C.J. Wilson: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

Stephen Dunn

The Angels left-hander is one of the most underrated (and undervalued) pitchers going into the season, meaning you can grab him at almost no cost. Is it possible for one of the best statistical starters in the last four seasons to be a sleeper? (Answer: yes.)

If you had to guess who ranks seventh in the majors in wins since the beginning of 2010, would you have come up with C.J. Wilson? Did you also know that the Angels left-hander is tied for first in starts over that span, ranks eighth in HR/9 and has a 3.37 ERA, 16th among those with 100 or more starts?

Keep in mind, Wilson also did that while spending half of those seasons pitching for the Rangers, a team with one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors. (For some perspective, Wilson recorded a 2.94 ERA in 2011, despite his home park ranking dead last in pitch friendliness, per ESPN.)

Why do I bring this up? To show that there have been few pitchers over the past four seasons who have provided more consistent fantasy value than C.J. Wilson, and you can steal him for practically nothing in your drafts.

Admittedly, Wilson won’t give you a low WHIP. In fact, expect him to be a detriment to your team in that regard. He’s also just one season removed from a 3.83 ERA. But that shouldn’t deter you from giving him a look, given his value in just about every category other than WHIP and his bounce back season in 2013.

Wilson’s value certainly doesn’t come from just one particular category. Rather, it’s his all-around production, on top of his steady performance, that makes him an especially attractive fantasy candidate. In his four years as a starter, Wilson has posted a sub-four ERA each time (including going over 3.40 just once), started 33 or 34 games each year and never fallen below 170 strikeouts while always staying above 200 innings. Wilson has also maintained an 8.0 K/9 rate in his career and never allowed more than 0.8 HR/9 as a starter.

The lefty also quieted concerns about his lackluster 2012 season by lowering his ERA by 44 points in 2013. The improvement came thanks to a 1.2 percent drop in BB% between seasons and a sparkling 0.64 HR/9 rate, the latter of which constituted a 21-point drop from Wilson’s uncharacteristically-high 0.85 rate during his tough 2012 season. There wasn’t a luck factor either; Wilson’s BABIP actually rose dramatically, from .281 to .300, meaning his improvement came in spite of a return to the norm.

If you had to pick one statistical category in which Wilson primarily contributes, however, it would undoubtedly be wins. The left-hander has averaged 15.25 wins over the past four seasons, including a career-high of 17 in 2013.

Regarding that particular statistic, it’s also worth mentioning the offensive support from which Wilson benefits. Even with poor performances from free-agent signees Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, Wilson managed to rank fifth in the majors in wins last season. If the fully-healthy Pujols and the bulked-up Hamilton can revert to their slugging ways, it’s not out of the question for Wilson to approach 20 wins. In other words, when it comes to high-octane lineups, there aren’t many teams with higher ceilings than the 2014 Los Angeles Angels, which bodes well for Wilson.

But here’s the real reason the Angels lefty is worth your consideration in 2014: his ADP. According to NFBC data, Wilson’s average draft position is 183.04, meaning you’ll find him around the 15th round of 12-team leagues.

Experts don’t give Wilson much credit either. ESPN’s roto rankings have him as the 41st starting pitcher on their list, RotoChamp has him 54th, and FantasyPros.com, which provides the consensus of 45 expert rankings, puts him 52nd.

Sure, Wilson won’t give you incredible numbers, and he’ll even likely produce a relatively high WHIP. But for someone who is being taken late in most drafts despite consistently putting up 15 wins with a sub-four ERA and around 180 strikeouts for the past four seasons, he’s more than worth the low cost.

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