My weekly Draft This, Not That write ups have taken you on a journey to find players who can be had later on that will mirror the production of specific players going much earlier. This week’s version is not like that at all. Instead, we will stay inside the top 150 overall players based on NFBC’s ADP data and focus on pitchers closely grouped together to help you make the best decision.
This is the kid in a candy store version only mom says the kid can only pick one.
Draft Jordan Zimmermann, Not Cole Hamels or Julio Teheran:
The K’s, ERA, and WHIP all could end up being similar for this trio. This goes completely against the grain of what most fantasy baseball writers will tell you, but this decision might literally come down to win potential. Like most industry contributors I too buy into the idea that you should not chase wins. All else being relatively equal though, something has to give and in this case it just might be the likeliness of Jordan Zimmermann earning more wins than Cole Hamels or Julio Teheran.
With xFIPs of 3.21 and 3.10, the outstanding 2014 performances of Hamels and Zimmermann seem legit to me. They produced similar K/9 rates as well (8.71 for Hamels, 8.20 for Zimmermann. In a similar amount of innings pitched (204.2 vs. 199.2) Hamels earned just 9 wins in 2014 versus the 14 earned by Jordan Zimmermann. The Nationals also won 23 more games than Hamels’ Phillies team did this past season. Based on how the offseason played out, the Phillies may be the worst team in baseball, while the Nationals only seemed to improve their outlook for the new season. Now, if Hamels is dealt to a contender this spring, slide him in just a notch ahead of Zimmermann. Otherwise, we are looking at Hamels having to pitch at least half a season for a team that has already mailed it in.
So what about Teheran? While the Phillies look like the worst team in baseball, the Braves look like a bottom five team in the game. The Nationals on the other hand might be World Series favorites and a certain top five team heading into the season. I also do not like Teheran’s 3.72 xFIP from his 2014 season that produced a somewhat lucky 2.89 ERA. His K/9 of 7.57 was also quite a bit lower than that of Zimmermann and Hamels.
If you still are not sold on the argument to select Zimmermann over Hamels and Teheran based on the potential to land a handful of extra wins, maybe a K/BB argument will convince you. Hamels and Teheran posted K/BB rates of 3.36 and 3.65 respectively. Zimmermann on the other hand checked in with a K/BB rate of 6.28. Checkmate for Zimmermann. If you find yourself desiring a pitcher sometime around 60 overall in standard drafts and these three arms are available, Zimmermann is the way to go.
Draft Alex Cobb or Gerrit Cole, Not Matt Harvey:
The ceiling for Matt Harvey is probably higher than that of Alex Cobb or Gerrit Cole. The floor is certainly lower. Look no further than what happened to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy a season ago. What this comes down to for me is the comfort of knowing Cobb and Cole are healthy along with the likeliness they will each exceed the innings pitched total of Matt Harvey in 2015.
The Mets are already making plans to limit Harvey’s innings in 2015. He will not start a game until their home opener and there has been mention of him having shortened outings as well as planned breaks throughout the season. On the flip side, there’s been mention that he could be allowed to get up to 200 innings this season. Something tells me if the Mets find themselves out of contention down the stretch, Harvey will pitch no more than 170 innings this coming season. I also believe the 200 innings idea is likely based around the potential that he could pitch in the postseason if that becomes a reality.
The third season for starting pitchers seems to be the time when the handcuffs come off. With that being the case, consider this the Prison Break season of Gerrit Cole. Cole has already flashed the K-upside of Matt Harvey. Also encouraging is Cole’s 2014 xFIP of 3.25 which suggests there is improvement in store for his 3.65 ERA. Look for A 3.30 ERA, 200+ K’s spread over 200+ innings pitched is not out of the question for the Pirates’ ace in the making.
Cobb was all set to approach and perhaps surpass the 200 innings pitched mark in 2014, his third full season. An oblique strain put the hold on that plan however and he managed just 166.1 innings because of it. Like Cole, Cobb should also have zero restrictions on his innings total for 2015 and the oblique injury should be of little worry to you. His 3.33 xFIP suggests his 2.87 ERA from 2015 was a tad lucky but any regression should be tolerable. I will glady take a K/9 over 8.0, a 1.15-ish WHIP, and a 3.30 ERA spread out over 200+ innings pitched over the alternative of rolling the dice on what Matt Harvey may provide in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
The Matt Harvey love is a little out of control with him checking in at an ADP of 69. Meanwhile, Cobb and Cole can be had at an ADP of 87 and 89 respectively. Pair Cobb or Cole with an upper tier ace and the top of your fantasy rotation should be pure gold in 2015. As for Matt Harvey, unless things go badly ala Medlen or Beachy, he will show up on my radar again in 2016.
Draft Tyson Ross, Jake Arrieta, Hisashi Iwakuma, Alex Wood, and James Shields in that order:
Okay, so this is not a Draft This, Not That scenario but I found it interesting that the ADP for these five starting pitchers fell between picks 101 and 106. This tightly grouped selection of pitchers is tough sort out. If these five arms were available still and you find yourself in the market for a starting pitcher just beyond pick 100 then you have a tough choice ahead of you.
My first preference is Tyson Ross. Ross provides the best combination of inducing ground balls and producing strikeouts from this group. He also plays for a team on the rise that should increase their win total from a season ago. For the longest time it seemed like the only knock on San Diego pitchers was their difficulty to collect wins. With new GM AJ Preller’s assortment of moves that may no longer be a problem for the Padres.
Next up is Jake Arrieta, the second best producer of strikeouts and ground balls in combination among this group. Sure, he has only produced at a high level for one season. Take that as you may. For my liking, 2014 revealed a Jake Arrieta the baseball world had not seen before. This was not the Jake Arrieta that bounced up and down with the Orioles for several years. Instead, this version of Jake Arrieta changed his pitch repertoire entirely and reinvented himself. Arrieta now combines a nearly even blend of his slider, sinker, four-seam fastball, and curve to attack hitters.
The middle of the pack here is represented by Hisashi Iwakuma. All Iwakuma has done in his 524 big league innings is pose a 3.07 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP. The career 3.24 xFIP suggests that everything he has shown to this point is completely legit. The one reason he lands third in this grouping and not first or second is strictly due to slight durability concerns.
Checking in at the four-spot here is Alex Wood. Aside from the fact he looks like a contortionists trying to get out of a straitjacket when he delivers a pitch, watching Alex Wood pitch is a thing of beauty. It’s beautiful in a Picasso sort of way if you will. That is to say he is a bit awkward yet quite appealing. Put Alex Wood on a contender and this might be a different story. For the same reasons I knocked Julio Teheran in the first grouping in this write-up, I have to go there with Alex Wood as well. Wins will be hard to come by for the lefty pitching out of a straitjacket.
Finally, we wrap up this five-pack of starting pitchers with James Shields. I do like James Shields a tad more now than I did before he signed with San Diego. Still, he has a diminishing skill-set that has been masked by his ability to use veteran knowledge to overcome any shortcomings. My first Draft This, Not That for Starting Pitchers went into greater depth on James Shields. Keeping things simple and sticking with the main reason I listed Tyson Ross and Jake Arrieta at the top, Shields has the least appealing combination of strikeout and groundball percentage amongst the group.
At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with any of these options as a second or third starting pitcher for your rotation depending on your league’s depth.