After missing most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the talented southpaw returned to the Rays rotation this past July and heads into 2016 hoping to pick up where he left off prior to the surgery. An All-Star in 2013 at the age of 24, Moore was 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 8.6 K/9 that season, and was a highly targeted arm in 2014 fantasy drafts. After a lost 2014 campaign, Moore struggled early in his return to the Rays this past season, but finished the year strong, posting a 2.97 ERA and 1.156 WHIP over his last six starts with a 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 K:BB ratio. When the 2016 season begins, it will be nearly two years removed from his TJ procedure and I am bullish that Moore can return to his 2013 form.
Last season was especially disappointing for Holland owners (me being one of them) based on the expectations following his impressive return from knee surgery in a small sample size in 2014. Following a 2013 season that saw the Dutch Oven post career bests in ERA, strikeouts, K:BB, and HR/9, he returned from the aforementioned knee surgery in September of 2014 and in his five starts went 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA with a 24-to-4 K:BB ratio over 34 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury suffered in spring training derailed the left-hander’s 2015 season and Holland made just 10 regular-season starts, plus one in the postseason. Holland appeared to be back to his 2013 and 2014 levels over his first four starts from his return from the DL this season, going 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA, 0.818 WHIP and 25-to-3 K:BB ratio over 29 1/3 IP, including a masterful three-hit shutout against the Orioles on August 30th in which he struck out 11 and walked none. However, the southpaw struggled over his remaining starts, including a Game Four loss in the ALDS, in which he allowed three home runs to the Blue Jays. My money is on Holland to bounce back and become a top-30 fantasy starter again this season.
The usually reliable Sanchez struggled in 2015, and much of the damage came via the long ball, which was uncharacteristic of this 10-year veteran. Before being shut down after a shoulder injury in August, Sanchez had already allowed 29 home runs (which led the league) in his 25 starts… which is a far cry from the home-run rates we have seen from this hurler in the past. Sanchez led the league in HR/9 with a 0.4 mark in 2013, and had allowed only 33 long flies combined over the previous three seasons heading into 2015. His 12.1 HR:FB rate last year was nearly double his career average and well above the league average. Based on an MRI in September, there was no major structural damage in Sanchez’s right shoulder and the expectation is he will be ready for the start of the 2016 season. With a career 3.61 FIP and 1.289 WHIP, expect Sanchez to see his groundball rates return to his career norms, which would make him a serviceable fantasy starter once again.
Doug Fister – Free Agent
2015 stats: 103 IP, 5-7 record, 4.19 ERA, 1.398 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Fister has been a fantasy favorite of mine for the past several years, because he is typically undervalued due to his low strikeout rates but quietly puts up impressive earnings every year. Heading into last season, and coming off a 16-win campaign where he posted a 2.41 ERA despite missing the first five weeks of the season, Fister had posted double-digit earnings in standard mono-league scoring formats the previous four seasons. His pinpoint control and solid groundball rates help this contact-oriented hurler produce solid ratios, which in turn make him a steady fantasy earner. What’s also valuable about Fister’s game is his ability to limit base runners from advancing via the stolen base: He’s allowed just one SB the past two seasons. Last season he was derailed by an elbow injury that limited the veteran right-hander to just 15 starts and 10 relief appearances for the Nationals, as he registered the worst ERA of his career. Still looking for a team at the time of this article, assuming his elbow is fully healed, no matter whose uniform Fister wears this season this season, I’d expect a bounce-back year.
Henderson Alvarez – Oakland A’s
2015 stats: 22 1/3 IP, 0-4 record, 6.45 ERA, 1.567 WHIP, 3.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
Like Fister, Alvarez is often overlooked in fantasy drafts based on his less-than-spectacular strikeout rates. However, the 25-year-old starting pitcher already has a no-hitter under his belt, was an All-Star in 2014, and earned $16 in standard NL-only 5×5 scoring formats despite registering only 111 strikeouts. 2015 was a lost season for the Venezuelan hurler, who dealt with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery in July. After being non-tendered by the Marlins in December, Alvarez was signed a few weeks later by the A’s to a one-year, $4.25 million contract, with an additional $1.6 million in incentives. The injury is obviously a concern, as his average fastball dropped from 93 MPH in 2014 to 90.9 MPH over his four starts this past season, but reports are the surgery was a success and he should be ready to pitch for Oakland by late April/early May. With solid groundball rates and ratios, and moving to a pitching friendly park, look for Alvarez to rebound in 2016 and be a great buy-low candidate, especially if he regains the lost velocity on his fastball.
Two words: Ray Searage.
Do we need to go back and review all of Searage’s reclamation success stories over the past few years as pitching coach of the Pirates? Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Vance Worley, Jason Grilli, Arquimedes Caminero… heck, he helped turn Jeff Locke into an All-Star. The 38-year-old hurler now returns to Pittsburgh to help fill out the back end of the Pirates rotation in 2016. Vogelsong will never be a fantasy ace, but he registered 27 wins with strong ratios in 2011 and 2012, and he posted a 3.85 FIP and 1.278 WHIP over 32 starts in 2014. The right-hander certainly struggled this past year, but reuniting with the Pirates should make him a serviceable fantasy option in deeper leagues this season, especially with his solid strikeout rates and the outfield defense behind him.
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