Sunday, February 8, 2015


We are up to the deepest position in fantasy baseball as we continue our first look at the rankings for 2015.  I of course am referring to starting pitching which is in incredible abundance.  Remember not to take your first starter until at least Round 5.  How about these values from 2014 that were either very late round picks or even waiver fodder?  Corey Kluber, Tyson Ross, Scott Kazmir, Jacob DeGrom, and on and on it goes. 

1.  Clayton Kershaw:  Duh.  Could go down as one of the best ever.  Just needs to figure out how to pitch in postseason. 
2.  Max Scherzer:  Still hasn't signed as of this writing but Scherzer's high K rate, very low hit rate, and declining walk rate make him a star no matter where he pitches. 
3.  Felix Hernandez:  Few noticed that Hernandez had arguably his best overall season in 2014 which is saying something considering how dominant he has been since coming into the majors at 19.  As durable as a starter can be which counts for extra.
4.  David Price:  Huge strikeout explosion last season could be an outlier but overall Price is fully back after a somewhat rough 2013 campaign impacted by injuries. 
5.  Madison Bumgarner:  Insane amount of innings last season has to be at least somewhat of a worry but Bumgarner is a guy I was raving about well before anyone else.  Draft price finally has caught up to his actual value thanks to the World Series. 
6.  Yu Darvish:  Might have to drop Darvish down some due to more injury questions during the winter.  Still if healthy Darvish will lead baseball in strikeouts. 
7.  Stephen Strasburg:  Showed some nice durability last season but wonky delivery remains a threat to his health.  Strikeouts off the charts as usual but hit rate and ERA rose a bit in 2014. 
8.  Chris Sale:  Amazing how good this guy is.  On stuff along only Clayton Kershaw is better but Sale's elbow is a ticking time bomb.  Always tread carefully here.
9.  Johnny Cueto:  Talk about a career season.  Cueto had a David Price-like strikeout explosion in 2014 which has to be taken somewhat with a grain of salt.  Otherwise the low ERA and WHIP were right on par for a guy who just doesn't get his due as an ace starter.
10. Adam Wainwright:  AVOID!  Wainwright complained of elbow trouble last September and in the playoffs.  Last time we experienced something similar, Tommy John surgery followed the next spring training.  Massive inning totals starting to take effect.
11. Zack Greinke:  One of my all-time favorites as my habitual readers now.  The guy has just never not provided a valuable season.  After a one-year dip, Grienke shot his K's back up above the 200 mark in 2015.  One of the best priced aces around.
12. Jon Lester:  Amazing how great Lester pitched in the American League last season, with four of those months with the Red Sox in the rough AL East.  Now takes his 220-plus K's to Chicago and the National League.  This could be sweet.
13. Corey Kluber:  Told you all to keep a late round pick for the guy who would go on to win the AL Cy Young.  Wow what a season.  The strikeouts are completely legit as Kluber was a beast there in the minors leagues and he also supplied tidy ratios as well.  2014 is the best case scenario so a bit of a regression could occur but Kluber is at least an SP 2.
14. Matt Harvey:  Harvey will be 18 months since Tommy John surgery when he gets back into action in April which is more time than usual for those who have undergone the surgery.  That bodes well for a massive comeback to ace territory.  Buy in fully. 
15. Julio Teheran:  While he may not strike out as many batters as some of the guys listed above, Teheran is as tough to hit as anyone.  Ratios are crazy good and he could even get better.
16. Cole Hamels:  Another one of my favorites who always comes cheaper than he should.  Hamels typically starts slow which annually presents a buy low opportunity like yours truly invested in last season.  Remains in his prime with his 20-K stuff. 
17. Jordan Zimmerman:  On and on it goes for one of the most underappreciated pitchers in the business.  Check out the ERA's and WHIP's the last five seasons.  Incredible stuff despite not having immense strikeout ability. 
18. Tyson Ross:  Another massive value play from last season.  Ross would have been a Cy Young candidate on a winning team.  The Padres have vastly improved this offseason so Ross could ascend fully to 200-K ace. 
19. Sonny Gray:  Legit ace in the making, Gray is one of the better young starters to come down the pike in awhile.  Very polished and possessing good control, Gray could even be better in 2015.
20. Gio Gonzalez:  Tough call between Gio and Jacob DeGrom but going on loner track record with this pick.  Gonzalez has already proven he can strike out 200 with a low-3.00 ERA which is pretty much what we look for in an ace starter.
21. Jacob DeGrom:  We are not into SP 2's which pretty much began with Gio Gonzalez.  DeGrom was an absolute shocker to anyone last season as he was not considered a top prospect.  However Tommy John surgery added miles to his impressive fastball and so the signs were there.  While we can't fully buy into the total 201 stat package, DeGrom should be able to at least be a high-end SP 3.  We just worry about the inflated draft price.
22. Gerrit Cole:  Stops and start here as Cole has been rough the first half the last two seasons but shined in the second.  He is still refining himself as a pitcher and the strikeout explosion is only a matter of time.  The cheaper draft price for 2015 makes him even more of a great buy.  Trust the stuff and be aggressive here.
23. Jeff Samardzjia:  Not liking too much the fact Samardzjia has gone from the NL Central to a prime pitching ballpark in Oakland to a big-time power park in Chicago with the White Sox.  Would have graded Samardzjia as an ace if he stayed with Oakland but he moves to an SP 2 due to an upcoming slight increase in his ratios. 
24. Alex Cobb:  When on a mound, Alex Cobb has pitched like an ace over the last two seasons.  But geez those injuries. 
25. James Shields:  All those years of heavy usage are leaking into Shields' numbers in a negative way.  He is losing some velocity and the K rate is falling sharply.  While I have been a huge proponent of Shields over the years, he could be starting to go the way of Dan Haren, C.C. Sabbathia, Justin Verlander, and Matt Cain. 
26. Lance Lynn:  Finally put a complete season together which was the last hurdle for Lynn to reach high-end SP 2 territory. 
27. Doug Fister:  Love this guy.  Fister's ERA and WHIP over the last four seasons has been exemplary despite not having 200-K stuff.  Will now get to take full advantage of his new home in Washington with full health. 
28. Michael Wacha:  My how the narrative has changed quickly here.  Wacha suffered the dreaded shoulder injury midway through 2014 when he was pitching like an ace.  From that point on his velocity was down, hit rate way up, K rate way down, and numbers that were ugly.  Shoulder issues tend to reoccur so I am staying away. 
29. Jose Fernandez:  Could be back by the end of May.  If healthy Fernandez is a top five pitcher easy.  The success rate coming back from TJ surgery is very high so even four months of Fernandez could be terrific.
30. Anibal Sanchez:  Yeah he too always gets hurt but Sanchez has firmly settled in as a low-end SOP 2 with a stingy hit rate and high output. 
31. Hisashi Iwakuma:  Last year's ERA was more in line with who Iwakuma is than in 2013 but that still means he is a solid SP 2. 
32. Phil Hughes:  Told you all to buy into a comeback season for Hughes last season in finally getting out of Yankee Stadium where his penchant for home runs ruined his bottom line numbers.  I didn't think Hughes would be that great as he was pitching like an ace most of the year.  Back in Minnesota and their giant ballpark for 2015, Hughes should be fully trusted as an SP 2.
33. Homer Bailey:  This guy continues to drive us all nuts but he finished 2014 strong. 
34. Ian Kennedy:  Just like with Hughes, Ian Kennedy getting out of Chase Field in Arizona was all he needed to sail back near ace territory.  Another 200 K's is likely but the draft price is back up.
35. Hyun-Jin Ryu:  The Korean veteran continues to battle injuries but the ratios are always good when on the mound. 
36. Masahiro Tanaka:  Major risk here obviously as Tanaka could blow out at any time as he pitches with a partially torn UCL.  He didn't look great when he came back at the end of 2014 either so try and put the first half of last season behind you. 
37. Alex Wood:  The Atlanta Braves screwed up in sending Wood to the bullpen early last season but when in the rotation, he was incredible.  Love the upside here.  I am buying heavily. 
38. Zach Wheeler:  Wheeler fought through ongoing control problems and poor pitch efficiency to finally break through over the last summer.  Upwards we go. 
39. Cliff Lee:  Fading.  Lee got hurt last season and his hit rate continues to go up as he loses velocity.  Move on unless you get a sweet price. 
40. Matt Cain:  Another one who is fading but Cain is doing it prematurely due to ridiculous innings totals at such a young age.  What was once an ace arm is now becoming ordinary. 
41. Francisco Liriano:  Has been quietly terrific the last two seasons and smartly re-signed with the Pirates which makes him as trustworthy as he ever has been. 
42. Marcus Stroman:  This will be as cheap as Stroman will come for the next five years is my prediction.  This kid is going to be a star as he is blessed with rare top control for a young pitcher and strikeout stuff that could encroach 200 soon.  Big aggressively. 
43. Andrew Cashner:  If only he could figure out a way to stay healthy, Cashner would be a top-end SP 2 and maybe even threaten ace status.  He has been that good when on the mound the last two seasons.  The strikeout stuff is potent but Cashner became a better overall pitcher when he pitched more to contact.  Of course you also got to love the ballpark.  The cheaper than it should draft price make this a win-win.
44. Scott Kazmir:  Shocked me by staying healthy for pretty much the entire 2014 season.  The strikeouts are down as Kazmir is no longer firing 97-mph fastballs as consistently as he did as a kid with Tampa Bay.  Still in Oakland Kazmir will continue to serve as a very solid SP 3 but the injury threat remains. 
45. Jered Weaver:  Got to hand it to Weaver.  I have dumped on the guy heavily the last three seaosns and correctly so as Weaver failed to figure out he couldn't throw 95 or even 90 anymore.  He finally gave in last season in using his secondary stuff heavily which enabled him to reclaim solid SP 3 status.  160 K's is the ceiling there however. 
46. Jake Peavy:  Love the fact Peavy re-signed with the San Francisco Giants as he can be a terrific value there.  Peavy was very good after coming over in a trade in the middle of last season and his high home run rate was never a good fit in Boston or Chicago but plays great in San Francisco.  Take advantage. 
47. Mat Latos:  Latos was already a very good SP 2 with the Cincinnati Reds in playing in a prime home run ballpark and now he gets a trade to Miami where he gets a top-end ballpark to operate in.  We have to worry about injuries here though as Latos was not right all of last season and in December has surgery on his elbow to remove cartilage which is scary.  Tread carefully. 
48. Chris Archer:  Has quietly been very good the last two years as the latest Tampa Bay pitching weapon.  While Archer will never challenge for a strikeout crown or even approach 180, he has done more than enough to prove himself as a firm SP 3.
49. Ervin Santana:  The move to Minnesota keeps Santana in a pitching park and his past home run issues will be helped in Target Field like they boosted Phil Hughes. 
50. Yordano Ventura:  There is no doubt Ventura is electric but he scares the heck out of me as a slight and small kid who throws very hard.  That is an injury waiting to happen and there was that Tommy John fear in the middle of last season as a reminder of the fragility Ventura carries. 
51. Matt Shoemaker:  Sleeper alert.  Love the arm on this kid as Shoemaker was one of the best pitchers in baseball the second half of last season once moved into the rotation.  There is impressive strikeout stuff here as Shoemaker has the classic look of a kid ready to make hay as a very good starter.
52. Jason Hammel:  Did the right thing in going back to the Chicago Cubs as a free agent after Hammel got hit around with the Oakland A's after he got dealt at the trade deadline.  Hammel was terrific prior to the trade with the Cubs and finally figured out a way to unleash his potent strikeout stuff and stay healthy.  Buy into the Cubs numbers. 
53. Garrett Richards:  Yeah going to have to move Richards down as he is now not slated to come back form his devastating knee injury until the middle of the season.  That is a real shame because Richards finally worked through his past control problems which resulted in a boatload of K;s under his 98-mph stuff. 
54. Chris Tillman:  Make sure you trade for Tillman next June as the last two seasons he has performed like a top tier starter from July on. 
55.  Justin Verlander:  My how the mighty have fallen.  I called this one PRIOR to last season when tons of people were berating me on Twitter saying I was out of my mind to disrespect him.  Verlander's velocity is shot and his control is as bad as it has been since he was a rookie.  This is going to end ugly. 
56. Jake Odorizzi:  Again you always want to buy in on a guy on the cusp of a breakthrough and Odorizzi qualifies there for sure with his power arm.  The Rays have a long track record of developing starting pitchers and Odorizzi unleashed some potent strikeout stuff last season under his over 4.00 ERA.  Buy in heavily.
57. Jake Arietta:  Joining Jason Hammel, Jake Arietta was a monstrous value for the Cubs and his owners last season.  Arietta struck out more than a batter per inning and returns to Chicago for 2015 to do more of the same.  Love him. 
58. Colin McHugh:  The Mets gave up on McHugh too early as he struck out a ton of guys in the minors before he went through some pronounced struggles early on in New York and Colorado.  The Houston Astros took advantage and McHugh finally had the light bulb go on.  Don't get carried away in expecting much more improvement but the arm is very good. 
59. Dan Duffy:  The powerful lefty is another young guy who finally curbed his past control issues and the ERA/WHIP plummeted as a result.  Duffy dialed back the K's like Andrew Cashner and the results were terrific.  Another one to target as a value kid. 
60. C.J. Wilson:  There is some fading going on with Wilson who has thrown a ton of innings over the last five seasons.  His walk rate is always ugly and a drop in K's will make him more hittable. 
61. Mike Minor:  Just an awful season for Minor in 2014 as he once again saw home runs fly out on a consistent basis and he got injured.  Still Minor is a very talented pitcher who stands a solid chance of rebounding into a good SP 3 who could strike out 180 batters if he can just cut some home runs from his total. 
62. Dan Haren:  Was very solid as an SP 5 at 35-years-old in 2014 but Haren is unhappy after being moved to the Miami Marlins.  That is actually a great place for Haren to pitch since his K rate has cratered.  Has successfully figured out how to remain effective without his heater unlike C.C. Sabbathia and so far Justin Verlander. 
63. R.D. Dickey:  Good comeback season for the ageless Dickey in 2014 with Toronto but again you never are comfortable in any start the guy makes.  I don't want to deal with that stress. 
64. Shelby Miller:  Was simply awful the first half of 2014 as Miller fought his mechanics and saw his hit rate soar.  Still just when everyone gave up on him, Miller rebounded with a nice finish.  This is a talented arm that likely went through some early career struggles last season.  Don't give up yet. 
65. Tanner Roark:  Was a revelation out of nowhere last season as Roark's numbers looked like the were from an SP 2.  Gets by without many strikeouts which is always scary to invest in off a breakout campaign but the ballpark lessens some of the angst. 
66. Carlos Carassco:  Always has had a live arm but was never able to harness it until the Cleveland Indians gave him another chance in the middle of last season.  Carrasco showed off the strikeout stuff that made him such a prime prospect in the first place and he could going the Homer Bailey late bloomer path here.  Draft price remains cheap so well worth finding out if he has finally arrived. 
67. Matt Garza:  Can't stand the guy now as Garza gets hurt walking.  The arm has always been potent but you want to invest in guys with as little injury risk as possible which Garza is anything but. 
68. John Lackey:  Saved his career with a good 2014 campaign and pitching in St. Louis always worked for a pitcher.  However Lackey is aging and has lost more than a few K's along the way. 
69. Kyle Lohse:  Before Doug Fister became the biggest non-strikeout star pitcher, you could argue that Lohse has been that guy the last five seasons.  The ERA and WHIP are always stellar despite struggling to strike out 140 batters.  Heck of a pitcher for a guy whose draft price never exceeds at its highest that of a low-end SP 4. 
70. Jose Quintana:  Continues to get better as Quintana for the third season in a row in 2014 elevated his numbers more.  The strikeouts also continue to push northward as Quintana looks like a sweet late round pick. 
71. A.J. Burnett:  Was not interested in Burnett until he re-signed with Pittsburgh where he never should have left in the first place.  Still capable of one more good season in that pitching haven. 
72. Yovani Gallardo:  Been hating on Gallardo for years and now he no longer is a prime strikeout guy which was his best attribute under all those walks.  Move on for good. 
73. Tim Lincecum:  If not for his massive contract, Lincecum would likely have been sent to the bullpen by now.  He has been absolutely horrific the last two seasons and it is completely obvious that all those years of not icing his arm and throwing so many innings at a young age ruined him. 
74. Marco Estrada:  I was always intrigued by Estrada as he has tremendous stuff but a consistent losing battle against home runs made any start extremely risky.  Now he moves to Toronto where the home runs fly out.  Move on. 
75. C.C. Sabathia:  Will be ready to go in April after knee surgery but the decline here is beyond sharp.  While Sabbathia did strikeout a batter per inning last season which shows you how crafty he can be, his lack of fastball bunch has doomed him until a firm adjustment is made. 
76. Matt Moore:  Coming back from Tommy John surgery, the hard-throwing Moore should return sometime in May or June.  Live arm but this could take awhile for Moore to return to form.  Not worth the wait. 
77. Tajuan Walker:  A persistent shoulder injury didn't allow the very talented Walker to make any sort of contribution in 2014.  The talent remains and Walker is fully capable of being the next good power pitcher.  Keep him on your lists. 
78. Tim Hudson:  One more season for the Hall of Famer and Hudson is still in vintage form.  The K's are almost all dried up but Hudson pitches in a great park in San Francisco and his sinker stuff remains very potent. 
79. Michael Pineda:  When on the mound last season, Pineda pitched like an ace.  The stuff is never in question but Pineda utter lack of health have made him more of a curiosity. 
80. Dallas Keuchel:  After two years of getting shelled, Keuchel broke through in 2014 with the Houston Astros.  Good arm but dial back the ERA and WHIP a bit as Keuchel pitched a bit over his head last season. 
81. Henderson Alvarez:  Classic case of a sort-tosser with decent stuff having numbers helped by his home ballpark.  Start Alavarez at home and pick spots on the road. 
82. Alfredo Simon:  The Reds smartly sold high here in sending Simon to the Detroit Tigers.  A terrific first half of 2014 soon saw Simon revert to his mediocre past in the second half.  Things could get ugly in American League. 
83. Mike Fiers:  For the second time in four years, Fiers presents himself as an interesting sleeper after a huge post July performance.  The strikeouts pile up despite a middling fastball due to fantastic movement and Fiers was almost unhittable at times the second half of last season. 
84. Bartolo Colon:  The rotund one just keeps on going.  Colon's rubber arm helped him to another solid season in 2014 with the New York Mets and he is back for another go-round which is crucial given his high home run rate. 
85. Derek Holland:  Potential remains here but Holland has become somewhat of a forgotten man due to missing most of last season with injury. 
86. Jon Niese:  Lefty has talent but Niese's shoulder only seems to allow him to pitch a few starts in a row and than trouble begins.
87. Chris Young:  The Comeback Player of the Year was a good fit for Seattle and their big ballpark but no way Young does it again or stays healthy like he did. 
88. Jason Vargas:  Flipped the career-long script of pitching well at home and horrible on the road last season.  Honestly you never want to own the guy because he is as boring as heck. 
89. Bud Norris:  Solid season out of Norris with the Baltimore Orioles in 2014 as he reared back on the heat and pitched to more contact with good results.  Still can't trust him.
90. Wily Peralta:  The definition of an SP 5 with a bit of upside.  Ratios were good last season but helped by a lucky BABIP.  Troubling red flags underneath his numbers however. 
91. Drew Hutchinson:  Impressed with the strikeouts with the Toronto Blue Jays last season but boy I hate that park. 
92. Edinson Volquez:  Stay away.  Needed to stay in Pittsburgh for me to be interested but instead goes to the American League with the Kansas City Royals.  I don't think so. 
93. Drew Smyly:  Nice job down the stretch for Smyly who can miss bats.  Will now have a shot to pitch regularly out of the rotation after some shuffling in Detroit with their starters. 
94. Brandon McCarthy:  Signed a big deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers which was surprising given his past ill health.  McCarthy has good stuff however and can strike out 160 or so guys with nice ratios. 
95. Mark Buehrle:  Another ageless one.  Just when we were ready to read Buehrle his last rites, he came back with a huge first half of 2014 with the Blue Jays of all teams.  Only for non-innings capped leagues.
96. Justin Masterson:  I hate talking about this guy because he is pure garbage.  Move on.
97. Travis Wood:  The bat was more impressive at times than the pitching from Wood last season which is never good.  Won't be nearly as bad again but SP 5 territory at best. 
98. Jesse Hahn:  Like the arm on this kid and he gets a golden chance in the Oakland A's rotation.  Could be a tremendous value. 
99. Josh Collmenter:  Doing a nice Kyle Lohse impersonation with nice ratios and a horrid K rate.  Try him out again this season but be somewhat cautious. 
100. Carlos Martinez:  Love arm here as well and all Martinez needs is a chance in the rotation. 


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