Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2013 SP Preview

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2013 Position Previews: C 1B 2B 3B SS OF SP RP

By:  A. J. Applegarth

While there are a few different schools of thought on when you should draft pitching in Fantasy Baseball, the one key factor to keep in mind while drafting is your league’s specific scoring settings for pitchers (are pitchers more valuable, less valuable or equally as valuable as the hitters?).  I used to play in a H2H Points League that was fairly “pitcher-heavy”, so it was imperative for me to draft at least one of the Top-10 / Top-15 “Ace” SP in the 1st or 2nd Round (if not in both) in order to maximize my team’s weekly point output.  That league has since evened out a bit more, so the Top-10 Batters and the Top-10 SP are typically scoring around the same point totals overall, but that leads me back to my initial thought…when should you draft SP?  Unless your league’s scoring settings are “pitcher-heavy” like my old league, I think you can definitely wait a little longer to go after SP this season.  Personally, I still like the idea of having at least one “stud” SP to anchor your team, but you should still be able to get a 2nd-Tier guy in the 4th Round of most drafts.  If you want to try it out, I highly recommend doing a Mock Draft to see just where the various players fall, and use that as further back-up for your actual draft!  Now, on to the burning questions for your 2013 Fantasy Baseball SP!

1.  Will guys like Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum be able to rebound from their down 2012 campaigns and once again revel in Fantasy Baseball glory?
Being a die-hard Phillies fan, and even more of a Roy Halladay fan, last year was quite a disappointment for not only the one they call “Doc”, but it was also a very down year for a few other “Ace” pitchers, namely, Tim Lincecum and Jon Lester.  We’ll start with Halladay, though, as I believe his career workload and continued excellence on the mound finally got the better of him last season.  

In 2010, Doc was nearly untouchable for the Phillies, as he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA, 219 K and only 30 BB in a ridiculous 250.2 IP.  On May 29th, 2010, Halladay pitched the 20th Perfect Game in MLB History, striking out 11 against the Marlins, and followed that performance up with a No-Hitter in his first career Postseason start (vs. CIN on October 6th, 2010), the second-only such Postseason No-Hitter in MLB History.  Wrap all those stats/accolades up together, and you get the 2010 NL Cy Young recipient, winner by unanimous decision.  Fast forward to 2012, and you have an injury-plagued season with an 11-8 Record, a 4.49 ERA, 132 K and 36 BB in only 156.1 IP.  Over the two previous seasons, Halladay had a 40-16 Record and a sub-.250 ERA over an astounding 484.1 IP, so it wasn’t really surprising to see a down year out of Roy last season.  But, I definitely feel that injuries (to himself, as well as to many of the Phillies offensive weapons) helped aid in that major fall from grace.  Doc has seen his velocity drop over the past few years, as well, and that trend may continue into this season.  If you still like him (as I definitely do), I’d say you should try to target him around the 4th Round.  But, if you think he probably won’t ever be the “same old Doc”, I wouldn’t blame you for letting someone else take him on this season.  Overall, I still love Halladay, and I think he’ll be able to produce some decent numbers if he can stay healthy and locate his lower-velocity pitches, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to repeat those 2010 stats again.

Lincecum, another perennial former high-round pick, also struggled last season.  When compared to Halladay, though, it seems like it’s been even longer since Lincey has been extremely dominant, as 2009 was really his last “great” season, in my opinion.  He did have a very respectable 2.74 ERA (4th in the NL) and 220 K in 2011, but managed to only go 13-14 in 33 GS.  Back in 2009, Lincey became the first pitcher in history to be awarded consecutive Cy Young awards in his first two full seasons, finishing the year with a 15-7 Record, a 2.48 ERA, and an insane 261 K.  But, since then, he has lost command of his pitches, leading to an increased BB/9 Rate (2.72 to 4.35) and a decreased K/9 Rate (10.42 to 9.19) from 2009-2012.  Even with his struggles from 2009-2011, he was still able to hold a sub-3.00 ERA in three of those four seasons before watching it balloon to 5.18 last season.  Lincey is coming into this season with a new outlook (and a new haircut), so I’m hoping that he’ll be able to round back into his Cy Young form.  That being said, I’m not looking at trying to draft him for my teams until at least the 10th Round, if not later than that.  There is plenty of other solid talent that can be found earlier in the draft, but if Lincey is still hanging around in the middle rounds, the reward should outweigh the risk!

2.  Can R. A. Dickey provide another Cy Young-caliber season after moving from the NL East to the AL East?
My initial gut response to this question would be “probably not”, as the AL East has typically been a stronger division than the NL East.  However, upon further review of Dickey’s stats, the change to the AL may not be all that bad for the knuckleballer.  Last season, Dickey finished with a 9-4 Record and a 4.32 ERA in 16 GS against the NL East.  Meanwhile, he posted a 2-0 Record and an incredible 2.50 ERA in 3 GS against the AL East.  In two of those games (vs. BAL and vs. TB), Dickey threw 9.0 IP each, and did not allow a single ER, but he struggled mightily in the third game against the NYY, giving up 5 ER over 6.0 IP, taking the ND in the game.  Dickey now has the luxury of pitching for a revamped Toronto offense, too.  The one knock is that he will be pitching in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre for some of his games this season, but I still think Dickey has something left in the tank, and can see him putting up another good season.  Will he be the next pitcher to win a Cy Young in both leagues??  Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

3.  Which SP will have the better season in his new home, Dan Haren in Washington, or James Shields in Kansas City?
Both of these pitchers have been pretty productive over their big league careers, so it will definitely be interesting to see how the change of scenery will affect each player.  For Haren, moving to a new city is nothing new, as he has already bounced between both leagues multiple times in his 10-year career, but this will be the first time Shields has called a city other than Tampa Bay “home” in his 7-year career.  Overall, Shields has been a model of consistency for the Rays, and put up Cy Young-caliber numbers in 2011 with his 16-12 Record, a 2.82 ERA and 225 K  over 249.1 IP.  Haren has been a little more up-and-down over his career, and produced his first career sub-.500 Record last season for the Angels, going 12-13, and raising his ERA back above 4.00 (finished at 4.33) for the first time since 2006, his second season with Oakland.  Part of that decline can be attributed to injuries that limited Haren to only 176.2 IP in 2012, but his strikeout totals have also lingered below 200 since 2010 when he pitched for both Arizona and the Angels (he only racked up 142 last season).  With all that being said, I really like BOTH of these guys this season, and plan to target them a little higher than their average draft positions (Shields is being taken between the 8th & 9th Rounds, while Haren is falling all the way to the 10th-12th Rounds).  Aside from Shields’s continued consistency, he is now going to be the “Ace” for a young, talented Royals team that I can see making a run at a Wild Card berth this season.  The AL Central is an easier division than the AL East, too, so I can easily see a season similar to 2011 out of Shields.  Haren falls into a great position, too, as the Nationals are the defending NL East Champs, and have a good shot at getting into the Playoffs for the second straight season.  Haren also won’t have much pressure on him to perform, as he’s currently slated to be the 4th Starter in a very talented rotation.  Haren also appears to finally be 100% healthy heading into the season, so his upside coupled with the fact that he’ll be facing the other #4 SP on the opposing teams almost every game equals a high possibility for a very successful year.  These two guys are perfect examples of what you can get by waiting a little longer to get pitching, so hopefully, you can reap the benefits they will provide!

Player(s) on the Rise
Jeff Samardzija – Playing for the lowly Cubs may not make Fantasy managers all that confident in drafting Samardzija, but he showed last season that he has more potential than some may realize.  Just take a look at the following stats and you’ll see what I mean.
    –  2011:  88.0 IP in 75 games, 2.97 ERA, 87 K, 50 BB, 8-4 Record with 13 Holds
    –  2012:  174.2 IP in 28 games, 3.81 ERA, 180 K, 56 BB, 9-13 Record with 1 CG
Now, the biggest difference between these two seasons is that Samardzija was a RP in 2011 and moved into the starting rotation in 2012.  Hence, the drop in games and increase in IP.  The ERA up around 4.00 is a little underwhelming, but the increase in K/9 (8.90 to 9.27) and major drop in BB/9 (5.11 to 2.89) makes it worthwhile to take the hit in ERA.  Samardzija is currently going in the 12th-13th Round of drafts so far, but I’d potentially look at him in the 10th-11th if you’re trying to build some quality SP depth.

Johnny Cueto – Cueto had a very impressive season last year, and I can see him repeating that performance again this season.  Cueto was a Cy Young contender last year with 19 Wins and a 2.78 ERA, and the Reds look ready to defend their 2012 NL Central Title.  If Cueto can continue to see his K/9 rate increase while his BB/9 Rate decreases, he’ll be worth looking at drafting in the 5th-6th Round this year.  That’s when I’ll be looking for him, and so should you!

Player(s) on the Decline
C. J. Wilson – After a very impressive 2011 season with the Rangers, Wilson just wasn’t able to have as much success last season for the Angels.  He still managed a solid record (13-10 last season compared to 16-7 in ‘11) in roughly the same amount of IP (only pitched in 202.1 last season compared to 223.1 in ‘11), but he saw his ERA rise almost a full 1.00 (2.94 to 3.83).  I think C. J. could still have a good year, especially since the Angels have such a high-powered offense, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his stats continue to decline a bit, either.

Chris Sale – Sale pitched extremely well for the White Sox last season, going 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA in 192.0 IP.  He also notched 192 K to only 51 BB.  But, with last year being Sale’s first as a major league starter, I can definitely see some regression ahead this season.  The peripherals are obviously there, but I think batters are going to make adjustments to Sale, so it will be interesting to see if he can counter those adjustments as the season progresses.

Player(s) to on the Horizon
Jarrod Parker – Last season, as a rookie, Parker came into the Oakland rotation and made a pretty solid statement.  Parker was able to go 13-8 with a respectable 3.47 ERA, and also managed 140 K in 181.1 IP.  His BB/9 rate of 3.13 leaves a little to be desired, but Parker showed that he can compete with the big boys, and I think he’ll have a nice follow-up campaign.

Player(s) to Avoid
Jon Lester – Lester is another guy I could have potentially listed with Halladay and Lincecum above, but after looking at his stats a little farther, I decided he should be listed here instead.  Over the past three seasons, Lester has seen a major drop in his K/9 Rate (9.74 – 7.28), an increase in his BABIP Rate (.289 to .312), and an increase in his ERA (3.25 to 4.82).  He also failed to notch double-digits in Wins for the last season, but I think this could potentially be attributed to just how bad the Red Sox were as a whole.  Either way, while I do think Lester has the pedigree to post the quality stats he posted a few years back, I’m still not interested in him before the 12th-13th Round this season.

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About Joe Bond

Not just another "Average Joe" when it comes to Fantasy Sports, he is the fantasy brain trust behind the up-and-coming FantasySixPack.net website. He has been spreading his love and addiction of fantasy sports there and many other sites including SoCalledFantasyExperts.com, FantasyPros.com, and FanDuel.com. Joe has finished as the No. 5 Fantasy Football Draft Ranker on Fantasy Pros in 2014, while being the No. 1 QB ranker for in-season during 2016. He has also finished in the top-15 twice for Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings. You can find him on Twitter, @F6P_Joe, where he is waiting by the keyboard for your question.

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