3 UP / 3 DOWN: 2014 Starting Pitchers

Julio Teheran - USA TODAY Sports

Matt takes a look at which starting pitchers you should target and avoid for the 2014 fantasy baseball season.

One of the most important elements of winning in fantasy baseball comes down to finding those players that take a step forward and outperform their draft positions by breaking out or having their career years. We will be reviewing certain players at each position and discussing whether their fantasy value will be on the rise or decline heading into the 2014 baseball season and if you should target or avoid them in your draft. Every Friday we will be reviewing a new position here at faketeams.com. The next position up for debate is starting pitcher, where there has been an infusion of young talent to recently make its way to the big leagues. Now, let’s take a look some of the starting pitchers that could improve or hurt their fantasy value during the upcoming baseball season.

↑↑↑3 UP↑↑↑

Julio Teheran - The Braves young starter was ranked the #1 right-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com to begin the 2012 season. The Braves worked with Teheran throughout the 2012 season, having him repeatedly change his delivery in hopes to reduce the injury risk that came with his pitching motion. The Braves continued to tinker with his mechanics, which yielded results that were not close to living up to the previous expectations set for this top prospect. After the 2012 season, the Braves decided to scrap this failed approach and let Teheran get back to using his old delivery. Well, we saw how this worked out for Teheran in 2013, as he looked like the top pitching prospect from his days in the minors. Teheran flirted with no-hitters on multiple occasions in 2013 while earning Rookie of the Year considerations. After accumulating 185 innings pitched in 2013, the reigns should be completely off for this future ace in 2014. Teheran will be 23 years-old to enter the 2014 baseball season, and the future is very bright for this budding superstar.

Tony Cingrani – If you play in a fantasy league that uses an innings limit for pitching, you already know how valuable an SP with a high strikeout rate can be. Cingrani had one of the best K-rates in the majors last year, as he totaled 120 strikeouts in just 104.7 innings pitched. That averages out to 10.3 K per 9 innings. The K-rates are supported by the left-handed pitcher’s 228 minor league innings, where he averaged 11.8 K / per 9 IP. Add that to a 2.93 ERA and 1.10 WHIP while in the majors in 2013, and you have the makings of a very valuable fantasy pitcher. The funky delivery will make Cingrani an injury risk until he proves his durability, but the possible return of using a middle to late round pick here could provide fantasy gold. If Cingrani can stay healthy enough to pitch 175 innings in 2014, he could top 200 strikeouts with ease.

Yovani Gallardo – The ace of the Brewer’s pitching staff saw his fantasy value hit an all-time low during the 2013 baseball season. Throughout his career, Gallardo has shown streaks of greatness that have been mixed in with bouts of inconsistency and struggles. Until the 2013 season began, Gallardo entered the previous few seasons touted as a top 20-to-30 fantasy SP capable of taking his game to the next level and joining the ranks of the elite fantasy SP’s. Well, Yo took a step in the wrong direction last year, but there are positive signs here. Before the All-Star break, the right-handed flamethrower accumulated a record of 7-8 with a 4.78 ERA and .271 OBA. Then after the break, Gallardo was 5-2 with a 3.09 ERA and .243 OBA. As you can see, the splits show that Gallardo was closer to being his old self after the All-Star break. The 27 year-old has now fallen so far down the ranks of fantasy pitchers headed into the 2014 baseball season that he can be had with a late round pick. The risk of using a late pick in your draft is far outweighed by the possible reward of Gallardo returning to form and racking up the strikeouts for your fantasy squad in 2014.

3 More Up: Matt Moore, Sonny Gray, Zack Wheeler.

↓↓↓3 DOWN↓↓↓

Justin Verlander – I believe Justin Verlander will be a quality fantasy option in 2014. I had to get that out of the way first. But early results from NFBC mock drafts ADP charts (as of 1/8/2014) have Verlander being drafted as the #8 overall SP off the board. Drafts are seeing more reliable options like Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner, and Chris Sale go off the draft board after Verlander. Over the past 7 seasons, Verlander has averaged 225 innings during the regular season. Over the past 3 years, Verlander has thrown over 779 innings total between the regular season and the playoffs. We all know how good he was before last year, but it seems as though all those years of pitching deep into the playoffs and racking up the innings have finally caught up with the longtime ace of the Tigers. The Justin Verlander that we use to know would not have put up a 1.31 WHIP in 2013. There is always the chance that a pitcher as talented as Verlander could rebound, but he is being drafted as if that is almost a certainty. Don’t gamble with your early draft picks, avoid Verlander in 2014 unless he comes at a discount.

Justin Verlander Injury Update: After this article hit the press, the Tigers announced that Verlander underwent successful core muscle surgery and is expected to be on the shelf for the next 6 weeks. This injury puts Verlander at risk of starting the season on the DL.

CC Sabathia – What in the world happened here? One of the most consistent aces in baseball over the past decade took a nose dive in 2013. After a slow start in April, I was one of those fantasy managers that saw a great buy low opportunity. Unfortunately for fellow Carsten Charles owners, things only got worse as the season rolled on. When examining Sabathia’s 2013 stats, it seems as though the more a team saw him, the more success they had against him. With nobody out, Sabathia had a 3.30 ERA, with 1 out a 5.32 ERA, and with 2 outs a 5.92 ERA. As you can see, the Yankees ace struggled to finish off innings. The first time through a lineup, CC recorded a 3.67 ERA, the second time he saw those batters produced a 4.68 ERA, and the third time through the lineup he recorded an awful 6.23 ERA. Sabathia’s fastball had lost velocity and a few mph last year. Could this 33 year-old have lost his stuff and is now working on just smoke and mirrors? That appears to be the case, and unless an unknown injury was to blame for this regression, a rebound to previous form will be unlikely for the one time fantasy ace.

Patrick Corbin – Every year it seems like a new D-Backs pitcher comes out of nowhere to become one of the year’s top waiver pick-ups. In 2011, Josh Collmenter stepped up for the pitching staff, and then in 2012 it was Wade Miley. They both failed to reproduce the same production after their breakout seasons. So should we expect anything different from Patrick Corbin? Corbin was flat out dominant before the All-Star break, recording an 11-1 record to go with a 2.01 ERA and a .206 OBA while earning his first trip to the All-Star game. But in the second half he produced a 3-7 record with a 5.19 ERA and .289 OBA. Ouch. It appears as though the league started to catch up with Corbin as he started to face lineups for a second time in 2013. The 24 year-old doesn’t have the track record to support his 1st half performance in 2013, and the 2nd half stats are too worrisome to invest an early to middle round pick in this 2013 breakout story.

3 More Down: Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Ubaldo Jimenez.

Which starting pitchers do you think could break-out next year?

Which SP’s will be over-drafted in 2014?

Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below...

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