Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2014 Starting Pitcher Preview

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Position Previews C 1B 2B 3B SS OF SP RP

Starting pitching is loaded this year. The way I go about drafting pitchers is I like to get a top 10 pitcher early, then in between my other picks I grab the best available. It is hard to wait on top talent when it is placed on a silver platter in front of you. The more you wait on pitchers the more the tiers end up dropping. For example, I would rather have a staff that consists of Strasburg, Minor and Lester than that of Shields, Moore and Cueto. I have made the mistake of waiting on at least grabbing one high end pitcher early and it comes back to haunt you during the season. Do not make this mistake. Much like the outfield positioning this year, I am excited to see what type of success will be on the mound this year.

So unanimously, Clayton Kershaw is the number one pick for starting pitchers. I definitely think that Kershaw is warranted a first round pick in all formats and should be kept in a keeper league. I see him getting over 20 wins or more because of the health of the Dodgers going into the season. It is still hard to believe that Kershaw will only be turning 26 years old. This seems to be the trend among dominant and up-and-coming dominant pitchers for 2014.

1. What impact will Masahiro Tanaka have in the Yankees rotation?
Masahiro-TanakaTanaka going to the Yankees does not surprise me, but I thought he was going to end up with the Dodgers. I want to begin this section by first comparing Yu Darvish to Masahiro Tanaka at the end of their Japanese careers. Keep in mind they are the same age too. In 28 games, Darvish had a record of 18-6, a 1.44 ERA, 276 Ks and a WHIP of .828. In 28 games, Tanaka had a record of 24-0, a 1.27 ERA, 183 Ks and a WHIP of .943. Both pitchers pitched well over 200 innings; which is custom in Japan. Surprisingly, Tanaka put up better numbers than Darvish at the end of his Japanese career. The reason I am comparing Tanaka to Darvish is because of the recent success Darvish has had to make him the number one starter on the Rangers. Here is where I see a difference though, Darvish was not asked to be the number one starter when first appearing in America. I believe Tanaka will end up being the number one starter (see Player(s) on the decline section). It is always hard to judge how a Japanese pitcher is going to fare in the majors, but for the most part they fare well. I think Tanaka will have a decent impact in the Yankees rotation, but not realistically going to touch his Japanese numbers. Even Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, explains that Tanaka will probably have some growing pains when first playing in the majors and doesn’t really see success for two or three years down the road. Tanaka’s fastball reaches in the low 90s with the ability to reach up to 96 m.p.h. What puts him above other pitchers is his control. He managed to only have a walk rate of two or less per nine innings his last four seasons. His nastier pitches are his off speed ones, especially his splitter. Tanaka needs to realize that he will not be pitching 100+ pitches here in the states. I do see him having a successful career in the long run, but an average one in 2014. My prediction is that he goes 14-9 with an ERA of 3.25 and over 180 Ks. Obviously, he must be owned in all formats. There is so much upside to this guy.

2. How does one assess the value of Matt Garza now that he is back in the NL?
I have always thought that Garza was a true NL pitcher. Now that he is back in the NL Central with the Brewers, a division he is very familiar with, I believe he is poised for a successful year. Before 2013, Garza had an average ERA of 3.62 in the NL and an average ERA or 4.21 in the AL. He also averaged 147 Ks in the NL and 115 Ks in the AL. Overall, he does have a better than average K and BB percentage than most in the league. I assess that Garza’s value goes up now that he is back in the NL. The only risk is if he stays healthy or not. Garza is very consistent when he is out on the mound. If Garza stays healthy, he could possibly be the best pitcher on the Brewers staff this year. I think he will post a 12-9 record with a 3.50 ERA. I consider him on the same tier but slightly above Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.

3. After 2013 where Scherzer was the more dominant pitcher and AL CY Young winner, do we consider him the ace over Verlander?
Let us take a look at the last couple years for Justin Verlander. Since 2011, wins went from 24 to 17 to 13 and his ERA went from 2.40 to 2.64 to 3.46. He still managed to hold close to a 9 K/9 rate. The major factor that was wrong with his mechanics last year was where he was releasing the ball. He had a muscle injury and this could be the reason why he needed to alter his rotation. So far, he is up-to-date on his rehab and should be ready for the start of the season. I just do not see him returning to a Verlander type form especially now possibly having to change his rotation this late in his career. I would risk taking Verlander as a top ten pitcher this year. He definitely drops out of that talk. In steps the new ace of the Tigers, Max Scherzer. He made a few changes in both 2011 and 2012 that have helped his game. His walk rate is now under league average and he has his strikeout rate up to an elite level. I want to reemphasize the word “elite.” All these changes culminated into a CY Young type performance of 21-3 record, 2.90 ERA and a WHIP of 0.97. All these numbers have continued to climb for the better over the past three years. Another thing that has helped Scherzer is that he has stayed healthy. A true sign of an ace is that they are the best pitcher on their staff (Scherzer is), is usually the Opening Day starter (Scherzer should be) and pitches crucial playoff games (I feared him more than Verlander when the Red Sox were playing the Tigers in the post season and Scherzer started in front of Verlander during that series). I now say the reigns have been handed over to Scherzer.

Player(s) on the Rise
Gerrit ColeGerrit Cole (PIT) – According to fangraphs.com end of the season rankings last year, Cole finished the season as the 60th ranked starting pitcher. He is now ranked 25th entering the season in 2014 according to ESPN and could possibly rise as the season progresses. This young hurler made his season debut June 11th. He will probably never see the minors again. With a filthy curveball and high 90s fastball this pitcher can surely light up your fantasy team this year. Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish are among the top pitchers in the league with pretty good curveballs. To go with his curveball, Cole has four different pitches with positive value. That is very scary. Look for Cole to eventually emerge as the ace of the Pirates staff.

Jose Fernandez (MIA) – Here is another starter that has etched himself in the starting rotation very early in his career. Frankly, Fernandez made watching the Miami Marlins enjoyable. Even on a bad team he was able have a 12-6 season with an ERA of 2.19 and high 9.75 K/9 rate. Not too many 20 year olds put up better numbers than Fernandez. His WAR of 4.2 was one of the best for his age. He makes a difference on the Marlins and should make a difference on your team. Do not let this guy get too far down your draft board.

Player(s) on the Decline
Justin Verlander – see question above

CC Sabathia (NYY) – Last November my wife and I had to have our cat put to sleep. This was my wife’s cat before we got married. She happily named him “CC”. As a Red Sox fan, my friends get on me that he was named after the Yankees pitcher. I can safely say that he was not named after Sabathia and was named after a tasty treat; a Coffee Cake because he was an orange tabby cat. Now the real CC Sabathia has seen a decline in his pitching stats. He fell apart in 2013 and there were even some warning signs in 2012. His fastball has seen a decrease in velocity. He was on the DL twice and had offseason elbow surgery after the season. He will probably get drafted higher than he should be because he is still considered the ace of the Yankees pitching staff. Much like our cat, CC is gone (from his normal numbers), but should not be forgotten.

Cliff LeeCliff Lee (PHI) – I might get heckled for this pick, but I have to go out on a limb somewhere and here it is. Still one of the top pitchers in the game, but I do not see Lee having a successful year for his standards and for where people are going to draft him. He will more than likely be people’s number one pitcher on their staffs. I see him reverting back to 2012 numbers where he only won 6 games. He still pitched over 200 innings that year and had a respectable 3.16 ERA. I just think he is going way to high in some drafts that I am seeing.

R.A. Dickey (TOR) – I like him as a person, but I do not like him as a player anymore. I am jumping off of the Dickey train. I had this guy for the past two seasons and will probably not take a chance on him this year. From 2010 to 2012, while with the Mets, Dickey had held his ERA between 2.73 to 3.28. In 2013 it ballooned back up to 4.21 and I do not see it returning. The AL East continues to be one of the best divisions and his stuff isn’t NL CY Young material anymore. With all this being said, I wouldn’t mind Dickey as a second or third starter on my squad. I just don’t want to have to depend on him like I have had to in the past.

Player(s) on the Horizon
Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) – see question above

Taijuan Walker (SEA) – On paper it is a great year to be a Seattle Mariners fan. Walker is being thrown into a perfect situation for a young starting pitcher. My guess is that he beats all the other starters except for Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma to become the M’s third starter. Walker displays a killer fastball, a good cutter and a work in progress curve and change. One major concern for Walker is his control. He has never got below 9% on his walk rate. Some pitchers can get away with this, but tend to be on the lower end of a fantasy pitching staff. I like the upside to Walker this year and he should be stashed away early in every league format.

Archie Bradley (ARI) – Bradley was taken seventh overall in 2011 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. More than likely he will probably not hit the majors right away, but with the departure of Ian Kennedy this does open the door for him. Bradley ended Double A ball last season with an outstanding 1.97 ERA and a WHIP of 1.23. Keep in mind that Bradley is one of the few prospects in the minors that could end up being a No. 1 starter.

Player(s) to Avoid
Phil HughesPhil Hughes (MIN) – Maybe a new place of scenery is needed for this guy. Maybe this will turn around his career. Probably not. I am impressed on how much he was able to get out of the Twins though in signing him (3 yr./$24 million). They signed a guy who had a 5.00 ERA to go with giving up 1.5 plus HRs per 9 over the past two years. In 2013, he posted a 4-14 record and now sees himself pitching for a worse batting lineup now too. I am going to give my best advice in not drafting Hughes this year in any formats.

Dan Haren (LAD) – Haren recently signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I like the signing only from a reality standpoint though. Haren’s numbers in significant categories have increased too much for my liking. In 2011, he had a 16-10 record with a .76 HR/9 and an ERA of 3.17. In 2012, he had a 12-13 record with a 1.43 HR/9 and an ERA of 4.33. And in 2013, he had a record of 10-14 with 1.49 HR/9 and an ERA of 4.67. This does not bode well for him in 2014. Avoid.

Bartolo Colon (NYM) – I definitely consider what Colon did in 2013 a fluke. He has not pitched over 190 innings, started more than 30 games and had more than 18 wins, since 2005. Plus, his 2.65 ERA was the best of his career. Now that he is back in New York I believe the signing is a higher risk than reward. His velocity is so erratic that is scares me. I believe he gives up more HRs now and should not be drafted this year.

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In my opinion there is a new era in pitching these days. It is time for the young bucs to step up in their position and take over the next generation. A general trend in which you are seeing is that I am not too excited about some big name starters this year. The great Larry Conley, who played basketball at the University of Kentucky during the mid-1960s, once said, “They’ve got a ton of young good talent in this league.” I agree with Conley whole-heartedly about the starting pitchers this year.

You can follow me on Twitter @RedSox_SF49ers for more fantasy baseball news and advice. Also be sure to like us on Facebook and Google+ for all updates from FantasySixPack.

About Tyler Gettmann

You can follow me on Twitter @RedSox_SF49ers for more fantasy news and advice. Also be sure to like us on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram for all updates from Fantasy Six Pack.

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