Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Starting Pitchers (Part 2)

Fantasy Baseball Rankings – Starting Pitchers (Part 2)

By: Kyle Brown (@CavghtLooking)

After the elite crop of pitchers has been plucked from the draft, it is time to start targeting pitchers who have the potential to breakout. Selecting the pitcher who can go from afterthought to ace is one of the most important parts of a building a championship squad. With that in mind, the breakout candidates in my bottom 25 are Jeff Samardzija, Doug Fister, Matt Harvey, and Jarrod Parker. On the flip side, I am avoiding Josh Johnson and Dan Haren like the plague.

Tier 6 – Pitching To Pitchers Is Fun

26.  Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs (180/1.22/3.81)

Jeff SamardzijaSamardzija posted a 9.27 K/9 over 174.2 innings in 2012. His 3.55 FIP and 3.38 xFIP indicate that F7 was a little unlucky last season, so I expect his ERA to be between 3.2-3.5 in 2013. Samardzija’s monthly splits reveal that the majority of his earned runs were given up in the month of July when he posted a 10.41 ERA over 23.1 innings. If F7 can avoid another stretch like that in 2013 he is going to strikeout over 200 hitters and produce solid marks in both ERA and WHIP. Something tells me that more people are going to be able to spell Samardzija’s last name correctly after 2013.

27.  Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati (170/1.17/2.78)

Cueto has kept his ERA under 3.00 in his last two seasons and should have no problem doing it again in 2013. The only thing keeping Cueto from being a fantasy ace is a lack of strikeouts. However, Cueto did post the lowest BB/9 of his career and got his K/9 over 7.00 for the first time since his rookie season. I don’t think he will get much better in either category this year, but if he can maintain all of his numbers in 2013 he has a shot at winning 20 games. 

28.  Ian Kennedy, Arizona (187/1.30/4.02)

Ian Kennedy is a nice addition to any fantasy staff. He isn’t an ace, but you can count on Kennedy for 200+ innings and 185+ strikeouts. His exceptional 2011 numbers were the result of a lucky drop in HR/FB%, so don’t expect another sub-3.00 ERA. Kennedy’s 2013 ERA and WHIP should be around 3.70 and 1.25, respectively, and numbers like that are more than acceptable.  

29.  Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox (194/1.10/3.37)

2012 was Peavy’s first 200-inning season since 2007. As is the case with most aging starters, health is the name of the game. If Peavy can stay on the mound for 30+ starts this year then another season like 2012 should be no problem. His ERA will probably be a couple ticks higher, but will remain well under 4.00.

30.  Jon Lester, Boston (166/1.38/4.82)

Where have you gone Jon Lester? Once a bona-fide fantasy ace, Lester has trended in the wrong direction for three seasons in K/9, HR-allowed, WHIP, ERA, and FIP. Will we see the 225-strikeout version of Lester ever again? I don’t think so, but his numbers will be much better than last season and the potential for more is still bubbling somewhere under the surface.

 Tier 7 – The One With Tim Lincecum In It

31.  Doug Fister, Detroit (137/1.19/3.45)

(Editor’s Note: Fister?  I don’t even know her.  Sorry, I feel obligated to say that every time I hear his name.)  Fister’s 7.63 K/9 in 2012 is something that all fantasy managers should remember on draft day. On top of that, his HR/FB% went from 5.1 in 2011 to 11.6 in 2012, so I expect him to give up far fewer home runs this year. Fister has been dynamite since joining Detroit, and if he can replicate his 2012 ratios over 200 innings he is going to be a great 2nd or 3rd starter for any fantasy staff.

32.  Tim Lincecum, San Francisco (190/1.47/5.18)

Don’t you just hate it when former Cy Young winners go kamikaze and create ridiculously hard decisions for you on draft day? Yeah, thanks a lot, Tim. Lincecum was terrible last year, plain and simple. Reports from spring training tell us that his fastball velocity is back around 92 mph, so there is at least one reason to be optimistic this year. That said, it’s just too risky to put much faith into Timmy this season. Draft day advice: BE CAREFUL.

33.  A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh (180/1.24/3.51)

Burnett resurrected his career in Pittsburgh last season and I think he can repeat his performance in 2013. Burnett posted his lowest BB/9 (2.76) since 2006 while keeping his K/9 at a solid 8.01. The NL is going to be good (again) for A.J. Burnett in 2013.

34.  Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs (96/1.18/3.91)

A stress fracture in Garza’s elbow ended his 2012 season, and he is already dealing with a shoulder issue this spring. That said, Garza has been pretty great since moving to Chicago. If he can stay on the mound for 190+ innings this season he is going to strikeout close to a batter per inning with an ERA around 3.50.

35.  Josh Johnson, Toronto (165/1.28/3.81)

Johnson will have to stay healthy and throw harder this year if he is going to survive life in Canada. Hey, at least he doesn’t have to pay for health insurance. JJ has been trending the wrong way for in K/9 and BB/9 for three seasons. Frankly, I am just not that optimistic he can put it all together in 2013. This video sums up how I feel about Josh Johnson.

Tier 8 – A Metropolitan Miracle?

36.  Matt Harvey, New York Mets (70/1.15/2.73)

Matt HarveyHarvey is going to be a K-machine. He needs to work on his walk rate and his endurance, but the 24-year old Harvey is exactly what your fantasy team (and the Mets) need this season. His ADP is 209, so look for Harvey in the later rounds of your draft and you can reap the rewards all season.

37.  Jason Hammel, Baltimore (113/1.24/3.43)

Hammel came back from his knee surgery last season and pitched extremely well in the playoffs. His FIP is right in line with his ERA and I have full confidence that he can maintain his K% in 2013. If he knee holds up, Hammel is going to be the best pitcher in Baltimore (until Dylan Bundy gets called up).

38.  Anibal Sanchez, Detroit (167/1.27/3.86)

Anibal is a 7.5 K/9 pitcher who will pitch around 195 innings with an ERA between 3.50-4.00. Nothing more, nothing less.

39.  Jonathan Niese, New York Mets (155/1.17/3.40)

There is a lot of buzz about Niese this season, but I think he has more value in real life than he does in fantasy. Niese’s K-rate will probably stay between 7.2 and 7.6 this year, and while that number is good it is far from elite. Niese is a good pick if you need to fill out the back end of your rotation.

40.  Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees (167/1.17/3.32)

I never thought that Kuroda would survive the move from the NL West to the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium, but I was wrong. Kuroda won’t give you many strikeouts, but he is good for 200 innings and an ERA at or under 3.50.

Tier 9 – Drink Some Brew

41.  Marco Estrada, Milwaukee (143/1.14/3.64)

Estrada needs to prove that he can maintain his elite K/9 and BB/9 numbers over a full season before I place him higher on my rankings. I’d also like to see him go a little deeper into games and give up fewer home runs. However, Estrada is a great way to steal some late round strikeouts and has considerable upside this season.

42.  Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati (122/0.81/1.51)

Chapman is this far down my rankings for two reasons: 1) I think he is going to struggle with walks as a starter, and 2) I think he is going to be moved back to the bullpen by the end of the year. If I am wrong about both of those assertions, then Chapman might be one of the best fantasy starters around. However, even if Chapman makes a successful transition, it is going to be a few seasons before he is a 200-inning pitcher.

43.  Brandon Morrow, Toronto (108/1.11/2.96)

Brandon Morrow has been messing with fantasy managers for three years. In 2010 and 2011, Morrow had amazing strikeout rates and lackluster ERA numbers. In 2012, Morrow posted a fantastic 2.96 ERA with a decent 7.80 K/9. However, Morrow missed significant time in all three seasons, logging just 124.2 innings last year. Who knows what version we will get in 2013?

44.  Jarrod Parker, Oakland (140/1.26/3.47)

Parker had a great year for a rookie pitcher. He’s been a top prospect for a while and his strikeout numbers in the minor leagues indicate that he can improve upon his 6.95 K/9 from 2012. I am expecting a breakout from Parker in either 2013 or 2014.

45.  Mike Fiers, Milwaukee (135/1.26/3.74)

Fiers’ late season collapse was dramatic. His ERA in the final month of the season was 7.09. The big question: did the league figure Fiers out or did he merely run out of gas? Much like his teammate Marco Estrada, Fiers can be a cheap source of strikeouts in the later rounds of your draft.

46.  Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay (124/1.25/3.10)

Hellickson has pitched two seasons in a row in which he has outperformed his FIP by a run and a half. His last two LOB% marks are both over 80%, well above leave average. I like the increase in K% and the decrease in BB%, but I’m not convinced he can continue to improve in those areas. He probably won’t ever match his gaudy minor league strikeout totals, but it appears as if Hellickson has figured something out. Another season with acceptable strikeouts, a low ERA, and a good WHIP are in store for 2013.

47.  Dan Haren, Washington (142/1.29/4.33)

Dan Haren 2This ranking might seem low when you look at the statistics, but I really don’t like it when several teams are completely unwilling take on a once-great pitcher with back problems. Haren is moving back to the NL and is going to pitch in front of a fantastic offense, so I might be selling his 2013 potential a little short. That said, I’m going to avoid him this season.  (Editor’s Note: I agree with almost all of Kyle’s evaluations, but Haren is someone I would target as a late-round sleeper.  Even if he can’t throw 200 innings, he is backed by a solid offense and arguably the best bullpen in the league.  He will want to prove he is healthy to cash in on free agency for the first time in his career, so I expect a big bounce-back season from him.)

48.  Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco (158/1.23/3.37)

Ryan Vogelsong is going to do what Ryan Vogelsong has done for the past two seasons: defy the haters and pitch pretty freaking well for the San Francisco Giants. I still don’t understand where he came from, but I can’t deny his effectiveness.

49.  Brett Anderson, Oakland (25/1.03/2.57)

When healthy, Brett Anderson is a good pitcher who will provide very low WHIP and ERA numbers with decent strikeout totals. Furthermore, he is only 25-years old, so there is a chance he could improve upon his K%. The injuries keep him down in the rankings.

50.  Homer Bailey, Cincinnati (168/1.24/3.68)

The man with one of the best baseball names in the league finally proved his worth in 2012. Bailey eclipsed the 200-inning plateau, kept his walks very low, and improved his K% as the season progressed. Bailey was flat out dominant in his final 48 innings, posting an 8.88 K/9, a 1.66 BB/9, and a 0.74 WHIP. Can he continue to improve upon his numbers in 2013? I don’t think so, but another season like 2012 should be no sweat.

Honorable Mention:

C.J. Wilson
Derek Holland
Trevor Bauer
Alex Cobb
Chad Billingsley
Mike Minor
Wade Miley
Tommy Milone
Edwin Jackson
Chris Capuano

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