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A Look Back At My Top Five Starting Pitching Sleepers

In February last year, I provided an in-depth look at potential starting pitching sleepers for the upcoming season.  I suggested that the real sleepers don't come until pick #150 or later, and listed these guys as my top five:

  1. Lance Lynn
  2. Homer Bailey
  3. Tim Lincecum
  4. Jason Hammel
  5. Ivan Nova

Lynn increased his innings total by about 15%, and despite a mild drop in his strikeout rate, he still provided 198 Ks overall.  His strikeout total ranked 15th in baseball, a nice find for a guy being drafted in the 19th round last year.  Lynn also won a helpful 15 games.  However, he was a negative in ERA and WHIP, with 3.97 and 1.31 respectively.  Ultimately, he was a nice guy to have at the back of your rotation given his draft price.  There's not much out there in terms of mock drafts at this point, but I think Lynn's draft round will remain reasonable in 2014.  He still works at 92-93 and has yet to turn 27, so upside remains and he seems unappreciated.  If he finds a way to curb his walks against left-handed hitters, he could have a breakout year.

Bailey went in the 14th round last year because 2012 was the first time he exceeded 132 big league innings in a season, with 208.  Bailey quieted health concerns in 2013 by pitching 209 innings.  He also bumped his strikeout and groundball rates, becoming a top 20 fantasy starter.  I expect big things again from him in 2014, which would result in a huge free agent payday.  We'll have to see where Bailey's draft position falls to determine how much upside he has in fantasy, but he has all the traits of a strong #2 starter on your staff.

A 17th round pick, Lincecum's season resembled Lynn's with fewer wins.  He provided the expected 190 Ks, but not much else.  If his ERA drops back under 4.00 this year it wouldn't surprise me, but I find him unlikely to help your ratios.  Lynn has more upside.

Hammel was a bust, with 2012's strikeouts and groundballs disappearing.  As a 24th rounder, you didn't need to invest much to get him, but if you ran him out there for a few months, your ratios took a hit.  Currently a free agent, if Hammel lands in a comfy NL situation and/or with a good pitching coach, I'd snag him in the endgame and stash him on the bench to see how he looks.

Nova appeared to be a bust, getting optioned to Triple-A in late May.  Upon his return, he posted a 2.70 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 116 2/3 innings, solidifying his spot in the Yankees' rotation for 2014.  His groundball and walk rates were interesting, but a 6.94 K/9 since his return didn't do much for me.  His K rate was over 8 in June and July, but down to 6.1 thereafter.  I can definitely see a sub-4.00 ERA in 2014, but projections call for an unimpressive strikeout rate around 7.0.  You can't afford to have too many lower strikeout types in your rotation, especially if you have an innings cap.  I'll need to see his draft round after he posted a 3.10 ERA in a season abbreviated by a minors stint and a few injuries.

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