You have heard way too much about the Joba Rules. But what was it founded on?
A starting pitcher's shoulder isn't ready to handle a full season of starting 200-plus major league innings before it has been conditioned to do so. To run a marathon, you have to train and build up to handle the grind. You don't go out and jog a 5k and then pronounce yourself ready for 26 miles.
The Yankees know and limited their young arm like so many others do -- albeit far more publicly.
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The Joba Rules are over, but ironically, so might his starting days. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain entered spring training competing for the Yankees' No. 5 rotation spot. One will start, the other will relieve -- barring an injury to one of the Yankees top starting four.
Chamberlain is finally ready to be unleashed. With 43 career starts and getting his innings total to almost 160 last year, the Yankees said they would be willing to remove the limitations and allow him to reach 200 innings.
It is our belief those pitchers with between 40-70 career starts -- starting pitchers roughly in their third season -- have survived the learning curve and are now conditioned to reach Fantasy ace status -- especially in relation to a full season of starts (30-plus) and innings (200-plus). It is those arms -- ones we have yet to see a full season from -- that can provide the best bang for their buck on Draft Day.
Joba's time would be now, if only we could be sure he can beat out Hughes.
We break down 10 other top starting pitcher breakout candidates for 2010 in the category of 40-70 career starts, roughly their third season as starters. The pitcher's positioning in the top 10 below is not an actual ranking as much as a projected ability to outperform their draft position. To view the actual ranking of the third-year starting pitchers 1-25, see the in-line chart.
To get our review of last year's third-year starting pitcher class, click here.
1. Clayton Kershaw
Left-hander | L.A. Dodgers | Age 22
Kershaw is why teams make rules and impose limits on pitchers. The Dodgers just couldn't risk blowing his arm out, despite needing to rush him to the majors to help in a pennant race.
The flamethrowing lefty tossed a career-high 171 innings last year, going 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA and 185 strikeouts in the regular season and added 13 1/3 innings in the postseason. That is 184 1/3 total innings. The next step, 200 and Fantasy acedom.
With a suspect rotation now in L.A., manager Joe Torre will ask Kershaw to help Chad Billingsley carry the load. Kershaw will be drafted around the 25th starting pitcher, but his .226 career batting-average against suggests he can perform like a top 10 option.
You have to figure with 200 innings, he can strike out 220 ... maybe even 250 batters. And there will be no way he is held under double-digits in wins. He could win 20, perhaps.
This is a huge year for Kershaw. Pay the premium for him.
2. Yovani Gallardo
Right-hander | Milwaukee Brewers | Age 24
After debuting in 2007 and suffering nearly a full-season knee injury in 2008, Gallardo went 13-12 with 3.73 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 185 2/3 innings last year. With 51 career starts, he is ready to go over 200 innings. He and Kershaw should be making significant strides among the league leaders in strikeouts.
Those two have the lowest BAA among those in the third-year starting pitcher categories. They are the toughest to hit.
Gallardo will be a tough get on Draft Day, too, but he is going after the top 15 starting pitchers in CBSSports.com's current Draft Averages. With the Brewers, backed by Ryan J. Braun and Prince Fielder, Gallardo can be a Cy Young award candidate.
3. Johnny Cueto
Right-hander | Cincinnati Reds | Age 24
The Reds could have had two pitchers in our top 10, if not for Edinson Volquez being out until the second half with Tommy John elbow surgery. Cueto is healthy, though, and he should be ready to improve on his career high 174 innings.
There are times Cueto looks like one of the best young arms in baseball. But, despite getting picked after the top 50 starting pitchers on CBSSports.com right now, he could be a top 15 Fantasy flamethrower if he finally puts it all together.
In fact, the third-year starting pitcher can finally reach 200 innings, pass 200 strikeouts and post an ERA and WHIP on the level of any starter in the majors.
4. Francisco Liriano
Left-hander | Minnesota Twins | Age 26
|10||Jonathan O. Sanchez||27|
Liriano has spent parts of three seasons in the majors already, but his start total of 58 leaves him in the third-year starting pitcher breakout category. We saw a dominant Liriano in 2006, but he hasn't been the same since Tommy John surgery.
Reports out of winter league ball had his velocity back to the mid-90s and his slider back to its pre-injury form, though. With more than a strikeout per inning in his career, Liriano can be unleashed for 30-plus starts for the first time and post 200-plus strikeouts.
He figures to remain on the board after the top 40 starters and has the potential to finish in the top 15.
5. Kevin Slowey
Right-hander | Minnesota Twins | Age 25
Like Liriano, Slowey has spent three seasons in the majors already, albeit an injury-plagued year in 2009. With 54 career starts, he figures to reach 200 innings and will do it for a big-time contender in Minnesota.
That team will win a lot of games with the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and company. Slowey has already proven to be a big winner in his brief career, leading all third-year starting pitchers with a career .634 winning percentage (26-15).
Although Target Field looks like it could be hitter-friendly, Slowey won't hurt himself with walks (category-low 1.42 walks per nine) and will post a strong WHIP to go with all those victories.
6. Jonathan O. Sanchez
Left-hander | San Francisco Giants | Age 27
Sanchez has started 29 games each of the past two seasons, his first full years as a starter, and has yet to reach 180 innings. While that is mostly due to pitch counts and wild streaks, Sanchez did toss a no-hitter last year, giving us a glimpse of how good the lefty can be.
He can pitch a no-hitter one start -- and has -- and alternately get abused -- he has.
Left-handers notoriously mature more slowly, and at age 27, Sanchez might finally be ready to put a full season together. Around 200 strikeouts and 15 victories is not out of the question and you should be able to get Sanchez after the top 75 starting pitchers are off the board. A lot of potential return here for such a late pick.
|Melchior (5/23) | White (5/16) | Melchior (5/12)|
7. Brandon McCarthy
Right-hander | Texas Rangers | Age 26
Despite being just 26, McCarthy has seemingly been around forever. He has pitched in parts of five seasons already but has made just 56 career starts and has a career-high innings total of around 100.
McCarthy has unrealized potential and would be a nice sleeper if he makes the Rangers' rotation. That is still a big if, especially considering his injury history. He might not be ready for 200 innings, but 160-180 will be enough to make him a nice buy in AL-only formats.
8. Max Scherzer
Right-hander | Detroit Tigers | Age 25
Scherzer has a year and a half in the majors, some as a reliever, so we are cheating a little putting his name on the list. He falls just under 40 career starts (37), but he will reach that number early this season and is due to approach 200 innings.
The Tigers have not held back their young arms, evidenced by Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. Scherzer will strike out more than a batter per inning and with 200 innings will be a decent buy after the top 40 starters are off the board.
9. Homer Bailey
Right-hander | Cincinnati Reds | Age 23
Bailey, like Scherzer, has just 37 career starts, so he is technically not in the category, but he has pitched parts of three seasons with the Reds and finally is ready to turn the corner on his career.
For years he had been a great arm, no results pitching phenom and in September last season, he found it, going 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA and .250 BAA. As clear as his results were down the stretch, he was also picking up lost velocity, which sets him up to be a big-time sleeper on Draft Day. Most everyone by now has heard the hype on Bailey and seen the struggles. They might have overlooked the late-season turnaround.
Consider Bailey an outstanding sleeper after the top 70 Fantasy starting pitchers are off the board. He could be a surprise 15-game winner with a sub-4.00 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning.
10. Chris Volstad
Right-hander | Florida Marlins | Age 23
Volstad is not assured of a rotation spot with the Marlins, but we have to figure he is conditioned to win a spot at this point. He is a lot better than his second half (3-5, 6.79 ERA and .330 BAA) suggests and should be closer to his first-half self (6-8, 4.44, .251).
Consider him a sleeper in deeper leagues on Draft Day, but don't count on him as one of your starting five in a 12-team mixed league. He has potential, though, and will be useful when he is going well and the matchups are right.
He is a nice late-round option in NL-only leagues right now that could prove to be a double-digit winner for mixed formats by the end of this season.
The following sortable stats feature starting pitchers with 40-70 career starts. Like 27-year-olds, it is our suggestion you highlight these guys on your cheatsheets and target them periodically during your draft because they have the potential to surprise and outproduce their draft position.
|Third-year starting pitcher stats|
|Kershaw, Clayton||3/19/1988||53||51||278 2/3||13||13||.500||3.36||285||9.20||143||4.62||1.331||.226|
|Tejeda, Robinson||3/24/1982||123||53||373 2/3||20||21||.488||4.53||313||7.54||217||5.23||1.464||.238|
|Hill, Rich J.||3/11/1980||78||70||395 1/3||21||20||.512||4.87||355||8.08||177||4.03||1.356||.242|
|Marcum, Shaun||12/14/1981||89||64||396 2/3||24||17||.585||3.95||314||7.12||141||3.20||1.283||.244|
|Liriano, Francisco||10/26/1983||77||58||357 1/3||24||22||.522||4.16||366||9.22||136||3.43||1.301||.246|
|Sanchez, Jonathan O.||11/19/1982||121||66||413 1/3||21||30||.412||4.81||429||9.34||214||4.66||1.449||.246|
|Kuroda, Hiroki||2/10/1975||52||51||300 2/3||17||17||.500||3.74||203||6.08||66||1.98||1.187||.249|
|Chamberlain, Joba||9/23/1985||93||43||281 2/3||15||9||.625||3.61||285||9.11||121||3.87||1.374||.250|
|Volquez, Edinson||7/3/1983||62||58||325 2/3||24||19||.558||4.37||308||8.51||167||4.62||1.471||.253|
|McCarthy, Brandon||7/7/1983||110||56||372 2/3||20||24||.455||4.56||251||6.06||142||3.43||1.363||.256|
|McGowan, Dustin||3/24/1982||75||56||353 2/3||20||22||.476||4.71||285||7.25||141||3.59||1.374||.256|
|Reyes, Anthony||10/16/1981||67||52||293 1/3||13||26||.333||5.12||205||6.29||119||3.65||1.377||.256|
|Cueto, Johnny||2/15/1986||61||61||345 1/3||20||25||.444||4.61||290||7.56||129||3.36||1.387||.263|
|Feldman, Scott||2/7/1983||135||56||430 2/3||24||21||.533||4.58||240||5.02||165||3.45||1.391||.265|
|Volstad, Chris||9/23/1986||44||43||243 1/3||15||17||.469||4.40||159||5.88||95||3.51||1.397||.265|
|Marshall, Sean||8/30/1982||134||59||379 2/3||19||29||.396||4.55||270||6.40||149||3.53||1.420||.266|
|Miller, Andrew||5/21/1985||70||47||261 2/3||14||21||.400||5.50||210||7.22||148||5.09||1.659||.279|
|Slowey, Kevin||5/4/1984||56||54||317 2/3||26||15||.634||4.39||245||6.94||50||1.42||1.278||.280|
|Bonser, Boof||10/14/1981||96||60||391 2/3||18||25||.419||5.12||317||7.28||125||2.87||1.448||.281|
|Braden, Dallas||8/13/1983||61||46||280 2/3||14||21||.400||4.68||177||5.68||93||2.98||1.443||.282|
|Hochevar, Luke||9/15/1983||51||48||284 2/3||13||26||.333||5.88||183||5.79||97||3.07||1.468||.284|
|Hill, Shawn||4/28/1981||40||40||218 1/3||8||16||.333||4.95||137||5.65||70||2.89||1.461||.287|
|Laffey, Aaron||4/15/1985||50||44||264 2/3||16||18||.471||4.39||127||4.32||100||3.40||1.500||.288|
|Parra, Manny||10/30/1982||68||58||332 1/3||21||20||.512||5.17||289||7.83||164||4.44||1.652||.288|
|Blackburn, Nick||2/24/1982||72||66||410 2/3||22||24||.478||4.14||202||4.43||82||1.80||1.376||.293|
|Perkins, Glen||3/2/1983||67||43||281 2/3||18||11||.621||4.73||145||4.63||74||2.36||1.431||.293|
|Olson, Garrett||10/18/1983||64||44||245 1/3||13||18||.419||6.46||158||5.80||124||4.55||1.683||.296|
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball pitching questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com.Be sure to put Third-year SPs in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.