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February 20, 2015

Fantasy Tiered Rankings

Starting Pitchers, Part Two

by J.P. Breen

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To read the previous articles in this series, follow the links below:

Today, we’ll continue with the starting pitchers—but we’re working with the bottom half of the barrel in this article. The place where championships are won and lost, where sleepers are found.

Players at each position are divided into five tiers, represented by a numerical star rating. Five-star players are the studs at their respective position. In general, they are the players that will be nabbed in the first couple of rounds of the draft, and they'll fetch auction bids in excess of $20. Four-star players are a cut below the studs at the position. They will also be early-round selections, and they are projected to be worth more than $15-20 in most cases. Three-star players are the last tier in which players are projected to provide double-digit dollar value in auctions, and two-star players are projected to earn single digits in dollar value in auctions. One-star players are late round sleepers and roster placeholders. The positional tiers aren't simply a regurgitation of last year’s values but rather try to offer some insights into what we expect will happen in 2015.

We retained last year's roster requirements for the positional tier series. Dollar values come from last year’s PFM using a 12-team, standard 5x5 scoring format, with 23-man rosters and the following positions: C (2) 1B (1) 2B (1) 3B (1) SS (1) CI (1) MI (1) OF (5) UT (1) P (9). The minimum bid for players is $1, and, as we did last year, we'll allocate $80 of a $260 budget to pitchers. The PFM is customizable, so if your league uses a different format you can adjust it to match your league settings and see how it impacts players’ dollar values.

Two Stars

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

Kevin Gausman

BAL

$-4.38

$1.95

113.1

7

88

3.57

1.31

Danny Duffy

KC

$4.98

$9.97

149.1

9

113

2.53

1.11

Shelby Miller

ATL

$-1.28

$6.00

183.0

10

127

3.74

1.27

Matt Shoemaker

LAA

$5.47

$10.96

136.0

16

124

3.04

1.07

Rick Porcello

BOS

$2.56

$10.32

204.2

15

129

3.43

1.23

Scott Kazmir

OAK

$4.65

$11.76

190.1

15

164

3.55

1.16

Mike Fiers

MIL

$1.43

$4.10

71.2

6

76

2.13

0.88

Justin Verlander

DET

$-6.98

$3.56

206.0

15

159

4.54

1.40

R.A. Dickey

TOR

$2.42

$10.60

215.2

14

173

3.71

1.23

Derek Holland

TEX

$-4.92

$-0.41

37.0

2

25

1.46

1.05

Jake Odorizzi

TB

$-1.60

$5.76

168.0

11

174

4.13

1.28

Danny Salazar

CLE

$-6.95

$0.79

110.0

6

120

4.25

1.38

Jarred Cosart

MIA

$-3.16

$5.48

180.1

13

115

3.69

1.36

John Lackey

STL

$0.37

$8.24

198.0

14

164

3.82

1.28

Chris Tillman

BAL

$3.12

$10.74

207.1

13

150

3.34

1.23

Mike Minor

ATL

$-11.13

$0.54

145.1

6

120

4.77

1.40

Brandon McCarthy

LAD

$-1.29

$6.68

200.0

10

175

4.05

1.28

Drew Hutchison

TOR

$-2.37

$5.53

184.2

11

184

4.48

1.26

Ervin Santana

MIN

$-0.59

$7.60

196.0

14

179

3.95

1.31

CC Sabathia

NYY

$-11.02

$-3.54

46.0

3

48

5.28

1.48

Taijuan Walker

SEA

$-7.20

$-1.62

38.0

2

34

2.61

1.29

Matt Garza

MIL

$0.44

$6.12

163.1

8

126

3.64

1.18

Jesse Hahn

OAK

$-3.18

$1.91

73.1

7

70

3.07

1.21

For someone like myself, who tends to avoid high-priced starters, this tier can truly be a treasure trove. A guy like Kevin Gausman was rather pedestrian last year, but has the potential to breakout and be a legitimate top-30 starter in 2015. Considering he’s currently being drafted as the 69th-overall starter, that upside brings massive potential surplus value. Fantasy owners should be concerned about the depressed strikeout rate. His 8.8 percent swinging-strike rate isn’t anything special, and members of our fantasy team have asked whether Gausman can take a step forward and become a number-two fantasy starter without a better and more frequent slider.

Shelby Miller will transition to the NL East after an offseason trade to Atlanta. He frustrated the world early in the year, as he suddenly lost the strike zone and couldn’t strike anyone out. The right-hander posted a 4.29 ERA in the first half and seemingly lost all confidence on the mound. However, the second half brought signs of improvement, as he reined in the walks and managed to cobble together a tenuous 2.92 ERA. The strikeouts never returned, but it should be noted that Miller wasn’t dealing with velocity loss or any change in arsenal. If the strikeouts return and his second-half command continues, he’s a steal at this point in the draft.

Trivia Question: Which two-star pitcher posted a top-10 swinging-strike rate in the second half last year, besting guys like Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer, and Jeff Samardzija?

Answer: Drew Hutchison

Hutchison’s 12.4 percent swinging-strike rate in the second half, when he featured a much-improved slider. He still surrendered too many homers and wasn’t exactly an ace after the All-Star break, as he owned a 4.96 ERA, but the core skills were present. The strikeouts and walks trended well. I don’t want this to be a “look at the second half” piece—as that borders on selling fool’s gold—however, Hutchison seemingly found something in August and September. His stuff was much improved. The results didn’t necessarily follow, but the right-hander could, at the very least, be a great source of strikeouts later in the draft—and there’s some upside here.

Derek Holland also seems to be a nice post-injury grab. The lack of velocity upon his return is perhaps a worry, but one shouldn’t stress too much about that, especially at this point of the draft. It should be expected that post-injury pitchers take a bit to get up to speed. However, I’d be watching him this spring, if my league drafted late in March.

Two-Star Value Pick: Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves
Too many people are bailing after a tough year. The production dropped dramatically; however, the velocity was consistent, the strikeout and walk rates meshed with his career averages, and the ground-ball rate even improved. The culprit seems to be a career-high 1.30 home-run rate and a lofty BABIP—both of which can fluctuate from year to year. Minor seems to be a guy who can bounce back next year without changing much in his approach. The only thing I’m concerned about is that, given his career numbers, the 2013 season does almost appear to be an anomaly, rather than the norm. Considering I liked him heading into 2013, though, I’m not bailing on him a couple years later when the raw stuff remains -- especially when he’s going 79th overall.

One Star

Player

Team

Mixed $

AL/NL $

IP

W

SO

ERA

WHIP

Jason Hammel

CHC

$3.99

$9.18

176.1

10

158

3.47

1.12

Mike Leake

CIN

$1.11

$8.67

214.1

11

164

3.70

1.25

Tanner Roark

WAS

$10.03

$13.37

198.2

15

138

2.85

1.09

Wily Peralta

MIL

$1.18

$9.41

198.2

17

154

3.53

1.30

Jon Niese

NYM

$0.32

$7.03

187.2

9

138

3.40

1.27

C.J. Wilson

LAA

$-8.23

$2.08

175.2

13

151

4.51

1.45

Henderson Alvarez

MIA

$4.14

$9.86

187.0

12

111

2.65

1.24

Andrew Heaney

LAA

$-11.47

$-4.82

29.1

0

20

5.83

1.33

Carlos Martinez

STL

$-8.23

$0.16

89.1

2

84

4.03

1.41

Nate Eovaldi

NYY

$-6.91

$3.11

199.2

6

142

4.37

1.33

Drew Pomeranz

OAK

$-1.80

$2.24

69.0

5

64

2.35

1.12

Yovani Gallardo

TEX

$0.78

$6.41

192.1

8

146

3.51

1.29

Trevor Bauer

CLE

$-6.96

$1.41

153.0

5

143

4.18

1.38

A.J. Burnett

PIT

$-9.08

$3.17

213.2

8

190

4.59

1.41

Kyle Hendricks

CHC

$-0.79

$2.97

80.1

7

47

2.46

1.08

Jake Peavy

SF

$-1.11

$6.32

202.2

7

158

3.73

1.28

Clay Buchholz

BOS

$-12.34

$-0.75

170.3

8

132

5.34

1.39

Kyle Lohse

MIL

$4.10

$10.15

198.1

13

141

3.54

1.15

Bud Norris

BAL

$1.49

$8.57

165.1

15

139

3.65

1.22

Kyle Gibson

MIN

$-5.38

$3.26

179.1

13

107

4.47

1.31

Dan Haren

MIA

$1.14

$8.01

186.0

13

145

4.02

1.18

Wade Miley

BOS

$-7.20

$2.73

201.1

8

183

4.34

1.40

Hammel dazzled in the early part of the year with Chicago, posting a 2.98 ERA with a stellar K:BB ratio. Of course, things fell apart in Oakland, and people began suggesting Hammel belonged in the National League, that his non-overpowering arsenal could only fare well in the National League. I’m not sure it’s that simple. I’m not convinced the move to the NL makes him more attractive, but I do think reuniting with Chris Bosio in Chicago will do him a world of good. The two meshed well last season. A non-Cubs scout suggested Bosio was the reason Hammel turned it around, and it stemmed from an improved slider. Perhaps that relationship can rekindle some fantasy value.

Please don’t jump ship on Andrew Heaney because he struggled for five big-league stars. Some scouts have suggested he’s not a top-of-the-rotation arm, but he’s far from a scrub. Grab him and feel confident that you’ve pocketed a potential number-three.

It’s tough to gauge guys like Henderson Alvarez, who became a feel-good story in 2014 and enjoyed a great season. However, some pitchers are better real-life players than their fantasy value would otherwise indicate. His profile is wholly dependent upon wins and ERA. The strikeouts will be wholly absent, and the WHIP will fluctuate depending on the BABIP. Again, the Marlins are quite happy they have a young mid-rotation starter. Fantasy owners should simply be aware that his value doesn’t carry over into traditional roto.

I’m personally much higher on Miley than this tiered ranking would otherwise suggest. His newly discovered slider was a boon for him last year, which is the largest reason his swinging-strike rate jumped to a career-high 9.7 percent. His contact percentage dropped from 82.0 percent to just 78.5 percent, which was better than Jon Lester and just 0.2 percent worse than David Price. Leaving Arizona should help his fortunes, too.

One-Star Value Pick: Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers
Fantasy owners can often fall victim to window-shopping. They stroll through the mall or down Main Street, and their eyes are only transfixed by the new and shiny items. The old and dependable don’t necessarily make the cut. Take Kyle Lohse, for example. The 36-year-old hurler is average across the board and doesn’t offer much upside, but Lohse was the 39th-ranked fantasy starter in 2014 and was the 47th in 2013. As he’s aged, he’s become a technician on the mound, relying more on his offspeed offerings, despite not losing much on his fastball. Shiny new toys with upside are great, but don’t forget about guys like Lohse.

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

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Starting Pitchers,  Tiered Rankings

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