I was going back and forth with Rotoworld's Drew Silva on Twitter a few nights ago about who should be ranked higher in 2014: Pirates starter Gerrit Cole or Cardinals starter Michael Wacha. He indicated that Rotoworld had Wacha ranked as their 22nd ranked starting pitcher for 2014:
Michael Wacha is the 22nd-ranked SP in the 2014 @Rotoworld_BB Draft Guide, just behind Kris Medlen and just ahead of Mat Latos.— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) January 1, 2014
I responded saying I thought the Wacha ranking (and the Medlen ranking) seemed high to me, as I have him ranked as my 51st ranked starter for 2014 in my current Top 100 Starting Pitcher rankings. I have him ranked behind Danny Salazar (#48). Justin Masterson (#49) and Chris Archer (#50), and just ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez and Corey Kluber. Maybe I am too low on Wacha right now, but I think that is way too high for a starter who has only made 9 regular season starts.
The Rotoworld ranking for Wacha made me take a look at who they have him ranked ahead of, so I took a look at my rankings and saw that I have Cole at #22. Let's take a look at how both starters performed in 2013:
Wacha made 15 appearances in 2013, nine of them starts, going 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA, 1.098 WHIP and a 65-19 strikeout to walk rate in 64.2 innings. His 3.42 K-BB rate is excellent, but these stats include six appearances as a reliever. His stats as a starter are still good, but slightly worse, as he went 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and a 2.71 K-BB ratio over 54 innings.
Cole made 19 appearances, all of them starts, going 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.168 WHIP and a 3.57 K-BB rate over 117.1 innings of work. After a sub-par first half, Cole was dominant in the second half of the season, striking out almost a batter per inning, with a 75-19 strikeout to walk rate, good for a 3.95 K-BB ratio over 75.2 innings, while Wacha's K-BB over 47 second half innings was 3.40.
Wacha was very dominant in his 5 playoff starts, going 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA, 0.913 WHIP and a 33-12 strikeout to walk rate over 30.2 innings. He gave up just nine runs on 16 hits in his five playoff appearances, and I wonder if some fantasy experts are placing too much value in his playoff performance. Granted he pitched well in his 9 regular season starts as well, but teams haven't seen him twice yet, and, as we all know, teams make adjustments seeing a pitcher in the second and third times around the league.
The same can be said of Cole, but he did make 10 more starts than Wacha, so some teams saw him more than once. Both starters have a bright future, but heading into 2014, I prefer Cole over Wacha, for a few reasons:
1. as stated, he made ten more starts than Wacha
2. he pitches in one of the best pitchers park in baseball (corrected from earlier)
3. he has better control, as he walked few batters per nine innings,
4. he keeps the ball on the ground at a higher rate: 49.1% vs 44.3% for Wacha
I am splitting hairs here, but I prefer to go with the pitcher with the longer track record, albeit slightly, when comparing two young starters.
So, who would you rather own in 2014 fantasy drafts: Gerrit Cole or Michael Wacha? Let's hear your opinion in the poll and comments below.