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Monday, February 9, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: JAMES SHIELDS SP SAN DIEGO PADRES

It took awhile but James Shields finally found a new home late Sunday night and it was as good a spot as he could have found when it came to ballpark positives for a pitcher.  I am referring of course to Shields agreeing to a four-year deal with the San Diego Padres who continued with their massive roster overhaul during the Hot Stove Season.  The move is one that alters the original outlook on Shields as a fantasy baseball pitcher for 2015 as Petco Park is the number 1 place for a starter to succeed given its vast dimensions and that will help the veteran hold off on some erosion that showed up in 2014.  With that said let's dig in and find out where Shields could be going for 2015 fantasy baseball. 

Prior to Shields signing with the Padres, yours truly expressed openly some reservations about the direction he was headed in based on hos overall numbers in 2014.  One of the most durable pitchers in the game, last season saw Shields toss 200-plus innings for the eighth year in a row.  That is a massive workload and a ton of pitches thrown which eventually catches up to any pitcher no matter how good he is.  We have seen this clearly in the erosion of former top aces Dan Haren, C.C. Sabbathia, and Justin Verlander to name a few big-name guys.  As ace pitcher in his own right, 2014 showed some signs that maybe Shields was started to lose some bit on his throws.  Now the 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP Shields logged last season no doubt were excellent and helped him supply the value expected of his draft price on those fronts.  However when you dug a bit deeper, you could see the signs that were somewhat concerning.  Primarily speaking, Shields saw his K Rate and strikeout total drop for the fourth year in a row in 2014.  Starting in 2011, Shields' strikeouts have read 225, 223, 196, and 180.  That is a firm drop no matter how you slice it.  In addition, Shields' batting average against went up for the fourth season in a row as well.  So surely one can guess that all of his pitches are starting to take some toll on his arm. 

However despite the noticeable drops, Shields signing with the Padres changes the narrative there more than a little.  For one, Shields' biggest career struggle has been giving up home runs as his unparalleled control keeps the baseball around the strike zone.  Going to Petco Park is the best place for Shields to remedy that struggle and we saw this first hand with Ian Kennedy last season as he turned in his best season ever as a professional in shooting past the 200-K mark for the first time in his career while lowering his ERA sharply from his Arizona days.  Kennedy was constantly let down by the home run tendencies of Chase Field in Arizona and almost immediately saw his ratios drop sharply and his K rate rise rapidly after arriving in San Diego.  We could surely see the same thing happen with Shields in 2015 as his K rate no doubt will go up in his first go-round in the National League and in Petco Park of all places.  In addition, Shields could post his best ERA ever this season now that he will not be giving up as many home runs and will get to feast on the weaker NL lineups.  With his control still impeccable, Shields is set to possibly have his best season ever.

Clearly the move to San Diego drastically changes the outlook for James Shields in 2015.  He remains one of the most affordable ace pitchers in fantasy baseball and is worth every penny he will cost this season without a doubt.  A career season could be on tap.

2015 PROJECTION:  17-7 3.16 ERA 1.15 WHIP 198 K

 

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