Starting Pitchers: Top 74 (and more) for 2014

49.  Jarrod Parker (A’s):    It was a decent year overall for the sophomore, but there is still room for improvements.  Parker’s BB/9 dropped and while his walks are still a little high at least he’s below 3.0.  The WHIP fell as well along with his BAA, neither by a large amount but baby steps are always welcome.  His home run totals spiked which coincides with a 10% increase in fly balls, and his ERA paid the price as it hovered just below 4.0.  Strikeouts also fell and the 6.1 K/9 is a far cry from the 8.5 he showed us in the minors.  Normally when a player has Tommy John surgery at a young age they come back a little better than before and some with increased velocity.  That doesn’t seem to be the case here so we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope the strikeouts improve.  His ERA next season will be lower (3.70) and I see continued improvement in his WHIP, but I wouldn’t expect more than 150 strikeouts.  Parker will be entering his third full year so there is breakout potential.  I may not believe it will happen but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

50.  Zack Wheeler (Mets):  Mets fans were thrilled at the possibility of a Harvey/Wheeler duo at the top of the order.  Guess that will have to wait a year.  Wheeler put on a decent showing his year with the big club, but he still has some things to work on.  He had a low HR/9 ratio in the minors but this year it was .90.  His history suggests this shouldn’t be a problem so expect some corrections here moving forward.  His average BB/9 in the minors was 4.04 and that number followed him.  He was able to lower that number to 3.3 his final year in AA and this year in AAA, but a 3.3 BB/9 is still too high.  Don’t expect this to change overnight as it may take years to correct (if ever).  The 3.42 ERA was in line with his minor league numbers, but could use some improvement at home.  I can see an ERA of 3.75 next year with a WHIP closer to 1.3 with a slight increase in strikeouts.  You won’t see big improvements in his counting stats, but you will in his underlying stats.  2014 will be an OK year, but it’s just a stepping stone to 2015.

51.  Tony Cingrani (Reds):  With Bronson Arroyo all but gone there is a spot open, but will it go to Cingrani?  He did well in his first go around posting a 2.92 ERA with a 1.1 WHIP, 120 strikeouts and a .196 BAA against.  Despite the pretty numbers there are still some concerns going forward.  First is his walk rate.  They weren’t a problem early on but from AA up to the majors his BB/9 is in the 3.8 range.  Guys with big strikeout potential can sometimes get away with a high walk total but it’s still something to keep an eye on.  His home run totals were high this year but I’ll give him a pass on that one for now.  His biggest problem is that Cingrani throws a fastball.  He has a slider, curveball and changeup, but he threw his fastball 81% of the time last year.  Eventually that 92 MPH fastball will get served up like its batting practice so he has to improve his secondary pitches or he’s doomed.  If he starts in the majors I expect to see regression here as you don’t learn and master new pitches overnight.  Don’t fall in love with or buy his 2013 numbers because they will be short-lived, but on the otherhand his potential can’t be ignored.

52.  A.J. Griffin (A’s):  I think I’m higher on Griffin than most people.  We could just focus on the league leading 36 home runs he surrendered, but instead let’s concentrate on some of the positive aspects.  First there is his 1.13 WHIP which is identical to last year.  His hits per 9 this year was 7.70 which isn’t far off the 7.44 he had in the minors.  His BB/9 was a little high at 2.43 but it was 2.08 last year and 1.78 in the minors.  He’s shown us he can limit the number of base runners so a WHIP of 1.15 or lower is realistic (and the same as Felix Hernandez).  A K/9 of 7.5 or more may seem high for someone with an 89 MPH fastball, but that’s exactly what he’s done right up until the majors so 160 strikeouts seem reasonable.  As for the ERA, a 3.83 is the highest we’ve seen from him at any level, but it’s not bad when you factor in how many home runs he gave up.  I see the home run numbers coming down next year and it will take the ERA with it.  There are a few safer names listed below, but many of them don’t have any upside and won’t outperform their ranking.  Griffin deserves some consideration here.

53.  Tim Lincecum (Giants):  Just like Cingrani Lincecum had a 92 MPH fastball with a higher than normal walk rate and the occasional problem with the long ball.  For the past 2 years Lincecum’s average fastball is a little over 90 MPH and the results have been devastating.  He is still striking out 190+ a year but the ERA (5.18 – 4.37), WHIP (1.47 – 1.32) and HR/9 (1.11 – .96) have taken him from a must start guy to a spot starter.  It’s not just his fastball either as he’s had problems throwing his changeup for strikes.  Having problems with one pitch is hard, but problems with both of his bread and butter pitches are not a good thing.  Part of me wants to move him to the bottom of the rankings, but he did show some improvements in his changeup last year so there is a glimmer of hope.  I don’t see Lincecum completely turning things around next year, but I can see an ERA close to 4.0 and a WHIP below 1.3.  Those aren’t jaw dropping numbers but if you throw in 190 or so strikeouts and double-digit wins he’s useful.  He could come as a bargain on draft day, but he’s now a mid draft pick as opposed to someone to grab in the top half.

54.  Doug Fister (Nationals):  His numbers were supposed to take a hit when he left Seattle, but Fister is the same pitcher he was when he broke into the league.  He’s a groundball pitcher with good control and the ability to limit walks (1.81 BB/9) and keep the ball in the park (.70 HR/9).  His WHIP on average will be around a 1.2 so you can chalk this year’s 1.31 up to a few too many hits.  The 3.67 ERA was in the right neighborhood as were his strikeout totals.  You get to a point in the draft where you need a few dependable names just to fill in your rotation with and this is one of them.  His ratios are average but won’t hurt you.  He doesn’t strikeout out a lot but a K/9 ratio around 7.0 is solid.  The Tigers bats keep them in the game so double-digit wins are a virtual lock.  There is no upside, but there is limited downside or risk involved.  You’re getting an ERA of 3.6, a 1.2 WHIP, 155 strikeouts and 13-14 wins.

Edit 12/02 – A move to the NL East bumps up Fisters value into the mid 40’s making him solid mid round material.

55.  Jeff Samardzija (Cubs):  Samardzija reminds me of a younger somewhat healthier version of Liriano, so much strikeout potential but so little control.  His average fastball clocks in around 95 MPH, and the past 2 years he’s averaged a smidge more than a strikeout an inning.  He has also walked 3 batters for every 9 innings during that same stretch.  That is high but it is an improvement over his major league average of 3.77.  He’s a groundball pitcher (48.2%) yet his HR/9 is over 1.  The 1.22 WHIP in 2012 should be ignored as it has been 1.3 or higher in every other year.  He has a lifetime ERA of 4.19 in the majors, and it was 4.18 in AAA.  That’s a span of over 1,000 innings so I think it’s time we face the facts here.  Short of a career year (and he has one or two in him), Samardzija is someone who will give you a ton of strikeouts but he will ruin your ERA and WHIP on a weekly basis.  You can draft him and then beat your chest at the end of the year to a chorus of “I told you guys” if he does break out, but there are safer picks you could invest in.  Let somebody else have the extra strikeouts and the headaches that come with them.

56.  Ervin Santana (Free Agent):  Dr. Jeckle defeated Mr. Hyde in this year’s ERA battle.   Santana posted a 3.24 ERA and in four of the past seven years Santana has had an ERA in the three’s.  Then there are the other three years where Mr. Hyde showed up and he posted an ERA of 5.03 or higher.  The WHIP corresponds to these years as well as you can expect a WHIP of 1.30 or more from Mr. Hyde while Dr. Jeckle produces a WHIP between 1.1 and 1.2.  The strikeouts are the same regardless of which personality is on the mound so expect something close to 7 strikeouts per 9 innings.  Santana also seems to be allergic to wins so regardless of how well he pitches someone else will probably take credit for the game when it goes into the books.  Santana is a free agent and would benefit from a pitcher’s park as his ERA at home when he was with the Angels was a full run lower than his road ERA.  Even if he does find a good park to play in, you’ve got a 40% chance that Mr. Hyde will show up.

57.  Jhoulys Chacin (Rockies):  The Rockies got rid of their ridiculous 6 man rotation and innings cap for individual starts and Chacin started to return to normal.  He had problems with walks in the past but his BB/9 was 2.78 this year and that’s a far cry from the 3.73 he’s averaged over his career.  His HR/9 this year was .50 (.77 career average) which is impressive given the way balls fly out of Coors Field.  The biggest issue with Jhoulys has been his lack of strikeouts.  His K/9 has been under 6.0 for the past two years and is a full point lower than his major and minor league average.  He has lost some zip on his fastball which could be a contributing factor.  He is only 26 so it’s not like he can’t regain that speed.  Even if he doesn’t, a guy who can give you an ERA of 3.5 or lower with a 1.25 WHIP and 14 wins is still useful.  Worst case scenario is you draft him just for his road starts as he has a career 2.86 ERA away from Coors.

58.  John Lackey (Red Sox):  We all thought he was done after 2011, but he put out a new album in 2013 to kick off the John Lackey comeback tour.  Lackey was back to being the guy we saw prior to 2010.  The big reason for this was the return of his fastball which took a 2 year hiatus.  In 2010 and 2011 he relied on his cutter and only threw his fastball 15% of the time.  This year his fastball use was back up to 52% and all was right in the world again.  I’m not sure why he suddenly changed things (as it wasn’t due to a lack of velocity), but I’m glad he’s reverted back to his old ways.  Lackey is now 35 years old and while most players have usually started to regress at this age, Lackey hasn’t shown any real troubling signs.  He’s enjoying life in Boston (2.47 ERA at home), his velocity (91.6 MPH) is the same as it was in 2009 and there is no reason to believe that he can’t repeat what he did this year.  He’s the closest thing to a guarantee you can find this late in the rankings and his age will scare off some owners.

59.  Derek Holland (Rangers):  In 2012 Holland abandoned his fastball in favor of a sinker.  That move alone wasn’t that successful so this year he cut back on his sinker and curveball and doubled his slider use.  That combination seems to have worked wonders for him (at least for one year) as his ERA sank to 3.42, his K/9 was 7.99 and his HR/9 was almost cut in half.  He was slightly better on the road but the numbers are close.  Holland still needs to shave a few more walks (2.70 BB/9) or trim a few hits off his totals, otherwise the WHIP will stay in the 1.2 range.  It’s taken him a few years but Holland has developed into a very useful starting pitcher.  He should be able to repeat what he did this year and we could even see some more improvements.  His final line will probably be very close to Lackey’s so if you’re scared off by his age then go with the Holland.  He could even finish inside the top 50 by the end of next year.

60.  Justin Masterson (Indians):  This is the type of player Boston envisioned when they drafted Masterson, but I’m not exactly sure how many of those stats are here to stay.  His 3.54 BB/9 were in line with his career average.  He gave us a hits/9 this year of 7.27, but going backwards starting with 2012 we see 9.25, 8.79, 9.54 and 8.90.  It was nice to see a WHIP of 1.2 but expect a 1.3 or higher moving forward.  Masterson has been good at limiting damage from home runs thanks in part to a 58% ground ball rate, and he also stranded 75% of the runners on base this year.  If he can maintain his strand rate and limit the home runs the ERA could be for real.  In the minors and in college his K/9 was slightly over 8.0 and that number went down to 7.5 in the majors.  He’s capable of getting a strikeout an inning, but only if everything goes right so look for fewer strikeouts next year.  So what can we expect in 2014?  A WHIP of 1.30 and 160 strikeouts are the easy numbers.  The ERA could go either way, but I’m going to call for something above 4.0 as Masterson has never had 2 good seasons in a row.  Even in his down years he’s been a better pitcher at home so worst case scenario is you play the matchup game.

61.  Danny Salazar (Indians):  With the exception of a few extra home runs, Salazar showed us this year what to expect in the future.  He’s got a hard fastball that averages close to 96 MPH.  The strikeouts he displayed were a little higher than he’s shown in the minors so I might scale back my expectations some.  Salazar has good control and command so his walks will be limited as will his home run totals.  He’s not going to be an ace, but he will be the ace of the Cleveland staff in a year or two.  He should come close to the numbers he put up this year, but with a caveat.  This is the first time since 2009 that he has surpassed 100 innings.  I see Salazar being good and repeating this year’s numbers, but only for about 4 months.  He will be fatigued as the season draws to an end and his numbers will reflect this.  By the end of June I’d be shopping him because he won’t be giving you those pretty numbers for the final two months (and those two down months will help hide his true value for 2015).  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

62.  Chris Tillman (Orioles):  Tillman was on a few sleeper lists coming into the season, but for the most part he was snubbed by the fantasy community.  We’ve been waiting for him to come around for so long that some forget he was only 21 when he arrived in the majors.  Five years later and the wait could finally be over.  The biggest change in the past 2 years was the extra 2 MPH he added to his fastball which previously only flirted with 90.  His K/9 this year was 7.81 which is a full point above his career average.  He’s also slowly getting his walks under control as his BB/9 has been under 3.0 for the past two years.  Now onto his next problem which would be how to keep a few more of those hits inside the park.  Tillman gave up 33 home runs this year and last year he allowed 12 in 86 innings.  Just like walks, home runs have always been a problem for Tillman and if he can’t bring that number down, then we can’t really trust the 3.71 ERA he put up this year (or the 2.93 last season).  Personally I don’t have faith in him but that shouldn’t mean that you should give up on him.  He’s worth a flier late in the draft; I’ll leave it to you to decide which direction his numbers go.

63.  Ivan Nova (Yankees):  Little by little Nova continues to improve.  His BB/9 inched down for the second year in a row, going from 3.10 (2011) to 2.96 (2012) to 2.84 (2013).  His HR/9 this year was .58 which is identical to the .59 he averaged in the minors.  He still gives up a few too many hits, but at least there are more of em stopping at the warning track.  Considering his ground ball rate is at 53.5%, this is a trend that should continue.  The 7.49 K/9 is probably lower than some would like (or want), but considering his K/9 in the minors was 6.49 it’s just another small improvement you can add to the list.  Nova is coming along nicely, and if he ever gets around to utilizing and mastering another pitch to go with his fast and curveball, he could be a complete pitcher.  For 2014 look for an increase in his ERA (3.4) but expect the WHIP to again drop a few points.  150 strikeouts could be in the cards if he pitches the entire year, and 15 wins are possible if the Yankees bring in someone who isn’t an AARP member.

64.  Jose Quintana (White Sox):  Quintana doesn’t get much fanfare, but I think he deserves a little more attention.  He only pitched 189 innings in the minors (48.2 above A+) before he was summoned so he’s had to learn on the fly.  In his second year his hit and walks per 9, ERA, WHIP, and BAA all went down while his strikeouts when up.  The only thing that went in the wrong direction was his home runs allowed which is surprising since his fly ball percentage dropped.  While his bottom line wasn’t anything special, it makes him more than the mediocre pitcher people thought he would be.  Given his control and groundball tendencies, look for the WHIP to be below 1.2 in 2014.  Also look for the ERA to drop a few points as the home run rate drops.  He’s added some velocity to his fastball so look for a few more strikeouts and a K/9 of 7.5.  Finally you can probably expect double digit wins as the White Sox shouldn’t be as bad next year.  Quintana isn’t going to be a great pitcher, but he will be a solid one that you can plug into your lineup without much trepidation.

65.  Cory Luebke (Padres):  Most people have probably forgotten about Luebke by now.  When we last saw Luebke in 2012, he was pitching like he did during his successful rookie season in 2011.  Elbow surgery put a damper on things and put his career on hold for 2 years, but all reports say he should be ready for spring training.  He’s a groundball pitcher which helps in limiting home runs, and his control and low walk totals will help keep his WHIP low along with his ERA.  He averaged a strikeout an inning his rookie season, but I would probably scale his K/9 back to about 7.0 in his first year back.  He will probably start off slow and maybe a little timid, but it should be full steam ahead come June.  Expect a final ERA around 3.4 with a WHIP around 1.11.  Wins might be scarce if the Padres hitters don’t step up some, but he should get to double digits.

66.  Dan Straily (A’s):  Straily is a fly ball pitcher, but you would never know it by the limited number of home runs he has surrendered in the minors.  His K/9 in the minors was 9.65 which I find impressive for 2 reasons.  The first is his fastball clocks in at around 90 MPH.  The second is he primarily uses just his fastball and slider.  There is the occasional changeup, but to rack up that many K’s with a slow fastball and only 2 real pitches is impressive (and worrisome).  Straily is good at limiting his hit totals which is good because he’s just the opposite when it comes to walks.  Until he exhibits some more control expect that WHIP to stay in the 1.2 range.  If he brings his HR/9 back down to the .62 range we saw in the minors he should be able to give us an ERA of 3.5 or lower.  There are a lot of “If’s” here and they all come down to how much he improves next season.  I’m not a Straily fan, but I would still draft him to fill in one of my few remaining pitcher slots.

67.  Corey Kluber (Indians):  It took Kluber a little longer than normal to find his game and make it in the majors, but after this year he should be here to stay.  His K/9 this season was 8.31 and he’s capable of more judging by his last three years in the minors.  The 2.02 BB/9 was lower than normal for him, but he has been improving his walk rate for the past few years so that could stick.  Kluber has also had a problem with home runs in the past, but just like the walks, he’s shown some improvements in that department lately.  He still gives up a few too many hits so don’t expect a WHIP lower than 1.2 next year.  His 3.85 ERA is a realistic view of what he will deliver next year, but that could go down as he learns to limit his home runs.  His ERA at home is 2 full points below what it is on the road so worst case scenario, you start him for home games and spots starts for road games.

68.  Jonathon Niese (Mets):  Prior to 2012 Niese had three years of a BAA in the .280 range, a WHIP around 1.40 and hits per 9 of 9.47 or higher. It looked like Niese was finally breaking out after his 2012 season, but that fantasy was short-lived.  This year his numbers reverted back to what they were the previous 3 season and Niese was again an average pitcher.  The only thing that did improve this year was his home runs allowed, which is the only reason his ERA stayed below a 4.0.  He is 27 so there is still hope he turns things around, but odds are we’ll just get more of the same next year.  Look for an ERA close to 4.0 with a 1.35 WHIP and 150 strikeouts (if he reaches 200 innings).  Just like Corey Kluber, Niese is better at home so leave him on the bench for road games unless he has a weak opponent.

69.  Chris Archer (Rays):  It was a pretty good rookie season for Archer.  He averaged a strikeout an inning in the minors so not only were the strikeouts real, but he’s capable of doing more.  His hits per 9 this year was 7.48 which is right in line with the 7.58 he averaged in the minors.  The walks are another story.  This year his BB/9 was 2.66 but in the minors Archer’s BB/9 was 5.01 and it was 4.14 in AAA before his promotion.  I find it hard to believe he developed that much control overnight.  I would say that 1.13 WHIP he put up this year was smoke and mirrors and expect something closer to 1.25 or higher next season.  The ERA looks like it lines up with his minor league numbers, but looking at his stats for each year something looks off.  His first stop in AA and AAA he had very good numbers, but on his second go around those numbers fell off.  Also the home runs allowed go up as he progresses to each new level.  Given the trend with his ERA, the high walks and increasing home run totals, I would expect an ERA close to or over 4.0 next year.  Archer may still be good one day, but I see regression in his immediate future.  Let someone else buy into the hype and get him in 2015 when the price is near rock bottom.

70.  Colby Lewis (Rangers):  Lewis has been on a roll since returning from Japan.  Tommy John took away his 2013 season and hip surgery ended any chances of an early comeback.  From 2010 to 2012 Lewis put up some decent numbers.  The 4.40 ERA in 2011 was a little high but the 3.72 and 3.43 he delivered in 2010 and 2012 were acceptable.  His WHIP was between 1.08 and 1.21, numbers that we can live with from a back-end starter.  His K/9 hovered between 7.5 and 8.0 which are better than average and the double-digit wins are almost a guarantee.  He wants to pitch again and I’m sure with what he’s done so far somebody will give him the opportunity.  His value will be decided by the team that inks his contract.  A friendly home park and or division and his stock goes up a few bucks, but back in Texas or anywhere in the AL East and it could fall some.  Without a final destination his value is up in the air, but given that he won’t be gone until the final few rounds we’ve got some time here.

Edit: 11/23 – Lewis has been signed to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.

71.  Wade Miley (Diamondbacks):  With the exception of his inflated home run and walk rate (and WHIP), 2013 was almost a carbon copy of Miley’s 2012 season.  The walks aren’t a surprise as his BB/9 in the minors was 3.14, but the home runs are as considering his 52% ground ball rate and .51 HR/9 in the minors.  If that was his idea of a sophomore slump then it should be all systems go from this point on.  The walks could come down but don’t expect a big jump after 6 years of struggles.  Combined with the high hit totals and I would expect a WHIP between 1.25 and 1.30 unless something changes.  Since it looks as if the ERA has stabilized, a 3.50 for next year sounds about right (give or take a few points).  Miley is not a big strikeout pitcher so expect around 140 but no more than 150.  His home and away splits have flip-flopped the past two years so there is no safe place to start him until the season starts and you see what he’s got.  With the exception of a possibly reduced WHIP in the future there isn’t much upside here, what you see is what you get.

72.  Travis Wood (Cubs):  The only thing worse than being a fly ball pitcher for the Cubs is being a fly ball pitcher for the Reds.  This is the story of Travis Wood, but he’s attempting to carve out a happy ending.  After realizing that he couldn’t rely on a 90 MPH fastball as his primary weapon, Wood started to lean on his cutter and so far the experiment has worked.  His walk and home run rate still need work but both are inching in the right direction.  His hits per 9 dropped over 2 points last year and he was able to maintain the lower number this year.  Moving forward a WHIP in the 1.15 range should be the standard.  The ERA is a little harder to predict, but I think the days of an ERA over 4.0 are behind him.  A 3.5 ERA would be the middle ground, but it should be lower if his home run rate remains low.  Don’t expect more than 140 strikeouts here and be happy if he gets you double digit wins.  Wood would improve if he were on a better team and pitched in a different park, but in Chicago he’s just an average option to fill in your staff with.

73.  Mike Leake (Reds):  People often forget that Leake never played in the minors.  After college he skipped the minors and went right to the majors.  In my mind, that makes what he did from 2010 to 2012 irrelevant as those were technically his minor league years.  So let’s look at his 2013 season and see how the on the job training has worked.  He has less of a fastball than Travis Wood so to say Leake is not a strikeout pitcher is an understatement.  His K/9 was under 6 for the past two years so I’d say 130 strikeouts would be his ceiling if everything clicks.  The walks remain low which is a good thing because Leake can be very hittable at times.  He’s made some strides in this department but not enough to bring his WHIP below 1.20.  The Great American Ballpark is his biggest enemies as he allowed 15 home runs there in 2013.  He put up a 3.37 ERA this year but as long as he’s giving up home runs at his current rate, the ERA isn’t safe.  Leake is a spot starter and a guy to roster until someone on waivers requests your attention.

74.  Miguel Gonzalez (Phillies):  Not much known about the Cuban defector and reports are split.  Some say his stuff is average and no better than most teams’ number 5 starters while others say his skills are above average and he could be a number 3 pitcher on most rosters.   He hasn’t been eligible to play for the Cuban national team for the last two years (punishment for trying to sneak out of Cuba) so there’s a chance for some rust due to the lack of playing time.  He’s a risky pick, even riskier than a rookie player because there are no numbers to compare; only word of mouth.  You usually throw a few darts at the board when it comes to your last few picks, so throwing one this way really isn’t risking much.

 

Now 74 players are not enough to start the season.  That only comes out to about 6 per team and you need to fill out the rest of your roster.  Here are some more names that didn’t make the cut (and names that you may like more than me).  Some of them are worth drafting, some are worth monitoring and some should just be viewed from afar.  I’ve grouped them into categories in no particular order.

Jim Finch

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

    1. 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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