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The Market Report: Starting Pitchers

The Market Report is a weekly analysis of player valuations in the fantasy marketplace in an effort to find undervalued commodities.

Just about every player has reported to camp at this point. Spring Training games will begin later this week. We really are getting close to Opening Day, I promise. Let's take a look at starting pitchers this week. As usual, ADP values are provided in parentheses.

Tier One

1. Clayton Kershaw (7)

2. Yu Darvish (17)

Tier Two

3. Max Scherzer (26)

4. Adam Wainwright (26)

5. Justin Verlander (35)

6. Stephen Strasburg (36)

Tier Three

7. Jose Fernandez (45)

8. Cliff Lee (48)

9. Madison Bumgarner (49)

10. Felix Hernandez (51)

Tier Four

11. Chris Sale (58)

12. Zack Greinke (63)

13. David Price (66)

14. Cole Hamels (71)

15. Jordan Zimmermann (75)

Tier Five

16.  Masahiro Tanaka (80)

17. Anibal Sanchez (83)

18. Matt Cain (87)

19. James Shields (91)

20. Hisashi Iwakuma (92)

21. Gerrit Cole (92)

Tier Six

22. Shelby Miller (99)

23. Kris Medlen (100)

24. Mike Minor (101)

25. Gio Gonzalez (104)

26. Matt Moore (105)

Tier Seven

27. Alex Cobb (111)

28. Homer Bailey (115)

29. Jon Lester (116)

30. Julio Teheran (116)

31. Michael Wacha (117)

32. Mat Latos (119)

Undervalued

Kris Medlen (ADP 100)

For a few years Medlen was left on the outside looking in at the Braves starting rotation, and fantasy owners had to wait patiently for the best sixth starter in baseball to earn his chance. Well, Medlen finally got that opportunity down the stretch in 2012, and he was simply brilliant, with a sparkling 1.57 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Entering last season then, this looked like an overvalued commodity to me, as it appeared he was bound to take a significant step back. However, Medlen put together a solid campaign last year, posting a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. At this point, I think it's safe to say that the right-hander ranks as a capable #2 starter in standard mixed leagues. While he may lack the upside of a hurler like Francisco Liriano due to a mediocre strikeout rate, Medlen has a high floor and makes for an excellent pick if paired with a dominant anchor like Yu Darvish or Max Scherzer.

Danny Salazar (ADP 145)

Yes, I know the hype is building on Salazar, and in a month his ADP may be inside the top 100. I'm normally one to zig when the fantasy community zags, and it's no secret that this young Indians fireballer ranks at the top of sleeper lists all over the place. At his current pricetag, though, I still think there's plenty of room for profit. With an average fastball velocity above 96 mph last year, Salazar was electric. He had a remarkable 30.8 K% while posting a 3.12 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP over 52 innings. Now there are some caveats here: Salazar has yet to prove he can handle the workload of a full season, and he's already had Tommy John surgery. Even so, skills like his shouldn't be available after Round 10. Barring injury, this is a fantasy ace in the making.

Doug Fister (ADP 172)

When Fister was dealt from Detroit to Washington, I assumed his market value would rise with the move to the National League. After all, moving from the AL to the NL can boost a pitcher's strikeout rate by a half a point. As we sit here in late-Februrary, though, Fister is still falling outside the top 150 in drafts. Yes, I know the strikeout rate won't be anything spectacular, but the new Nationals right-hander should be excellent in ERA and WHIP. Let's face it: Clayton Kershaw is the best bet to lead the NL in ERA again this year. Beyond Kershaw, however, here's a dark-horse candidate for the ERA crown available in Round 15.

Overvalued

Matt Moore (ADP 105)

While sabermetrics are mainstream at this point, it still sure seems like the fantasy community as a whole places some value in projecting the wins category. Otherwise, I can't really explain why Moore would be drafted ahead of other arms like Alex Cobb, Homer Bailey, and Michael Wacha. If we suddenly were to throw out the wins category as a contributor toward fantasy value, Moore would have been far outside the top 50 among pitchers last season. For two years in a row, he's markedly outperformed his peripherals with a career ERA at 3.55 yet a career SIERA at 4.11. While some sabermetricians might forecast steep regression, I think the Rays defense certainly is a factor at play there, so that trend may continue. The fact remains, however, that Moore has some very serious issues with control. Moreover, if you're going to draft a starting pitcher in the first ten rounds, you'd like to grab someone with a track record of durability; unfortunately, Moore missed a month last year with elbow soreness. Ultimately, my philosophy on drafting starting pitching is to group the arms in tiers and patiently wait for values to hopefully emerge. Given that injuries take place at a higher frequency among pitchers than hitters, it just doesn't make sense to me to select Moore at his current ADP with so many other viable alternatives. Avoid.


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