In this series I will list some starting pitchers who are going late in drafts that I think have high upside in 2015. I define high upside as the potential to significantly outperform their draft slots. Here is part 1:
Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros (Yahoo ADP of 258)
I can't believe how low Keuchel's ADP is. He is being massively underrated by fantasy owners, and I don't know why this is. His ADP is sandwiched between Wei Yin Chen and Jake Peavy, for goodness sake. I guess most owners don't think his 2014 season was legit, but they're making a mistake if they think that. Keuchel is super legit. He's one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, and there's tons of reasons to love him. First off, his basic run prevention last year was outstanding with an ERA of 2.93, 20th best in baseball, and ERA- of 77, 15th best in baseball. His FIP of 3.21 and xFIP of 3.20 were both 19th best, and FIP underrates him because of how much weak contact he generates. He's closer in skill to the 2.93 ERA than the 3.21 FIP.
Keuchel was also one of the most difficult pitchers to square up in baseball last year: only 11.1% of his opponents' at bats ended in a hard hit ball, 4th best in baseball. This is in large part due to his amazing two seamer, which has hellacious movement and causes an incredible ground ball percentage of 77%. Keuchel's overall ground ball% in 2014 was 63.5%, which was by far the best in baseball and is Brandon Webb esque.
The main knock on Keuchel for fantasy purposes is his below average strikeout percentage of 18%, but he has the stuff to make batters swing and miss. His filthy slider/slurve misses bats at an above average level, and his change up misses bats at about an average level. I think Keuchel is one of the steals of 2015 fantasy drafts with his current ADP, and would strongly encourage all Fake Teams readers to draft him at this value.
Cosart flashes nasty stuff, with a cut fastball that touches 95, an 80 mph curve that flashes wipeout break, and a developing change up. He also has a fantastic ground ball percentage at approximately 54%, which is in the top 10 for starters.
Cosart's main issues are command, control and a lack of a third pitch. Cosart threw his cut fastball 70% of the time and curve 25% of the time in 2014, making him essentially a two pitch pitcher. His change up, however, has had excellent results against it in the limited time he's thrown the pitch, as opposing hitters generated a measly 40 wRC+ against it. Cosart said that he tweaked his change up grip with the help of teammate Henderson Alvarez this offseason to make him more comfortable with the pitch. He says that he is committed to throwing it significantly more often in 2015, because he realizes the importance of having a third pitch. The Marlins have also worked on Cosart's command and control since joining the team. Cosart cut his walk rate down from 10.1% in 20 starts with the Astros to 8.5% in 10 starts with the Marlins.
If Cosart can keep his walks down and add in an average change up to give him a consistent third pitch, he has the skill to prevent runs at a high level, especially pitching half of his games in Marlins Park. I like the value a lot with Cosart.
Greene was traded to the Tigers this offseason as part of the three way deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees and Robbie Ray to the Diamondbacks. Greene also has nasty stuff: his two seam fastball averaged 93.5 mph last year, and he combines it with two types of sliders, a slower, bigger breaking one that range from 81-83 mph and a harder, sharper one that sits around 88 mph. He struck out 23.5% of the batters he faced and generated a swinging strike% just under 10%, both well above MLB average. Greene gets a large amount of ground balls (50%), and I expect his home run to fly ball ratio to drop moving from Yankee Stadium and the AL East to the Comerica Park and the AL Central. Former teammate Brandon McCarthy added that Greene has "stupid, electric stuff" in this tweet:
Hey Tigers fans @sagreeney has stupid electric stuff and you should feel lucky to get to watch him now. Terrible at fantasy football though.— Brandon McCarthy (@BMcCarthy32) December 5, 2014
In addition, one major league scout compared Greene to Doug Fister. Greene's ADP of 246 is very appealing.
Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants (Yahoo ADP of 207)
Cain has burned a lot of fantasy owners in the last two seasons, but I think he's going to bounce back this year. Cain had bone chips cleaned out of his elbow this offseason, a painful injury that prevented him from fully extending his throwing arm. The poor range of motion in Cain's arm, from what I saw, led to inconsistent command and flatter breaking pitches. Cain left more pitches over the fat part of the plate in the last 2 years than I ever saw him leave before, and it led to an increase in home run to fly ball ratio. Fat pitches located middle middle are easier to square up and hit out of the yard than pitches on the corners. Buster Posey also said he noticed Cain grimacing with his face in recent years, but that since having his elbow cleaned out, Cain isn't making those painful faces anymore.
With the improved range of motion and relief of pain in Cain's arm, I expect his command to improve and his breaking pitches to become sharper. He's also only 30 years old, and his fastball velocity has not dropped from his peak seasons. I expect a strong bounce back year from Cain, and love the value at pick 207.