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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Ace in the Hole: New Fantasy Baseball Number One Starting Pitchers

Most baseball teams have one. You know him. He’s that starting pitcher that is labeled as the “staff ace”, the guy who dominates the opposition, snuffs out losing streaks, and is without a doubt the best pitcher in a team’s starting rotation. In fantasy baseball, these pitchers are gold and their names carry a lot of weight at the draft table and in trade talks. However, the big names don’t always hold up and often find themselves relegated to the role of ‘second banana’ in a team’s rotation. The key in fantasy baseball is to identify who has slipped a spot and who has taken over the role as ‘ace’. A big name that has slipped a notch may help land you something in a trade and nabbing the new-found ace will help you toward winning your league. Here are some teams going through a shift at the top of their starting rotations currently:
San Francisco
For the past several seasons, there has been no doubt about the fact that Tim Lincecum has been the ace of the Giants rotation. His numbers have been among the upper echelon of starters in either league and his value in fantasy has been without question. However, in 2012, Lincecum has struggled mightily and has been forced from the ace role by not one but two other starting pitchers. Madison Bumgarner is a pitcher on the rise. The lefty has continued to improve and is making a name for himself among the very best young left-handed pitchers in the game. Matt Cain’s recent perfect game, combined with his very impressive numbers make him a threat to dethrone Lincecum as well.
Toronto
Although there were arguments about his status as a true ‘number 1’, it was widely held that Ricky Romero was the de facto ace of the Blue Jays staff. Inconsistency and poor peripheral stats have been masked somewhat by a decent win total. Although Romero did put up a decent second half last year, Brandon Morrow is looking more and more like the best pitcher on this staff.
Oakland
The Athletics traded away most of their serviceable arms in the off season leaving Brandon McCarthy to be tabbed by many as the ace of the Oakland rotation. Pre-season hype by a number of publications trumpeted the fact that McCarthy was ready to take the next step as a number one starter. Although he has pitched well, injuries and a lack of strikeouts have prevented McCarthy from taking the next step forward. Jarrod Parker, on the other hand has begun to make a name for himself with some great outings and comes at a much cheaper price to fantasy owners. Although the tag of ‘ace’ for a team such as the Athletics hardly evokes thoughts of dominance, there is fantasy value here.
Miami
So long as he has been healthy (which hasn’t been often nearly enough lately), Josh Johnson has been the ace of the Marlins staff. This year he has stayed healthy but has hardly pitched like himself. Opponents are batting over 100 points higher against him and his ERA is about 3 times as high as it was in 2011. The pitcher that has emerged as one of the best on the staff is newcomer Mark Buerhle. His stuff is nowhere near the level of Johnson’s but you can’t argue with the results. His ERA and WHIP are markedly better than those of Johnson and he has allowed half the number of free passes.
Arizona
After a 21 win season in 2011, it could be argued that Ian Kennedy is the staff ace but Daniel Hudson is the young arm that the Diamondbacks are looking at to lead this squad. Rather than improve, his numbers have steadily declined since a mid-season trade brought him to the desert in 2010. Fantasy owners know that Wade Miley is the young arm (he’s only 25 years old) that is putting up the stats in Arizona so far this year. He may have seemingly come out of nowhere but Miley is making his mark in the D-Backs rotation and has been the better fantasy pick thus far in 2012.
Try not to be fooled by the big names. The pitchers that are supposed to be the ‘aces’ of their staff don’t always deliver in spades.
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