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Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: BEWARE THOSE STARTERS WHO LOVE THE SLIDER

In looking ahead to 2014 fantasy baseball drafts, we once again take a look at a class of starting pitcher who presents some sizable risk based on the simple fact they all love to throw sliders.  It is bad enough that throwing a fastball at 95-plus mph is an extremely unnatural act for the human body's arm but that notion ratchets up even more when the slider is introduced.  While the use of the slider has increased during this era of pitching dominance, there has been a historically high rate of injury for those who tend to throw the pitch more than 20 percent of the time.  While we can never predict injuries, we can put a red flag label on those starters who favor the slider as a tool to break ties in comparable pitchers in a draft and as a means to put as little risk as possible onto your roster this season.  So with that said let's take a look at the key fantasy baseball starters who do throw the slider more than 20 percent of the time base don last season's stats.

1.  Francisco Liriano (36.3 %):  Liriano found new life in Pittsburgh in what we could almost label a dominant season as moving to the National League was just what the fantasy baseball doctor ordered.  However a more than 36 percent dependability on the slider is an extremely big red flag.  The fact of the matter though is that Liriano is still a nicely priced commodity given how many people he has burned in the past so the risk is not tremendous  as far as going bust with a pick.  Remember though there is a Tommy John surgery in his past.

2.  Yu Darvish (31.6 %):  This one is a bit scary since Darvish will go as high as a late second round pick in drafts.  Putting up by far the best K rate in the majors last season, Darvish was beyond dominant at times.  However in pricing Darvish against someone like the always durable Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner, and Felix Hernandez, you may want to go with the latter three if you had to make a choice.

3.  John Lackey (30%):  Lackey is no stranger to injury and it took a few years for him to finally become a useful pitcher again.  He could just as easily slide back this season given his heavy usage of sliders.  A guy to avoid.

4.  Ricky Nolasco (27.1%):  Nolasco has been very durable in his career so maybe there is not much to fret about here and the draft price will be cheap as well since no one trusts the guy.  As an SP 5 yu can look past this.

5.  Justin Masterson (26.6%):  Masterson came out of nowhere like Liriano last season to pitch like a near-ace while vastly improving his K rate.  The use of the slider is what allowed Masterson to boost his strikeouts so there is some volatility here.  I have never been a fan and his 2013 season didn't sway me at all as far as being moved to draft him in 2014.  This cements my leery nature surrounding the guy.

6.  Ubaldo Jimenez (25%):  Jimenez is no stranger to elbow issues and like Masterson, it was his increased use of the slider that got him back to being a very good fantasy baseball pitcher last season.  If Jimenez stays in the American League (he is still unsigned as of this writing) than I would absolutely avoid him at all costs.  If he signs in the National League, I will look past this since his draft price should be cheap enough.

7.  Jhoulys Chacin (23.5%):  The trend on this list are guys who shocked with very solid 2013 seasons and Chacin is no doubt a part of that group.  With limited K stuff, Chacin is a marginal fantasy baseball pitcher anyway so I wasn't buying no matter what his slider habits are.

8.  Patrick Corbin (23%):  Corbin upped his K rate as the season went on in 2013 and like the rest of the guys on this list, it was through his use of the slider.  There will be some regression this season in Corbin's numbers anyway and the increased risk of injury make him another guy you should avoid.  Leave him alone this season.

There you have it.  I am not saying to avoid all of these guys but overall you need to keep these trends in mind so that you have a firm idea on all the issues surrounding pitchers this season.

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