10. Shawn Marcum, Brewers: It is easy to look at the 13 games he has won each of the past two seasons. But, he looked terrible in the postseason, giving up 16 ER in 9 2/3 IP while losing all three postseason starts. It is very easy to overlook him as he pitches in the shadow of Yovanni Gallardo and Zach Grienke. I can see him going 16-10 without any of the pressure of having to be an ace.
9. Ervin Santana, Angels: Lets be honest. Santana is the best 4th starter in baseball and its not even close. The question that should be asked is how a pitcher who has won 16 or more games 3 times in his career and last year pitched to a 3.38 ERA can be under the radar? The addition of CJ Wilson gives the Angels a top three of Jared Weaver, Wilson and Dan Haren. Weaver and Wilson got their contracts and Haren has gotten paid. The Angels failure to make the postseason the past couple of years will put added pressure on the top three in that rotation and make it easy for a guy like Santana to win 18 or more games this season.
8. Chien-Ming Wang, Nationals: We all know that Wang won 19 games for the Yankees in 2006-2007. Since then, after getting off to an 8-2 start in the 2008 season, he has had a fall from grace. He struggled to return to the Yankees in 2009 and missed the entire 2010 season. He made his return to the Washington at the end of 2011, finding his form a little bit towards the end. The Nationals traded for Gio Gonzalez and signed Edwin Jackson as a free agent. Add in highly touted phenom Stephen Strasburg, and Wang is getting no attention in Washington, just like the end of 2011. If the Nationals are an over .500 team, Wang will win about 16 or 17 games for them. If not, he can win 12-13, still a huge step in his comeback from an uncommon injury.
7. Jonathon Niese, Mets: Niese now has a couple of seasons under his belt and will only take heat early this season if he struggles. I don't think he will though. There will be some pressure on Johan Santana to come back and contribute immediately, If not, RA Dickey will pitch opening day for the Mets. Niese will have to get over fatigue which has halted his past couple of seasons. But, he has the ability to become an top pitcher. This may be the season he has more strikeouts than innings pitched, which if the first step in becoming a big pitcher. The Mets ability to compete will determine how big of a season Niese has. If the Mets can be .500 or better, I see Niese winning 17 games, if not he should be able to win 14. This will be Niese's breakout season.
6. Joe Blanton, Phillies: Blanton has never really dominated. But, he is on the last year on his contract and playing on a very good team in Philadelphia. There is no reason he can't make 30-33 starts this year. And while Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will be fine, Blanton will be able to accumulate wins, especially early on. On a Phillies team that should win the NL East again this year, I can see Blanton winning 16 games on the walk year of his contract.
5. Travis Wood, Cubs: Pitching his home games in the Great American Ballpark didn't help Wood but neither will Wrigley Field. Wood has exceptional stuff and should slot right into the Cubs rotation. Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster are anchoring this staff in what expects to be another transition year. Wood has ace stuff and it will fly under the radar in Chicago, on a team that should not win a lot. For a guy who has won 11 games in almost two full seasons, I think he can have something like a 14-12 season with like a 3.25 ERA. That will put him up there with some of the top stories and make the Cubs look good in trading him for Sean Marshall.
4. Matt Moore, Rays: He will turn 23 in June, but to this point he has as many postseason wins and more postseason innings pitched than he has in the regular season. This rotation is still anchored by James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. Moore should burst on the scene, similar to Dontrelle Willis, but he has the ability to sustain his success. The Rays will be in the AL East race all season and could win it. Moore will have a lot to do with it and is the favorite for the AL Rookie of the Year. I can see him winning as many as 16 or 17 games, before being rested in September. Otherwise, he could probably come close to 20.
3. Anibal Sanchez, Marlins: I think Sanchez will thrive over not getting the attention that Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson will get. Click on the bottom of this article to read my Sanchez post from yesterday.
2. Roy Oswalt, Free Agent: I have said all along that Oswalt is poised for a big 2012. He is healthy and you can't get any more under the radar if you don't have a team yet. I'd like to see him in Boston, but thats not likely. Out of Cincinnati, Texas and St Louis, I like his fit with the Reds the best. He can easily win 18 games again and that will add stock to his free agency after the season. His 2011 was a down season, but only because he was never fully healthy. He will be discussed when it comes down to the comeback players of the year. The only problem is, we do not know what team or league he will be part of.
1. Michael Pineda, Yankees: Its hard to go under the radar pitching for the Yankees. The Yankees are not doing to slot him in an ace-like position to start the season, but they will for the postseason. He will probably start the year behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kiroda and Ivan Nova. He will thrive in New York, with a team that will score runs. Its a shame he didn't get as much recognition as he deserved last year because the Seattle Mariners offense was the worst in baseball. He can, if he isn't held to an innings limit, win 20 games for the Yankees. He has a high- nineties fastball and a nasty slider that will dominate pitching on a good team.
Other pitchers worth keeping an eye on are Indians RHP Jon Garland, Dodgers RHP Aaron Harang and Orioles RHP Zach Britton, all of whom could put up solid seasons depending on how competitive their teams are.