2012 List of 12

When is the List of 12 not really 12 guys? When it’s 28 names, like this year!

For those of you unfamiliar with the List of 12, the concept is pretty simple: we look for starting pitchers who crossed the 500 career innings barrier during the previous season, and focus on them as potential breakout candidates for the upcoming season. The theory behind this is that it takes pitchers at least a couple of seasons to fully adjust to pitching in the Majors, so in fantasy we want to find guys who are ready to have breakout seasons but might still be a little under the radar. Some of these guys stink and will continue to stink, but if you’re looking for guys who are ready to take the next step, this list is a good place to start.

The original list was only 12 guys — hence the name — but since it’s drawn each year from an objective set of rules, sometimes we get fewer or more (in this year, a lot more!) than the original dozen.

There’s someone on the list this year for every taste and style. Some of them are already top-shelf stars (Kershaw, Price) and a few are already in that next tier of fantasy notoriety (Gio, Kennedy, Romero, etc). But even with so many whose values appears to be established, there are still some values to be found.

In the spirit of the original list, here’s a quick first-blush rundown of the dozen guys who I think are ones to watch this year, who best represent the spirit behind the List of 12:

***And here’s a link to the spreadsheet

Brandon Morrow – his walk rate has declined steadily since he joined the rotation in 2009, while maintaining an outstanding strikeout rate, for a nearly 3-to-1 K-BB ratio last year. VERY bad luck on his strand rate over the past two seasons has kept his ERA deceptively high, so he may still be struggling with runners on base. But if he conquers that this season, he could be a very solid #2… I’m buying.

Max Scherzer – moderately unlucky hit and strand rates, and a spike in his HR/FB, hid Scherzer’s overall improvements last year. His strikeout rate dipped somewhat, but he cut his walk rate even further, leading to a career-best K-BB ratio above the magic 3-to-1 mark. The home run may continue to be a problem, but Comerica Park should help mask that. 2010 looks like his baseline, and his upside is that of a #2.

Gio Gonzalez – the opposite of Morrow in that his walk rate has stayed too high, but he’s improved his strikeout rate while establishing his durability. The move to the NL should help, and even though he’ll miss pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum, Nationals Park is still a very favorable venue. He might not have Morrow’s upside but he’s not far behind… buy.

Anibal Sanchez – his strikeout rate spiked, he cut down the walks and got a few more grounders, but the ERA and WHIP actually rose as his home run rate doubled. As with Scherzer, 2010 looks like his baseline, and the improved Marlins’ offense should produce many more than the 10-11 wins he’s averaged over the past two seasons. Buy.

Brandon McCarthy – McCarthy was mostly healthy in 2011 and finally produced the strong season that eluded him in Chicago and Texas. His strikeout rate wasn’t great but he was extremely stingy allowing walks, leading to a Maddux-esque 4.9 K-BB ratio. His fly-ball ratio is about average, but thanks to cavernous Oakland Coliseum he allowed only 11 homers all season. Health is still a concern, but given that he should be a very solid #3 this year.

Luke Hochevar – Hochevar rediscovered his strikeouts in the second half, so the overall decline isn’t as alarming, and he cut his walk rate considerably overall. An excellent ground ball rate suggests his home run rate should drop down somewhat too, so if it all comes together this year he should be a strong #3.

Jeff Niemann – some of his second-half improvement came from good luck in his hit and strand rates, but his groundball and strikeout rates spiked as well, while the walk rate held steady. He gets enough grounders that the home run rate should be a little lower, too. It’s hard to see an ace here, but if everything breaks right, he could take a major step forward into the #3 tier.

Justin Masterson – he already had his breakout season in 2011, and he still struggles against lefties enough to suggest that he might not be capable of much better. On the other hand, his strong ground ball rate helps him limit the long ball, and while his K-BB ratio is good-but-not-great, it did improve in the second half. He’ll be hard-pressed to match 2011 again, but he’s unlikely to blow up again, and looks like a decent #3 or strong #4 starter.

Trevor Cahill – Even though he struck out more guys than in 2010, he walked more, and cruel regression in his hit and strand rates caused his ERA to climb by over a run. However, he was on the whole essentially the same pitcher, with excellent ground ball rates and a decent K-BB ratio. He won’t be an ace, but the move to the NL – even hitter-friendly Chase Field – should help him improve upon his 2011 numbers.

Colby Lewis – Lewis was essentially the same pitcher in 2011 as he was in 2010, but inflation in his fly ball and home run rates caused his ERA to jump by three-quarters of a run. The reality is probably somewhere in between, so he’s not going to be your ace, but he’s a solid rotation filler with good strikeout upside.

Chris Volstad – a poor man’s Justin Masterson, with an excellent ground-ball rate, good-but-not-great strikeout and walk rates, struggles vs. lefties. However, consistently unlucky strand rates have conspired to keep his ERA artificially high in past seasons… if he can improve his performance with runners on base, he could take a Masterson-like step forward this year. An excellent late-round flier in any format.

Rick Porcello – The good news is, Porcello reached a career high last year with 5.1 K/9. The bad news is, that’s awful. However, his strand rates have been very unlucky over the past two seasons, so with some regression there and even a slight bump in his K-BB ratio, he could take a step forward into the #3 tier. For now, he’s a useful end-of-rotation gamble.

As for the rest:

Clayton Kershaw and David Price are aces, and Price might even come at a small discount this year. Ian Kennedy and Ricky Romero are absolutely legit, although some small step back from their 2011 numbers wouldn’t be a huge surprise. C.J. Wilson and Hiroki Kuroda are known commodities.

Jeff Karstens, Kyle Kendrick, Clayton Richard, Kevin Slowey, Jason Vargas and Randy Wells are strictly pitch-or-ditch rotation fillers, although Richard is still a terrific home/away play whenever possible. Dallas Braden is coming off arm surgery and doesn’t provide enough K’s to warrant much concern, either.

Ryan Vogelsong was an out-of-the-blue shocker last year but faded in the second half and is a poor beat to repeat this year. Edinson Volquez walks WAY too many guys, but maybe the move to PETCO will help reverse his fortunes. I’m not going to be the one who rosters him to find out, though. Finally, near-perfect game or not, Armando Galarraga is simply not very good.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Let’s hear it!

Thanks,

Cory

20 Comments

Welcome back to my life guys. This L.of12 looks a lot better than last yrs. Question about league scoring in general. I know fantasy baseball was built on Roto, but in this day and age, how do you not switch to a fantasy point scoring system? Roto is flawed in that it ignores many stats (both good and bad) that a player produces. Points leagues show the true value of a player.
In Roto, Bourn finished in the top 15 overall mainly because of his steals. In a points league he wasn’t even a top 30 hitter.
I’ve played in both types of pools, and there is no comparison. It’s so frustrating that the majority of experts only focus on how many categories a guy gives you.
Thoughts?

Steve . . . I don’t think roto is the problem, it’s the traditional categories.

My league uses a roto style, but with categories that make closers worth $15-20, good setup men worth $5-$10, and doesn’t overvalue SBs.

Offense:

aOBP – OBP, subtracting CS from the numerator
Bases Produced – Total Bases + SB
Runs – just as important as . . .
RBI

Pitching:

Full categories

ERA
Strikeouts
aOPS against – 2x OBP allowed + SLG allowed. The site we use calculates this for us, although I had to enter the formula manually, which is a little complicated since you need to figure all of the components for each pitcher to get composite team totals. You could live with WHIP here, but it doesn’t penalize pitchers who give up a lot of HR.

Half categories

Quality starts – much better than wins
Relief Points – 2*SV + HLD + RW – RL – BS

This system gives us realistic player values, and allows us to continue to play the traditional roto style, including the strategy of trying to move up in a category, etc..

Steve,

It’s an issue of preference, and Joe makes a good point about finding alternative categories if the traditional 5×5 ones aren’t to your liking. But my main problem with points leagues is that the point values are arbitrary. Who’s to say that a stolen base is worth twice as much as a single or a win is worth 10 strikeouts etc? At least in roto there’s a sort of proportional adjustment where in theory wins are worth the same as strikeouts yet you know that a win is more valuable than a strikeout so you adjust the value accordingly. So ultimately, you’re the one who determines the relative values and not the league rules.

Zach

I am sure that is due to the fact the majority of fantasy leagues are roto and the audience for the 411 is the majority.

How about Cory Luebke?

aaa,

We all like Luebke but he didn’t qualify for the particular list based on the innings prerequisite outlined above.

Zach

Ahh the list of 12….love it!

So Anibal, who was a good pickup for me last year, sounds an interesting guy. Increased K rate, decreased BB rate, increased GB rate…yet his home run rate somehow doubled?? Eh, surely this is just a case of bad luck as previous fly-outs just sneaked over the fence, had they gone in OF’s gloves his numbers would look far more rosy. Or can some players actually be homer prone despite a decent GB rate (as odd as it sounds)? If you guys reckon its bad luck, then this guy sounds like a SERIOUS sleeper this year!

Not to mention Morrow looks a nice sleeper bet too.

BB,

Yeah, I’m a big Anibal fan and view him as a cheap #3 SP. Not sure exactly how the new ballpark will play out but yeah, the increased HR rate has to be fluky…can’t think of any other explanation.

Zach

Where do you put J. [i'm not Luis Tiant] Cueto whose BABIP dipped very low to fuel a great start but whofaded to the end.

Oversall, the trajectory is positive, no?

Alex,

I’d be OK with drafting Cueto as maybe a #4 in a 12-team mixed league but I have a sense that he’ll be overvalued in drafts. The considerable drop in ERA was due mostly to a huge decrease in home runs and the fact that he transformed into a ground ball pitcher. Can he maintain this? I’m not so sure, and the steep strikeout rate dip is concerning. Even if he continues the ground ball trend, he’ll be heavily dependent on his defense. I just don’t see much upside in drafting him where you’ll need to draft him. Not to mention that he’s been far from a model of health recently.

Zach

Zach, Mike or Cory

I just have some questions about a couple players and what you think their stat projections might be for the year, and also one big question that’s really starting to make me wonder.

First and foremost, I kept Arod as my 5th keeper in a 12 team mixed 9×8 with the stats for hitters being,

R,H,HR,RBI,SB,BB,K,AVG,XBH.

I also had Panda whom i could have kept instead and didn’t. Everything I am seeing right now has Panda ranked higher and projected to have a better year and I am wondering if that is solely because of the injury risk with Arod or is it because people just see him in a decline and Panda in his prime? Can you give me your projections for those 2 with the stat line given above?

Also what would you say your projections for the following players would be using the same stat line?

Choo
Markakis
Dunn
J.Montero
J.Kipnis

these are all players I think I may end up with this year based on the other owners and knowing their tendencies.

I could probably ask for about 10 others but I don’t want to drive you nuts so I appreciate what advice you give me as always.

Dmenz

Dmenz,

With respect to A-Rod, I think the hesitation is due to a combination of both of the factors you mentioned. I am more than a bit concerned about the chances of him staying healthy, but I’d still slightly prefer him over Panda, who has also dealt with his share of injury problems. A-Rod’s a big gamble this year but I think his upside is significantly higher than Panda’s. Keep in mind that he went 30-125 in 2010. He hits in a far superior lineup and far more favorable home ballpark. Sandoval will probably post the higher AVG but I’d be shocked if he hits 30 homers. A-Rod, on the other hand, could do just that if he plays in 140 games.

As for the other guys:

Choo: I think he roughly returns to 2010 form: .290-23-90-85-20
Markakis: Not a big fan…what he did last year is pretty much what should be expected.
Dunn: His price will be so low that I’d be willing to take a chance at about round 18 or so (.240-24-80)
Montero: .275-18-75
Kipnis: .280-15-75-15

Zach

Nice list guys, got a keeper question on McCutchen, very detailed as they often are so if you hang with me if appreciate it.

Wanna improve my keepers list so am looking at Cutchy in my keeper league. I’ve got a chance to get him and my question is how much should I give up for him..

His current cost in my league is $23, so I if traded for him I could sign him for 1 yr ($26), 2 yrs ($29) or 3 yrs ($31). The trade would probably be A Vizcaino from my farm team and Morse ($3) for Cutch. Firstly do you like Cutch’s keeper value at $23, and secondly do you reckon it’s worth giving up both those guys for him? I think he should continue to improve but it’s just knowing how much to give away, and whether im better off just sticking with Morse (bit of a question mark though to repeat?).

It’s an OBP league too (instead of AVG), so should boost Cutch’s value there. Any feedback appreciated.

Thanks

Dan

Dan,

Yeah, I’m always one to go for the known commodity in these types of situations so I’d pull the trigger on that one. Morse is great value at $3 but if he along with Vizcaino is what it’ll take to land McCutchen, so be it. I think McCutchen will ascend to at least $30 status heading into 2013.

Zach

Hey 411,

Im in a 12 man H2H keeper league. We can keep 3 players, hands down im keeping Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano. My dilemma is choosing between CarGo and ellsbury as my 3rd. We are scored on Runs, Hits, Doubles, Triples, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, Batting Average and OPS. Thoughts? Suggestions?

Leon,

An extremely close call but I’m actually going to give the edge to CarGo. Ellsbury’s power really came out of nowhere last year and I wouldn’t count on another 30 HR season. Car-Go has already done it and came close to doing it again last year despite missing considerable time due to injury. Yeah, Ellsbury will almost surely top Gonzalez in steals but I see CarGo as the slightly safer choice. I’d rather have a 30-25 guy who carries a little more OPS upside than a 20-40 player.

Zach

Hey guys, Im in a keeper league and the commisioner told us we could keep one batter and one pitcher for this year. Ive already chosen Jacoby Ellsbury as my batter. Im stuck between keeping Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay. Which one should I keep?!?

In a 12 team mixed league, I’m keeping 5. The easy ones are A-Gon, Evan Longoria, Cliff Lee, and Clayton Kershaw. I’m struggling between Uggla, McCann, and D. Jennings as my 5th. I’ve been leaning Uggla all offseason. Where would you go with that 5th keeper?

“Ian Kennedy and Ricky Romero are absolutely legit” WOW! Little off on Romero now that it is 2014 and his 2013 season and 2012 seasons were ones to forget. Will he ever pitch again in the bigs?

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