In the first edition of "Breaking Down the Staffs," I took a look at the Atlanta Braves starting rotation. Staying in the National League, we move on to the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose starters compiled a 64-61 record with a 4.26 ERA and 3.99 xFIP in 2012.
As always, I'll rank pitchers from worst to best in terms of 2013 value (with 2012 stats in parentheses).
5. Trevor Bauer (1-2, 16.1 IP, 9.37 K/9, 7.16 BB/9, 6.06 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, 4.75 xFIP)
Those thinking Bauer would come out and set the NL on fire were sorely disappointed in 2012. The hyped 21-year old got four starts and didn't do much with them, showing some serious big league butterflies along the way. Bauer proved not every young hyped starter pans out right away, and it's obvious he has some work to do before anyone can expect him to sustain success at the big league level.
In eight starts in Double-A, Bauer had an abysmal 4.85 BB/9 but did improve it to 3.84 in 14 starts in Triple-A. Still, that last number is well above the major league average. There's no doubting Bauer's ability to produce swings and misses at an astounding rate, but my guess is he spends the majority of the year in Triple-A to work on his control. All you can do is take a late round flier on him in drafts and hope he pans out this time around.
4. Wade Miley (16-11, 194.2 IP, 6.66 K/9, 1.71 BB/9, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.75 xFIP)
Miley wasn't in any NL Rookie of the Year discussion prior to start of the season, but that changed after an impressive rookie campaign. He'll likely be trounced by some teenager out in Washington when the votes are counted, but that doesn't take away from his impressive year despite a skill set that doesn't leave you overly impressed.
Miley doesn't strike out a lot of batters, but his K:BB ratio of 144:37 works just fine in the majors. His saving grace in 2012 was his ability to keep the ball from flying out of Chase Field, but other than that, nothing really stands out with Miley's numbers - they are quite average when compared to the rest of the field. A lot of his 2012 value came from his 16 wins and you can't expect that again. Don't pass on Miley, but don't expect him to be a staple on your staff either. Opposing hitters will likely figure him out sooner rather than later.
3. Patrick Corbin (6-8, 107 IP, 7.23 K/9, 2.10 BB/9, 4.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3.73 xFIP)
Many were surprised when it was Corbin and not Bauer who replaced a struggling Josh Collmenter in the Diamondbacks rotation midseason. Corbin turned into a nice back end of the rotation option and he figures to have a good chance of returning there in 2013.
Corbin showed good control in the minors and that continued with a solid K:BB ratio of 86:25 in 107 innings with Arizona. Prior to being called up, Corbin was enjoying a breakout season in the minors with a 24% strikeout rate and a 6% walk rate. I expect Corbin to show the good control and solid strikeout numbers he put up in 2012 yet again. There's nothing to suggest he can't, and he has a great chance of making the Diamondbacks rotation in 2013 and sticking there. He has serious upside.
2. Trevor Cahill (13-12, 200 IP, 7.02 K/9, 3.33 BB/9, 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.76 xFIP)
Cahill showed signs of improvement switching from the AL to the NL in 2012 - most notably in the strikeouts department. Over the last three seasons (all in 196.2 innings plus), Cahill's strikeouts have increased each year, from 118 to 147 to 156. That represents a very positive trend, as does his K/9, which has risen from 5.40 to 7.02 in three years.
Cahill is getting opposing batters to swing and miss more often, from 7.3% in 2011 to 9.3% in 2012. The good news for Cahill is that he's an extreme ground ball pitcher, and his home run to fly ball rate of 12.3% should come down. He's still walking too many hitters, but if he can revert closer to his 2010 form of 2.88 BB/9, Cahill could become Arizona's best starting pitcher in 2013.
1. Ian Kennedy (15-12, 208 IP, 8.08 K/9, 2.38 BB/9, 4.02 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 4.13 xFIP)
Many were skeptical of Kennedy's outstanding 2011 in which he went 21-4 with a sparkling 2.88 ERA. His 3.50 xFIP and .270 BABIP suggested some serious regression was on the way, and that's exactly what happened. His ERA rose more than a full point and the wins went well south of 21. His elite 1.09 WHIP? Gone too.
Still, it wasn't a complete disaster for Kennedy owners. He did put up a solid K:BB ratio of 187:55, not far off from the 197:55 he posted in 2011. The big problem for Kennedy was his inability to repeat last year's low home run to fly ball rate - it increased from 7.7% to 10.8% - but that was also expected for the fly ball pitcher.
The real Ian Kennedy, most likely, is closer to his 2012 version than the 2011 one, but he's still a valuable fantasy commodity - somewhere in the top 35 pitchers. Those who look at Kennedy and pass on him because he came no where close to his 2011 numbers are making a mistake. He still has No. 2 upside for fantasy purposes and is the safest Diamondbacks pitcher.
Daniel Hudson underwent Tommy John Surgery after pitching in just 45.1 innings in 2012. His 7.35 ERA was the result of a high BABIP and poor strand rate, and it's possible he was pitching injured. Regardless, he's not expected back until August. He's only 25 years old, and I could see him making an impact similar to what Brett Anderson provided for the Oakland Athletics this year.
Tyler Skaggs went 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA and 5.45 xFIP in 29.1 innings in 2012. Neither his K/9 (6.44) or BB/9 (3.99) impressed, but he did show good control in the minors. Skaggs does have an outside chance of making the Diamondbacks rotation but I wouldn't count on it.