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

2014 Draft Prep: Starting pitcher profiles

  •  

Al's profiles: Cs | 1Bs | 2Bs | SSs | 3Bs | OFs | Ps

Once again, we face the perennial question of whether it is wise to pursue the top Fantasy pitchers aggressively and early in drafts.

If we were to judge this season's starting pitcher pool by last season's results, we would include just three pitchers among the elite. Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright pulled away from the field, making them appear to be rare talents worthy of claiming with a first-round pick. At least for them, an aggressive approach would appear to be valid, but appearances can be deceiving.

All three are certainly worth considering in the early portions of drafts, but the urgency to claim one of the trio isn't as great as last year's final rankings would suggest. With better run support, Cliff Lee, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels and Stephen Strasburg could have owned better records and joined the elite tier. With better luck or defensive support, Felix Hernandez (.320 BABIP) could have risen up the ranks as well. Then add in the possible comebacks that Justin Verlander and David Price could enjoy, and the steps forward that Yu Darvish and Jose Fernandez could take, and suddenly there is a wealth of potentially elite options from which to pluck your Fantasy ace.

Play on CBSSports.com in 2014!
Baseball Commissioner
Get the premium experience you deserve! Create a customized league with exclusive news and tools.
Start your league!

That means owners have a chance to take a legitimate No. 1 starter several dozen picks into the draft, but they may have to move quickly in filling out the next couple of spots. By the time 30 starters have come off the board, there may be few, if any, proven and healthy arms available. Then your choices are likely to come down to selecting from a cohort of several high-upside, inexperienced pitchers (i.e., Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, Tony Cingrani, Danny Salazar, Shelby Miller) or a large group of solid but unspectacular rotation staples (e.g., Jon Lester, R.A. Dickey, C.J. Wilson, Doug Fister).

I've been using this space to delve into some of this year's tougher projections to make, and because the starter pool is littered with pitchers who are either green or highly inconsistent, there is simply not enough room to get into all of the most perplexing cases. Nonetheless, the six pitchers included represent the young (Fernandez and Wacha), the largely-unknown (Tanaka), the erratic (Anibal Sanchez and Jeff Samardzija), and the just plain baffling (Matt Cain).

Jose Fernandez, Marlins

2014 5x5 projections: 16-10, 2.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 206 Ks in 195 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 14.3 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 7th among all pitchers; 551 Fantasy Points, 12th among starting pitchers

Fernandez had just over one year of professional experience -- and none of it in the upper minors -- when he arrived at Marlins camp last spring. Only because of injuries to Henderson Alvarez and Nate Eovaldi did he make the opening day roster. It certainly seemed like the 20-year-old would need some more minor league seasoning, especially after running into trouble in some of his early starts. By mid-May, that was clearly not the case, as Fernandez snapped into domination mode.

Seeing what Fernandez accomplished, particularly over 23 starts from May forward, there is little reason to expect him to finish outside the top dozen starters this season. Because of his lack of experience (and the frequent pattern of young players taking steps backwards after an initial breakout), I went a little conservative on Fernandez's strikeout (206) and walk (61) projections. If he pulls a Mike Trout on us and improves on an impossibly-good skill set at age 21, he could easily wind up as a top five or six pitcher. Fernandez was so proficient at throwing strikes that there is little reason to question his command, but as good as he is, he probably won't hold opponents to an .065 average on flyballs in play again or strand as many as 80 percent of his runners. Even an improved Fernandez is practically assured of some ERA and WHIP regression this year.

And for those who are skeptical of Fernandez's projected 16-10 record, recall that he did go 12-6 last year despite an utter lack of offensive support. The Marlins' offense still has major holes, but it should be a little better than last year.

Anibal Sanchez, Tigers

2014 5x5 projections: 14-9, 3.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 210 Ks in 195 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 11.8 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 23rd among all pitchers; 504 Fantasy Points, 24th among starting pitchers

Sanchez has been on-again, off-again as a strikeout pitcher, but it's easier to buy into a 9.0- plus K/9 ratio now that he is throwing harder. According to FanGraphs.com, Sanchez's average fastball velocity jumped from 91.8 mph in 2012 to 93.0 last year, and he produced a 13.6 percent swinging strike rate that was the highest of his career.

Given his history of inconsistent Fantasy production, owners may look for Sanchez's value to dip this year, but if they're looking for substantially fewer strikeouts, they're looking in the wrong place. Sanchez's ERA and WHIP were helped last season by a 6.3 percent home run-to-flyball ratio (HR/FB) and 79 percent strand rate. Neither is likely to be repeated. So even though the Tigers' defensive upgrades should help to reduce Sanchez's .312 BABIP from a year ago, he is still at risk of seeing his ERA and WHIP head northward.

Despite swing-and-miss stuff and strong command, Sanchez should be treated as a second-tier starter, unless he somehow strengthens his ground ball tendencies or exceeds 200 innings for the first time in his career.

Matt Cain, Giants

2014 5x5 projections: 13-9, 3.31 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 186 Ks in 215 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 11.6 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 26th among all pitchers; 531 Fantasy Points, 16th among starting pitchers

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!

A beacon of consistency, Cain essentially photocopied his 2010 season and turned it in for both 2011 and 2012. That made his 2013 early-season faceplant all the more difficult to understand, especially when his struggles persisted deep into the summer. Cain was hit by the home run bug early, but he didn't really hit his stride until late July. He lacked his typical control and allowed hitters to square up on the ball more often than usual, as was reflected by unfavorable line drive and popup rates (at least by his standards).

Cain offered owners some reassurance over his final 10 starts, during which he threw roughly two- thirds of his pitches for strikes while issuing only 14 walks over 67 1/3 innings. According to BaseballReference.com, Cain was still allowing line drives at a 25 percent rate over that stretch, but he compiled a 12 percent popup rate that kept his BABIP at a svelte .265 -- right in line with his normal rates.

Cain's slump was extended to the degree that it's hard to forecast a full return to his typical ERAs around 3.00 and WHIPs below 1.10, but his late-season return to form gives me confidence to project him at a level just a shade below his established norm.

Michael Wacha, Cardinals

2014 5x5 projections: 13-9, 3.46 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 196 Ks in 190 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 10.7 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 36th among all pitchers; 474 Fantasy Points, 31st among starting pitchers

No matter how highly touted a prospect may be, there will be some risk involved in reaching for him when he's produced a grand total of 170 2/3 regular season innings as a professional, with 106 of those coming in the minors. That's all we've seen from Wacha ... well, that plus 30 2/3 innings of postseason work. Despite the inexperience, it's hard to resist Wacha once the established studs are gone, as he has excelled at every level. While detractors may point to his mediocre 7.7 K/9 ratio in Triple-A, he showed his potential for strikeouts with an 11 percent swinging strike rate (per StatCorner.com).

Despite a thoroughly impressive, albeit limited, track record, Wacha is not without potential pitfalls. He showed occasional bouts of wildness last season and was fortunate to have thrown only 18 2/3 of his 64 2/3 regular season innings away from pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium. He does seem to be a safe bet to strike out more than a batter per inning and reach his projected 190 innings, and his overall projection lands him among the top 40 starters. That status likely represents his floor.

Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees

2014 5x5 projections: 13-9, 3.55 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 173 Ks in 195 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 9.7 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 54th among all pitchers; 459 Fantasy Points, 42nd among starting pitchers

Tanaka has received attention for his $155 million contract from the Yankees and 24-0 season in the Japanese Pacific League last year, and both have helped to create expectations he will be a top 25 pitcher, at least judging by his current ADP (22nd in Roto, 23rd in Head-to-Head). While he has put up some tidy stats in Japan, Tanaka was not the strikeout pitcher there that Yu Darvish was, but he did exhibit exceptional control. Simply because of the money that Yankees have invested in Tanaka, Fantasy owners may be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he will fulfill his potential right away. However, he may not provide a full return on the Yankees' investment until some point later in his seven-year deal.

Success overseas doesn't always translate into instant success in the majors. Recall that even Darvish struggled for much of his 2012 rookie season and Hisashi Iwakuma only showed glimpses of his pinpoint control in his rookie year. Though Tanaka could make a quick and smooth transition to the majors, it's probably too optimistic to expect him to reach the strikeout-per-inning threshold or rank among the WHIP leaders this year, even though he could do both eventually. A top 25 ranking feels like Tanaka's upside, so it may pay off in single-season leagues to let someone else draft him in that stratum.

Jeff Samardzija, Cubs

2014 5x5 projections: 11-12, 3.73 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 205 Ks in 210 innings pitched
2014 overall value (projected): 9.5 Standings Gain Points (5x5), 62nd among all pitchers; 464 Fantasy Points, 36th among starting pitchers

Through the first three months of last season, Samardzija was the mayor of Breakout City, riding an enhanced ground ball rate to a 3.34 ERA. When the calendar flipped to July, Samardzija suddenly lost his command and migrated to Slumpsville, where he posted a 5.47 ERA. Even though he continued to induce grounders, he started giving up more extra-base hits, allowing more walks and missing fewer bats.

So which Samardzija shows up for the 2014 season? The main source of his second-half problems appeared to be a sinker that lost some of its sink. Batters feasted on the flatter version of the pitch, putting up a .202 Isolated Power on it over the last three months versus an .085 mark between April and June, according to the PitchFX data on BrooksBaseball.net.

We can't know if and when Samardzija will start offering a more deceptive sinker again, but as Fantasy analytics pioneer Ron Shandler has posited, once a player demonstrates a skill, he owns it. That's why I have Samardzija projected for a performance more in line with his earlier work from last year, though I've hedged my bets on his ERA just in case he needs time to regain his form.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

  •  
 
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Scott Kazmir strikes out six in no-decision vs. Astros
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir wasn't a factor in Tuesday's decision, giving up two runs (one earned) on seven hits and one walk in seven innings and striking out six in his team's extra-innings game against the Astros.

Kazmir wasn't able to pick up his third straight win despite holding the opposition to one earned run or fewer for the fourth straight start. The Oakland pitcher has been at the top of his game over the last few months, aside from an ugly seven-run outing in late June. Kazmir owns a 2.32 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 114:28 K:BB ratio in 124 1/3 innings. He's slated to take on the Rangers Sunday.


Brett Oberholtzer gives up two runs in no-decision Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Astros pitcher Brett Oberholtzer didn't factor into the decision Tuesday after surrendering two earned runs on six hits and two walks in seven innings and not recording a strikeout in his team's extra-innings game against the A's.

Oberholtzer was handed a 2-0 lead after the top of the third innind, but he gave back one run in the bottom of the frame and the other on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. He has given up two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, but he hasn't earned a win since rejoining the team in late June. Oberholtzer owns a 4.32 ERA and 51:19 K:BB ratio in 77 innings. He'll likely be taken out of the rotation if Collin McHugh is ready to return this weekend.


Michael Wacha may not pitch again this season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:45 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha admitted before Tuesday's game that team doctors told him he might not pitch again this season after discovering a shoulder "fissure," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Wacha had an MRI and CT scan over the weekend but wasn't cleared to resume throwing Monday. He'll rest for a few more weeks before being re-evaluated. A best-case scenario would find Wacha getting a couple of starts in September, and the pitcher remains optimistic he'll be able to return before the end of the season.


Mike Trout slugs 24th home run Tuesday vs. Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:41 am ET) Angels outfielder Mike Trout provided his team's only offense Tuesday, going 1 for 4 with a two-run home run in his team's 4-2 loss to the Orioles.

Trout was one of only two Angels to get a hit in the game, and while his hit sailed over the outfield fence for a home run, it wasn't enough to avoid the loss. He has hit .309/.395/.610 with 24 home runs, 76 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 369 at-bats.


Jonathan Schoop knocks eighth home run Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:39 am ET) Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop went 2 for 4 with a two-run home run in his team's 4-2 win over the Angels Tuesday.

After J.J. Hardy drove in the first run of the game with a double in the sixth inning, Schoop immediately followed with a home run to give his team the cushion needed to hang on to the win. He has hit .220/.256/.338 with eight home runs and 26 RBI in 287 at-bats, but two of his homers have come since the All-Star break.


Mariners send Erasmo Ramirez to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:36 am ET) The Mariners optioned pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to Triple-A Tacoma after Tuesday's loss.

Ramirez pitched well Tuesday, giving up just two runs in seven innings while striking out 10, but he still loses his roster spot to Wednesday starter Taijuan Walker. Ramirez owns a 4.12 ERA and 43:11 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings over nine starts with Tacoma.


Lucas Duda slugs 15th home run Tuesday vs. Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:34 am ET) Mets first baseman Lucas Duda went 2 for 4 with a solo home run in his team's 3-1 victory over the Mariners Tuesday.

Duda gave his team an insurance run with his eighth-inning blast, and he now owns a modest six-game hitting streak. The first baseman has hit .261/.357/.485 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 299 at-bats.


Aaron Hill slugs eighth home run Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:32 am ET) Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill went 1 for 3 with a solo home run and three RBI in his team's 5-4 win over the Tigers Tuesday.

Hill started his day with a blast over the left-field fence in the first inning to tie the game at 1-1. He added another RBI on a sacrifice fly in the third inning and drove in a third run on a groundout in the sixth. Hill has put together a seven-game hitting streak to help boost his line to .251/.284/.380 with eight home runs and 48 RBI in 363 at-bats.


Zach Britton strikes out two in 18th save
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:23 am ET) Orioles pitcher Zach Britton recorded two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 ninth inning Tuesday, picking up his 18th save in his team's 4-2 win over the Angels.

Britton threw nine of his 12 pitches for strikes and got ahead 0-1 against all three of the batters he faced. He was rocked in the second-half opener but has settled down since, tossing 2 1/3 perfect innings with four strikeouts. Britton owns a 1.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 42:14 K:BB ratio in 50 2/3 innings.


Miguel Gonzalez surrenders two runs in win vs. Angels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez earned a win Tuesday, giving up two earned runs on three hits and four walks in 7 2/3 innings and striking out five in his team's 4-2 victory over the Angels.

Gonzalez (5-5) rejoined the Orioles Tuesday after spending the break in the minors, and he put together seven scoreless innings before surrendering a two-run home run in the eighth. He owns a 3.91 ERA and 74:36 K:BB ratio in 96 2/3 innings. Gonzalez is lined up to face the Mariners Sunday.


 
 
 
Rankings