Free Agent Stock Watch: Rising Starting Pitchers

Josh Johnson, Matt Garza, Tim Lincecum, and Roy Halladay were part of our most recent Free Agent Power Rankings, but here's a look at starting pitchers who had good Aprils but didn't make the cut for that list.

  • Ervin Santana.  Santana, 30, is showing the best control of his career with the Royals so far.  He probably won't continue to strand 90% of his baserunners, but perhaps this will be his best season since his All-Star '08 campaign.
  • Hiroki Kuroda.  The 38-year-old elected to take a one-year, $15MM deal with the Yankees in lieu of multiyear offers.  After five starts, he's replicated last year's success but with a lower batting average on balls in play and home run per flyball rate.  We don't know what Kuroda's next move will be, but he's shown a willingness to leave some money on the table for the right situation.
  • A.J. Burnett.  Burnett's Pirates success has continued, as he leads the NL in strikeout rate.  However, walks are up and groundballs down a bit.  The 36-year-old could retire after the season, but otherwise prefers staying in Pittsburgh.  
  • Jorge De La Rosa.  After having Tommy John surgery in June 2011 and making only three big league starts last year, De La Rosa exercised his $11MM player option.  His pre-surgery strikeout rate has yet to return, but he has managed a 2.86 ERA.
  • Paul Maholm.  With one ugly outing against the Tigers last time out, Maholm's ERA jumped from 1.03 to 3.30.  If strikeouts remain up he could still have his best season, as he's shown the ability to get groundballs and limit walks at various points.
  • Bartolo Colon.  Colon has walked one batter in 32 innings this year, the best rate in the American League.  The 39-year-old earned a 50-game suspension for testosterone last summer.
  • Jason Hammel.  Hammel's sub-4.00 ERA is nice, but last year's big strikeout and groundball rates have vanished.  If he maintains his current peripherals, Hammel projects as a 5.00 ERA guy, so something needs to change.
  • Ricky Nolasco.  It's a similar story for Nolasco, who at least for once has an ERA better than his peripherals would suggest.
  • Andy Pettitte.  The 40-year-old stumbled yesterday against the Astros, but he's doing a lot of things right and it should be another strong season if he stays healthy.  There's an assumption that Pettitte will either return to the Yankees or retire again.
  • Roberto Hernandez.  His 5.28 ERA isn't much to look at, but Hernandez's 3.41 SIERA is a better measure of his skills so far.  I don't think 24% of his flyballs will continue to leave the yard, and he's flashing a nice strikeout rate, so Hernandez is one to watch.
  • Phil Hughes.  Hughes' ERA still sits at 4.67, but he's made three consecutive quality starts and has the seventh-best K/BB ratio in the American League.  Home runs will remain a problem.  At just 27 in June, Hughes will be one of the younger free agents out there.  

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