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Do Not Draft Scott Kazmir Next Year!

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Kazmir was a draft bargain in 2014 and went on to have a very good season, but next year he will not justify his draft slot.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

After missing all of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Scott Kazmir resurfaced in 2013 as a Cleveland Indian and delivered a campaign that was his best since his 2005-2007 heyday with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, as they were known back then. He had a 10-9 record with a 4.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 2013. Those are decent, league-average numbers that normally wouldn't generate any excitement. But his underlying peripherals looked much more enticing, leading prognosticators to identify him as a strong sleeper for 2014 drafts. He struck out more than a batter per inning in 2013 and combined that with the best walk rate of his career. It is no surprise that his FIP was only 3.51 while his 3.36 xFIP and 3.38 SIERA were even better. After moving to the Oakland Athletics with their strong pitcher's park and high-scoring offense, Kazmir was poised to become a desirable fantasy asset. I was one of those that advised my readers to target Kazmir in the 15-20th rounds of drafts and I also grabbed him in most of my leagues, including the #TDGX experts' dynasty league.

Those recommendations proved prudent because Kazmir steamrolled the league as the 2014 season progressed. He was one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball during the first half of the season, putting up an 11-3 record with a 2.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and an excellent 4:1 K:BB ratio. His fastball velocity was averaging over 93 mph, the highest of his career. But there were some minor red flags buried under the hood. He benefited from a somewhat lucky 0.250 BABIP and a very lucky 81.9% LOB% (Strand Rate).  That is why his FIP was 3.19 and his xFIP 3.32 - still good but not as awesome as his 2.38 ERA. In the second half those luck stats flipped as regression took hold. His 2nd half BABIP was .333 and his strand rate fell to 59.4%, so it is not surprising that his post All Star break numbers were not so hot.

But now we get to the reasons why you should avoid Kazmir in drafts next year. After the All Star break Kazmir's performance completely fell apart. His 2nd half ERA was 5.42, more than twice as high as his 2.38 first half. His WHIP jumped from 0.98 up to 1.45. His velocity also steadily declined, falling a full 2 mph on average by the end of the season. The velocity drop is concerning because that is a strong indicator of an impending injury, and Kazmir already has a very lengthy injury history. The stat that does the best job of predicting a pitcher's future performance is xFIP, and Kazmir's 4.03 xFIP in the 2nd half does not predict a good 2015 season is coming.

The biggest reason that Kazmir was considered such a desirable draft target prior to this season was because he was a middle round quality pitcher who could be obtained in the late rounds of drafts. That won't be the case next Spring. The word is out on Kazmir now, expectations have been raised. You are going to have to spend a much better draft pick to get Kazmir next year than you did last year. For example in 2014 Yahoo drafts, Kazmir was drafted in the 20th round with the 223rd overall pick on average. Despite his late-season struggles he finished as the 142nd best overall player, making him worth a 12th round pick (in 12 team leagues). That means he was an excellent draft bargain last year. Next year that won't be the case. If you want to draft Kazmir you will likely have to draft him somewhere around the 12th round. To justify that draft cost Kazmir will have to perform as well next year as he did this year and as we have seen that is unlikely to happen. You are better off letting someone else draft Kazmir next year. He simply won't be worth the price.