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February 27, 2014

Fantasy Three-Year Projections

Starting Pitchers

by Paul Sporer

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Note that unlike previous lists (except OF), not every player will be addressed, even within the groupings that appear to have formed. Ranking 125 players precluded that, but if you have a question about someone specific, feel free to drop a comment and I’ll let you know what I was thinking.

Fernandez, Strasburg, and Cole will close the gap on the two studs atop the mountain over the next couple of seasons. This group could realistically thicken up even more, too, but for now I chose these two as the ones to ascend.

Here we have some holdover studs sticking up near the top as well as some new guys ascending. Verlander is aging with respect to this group, but at 31-33 the next three years, he’s hardly old by any stretch. Teheran had an excellent rookie campaign while also leaving plenty of room to grow. Latos is one of the more underrated arms in the game given how well he has pitched, especially since so many believed he’d fall off once in Cincinnati.

A group of mostly established strong arms here, with Cashner and Wheeler having the most to prove, but the pedigree and early glimpses of goodness to suggest that they will pan out. Shields may well be with a new team in the latter two years of this timeframem which should be interesting.

Miller and Gray both need a reliable third pitch, but I expect them to develop and carry the duo into the upper reaches. Lee will have a modest season within the three, but I expect him to remain mostly great and thus hold a prominent spot in the rankings.

Here is a quartet of strong lefties, all with room to grow, but with enough to sustain them even if they don’t make marked improvements.

There is a lot of youth in this grouping, with Weaver the only real veteran. I’m obviously projecting some nice growth from the bulk of this group, while Weaver has the skills to hold on as a prominent arm. I think he’s a bit overlooked because he hasn’t come close to his 2010 strikeout rate since, but he continues to put up very good ratios because, well, he’s a very good pitcher.

This is a very interesting group. Several of the names could take a real jump into the top 20, but pegging exactly who might do that is no easy task. I think Taillon contributes some in 2014 similar to what Cole did for the Pirates and then two full seasons in 2015-2016 to elevate himself into the top 50 overall. Iwakuma and Wilson are the elder statesmen here at 33-35 during this timeframe, but both are good enough to hold up and stay in the top 56 even if they mix a modest season within the three.

Gausman, Ventura, and Appel ascend while Sabathia rebounds from the ugly 2013 and gracefully gets deeper into his 30s. Harvey gets a total zero for 2014 so it was hard to really justify putting him much higher than this and frankly, this might even be a bit of a stretch, but he could realistically be the no. 1 pitcher in 2016 so I’m okay with the slotting. Lynn could do most of his work in this three-year period with another team because things are about to get really crowded in St. Louis and despite his obvious talent, he’s probably their most expendable asset.

Quintana quietly made some nice strides in 2013 and I really like his outlook under the tutelage of Don Cooper in Chicago. Hughes is looking to have a career resurgence a la the Burnett-to-Pittsburgh move. There is a youth movement in this tier with several top prospects predicted to establish themselves enough to be top 100 arms. The truth of the matter is that not all of these prospects will pan out, but the success rate has gotten much better so predicting just who will succumb to injury or see their secondary stuff fail to mature, pushing them to the bullpen, is a very difficult task.

This group of veterans will have to work to hang onto their fantasy relevance and I could see a couple of them falling off entirely, but similar to young arms washing out, it’s tough to tab exactly who that might be. These kinds lists have to assume a general modicum of health or you’re just going to be throwing even more darts than normally associated with a projection list.

I want to put Gray and Bundy higher, but I’m just not sure they contribute much in the first year and maybe even a portion of the second, so it’ll be tough to really escalate up the rankings despite the fact that they could be both be impact, upper-tier arms in year three.

Boston will have some turnover in their rotation in the coming years and the main pieces from the big Crawford/Gonzalez deal are my favorites to take roles and run with ‘em. Both guys have fantastic and I could even see them becoming mid-tier arms down the line, especially De La Rosa. Jordan could wrangle that fifth starter’s role from Ross Detwiler at some point this year and enhance his three-year value quite a bit. As it stands, I expect him to be a worthy asset for years two and three.

Here is another pile of veterans. What can I really say about them? Of the seven, I think at least four of will put up a top 50 within the timeframe we’re looking at, but that’s a rather nebulous prediction meant only to show that they have talent, but it’s not likely to sustain them over all three seasons.

Our final grouping. It’s a group of perfectly solid names, but none of which can be projected to excel with much confidence. If some of the questions are answered positively, these guys could jump a healthy bit. Can Paxton find the zone consistently in the majors? Can Pineda stay healthy? Will Chatwood refine his secondary stuff to go with his elite groundball rate and velocity? Will Cosart posts skills anywhere near the sexy ratios he had last year? Will Skaggs flourish now that he’s back with his drafting organization?

***

So what’d you think? Any frighteningly egregious misses? A list like this is exceedingly difficult, even more so than some of the position ones in my opinion because of the natural volatility tied to pitching. It’s a fun exercise, but one rife with second, third, and 50th guessing!

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

31 comments have been left for this article.

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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (02/27)
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