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March 8, 2013

Pre-Season Positional Rankings

Top 80 Fantasy Starting Pitchers, Part Two: 41-80

by Paul Sporer and Jason Collette

The Baseball Prospectus fantasy team has been rolling out its positional rankings over the past couple of weeks, and this edition concludes the process. Each team member assigned to cover a position will create an initial top 15 (more for outfielders and starting pitchers) on his own. He will then send that list to the rest of the team for discussion, at which point we will debate the rankings, both in terms of each player’s specific placement and the merits on which he was included in the top 15. This back-and-forth debate will yield the final list, which will be presented by the original author with notes on the pertinent players. We encourage you to bring your opinions into the fray using the comment section below.

Here are the previous rankings lists:

·       Catchers

·       First Basemen

·       Second Basemen

·       Shortstops

·       Third Basemen

·       Outfielders: Part 1

·       Outfielders: Part 2

·       Starting Pitchers: Part 1

Today, we bring you the second half of our starting pitcher rankings, spanning the hurlers ranked 41-80.

Without further ado, here’s the list…

41. Homer Bailey, CIN
42. C.J. Wilson, LAA
43. Trevor Cahill, ARI
44. Jeremy Hellickson, TBR
45. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY
46. Jarrod Parker, OAK
47. Aroldis Chapman, CIN
48. Jon Niese, NYM
49. Ricky Romero, TOR
50. Matt Harrison, TEX
51. Wade Miley, ARI
52. Brandon McCarthy, ARI
53. Mike Minor, ATL
54. Matt Harvey, NYM
55. Alex Cobb, TBR
56. Ryan Dempster, BOS
57. Edwin Jackson, CHC
58. Jason Hammel, BAL
59. Ryan Vogelsong, SFG
60. Gavin Floyd, CHW
61. Andy Pettitte, NYY
62. Erasmo Ramirez, SEA
63. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA
64. Ivan Nova, NYY
65. Tim Hudson, ATL
66. Derek Holland, TEX
67. Jeff Niemann, TBR
68. Paul Maholm, ATL
69. Hyun-jin Ryu, LAD
70. Clay Buchholz, BOS
71. Chris Tillman, BAL
72. Marco Estrada, MIL
73. James McDonald, PIT
74. Shaun Marcum, NYM
75. John Danks, CHW
76. Jaime Garcia, STL
77. Phil Hughes, NYY
78. Kyle Lohse, (TBD)
79. Wade Davis, KCR
80. A.J. Griffin, OAK

Notes: 

41. Bailey’s 2011 and 2012 were nearly identical seasons. He may never be the ace he was drafted to be, but he could win 15+ games with a sub 3.50 ERA in 2013. (Collette)

42. Walks are Wilson‘s Achilles heel, and while he is typically able to limit the damage, they translate directly into a subpar WHIP. If you can afford that drawback, he’s a fine pitcher in every other department.

43. Cahill set the bar high with a 2.97 ERA in 2010, but his skills did not support that performance level and the subsequent regression was predictable. Still, Cahill is improving every year, and since he’s only 25, the arrow will continue to point upward for a while. He has the stuff to bring his ERA down significantly from its 3.78 finish last year; for now, bet on a mid-3.00s effort bolstered by a better strikeout rate.

44. Hellickson is trying to become the first pitcher ever to strand at least 80 percent of his base runners allowed in three consecutive seasons. Those who doubted his ability to maintain that LOB magic in 2012 were silenced, as Hellickson added a cutter to his repertoire and turned in an 82.7 percent effort in that department. He won’t bring any new pitches to the table in 2013, but the Rays’ team defense should be more efficient than it was last year, and Hellickson has an uncanny ability to induce weak contact. (Collette)

45. Kuroda’s age mitigates the normal Yankee Fantasy Tax, but even at 38, there is absolutely no reason to believe he won’t continue to pitch at a very high level.

46. As you learned in the Starting Pitcher Guide sample (full guide out today!), Parker’s velocity increased from May through the end of his impressive rookie campaign. This righty is brimming with potential and could be an impact performer in all fantasy formats.

47. Though this might sound counterintuitive, the fact that Chapman might return to the bullpen actually decreases the risk associated with picking him, because his fantasy value would be higher in the closer role. The talent is obviously unlimited, but you should expect a high-3.00s ERA with tons of strikeouts and go from there. A Chris Sale-circa-2012 campaign represents Chapman’s short-term ceiling, but you shouldn’t automatically expect it, despite the quality of his raw stuff.

48. Three years of quality component skills finally paid off for Niese last year, as he posted his first sub-4.00 ERA in a full season. At 26 years old, there is even more potential waiting to be unlocked from the lefty. Even a repeat of his 2012 output would suffice at his current auction/draft price.

49. Teammate Brandon Morrow turned Romero onto his Brooks Baseball data in hopes of helping him recapture his 2010-2011 success. Even before this story, he was a strong bounce-back candidate; now, he’s an easy buy-low selection with considerable upside.

50. I love strikeouts because they are awesome, but Harrison found a path to success without even sniffing the league-average punchout rate. Keep paying for a high-3.00s ERA and accepting his 3.29 ERAs as pure profit. Thankfully, the market understands his skills and values him appropriately—perhaps even underselling the lefty a bit, because of his unsexy profile.

51. Everyone waited for the other shoe to drop with Miley, but it never did, as his excellent ratios were backed by a great command profile and strikeout rate just a hair below the league average. He is Harrison with a shorter résumé, and the lack of a more extensive track record puts the Diamondback one spot behind the Ranger.

52. Speaking of stat-friendly guys, McCarthy’s final frontier remains health, but he is another arm properly valued by the market. If your league is charging for anything more than 120 innings, you have to pass, as he just hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field.

53. Keeping the ball in the yard is the only thing holding Minor back from a string of $15+ seasons. (Collette)

54. Don’t overreact to Harvey’s strong debut. He has incredible long-term potential, but his first full season will have ups and downs if he continues to walk batters at a 10.6 percent clip. See also: Moore, Matt, circa 2012.

55. Cobb is becoming one of those sleepers that are mentioned so often that they don’t sneak up on anybody come draft day. Fortunately, his rising stock hasn’t awakened enough drafters to make him overvalued—yet.

56. Dempster has the skills to hold up just fine in the American League. Take his high-3.00s ERA, add about a quarter of a run, and you’ve got a 4.00 ERA with plenty of strikeouts. If his 2012 walk gains are real, perhaps he can stay in the high-3.00, even in the East division and at Fenway Park.

57. The perennially disrespected Jackson will be shunned again as a Cub, though most don’t fully appreciate the shrewd offseason turned in by Theo Epstein and company. The win total might not be special, but the other numbers should be more than adequate for the righty to be a fantasy asset.

58. A knee injury stifled Hammel’s breakout season, limiting him to 20 starts, but his peripherals—which included a 3.24 FIP—suggest that there is more where that came from.

59. The market as a whole hasn’t taxed fantasy managers for Vogelsong’s pair of great ERAs, so as long as your league fails to take notice, he will be worth buying.

60. Floyd’s skills faded a bit last year, but he had a string of sub-4.00 FIPs before that. He is entirely overlooked, making him a sharp buy-low candidate with some upside.

61. Not only should Pettitte give you quality numbers on the mound, but he’s batting fourth for the Yankees this year, too.

62. Ramirez is Collette’s boyfriend, so here are his thoughts: “misses bats, does not miss the strike zone, and keeps the ball in the yard. If he weren't buried in the Pacific time zone, more people would be talking about him for 2013.”

63. In an unusual twist, Iwakuma’s numbers were actually held back by his 30 relief innings. As a starter, he had a 2.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 19.9 percent strikeout rate, and 2.8 K:BB in 95 innings. Like Ramirez, he is overlooked out in Seattle.

64. If Nova can pair 2012’s strikeout and walk rates with 2011’s home-run and ground-ball rates, he could be a fantasy stud. Plus, he’s batting second and Joe Girardi said he’ll get more opportunities to steal in 2013.

65. Hudson has proven enough that he should still be seen as a worthy investment, even at the age of 37. The subpar strikeout rates and possibility of age-related decline are fairly incorporated into his current market price.

66. Holland might stand to benefit from doing fewer terrible impressions and terribly unfunny comedy bits, and focusing instead on improving his bloated home-run rate. The talent is evident, but the consistency is not; fortunately, he’s still young enough to exhibit significant growth.

67. Niemann gave owners and fans a taste of his upside in 2012. The departure of James Shields opens the door for him to show us a full year of his skills.

68. There is reason to believe that the strikeout-rate uptick Maholm showed with the Braves is real, and it’s covered in detail in the Starting Pitcher Guide (full guide out today!). Okay, that’s the last subliminal ad for the guide. But, seriously, even if Maholm only keeps some of the strikeout gains, he’ll become a much more desirable asset than he was last year.

69. I’d be lying if I said Ryu’s ranking wasn’t a bit of a dart-throw. I read all I could, but until we get some real game action, it will be hard to assess the import’s fantasy value.

70. Collette has been trying to sell me on Buchholz for a while now, but I’m just not buying it. If Buchholz earns or beats this slotting, all the credit goes to Collette. If he doesn’t come close to it, flood Collette’s Twitter timeline.

71. The BABIP is going to come up for Tillman, but hopefully the HR/9 rate will come down and compensate for it. The righty owns one of the best curveballs in the league, and the bender is made even more effective when he gets ahead in the count and forces hitters to expand their strike zones. (Collette)

72. Estrada’s strikeout and walk rates are extremely enticing, but his home-run rate tempers expectations for now.

73. McDonald has logged a 4.21 ERA in each of the last two seasons, but there were skill gains in 2012, and he was excellent for an entire half. Half-sized splits should be taken with a grain of salt, but it really looked like a different guy came back from the All-Star break and used McDonald’s uniform. The change from the first-half McDonald (2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) to the second-half version (7.52 ERA, 1.79 WHIP) was evident immediately and persisted through a nightmarish September.

74. Marcum’s skill set is rock-solid, but his medical history leaves many questions unanswered. The home runs are just part of the package, and they limit his ERA ceiling to the mid-3.00s, even at Citi Field.

75. I can’t think of anyone I would rather have in charge of a pitcher returning from major surgery than White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. Danks, who went under the knife to repair a torn rotator cuff, is in good hands, and he should soon pick up where he left off in 2011.

76. Arm concerns hold Garcia down, but even a clean bill of health wouldn’t clear the upward trends in his ERA and WHIP.

77. Spring training back issues pushed Hughes way down this list and his status should be monitored for the rest of this month. The upside remains tantalizing, especially with an injury discount, but back injuries are very tricky, and you may want to avoid the headache altogether.

78. Your fantasy team might be Lohse’s only team in 2013, as he is still waiting for the phone to ring. His best friend Jermaine Dye has assured him that someone will call.

79. Davis made tremendous gains in the bullpen last season, but he’ll need to prove that he can sustain the hike in his velocity after moving back to the rotation. He has added a cutter to his arsenal, in hopes of compensating for his inability to change speeds, but that pitch’s effectiveness will be diminished if his fastball returns to the 89-91 range, where it sat in 2011. (Collette)

80. Griffin just edged out Mike Fiers for the final spot, though they are similar pitchers. Fiers’ elite strikeout rate was built more on deception and command than pure stuff, but his terrible mechanics (per Doug Thorburn) cloud his ability to produce an encore. Griffin has a better home park and a superior minor-league pedigree—plus, he’s two years younger.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here
Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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