In the latest installment of our “Who Should I Draft?” series, we take a look at two American League pitchers that can dial it up in the high-90s. Both David Price and Justin Verlander have found success early on in their careers and look primed to be top tier starting pitchers for years to come. But which one should you draft first in 2011?
Each player is assigned a grade for five standard pitching categories plus a few extra I felt were important to factor. Grades are based on my expectations for the season and take into account both the player’s expected performance relative to the entire player pool and relative to the position he plays at. Grades were averaged using the standard 4.0 GPA scale to provide a cumulative “Professor’s Grade.”
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The Case for Price
Price finished second in the American League Cy Young race while racking up 19 wins and compiling a 2.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 188 Ks. It was Price’s first full big league season and he was able to top the 200 innings threshold and nearly double his wins from the year before, despite making only eight more starts.
Price’s success can be traced to his ability to go deeper into games. After struggling to make to it out of the sixth inning in 2009, Price routinely pitched into the seventh inning in 2010. This was undoubtedly the result of decreasing his walk rate from 3.79 to 3.41. Although that’s still a high total, Price was able to minimize the consequences of his walks by increasing his strikeouts per nine innings from 7.15 to 8.11.
The Case for Verlander
Not many pitchers have been as consistent as Verlander. He has topped 200 innings the last four years and he has struck out more than 200 batters for two straight seasons. With an ERA routinely in the mid-3s and a WHIP under 1.20 for two consecutive seasons, it’s no surprise then that Verlander has had 17+ wins four of the last five years.
The only negative about Verlander is that he’s a notorious slow starter, with his career April ERA being 5.02. Luckily, he is aware of that problem and intends to fix it. According to Verlander, “Instead of just working in spring training to get my body feeling good and feeling like I can throw the ball, I’m going to treat it like April, and I’ve already had my bad starts in April.”
Who Should I Draft?
Price may have more buzz surrounding him, but I’m selecting Verlander first if I get the chance. They both will have a similar ERA and WHIP but Verlander has been a model of consistency. His durability and penchant for going deeper into ballgames makes him more likely to top Price in wins and strikeouts.
Verlander also has the advantage of pitching in an easier division. While he gets to prey on the likes of Kansas City and Cleveland, Price has to contend with Boston, New York, Toronto and the newly improved Baltimore lineup. And with Tampa Bay’s completely new bullpen, it remains to be seen how well they’ll be able to protect the leads that Price gives them.
You’re not wrong if you like Price better but with the starting pitcher position being among the most volatile, I’m taking the more consistent pitcher, and that’s Verlander.