Not quite Darv, just Darvish
Photo Credit: mikelachance816
Because there are so many goddamn starting pitchers out there that warrant being on your radar, we wanted to kick off the 2013 fantasy baseball edition of “Tiers, Not Fears” with the biggest, baddest SP ranks on the ‘net. It goes without saying that starting pitching is the deepest position in fantasy. Shit, we got 134 pitchers on our list here and it doesn’t even include names like Ervin Santana or Brian Matusz. Because the well of SPs is deeper than Jack Handy, fantasy owners don’t have to pay the big bucks for the more expensive (and, often, overrated) arms. Granted, some guys are worth the money, but just realize that starting pitching is volatile as hell. Between the risk of injury (no human beings are meant to hurl objects over their shoulders in such violent fashion) and the inconsistency that plagues even some of the best SPs out there, it’s possible that most of the pitchers you draft will not even be on your team by year’s end. So while pitching is half the game in fantasy, know that spending too much on it will increase your team’s odds of bed-shtting.
Now let’s get down to platinum tax, because brass don’t do me justice.
More after the jump:
The “Heavy Cream” Corporation
The cream always rises to the top, and these guys have cream that not only rises, but explodes everywhere because there is no way to contain its power.
1. Stephen Strasburg
“Stras Effect” is at the peak of the SP mountain. The chief reason? The Nationals have said that there are “no restrictions” on his workload for 2013. Strasburg’s 11.13 K/9 in 2012 would’ve extrapolated to 247 strikeouts with 200 innings, which would’ve bested the marks of both Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander (despite the fact that each threw over 225 innings). Sure Strasburg doesn’t have the track record of many of the dudes ranked below him, but I can’t see how a healthy Strasburg doesn’t finish the season as the best pitcher in baseball.
2. Clayton Kershaw
I hate to be the guy who cites wins as a credible fantasy or reality baseball stat, but the Dodgers will be a lot better and Kershaw should benefit. He barely gets the edge over Verlander, but when a battle between two SPs is this close, the tie goes to the dude pitching in the National League.
3. Justin Verlander
Just because Verl Sweatshirt is third on this list doesn’t mean that he isn’t among the best in the business. Like Kershaw, he strikes out over a batter per inning and doesn’t really walk anyone (2.27 BB/9 last year). Again, it’s splitting hairs between numbers two and three. Side note: “splitting hairs” is also the term I use to describe the process of going numbers two and three at the same time.
The “Next In Line” Nexus
Although these hurlers aren’t in the top tier, they are as close to “reliably elite” as it gets.
4. R.A. Dickey
He’s 38 years old. He’s now pitching in the AL East. The knuckleball he throws is “too hard” and he won’t be able to last as long as other knuckleballers. These are the kinds of things stupid people say about R.A. Dickey. First off, that speedy knuckler is what allowed him to chuck up a 12.2 SwStr% in 2012 (better than the marks of Strasburg, Kershaw, and Verlander). Dickey’s 2.09 BB/9 also bested the top three SPs on this list. Pitching in the AL East will definitely bring his numbers a bit down to earth, but let’s not act like his 2012 wasn’t ridiculously great.
5. Yu Darvish
The team plans on making Geovany Soto his personal catcher and the two killed it together over Darvish’s last eight starts (5-1, 2.35 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.52 K/9, and 2.35 BB/9). Darvish rocked a 10.4 K/9 and 11.8 SwStr% in 2012, his first season in the bigs. The knock on Darvish is that his control needs work (4.19 BB/9), but I take comfort in knowing that despite the high walk rate, he still posted a respectable 1.28 WHIP. Any improvement in his walk rate, coupled with his elite strikeout ability, will allow him to put up sick fantasy numbers.
6. David Price
Though one would like to see Price up his SwStr% (it’s been under 8.5 the last two years), we can’t argue with the results. The Rays ace has thrown up a K/9 over 8.7 the last two seasons and registered a career-best 2.52 BB/9 in 2012. He’s a young ace who has proven to be durable and is a safe pick as your SP1.
7. Felix Hernandez
Though King Felix is capable of dominating hitters, there’s some cause for concern. His velocity has gone down noticeably each of the last two years. In 2010, his heater averaged 94.1 mph. In 2011, it dropped to 93.3. Last season: 92.1. Fortunately, his arsenal of pitches allows him to keep generating ample swings-and-misses (10.6 SwStr% in 2012). Still, the dip in velo is enough to push him down to number eight on our list.
8. James Shields
The evolution of James Shiels has been really fascinating to watch. Shields has become more reliant on his secondary pitches while at the same time making his fastball deadlier. He threw his heater less than ever in 2012, yet averaged a career-high 92.3 mph on it and saw it give hitters fits (followed by the “hitters shits” because he straight dumps on opposing batters). His SwStr% also improved (up to 10.9 in 2012) and his 53.2 GB% marked a career-high. Shields is at the top of his game and is now moving out of the AL East. Expect a banner year.
The Reliable Renegades
Not only are the dudes in this tier SP1 material, but they will help anchor any fantasy rotation.
9. Cliff Lee
Though Lee is 34 years old, his performance shows no signs of slowing down. Yes he allowed a few more HRs last year, but the fact is that you can count on Lee to rack up a K/9 above eight, a WHIP below 1.15, and an ERA in the low 3.00s. You really can’t ask for more than that.
10. Adam Wainwright
Wainwright’s overall numbers from 2012 don’t look that great, but he turned it on late in the season (last 16 starts: 3.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.21 K/9, and 2.12 BB/9). Now fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery, Wainwright should resume being one of the more reliable fantasy pitchers in the game.
11. Matt Cain
Cain’s strikeout upside is somewhat limited (his K/9 usually sits in the low 7.00s), but what he lacks in whiff potential he more than makes up for in every other fantasy category. Cain saw career-best marks in BB/9 (2.09), ERA (2.79), and SwStr% (9.6) in 2012. He’s not the most exciting guy on the board, but he earns major points for his consistency and across the board production.
12. Madison Bumgarner
It’s very possible Bumgarner finishes the season as San Francisco’s best pitcher (in fantasy and reality). Cain is the favorite because of his track record and impressive 2012, but Bumgarner is on his tail (pause). MadBum has thrown up a K/9 above eight in the last two years while registering a miniscule 2.12 BB/9 last season. His batted ball profile in 2012 was also impressive (18.8 LD% and 47.9 GB%). He literally does everything you like to see out of a fantasy pitcher, and there’s still room to grow.
At this stage of the draft, you start seeing more warts. However, while the members of this tier carry some concern, the upside is tremendous. You can find something negative about any of the players in this tier, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t appropriately ranked and valued.
13. Max Scherzer
Scherzer’s strikeout ability was on full display last year as he drummed up a 11.08 K/9 (only Stephen Strasburg had a higher K/9 among SPs). He’s also notched BB/9s under three the last two seasons. Although Scherzer has never pitched 200 innings in his career and has battled with inconsistency throughout his career, he looks like he’s finally figured it out. He’s got the upside of a top five fantasy SP if he stays healthy.
14. Jeff Samardzija
Even Busta Rhymes has been known to exclaim “Give Me Samar’” at fantasy drafts. The Cubs hurler posted an elite 12.1 SwStr% and 9.27 K/9 while also limiting the free passes last year (2.89 BB/9). He also averaged 95.0 mph on his fastball while showcasing a plus-splitter that he figures to use even more in 2013. Unfortunately, the workload seemed to wear down on the former reliever at certain points in the season. The Cubs rested him a couple of times and he responded well to the extra days off, so I’m confident that Chicago will manage his innings appropriately while getting the most out of him.
15. Cole Hamels
Though Hamels posted some elite numbers in 2012 (12.9 SwStr%, 9.03 K/9, and 2.17 BB/9), he carries some risk. He experienced shoulder soreness towards the end of last season, and the issue came up again after a throwing session early this offseason. All indications are that he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but I’m never comfortable going too early with a player who reports arm trouble before the season even gets underway.
16. CC Sabathia
Sabathia had bone spurs removed from his elbow right after the season ended and pitching coach Larry Rothschild has already said the Yankees will be keeping an eye on his pitch count and workload. He also lost a tick in velocity last year as his fastball averaged 92.3 mph (it was at least 93.5 each of the previous four campaigns). Still, Sabathia’s 8.87 K/9 and 1.98 BB/9 in 2012 were among the best of his career and his 11.5 SwStr% last year shows he can still wreck hitters.
17. Zack Greinke
Greinke is moving back to the National League and is a threat to return to his K-per-inning ways. Problem is, he's already dealing with elbwo trouble, which is never a good sign this early in the season. That shit dropped him from eighth to 17th on this list. The other thing that scares me about Greinke is his brain. In an effort to become a more complete pitcher, Greinke has made some sacrifices that could affect his fantasy production. For example, last year he posted a career-high 49.2 GB%. Unfortunately, while he generated more weak contact, he also missed fewer bats (8.5 SwStr%; 10.6 in 2011). My money is on Greinke wrecking opposing hitters when healthy, but he is a little bit of a wild card.
18. Matt Moore
Even though he had a 8.88 K/9 last year, the strikeout expectations were so high that it was actually a disappointing mark. That just tells you the kind of sick strikeout ability he possesses. With a 12.7 K/9 in his minor league career and an 11.8 SwStr% last year, Moore is a good bet to strike out over a batter per inning. While his control isn’t great (4.11 BB/9 in 2012), he should improve in that area for 2013. His 59.8 F-Strike% (First Pitch Strike Percentage) was slightly above average last year, so he should cut down on the walks as he continues to grow.
19. Gio Gonzalez
Gio enjoyed a career-year in his first tour of the National League. See this horn here? It’s getting tooted. Your boy Daddy Ducats was high on Gio last draft/auction season and even listed him as the 13th best SP. Alas, that was then, and this is now. And now? He just isn’t worth the price. Now Gonzalez is a top 20 pitcher on this list, so I obviously think he has value. That being said, the price is way too steep. He’s being drafted as a top seven starter, but I’m not confident that he can repeat his strikeout numbers. His SwStr% actually went down from his 2011 campaign and his 5.8 HR/FB is bound to jump.
20. Kris Medlen
Medlen will either cost someone in your league a fortune or come at a cheap price. I think this tier is a fair spot for him. The dude definitely looks like a righthanded Cliff Lee out there with the way he spots his pitches and sets hitters up, but we are talking about a 12 game sample size. Granted, it was an incredible 12 games. Still.... 12 games.
21. Jered Weaver
With sub-three ERAs and WHIPs under 1.10 the last two years, Weaver belongs in this tier. Unfortunately, his modest strikeout totals keep him out of the top 20 (6.77 K/9 in 2012). It also doesn’t help that he has failure in his blood (see: Weaver, Jeff).
The “Risky” Rabble-Rousers
All of the players in this tier carry their share of risk, but they are all capable of being very valuable fantasy SPs.
22. Mat Latos
With the ability to post a K/9 above eight along with nice ratios, Latos is an intriguing fantasy target. He loses points, however, for seeing drops in his velocity, SwStr%, and K/9 in each of the last two seasons. On a slightly unrelated note, I think I’m going to start yelling “Nice Ratios!” out of my car window at females.
23. Roy Halladay
Between the shoulder issues, age (36 in May), and massive workload over the last few years, Halladay can no longer be considered amongst the best SPs in fantasy. That said, he’s entering a walk year and posted a 7.6 K/9 and 2.07 BB/9 in a “down” season.
24. Tim Lincecum
Maybe Tim Lincecum was too smart for his own good last year and totally forgot who he was. Then again, the rise in walks (4.35 BB/9) and LD% (23.8) is a huge red flag. Combine that with the fact that his average fastball velocity dropped to 90.4 mph (92.3 in 2011), and it’s enough to make one nervous about dipping their toes in some ‘Cum. Yet I cannot ignore the incredible campaigns he’s put together in the past and because he’s still only 28 years old, I feel comfortable taking him as a top 25 SP.
25. Johnny Cueto
This is one of those instances in which the “reality” pitcher is better than the fantasy hurler. Cueto is one of the NL’s best aces, but his mediocre strikeout totals cap his fantasy value (7.05 K/9 in 2012 and that was the first time he got it over seven in four years).
26. Chris Sale
Though he was one of the best pitchers in fantasy last year, Sale fails to rank higher due to some concern over his workload. He saw a 121 innings jump from 2011 to 2012 and as the season wore on, he had some struggles with velocity and saw his effectiveness slip. Sale also was a bit lucky in sporting such a low walk rate (2.36 BB/9) as his 57.0 F-Strike% was below league-average. If his walk rate rises, his fastball slows down, and his elbow issues that cropped up in 2012 rear their head again, he will end up being a vastly overpriced draft day option. Of course, there’s mega upside here thanks to his swing-and-miss ability.
27. Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo makes it on this tier because he’s been among the league leaders in strikeouts for the last few years, but he saw decreases in his SwStr% (7.8) and velocity (91.8 mph fastball) in 2012. Because Gallardo has spotty command (3.57 BB/9 last year and his F-Strike% also went down), another dip in velocity and SwStr% could bump him down to SP3 or SP4 territory.
28. Jon Lester
The good news is that he’s reuniting with John Farrell, who oversaw Lester’s performance during his peak years. The bad news is that his days of striking out a batter per inning are over (solid, but unspectacular 8.7 SwStr% the last two years) and his velocity has gone down each of the last four years. His fastball and cutter were also getting slapped around in 2012 (23.0 LD% and 25 HRs). Farrell has said he’s been working on pitching adjustments with Lester and there is some hope since he’s a power lefty with good control (2.98 BB/9). Still, it’s pretty clear that Lester’s best days are behind him.
29. Josh Johnson
Though he’s moving to the AL East and saw his velocity and whiffs take a dip in 2012, Johnson should not be overlooked. Yes he’s always an injury risk, but he actually pitched 191.1 innings last year while posting solid walk, ground ball, and HR rates. If he can stay healthy, Johnson should prove to be a very good fantasy SP.
The “Room To Grow” Goons
The players in this tier have already showcased their value, but there is still some untapped potential here.
31. Jarrod Parker
I’ll admit, the 25.6 LD% he threw up last year is dangerous territory, but Parker should continue to improve in 2013. His 9.9 SwStr% from 2012 portends a jump in K/9 (just 6.95 last year) and pitching in Oakland never hurts.
32. Ian Kennedy
When sipping on an IPK, there is always a bit of an ERA risk since he has a tendency to get lit up by the long ball (28 HRs allowed last year). Let’s face it, Chase Field isn’t the most ideal setting for a pitcher with his skill set. Yet because he can rack up a K/9 over eight while posting a tidy WHIP, Kennedy still has plenty of value.
33. Brandon Morrow
It seems as though Morrow is learning the art of pitching. In 2012, he lowered his walk rate (2.96 BB/9) and did a better job of keeping the ball in the park. However, one can argue that these improvements aren’t helping his fantasy value. Morrow lost some punch in the strikeout category last year with decreases in K/9 (7.8; career 9.63) and SwStr% (9.0; career 10.8). Couple that with the fact that he is always hurt (he’s never thrown 180 innings in his career), and it makes Morrow a bit of an enigma heading into 2013. If he can continue to make improvements while upping his whiff rate to his pre-2012 level, then he could be a bargain on draft day. Of course, he could always get hurt and/or continue to pitch to weak contact, which would keep him from reaching the lofty heights many thought he would attain.
34. Andrew Cashner
Even though he’s beginning the season on the DL thanks to offseason thumb surgery, Cashner could be back by the end of April and carries major upside. He averaged 97.7 mph on his fastball last year while showcasing elite strikeout ability (11.6 SwStr% and 10.1 K/9). Granted, that production came mostly out of the bullpen, but Cashner still has a lot of promise. He generated a lot of grounders in 2012 (53.3 GB%) and his 3.69 BB/9 wasn’t that bad for a rookie with such wild stuff. Bottom line, Cashner should miss plenty of bats and any improvements in his control will help make him a very valuable SP in fantasy this season.
35. Marco Estrada
Estrada doesn’t throw extremely hard (low 90s fastball), but he’s had a SwStr% over 10 the last three years while also showcasing pinpoint control (1.98 BB/9 in 2012). Because he’s a flyball pitcher at Miller Park, there is some risk that his ERA will creep above four. That being said, he’s shown the skill set to be a very effective fantasy pitcher and is worth taking in the top 40.
The “Relatively Safe” Squadron
Though the players here aren’t perfect, you at least have a pretty good idea of what you are getting yourself into with these players.
35. A.J. Burnett
He’s 36 years old and has seen his velocity go down in each of the last five seasons. Yet Burnett is somehow (impossibly) a reliable fantasy option. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage seemed to really reach Burnett as the righty cut down on the walks (2.76 BB/9), forced more ground balls, and still managed to post a good number of strikeouts (8.01 K/9). Pitching in the National League probably helped a great deal as well, but regardless, Burnett is as safe as he’s ever been for fantasy purposes.
36. Jeremy Hellickson
Hellickson proved to be a quality player for ERA and WHIP purposes last year, but some are holding out hope that his strikeout potential will improve as well. After all, he owned a 9.8 K/9 in the minors and possessed an impressive 9.7 SwStr% in 2011. That’s all well and good, but he’s rocked a mediocre 6.13 K/9 thus far in his big league career, so I’m in full-on “prove it to me mode” with Hellickson’s strikeout ability.
37. Mike Minor
After a slow start to the season, Minor did his thing in the second half (87.1 IP, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, and 1.65 BB/9). He posted a 10.0 K/9 in the minors, so there’s room for him to grow in the strikeout department. However, we’ve also seen Minor struggle mightily with the long ball, so he will really have to keep that under control all year for him to jump a tier or two in 2013.
38. Brett Anderson
A WHIP in the 1.18-1.22 range and ERA in the low 3.00s is probable for Anderson, who will be two years removed from Tommy John Surgery in June. Yet while Anderson will have value for his strong ratios, the meager strikeout totals limit his upside (6.89 K/9 in MLB career).
39. Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann’s calling card is his control (1.98 BB/9 last year), and that has allowed him to post small ERAs over the last two years (2.94 ERA last year; 3.18 in 2011). Like Anderson, Zimmermann’s downfall is his inability to miss a lot of bats.
The “Boom or Bust” Brigade
While there is certainly a fair amount of upside sitting in this tier, there is also a low floor that comes with each of these SPs.
40. Edwin Jackson
In 2012, Jackson put up some of his best numbers ever (12.2 SwStr%, 7.97 K/9, and 2.75 BB/9). However, the talented hurler has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. Since he’s sticking in the National League, I like the odds of him putting together another quality fantasy campaign. Then again, he could always go back to being the dude that is mad annoying to own.
41. Anibal Sanchez
A mid-3.00s ERA, 7.5-8.0 K/9, and 1.26-1.28 WHIP are solid expectations for Sanchez, but his injury-history and a full season in the American League could derail his 2013.
42. Ryan Vogelsong
He proved that 2011 wasn’t a fluke last year. Still, I can’t help but feel like he’s pitching over his head. Vogelsong owned a modest 7.3 SwStr% in 2012, which doesn’t jive with his 7.5 K/9. He also lost a tick on his fastball and is 35 years old. He’s been a pleasant surprise during this two year stretch in the bigs, but I’m not willing to bank on him being just as effective in year three.
43. Jake Peavy
Though Peavy pitched like a true workhorse in 2012, it’s hard to ignore the laundry list of injuries he’s suffered over the last few years. In fact, last season was the first time in five seasons that he pitched over 180 innings. If Peavy has really turned a corner with his health, then he’ll be a bargain as the 44th SP. It’s just as possible, however, that he ends up on the DL and ends up being a waste of a draft pick/auction dollers.
44. Matt Garza
Between the elbow issues, spike in HRs, and drop in SwStr%, Garza still managed to pitch well in an up and down 2012 season (8.33 K/9 and 2.78 BB/9). What’s nice about Garza is that he does everything stat nerds look for when determining quality starting pitchers: he limits the walks, strikes out a good number of people, and nets a solid number of grounders. Of course, because of everything I mentioned before, he isn’t a truly “safe” option. He's set to miss at least a month of action thanks to a lat injury. Still, I believe that when he is on the mound, he will remain an effective player.
45. Josh Beckett
The move from the AL East and Fenway Park to the NL West and Dodger Stadium is huge for Beckett’s bounce-back aspirations. Considering he still does a nice job of limiting walks and missed a lot of bats in 2012 (10.1 SwStr%), it’s reasonable to think that he’ll be far more productive in 2013 than he was in 2012. On the other hand, he’s also been rather injury-prone over the last three years and has seen his velocity take a dip. It’s virtually a 50/50 shot with Beckett, but it’s one worth taking if you can find a bargain.
The Forgettable Fanatics
The players below will be overlooked in some drafts/auctions, but they could carry some sneaky value at the right price.
46. Trevor Cahill
Over the last two or three years, I’ve considered Cahill a vastly overrated pitcher. This season, however, I’m feeling pretty good about the D-backs pitcher. His strikeout potential is looking up (career-best 9.3 SwStr% in 2012) and his batted profile is impressive (career 61.2 GB% and has never had a LD% of 19 percent).
47. Lance Lynn
Before falling apart, Lynn was pitching like an SP1 and finished the season with a strong 9.27 K/9 and 3.27 BB/9. The uptick in innings (he was mostly a reliever the year before) seemed to affect him and he ended up back in the bullpen after going through a brutal stretch. Lynn is the favorite for the fifth starter’s job in St. Louis and should at least start the season out really well. The question is, can his arm hold up all year and remain effective?
48. Alexi Ogando
He throws in the mid-90s and has had success as a starter before. You would’ve liked for him to put up better strikeout numbers as an SP in 2011 (modest 6.71 K/9), but he was still valuable for fantasy purposes (3.51 ERA). Of course, it’s possible transitioning back to starting won’t be as easy the second time and he could wind up struggling for parts of the year as he only pitched 63 innings in 2012. Plus, he’s a flyball pitcher who plays in Texas.
49. Hiroki Kuroda
Kuroda shit on all of his critics who thought the AL East and Yankee Stadium would eat him alive last year (3.32 ERA, 9.6 SwStr%, 2.09 BB/9, 18.2 LD%, and 52.3 GB%). He’s turning 38 in February and will be hard-pressed to repeat his 2012 success, but Kuroda also showed no real sign of slowing down in 2012.
The “Tough To Predict” Posse
These guys have all enjoyed fantasy success, but a variety of factors makes their 2013 value hard to nail down.
50. Tommy Hanson
The Braves told the baseball world that this guy was finished as an ace by trading him straight-up for inconsistent reliever Jordan Walden. Once an elite prospect with a world of promise, injuries have wrecked Hanson’s fantasy value. His troublesome shoulder ended up altering his delivery last year and his average fastball was a meager 89.7 mph. Hanson still rocked an 8.3 K/9 in 2012, but he’ll really need to prove his health in order to reach his previous star status. Fortunately, he’s only 26, so it’s a bit too early to write him off completely.
51. Homer Bailey
2012 was easily Bailey’s best as he saw career-highs in SwStr% (9.4), LD% (19.7), ERA (3.68), and WHIP (1.24). Still, the former top prospect has been a maddening performer in the bigs for a few years now and his continuing issues with the long ball (26 HRs allowed last year and plays at Great American Ballpark) are a concern.
52. Dan Haren
Even though Haren has pitched at least 30 games in each of the last eight seasons, he was avoided for a good chunk of the offseason because of health concerns with his back and hip. Fortunately, he landed in a great spot in Washington where he finds himself back in the National League. Sure his skills are eroding and his health may betray him, but I could see Haren putting together a solid fantasy season now that he’s back in the senior league.
53. C.J. Wilson
Wilson has been an effective arm over the last three years and is a solid source of whiffs (7.7 K/9 last year), but he is also a risky target. His LD% and HR/FB has gone up every year since his breakout 2010 season. His BB/9 also shot up to 4.05 last year, helping contribute to a 1.34 WHIP. If these trends continue, Wilson’s ERA will creep above four.
54. Aroldis Chapman
Chapman will probably be drafted as a top 40 SP in your league, but that’s a reach. For starters, he only pitched 71.2 innings in 2012, so the workload increase raises concern about how he’ll perform as the season drags on. Also keep in mind that Chapman went through some struggles last year when his fastball “fell” to 94-95, a velocity he may sit closer to as a full-time starter. Lastly, his control is terrible. His 52.9 F-Strike% last year was almost seven percent below the league average. He is a tremendous talent, but all of these factors keep him outside of the top 50 among SPs.
55. Jaime Garcia
After dealing with shoulder issues last year, surgery was recommended for the Cardinals pitcher. He opted to go the rehab route. Garcia is your classic “across the board” contributor in fantasy who has top 25 SP potential, but he carries a significant injury risk.
The “Say A Prayer” Playas
If you are rolling with any of the SPs in this tier, you are taking a leap of faith as certain things need to fall into place in order for these players to hold difference-making fantasy value.
56. Matt Harvey
Armed with a mid-90s fastball, Harvey dominated hitters in his 59.1 innings in the bigs last season (10.62 K/9 and 12.0 SwStr%). Yet while the Ks came in bunches, the walks creeped behind them (3.94 BB/9). When hitters weren’t swinging at air and actually made contact, they tended to do damage (24.7 LD%). Citi Field is great for his flyball approach, but if hitters start to figure him out, he could become waiver wire fodder.
57. Shelby Miller
The Cardinals prospect has elite strikeout potential (11.1 K/9 in minors) and should see time in the rotation at some point this season if only because Carpenter and/or Garcia will get hurt. His chief obstacle will be improving his command of the strike zone as he sometimes leaves too much over the plate and gets rocked as a result.
58. Jason Hammel
Hammel performed brilliantly in his first season in the AL East... when he was actually on the field. He pitched just 118 innings in 2012 and has never logged 180 frames in the majors. It’s a shame, because he was an asset in the strikeout department last year (9.9 SwStr% and 8.62 K/9) while also showcasing a terrific batted ball profile (18.7 LD% and 53.2 GB%). Fingers crossed that he stays off the trainer’s table in 2013.
59. Chad Billingsley
The glut of starters in the LA rotation means that it’s possible Billingsley won’t even be a starter at the beginning of the season, even if he is healthy. And his health is no guarantee. Billingsley currently has a partially torn ligament in his elbow and is a candidate for Tommy John Surgery, but he will try to see if he can pitch through it in 2013. Despite the fact that Billingsley posted a career-best 2.71 BB/9 in 2012 and is a good bet for a K/9 in the 7.2-7.6 range, it’s clear that you are assuming a considerable amount of risk if you roster him.
60. Ryan Dempster
Two words came to mind when it was first reported that the Red Sox had signed Dempster: John Lackey. “The Lackness” came to Boston with terrible numbers at Fenway Park and diminishing stuff... we all know how that turned out. Dempster was atrocious with Texas last year (69 IP, 5.09 ERA, and 1.43 WHIP) and averaged a career-low 89.7 mph on his fastball. He shouldn’t be nearly as bad as Lackey since he still has swing-and-miss stuff (10.4 SwStr% last year), but Dempster should allow a lot more HRs in the AL East than he did in the NL Central, so the days of him netting mid-3.00s ERAs are over.
61. Andy Pettitte
It was honestly remarkable what Andy Pettitte was able to do in 2012. After taking a year off, he not only came back strong, but he registered some of the best numbers of his career (8.24 K/9, 2.51 BB/9, 9.6 SwStr%, 14.9 LD%, and 56.3 GB%). Like some of the other starters in this tier, however, health is concern. He only pitched 75 innings last season and turns 41 in June.
The SP3 Hopefuls
Let’s face it, these guys aren’t aces in fantasy or reality, but they possess enough talent to rise to SP3 territory if it all breaks right in 2013.
62. Hisashi Iwakuma
With the potential to provide across-the-board production in Safeco Field, Iwakuma is an overlooked option who will come cheap on draft/auction day.
63. Jon Niese
Even though his SwStr% has gone down each of the last two seasons (7.8 in 2012), the southpaw still posted a solid 7.33 K/9 last year. His low walk rate (2.32 BB/9 in 2012) and home park help his chances of notching an ERA under four.
64. Wei-Yin Chen
Chen is another all-around fantasy contributor who isn’t spectacular at anything in particular. One thing to keep an eye on is the long ball (29 HRs allowed last year and AL East parks are launching pads).
65. Felix Doubront
Showcasing plus-strikeout ability (9.34 K/9 in 2012), Doubront was a nice surprise for the Red Sox. Unfortunately, his control was spotty last year (3.97 BB/9) and when hitters made contact against him, they did quite a bit of damage (23.4 LD% and 24 HRs allowed). Time will tell if he will be the poor man’s Jon Lester of 2010, or just shitty Jon Lester from last year.
66. Francisco Liriano
Liriano can still miss a ton of bats (9.59 K/9 and insane 13.2 SwStr% in 2012), but the walk rate has reached ridiculous levels. Yet despite the horrid control, he inked a two-year deal with Pittsburgh and the Pirates are hoping pitching coach Ray Searage can pull another A.J. Burnett out of his ass. Despite having an ERA over five the last two seasons, Liriano’s talent makes him (still, sadly) worth drafting in most leagues.
67. Doug Fister
While Fister was able to post a career-best 7.63 K/9 in 2012, he’s pitched over 180 innings once in his pro career. If he found a way to stay healthy, his newfound K rate would pair nicely with his career 1.78 BB/9 and quality ratios.
68. Derek Holland
If I told you that there was a left-handed pitcher who averaged 93 mph on his fastball last year while sporting a career-best 2.67 BB/9 and 16.8 LD% in 2012 (while also owning a K/9 over 7.35 the last two years), would you be interested? Fuck yes you would. That is the allure with Holland. Unfortunately, he mixes those nice peripherals with sloppy pitching performances. Holland falls behind on counts often, so even though he doesn’t walk a lot of dudes, he does feed them pitches that catch too much of the plate. That leads to too much contact, more HRs (32 last year), and a career 4.71 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. The talent is obviously there, but it remains to be seen if he can finally break out this year.
69. James McDonald
110 IP, 2.37 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 8.2 K/9... these are the numbers McDonald put up in the first half of the season. After the All Star break, he was so bad that he had to be removed from the rotation in September (61 IP, 7.52 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 7.5 K/9). McDonald has always had potential, but inconsistency has plagued him throughout his career.
The “Hold It Down” Hooligans
There is no shortage of good walk rates in this group, which means that these guys all stand a good chance of providing useful fantasy production while keeping your WHIP in nice condition.
70. Mike Fiers
An 8.3 SwStr% and 88.1 average fastball don’t exactly scream whiff machine, but that’s what Fiers came away with in 2012. He won’t strike out over a batter per inning again. In fact, his K/9 might even fall below eight. Fiers also posted some shady advanced stats last year (28.2 LD% and a very lucky 8.6 HR/FB for a soft-throwing, flyball pitcher at Miller Park). However, he did a good job of keeping hitters guessing and if he posts a K/9 over seven, Fiers could crack the top 40 (among SPs).
71. Drew Smyly
Smyly is competing with Rick Porcello for the fifth starter’s gig, which means that Smyly will be Detroit’s fifth starter. He threw up some really impressive numbers in his rookie season (8.52 K/9, 2.99 BB/9, 18.9 LD%) and killed it in his minor league career (9.7 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9). There’s definitely some upside here.
72. Brandon McCarthy
McCarthy’s move to the NL is negated by the fact that he’s going from O.co Coliseum to hitter-friendly Chase Field. Still, McCarthy’s game translates well to any league or park. He should once again post a tidy ERA and WHIP... with terrible strikeout production (5.92 K/9 in 2012).
73. Tim Hudson
Even though he’s 37 years old and sees fewer strikeouts than me at a sorority house (5.13 K/9 last year), Hudson still looks capable of keeping an ERA in the 3.6-3.8 range with a 1.15-1.20 WHIP.
74. Phil Hughes
Hughes may open the season on the DL if his wonky back doesn't heal up, but he's an interesting pitcher for 2013. If he can just rein in the HRs (35 last year), Hughes could be a very useful fantasy SP. He posted a career-best 2.19 BB/9 and struck out 7.76 per nine last year. Still only 26, there is room for Hughes to grow and what better time to make strides than in a walk year.
75. Kyle Lohse
He took forever to sign, but Lohse’s game should travel with him to Milwaukee. He won’t pinch you off a Lohse in the strikeout department (6.1 K/9 last year), but he walks few batters, limits the long ball, and puts fantasy owners in a position to help their ERA and WHIP.
76. Juan Nicasio
Nicasio has a habit of getting hit too hard (24.7 LD% in 2012), but he’s also capable of twirling a K/9 over eight and BB/9 under 2.5. He throws pretty hard and his stuff overall is pretty damn good.
77. Gerrit Cole
He has not even pitched in the majors yet, but Cole looks like the real deal. In his first professional season, Cole cruised from Single-A to Triple-A while enjoying some sweet numbers (2.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9). I’m not expecting him to break camp with the big league club, but by mid-May you should expect to see him up with the Pirates. With his mid-90s fastball, wipeout slider, and ground ball tendencies, Cole should at least hold his own at the MLB level.
78. Jacob Turner
The Marlins’ rotation sucks, so Turner should wind up pitching in the bigs sooner rather than later. After coming over from the Tigers, Turner put together some very good numbers in seven starts with Miami (42.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 6.12 K/9, 1.9 BB/9). His strikeout totals figure to increase as well since his SwStr% sat at a healthy 9.6 percent. He turned in a 2.26 BB/9 in 2012, so if he can up his strikeout totals, we could be looking at a high-profit draft day investment. Pitching in Miami’s big ballpark (and in the National League) doesn’t hurt either.
79. Shaun Marcum
Citi Field is a good landing spot for Marcum and he should perform well there. In the last three years, Marcum has registered a K/9 of at least seven while also notching a SwStr% above 10 percent. Unfortunately, health has been an issue throughout his career as he has just one 200 inning season to his name. He even took a break early in Spring Training to strengthen his shoulder. Not a good sign.
The “Peripheral” Pariahs
The peripheral statistics say that these guys are capable of being valuable fantasy contributors, but first they have to show that their underlying talents will (finally) translate into fantasy success.
80. Edinson Volquez
His control is laughable (5.19 BB/9 in 2012), yet because he pitches in Petco Park and misses a lot of bats (10.1 SwStr% and 8.57 K/9 last year), Volquez still holds value. Plus, there’s always the hope that he brings his walk rate down just enough to make his ratios semi-tolerable.
81. Bud Norris
Like Volquez, Norris can strike out his share of hitters. The Astros pitcher even has a much lower walk rate than his San Diego counterpart (3.53 BB/9 in 2012). However, Norris isn’t pitching at Petco, so his flyball tendencies get exposed in Minute Maid Park (23 HRs in 168 innings last year).
82. Gavin Floyd
As if owning a dude named Gavin wasn’t bad enough, you also have to contend with the fact that he has just one sub-4.00 ERA season and experienced elbow trouble last year. His seven-plus K/9 ability and batted ball profile keeps him relevant, however.
83. Jeff Niemann
Niemann made an impact in his 38 innings of play at the end of last season (3.08 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, 2.84 BB/9). However, there are glaring concerns over his lengthy injury history and the Rays’ deep well of starting pitching.
84. Johan Santana
Injuries and velocity loss have hurt Santana over the last two years, but his changeup is still chock full of swing-and-miss goodness (11.6 SwStr% in 2012). Citi Field is the perfect place to cover up his flaws as a flyball pitcher and it sounds like the Mets will be smarter about keeping an eye on his workload to keep him fresh all year. Sure he may not pitch 220 innings, but 180-195 “more productive” frames is a fair trade-off for a smaller workload.
The “Fatal Flaw” Finaglers
You’ve seen these arms enjoy success before, but they’re obviously sitting relatively low in the rankings because there’s something we just can’t trust about them.
85. A.J. Griffin
Griffin should sport a solid WHIP again (2.06 BB/9 in 2012), but the soft-tosser allows way too much hard contact (pause). His K/9 could also fall below seven.
86. Paul Maholm
A ground ball coaxer who has posted ERAs under 3.7 the last two years, Maholm holds some value. That said, he averaged just 87.4 mph on his fastball last year, generates meager strikeout totals, and could conceivably fall off the map at any point because his stuff is so hittable.
87. Corey Kluber
Kluber Lang showed promise as a strikeout artist last year (10.7 Swstr%), but like Maholm and Griffin, his pitches are easy for big leaguers to mash. Fortunately, he has four offerings, so there’s hope he can improve and learn the art of keeping hitters off balance.
88. Dan Straily
In the hitter-happy PCL last year, Straily was remarkable (2.03 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.07 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, .170 BAA). Unfortunately, there is no room in Oakland’s rotation at the moment. Plus, when Straily did get a big league shot in 2012, he gave up way too many whoppers (11 HRs in 39.1 innings).
89. Clay Buchholz
Manager John Farrell is already working on pitching adjustments with Buchholz, but he may be past saving. Not only has his velocity and SwStr% gone down each of the last two years, but his struggles to stay on the field also hurt his value.
90. Colby Lewis
When healthy, Lewis proved to be a player you could pencil in for a K/9 of at least 7.5 and a microscopic walk rate (1.2 BB/9 in 2012). However, coming off elbow surgery, he may be out until the All Star break and is a risky play who will be taking up a valuable roster spot in the beginning of the season.
91. Brandon Beachy
Your boy Stat Bundles was high on Beachy coming into the 2012 season, but I have little faith in him having an impact in 2013. He’s coming off Tommy John Surgery and hopes to return at some point in June. Considering he had the procedure performed just seven months ago, you can’t expect him to perform anywhere close to the level he was at last year.
The “So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance” Conglomerate
There is talent up and down this tier. However, a range of circumstances makes it impossible to waste serious auction money or a mid-round draft pick on any of these mugs. That said, they all have a shot at outplaying their draft day value.
92. Ivan Nova
When Nova has been successful, he’s been a GB machine who strikes out few hitters. While he showed some promising strikeout ability last year, he also gave up way more flyballs and HRs as a result. You’d like to believe a reliable fantasy pitcher is somewhere between the two extremes, but that’s wishful thinking.
93. Franklin Morales
Morales rocked an impressive 10.7 SwStr% in 2012, but the oft-injured hurler has never pitched a full season as a starter.
94. Dylan Bundy
Yes, you can indeed get a “Whooooooaaaa Bundy!” This is a once-in-a-generation talent who has the makeup to have an immediate impact in the bigs. Unfortunately, he still needs to build his innings up, so he might not pitch in September. You have to hope he lands in Baltimore early in the year in order to maximize his fantasy value.
95. Hyun-Jin Ryu
The big lefty has a low-90s heater and quality changeup, but the shorter seasons in the Korean leagues, coupled with the transition to facing big-league hitters, is a tall order for Ryu to tackle.
96. Hector Santiago
The walk rate (5.12 BB/9) and small workload in 2012 (85 innings) are obstacles Santiago will have to overcome to be a trustworthy fantasy option. However, his strikeout potential is alluring (10.11 K/9).
97. Chris Tillman
A former top prospect, Tillman’s off-speed stuff developed nicely last year and another step in the right direction could make him a useful fantasy SP.
98. Joe Blanton
Blanton’s peripherals (particularly his strikeout and walk rate) always look sharp, but he hasn’t twirled an ERA under 4.7 since 2009. The advanced stats lover in me holds out hope, but sometimes pitchers just suck.
99. Ricky Romero
Injuries may be starting to unravel his MLB career, but here’s hoping that Romero can stay healthy in 2013 and go back to being a solid all-around fantasy SP.
100. Trevor Bauer
The D-backs quickly soured on the former top prospect, mostly because of his refusal to stop his exhausting pre-game throwing ritual. Arizona worried that it wore him out and would shorten his MLB career, but the Indians are willing to let him go about his business. Bauer has posted elite strikeout rates in the minors, but control has always been an issue and many believe he may be better suited for a relief role.
101. Wade Davis
The move to KC and the AL Central gives his value a boost, but it should be noted that the improvement in velocity and strikeout rate that Davis saw last year was the function of him being used out of the bullpen. Now that he’s a starter again, his effectiveness should fall back to earth.
102. Wandy Rodriguez
Though on the tail end of his career, Rodriguez is crafty enough to potentially adjust to his dwindling strikeout numbers (he dropped his BB/9 to 2.43 in 2012). Of course, without the help in whiffs, he becomes a much more middling fantasy option.
103. Jose Fernandez
Fernandez has yet to throw in AAA, but has enjoyed a brilliant minor league career to date (10.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9). Miami’s rotation is light on impact starters, so it’s feasible that the hard-thrower will be up in the bigs at some point in 2013.
104. Robbie Erlin
When Erlin hits the bigs, the fantasy impact should be immediate. He has an elite 10.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in his minor league career and would be pitching at Petco Park. And lord knows the Pads need rotation help. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of injury risk here as he dealt with elbow tendinitis in 2012. He also has yet to pitch at AAA.
105. Mark Rogers
A former top prospect who has battled injuries throughout his career, Rogers showed promise last year with the Brewers (10.3 SwStr% and 9.33 K/9 in 41 innings). He needs to reel in the walks (career 5.7 BB/9 in minors) and is no lock for a rotation spot on Opening Day, but the upside is there.
The “Staff Filling” Society
Hey, not every player in your pitching staff is brimming with upside. Sometimes, you have to take the boring player who will eat innings while keeping your rotation afloat in the back-end.
106. Tommy Milone
The soft-thrower has a tendency to get rocked, but his pinpoint control and big home park allow him to be of use in ERA and WHIP.
107. Alex Cobb
Cobb is a ground ball pitcher with some strikeout upside (9.54 K/9 between AA and AAA), but if he becomes a reliable fantasy pitcher, it’ll be because his GB rates keep his ERA and WHIP in solid condition.
108. Wade Miley
Though some may say this is too low of a ranking for Miley, the numbers say otherwise. Yes his control is impeccable (1.71 BB/9 in 2012). Yet he’s just as hittable as Tommy Milone, but with a smaller home park (and he was lucky to escape last season with a regression-worthy 6.9 HR/FB). His walk rate means he’ll probably have some value, but expect a drop off from his 2012 production.
109. Jorge De La Rosa
He’ll be fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery by the time April arrives and De La Rosa does possess eight-plus K/9 ability. Unfortunately, he walks way too many batters and Coors Field has never been kind to him (career 5.18 ERA there). He’s great for Ks, but make sure you have a lot of ERA/WHIP help to compensate for De La Rosa’s shortcomings.
110. Carlos Villanueva
In 92 innings as a starter last year, Villanueva put up some quality numbers (8.41 K/9 and 2.45 BB/9). The move to the NL is a boost, but it’s always possible that the career swingman winds up in the bullpen with the Cubs.
111. Chris Capuano
While Capuano posted some solid numbers overall in 2012, he fell apart after the All Star break (4.76 ERA and 1.30 WHIP) and has a long injury rap sheet.
112. Miguel Gonzalez
There were some flashes of brilliance for Gonzalez last year, and the fact that the righty handled lefties so well (8.72 K/9 vs. LHB) offers hope that he can be a useful fantasy pitcher. Of course, the come-out-of-nowhere former Mexican Leaguer could always just go back to nowhere with some poor performances.
113. Lucas Harrell
Harrell posted a 2.87 ERA over his last 15 starts thanks in large part to his ground ball tendencies. Yet he has an uphill battle to climb as the Astros are now in the American League.
114. Ross Detwiler
A forgotten man in Washington’s star-studded rotation, Detwiler quietly posted an ERA under 3.5 the last two years while inducing plenty of weak contact (16.4 LD% and 50.8 GB% in 2012). He does nothing for you in regards to strikeouts, but the ratios should be nice.
The “I Guess I Have To” Settlers
You don’t really want what is in this tier, but at this stage of the draft, these are the best available players in terms of season-long fantasy value.
115. Mark Buehrle
You have to be worried about his move to the AL East. His tiny walk rate (1.78 last year) gets him on this list, but his ERA could rise above four.
116. Randall Delgado
Delgado had good strikeout rates in the minors and earned a 50.2 GB% last year, but he has to reel in the walks if he wants to rise up the fantasy ranks (4.12 BB/9 in 2012).
117. Matt Harrison
Strikeouts? Go find those somewhere else (5.61 K/9 in 2012). He walks few hitters and nets a solid number of grounders, but you can’t really get that excited about owning Matt Harrison.
118. Wily Peralta
Averaging 95.5 mph on his fastball last year in the bigs, Peralta has some strikeout potential (9.3 K/9 in minors), but he also possesses weak secondary offerings and walks too many batters (4.0 BB/9 in minors). Some upside, but not enough to even call him a deep sleeper. Maybe a pit sleeper.
119. Scott Baker
He’s never pitched 180 innings in an MLB season and had Tommy John Surgery in April 2012. He’s a quality strikeout/WHIP asset when healthy, but you can’t trust that he’ll be productive in 2013.
120. Bartolo Colon
He turns 40 in May. He posted a meager 5.39 K/9 in 2012. He’s still really, really fat. And yet, here he is on this list thanks to some tight-ass control and a friendly home park.
121. Bronson Arroyo
I’ve never owned Arroyo and I never will, but what he lacks in total fucking lack of upside, he makes up for in reliability. An ERA under four in three of the last four years? A 1.56 BB/9 last year? The man holds some semblance of value.
122. Jason Vargas
Vargas BARELY squeaked in here. He doesn’t get you any strikeouts and will probably sport an ERA over four, but he should keep his WHIP in useful territory.
The “Prove It” Wrecking Crew
There is no shortage pro success with this bunch. Unfortunately, they all have to prove to fantasy owners that they can be counted on for regular playing time. They also have to prove to me, personally, that they are worth writing about. Good luck gentlemen.
123. Scott Kazmir
124. David Phelps
125. Scott Diamond
126. Zack Wheeler
127. Rubby de la Rosa
128. Tyler Thornburg
129. Kyle Gibson
130. Chris Archer
131. Vance Worley
132. Danny Hultzen
133. Julio Teheran
134. Brad Peacock
*Last updated 3/26/13.