2015 Starting Pitcher Preview
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It’s Zach again,
For quite some time, I have avoided drafting any starting pitcher before the seventh or eighth round in a 12-team mixed league, confident in my ability to identify undervalued hurlers who were poised to outperform their draft day price. Well, with pitching becoming more dominant these days, it has become increasingly important to draft at least one top-tier starter, and that’s what I plan to do in my leagues this year. The target ERA to finish in the top few spots in the category has decreased substantially, meaning that it simply isn’t good enough to have your ace pitch to a 3.40 ERA. Just a few years ago, if your fantasy team finished the season with a 3.80 ERA, you would stand roughly in the middle of the pack. Now, you would be fortunate if you’re not in last place!
Jose Quintana – The fantasy community must be paying close attention to the List of 12 this season, because Quintana is garnering a lot more respect of late than he did a few months ago. The bottom line is that he has steadily improved his ERA, strikeout rate and walk rate through his first three big league seasons, and after notching only nine wins last year, Quintana should easily improve that mark, benefiting from a retooled White Sox lineup that added Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to the fold. Even with the increased hype, he’s currently being taken outside of the top-200 in NFBC drafts. Don’t be surprised if he delivers top-100 production. I’d be perfectly happy with Quintana as my SP3 in a 12-team mixed league.
Justin Verlander – So many owners are so terrified to draft this guy that he might actually make for a decent value pick. Yes, last year was a disaster, and his velocity is unlikely to return to what it was a few seasons ago, but I’m willing to give him another chance. He’s earned it. Plus, after struggling to the tune of a 4.88 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in the first half, Verlander improved in the second half, posting a much more acceptable 3.97 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While it would be a mistake to overvalue him based on the name, it would also be a mistake to dismiss him entirely. Verlander is ranked outside of the top-50 at the position by numerous outlets. That’s harsh. Is it possible that the 2014 version of Verlander is now the real Verlander? Maybe. But at that cost, I’m willing to take a flier on him.
Derek Holland – Upon returning from the DL late last season, Holland picked up right where he left off in 2013, when he registered a 3.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 189 strikeouts. Some owners might forget what he did two years ago and overlook him on draft day. You shouldn’t be one of them. He’s a fine low-end SP4/high-end SP5 in standard mixed leagues who can be had at a bargain price.
Masahiro Tanaka – It’s only a matter of time before Tanaka will need Tommy John surgery. In fact, every pitch he throws this season could be his last. If you’re willing to deal with that kind of stress all year, fine. I’m not, especially when he’s not even coming at much of a discount, going for $15 in AL LABR. Give me Jeff Samardzija for $18 or even Jose Quintana for $16 instead.
Carlos Carrasco – The off-season sure is long. Just a couple months ago, I, along with many other fantasy scribes, was touting Carrasco as an excellent sleeper target, as some owners might not be fully convinced that the huge strides he made last season are real. Apparently, a lot more owners are convinced than I had thought. When it comes to Carrasco’s outlook for 2015, I’m still more positive than negative. But at the same time, it was only a 14-start sample. An extremely impressive 14-start sample (2.67 ERA, 0.98 WHIP), but a 14-start sample nonetheless. In last night’s Tout Wars Mixed Draft, Eno Sarris of Fangraphs grabbed Carrasco in the seventh round to serve as his ace. In AL LABR, he went for $20, borderline ace price. That’s a bit too risky for my liking.
Andrew Cashner – Despite the favorable home ballpark and the much talked about upside, Cashner isn’t the sure thing that he’s made out to be. When healthy, his numbers have been strong. The only problem is that he’s had a tough time staying healthy, and at 28 years of age, he’s only made 51 career big league starts. Then there’s the mediocre strikeout rate. I wouldn’t mind him as a SP4 in a deep mixed league, but chances are his price tag is going to be higher than that. In the Tout Wars Mixed Draft, Cashner was taken before both Tyson Ross and Yordano Ventura. I’d prefer the latter two.