There are two rare breeds of pitcher: The relief pitcher (RP) with starting pitcher (SP) eligibility, and the SP with RP eligibility. These players can provide a ton of pitcher flexibility in daily H2H matchups. They can be especially helpful in those leagues that use holds or saves, as having a holds-getting or save-getting RP that can slide into the SP slot gives you an advantage in those two categories.
Johan Santana had RP/SP eligibility when he broke into the league back in 2004. Two years ago, Brett Myers was a mostly reliable SP/RP guy. Hong-Chih Kuo and Taylor Buchholtz were two of the more solid duel-eligible pitchers last year. Little known Leo Nunez was getting holds and had good ratios early in the season before suffering an injury. Starting pitchers Justin Duchscherer and Chad Billingsley also rocked their dual eligibility in 2008. So the question is, who are the top RP/SP eligible players of 2009?
Note: The default eligibility setting varies depending on game provider. For example, Y! leagues need three starts to gain SP eligibility and five relief appearances to gain RP eligibility, while for CBS leagues, the default setting is for ten starts and fifteen relief appearances. I decided to cast a wider net and included any pitcher that had at least three starts and five relief appearances. I also included a few pitchers that seem likely to become dual eligible early in the 2009 season.
RPs with SP Eligibility
(Note: Click on image to see version that is readable by human eyes.)
08 SP / RP: number of starts / relief appearances in the 2008 season
08 HLD / SV: number of holds / saves in the 2008 season
WHIP: walk + hits / innings pitched
K/BB: strikeout to walk ratio
BB/9: walks per nine innings
K/9: strikeouts per nine innings
FB MPH: the speed of the pitcher’s fastball in miles per hour
1. Hong-Chih Kuo: The ultimate goal is to find a duel-eligible pitcher that has a low WHIP (below 1.30), high K/BB (above 2.00), low BB/9 (below 3.00), and high K/9 (above 7.00). The only duel-eligible relief pitcher that checks all those boxes is Kuo. He is the ideal RP/SP candidate, as he has great ratios, gets lots of strikeouts, will get holds, and is probably second in line to Jonathan Broxton for the closer’s role. His injury history is nervous-making, but it is undeniable that he is king of this small pool of potentially useable RP/SP eligible relief pitchers. He is most likely the only dual eligible relief pitcher worth drafting.
2. Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva should continue to pitch mostly relief with a few spot starts. I’ve always found him to be rather uninspiring, but others swear by him. You could do worse. And if you believe that this will be the year Trevor Hoffman implodes, Villanueva might be first in line for the closer job.
3. Boof Bonser: In 2008, Boof got into a bit of a groove once he was moved to the pen, as he had an 11/36 BB/K ratio in 36 innings after the All Star break. UPDATE (2/24/09): Boof is going under the knife and it is possible he will miss the entire 2009 season.
4. Dennis Sarfate: Sarfate played most of the 2008 season with injuries sustained in an April car-door-slamming accident. He throws some real heat, and so perhaps a healthy Sarfate will get his command issues under control and turn some heads in Spring Training. There is a super outside chance he might close. Triva: Sarfate can be typed entirely with the left hand.
5. Justin Masterson: The Red Sox have yet to decide if Masterson will be a starter or a reliever in 2009. My guess is that he will be in the bullpen, as the Red Sox already have seven or eight starting pitchers.
6. Ramon Ramirez: Ramirez (the one on the Reds) pitched well in limited action in 2008. While it is possible that he makes the 2009 starting rotation, my hunch is that he’ll be coming out of the pen. He is not sure thing, but he’s worth adding to your “players to watch” list.
7. Jeff Bennett: Bennett is a fairly boring middle reliever, but he could be worth a roster spot in leagues that have holds as a stat category.
Note: As I mentioned in a prior post, Chris Carpenter might be a closer in 2009.
SPs with RP Eligibility
The first four pitchers on this list (Chamberlain, Morrow, Scherzer, and Price) are head and shoulders above the rest of the players on this list. While it is too early to tell if all four of these guys will begin the season in the starting rotation, my guess is that all four of them pitch exclusively as starting pitchers in 2009.
It is difficult to estimate the value of the players ranked five through eleven, but you should be watching all of them closely in spring training. Many of them are borderline starters that could very well end up in the pen. For example, early indications are that Sean Marshall will be the fifth starter for the Cubs and that Chad Gaudin will start the year in the pen, but that could change if the Cubs trade for, say, Jake Peavy.
I’ll leave you with a list of all the remaining duel-eligible starting pitchers (click on image to have it open in a new window):