pitcher; but he has pitched at least 200 innings in six consecutive seasons, including at least 224 1/3 innings in four straight seasons. The high innings are important because he goes deep into games and that gives him more of a chance to get wins, which also means more strikeouts. Strasburg had a higher strikeout rate by two compared to Verlander last season, but he threw 79 fewer innings. It won’t be as stark in 2013, but Verlander is still likely to throw 30-40 innings more than Strasburg. That might mean the strikeouts are closer. Strasburg threw 159 1/3 innings in 2012 and the Nationals have shown they will be extremely cautious. I think 200 innings are a good bet for him in 2013. For this season, I still lean slightly with Verlander, but since it’s a keeper league and it’s very close, I would make the trade.

In a 12-team mixed 5×5 roto league, I can keep four from Evan Longoria, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Ben Zobrist, David Ortiz, Carl Crawford, Alex Gordon and Dan Uggla.

Fielder is an easy pick. He’s durable and consistent, playing in at least 157 games every season since 2006. He makes more contact each season, draws walks and has power. He’s a solid first-round pick. Reyes is also a pick. He’s solid across the board and should see better numbers and a ton of steals in a very good Blue Jays lineup. Longoria tends to get overvalued in Fantasy since he gets injured and never finishes as a Top 10 player, but in this group I would take him, and if he can put together a healthy season he will have very good numbers. The fourth guy is Zobrist. In most leagues, he should be eligible at second base, shortstop and outfield. That flexibility is big in any leagues, especially head-to-head leagues and he’s very consistent with a good on-base percentage.

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