A few days ago, I wrote about twelve starting pitchers who, while dominant, aren't getting much love in preseason drafts and could exceed their draft day value. On Friday, I offered some thoughts on the early NFBC average draft position rankings. In reviewing the NFBC rankings, I found that their rankings were undervaluing some pretty good starting pitchers, so today, I take a look at five starting pitchers who you probably forgot about, who your mock draft site probably forgot about or doesn't list/rank appropriately, who could help you in 2016. Keep in mind, though, that several of these pitchers are coming off injury and didn't pitch in 2015. One was just simply terrible, but should provide value in 2016.
For those of you in keeper leagues, all five of these pitchers should come cheap in your auction and snake drafts. Those of you in re-draft leagues should consider grabbing one or two of these pitchers late in your drafts if you can stash them on your bench or on IR.
Alex Cobb, Rays
Cobb is coming off Tommy John surgery, and will be sidelined until midseason. His current ADP of 385.11 over at NFBC reflects the fact that he will miss the first three months of the season. When healthy, Cobb was one of the better pitchers in baseball, but that is his problem. He seems to get hurt every year. He has made just 72 starts between 2012-2014, but he owns a career ERA of 3.21 and career FIP of 3.43. His peripheral stats: K/9 - 7.69 , BB/9 - 2.76, GB% - 56.5% are comparable to ace starting pitchers. He just needs to stay healthy.
Mat Latos, Free Agent
Latos is coming off the worst season of his big league career, and his NFBC ADP of 442.67 certainly reflects that. He has yet to sign with a major league team, but he would make sense for the Pirates, Padres, Phillies and others, but he comes with baggage, so he will have to bring along an attitude adjustment to whichever team signs him.
Latos is coming off two consecutive sub-par seasons, pitching just 102.1 and 116.1 innings in each of the last two seasons, but still has the skills to be a productive fantasy starter in 2016. He owns a career strikeout rate of 20%, a walk rate of 6.5% and he induces ground balls at a 43% clip, so his peripherals indicate he can outperform his ADP in 2016.
Hyun-jin Ryu, Dodgers
Like Cobb, Ryu is coming back from surgery, but Ryu is coming back from shoulder surgery, and not Tommy John. Not many starters return from shoulder surgery and are as effective as they were pre-surgery, and that is being reflected in his NFBC ADP of 260.89. I don't recall where I read it, but I read an article which stated that the procedure that Ryu had on his shoulder has an 80% recovery rate, which is much higher than other shoulder procedures, so there appears to be a good chance that he can return and be almost as effective as he was pre-surgery.
Prior to his shoulder woes, Ryu was a top 40 starter in 2014, striking out eight batters per nine, walking less than two batters per nine and owned a ground ball rate of 49%. The Dodgers recent moves indicate they are not counting much on Ryu in 2016, but we all know how often pitchers get injured, so Ryu could be a solid late round sleeper or stash in 2016 drafts.
Homer Bailey, Reds
Bailey is also coming off of Tommy John surgery and, according to Mark Sheldon from MLB.com, he could return to the mound on mid-May:
Bailey, who remains on track to return to pitching in games in May 2016, felt like his elbow injury "never happened." He was long tossing at up to 180 feet until taking a break around Thanksgiving. He will resume throwing again next month, but he won't get on a mound until camp in February.
Bailey's current ADP of 508.33 tells me that fantasy owners weren't aware of that update from Sheldon, or they just don't have confidence that he will return to the Bailey we all wanted on our rosters back in 2013. Bailey pitched just 11 innings last season, and 145 innings in 2014, pitching to a 3.71 ERA, 3.93 FIP with a 7.66 K/9, 2.78 BB/9 and a solid ground ball rate just above 50%. He may struggle when he returns, but if you can stash him while he gets through the tough times in the first half, he could prove to be a valuable stash for a second half run.
Zack Wheeler, Mets
I am sure you all read the article that Tim Finnegan wrote about Wheeler a few months ago, where he added some information regarding Wheeler's Tommy John surgery:
What may go under the radar, though, is that Wheeler also had two other elbow problems fixed during the surgical procedure: the repairing of a partially torn tendon and the removal of a calcium deposit. These are issues that Wheeler appeared to have been pitching through for some or possibly all of his professional career. Wheeler said that he has pitched with elbow pain throughout his entire career, even dating back to high school, and that the pain in his elbow became more dramatic in 2014.
Tim goes on to quote Mets assistant GM John Ricco in the piece:
"We think coming off the surgery he's going to be pain-free and might be better than the guy we saw when he came up."
Better than the guy we saw in 2014? Wheeler was pretty good in 2014, pitching to a 3.54 ERA, 3.55 FIP, while striking out more than a batter per inning, walking just under four batters per nine, and inducing ground balls at a 54% clip. Other than the walk rate, those are ace-like skills, and if he can work on his control in 2016, he could become the fourth ace starter in the Mets rotation by 2017. Wheeler won't return to the Mets rotation till mid-2016, probably in June or July, but he could be a very valuable stash on draft day. His current NFBC ADP of 403.89 reflects the uncertainty of his performance in 2016, but that may be overblown.
All five of these pitchers used to be among the top 40 starters in the game and still possess the skills to be productive fantasy assets in 2016, assuming you can stash them on your roster till they get healthy.