2. Ryan Franklin, Cardinals
'09 stats: 38 SV, 44 Ks, 1.92 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
'09 prediction: 23 SV, 39 Ks, 3.89 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Franklin was outstanding in his first full season as a closer, stitching together a career-best 1.92 ERA and notching 38 saves en route to his first All-Star Game selection. However, his peripheral numbers weren't significantly better than those from prior years, when he served as a reliable but unremarkable middle reliever. Franklin's low 0.30 HR/9 rate and .269 BABIP suggest some regression is inevitable, which could open the door for hard-throwing youngster Jason Motte to get a look in the ninth inning. Even if Franklin holds on to the closer job, the odds are against the veteran righty matching last year's career numbers, so don't pay for his past success.
3. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
'09 stats: 13 W, 141 Ks, 4.30 ERA, 1.52 WHIP
'10 prediction: 9 W, 126 Ks, 4.80 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
Thirteen wins and 141 punchouts from a 24-year-old rookie southpaw? What's not to like? For starters, Romero's season-long control problems finally caught up to him in the second half of '09, leading to a 5.54 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP after the All-Star break. With Roy Halladay set to toe the rubber in Philly, Romero will be given the unenviable task of guiding an inexperienced Toronto staff through the chamber of horrors that is the American League East, a daunting proposition for a hurler with just 29 big league starts under his belt. Romero certainly is talented, but his relative youth and last year's early success could lead some to overinflate his true worth.
4. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks
'09 stats: 13 W, 161 Ks, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
'10 prediction: 10 W, 138 Ks, 4.70 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Jackson was well on his way to establishing himself as a top-shelf starting option while ringing up a 2.52 ERA in the first half of '09, but he came back to earth with a 5.07 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP after the break. The strong-armed 26-year-old should still churn out his fair share of Ks thanks to his mid-90s fastball, but a move to the pitcher-friendly confines of the NL is almost entirely offset by a subpar D-backs defense and the hitter's paradise that is his new home park, Chase Field. Don't overreach expecting a repeat of last season's first half.
5. Joel Pineiro, Angels
'09 stats: 15 W, 105 Ks, 3.49 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
'10 prediction: 11 W, 97 Ks , 4.35 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
With the help of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, Pineiro reinvented himself as a sinkerball specialist with a propensity for keeping balls on the ground and in the park last season. The basis for Pineiro's newfound success was his ability to throw strikes and induce harmless contact, factors that will be put to the test vs. far stronger AL lineups. In the likelihood that the veteran righty does not sustain last year's 3.49 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his new AL West home, Pineiro could wind up as causing more than a few cases of buyer's remorse.
6. Scott Feldman, Rangers
'09 stats: 17 W, 113 Ks, 4.08 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
'10 prediction: 11 W, 98 Ks, 4.43 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
Despite modest stuff, Feldman paced a young and improving Rangers staff last year and finished near the top of the AL leaderboard with 17 wins. To expect an encore performance would be asking an awful lot, however. The 27-year-old has shouldered a huge increase in innings pitched since the start of '07, a factor that could come back to haunt him in the near future. In addition, the launching pad known as Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a tough place for any pitcher to survive. Let others roll the dice on a repeat performance.
7. Kerry Wood, Indians
'09 stats: 20 SV, 63 Ks, 4.25 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
'10 prediction: 15 SV, 58 Ks, 4.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Wood took a big step back as Cleveland's closer last year after emerging as a quality option in his final season with the Cubs. Although he was not given many leads to work with, the hard-throwing righty blew six of his 26 save opportunities and saw his BB/9 (4.58) and HR/9 (1.15) rates nearly triple from '08. Cleveland did little to upgrade a rotation that finished with the third-worst ERA in baseball in '09, meaning Wood's opportunities should be limited for a second straight year. With Chris Perez looming as a younger, cheaper in-house replacement, Wood's days as an everyday fireman with the Tribe could be numbered. If you take a shot on Wood on draft day, play it safe and handcuff him to Perez.
8. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
'09 stats: N.A.
'10 prediction: 2 W, 42 Ks, 4.98 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
The 21-year-old Cuban's 100-mph heater may have already captured the imaginations of wide-eyed fantasy owners with deep pockets and extraordinarily high expectations. Chapman's blazing fastball gives them good reason to be optimistic about his chances to succeed at the game's highest level, but the Reds have enough arms to afford their $30 million investment plenty of time to get himself acclimated to the American style of play down on the farm. Since there is no guarantee that Chapman will be granted a single big league start this season, let others overpay for his services and reserve your resources for a more proven commodity.
9. Francisco Liriano, Twins
'09 stats: 5 W, 122 Ks, 5.80 ERA, 1.55 WHIP
'10 prediction: 8 W, 124 Ks, 4.50 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
Lingering health issues have eroded much of the power in Liriano's arm, and although he tossed a career-high 136 2/3 frames in '09, he's clearly not the same hurler who posted a 2.16 ERA and a 10.7 K/9 rate in '06. Spotty control was a huge issue for the beleaguered southpaw last season (4.28 BB/9), but given that he served up 21 long balls in 29 games, it's no wonder he was hesitant to leave anything over the plate. Liriano got rave reviews for his winter ball performance this offseason, which should lure in the more optimistic owners in your league and artificially inflate his draft-day value a tad. Just make sure you don't overspend for his name value alone.
10. Bobby Jenks, White Sox
'09 stats: 29 SV, 49 Ks, 3.71 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
'10 prediction: 16 SV, 42 Ks, 3.68 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Jenks has lost some heat off his fastball since his overpowering debut in '05, leaving him without the kind of ninth-inning knockout punch required by the game's elite closers. Although he managed to reverse a three-year dip in K/BB rate in '09, he still fanned less than a better an inning and saw his ERA balloon by more than a full run from his prior campaign. The budget-conscious White Sox could be looking to make a change at some point this year if they fall out of contention before the Trade Deadline, and the presence of former closer J.J. Putz and hard-throwing Matt Thornton in the bullpen could hasten Jenks' departure from the Windy City.
11. Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies
'09 stats: 16 W, 193 Ks, 4.38 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
'10 prediction: 10 W, 166 Ks, 4.52 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
De La Rosa's dynamite second half of '09 (10 W, 94 K in 88 1/3 IP) offered hope that the notoriously wild lefty had finally unlocked the secret to harnessing his control. But owners drafting him on the strength of his 16 wins should remember that the 28-year-old has bounced around five different organizations during his 10-year professional career for a reason. De La Rosa often struggled to keep baserunners to a minimum last season, as illustrated by his 4.09 BB/9 rate. He could break the 200-K plateau in '10, but not without doing a number on your team's ERA and WHIP in the process.
12. Francisco Rodriguez, Mets
'09 stats: 35 SV, 73 Ks, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
'10 prediction: 32 SV, 63 Ks, 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
While there's no reason to think that the Mets would consider elbowing Rodriguez out of his customary ninth-inning role, there are enough warning signs present to keep owners from dishing out top-shelf closer money for his services. The 28-year-old fireman's K/9 rate has dropped for six consecutive seasons, while last year's 5.03 BB/9 rate was the worst mark of his career. Both factors no doubt contributed to his unsightly 6.75 ERA and 1.42 WHIP after the break. Make no mistake, K-Rod will still notch his fair share of saves, but it's unlikely he'll regain the form of his most dominant seasons with the Angels.
13. John Lackey, Red Sox
'09 stats: 11 W, 139 Ks, 3.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
'10 prediction: 12 W, 137 Ks, 4.10 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Lackey's offseason move to Boston raised his profile and likely will inflate his draft-day value despite a few troubling trends. The right-hander has been on the disabled list to start each of the past two seasons, keeping him from reaching the 200 innings he regularly logged in prior years. Lackey hasn't exactly fared well at Fenway Park, either, compiling a 2-5 mark with a 5.75 ERA in nine career starts. Moving from the AL West, where he was able to shut down lighter-hitting offenses in bigger ballparks, to the AL East, where even some of the lesser teams can knock the ball around the yard with gusto, is just one more reason to proceed with caution.
14. Javier Vazquez, Yankees
'09 stats: 15 W, 238 Ks, 2.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
'10 prediction: 13 W, 177 Ks, 4.39 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
John Lackey's main competition for the title of the game's most overqualified mid-rotation starter has plenty going for him in his return to the Bronx, including an improved outfield defense and an explosive offense. Still, it's hard to overlook Vazquez's disappointing first run with the Bombers back in 2004, which resulted in a 4.91 ERA. And to think, he didn't have to deal with the cozier dimensions of the new Yankee Stadium during his first go-round, either. The strong-armed righty is coming off a career year, and the temptation to draft him a few rounds early will be strong, but hold your expectations in check before splurging.
15. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
'09 stats: 8 W, 185 Ks, 2.79 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
'10 prediction: 11 W, 166 Ks, 3.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Kershaw was often brilliant in his first full season of starting duty last year, mowing down 185 batters and crafting a finely tuned 2.79 ERA. And yet, although he held opponents to a Major League-low .200 average, the young lefty was lucky to escape with such sterling overall numbers. Kershaw handed out 91 walks over 171 innings and saw only four percent of the fly balls he surrendered go for homers, a difficult feat to reproduce. The 21-year-old's upside and huge strikeout potential can't be questioned, but those expecting him to make the leap to the game's upper echelon of starters could be in for a disappointment.