« How to Win: WHIP | Main | Fantasy Stars: Bottom of the Third (Round) »

Finding This Year's Starting Pitching Sleepers

Of fantasy baseball's top 36 starting pitchers from 2012 (according to ESPN's Player Rater), 21 of them were drafted outside of the top 100 players (according to Mock Draft Central ADP data from March 2012).  That's a solid 58% of your number three or better fantasy starters, all drafted in the ninth round or later.  What do these guys have in common?  How can we identify them for 2013?

Low Strikeout Guys (Kyle Lohse, Wade Miley, R.A. Dickey, Jason Vargas, Johnny Cueto, Matt Harrison)

All of these pitchers had a K/9 at or below 6.1 in 2011.  It always stings to draft a guy like this, knowing he'll net you just 110-130 Ks and hurt your all-important K/9 in leagues with innings caps.  And since they don't miss bats, these pitchers are always at the mercy of hits allowed.  It's hard to trust strong ratios from these types, though Lohse and Harrison have now done it two years running.  Your best bet among low strikeout starters is to target someone who at least has the stuff for strikeouts and/or has done it in the past, such as Cueto heading into 2012.  Jeremy Hellickson, Ricky Romero, and Wandy Rodriguez are a few examples of pitchers who were players with low K/9s in 2012 who could rebound or take a step forward in that department.  If you're going to draft a low strikeout guy with no real K potential, at least aim for one with great control and a nice groundball rate, like Tim Hudson.

Old Guys (R.A. Dickey, Hiroki Kuroda, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Ryan Vogelsong, Kyle Lohse)

Kuroda, in particular, had to have been going in the 15th round because he was 37 years old.  The others had additional issues, whereas Kuroda's biggest secondary concern was a move to the AL East.  Fantasy owners still don't trust him, as he's going in the 14th.  All of these players can still be had outside of the top 100 picks with the exception of Dickey, who at 91 still has one of the higher ADPs you'll see for a reigning Cy Young award winner.  I'd take a shot with him at that spot.

Bad Ratio Guys (A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Jason Vargas, Max Scherzer, Homer Bailey, Gio Gonzalez, Jonathon Niese)

In a league where only 70-odd starting pitchers are drafted, it's hard to feel good about taking someone coming off a season in which he had an ERA around five or a WHIP over 1.40.  Heck, Alex McCrum was just telling you that even a WHIP in the 1.20s isn't anything special these days.

That's where an ERA estimator like SIERA comes in.  Niese posted a tidy 3.42 SIERA against a 4.40 ERA in 2011, and sure enough, his ERA came down the following year.  Based on 2012 numbers, SIERA gives love to Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Jeff Samardzija, Alex Cobb, Dillon Gee, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Pat Corbin, Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Jackson, and Ian Kennedy.  There are some very talented pitchers in that list who are going late in part because of ERAs around 4.00 in 2012.  SIERA didn't love the 2012 seasons from Jon Lester, Tim Lincecum, Mike Minor, or Derek Holland, but they're also intriguing bounceback or breakout candidates.  

Often a promising player can be on the cusp of fantasy greatness with improvement in one area, like Gio Gonzalez dropping his walk rate from 4.1 to 3.4 per nine in 2012.  Maybe this year we'll see better control from Edinson Volquez, Yu Darvish, Matt Moore, or Felix Doubront, taking them to the next level.

Guys Coming Back From Injuries (Jonathon Niese, Homer Bailey, Jake Peavy, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Kris Medlen)

Niese missed time in 2011 due to an intercostal strain, so there was never a concern about his arm.  Peavy and Bailey were coming off much more serious issues entering 2012, so the fact that they held up comes as a surprise.  But as Wainwright, Zimmermann, and Medlen reminded us, full recovery from Tommy John surgery is commonplace.  Zimmermann's TJ procedure actually took place in August of '09, but entering the 2012 season he was still being drafted in the 11th round perhaps because of the innings cap he'd been under in '11.

Players returning from injury, carrying an injury-prone reputation, or just coming off an injury-shortened season that you may consider rolling the dice on for 2013 include C.J. Wilson, Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow, Josh Johnson, Brett Anderson, Scott Baker, Derek Holland, Matt Garza, Josh Beckett, Tommy Hanson, Andrew Cashner, and Tommy John survivors Brandon Beachy (potential late June return), Cory Luebke (late May return), Daniel Hudson (July), and Felipe Paulino (July).

Unproven Guys (Ryan Vogelsong, Kris Medlen, Wade Miley, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Chris Sale)

These six top 36 fantasy starters fell outside the top 100 players chosen heading into the 2012 season mostly because they lacked strong track records of big league success.  Some, such as Darvish and Sale, came with fantastic pedigrees, while a guy like Medlen wasn't supposed to be this good.  Medlen, Lynn, and even Sale weren't locks to hold down starting jobs in 2012.

For 2013, the unproven bracket includes Aroldis Chapman, Matt Harvey, Hisashi Iwakuma, Dylan Bundy, Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Shelby Miller, Tyler Skaggs, and a host of others.  But beware: while Matt Moore was pretty good fantasy-wise in 2012, he was drafted before more proven commodities like Gio Gonzalez, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, and Max Scherzer, and that was a mistake.  I'm curious if hype will push Chapman down from his current 131 ADP to something closer to the 100 range.

Perhaps the real sleepers among starting pitchers don't come until the first 150 players are off the board.  Given that restriction, here are my top five for 2013:

  1. Lance Lynn.  Lynn throws hard, he's in his prime, and he got into better shape over the offseason.  I expect him to build upon his success from 2012, with the only threat being the Cardinals' rotation depth.
  2. Homer Bailey.  You can grab Bailey in the 14th round for a reason: no one knows if he can handle a 200 inning workload again.  But entering his age 27 season following a strong second half, I'll take my chances.
  3. Tim Lincecum.  I'll feel better about Timmy if just a little bit of that velocity comes back.  But to add value in the 17th round, Lincecum doesn't need to strike out 250 or win another Cy.  If he can provide those same 190 Ks with decent ratios, that would be acceptable in this draft position.
  4. Jason Hammel.  I believe that Hammel really did turn a corner last year with the O's.  Can he top the 180 inning mark for the first time?  Does it matter, when you grab him in the 24th round?
  5. Ivan Nova.  Most likely, you will be able to grab Nova for a bench spot, that's how down on him people are after a 7.05 ERA in the second half.  But the peripherals still looked good, and he should be entering his prime.

Full Story |  Comments (0) | Categories: Starters

Site Map     Contact     About     Advertise     Privacy Policy     MLB Trade Rumors     Rss Feed