Who wants a pitcher?
Not many owners, it seems, based on the number of hurlers being offered up in fantasy trades and the ensuing reluctance of owners to add any. Part of the problem is smarts. For years, many a savvy fantasy analyst (Eric Mack, for example) has preached that hitting is more precious and more reliable than pitching. And in this writer's opinion, a decent staff can be pieced together without high draft picks.
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Still, you can't win with a staff of Ross Detwilers. The key is the currency. Elite pitchers are going to cost elite hitters, even though the two aren't equal in production. Target the No. 2 and No. 3 starters; they'll cost less and you may be able to get them for a package of lesser parts. As to whom you should target or not, let's take a look at the options this week...
? Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers: The South Korean rookie has been as reliable as almost any starter this season. He's given up three or fewer earned runs in six of his first eight starts while striking out a batter per inning. For the time being, Ryu is a matchup play best used in the pitcher-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium, where he has gone 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA. On the road, he's posted a 4.68 ERA and a 1-1 mark. On the bright side, his strikeout and walk rates are consistent no matter where he throws. That bodes well for the months to come.
? Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies: Honestly, an owner could be convinced to either buy or sell Hamels, but we'll lean toward the "buy" side for now. Despite an ugly 1-4 start, Hamels hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last six starts. The problem has been his control, as Hamels' walk rate (3.83/9) has ticked higher than his historical average. But without any sign of injury, Hamels should find his target more consistently as the season progresses. (Note that I said "should" and not "will" -- there are no guarantees here.)
? Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals: The idea of Zimmerman is better than the reality. Who wouldn't want a power-hitting third baseman who can average about .290? But think again: Who wants a perpetually injured talent prone to streakiness and often out of the lineup when needed? Zimmerman is off to a slow start this season and has already logged one DL stint so far. Yes, his numbers should improve, but his risk of injury is still high. Package him while the season is still young, and his potential may attract someone willing to trade.
? Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees: We were closer to listing him as a "buy" a few weeks back, but not we've swung the opposite way. Why? He's 39; he's never been a player to stash for power; and he's not doing much of the things he does well: hitting and running. Now that Curtis Granderson has returned to the lineup, manager Joe Girardi has the ability to spot start Suzuki a bit more. That makes Suzuki a fourth or fifth outfielder, not an everyday, or ever week, starter.
? David Price, Tampa Bay Rays: We've hesitated examining the Rays' Cy Young winner because we assumed there was no way fantasy owners would give up on him so soon. But there he is, among the most traded players in fantasy. It's understandable when looking purely at the numbers: Price has won once in nine starts, his ERA is an ugly 5.24 and the Rays are scuffling a bit. To cap it all off, he left his Wednesday start against the Red Sox early due to a triceps strain. But remember: This is still a guy who finished 20-5 last year. This is still a guy who hasn't posted an ERA above 3.49 since 2009. And this is still a guy who can anchor your pitching staff once he gets on track. Maybe his triceps was the underlying problem, in which case Price could return to form after a bit of rest.
? Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox: Chicago's first baseman is off to a terrible start, and he was even benched for two straight games. However, keep in mind that we've been hearing reports of his demise for years, and yet he keeps clubbing 25-30 home runs a season with a .350-plus OBP. Yes, he's 37, but Konerko has yet to show clear signs of a steady decline. This year's drop in production is so dramatic, we have to think he'll turn things around once the weather evens out and he gets a little help in the lineup. Keep him on the bench for now, but know that Konerko could be a nice lineup sweetener if he gets in gear.