2013 List of 12
First off, this is long overdue, so apologies to those who have waited patiently for this year’s List of 12… but now your wait is over! Without further delay, here it is
For those not familiar with how something called the List of 12 can have 21 names, here’s some background: http://fantasy411.mlblogs.com/2012/01/27/2012-list-of-12/. Below is a loosely ranked overview of each name on the list; note that three guys enter the 2013 season with fewer than the typical 500 career innings, but we’re making “close enough” exceptions for them.
Bumgarner, Madison – He’s already a star, and he doesn’t even turn 24 until August. There’s no reason to expect anything less than what he did last season, and there’s still plenty of ceiling for growth, but at his age his tremendous reliance on the slider is something of a concern.
Zimmermann, Jordan (479.1 IP) – Simply put, he was tremendous last season, although he faded somewhat down the stretch. His indicators were mostly outstanding, albeit with a little bit of good luck reflected in his strand rate and HR/FB, but at the age of 27 and now two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery, he could be poised for a full-scale breakout. With slightly increased stamina and a little bit of good luck on his BABIP, he could emerge this season as a fringe Cy Young candidate.
Latos, Mat – As expected, Great American Ballpark was much less forgiving than PETCO, but he countered that by bumping up the ground ball rate and cutting down the walks, resulting in a nearly identical ERA and WHIP. We’ve yet to see a wire-to-wire strong season from Latos, a notoriously slow starter, but I’m betting that his combination of age, experience and skill will make that happen in 2013. I think he’s a strong candidate for a big step forward this year into the clear-cut #2 tier, or perhaps a “soft ace” for those who discount pitching.
Fister, Doug – Averaged 5.2 K/9 in 378.0 IP with the Mariners, but 7.5 K/9 in 231.1 IP since coming to the Tigers, while actually increasing his ground ball rate and maintaining his stingy walk rate. That’s a large enough sample size to make a believer out of me; I have every confidence in him this year as a #2 for those who slow-play starters, or as a #3 for those who like to stock up.
Garcia, Jaime – Garcia arguably pitched better last year than in 2011, but his BABIP went up by 26 points and of course injuries limited him to only 121.2 IP. If healthy this year, I think he can take a big step forward and put up numbers similar to 2010, but unlike that season, more fully supported by his underlying indicators. His strikeout, walk and groundball rates have all remained consistent, so the combination of age, maturity and experience could yield a big step forward. I’m buying, especially now with Chris Carpenter out of the picture.
Vogelsong, Ryan – Something of a mystery after his shocking 2011 performance, Vogelsong actually pitched a little better last year but gave up more fly balls and enjoyed less luck with his strand rate. Even more importantly though, his strikeout and walk rates both improved, so even at the age of 35 he looks to have established a strong level of performance. Throw out his career numbers and look only at the last two years and there’s little reason to believe he’s not a legit #3 starter.
Niese, Jon – His fly ball rates went up and his strikeouts went down from 2011, but improvements in his walk rate combined with better luck on his BABIP and strand rates to drop his ERA by exactly a full run in 2012. In reality, Niese has pitched at a very consistent level for the past three seasons, but swings in his BABIP, HR/FB and strand rate have clouded the results. He’s only 26 this season, so a repeat of 2012 seems like a safe investment, though he lacks the stuff to blow hitters away and as such seems unlikely to take more than a small step forward.
Bailey, Homer – He finally broke through last year with career highs across the board, but did he really improve? Most of his rate stats were virtually identical to the year before, but a slight dip in his BABIP and HR/FB rates, combined with a bump in his ground ball rate, led to a 0.75 run drop in his ERA. Bailey is clearly becoming a better pitcher than in his youth, and he’s in his age 27 season so he could take another big step forward. But, based on his indicators, I’d pay for what he is now – a solid mid-rotation option – than what he may or may not become.
Harrison, Matt – He’s very durable, doesn’t walk anyone, gets a lot of ground balls and is efficient with his pitches. Unfortunately, a mediocre strikeout rate caps Harrison’s value, and there’s no evidence to suggest an impending spike. It wouldn’t surprise me if we’ve already seen his best, but that’s pretty good, so he’s a very solid 3-4 starter.
McDonald, James (482.2 IP) – A terrible second half left McDonald with an identical ERA to his 2011 season but also masked the considerable improvements in his overall performance. He cut his walk rate while bumping his strikeout rate back up to its career level, got more grounders and controlled the long ball better. Remember that he’s still relatively inexperienced for a 28-year-old pitcher, but with the addition of the slider to go with age and experience, there’s still room for improvement here. A strong end-of-rotation option with definite upside potential.
Holland, Derek – Very similar to his teammate Matt Harrison, but for two big differences. First, he has much better strikeout rates, so his fantasy upside is much greater. Secondly, he is much more fly ball prone, and the resulting higher home run rates have led to significantly higher ERA’s. He’s young enough to take a step forward this year if he can stay healthy, but controlling the long ball will ultimately determine his true value.
Hughes, Phil – His indicators returned to their 2010 levels and his fantasy stats followed suit, and in fact, his BB/9 and K/BB rates were career bests. Unfortunately, he is an extreme fly ball pitcher in one of the worst parks in baseball for that profile, so ERA’s in the low 4’s seem to be his lot in life unless he trades in his four-seamer for a sinker… in other words, pay for a repeat of 2012, but nothing more.
Norris, Bud – He was outstanding at home (1.71 ERA) and horrendous on the road (6.94) in 2012, but on the whole, Norris’ underlying performance was actually very similar to 2011. His strikeout rate improved but he walked more while he got slightly fewer grounders and a little less luck in his BABIP and strand rates. Overall, Norris has established a fairly consistent level of performance – a lot of K’s, with a few too many walks and homers to break out – but his value would go way up with a trade to a better team in a better ballpark. As of now, the K’s make him a solid end-of-rotation option with some upside.
Hanson, Tommy – Simply put, I don’t believe he’s healthy. His velocity was way down last season, his walk rate was a career-worst, and he was simply much more hittable. Even if he is healthy, these indicators are all pointing in the wrong direction, although he’s only 26 and we can point to 2009-2010 as to his upside. But I’m not taking the gamble to see if he can earn it.
Buchholz, Clay – On the bright side, Buchholz reached a career-high in innings last year with a career-low walk rate. He still gets a lot of ground balls, and he’s in his age 28 season. That’s about it for the positives. His strikeout rate continues to trend downward and he’s very homer-prone despite his solid ground ball rates. I like him as an end-of-rotation option but anyone looking for a repeat of 2010 is likely to be sorely disappointed.
Leake, Mike (485.0 IP) – He gets plenty of grounders, is stingy with the walks and is very pitch efficient, but simply lacks the swing-and-miss stuff to get many strikeouts, and as a result is also homer-prone in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark. He may get bumped out of the rotation this season, but even if he doesn’t, he’s best valued as a Pitch or Ditch option.
Williams, Jerome – He’s on this list by virtue of his innings pitched total, but in reality he’s a journeyman rotation filler who will probably serve as a long man this year. He has his stretches of usefulness as a starter, but without a regular rotation spot he has no mixed league value.
Happ, J.A. – His strikeout rates spiked to career-highs after his trade to Toronto, but it was only for 40.1 IP, so obviously that’s much too small a sample size to draw any conclusions. He’s currently on the outside looking in at the Blue Jays’ rotation, and nothing else in his career record suggests much upside. A Pitch or Ditch option at best, even if he does earn a rotation spot.
In addition, there are three holdovers from last year’s list who were included even though they entered the season a shade below 500 career innings: Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez and Jeff Niemann. Kennedy’s true level is somewhere between 2011 and 2012 while Volquez simply walks too many to be anything more than a Pitch or Ditch choice.
Take a long look at Niemann, though… we touted him as a breakout candidate last year and he was on the right track to that, with a 3.08 ERA in his first eight starts, before a fluke broken leg cut short his season. Assuming he wins a rotation spot this spring, we’re pushing our chips in on him again.
Questions, comments, feedback? Let’s hear it! Next up, composite projections… give me a few more weeks to work on it though…