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What The Top Starters Have In Common

I looked at the top 20 starters being drafted (Masahiro Tanaka aside), and found a few basic thresholds most of them met in 2013.  I found that most struck out at least 21% of the batters they faced, walked fewer than 8%, and had an average fastball velocity of at least 91 miles per hour.

Only 19 additional pitchers met these criteria in 2013, excluding Matt Harvey.  I've listed them below, along with their draft ranking among SPs and a guess as to why they are not currently in the top 20.

  • Danny Salazar, Indians (45): Salazar was a rookie last year.  His 145 pro innings were a career-high, but the work he did in ten big league starts checks every box.  Salazar may also be slightly under the radar because he never appeared on a Baseball America top 100 prospects list, but as a 14th round pick he's getting decent respect in fantasy leagues.  The 24-year-old could be scary good in 2014 even with an innings cap.  I expect his hype to increase prior to draft day.
  • Kevin Gausman, Orioles (NR): Gausman came with a lot of hype but didn't have good results in his 47 2/3 big league innings as a rookie.  It's just a matter of when he puts it all together at the highest level.  Stash him away.
  • James Paxton, Mariners (NR): It's only a four start Major League sample, and the southpaw scuffled at Triple-A.  His talent is through the roof, but expect some ups and downs in 2014.
  • Homer Bailey, Reds (31): I'm not too sure why Bailey would last into the 11th round in many leagues.  He's put health concerns behind him, and I'd surely take him over Jon Lester.
  • Shelby Miller, Cardinals (22): Miller has only one full season under his belt, and the Cardinals notoriously backed off him in the postseason after he slipped quite a bit in the second half.  He feels fairly dangerous in the ninth round.
  • Derek Holland, Rangers (53): Holland's recent microfracture knee surgery will keep him out of action until midseason.  A few months into the season he might be a good DL stash. 
  • Michael Wacha, Cardinals (30): Wacha had a dominant postseason, but before that had only 64 2/3 big league innings under his belt.  Bailey, drafted around the same time, is a more proven commodity.
  • Corey Kluber, Indians (61): Kluber's 3.85 ERA wasn't amazing, and he hadn't done much prior to his 147 1/3 big league innings in 2013.  As you get past the 15th round, he's a solid sleeper.
  • Sonny Gray, Athletics (40): Gray checks off all the boxes but has only 64 regular season innings to his name.  As a 13th round pick, his price seems appropriate.
  • Josh Johnson, Padres (NR): A season lost to injuries and a 6.20 ERA will keep Johnson off many draft boards, but as yours winds down, take a chance to see if he can give you 25 good starts as a Padre. You've got little to lose.
  • Mat Latos, Reds (29):  Latos continues to be very good but not amazing.  I'd feel good about grabbing him in the 10th round as my second starter.
  • Scott Kazmir, Athletics (NR): Mostly out of the Majors since 2010, Kazmir burst back onto the scene with a 4.04 ERA in 158 innings for the Tribe.  A 3.50 ERA and lots of strikeouts could be around the corner, especially with Oakland.
  • Johnny Cueto, Reds (35): A lat strain limited Cueto to just 11 regular season starts, pushing hi to the 11th round this year.
  • Jenrry Mejia, Mets (NR): Mejia, 24, made five big league starts this year and only six more in the minors.  He had elbow problems all year, culminating in August surgery to remove a bone spur.  He's worth monitoring this spring.
  • Josh Beckett, Dodgers (NR): Beckett was limited to eight starts due to a groin strain and nerve irritation in his right hand and arm.  He had surgery in July and has a shot at the Dodgers' fifth starter job in 2014 assuming they don't sign Tanaka.  Like Josh Johnson, he's a good candidate to stash late if he looks good in spring.
  • Julio Teheran, Braves (33): Plenty of love for Teheran, who authored a breakout rookie campaign.  As an 11th round type, I think he's priced appropriately.
  • David Hale, Braves (NR): With only two starts for the Braves, Hale is here because of a tiny sample.  The 26-year-old didn't post great peripherals in the minors, and doesn't need to be on your radar.
  • Will Smith, Brewers (NR): Smith pitched mostly in relief for the Royals last year and was traded to the Brewers this winter.  Consider him a deep sleeper, one to keep an eye on if he earns a rotation spot.
  • Alex Cobb, Rays (27): Cobb was limited to 22 starts, suffering a concussion in June.  His control was a bit off upon his return, but his tenth round ADP is reasonable.

Will any of these pitchers be drafted in the top 20 a year from now?  Let us know your favorites in the comments.  

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