I went with Wang in this spot because he has seniority over Burnett with regards to his time with the Yankees. They could really go either way on this one. Burnett probably makes more sense I guess.
Yankees- Chien-Ming Wang- Wang had a very dissapointing 2008. It wasn't just his injury either that bothers me. His RCA was a very high 5.02 in his 86 innings. This is out of line with what he did the year before (4.38 in 184 innings) and the year before that (4.32 in 200 innings) where he established himself as a good pitcher who had no business pretending to be an ace. An interesting note about Wang is his consistenly low HR/FB%. This is generally attributed to luck but some pitchers do have a talent for it. Usually GB pitchers or soft tossing control guys. If Wang is one of these rare guys then RCA would underrate him. Hopefully, 20008 was just an outlier in a small sample size and he`ll go back to being the solid innings eater he always has been. If Wang could just work on his sider and start striking guys out though.....
Red Sox- Jon Lester- A year ago I laughed when my cousin compared him to Phil Hughes. I regret that. 2008 was essentially his first full year so that's all I`m going to go on. It was very good to. Not quite what his ERA would indicate but a 4.39 RCA in 199 innings is pretty damn good for a 24 year old who already has had to deal with cancer. He`s going to fall off a lot from his 2008 but anybody would still love to have him on their team. I also think their's a good chance he`s going to get hurt. He took a pretty huge jump in innings pitched from 2007 to 2008. He`s going to start hitting his peak years in the next year or two and then we really have to start worrying. If he could strike out a few more guys he`d be scary.
Rays- Scott Kazmir- Last year the former Met basically gave up on his slider in exchange for a more straightforward fastball/changeup combo. This isn't a sudden change either. Over the past three years he went from throwing his slider about 29 percent of the time in 2006 to about 10 percent last year. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Its not working. He had a 4.05 RCA in 151 innings last year. That's really good but not even close to 2007 (3.23 in 212 innings) or 2006 (3.39 in 146 innings). Before 2008 Kazmir was better than anybody in the division not named Sabathia. If he could get his injuries under control that would also help him a ton. My guess is that he`s going to stick with the fastball/changeup since his ERA was as good as ever last year. However, he`s not going to be the pitcher he should be.
Conclusion- Rays- Red Sox- Yankees- Even a diminished Kazmir is still well above Wang or Lester. Wang and Lester are almost to close to call though. I went with Lester in the end because he`s younger wtih a better chance of improvement. 2008 also has to be somewhat concerning for Yankees fans. Plus, Wang has a bit of an injury history. It could break either way here. If Kazmir can regain his form of a year or two ago then Shields-Kazmir could be a really scary 1-2 punch. Like Sabathia-Sheets was last year.