A look at several pitchers who could rise in the rankings and provide late-round values in your drafts next spring.
There is a subset of the fantasy baseball community that is entirely reticent about drafting a starting pitcher early. Early is obviously a subjective measure, but I fall into the camp that all but refuses to take one in the first two rounds. It isn’t just the extra injury risk that is associated with pitchers—though that is definitely a large component—but it is also the fact that quality pitching is more widely available both later in the draft and as the season goes along.
You will have the Matt Carpenter and Josh Donaldson type breakouts in a given year on the hitting side (and mind you, those weren’t the only two), but those are rare and even rarer is the guy who comes along in the middle of the season to put up beastly offensive numbers. The AL Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers, didn’t come up until June 18th and he raked, but he was drafted onto a roster in just about every league back in March anyway, so it’s not like you could have picked him up.
These five hurlers missed most of the 2013 campaign with arm ailments, but they could be fantasy bargains next year.
If it wasn’t made clear in my first article on starting pitchers who were due for a bounce back, my view on starting pitching is that depth is everywhere. I mean, hell, I tried to make a case for Edinson Volquez as a viable option heading into next season (author’s note: I’m a dolt). Perhaps Volquez was the wrong option to hang my case on, but I selected him in an effort to prove a point. That point you ask?
The point is that starting pitching depth is just about everywhere. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of five NL starting pitchers who either haven’t pitched in 2013, or have only just returned recently. They range from “I’ve been waiting on him for a couple years” to “I legitimately forgot he existed even though he’s on my favorite team*.”
Bret reviews the rewards offered by the players who once topped these rankings, and then unveils this week's top 20.
First, let’s start with the sad news. There will only be one more Stash List left for 2013 after today, and it will run as scheduled next Tuesday. We’re getting to the point in the season where a lot of the skill in putting together this list is becoming overshadowed by short-term randomness, and the overall usefulness is coming close to running its natural course. But, we’re not there yet. So let’s party like this column will never end.
Since this idea was birthed back in April, the list has seen seven different players occupy the top spot. And now that we’re just about three-quarters of the way through the season, it seems like a good time to check back in on how those players are doing.
The Marlins have the worst record in the National League, but they have the arms to play spoiler down the stretch.
The Weekend Takeaway
From the beginning of the 1916 season through Saturday, only three pitchers had struck out 13 or more batters in a start while walking none before reaching the current legal drinking age: Gary Nolan, Kerry Wood, and Dwight Gooden, who did it twice. Now that club has a fourth member: Jose Fernandez, who will have something to celebrate when he turns 21 on Wednesday, and who opposing manager Clint Hurdlecompared to Gooden after the game.
The 14th-overall pick in the 2011 draft, Fernandez opened eyes when he fanned eight Mets over five innings in his major-league debut and then blanked the Phillies through six two-hit innings in his second trip to a big-league mound. A couple of hiccups in late April and another in Tampa Bay on May 27, combined with the Marlins’ hopeless entrapment in the National League East cellar, served to take Fernandez off of most fans’ radars. But Sunday’s dominant outing, in which he outgunned the pitcher taken first overall in his draft class, should restore Fernandez’s place on the stage.
Fredi Gonzalez began the year with a strong group of starters—even with Tim Hudson on the disabled list—and plenty of possible reinforcements. When Jair Jurrjens coughed up five home runs and 10 walks in his first four starts, Atlanta had the luxury of sending him down, because Hudson was finally healthy and Randall Delgado was emerging as a reliable rotation piece.
While you're cooing over Brandon Beachy, Scott Diamond is doing more with less. Is it time to take the prototypical Twin seriously?
It all sounds like the typical underdog story. Scott Diamond, a lefty, went undrafted out of college. He signed with the Braves and pitched in their system through the 2010 season, at which point Atlanta had to make a choice. Either the Braves could make a commitment to Diamond and place him on the 40-man roster, or they could leave him exposed to the Rule 5 draft and risk losing him for $50,000. The Braves took the risk and, in a way, it paid off. Not only did Atlanta receive the money from Minnesota, but when the Twins later wanted to demote the pitcher, the Braves negotiated for a strong-armed right-handed minor-league reliever in exchange for Diamond’s rights.
Items to check off the cliché list so far: “ignored by all teams in the draft”, “underappreciated by the organization that gave him a chance”, and “potential redemption with a new team that believes in him.” Diamond made his big-league debut for the Twins and struggled. He spent a lot of time in Triple-A, struggling there, too. Minnesota did not give up on Diamond and had few reservations about bringing him up this season. Diamond has since established a foothold on a rotation spot thanks to performances good enough and an alma mater small enough to make Brandon Beachy look overrated. No, really:
He doesn't have the fastest fastball, but everything else points to good things for the Rays' Alex Cobb.
One of my favorite under-the-radar pitchers this season is Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s only been three outings of 3.71-ERA ball, but I’m buying into that kind of performance completely and think good things lie ahead for the 24-year-old right-hander. He’s less heralded than many of the other young Ray pitchers and pitching prospects, but I believe he’s every bit as good as last year’s rookie sensation Jeremy Hellickson, if not better, and has the higher ceiling of the two. (Admission: that’s a cop-out. If I weren’t afraid of the backlash by Hellickson’s rabid supporters, I’d have been stronger in my assertion that Cobb is better right now. Okay, well, I guess that kind of counts.)
Cobb has posted K/9 rates north of 9.0 at each stop at Double- and Triple-A, but he’s the kind of guy people are skeptical of in the majors. He doesn’t have mind-boggling stuff, and the lack of a dominant fastball can put people off, but there is a lot to like once you get past his four-seamer. He throws with just slightly above-average, low-90s velocity, but he has an interesting smattering of secondary pitches to make up for it.
Michael Bourn had a career day playing at Great American Ballpark.
The Tuesday Takeaway Brandon Beachy came into yesterday’s game against the Reds having allowed just one home run in 54 innings this season. Great American Ball Park took care of that. Michael Bourn came into yesterday’s game against the Reds having hit just one home run in 201 plate appearances this season. Great American Ball Park took care of that, too.
By the time the Reds were celebrating their 4-3 win, Beachy had served up three long balls—a pair to Brandon Phillips and one to Zack Cozart—and Bourn had mashed two. Beachy’s home-runs-allowed figure had quadrupled. Bourn’s home-runs-hit mark had tripled.
But, in 2008, I would have known even less about Brandon Beachy, who wasn’t drafted at all. Thirty teams, 50 rounds, 1,504 picks, and Beachy was untouched. Major-league baseball teams thought that at least 1,504 amateurs were better than he was in 2008, but for all we know they thought 1,504,000 amateurs were better than him. They might have thought he was the very worst baseball player in the world. There is no limit to how bad they might have thought he was, because he was drafted just as much as a non-physical entity, like, say, senioritis was drafted. Brandon Beachy has a 1.60 ERA.