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First Half Fantasy Stars - Pitching

David Price should be a top-10 fantasy starter for the next 5-7 years.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is more than one way to be a fantasy superstar. Roy Halladay is a fantasy stud because while it takes a top pick to get him, he's as reliable a starter as there is today.

But you can also be a fantasy star if you play well above what fantasy owners expected from you back in April. Of course, you have to produce for more than the first three months, so today we will evaluate some of the fantasy "superstars" of the first half to see if they can continue at their new production level.

Since we don't have any questions about whether Halladay, C.C. Sabathia and those like them can continue to produce, I'll be concentrating on the unexpected first half producers. None of the players listed below were drafted before the 12th round and most were selected after the 17th round.

Lets look at them a little closer.

Tampa Bay's David Price, the No.1 selection in the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt, has always had the talent. In his second full season as a starter, Price has lowered his ERA by two runs-per-game and his WHIP from 1.35 to 1.20. He should be a top-10 fantasy starter for the next 5-7 years and as a 12th- round selection could be in the running for "Best Bargain." If you are lucky enough to have him on your roster in a keeper league, he should be an "untouchable."

After being "MIA" for the Mets and Boston in 2009, Billy Wagner has returned to be the best closer in baseball not named Mariano Rivera. The difference is that while Rivera would have cost you a seventh-round pick back in April (ADP 83), Wagner was selected in the 15th round (ADP 181). At least for one year, they are putting up similar numbers.

Jeff Niemann, like Price, is one of those young, talented Tampa Bay hurlers in his second season as a full-time starter. What makes this 2004 first round selection less desirable than Price is a slightly lower strikeout-per-nine innings ratio. By the way, he's only owned in 84% of all leagues, so it might be worth a look to see if he's a free agent in your league because there is about a one-in-six chance that he is.

After suffering through elbow problems in 2009 which allowed him to pitch just 42.1 innings, many fantasy owners ignored Tim Hudson on Draft Day. That was a huge mistake as Hudson has rebounded with a stellar first half. As long as he stays healthy, there is no reason he can't duplicate the effort after the All- Star break. Hudson is also available in almost 20% of all leagues, so you should check the free agent list.

Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes got a "second chance" at starting this spring and has taken full advantage of the opportunity. After disappointing Yankees fans and fantasy owners in 2007 (5-3 4.46 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) and 2008 (0-4 6.62 ERA, 1.71 WHIP), Hughes has become the pitcher everyone was expecting when he was drafted in the first round of the 2004 major league draft. His ERA is still the highest of anyone on this list, but a solid strikeout ratio (8.11-per-nine innings) and a great won-loss record makes him a keeper in any league.

Mat Latos of the San Diego Padres didn't show much in 10 starts last season, going 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA and a high 1.30 WHIP. So it was no surprise that he was passed over in most April drafts. However, fantasy owners made up for the error by quickly picking him up and he's likely owned in your league at this point. He's showing no signs of slowing down with an ERA of 0.00 over his last two starts, but given that he's never pitched more than 72.1 innings in his professional career, you have to beware of his "hitting the wall." If you see a three or four consecutive bad outings, it could indicate a time for Latos to be traded.

A second Yankees pitched made the list - Andy Pettitte. Pettitte had been a solid fantasy pitcher from 1995-2006, but a high ERA and WHIP over the last four years has made him a "borderline starter." He's been much more than that in 2010 with his best ERA and WHIP since 2005. Since his numbers have historically been better in the second half than first, he should be an anchor for your pitching staff the rest of the way.

St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia had Tommy John surgery in 2009, so bypassing him in drafts was expected. But Garcia has been spectacular this season, going 8-4 with an ERA of 2.17. Only once in 17 starts has he yielded more than three earned runs. He throws a wide variety of breaking balls which is confusing hitters. He's owned in 82% of all leagues. Just beware that its barely over a year since major surgery.

Colby Lewis had shown nothing over the past two seasons (with Detroit and Oakland) to indicate that he could pitch this well. In 17 starts this year, he's won eight games with an ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.12. Playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, his numbers probably can't go much lower, but his 8.54 strikeouts-per-nine innings should make him a valuable asset. Add in the potent Texas lineup and he should continue to win games. If you picked him up you have been rewarded handsomely and he's still available in around 25% of all leagues.

Oakland A's starter Trevor Cahill wasn't drafted in most leagues, but after posting nine wins in the first half, for a team which has just 43 total wins, is pretty good for this second-year player. He wasn't "fantasy-worthy" last season going 10-13 with an ERA of 4.63 and a WHIP of 1.44, but drastic improvement in all categories explains why his ownership level is up to 63%. With the "small sample size" it's still a question as to which pitcher is the "real" Trevor Cahill, but if you need help today, he could probably improve your lineup.

2010 Selected Pitchers Statistics
Player Team W L SV BS IP ER K ERA WHIP ADP
David Price TB 12 4 0 0 115.1 31 100 2.42 1.20 151
Billy Wagner ATL 5 0 20 1 37.1 5 56 1.21 0.86 181
Jeff Niemann TB 7 2 0 0 117.0 36 84 2.77 1.09 196
Tim Hudson ATL 9 4 0 0 121.1 31 61 2.30 1.13 215
Phil Hughes NYY 11 2 0 0 101.0 41 91 3.65 1.18 226
Mat Latos SD 10 4 0 0 106.2 29 99 2.45 0.97 257
Andy Pettitte NYY 11 2 0 0 113.1 34 87 2.70 1.15 336
Jamie Garcia STL 8 4 0 0 99.2 24 80 2.17 1.25 336
Colby Lewis TEX 8 5 0 0 110.2 41 105 3.33 1.12 343
Trevor Cahill OAK 9 3 0 0 95.0 31 63 1.94 1.03 350


Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.