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February 28, 2014

Fantasy Players to Avoid

Starting Pitchers

by BP Fantasy Staff


There are so many pitchers to choose from. It's not that hard to not choose one of the following.

Clay Buchholz, Red Sox
I’ve never been shy about my feelings for Buchholz and of course he burned me to a crisp last year with a 1.74 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. I’ve never been a fan and I think the reasons are sound:

  • Coming into 2013, he had just one season of 2.0 or higher K:BB in five seasons and it was a whopping 2.02 with a meager 16.1 percent strikeout rate and eight percent walk rate.
  • His next 30-start season will still be his first. Same goes for his next 190-inning campaign. He peaked at 189 1/3 in 2012.
  • Even his good season left something to be desired. The 2.33 ERA from 2010 came with a 1.8 K:BB ratio. His FIP told the real story at 3.61 and his xFIP might’ve even been a better gauge at 4.07 since a major component of his success was a 5.6 percent HR:FB rate.

So we have a modestly skilled starter, who can’t stay healthy, on one of the more popular teams leaving him perennially overrated and I’m supposed to buy in? No thanks. Last year was great, but for 108 innings. He’s still gotta show me something real. —Paul Sporer

Johnny Cueto, Reds
Cueto missed a huge chunk of 2013 with a back injury, recording a 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 51-to-18 K:BB ration in 60 2/3 innings of work. At his best, Cueto can be Jordan Zimmermann lite, but a lack of strikeouts will always hold him back from being anything more than a third-tier starter for me. From 2011-2013, Cueto’s 2.61 ERA trails only Clayton Kershaw (2.21 ERA) among starters with at least 400 innings, but his 18.6 percent strikeout rate over that time is well below the league average. When you break it down, Cueto has averaged 144 innings and 108 strikeouts per season since 2011. That’s not going to get it done. According to NFBC, he’s going before Justin Masterson, C.C. Sabathia, and Marco Estrada; I’d take all three before investing in what I can only hope is a full season from Cueto. —Alex Kantecki

Matt Moore, Rays
After bursting onto the scene with a seven-inning shutout in the 2011 playoffs, the no. 10 prospect of 2011 was solid in his first full year in '12. He posted a stellar 3.6 WARP season and found his strikeout mojo as the season wore on. He paired that with a declining walk rate over the season's second half, and entered 2013 as one of the leading breakout candidates in baseball. That didn't happen though, as an elbow injury and general skill regression conspired to knock his fantasy value all the way down to 42nd. Despite the steps back owners appear undeterred, as he's currently going off the board 31st among starters.

I'm not sold on the case for optimism here, however. Walks have always been a bugaboo for Moore dating back to the minor leagues, and he's shown no signs of being able to better harness his stuff in the majors. Last season he threw almost 10 percent (!) fewer first-pitch strikes than he had in 2012, and just 44.3 percent of his pitches overall were in the zone—down overfour percent from 2012. His walk rate unsurprisingly climbed over the 4.5 per nine mark, which is red-alert territory. The control issues tie in directly with another troubling trend: his stuff got a whole lot more hittable last year. He induced 2.3 percent fewer swinging strikes, while giving up over four percent more contact on the pitches he did manage to throw in the strike zone. His fastball velocity decreased by almost two full miles an hour last year, which is never a good sign for a young pitcher. Add in the elbow issue that shelved him for a month last year—and likely played a role in all of these issues—and I see an awfully risky pitcher who’s being drafted as a low-two/high-three arm. At that point in the draft there are still too many quality arms kicking around with safer track records, and I'm happy to let someone else take the risk on Moore's health and stuff returning. —Wilson Karaman

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<< Previous Article
Fantasy Article Graphical Fantasy Rank... (02/28)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avo... (02/21)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Players to Avo... (03/07)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: S... (02/28)

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