It's nice to see that one reader, Lefty, already wants me sent to the booby hatch. He thinks I have Roger Clemens too low, that I've disrespected Scott Kazmir and Jeremy Bonderman by putting them below Felix Hernandez and that Carlos Zambrano belongs above teammate Mark Prior. My blogging partner also likes Zambrano and Kazmir more than I. And he loves Zach Duke.
Well, allow me to retort.
I had Clemens at 50 only because he hasn't said he'll pitch this year. If he returns in May, I'd probably slot him into the top 20-25. I've seen him go as high as the ninth and 10th rounds in some mixed drafts, which I think is high for an unknown quantity who probably won't pitch a full season. But Clemens is still great, no doubt about that.
I can see the point about Zambrano. He's certainly outpitched Prior the last two years. I just can't shake the feeling that he'll break down after all those innings at age 22-24. Hope I'm wrong. I also can't forget Prior's 2003, when he looked like Tom Seaver with his awesome strikeout rate and terrific control.
I have to disagree with Lefty's suggestion that Bonderman and Kazmir are the two best young pitchers in the A.L. I like Bonderman but he hasn't shown he can overpower major league hitters. Kazmir does get the ball by hitters but he walked nearly five batters a game last year. He'll have to improve his control drastically to be an ace and though I think he might do it, I don't think he'll get all the way there this year. Hernandez, by contrast, has pretty good control already. You can't ignore minor-league stats in judging him and considering the whole picture, I think he has more star potential than Bonderman or Kazmir.
As for Dave's buddy Duke, I think he'll be an above-average starter for the next five years. But I don't see a lot of superstar potential because he didn't overwhelm hitters, even in Double-A and Triple-A. That 1.81 ERA was a fluke. Expect something between 3.50 and 4.00 this year.