Fantasy Baseball

Starting Pitchers: Top 74 (and more) for 2014

21.  Zack Greinke (Dodgers):  It seems Greinke is enjoying his new team, but don’t go drafting him based upon this year’s numbers. The strikeouts were down which could be a concern, but he has dipped below 200 before only to bounce back the following year.  The 1.11 WHIP was nice but it was a far cry from the 1.2 he’s averaged prior to this year.  The same can be said for the 2.63 ERA which was a full point below his career norms.  Nothing has really changed in his repertoire to constitute this kind of improvements, unless you believe his home park will continue to aid him.  Greinke had a 2.11 ERA with a .91 WHIP at home this year.  Dodger’s stadium has helped many a pitcher over the years so it’s possible (for the time being) that Greinke deserves a little more attention from us moving forward.  If you believe in the home park factor then expect an ERA around 2.8 and a 1.15 WHIP, but if you believe that it was just an overdue good year then expect the normal 3.6 ERA and 1.2 WHIP.  Strikeouts and wins  will be the same regardless of which Greinke shows up

22.  Hisashi Iwakuma (Mariners):  I drafted Iwakuma late expecting him to be a good pitcher, but I never expected this.  His ERA is better on the road, but his WHIP, BB and BAA are better at home.  If you look at his monthly splits you’ll see his ERA creep up each month up until September, so odds are the 2.66 ERA will be somewhere around 3.0 next year.  The strikeouts were a surprise as he never posted numbers that high in Japan, but they did stay constant each month so they could be for real.  All of his pitchers are above league average, but the splitter is his bread and butter.  Iwakuma generated a 74% groundball rate when throwing his splitter.  For 2014 Iwakuma will still be good, but he won’t be as good as we saw in 2013.  I would predict an ERA of 3.20 with a WHIP of 1.12 would be a baseline (give or take a smidge) with 170 strikeouts and 12 wins.

23.  Johnny Cueto (Reds):  It was a lost year for Cueto so we won’t dwell on what might have been.  Instead let’s look ahead at what might be in 2014.  In 2011 and 2012 Cueto delivered an average ERA of 2.5 so that would be a good place to start for next year.  His strikeouts in 2012 were above average so based upon his previous seasons I’m gonna pencil him in for 150 K’s with a chance for more.  Cueto doesn’t walk many batters and is generally good at limiting his hits so a WHIP in the 1.10 range sounds about right.  As for wins, he plays for a high power offence with a decent pen and one of the best closers in the league so he should win 14-15 games.  There is a chance he can exceed all those predictions as he was showing improvements in the two years prior to 2013.  He could slip through the cracks come draft day as some may overlook him due to his missed time.

24.  Shelby Miller (Cardinals):  If I had to grade the 22-year-old rookie’s performance I would give him an A-.  His strikeouts were lower than they were in the minors but 8.78 K/9 is very good.  The 2.96 BB/9 needs some work, but it was better than the 3.0+ he was putting up in the minors.  Twenty home runs were a little much for only 173 innings so he might try and keep a few more of those in the park in the future.  The ERA and WHIP were both good and on par with what he did in the minors.  Overall, except for the home runs and walks (which all rookies have problems with early), The Cardinals and fantasy owners should feel very encouraged.  I’d like to predict more of the same next year, but the potential of a sophomore slump looming makes me weary.  Miller has very good upside but for just next year I might be more comfortable with someone like James Shields or Matt Moore.

25.  James Shields (Royals):  Shields lost some strikeouts this year, but it wasn’t due to a loss in velocity.  In fact, for the past 2 years his fastball is 1 MPH above his career average.  He also gave up fewer home runs this year which could be attributed to his new division.  His Hits per 9 have gone up for the second year in a row, and this year his walks increased as well.  He’s been able to limit the damage and preserve his ERA, but his WHIP hasn’t been so lucky and has gone up for the past two years.  Despite the increases, Shields is still a an affective pitcher capable of delivering solid numbers.  Expect an ERA around 3.5, a WHIP of 1.2 and 190 strikeouts.

26.  Gerrit Cole (Pirates):  Cole’s debut with the Pirates was on June 11th.  I think it’s safe to say that Cole’s time in the minor league is over.  With the exception of his strikeouts, his numbers were right in line with his minor league career.  Of his 21 starts (including those in the playoffs), 15 were quality starts.  His BB/9 was only 2.15 which is a full point below his minor league numbers.  Cole does a good job at limiting home runs as demonstrated by his .54 HR/9 this year and his .50 average in the minors.  He accomplishes this feat with a dominating curve ball and a ground ball percentage of 49.  His fastball isn’t bad either clocking in regularly at 95.5 MPH.  Most rookies go through an adjustment period, but I don’t see much of one here.  I’m not predicting a breakout just yet.  Cole is good, but he’s not there yet.  He should be able to replicate his ERA and WHIP with a K/9 around 8.0.  Those 10 names he’s looking up at in the rankings, he’ll be looking down on them come 2015.

27.  Matt Moore (Rays):  There were some positives and negatives in Moore’s second year.  On the positive side he lowered his ERA, WHIP and BAA against.  His ERA was right in line with his minor league numbers but his WHIP still needs some work.  He also lowered his hit totals with hits per 9 of 7.12.  He needed that anemic hit total to make up for his increased walks.  His BB/9 this year was a whooping 4.55.  We overlooked the 4.11 BB/9 last year and wrote it off as a case of rookieitus, but for someone with his talent we expected the walks to go the other way.  The strikeouts were slightly down, possibly attributed to the 2 MPH drop in all of his pitches (only 1.5 MPH on his changeup).  That’s 3 MPH off of his fastball since 2011.  Normally a drop in velocity like that in a young player is a sign of an underlying issue, and while no injuries have been mentioned it’s something to monitor.  With a player of Moore’s talent I would normally call for more improvements next year, but the walks and velocity issues have me concerned.  This one could go either way and while his talent demands a higher ranking, I wouldn’t put my money here.

28.  Patrick Corbin (Diamondbacks):  Corbin surprised a lot of people this year.  Nobody really saw this coming, mainly because he wasn’t one of those highly touted rookies and his 2012 debut was uninspiring to say the least.  If you look at his minor league numbers though, you’ll see the numbers he put up this year are exactly who he is.  He’s not a big strikeout guy, but he’s capable of giving us a K/9 of 8.0.  His hit totals have always been a little high but he’s good at limiting the number of free passes he hands out so the WHIP is sustainable.  The 3.41 ERA should be easy to maintain, but he should be able to lower that.  Before he pitched against Philly on August 25th Corbin had an ERA of 2.45 which is a full point lower than his final line.  In 2014 I expect Corbin to regress some.  Now when I say regress, I don’t mean he’ll have a worse ERA than 3.41, I mean regress from the 2.45 ERA guy we saw the first five months.  Corbin will deliver and ERA around 3.5 with a decent WHIP and good strikeout numbers.  He will be a solid pitcher for years to come.

29.  C.C. Sabathia (Yankees):  This was the worst season of Sabathia’s career as he set new highs (or should I say lows) in ERA, WHIP, BAA, HR allowed, Runs scored and losses.  He did manage to win 14 games so I guess there is a little silver lining here.  After pitching 14 years in the majors it was bound to happen.  Before this year C.C. was good for an ERA between 3.0 and 3.5 and a WHIP of 1.17 (give or take).  His K/9 was usually 8.0 or higher and at worst it was in the mid to high 7 range.  The wins have always been double digits and the 14 wins this year was his lowest total since 2006.  This could have just been a down year it might be a sign of things to come.  C.C. will turn 34 in June so he’s not getting any younger.  He also lost some zip on his fastball which has gone from 93.9 MPH in 2011 to 92.4 in 2012 down to 91.3 MPH this year.  Some pitchers lose velocity and fall apart while others adapt and go on to have successful careers.  This was more than likely just an off year for Sabathia and he should be back to normal in 2014.  If the possibility of regression frightens you then feel free to look elsewhere.

30.  A.J. Burnett (Free Agent):  This ranking could become a moot point.  Burnett says he’s contemplating retirement and if he plays one more year he wants to play for the Pirates.  The Pirates would love to have him but only at the right price.  Provided Pittsburgh resigns Burnett, he should be in line for a decent year.  With the exception of the 3 nightmare years he spent with the Yankees Burnett has been an good picture.  The past two years he has delivered an average ERA of 3.4, a 1.23 WHIP and 195 strikeouts.  His ground/fly ball and line drive rate hasn’t changed and neither has his velocity.  Given the consistency he has shown the past few years there’s little reason to believe he can’t deliver more of the same in 2014.  He doesn’t have any upside at age 37, but dependability is worth its weight in gold.

31.  Julio Teheran (Braves):  After a rough season in AAA last year he was written off at the end of April in many redraft leagues, but those that stuck with the 22-year-old were rewarded for their patience.  He spent the next four months reminding fantasy owners why he was one of the Braves top pitching prospects.  Teheran stumbled some in September but that was to be expected given the number of innings he worked.  In any other year he might have received rookie of the year considerations, but with the emergences of guys like Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey and Yasiel Puig; Teheran was barely a blip on the radar.  Teheran shows good control, limiting the number of free passes he issues.  The 41% fly ball rate could use some work and he could keep a few more of those singles inside the park, but otherwise there is not much to complain about here.  Will we see improvement or a sophomore slump?  I’m going out on a limb and calling for improvements here with an ERA under 3.0 and a WHIP around 1.10.

32.  Alex Cobb (Rays):  You can take many of the good things I said about Teheran and apply them here.  Cobb basically came in under the radar in the fantasy world.  He was not listed as one of the top prospects for the Rays and was just supposed to be the guy replacing Shields in the bottom of the order.  What The Rays got instead was an ace in the making.  His 2.76 ERA wasn’t far off of his FIP or XFIP so there wasn’t any luck involved here.  His 2.83 BB/9 could use a little work, but he compensated for his walks with a ground ball rate of 56% and a HR/9 of .73 (not to mention his 81.4% strand rate).  His biggest change and reason for success is the use and trust of his curveball.  His minor league numbers were already good, but if he can generate this kind of success in a year by changing just one of his pitches; the sky’s the limit.   OK he’s (probably) not going to be a superstar, but another year like this and Cobb will easily be a top 20 pitcher.  He’s currently ranked behind Matt Moore, but providing there is no regression he could rank ahead of him by year’s end.  He doesn’t qualify as a sleeper, but in a way he does as he doesn’t have the brand name recognition yet.  Don’t sleep on Cobb in 2014.

33.  Hyun-Jin Ryu (Dodgers):  Ryu just proves how much value you can find with those late round picks.  He had a minor hiccup in July but otherwise it was a very good season for Ryu.  Normally I would point out the mistakes and things that need improvement here, but the only thing I could find is his need to improve on the road.  His walk rate, home runs allowed, groundball rate (50.6%) and FIP all check out.  He went at least 6 innings in 24 of his30 starts and allowed more than 3 runs in only 5 starts.  Ryu finished with a 3.0 ERA but if you take out his month of July he had a 2.78 for the other 5 months.  Can he repeat the numbers he put up this year?  The Dodgers and their 6 year $36 million dollar contract say yes, and I agree with them.  You won’t sneak him in at the end of your draft, but he’ll give you good value in the middle rounds.

34.  Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees):  Kuroda will be 39 next year, but I swear he was born on a leap year because he didn’t pitch like a 38 year old this year.  The past two seasons have been virtually identical, including his home and away splits.  He was actually a better pitcher in Yankee Stadium which is somewhat surprising given the dimensions of the park.  His fastball is down to 90.6 MPH, but considering he only threw it 8.2% of the time this year that shouldn’t be an issue.  His big pitch is the sinker (41.1%) and that hasn’t changed.  Looking at his ERA against individual teams, 3 of his 4 biggest nemeses this year were Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Boston so it would probably be in his best interest if he didn’t sign with an AL East team.  If he does Kuroda will probably deliver numbers slightly higher that what we saw this year.  If he signs elsewhere he could actually repeat his 2013 numbers.  If he were a fastball pitcher I would call for regression, but since he relies more on control I think he’s got one good year left in him before we have to worry.

35.  Jon Lester (Red Sox):  The Lester we all used to love is back!  He ended the season with a 3.75 ERA which isn’t very impressive, but that was inflated by a month long disaster in June.  If you take out that June ERA of 7.62 and average out the other five months, we get an ERA of 3.11.  See, Lester is back.  The strikeouts weren’t all there but a K/9 of 7.47 is above average.  The hits allowed are still high, but a few less home runs helped to limit the damage.  The velocity of his fastball isn’t where it was in 09 and 10, but it was back up to where it was in 2011.  His numbers at Fenway are pretty good, but lately Tampa, Baltimore and NY have given him trouble.  Since Boston has picked up his option, those troublsome teams aren’t going anywhere so he’ll just have to deal with it.  I see a repeat of 2013 and while Lester had a 3.11 ERA through 5 months, he is going to have that one bad month as well.

36.  Michael Wacha (Cardinals):  Wacha received an extended look with 5 starts in September.  He impressed so much that he received starts against the Pirates and Dodgers in the playoffs and against Boston in the World Series.  You would think after all that he would have a starting role with the Cardinals next season, but he still might have to battle Jamie Garcia and Joe Kelly for a job.  He has more talent and upside than both of these players so the decision seems simple, but nothing is simple in an organization rich in minor league talent.  If the numbers he’s produced so far are any indication of what we can expect in the future, the sky’s the limit.  He should rank right next to Gerrit Cole at 26, but until we know if Wacha will be a starter or not he’s conservatively ranked here.  There’s a lot of talent and upside here so don’t be surprised if you see his name among the top 20 starters when the 2014 season comes to an end.

37.  Clay Buchholz (Red Sox):  He had all the makings of a career year before an injury knocked him out.  This seems to be a growing trend with Buchholz as he has spent time on the DL in every season with the exception of 2009.  2011 and 2013 were the most costly as he missed half the season in each of those years.  In between DL stints he’s been a pretty effective pitcher.  His 2012 stats don’t look good, but that was due to a horrid April where he surrendered 28 runs in 29 innings.  He started to come around in May and from June through September he posted an ERA of 3.45 (which was right in line with his 2011 season).  That is more of the pitcher he is on average, but he is capable of more as he showed us this year and in 2010.  His BB/9 has been closer to 3.0 these past few years which is an improvement but still high.  His HR/9 can be very low if everything clicks but on average it is above 1.0.  His K/9 was close to 8 this year but his major league average is 6.85.  Buchholz has the ability to give you a very good season, but at worst he’ll give you a league average one.  He’s also a DL risk with average strikeout ability so if you draft him, you better cross your fingers.  I’d put my money someplace else.

38.  Jake Peavy (Red Sox):  Peavy should have been done in 2010 and nobody had much hope he would pitch again after his experimental surgery.  Fast forward three years and he’s pitching in the World Series.  Peavy is not the same pitcher he once was, but he is still effective.  Since the surgery his BB/9 has gone down.  As a result the WHIP has stabilized in the 1.15 range the past few years.  Peavy is no longer striking out a batter an inning but a 7.5 K/9 ratio is still pretty good.  His fly ball percentage has gone up as has his HR/9, but he’s very efficient at limiting the damage most nights.   He finished the year with an ERA of 4.17 and it would have been under 4.0 had it not been for a clunker of a September.  He’s no longer an elite arm, but he is a stable cog you can plug into the middle of your lineup and play without fear most weeks.  An ERA of around 3.75 with a WHIP around 1.15 would be a safe call for next year.  He should get plenty of win opportunities pitching for the Sox.

39.  Jered Weaver (Angels):  Despite a decline in velocity and diminishing strikeout totals, Weaver is still an effective pitcher.  I was going to go into detail about Weaver’s skills but Mike Podhorzer at fangraphs have done such an indepth job it would be an insult to try and improve upon it.  Click here to read his article….I’ll wait.

Now that you know everything you need to know about Weaver, you’re probably wondering why he’s ranked this high.  He did a good job this year for a guy with a fastball that’s less than 87 MPH.  His walks may be inching up but at a slow enough pace that his WHIP will still be good.  Weaver plays in a spacious home field which helps to pad his stats, plus he has games on the road against the A’s, Mariners and Astros.  Finally the Angels shouldn’t be as bad next year so the win total should be more than 11.  Weaver’s skills are on the decline, but we’re at least a few years away from a collapse so there’s no reason to avoid him next year (just don’t reach for him).

40.  Lance Lynn (Cardinals):  On the surface it doesn’t appear that Lynn has made much progress.  His K/9 went down while his BB/9 and ERA went up.  While the ERA and WHIP weren’t horrible, they weren’t encouraging either until you look at his splits.  On the Road Lynn has an ERA of 5.15 with a 1.45 WHIP, but in Busch Stadium he has a zesty 2.82 ERA with a 1.18 WHIP.  He needs to work on his road game and if he can improve that he could be a stable number 3-4 pitcher for your fantasy staff.  He did cut back on using his curveball and almost tripled the use of his slider which could play a part in his regression if he’s not fully confident in the pitch.  Now I said his K/9 was down but he still average 8.84 last year and this is a full point above what he did in the minors.  There is a good pitcher rolled up in there just screaming to get out, and this could be the year it happens.  This will be Lynn’s third full year so we could be looking at a breakout.  Expect an ERA around 3.70 with a 1.24 WHIP and 185+ strikeouts.

41.  R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays):  Dickey is one of the few pitchers that has been able to not only successfully throw a knuckleball, but has been able to locate the pitch wherever he wants it…until this year.  Normally when a 38 year old pitcher has a year like this and gives up 35 home runs you run away and don’t look back, but knuckleballers don’t age like normal pitchers.  Dickey allowed 1 less home run in Toronto (23) than he did all of last year, so his new home isn’t doing him any favors.  He also needed some time to adjust to the AL as evident by his 3.56 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in the second half.  The strikeouts were down but that was to be expected since 2012 was an abnormality.  Moving forward, expect the ERA to be more in the 3.5 range, a 1.2 WHIP and 150 strikeouts.  Dickey will still give up a large number of home runs, but he should be able to limit the damage now that he’s adjusted.

42.  C.J. Wilson (Angels):  It was a typical C.J. year.  The 3.39 ERA is right in line with what he’s done the past few years.  The walks and WHIP were both a little high and could use some work.  His strikeout totals flirted with the 200 mark but just couldn’t get there, and the 17 wins are higher but close to what we expected.  That’s C.J. Wilson, none of his numbers jump off the page at you but he quietly gets the job done.  I like players like this for their dependability and consistency, and it makes it really easy to predict what we will get from Wilson next season.  Look for an ERA around the 3.5 mark, a WHIP around 1.3, 185 strikeouts and 15 wins.  I shook my magic 8 ball and it agrees with me.

43.  Yovani Gallardo (Brewers):  Gallardo has a few things in common with Lewis.  They both walk a few too many so you can expect a WHIP around 1.3.  They both have high strikeout potential except Gallardo can get you a few more on average.  Gallardo allows a few more home runs so you’ll get a higher ERA (somewhere around 3.7).  And finally both are good for about 15 wins on average.  The big difference in their bottom line is how they get there.  Wilson will usually have one rough month but is pretty consistant throughout the year.  Gallardo on average will give you 3 really good months.  As for the other 3, 1 month will be numbers you aren’t happy with but can live, another will be horrific where you just want to kick him off your team and the third will be somewhere between those two.  For a roto league it might not matter but in H2H it can be frustrating.  Sit him on the road vs. the Cardinals and Rockies and you’ll alleviate two potential heartaches.

44.  Matt Garza (Free Agent):  This is one of those picks that could go up or down depending on where Garza signs.  He put up higher but acceptable numbers with the Rays, lower and improved numbers with the Cubs, and 13 games for the Rangers most of which can be ignored.  Looking at his fly ball rate and home runs allowed, it would be in his best interest to sign with a team that played in a pitcher friendly park; preferably in the NL.  On the right team you can get an ERA in the mid to low 3’s and a WHIP around 1.15.  On the wrong team you’re looking at an ERA close to 4.0 (if not higher) and a WHIP of 1.28.  The strikeouts will be the same no matter where he goes, but the number can be anywhere between 150 and 200.  Garza is a good pitcher, but now he needs to find a team that will make him a good fantasy pitcher.  Once he signs we can readdress the value of one Matt Garza.

45.  Andrew Cashner (Padres):  It took a few years, a new team, some DL time for his shoulder and rotator cuff and a few runs through the bullpen but Cashner is now a starter.  He finished the season with a 3.09 ERA, and it could have been a 2.80 had it not been for a 2 inning hiccup verse the Nationals in July.  The strikeouts were lower than we expected, but they did increase in the second half which is a positive.  He did a good job at limiting his walks as well as keeping the ball in the park.  There was never much doubt about Cashner’s stuff; it was his health that we all questioned.  He did manage to make it through this season relatively unscathed (minus a brief hamstring strain) and he was throwing harder as the season progressed.  Provided his shoulder is fully healed and Cashner is comfortable with it, I believe he’s a safe bet going forward.  I think the ERA might increase slightly to 3.3 and he probably won’t get more than 12 wins out of the Padres.  The strikeouts will increase so expect at least 150 next year with a chance for more.

46.  Brandon Beachy (Braves):  He sent fantasy owners into a panic with his impending return as nobody knew whose spot he would take, but that problem was short lived.  With Paul Maholm leaving and possible Hudson, there’s a spot there for Beachy in 2014.  With the time that has passed since he’s last pitched and the rookie hype years behind him, Beachy could come in under the radar in most casual leagues.  The strikeout potential is there and he should easily strikeout a batter an inning.  He has struggled with walks at times in the past, but even if he does have problems to start I don’t see a WHIP of more than 1.2.  I think the ERA is the hardest thing to nail down.  He could struggle some due to the layoff and give us a 3.68 like he did in 2011 or he could come out refreshed and put up an ERA closer to 2.0 like he did in 2012.  He’ll be drafted around the same spot in most draft, but you won’t know if you getting a good or very good pitcher until after the first few months.  There is little downside and tons of potential.

47.  Kris Medlen (Braves):  Medlen is probably the safer Brave to pick, but his bullpen experience always weighs on owners when someone in the minors breaks out (that could be Alex Wood next year).  He didn’t quite live up to the numbers we saw in 2012, but it was still a pretty good year for Medlen.  He hit a rough patch in July but otherwise was consistent all year.  The 7.17 K/9 was lower than his major and minor league averages, but is pretty good for a guy with an 89 MPH fastball.  Medlen is above average when it comes to limiting walks so I don’t see his WHIP going over the 1.22 he posted this year.  The 3.11 ERA is more than likely a median as he has the potential to do a little better than that but is also prone to the occasional blowup.  For 2014 I see similar numbers to this year but except a higher ERA (3.40) and lower WHIP (1.12).

48.  Francisco Liriano (Pirates):  Every year we look at Liriano and become giddy at the strikeout potential, and almost every year he either implodes or breaks.  If you were one of the savvy owners who was fortunate enough to grab Liriano off waivers this year, congratulations.  Many people (myself included) had given up on him.  Even when he started off hot we looked at him with disbelief and ignored him.  This was Liriano’s best season since his rookie year in 2006.  He still walks a few too many batters so odds are we won’t be seeing a 1.22 WHIP next year.  The 3.02 ERA was great, but his hits/9 hasn’t been this low since 2006 and I don’t see another fly ball rate of 25%.  Granted maybe he has turned the corner, but given his injury history and the fact that he really didn’t change anything; I’m not buying it.  I could be wrong (I was wrong about him this year), but given a few of the options surrounding him in the rankings I think I would pass.  If he falls late enough in the draft maybe, but somebody will take him next year earlier than he should be taken.

By Jim Finch

The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.

2 replies on “Starting Pitchers: Top 74 (and more) for 2014”

I’d like to see Paxton win a starting role, but I think it comes down to him and Erasmo Ramirez and what each one does in spring. If Erasmo has a solid spring they’ll more than likely give him one more shot and let Paxton start the year in the minors. Plus Paxton needs to work on his control some more IMO and bring those walk totals down. Because of the walks problem, I don’t expect much more than a few flashes of brilliance even if he does win a job this spring.

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