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By the Numbers: The second time around

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Coming into the 2012 season, it looked as if Fantasy owners had a lot to look forward to from the 2011 class of rookie starting pitchers. Not only did that cohort include the AL Rookie of the Year award winner (Jeremy Hellickson), but it also included a top three finisher in the NL voting (Vance Worley).

Neither Hellickson nor Worley has lived up to the standards they set for themselves last season, much less exceeded them. And the disappointment doesn't end there, as Michael Pineda, Cory Luebke, Danny Duffy, Brandon Beachy and Kyle Drabek had their seasons curtailed or wiped out due to surgery. Josh Collmenter and Alexi Ogando both missed time as well, and both have spent most of the year in the bullpen rather than in the rotation.

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Not every sophomore starter turned out to be a bummer, though. While Pineda (81 ADP) and Hellickson (126 ADP) left their Fantasy owners with buyer's remorse, Mike Minor (194 ADP) and Marco Estrada (279 ADP) have provided an ample return on a minimal investment. Whether a second-year starter's stock went up or down this year, there is something to be gained by looking at each of a pitcher's first two seasons to gather some clues about where his value will lie in 2013. That's exactly what we'll do here this week, scouring over the limited big league track records of 10 pitchers from last season's rookie crop. For each pitcher, we will take a look at what changed for him since last season and what that might mean for him going forward.

Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays: Coming into this season, Alvarez appeared ready to help owners in standard mixed leagues, at least as a streaming option. As a minor leaguer and as a rookie, he showed the ability to keep his ERA low by way of a high ground ball rate. He also looked like a good bet for a low WHIP, since he had consistently put up microscopic walk rates. While Alvarez has never been a strikeout pitcher, he has been exceptionally hittable this year, striking out batters at the lowest rate in the majors, and by a large margin. Just because Alvarez doesn't get swings-and-misses doesn't mean he can't improve his K-rate and other stats, but he has to get called strikes at an above-average level, and he hasn't done that this year. As a 22-year-old who skipped over Triple-A, Alvarez just may need more seasoning, and the potential for much better performance is still there. Going into next season, though, there will be no reason to draft him outside of AL-only leagues.

Alex Cobb, Rays: Cobb's promising rookie season was cut short when he had surgery to remove a blockage near his rib, and he was slow coming out of the gate once he entered the Rays' rotation in May. Since late July, Cobb has not only hit his stride, but for the first time, he is replicating the low walk rates he compiled in the minors. Cobb has also punched up his strikeout rate as he has rung up called strikes on an astounding 24 percent of his pitches over his last six starts. The good news for owners who have Cobb this season is that, according to the Tampa Tribune, he will remain in the rotation for the rest of this campaign, even though Jeff Niemann has returned from his fractured fibula. Cobb should also have at least as much value next year, and he is worth a late-round grab in standard mixed leagues.

Marco Estrada, Brewers: Coming out of his first two seasons at Triple-A (in 2008 and 2009), Estrada looked to have only modest promise in Fantasy, as his low walk rates would have to compensate for mediocre strikeout rates. After missing most of 2010 with shoulder issues, Estrada faded even further into obscurity. In his rookie season with the Brewers, Estrada started getting strikeouts, but having been used mainly in a relief role, it was still not clear he would have much Fantasy value if he ever got a chance to stick as a starter. That opportunity came this season, and the strikeouts remained even with the uptick in innings. In fact, the hints of strikeout potential were always there with higher-than-average swinging strike rates in the minors. His ability to post a low WHIP gives him the upside of a Jake Peavy or Ian Kennedy, but like those two flyball pitchers, there is also the potential for a high ERA. At the very least, Estrada will be a legitimate late-round option in standard mixed leagues next year, and he could be a steal as such.

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Dillon Gee, Mets: Gee is done for the season, as he had surgery to repair an artery in his right shoulder. However, he logged 17 starts before his surgery, giving us a decent sample size, and he should be able to give owners a full season next year, so it's worth taking a look at how Gee has fared. In his rookie season, Gee put up a similar ERA (4.43) and WHIP (1.38) to those he registered the previous two years in Triple-A -- and those weren't very impressive. In addition, he sustained a dramatic drop in his strikeout rate, so owners had little reason to anticipate Gee's sophomore effort. In 2012, Gee improved his strikeout and walk rates, and if not for a mediocre strand rate, his ERA would likely have been well below 4.00, but instead he finished with a 4.10 mark. Given that Gee posted good strikeout-to-walk ratios as a prospect and that his ERA could decline even without improved skill ratios, he appears poised to increase his Fantasy value even more next season.

Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: Owners waiting for the strikeout-artist version of Hellickson to reemerge this season could not help but be disappointed. At least if he could have matched last season's 2.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, that would have softened the blow of a 5.9 K/9 rate, but both marks grew this year. Hellickson's strikeout, walk and ground ball rates were all subpar last year, which made his Rookie of the Year campaign look a little fishy, but he was able to prevent hits and runs with a 14 percent popup rate. So far in 2012, Hellickson has been getting popups more than a third less often, and that has left him with stats that are more typical of someone who pitches to contact but without great control. All those infield flies allowed Hellickson to post the lowest BABIP (.224) since 1988, and it's too much to expect him to lower his ERA and WHIP that way again. It's more realistic to view him as a late-round option in standard mixed leagues.

Lance Lynn, Cardinals: Lynn's path has mirrored Estrada's in some ways, at least up until the middle of this season. Lynn's numbers as a minor league starter were unexciting, but as a rookie, he blossomed in a relief role. His conversion to the rotation went exceedingly well through the middle of July. That's when his command went south, as he has walked 16 batters over his last 29 2/3 innings. As Lynn has struggled to locate his pitches, hitters have been taking fewer strikes, swinging and missing less often and scorching him for more line drives. Command had not been a serious problem for Lynn at any previous level, so this recent skid has the look of a garden-variety slump or maybe a sign of fatigue. Though his recent performance has earned him a bullpen demotion, Lynn has shown that he can be a productive starter, and as long as the Cardinals plan to use him in the rotation next season, he is worth a mid-round pick, though he could likely be had for cheaper.

Mike Minor, Braves: As Lynn was starting to flame out in midseason, Minor was just getting warmed up. The Braves' lefty registered a 6.20 ERA through the end of June, and he looked to be in danger of losing his rotation spot. Since then, Minor has failed to record a quality start only once in nine tries, and the one exception was the result of him being lifted early due to a rain delay. The sharp control that underpinned Minor's success at Triple-A has finally shown itself at the major league level, as he has walked only eight batters over his recent nine-game stretch. Minor is probably overperforming right now, but he is certainly better than the pitcher who allowed walks and homers at astronomical levels back in May and June. Owned in 66 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, Minor is currently underowned and underappreciated, and he should start next season in a healthy portion of standard mixed leagues.

Ivan Nova, Yankees: Nova's frustating sophomore season took a turn for the worse last week when he went on the 15-day disabled list with rotator cuff inflammation. He should be back again this season, but given how homer-prone Nova has been, he won't have much value when he does return. This year's version of Nova found a way to get batters to swing and miss at his curveball more often, but it hasn't paid off, as he has gotten clobbered when throwing his fastball and slider. Nova's heater, in particular, has really let him down. Last season, it was a big reason why he got grounders on 55 percent of hit balls, but this year he has been getting less vertical movement, and that rate has dropped to 46 percent. The low ground ball rate could be an aberration, and if Nova can get both his curveball and fastball working, he could take a huge step forward. It's way too risky to assume that will happen, so Nova should be considered a late-round option at best next season.

Chris Sale, White Sox: Of the pitchers featured here who made the conversion from a relief role this year, Sale has had the greatest success by far. Though his K-rate has shrunk somewhat, he has still struck out nearly a batter per inning, and he has managed to make dramatic improvements in his walk rate and strikes thrown percentage. Sale has been a top 12 starting pitcher this year, and even being conservative, he hasn't given Fantasy owners any reason to doubt he belongs in the top 20.

Vance Worley, Phillies: Through the middle of July, Worley seemed to be proving that his rookie season was no fluke, as he had a 3.47 ERA through his first 15 starts. Though he lacks dominating stuff, Worley was able to compile a robust strikeout rate due to his ability to get called strikes at one of the highest rates in the majors. Over his last seven starts, Worley has been fooling batters less often and getting fewer strikeouts and allowing more runs in the process. The Phillies' organization had downplayed the impact that Worley's bone chips were having on his performance, but now that he is set to have elbow surgery to remove the bodies within the next couple of weeks, it raises more questions about the link between the bone chips and the decline in performance. Until more is known, Worley should be viewed with suspicion in standard mixed leagues on Draft Day 2013.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Astros OF Jake Marisnick could rejoin roster this weekend
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Astros manager A.J. Hinch said outfielder Jake Marisnick will be re-evaluated following Friday's game against the Red Sox, according to the Houston Chronicle. The team will make a decision if Marisnick will join the team in Boston or next week in Cleveland.

Marisnick, who has been sidelined since mid-June due to a hamstring injury, is 1 for 9 with three strikeouts through two games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Fresno.


Lack of run support dooms Cubs SP Jason Hammel to defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Cubs starter Jason Hammel pitched well enough to win Friday against Miami. But counterpart Tom Koehler pitched just a little bit better.

Hammel allowed just two earned runs on five hits in seven innings with one walk and five strikeouts. But blasts by Christian Yelich in the first inning and Justin Bour in the sixth doomed him to his fourth loss in nine decisions.

Inconsistency has plagued Hammel recently. He has not managed successive quality starts since his first two outings in June. But his latest effort lowered his ERA on the season to a fine 2.89.


Astros SP Scott Feldman to make at least two rehab starts
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:22 pm ET) Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman, who will begin a rehab assignment Sunday with Double-A Corpus Christi, will make at least two rehab starts before coming off the disabled list, manager A.J. Hinch said Friday.

Feldman has been sidelined since late May due to a knee injury.


Marlins SP Tom Koehler remains on roll in Windy City
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) Marlins starter Tom Koehler hasn't made it past 7 1/3 innings in any start this season, but he continues to be effective. He certainly was Friday afternoon against the host Cubs.

Koehler allowed just one earned run on five hits in six innings and the bullpen did the rest to give him his fourth win in four decisions and raise his record to 7-4. He walked only one and fanned four.

His lone hiccup came in the first inning on a Kris Bryant double and Miguel Montero run-scoring single.

Koehler now owns a 3.52 ERA, the lowest it has been since April 14. He also has eight quality starts in his last 10 outings.


Diamonbacks' Patrick Corbin will start Saturday vs. Rockies
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:11 pm ET) Diamondbacks left-hander Patrick Corbin will indeed make his first start in the Major Leagues since 2013 on Saturday against the Rockies, the D-Backs announced. Corbin is coming back from Tommy John surgery, and missed all of 2014 during his recovery.

Corbin was an All-Star in 2013, finishing the season 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA and 178 strikeouts over 208 1/3 innings in what was his second big-league season. 


White Sox push Chris Sale start back to Monday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:10 pm ET) White Sox super lefty Chris Sale would be on his regular rest Sunday, but will pitch Monday instead against Toronto, per CSNChicago.com.

A lack of run support has kept Sale winless since June 8. He has fanned at least 10 in eight consecutive starts, tying a record set by Pedro Martinez.


Marlins' Michael Morse going back out on rehab assignment Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) Marlins first baseman Michael Morse is going to play at least one more rehab game with Class A Jupiter on Friday before the team decides if he is ready to come off the 15-day disabled list.

Morse was progressing in his rehab from a right index finger sprain before tweaking his back this week.

"He tweaked his back, we think, very minor," manager Dan Jennings said, per MLB.com. "But we need him to test it so we can see exactly where he is. So he could be here in the next day or two."

Justin Bour's emergence in Morse's absence has the team thinking about using Morse at other positions upon his return.

"When we put this roster together this winter, one of the things we talked about was the versatility of players and the willingness to have guys who can play first, play third, play left," Jennings said. "You've got guys who can move around, and you get the best bats or best matchups in the lineup on any given day. We will look at that. That's what our intentions are, and we'll see how we'll proceed."


Giants promote Josh Osich, demote Mike Broadway in RP swap
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:58 pm ET) A week after promoting right-handed reliever Mike Broadway from Triple-A Sacramento, the Giants have demoted him and brought up southpaw Josh Osich from the same team, per the San Francisco Chronicle.

Broadway struggled after a decent start with San Francisco. He allowed three runs on five hits in his last 5 1/3 innings.

Osich, who pitched just twice for Sacramento after his promotion from Double-A, has been tearing it up. He has 19 saves in 20 chances and has surrendered just one run in his last 13 innings.


Rays grant RP Andy Oliver his release
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) Left-hander Andy Oliver has opted out of his contract with Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham and been granted his release, per the Tampa Bay Times.

The 27-year-old Oliver managed decent numbers at that level this season, but struggled mightily with his control, walking 24 in 28 innings.

He has walked 401 batters in 611 2/3 minor league innings, which has pretty much doomed his career at this point.


Orioles CF Adam Jones in lineup against nemesis John Danks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:29 pm ET) The Orioles were not about to take slugger Adam Jones out of their lineup Friday just because he's 1-for-30 lifetime against white Sox starter John Danks. Jones is indeed batting third and playing center field.

If Danks was ever vulnerable against Jones, it would be this season. The left-hander has been a mess with just two quality starts in the last seven outings and an overall ERA of 5.38.


 
 
 
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