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December 27, 2013

Sporer Report

Top 20 Risers

by Paul Sporer


Last week I looked at a handful of guys in the 100-250 range of starting pitchers in 2013 who could jump into the top 90 for 2014. Once again using the ESPN Player Rater, today I’m looking at guys in the 30-90 range who can take that star leap into the top 20. There are some caveats with the selections, mostly just the fact that I refuse to pick a previous star who fell off a bit in 2013 so I’m not littering the list with David Price (32), Cole Hamels (35), and Justin Verlander (41), but rather guys who are on the rise and could make their first appearance in that upper crust.

I also eliminated the 21-29 guys from consideration because that just wouldn’t be much of a jump to make into the top 20. Even the early 30s isn’t a huge surge, but there is only one guy from that section of the pool. Speaking of the early 30s, I almost selected Alex Cobb (35), but he only missed the top 20 because of his time missed due to the comebacker he took to the head. The fact that he still finished 35th with 143 1/3 innings is quite impressive. He took his star turn, now he just has to do it for a full season.

Chris Tillman, BAL (finished 31st in 2013) – Tillman got some attention with a strong stint in 2012 after three brutal false starts from 2009-2011 during which he posted an ERA 5.58 in 180 2/3 innings at ages 21 through 23. When he finally put together of note at 24, it felt late because it seems like he has been around forever. The 2.93 ERA in 86 innings from 2012 was a bit flimsy thanks to a 1.3 HR/9 and unspectacular 19 percent strikeout rate, but the former top prospect was still worthy of attention.

He finally made it through a full season in 2013 and even nabbed an All-Star bid, though that was more due to his 11-3 record than his actual performance. He got some heat for the All-Star selection—even though it’s not his fault he was selected—and it seemed to cloud to perception of his strong finish. After a 3.95 ERA, 19 percent strikeout rate, and nine percent walk rate in 111 2/3 innings during the first half, he rallied for a 3.42 ERA, 24 percent strikeout rate, and seven percent walk rate in 94 2/3 innings after the break.

The key to him becoming a bona fide star will be limiting home runs. It was at 1.4 HR/9 in 2013, putting most of his ERA indicators near or above 4.00 even when you balance out his 14.2 percent HR:FB rate. Homers have been a problem throughout his career, but it is a problem than can be improved. As expected, his home ballpark is a big factor.

He allowed 2.0 HR/9 in the Camden Yards launching pad that carries a 131 park factor for lefty homers and 118 for righties. The fact that he spends a lot of time up in the zone also explains his gopheritis. He had far and away the highest percentage of pitches up in the zone (among qualified starters) at 39.4 percent. Of course you can be effective while working up in the zone at Shelby Miller (36.4) and Matt Harvey (36.3) showed checking in just behind Tillman. I like Tillman to improve with his fastball up in the zone and cut down the homers en route to a top 20 season.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Skewed Left: The Quiet... (12/26)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Sporer Report: Is Big ... (11/07)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Sporer Report: Garbage... (01/03)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: A R... (12/27)

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