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That's a line you could just hear Jerry Seinfeld saying, and perhaps that's fitting. After all, it might be about as difficult for fantasy owners to get a read on Brett Anderson as it was for the comedian to crack open that confounding bag of airline peanuts.
|Brett Anderson pitched well in 2010 -- when healthy.|
Health, health and health, and all directed at his elbow, which, again, landed him on the disabled list for a combined 91 days last season. That is not an injury to scoff at, especially not in a season when another young starter, Adam Wainwright, has already succumbed to Tommy John surgery, and six months after one of the game's most promising young pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, went under the knife.That's not to say that Anderson is destined to be the next pitcher headed to the operating table, but the warning signs are there. He battled forearm trouble during spring training in 2009, an injury that at the time threatened his chances at earning a rotation spot as a rookie. Forearm problems often portend future elbow or shoulder issues, and Anderson's health didn't move in the right direction in 2010. Another concern: While Anderson surged to a 2.59 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in a 12-start stint to close last season, his strikeout rate plummeted to 6.13. He wasn't quite as overpowering a pitcher as he was during the first year-plus of his big league career, and one can only wonder whether the elbow had anything to do with it. Along those lines, Anderson's average fastball velocity, per Fangraphs.com, dropped from 92.6 mph as a rookie to 92.1 as a sophomore, his swinging-strike percentage dropped from 7.4 to 6.3, and opposing hitters' contact rate on all swings rose from 82.8 to 84.5 percent. He was not exactly overpowering, his success perhaps more a product of his craftiness. That 6.13 K's-per-nine ratio in his final two months underscores Anderson's downside in the event that he stays healthy all year; of the 28 qualified starters to strike out fewer than 6.20 batters per nine in 2010, only four had an ERA beneath 3.50. FIPs (Fielding Independent Pitching score) are typically north of 4.00 for such pitchers; two from that group had a FIP beneath 4.00, and not one under 3.87. And what of the worst-case scenario? Ask those who drafted Wainwright early. A season lost to a significant elbow injury isn't out of the question. So which side carries the greater weight? Again, it's going to come down to how risk-averse you are. In a season when we've already seen two top-20 starters lost to injury -- Wainwright for the year and Zack Greinke for at least his first three turns -- it's understandable if fantasy owners are concerned about Anderson's downside. Whispers of health questions surrounding Francisco Liriano (shoulder), Johnny Cueto (forearm) and Wandy Rodriguez (shoulder) don't help ease concerns. But here's a thought: What pitcher isn't a risk to get injured these days? Considering the fact that any hurler you pick comes with some degree of health risk, Anderson isn't a pitcher you should avoid outright. He's being selected 32nd on average among starting pitchers in ESPN live drafts, and 127th overall (ADP: 134.6), which isn't bad considering that on talent he could exceed the performance of a Tim Hudson, Matt Garza or Jonathan Sanchez, all of whom are being picked ahead of him. Certainly Anderson shouldn't last much longer in drafts than his current ADP. Anderson could be a serious boon for your fantasy squad. Just keep your fingers crossed if you pick him. Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and a two-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) experts league. You can e-mail him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.