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January 9, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

A First-Round Starting Pitcher? Maybe

by Paul Sporer


I have always been vehemently against taking starting pitchers in the first round of a fantasy draft. The injury risk associated with pitchers is part of it, but honestly it has always been more because I trust myself to find better pitching later—so in a sense, arrogance. It’s just easier to pluck capable arms later than it is to find the out-of-nowhere bats like Josh Donaldson or Jean Segura. As we creep through the dead of winter and start to trickle into mock draft season, I’m warming to the idea of a first-round starting pitcher, or, more specifically, Clayton Kershaw. There are a handful of quality fantasy aces out there, but Kershaw is clearly a cut above the rest.

The top of the draft is relatively well established. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are the unquestioned top pair at this point, with a split camp on which of the two should go first. You can’t really go wrong with either, so having a top-two pick is a prime position this year. The next pair seems to be taking a foothold on the three and four spots in either order, too. Paul Goldschmidt is the easy three for me, but there is a real debate between him and Andrew McCutchen that I would at least listen to before selecting Goldy. Others may have it reversed, but I haven’t been in a mock draft this offseason that didn’t see these four go at the top of the draft.

It starts to come unglued a bit in the no. 5 hole. Robinson Cano definitely has the majority pull there, but it’s not overwhelming like the top four guys in their spots, especially after the move to Seattle, which has some panicking (irrationally, I might add, but we’ll save that for another time). Let’s go ahead and give Cano the five spot. There has been enough consistency there, and he just went fifth in an industry mock that started on Monday.

The six spot is where the free-for-all begins. In fact, you see if you clicked the link that Jason Collette actually used the spot to take Kershaw. There are a host names popping up at this point including Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Hanley Ramirez, and even Bryce Harper. The primary case for hitter over pitcher is stability and lowered risk. In general I agree, but as with everything there are exceptions and it is impossible not to see Kershaw as one. Looking at Kershaw’s company for the six to nine range of the first round uncovers quite a bit of uncertainty and certainly more than Kershaw.

Carlos Gonzalez
Why:
Four straight 20-20 seasons, dipping below .300 just once (.295 in 2011); strong R/RBI contributions relative to time played.

Why not: The 28-year old has exactly one 600-plus PA season and he’s topped 500 AB just once in the last three years; his R/RBI totals have dwindled yearly since 2010 highs of 111/117 including a 72/70 effort last year; his missed time comes in non-DL (only 2 DL stints) chunks, which makes it tougher and riskier to replace him in the lineup; his next 150-game season will be his first

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<< Previous Article
BP Hall of Fame Voting (01/08)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Wha... (01/06)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (01/09)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: I... (01/09)

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