Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

By the Numbers: Pitching a case for keepers

  •  

Last month, I ranked 14 top rookie hitters in order of their keeper value in Fantasy. Now I'm getting around to ranking this year's rookie starting pitchers in terms of their future value. Among the top-ranked of these 18 hurlers are those who merit consideration in leagues where you may only have half a dozen or so keepers, while those towards the bottom are strictly for dynasty leagues in which you can protect a much larger number of players.

Check out our Fantasy Baseball podcast!
Stay a step ahead of your competition in 2014 by checking out our popular Fantasy Baseball Today podcasts. Adam Aizer, Scott White and Al Melchior will entertain you and help you dominate all season.
Latest episode | Subscribe!

Why did I rank 18 pitchers as compared to the 14 hitters I featured in my earlier column? I had a harder time finding a cutoff point among this rookie cohort. I could have taken it further, as Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock and Andre Rienzo missed the cut, and I left out Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal on the technicality that they were used primarily (or in Rosenthal's case, exclusively) as relievers.

Remember, these are rankings based on keeper value, so the pitchers who performed the best this year aren't necessarily the best bets to deliver value in 2014 and beyond. Based on this season's Fantasy stats as well as current and past skill indicators, here's how I would prioritize keeping starters for the years ahead.

Note: All stats are current for games played through Tuesday, Sept. 10.

1. Jose Fernandez, Marlins: I had Fernandez pretty far down my list of rookie pitchers at the start of the season, even after he cracked the Marlins' rotation due to a couple of last-minute openings. Though I appreciated Fernandez's potential, I had no idea he would make such a huge impact coming straight out of the Florida State League. Right away, he has provided well over a strikeout per inning and great command. If there's a reason to expect a slight downturn, it's that he may not replicate a 1.19 home ERA, as pitcher-friendly as Marlins Park is, or a .246 BABIP. Still, Fernandez is a worthy keeper in just about any format.

2. Julio Teheran, Braves: After struggling to get whiffs last season at Triple-A Gwinnett, Teheran got his swing-and-miss mojo back with the Braves, and he sharpened his control as well. If he can continue to maintain a low walk rate (2.4 BB/9 this year), Teheran could have a lower WHIP than Fernandez next season, even though the Marlins' rookie is besting him 0.97 to 1.20. Because Teheran leans towards being a flyball pitcher who gets his fair share of popups, he should be able to improve on his .297 BABIP. He probably won't match Fernandez for strikeouts or ERA, but in overall value, Teheran shouldn't be far behind.

3. Tony Cingrani, Reds: No secondary pitches? No problem, as Cingrani has a 2.92 ERA, even though no starting pitcher with at least 100 innings has thrown a higher percentage of fastballs, according to PitchFX data on FanGraphs.com. Higher-than-average walk (3.7 BB/9) and flyball (40 percent) rates could make Cingrani more vulnerable than Fernandez or Teheran at times, especially in his starts at Great American Ball Park, but he allows so little contact that the damage to his Fantasy stats should be minimal. With the back spasms that knocked him out of Tuesday's start against the Cubs, Cingrani might not have much value for the rest of this season, but he's worth keeping in most formats for next year and beyond.

4. Gerrit Cole, Pirates: Here's where the ranking process got interesting. Because Cole failed to achieve even an average strikeout rate, both at Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, some owners consider him to be a disappointment. Over his eight most recent starts, Cole has struck out 46 batters in 49 2/3 innings while getting whiffs on 10 percent of his pitches. The former UCLA standout and No. 1 overall pick may not need a high K-rate to succeed, but his recent stretch and earlier minor league numbers suggest he could be capable of achieving it. If not, Cole could still be a superb control pitcher with strong ground ball tendencies, like Doug Fister. That's the lowest expectation owners should have for Cole going into next season.

5. Alex Wood, Braves: Wood's strong rookie campaign has lost some steam, as his velocity has dipped over his last four starts, and strikes have been harder to come by. The lefty has a limited track record as a starter, even in the minor leagues, but he was dominant as a reliever, and he fared well over his first six starts with the Braves. Wood hasn't had many issues with control over his brief professional career, so his recent stretch, in which he has walked 11 batters over 18 2/3 innings, should not deter owners from keeping him in 12-team mixed league formats with 10 or more protection slots.

6. Shelby Miller, Cardinals: Strikeouts have never been a problem for Miller, but he has been plagued at times by too many walks and home runs. Miller coasted through mid-June, as he allowed only 19 walks and six homers through the first 86 1/3 innings of the season. Since then, it's been a different story, as his BB/9 ratio had more than doubled and his HR/9 ratio had nearly tripled prior to Tuesday's scoreless start against the Brewers. The early part of Miller's season has shown us what he is capable of, but the more recent portion shows us the potential risks of keeping him. Given that Miller has issues with control and frequent flyballs before, it's difficult to just write them off as the passing struggles of a young pitcher.

7. Michael Wacha, Cardinals: To go by Wacha's track record as a professional, he would seem to be a more valuable keeper than Miller, but he is less of a known quantity. While Miller produced three full seasons of work in the minors before playing his first full year in the majors, Wacha has all of 152 1/3 innings between the minors and majors. Wacha, like Miller, has had sporadic problems with control, and he is also prone to allowing flyballs. He also hasn't shown the same knack for getting strikeouts, but the differences in their peripherals are not substantial. My preference for Miller over Wacha is simply based on his having a longer track record, but both pitchers need to be protected in many keeper formats.

8. Kevin Gausman, Orioles: If I had made this list during the first half of the season, Gausman probably would have ranked among the top three or four. After prospering during an eight- game stint at Double-A Bowie, Gausman has been less than impressive both at Triple-A Norfolk and in Baltimore. Though we're still dealing with a small sample of innings, his performance raises some doubts about his keeper value. On the positive side, Gausman has a healthy 11 percent whiff rate with the O's, and he is likely to improve on a 61 percent strand rate, which has contributed to his 6.30 ERA. Still, FIP projects that Gausman would have a 4.75 ERA with better luck, and I have to admit, the Orioles' recent track record with highly-touted pitching prospects makes me a little nervous.

9. Zack Wheeler, Mets: Prior to the start of the season, I projected Wheeler would finish with a 3.96 ERA, so his actual 3.38 mark has caused me to reconsider his long-term value. Wheeler did come out of the gate with the control issues that I expected from him, but he put together a recent five-game stretch in which he threw strikes consistently and issued only six walks over 32 1/3 innings. If Wheeler can sustain that kind of control, he could make good on his top-of-the-rotation potential, but I worry that he could cycle through period of good and bad walk rates, much like Jeff Samardzija has.

10. Danny Salazar, Indians: Throws really hard. Makes batters look as if they're hitting with a fly swatter. Rarely misses the strike zone. Based on what we've seen this year, Salazar has as much upside as anyone on this list (even Fernandez), but how will he do once he's allowed to pitch more than four or five innings with regularity? That uncertainty keeps Salazar from being a must-keep pitcher, but there are still plenty of formats in which he will be worth protecting.

11. Dan Straily, Athletics: Straily's stats have been nothing special this season, but there are still signs that he could have a major breakout at any time. It's actually a bit of a mystery as to why Straily owns a pedestrian 7.3 K/9 ratio, when he's been getting whiffs on 12 percent of his pitches, and his past history suggests he can whittle down his 3.2 BB/9 ratio. With a 37 percent ground ball rate, it's not surprising that Straily has been amenable to allowing homers away from O.co Coliseum, as he has yielded 10 of them in 73 road innings. That could be a chronic issue, but we should at least expect Straily to dramatically improve his 3.82 home ERA.

12. Sonny Gray, Athletics: During his brief time in the majors, Gray has been the more successful of the A's rookie starters. While Straily had the more impressive season in the minors last season, it's Gray who has delivered the better results during his brief time in the majors. He has already established himself as the superior ground ball pitcher, and if he can keep up his strikeout per inning pace, he will surpass Straily in terms of Fantasy value. Since Gray's major league track record is all of 43 innings long and he doesn't possess whiff rates as impressive as Straily's, it's premature to leapfrog him over his more experienced teammate in these rankings.

13. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers: The elder statesman of this group, Ryu is tied with Miller for the most wins (13) of any pitcher in this rookie class. Ryu ranks just 14th among rookie qualifiers in K/9 ratio (7.5), but he's been able to overcome that by limiting walks (2.5 BB/9) and homers (0.7 HR/9). Because Ryu has stranded 78 percent of his baserunners -- a rate he won't likely repeat with regularity -- he has probably been a little fortunate to have an ERA that's barely peeking above the 3.00 line. He still can have some Kris Medlen-type appeal, but without the drama over whether he'll be delegated to a bullpen role.

14. Chris Archer, Rays: Archer hasn't been the type of pitcher that his minor league numbers led us to believe he would be, but that's turned out to be a good thing. The hard-throwing 24-year-old has gone from being a wild pitcher with strikeout potential to the Sunbelt's version of Gerrit Cole. Through his first eight starts this year, Archer had walked nearly a batter every other inning, but in 11 starts since then, he's issued only 13 bases on balls over 67 1/3 innings. With a 6.0 K/9 over that period, Archer has been subpar as a strikeout pitcher, but improved control has enabled him to post a 2.94 ERA and 1.01 WHIP since his transformation. If we could trust that the change is a lasting one, it would be safe to rank him above Ryu and possibly Straily and Gray, too, but it's hard to elevate Archer based on an 11-game trend.

15. Kyle Gibson, Twins: What is a pitcher who earned a minor league demotion with a 6.53 ERA and 1.75 WHIP doing on this list? Some prospects who eventually do well get their major league careers off on the wrong foot, and I think that was the case with Gibson. He certainly could have had better control, and his minor league stats tell us that this is the one thing we should have been able to count on. Gibson also had a respectable 9 percent swinging strike rate, and while that doesn't bode well for a high strikeout rate, it means we can expect more than a 5.1 K/9. He did do a good job of inducing grounders, posting a 51 percent rate, and Gibson can't be faulted for allowing a .340 batting average on those ground balls. He could wind up succeeding more than Archer as a pitcher who gets by through limiting walks and extra-base hits.

16. Martin Perez, Rangers: Perez hasn't put up big strikeout numbers since Double-A, so it's not much of surprise that he hasn't done so this year. His stock his risen, though, as he -- like Archer -- has remade himself as a control artist. While Perez should be kept in deeper dynasty leagues, there is a strong chance that his production will fall off next season. His 9-4 record has been helped by 5.9 runs of support per nine innings, which is the third-highest rate among pitchers with at least 80 innings. Perez could also see his 3.60 ERA rise, as xFIP projects that it would be over half a run higher with less help from luck and defense.

17. Wily Peralta, Brewers: Peralta started the season looking like a young version of Jake Westbrook. Though he got his share of grounders, Peralta's command was shaky, and it showed up in his ERA and WHIP. Since June 21, however, Peralta has found the strike zone more regularly, and he has struck out a distinctly un-Westbrook-like 7.2 batters per nine innings. His 1.19 WHIP over that period might be about as good as it gets, barring a reduction in walks, but Peralta is now missing enough bats to be a threat (in a good way) in the ERA and wins categories.

18. Tyler Skaggs, Diamondbacks: Though Skaggs doesn't throw hard, he has been fairly consistent in delivering strikeouts at every level. He has had some low-grade problems with control and some monumental issues with home runs during his stints with the Diamondbacks. While he was highly flyball-prone during his brief trial with the Snakes last year, the same cannot be said for this year's seven starts, but 16 percent of his flyballs have left the park. That's a rate that should improve over time, and if all breaks well, Skaggs could be a more productive pitcher in Fantasy than several of those included on this list. We just need a bigger sample size to determine whether he will be a safe bet to reduce the .451 slugging percentage he's allowed to date over his big league career.

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 .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Giants SS Brandon Crawford agrees to $3.175M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:34 pm ET) The Giants and shortstop Brandon Crawford avoided arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a $3.175 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Crawford, who is in his first year of arbitration, made $560,000 in 2014.

Crawford just finished his fourth season in the majors and third full season in 2014. He had career highs in triples (10), home runs (10), runs (54), RBI (69), walks (59) and games played (153).


Mariners' McClendon toying with idea of using Wilhelmsen as starter
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) The acquisition of J.A. Happ means Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't have to head into spring training with long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen competing for a spot in the rotation.

However, McClendon hasn't totally given up on the idea of Wilhelmsen potentially transitioning to a starting role down the road, per MLB.com.

"I don't think it's totally dead," McClendon said. "I would say it's probably a long shot. My plan, as we speak right now, is to maybe stretch him out in spring and just play with it a little bit and see what happens, but I think it's a long shot. He was just so good in the role he was in, it'd be hard to take him out of that role."

Wilhelmsen pitched multiple innings in 24 of his 57 appearances last year. The former closer went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

"I really tried not to change anything at all, [other than] try to simplify a little bit," Wilhelmsen said. "If I was going in in the fourth inning, I knew I'd have to throw two or three innings and I just really attacked the zone. But it's not like you don't attack the zone any other time. It's the same thing. You have to get outs."


Tigers' Castellanos works to be 'more comfortable' at 3B in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos struggled in his first full year playing third base at the major-league level in 2014, so he is hard at work this offseason improving his defense

"Last year was [about] the actual ground-ball catching," Castellanos said, per MLB.com. "This year is a lot more [about] quickness, working on my range, lateral movement."

On top of committing 15 errors, Castellanos' Ultimate Zone Rating of negative-18.4 was nearly twice as bad as the next-lowest rating among third-base regulars. He also had a Defensive Runs Saved of minus-30 and a plus/minus rating of minus-39, which was lowest in the majors last year.

"I'm going to be more comfortable this year," Castellanos said. "Last year, I knew nobody [in terms of hitting tendencies]. Also I was getting used to the tempo of the game. It wasn't like I was in the big leagues for a while at another position and then had to go to third base. It was pretty much me making my first year in the big leagues at pretty much a new position, or trying to relearn an old position."


Santana, Escobar to compete to be Twins' starting shortstop
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) While Danny Santana is considered the front-runner to be the Twins' starting shortstop, first-year manager Paul Molitor said nothing has been decided yet. Santana will compete with Eduardo Escobar for the starting job this spring.

"It's probably been one of the more awkward things for me this winter in dealing with that situation," Molitor said, per MLB.com. "Obviously, I have to go in there open-minded about how it will play out. I can't say Santana will be the shortstop because things can change. Escobar deserves an opportunity to play and whether it's spotting around the organization or he has to go back to shortstop, I can't tell you it all will work out."

Escobar started a team-high 86 games at shortstop in 2014 for Minnesota. He made it clear he wants to play every day, but is willing to play where Molitor needs him.

"This season is important for me," Escobar said. "I'm coming in ready to play. I don't know if I'm going to be the starting shortstop or not, but I've been working hard to be ready for spring training. If Molitor wants me to play shortstop, or wherever, I'm ready for it."

Santana said he is excited he is moving back to shortstop after making a team-high 62 starts in center field last year. He's been fielding 200 grounders per day in the Dominican Republic to get ready for the season.

"I'm very happy about playing shortstop. I was waiting for that moment," Santana said. "Shortstop is my natural position. I just need to keep working and I can do the same thing as last year."


Rockies' Bridich: 'Highly unlikely' Tulo, CarGo traded before opener
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:17 pm ET) Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told FOX Sports on Tuesday that it is "highly, highly unlikely" shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez will be traded before opening day.

Tulowitzki, who has been linked to trade rumors involving the Mets this offseason, is under contract through 2020 on a six-year, $118 million deal. He is also recovering from August hip surgery.

Gonzalez is under contract through the 2017 season on a seven-year, $80 million contract. He is also recovering from surgery in August to repair the patellar tendon in his left knee.


Pitcher Johan Santana shut down in Venezuelan Winter League
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Free-agent pitcher Johan Santana has been scratched from pitching in any of the remaining Venezuelan Winter League championship series games, reports FOXSports.

Santana has been experiencing discomfort in his shoulder. Teams that have indicated interest in Santana include the Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres. Santana's agent said Santana may still throw for major-league scouts, but wasn't sure.

He last pitched in the major leagues in 2012 and produced a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts.


Royals OF Jarrod Dyson agrees to $1.225M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:54 pm ET) Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson avoided arbitration Tuesday by agreeing to a $1.225 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. He will also receive a $25,000 bonus for 350 plate appearances.

Dyson is in his first year of arbitration. He hit .269 with one home run, 24 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 120 games in 2014.


Angels invite reliever Frank Herrmann to spring training
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:22 pm ET) The Angels announced they've invited reliever Frank Herrmann to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Herrmann, 30, spent the previous five years in the Indians' organization, last pitching in the majors in 2012.

Padres' Bud Black: Jedd Gyorko 'learned a lot' from 2014 struggles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:07 pm ET) Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko definitely went through a sophomore slump in 2014 after belting 23 home runs as a rookie in 2013. Although, dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot certainly didn't help his cause.

Still, Gyorko seems to indicate the injury wasn't the main reason he struggled offensively last season. He hit .210 with 10 home runs in 111 games.

"I think I maybe put a little too much pressure on myself," Gyorko said, per MLB.com. "We were struggling as a team. And I think all of us, not just myself, felt like we needed to come up with that big hit to get us going. It's hard to hit when you put that kind of pressure on yourself."

Gyorko missed nearly two months of games last season due to the foot injury, but once he returned, his numbers began to improve. He hit .260 with a .347 on-base percentage over his final 55 games. 

"He was better. I think he started making some adjustments, some mechanical, some at-bat to at-bat in terms of pitch selection," manager Bud Black said. "Before, you saw him chasing pitches up in the strike zone and also sliders away. I think that a lot of that was him wanting to be aggressive and wanting to help the team."

The Padres are expecting better results from Gyorko in 2015, especially with a revamped lineup that includes Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks.

"We saw in 2013 what Jedd can be, and I think there's more to Jedd based on 2013," Black said. "I think last year there were a lot of factors that went into his season that he expected or adjusted to, but that is something he's hopefully learned from. It's a tough game. You've got to work and stay on top of it. In that regard, I think he learned a lot."


Infield shifts have become an issue for players like Reds' Bruce
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:46 am ET) Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is not going to use infield shifts as an excuse for his low batting average, but he admits it does play a factor, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"That's definitely taken some hits away from me," Bruce said. "I don't use it as an excuse. But the bottom line is it takes hits away. You smoke a ball up the middle and you think it's a hit. But the shortstop is playing right behind second base.

"It's definitely cut down on average. You look at a player like Mark Teixiera. He was a .300, .280 hitter. You put the shift on him. He's a guy who drives the ball, pull hitter. He uses the other side of the field some. But guys like that are hitting in the .250s."

Bruce added that beating the shift is difficult. 

"Everyone's like, 'Hit a ground ball to shortstop or hit one down the line.' Like you can do whatever you want." he said. "A lot of times, pitchers pitch to the shift. And shifts are getting more sophisticated. In New York, (shortstop Derek) Jeter was playing third, in on the grass. So you can't bunt. Ideally, you want to get a hit. It's hard to do."

Reds hitting coach Don Long said eventually hitters will be taught in the minors to beat the shift.

"Not everybody's going to be the perfect hitter and be able to do everything," he said. "But I think you're going to find guys who want to have the ability to hit to both sides of the field."


 
 
 
Rankings