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!