February 20, 2015
Fantasy Tiered Rankings
Starting Pitchers, Part Two
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.
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.
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
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