Deep League Drafting: Starting Pitcher

Otto Greule Jr

Joe wraps up his series on identifying durable and above average players at each position around the diamond, looking at players to target and avoid in deep leagues for 2014.

Today we head into the home stretch of our deep league drafting series to look at starting pitchers. Along with many fantasy experts I usually advocate a wait-on-pitching draft strategy, electing to eschew the guys on the bump until maybe round 4 or 5 depending on each unique draft situation. However, my research here was surprising and may cause me to rethink this strategy. If you have some thoughts about what I found please opine below in the comments.

First, though, the methodology. I looked at all starting pitchers from the 2011-13 seasons who completed the qualified amount of innings pitched (162 IP/season). Admittedly, this is going to make the list shorter than most might think as trying to throw a baseball really hard and fast is difficult on the arm, they say. At any rate, I then sorted the players by FIP- and xFIP-, (Fielding Independent Pitching, and expected Fielding Independent Pitching) the sabermetric equivalent to wRC+ for hitters. It's basically a way to easily categorize how well a pitcher performed against his peers. League average is 100, and any number at or below that number would be at or above average.

In fantasy this is what we want, especially as it pertains to pitchers. We want guys who will eat innings without getting injured, and we want guys who perform at least average or above average. Your team cannot win without these two factors. In the last three seasons there were 53, 48, and 52 pitchers who met these criteria. Considering that in most standard leagues you have to start at least two starting pitchers, and most people will roster 4-8 this could be a shallow pool from which to draw. Let's say a typical manager rosters 5 SPs. In your standard 12-team league, you've a pretty good chance to have a whole bunch of league average or better pitchers on your roster. However, deep leaguers know the challenge here. Chances are you'll have a couple of guys that are great, and then you'll have to really do some homework to find productive guys coming back from injury or rookies that haven't yet made a name for themselves.

More observations after the break:

2011 Stats

Player Team W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP- xFIP-
1 Roy Halladay Phillies 19 6 32 32 233.2 8.47 1.35 0.39 0.298 78.10% 50.90% 5.10% 2.35 56 70
2 Cliff Lee Phillies 17 8 32 32 232.2 9.21 1.62 0.7 0.291 81.40% 46.30% 9.00% 2.4 67 69
3 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 21 5 33 33 233.1 9.57 2.08 0.58 0.269 78.60% 43.20% 6.70% 2.28 67 74
4 CC Sabathia Yankees 19 8 33 33 237.1 8.72 2.31 0.64 0.318 77.00% 46.60% 8.40% 3 69 75
5 Justin Verlander Tigers 24 5 34 34 251 8.96 2.04 0.86 0.236 80.30% 40.20% 8.80% 2.4 73 77
6 Madison Bumgarner Giants 13 13 33 33 204.2 8.4 2.02 0.53 0.322 72.40% 46.00% 6.20% 3.21 73 80
7 Brandon McCarthy Athletics 9 9 25 25 170.2 6.49 1.32 0.58 0.296 67.60% 46.70% 6.40% 3.32 73 82
8 Matt Garza Cubs 10 10 31 31 198 8.95 2.86 0.64 0.306 69.70% 46.30% 7.70% 3.32 74 83
9 Zack Greinke Brewers 16 6 28 28 171.2 10.54 2.36 1 0.318 69.80% 47.30% 13.60% 3.83 76 66
10 C.J. Wilson Rangers 16 7 34 34 223.1 8.3 2.98 0.64 0.287 73.60% 49.30% 8.20% 2.94 76 84
11 Cole Hamels Phillies 14 9 31 31 213 8.15 1.86 0.76 0.254 78.40% 51.90% 9.50% 2.75 77 78
12 Dan Haren Angels 15 10 34 34 237.1 7.24 1.25 0.76 0.272 71.50% 42.50% 7.50% 3.19 77 82
13 Doug Fister - - - 10 13 31 31 213.1 6.07 1.56 0.46 0.273 73.50% 47.90% 5.20% 2.87 79 90
14 Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks 21 4 33 33 222 8.03 2.23 0.77 0.27 79.20% 38.60% 7.70% 2.88 80 91
15 Matt Cain Giants 12 11 33 33 221.2 7.27 2.56 0.37 0.26 70.60% 41.70% 3.70% 2.88 80 98
16 Chris Carpenter Cardinals 11 9 34 34 237.1 7.24 2.09 0.61 0.312 73.20% 46.60% 7.50% 3.45 82 86
17 Matt Harrison Rangers 14 9 30 30 183.2 6.17 2.79 0.64 0.293 72.30% 47.30% 7.10% 3.43 82 95
18 Jordan Zimmermann Nationals 8 11 26 26 161.1 6.92 1.73 0.67 0.291 74.20% 39.40% 5.90% 3.18 82 98
19 Daniel Hudson Diamondbacks 16 12 33 33 222 6.85 2.03 0.69 0.295 70.50% 41.70% 6.40% 3.49 82 98
20 Felix Hernandez Mariners 14 14 33 33 233.2 8.55 2.58 0.73 0.307 72.70% 50.20% 9.50% 3.47 83 78
21 Jered Weaver Angels 18 8 33 33 235.2 7.56 2.14 0.76 0.25 82.60% 32.50% 6.30% 2.41 83 94
22 Justin Masterson Indians 12 10 33 33 215 6.57 2.68 0.46 0.303 72.80% 55.10% 6.30% 3.22 84 90
23 Josh Beckett Red Sox 13 7 30 30 193 8.16 2.42 0.98 0.245 80.00% 40.10% 9.60% 2.89 85 89
24 David Price Rays 12 13 34 34 224.1 8.75 2.53 0.88 0.281 73.30% 44.30% 9.70% 3.49 86 82
25 Anibal Sanchez Marlins 8 9 32 32 196.1 9.26 2.93 0.92 0.31 75.00% 44.30% 10.40% 3.67 86 84
26 Jaime Garcia Cardinals 13 7 32 32 194.2 7.21 2.31 0.69 0.318 66.80% 53.60% 8.90% 3.56 86 86
27 Alexi Ogando Rangers 13 8 29 29 167 6.68 2.32 0.86 0.265 71.00% 36.50% 8.00% 3.56 86 97
28 Tim Lincecum Giants 13 14 33 33 217 9.12 3.57 0.62 0.281 78.50% 47.90% 8.00% 2.74 87 87
29 Ubaldo Jimenez - - - 10 13 32 32 188.1 8.6 3.73 0.81 0.314 65.00% 47.20% 9.30% 4.68 87 95
30 Brandon Morrow Blue Jays 11 11 30 30 179.1 10.19 3.46 1.05 0.299 65.50% 36.00% 10.40% 4.72 88 87
31 James Shields Rays 16 12 33 33 249.1 8.12 2.35 0.94 0.258 79.60% 46.20% 11.10% 2.82 89 80
32 Tim Hudson Braves 16 10 33 33 215 6.61 2.34 0.59 0.273 72.40% 56.70% 8.70% 3.22 89 90
33 Mat Latos Padres 9 14 31 31 194.1 8.57 2.87 0.74 0.284 71.40% 42.80% 7.30% 3.47 89 91
34 Gavin Floyd White Sox 12 12 30 30 192.2 7.05 2.1 0.98 0.278 67.50% 43.90% 9.90% 4.34 89 92
35 Edwin Jackson - - - 12 9 31 31 198.2 6.7 2.81 0.72 0.33 73.70% 43.90% 8.20% 3.81 89 94
36 Michael Pineda Mariners 9 10 28 28 171 9.11 2.89 0.95 0.258 69.70% 36.30% 9.00% 3.74 90 87
37 Ricky Nolasco Marlins 10 12 33 33 206 6.47 1.92 0.87 0.331 66.20% 45.10% 9.50% 4.67 90 92
38 Jon Lester Red Sox 15 9 31 31 191.2 8.55 3.52 0.94 0.286 78.10% 50.50% 11.40% 3.47 91 90
39 John Danks White Sox 8 12 27 27 170.1 7.13 2.43 1 0.313 70.10% 43.80% 9.90% 4.33 91 94
40 Javier Vazquez Marlins 13 11 32 32 192.2 7.57 2.34 0.98 0.279 69.30% 34.20% 8.00% 3.69 91 100
41 Yovani Gallardo Brewers 17 10 33 33 207.1 8.99 2.56 1.17 0.291 74.80% 46.60% 12.70% 3.52 92 83
42 Derek Holland Rangers 16 5 32 32 198 7.36 3.05 1 0.305 72.80% 46.40% 11.00% 3.95 92 93
43 Gio Gonzalez Athletics 16 12 32 32 202 8.78 4.05 0.76 0.287 77.10% 47.50% 8.90% 3.12 93 92
44 Shaun Marcum Brewers 13 7 33 33 200.2 7.09 2.56 0.99 0.261 73.60% 37.20% 8.70% 3.54 95 101
45 Mark Buehrle White Sox 13 9 31 31 205.1 4.78 1.97 0.92 0.294 73.30% 44.90% 8.60% 3.59 95 102
46 Jhoulys Chacin Rockies 11 14 31 31 194 6.96 4.04 0.93 0.261 74.50% 56.30% 12.20% 3.62 96 103
47 Ivan Nova Yankees 16 3 27 27 164.2 5.36 3.12 0.71 0.281 73.40% 52.90% 8.50% 3.66 96 103
48 Derek Lowe Braves 9 17 34 34 187 6.59 3.37 0.67 0.327 65.90% 59.00% 10.20% 5.05 97 95
49 Ryan Dempster Cubs 10 14 34 34 202.1 8.5 3.65 1.02 0.324 70.40% 44.10% 11.20% 4.8 98 96
50 Rick Porcello Tigers 14 9 31 31 182 5.14 2.27 0.89 0.316 67.40% 51.40% 9.90% 4.75 98 99
51 Kyle Lohse Cardinals 14 8 30 30 188.1 5.3 2.01 0.76 0.269 71.30% 41.40% 7.20% 3.39 98 105
52 Max Scherzer Tigers 15 9 33 33 195 8.03 2.58 1.34 0.314 73.70% 40.30% 12.60% 4.43 100 91
53 Jeff Francis Royals 6 16 31 31 183 4.48 1.92 0.93 0.316 68.80% 47.10% 8.50% 4.82 100 106

2012 Stats

Player Team W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP- xFIP-
1 Justin Verlander Tigers 17 8 33 33 238.1 9.03 2.27 0.72 0.273 76.40% 42.30% 8.30% 2.64 69 80
2 Felix Hernandez Mariners 13 9 33 33 232 8.65 2.17 0.54 0.308 75.00% 48.90% 7.70% 3.06 73 77
3 Gio Gonzalez Nationals 21 8 32 32 199.1 9.35 3.43 0.41 0.267 74.10% 48.20% 5.80% 2.89 73 87
4 Yu Darvish Rangers 16 9 29 29 191.1 10.4 4.19 0.66 0.295 70.50% 46.20% 9.10% 3.9 75 85
5 Wade Miley Diamondbacks 15 11 29 29 186 6.87 1.6 0.63 0.299 71.50% 42.40% 6.60% 3.34 75 95
6 Chris Sale White Sox 17 8 29 29 191 9 2.36 0.9 0.294 80.40% 44.70% 11.70% 3.06 76 78
7 David Price Rays 20 5 31 31 211 8.74 2.52 0.68 0.285 81.10% 53.10% 10.50% 2.56 77 75
8 Max Scherzer Tigers 16 7 32 32 187.2 11.08 2.88 1.1 0.333 76.50% 36.50% 11.60% 3.74 77 78
9 CC Sabathia Yankees 15 6 28 28 200 8.87 1.98 0.99 0.288 71.60% 48.20% 12.50% 3.38 78 77
10 Zack Greinke - - - 15 5 34 34 212.1 8.48 2.29 0.76 0.306 74.50% 49.20% 10.20% 3.48 78 80
11 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 14 9 33 33 227.2 9.05 2.49 0.63 0.262 77.90% 46.90% 8.10% 2.53 78 83
12 Cliff Lee Phillies 6 9 30 30 211 8.83 1.19 1.11 0.309 78.60% 45.00% 11.80% 3.16 80 79
13 Adam Wainwright Cardinals 14 13 32 32 198.2 8.34 2.36 0.68 0.315 67.80% 50.80% 9.90% 3.94 82 83
14 Johnny Cueto Reds 19 9 33 33 217 7.05 2.03 0.62 0.296 78.80% 48.90% 7.90% 2.78 83 93
15 Cole Hamels Phillies 17 6 31 31 215.1 9.03 2.17 1 0.29 78.10% 43.40% 11.90% 3.05 84 83
16 Jarrod Parker Athletics 13 8 29 29 181.1 6.95 3.13 0.55 0.29 74.30% 44.30% 6.80% 3.47 85 95
17 R.A. Dickey Mets 20 6 33 33 232.2 8.9 2.09 0.89 0.276 80.20% 46.00% 10.90% 2.67 86 84
18 Anibal Sanchez - - - 9 13 31 31 195.2 7.68 2.21 0.92 0.31 70.20% 46.40% 10.70% 3.86 87 90
19 Josh Johnson Marlins 8 14 31 31 191.1 7.76 3.06 0.66 0.302 71.90% 46.20% 8.40% 3.81 87 95
20 Jake Peavy White Sox 11 12 32 32 219 7.97 2.01 1.11 0.272 76.30% 36.50% 9.70% 3.37 87 97
21 James Shields Rays 15 10 33 33 227.2 8.82 2.29 0.99 0.292 71.90% 52.30% 13.40% 3.52 88 78
22 Jeff Samardzija Cubs 9 13 28 28 174.2 9.27 2.89 1.03 0.296 73.00% 44.60% 12.80% 3.81 88 87
23 Ryan Dempster - - - 12 8 28 28 173 7.96 2.71 0.99 0.277 75.70% 43.50% 10.70% 3.38 88 94
24 Jordan Zimmermann Nationals 12 8 32 32 195.2 7.04 1.98 0.83 0.288 79.30% 43.40% 9.20% 2.94 90 97
25 Hiroki Kuroda Yankees 16 11 33 33 219.2 6.84 2.09 1.02 0.281 77.70% 52.30% 13.00% 3.32 91 89
26 Lance Lynn Cardinals 17 5 29 29 169 9.27 3.3 0.8 0.316 76.40% 43.90% 10.30% 3.67 92 92
27 Rick Porcello Tigers 10 12 31 31 176.1 5.46 2.25 0.82 0.344 69.00% 53.20% 11.50% 4.59 92 94
28 Matt Harrison Rangers 18 11 32 32 213.1 5.61 2.49 0.93 0.284 78.60% 49.00% 10.50% 3.29 92 100
29 A.J. Burnett Pirates 16 10 31 31 202.1 8.01 2.76 0.8 0.294 74.10% 56.90% 12.70% 3.51 93 87
30 Matt Cain Giants 16 5 32 32 219.1 7.92 2.09 0.86 0.259 79.00% 37.40% 8.40% 2.79 93 98
31 Kyle Lohse Cardinals 16 3 33 33 211 6.1 1.62 0.81 0.262 77.20% 40.50% 8.20% 2.86 93 101
32 Trevor Cahill Diamondbacks 13 12 32 32 200 7.02 3.33 0.72 0.289 71.40% 61.20% 12.30% 3.78 94 96
33 Jered Weaver Angels 20 5 30 30 188.2 6.77 2.15 0.95 0.241 79.20% 36.00% 8.60% 2.81 94 101
34 Madison Bumgarner Giants 16 11 32 32 208.1 8.25 2.12 0.99 0.276 73.50% 47.90% 11.70% 3.37 95 88
35 Scott Diamond Twins 12 9 27 27 173 4.68 1.61 0.88 0.292 73.30% 53.40% 11.40% 3.54 95 95
36 Jon Lester Red Sox 9 14 33 33 205.1 7.28 2.98 1.1 0.312 67.60% 49.20% 13.90% 4.82 96 92
37 Mat Latos Reds 14 4 33 33 209.1 7.95 2.75 1.07 0.266 75.50% 45.60% 11.80% 3.48 97 97
38 Lucas Harrell Astros 11 11 32 32 193.2 6.51 3.62 0.6 0.289 70.80% 57.20% 9.70% 3.76 97 99
39 Tommy Milone Athletics 13 10 31 31 190 6.49 1.71 1.14 0.31 73.60% 38.10% 10.70% 3.74 98 97
40 Tim Hudson Braves 16 7 28 28 179 5.13 2.41 0.6 0.27 71.10% 55.50% 8.30% 3.62 98 105
41 Yovani Gallardo Brewers 16 9 33 33 204 9 3.57 1.15 0.29 78.40% 47.70% 14.90% 3.66 99 91
42 Edwin Jackson Nationals 10 11 31 31 189.2 7.97 2.75 1.09 0.278 71.20% 47.30% 11.70% 4.03 99 97
43 Ian Kennedy Diamondbacks 15 12 33 33 208.1 8.08 2.38 1.21 0.306 74.90% 37.30% 10.80% 4.02 99 105
44 Joe Saunders - - - 9 13 28 28 174.2 5.77 2.01 1.08 0.305 71.60% 43.10% 10.20% 4.07 99 107
45 Ricky Nolasco Marlins 12 13 31 31 191 5.89 2.21 0.85 0.309 69.30% 46.60% 9.10% 4.48 99 107
46 Homer Bailey Reds 13 10 33 33 208 7.27 2.25 1.12 0.29 73.60% 44.90% 11.50% 3.68 100 101
47 Josh Beckett - - - 7 14 28 28 170.1 6.97 2.75 1.11 0.294 69.40% 42.50% 10.80% 4.65 100 103
48 Matt Moore Rays 11 11 31 31 177.1 8.88 4.11 0.91 0.293 72.90% 37.40% 8.60% 3.81 100 105

2013 Stats

Player Team W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP- xFIP-
1 Matt Harvey Mets 9 5 26 26 178.1 9.64 1.56 0.35 0.28 77.40% 47.70% 4.70% 2.27 55 70
2 Anibal Sanchez Tigers 14 8 29 29 182 9.99 2.67 0.45 0.307 78.20% 45.40% 5.80% 2.57 59 74
3 Felix Hernandez Mariners 12 10 31 31 204.1 9.51 2.03 0.66 0.314 75.10% 51.40% 10.00% 3.04 66 67
4 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 16 9 33 33 236 8.85 1.98 0.42 0.251 80.60% 46.00% 5.80% 1.83 66 76
5 Max Scherzer Tigers 21 3 32 32 214.1 10.08 2.35 0.76 0.259 74.40% 36.30% 7.60% 2.9 68 80
6 Adam Wainwright Cardinals 19 9 34 34 241.2 8.16 1.3 0.56 0.305 74.50% 49.10% 8.10% 2.94 70 74
7 Jose Fernandez Marlins 12 6 28 28 172.2 9.75 3.02 0.52 0.24 79.40% 45.10% 7.10% 2.19 72 82
8 Cliff Lee Phillies 14 8 31 31 222.2 8.97 1.29 0.89 0.287 76.70% 44.30% 10.90% 2.87 74 74
9 A.J. Burnett Pirates 10 11 30 30 191 9.85 3.16 0.52 0.305 71.80% 56.50% 9.10% 3.3 76 77
10 Chris Sale White Sox 11 14 30 30 214.1 9.49 1.93 0.97 0.289 77.00% 46.60% 12.50% 3.07 77 75
11 Yu Darvish Rangers 13 9 32 32 209.2 11.89 3.43 1.12 0.264 83.90% 41.00% 14.40% 2.83 78 72
12 David Price Rays 10 8 27 27 186.2 7.28 1.3 0.77 0.298 70.00% 44.90% 8.60% 3.33 80 82
13 Jhoulys Chacin Rockies 14 10 31 31 197.1 5.75 2.78 0.5 0.288 71.90% 46.80% 6.20% 3.47 80 105
14 Doug Fister Tigers 14 9 32 32 207.2 6.85 1.91 0.61 0.332 73.40% 54.60% 9.00% 3.68 81 86
15 Justin Verlander Tigers 13 12 34 34 218.1 8.95 3.09 0.78 0.316 74.50% 38.40% 7.80% 3.46 81 92
16 Mat Latos Reds 14 7 32 32 210.2 7.99 2.48 0.6 0.299 74.60% 45.10% 6.90% 3.16 81 95
17 Derek Holland Rangers 10 9 33 33 213 7.99 2.7 0.85 0.307 75.10% 40.80% 8.80% 3.42 82 93
18 Bartolo Colon Athletics 18 6 30 30 190.1 5.53 1.37 0.66 0.294 80.00% 41.50% 6.00% 2.65 84 100
19 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 8 9 30 30 183 9.39 2.75 0.79 0.263 73.20% 51.50% 11.10% 3 85 84
20 Madison Bumgarner Giants 13 9 31 31 201.1 8.9 2.77 0.67 0.251 75.70% 46.80% 8.20% 2.77 86 88
21 Cole Hamels Phillies 8 14 33 33 220 8.26 2.05 0.86 0.295 72.50% 42.70% 9.10% 3.6 86 91
22 James Shields Royals 13 9 34 34 228.2 7.71 2.68 0.79 0.298 79.50% 41.60% 8.60% 3.15 86 94
23 Hisashi Iwakuma Mariners 14 6 33 33 219.2 7.58 1.72 1.02 0.252 81.90% 48.70% 11.80% 2.66 87 83
24 Homer Bailey Reds 11 12 32 32 209 8.57 2.33 0.86 0.284 73.70% 46.10% 10.20% 3.49 87 89
25 Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks 14 8 32 32 208.1 7.69 2.33 0.82 0.283 75.90% 46.70% 10.10% 3.41 87 92
26 Jon Lester Red Sox 15 8 33 33 213.1 7.47 2.83 0.8 0.3 73.70% 45.00% 8.30% 3.75 87 98
27 Jorge de la Rosa Rockies 16 6 30 30 167.2 6.01 3.33 0.59 0.303 75.40% 47.30% 7.70% 3.49 87 108
28 Rick Porcello Tigers 13 8 29 29 172.2 7.25 2.19 0.94 0.317 69.50% 55.10% 14.20% 4.43 88 81
29 Hiroki Kuroda Yankees 11 13 32 32 201.1 6.71 1.92 0.89 0.282 75.80% 46.60% 10.30% 3.31 88 91
30 Justin Masterson Indians 14 10 29 29 189.1 8.94 3.57 0.62 0.286 75.10% 58.00% 10.80% 3.52 89 85
31 Jordan Zimmermann Nationals 19 9 32 32 213.1 6.79 1.69 0.8 0.271 74.40% 47.60% 9.50% 3.25 89 92
32 Zack Greinke Dodgers 15 4 28 28 177.2 7.5 2.33 0.66 0.276 80.80% 45.60% 8.60% 2.63 90 91
33 Ubaldo Jimenez Indians 13 9 32 32 182.2 9.56 3.94 0.79 0.304 76.50% 43.90% 9.00% 3.3 90 91
34 Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 14 8 30 30 192 7.22 2.3 0.7 0.296 78.20% 50.60% 8.70% 3 90 92
35 Ricky Nolasco - - - 13 11 33 33 198.1 7.44 2.09 0.77 0.298 70.70% 42.80% 8.70% 3.72 90 95
36 Mike Minor Braves 13 9 32 32 204.2 7.96 2.02 0.97 0.272 75.10% 35.00% 8.80% 3.21 90 97
37 Lance Lynn Cardinals 15 10 33 33 201.2 8.84 3.39 0.62 0.314 71.80% 43.10% 7.40% 3.97 90 97
38 Gio Gonzalez Nationals 11 8 32 32 195.2 8.83 3.5 0.78 0.286 75.30% 43.90% 9.70% 3.36 91 93
39 Andy Pettitte Yankees 11 11 30 30 185.1 6.22 2.33 0.83 0.308 72.90% 46.00% 9.10% 3.74 91 98
40 Kris Medlen Braves 15 11 31 31 194 7.19 2.13 0.79 0.297 76.30% 45.00% 9.40% 3.11 92 94
41 Andrew Cashner Padres 10 9 26 26 165.2 6.46 2.23 0.6 0.27 72.00% 52.80% 7.90% 3.04 92 95
42 C.J. Wilson Angels 17 7 33 33 212.1 7.97 3.6 0.64 0.3 73.50% 44.40% 7.20% 3.39 92 99
43 Jose Quintana White Sox 9 7 33 33 200 7.38 2.52 1.04 0.283 76.60% 42.50% 10.20% 3.51 93 97
44 John Lackey Red Sox 10 13 29 29 189.1 7.65 1.9 1.24 0.281 76.90% 46.80% 13.30% 3.52 94 88
45 Jeff Samardzija Cubs 8 13 33 33 213.2 9.01 3.29 1.05 0.314 71.70% 48.20% 13.30% 4.34 97 92
46 Ervin Santana Royals 9 10 32 32 211 6.87 2.18 1.11 0.267 76.90% 46.20% 12.40% 3.24 97 93
47 Edwin Jackson Cubs 8 18 31 31 175.1 6.93 3.03 0.82 0.322 63.30% 51.30% 9.90% 4.98 97 102
48 Bud Norris - - - 10 10 30 30 174 7.4 3.26 0.88 0.331 73.20% 39.90% 8.20% 4.14 97 106
49 Eric Stults Padres 11 13 33 33 203.2 5.79 1.77 0.8 0.302 69.60% 40.40% 6.90% 3.93 98 110
50 Julio Teheran Braves 14 8 30 30 185.2 8.24 2.18 1.07 0.288 80.90% 37.80% 10.10% 3.2 99 100
51 CC Sabathia Yankees 14 13 32 32 211 7.46 2.77 1.19 0.308 67.40% 44.70% 13.00% 4.78 100 95
52 Travis Wood Cubs 9 12 32 32 200 6.48 2.97 0.81 0.248 77.40% 33.20% 6.90% 3.11 100 120

Observations:

1. Max Scherzer went from barely making the list in 2011, to winning the Cy Young Award in 2013 and coming in at #4 on this list. He will go high in most drafts and I'm not saying sell high, but how much better can he get? I think the HR/FB ratio will regress back to the mean again, but thankfully his home park will help his fly ball tendencies. He's been extremely durable over his career, but realize if you are targeting him in trade right now or drafting him, you are paying TOP DOLLAR. Not a wise move, in general, for fantasy purposes.

2. Despite the less-than-sexy strikeout rates, Jordan Zimmermann continues to be a solid candidate for your rotation. However, his value may be inflated due to his 19-win season last year. However, he's still the same pitcher so don't overpay.

3. Another Tigers' pitcher, Anibal Sanchez saw his K-rate spike to 9.99/9 last year. Sure, he got lucky, LOB% increased 8%, HR/FB was cut in half to 5.8% so you can expect some regression. Add to this his injury history, and the fact that Max and Justin get most of the press in Detroit, and this guy still seems to fly under-the-radar. By the way, Max might have won the Cy Young, but Anibal led the team in ERA.

4. Look out below! That was C.C. Sabathia doing his best Wyle E. Coyote impersonation falling off a cliff last year. Expect a small bounce-back but the best is clearly behind him at this point.

5. Ricky Nolasco made the list three years in a row, and if he can maintain the K-rate from last year, or thereabouts (~7/9 IP), then he will also be a solid target come draft day.

6. I'm not advocating that Jhoulys Chacin deserves your attention. For many reasons he may just be a better in real-life than for fantasy purposes. I'm just saying that he's made the list 2 of the last three years, and he cracked the top 13 last year, ahead of Doug Fister, Justin Verlander, and Mat Latos. Deep leaguers could do worse than target this guy for the back end of your rotation.

Target:

Cole Hamels (SP-PHI).

Ok, naysayers, have a field day if you'd like. Last year was the first year in 6 years Hamels hasn't compiled double-digit wins although his FIP and xFIP supported a solid campaign. Yes, he's on the wrong side of 30, but at the same time he hasn't thrown less than 183 innings since 2007. There's no upside remaining here, but that's not why you draft him. You draft him because you know what you'll get: K-rate around 8+, BB/9 around 2, double-digit wins (hopefully), and good peripherals. His fastball velocity is still there, his underlying metrics all support his numbers-there's no noticeable decline coming as far as I can tell. He's a number 2 that won't fly off the draft board early because he only won 8 games last year and will return some great value.

Avoid

Mat Latos (SP-CIN)

This is not a reflection of Latos being a bad pitcher, he's actually quite good (and made the list all three years). He's durable, he's above average...and that's about it. He's still young-ish but just had bone chips removed from his elbow this offseason. When I start seeing pitchers show up on Jeff Zimmerman's MASH report, I begin to worry (along with a high slider usage-18th in the league overall in SL%). There are still people calling him an ace-in-waiting, but thus far in his career it seems as if he is what he is. The K-rate has more or less declined since 2010-13 (9.21 - 8.57 - 7.95 - 7.99), the BB-rate remains a shade south of 3 (2.72 BB/9 career), and the ERA is nice (mid 3s). With the bandbox in Cincinnati will never help him, he looks more like a #2-3 to me, but people continue drafting him for his potential. Let them. Unless he falls to you, why not look for a higher-upside play with his mound-mate, Homer Bailey.

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