Yesterday, I went beyond the obligatory 10 bold predictions and shared my bold hitter league leaders in each of the five standard fantasy categories. So today, I take on the pitchers. Although still difficult to hit on any, the pitchers are a bit easier to get right than the hitters for two reasons. One, there are two ratio categories, rather than one, so playing time expectations are less important. And two, there’s a larger luck component involved in pitching which makes the elite guys less of a lock to lead the league in any specific category.
ERA – Corey Kluber
I debated whether Alex Cobb and Danny Salazar would be considered bold and decided that they would not be. So Kluber is the pick. Kluber finished seventh in the AL last year in SIERA among pitchers who threw at least 140 innings. I’m a proud member of the Society and believe that his breakout was legit. The only thing he needs is some better defensive support to bring that BABIP down and his HR/FB rate to drop toward the league average.
WHIP – R.A. Dickey
He was one of my Pod’s Picks for a reason. A healthier Dickey with better knuckleball velocity enjoyed a skills rebound during the second half of the season. He possesses excellent control and knuckleballers do have the ability to prevent hits on balls in play. Those ingredients mix to create a recipe that results in a pretty darn good WHIP.
Strikeouts – Scott Kazmir
Blah, unless Yu Darvish gets hurt, any other name represents pretty poor odds. Kazmir’s career high innings total is just 206 and he has already had a triceps issue during spring training. But his strikeout ability is back now with a return of his velocity and he punched out over a batter per inning last season. Obviously, innings will be key here. Even with 200 innings, he has little chance of taking the strikeout title, so this is more of an “I like Scott Kazmir” thing than really believing he has a chance to lead the league in Ks.
Wins – Sonny Gray
This was a tough one. I think Gray will probably be a bit overvalued in most leagues, but he owns an intriguing skill set. It’s one that includes the holy skills trifecta. He threw a total of 182 innings last year, so it wouldn’t be crazy to think he can go 200 this season. The Athletics continue to run out a solid and underrated offense, so run support shouldn’t be a major problem.
Saves – Nate Jones
There aren’t many closers that would truly be considered a bold choice as we are all well aware of how fluky the saves stat is. The White Sox have not officially named a closer yet, but you figure it’s going to be Jones who gets the first shot. He throws really hard and induces a healthy rate of ground balls. With no other standout candidates in the Sox bullpen knocking on the door, there’s no reason to believe that Jones shouldn’t hold the job all year, and perform quite well.
ERA – Alex Wood
Like with AL strikeouts, any pick not named Clayton Kershaw is highly unlikely. This may be cheating a bit because Wood is almost a lock to spend some time in the bullpen, which should benefit his ERA. As I mentioned in my 10 bold predictions article, I love his ability to generate grounders while also inducing swings and misses and displaying good control. He’ll need to pitch at least 162 innings to actually qualify for the ERA title, which may be beyond the upper limit of what the Braves plan to do here.
WHIP – Doug Fister
Assuming his elbow issue is nothing, Fister should really benefit from the move to the National League. His strikeout rate should get a boost and he should receive better defensive support, reducing his hits allowed total. He has posted a WHIP as low as 1.06 before, so it’s not outlandish to believe he is capable of producing a WHIP low enough to compete with the Kershaws and Cliff Lees of the world.
Strikeouts – Jose Fernandez
Bold? Not bold? He finished 14th in the league in strikeouts last year, so I’m voting bold. I am projecting him to post the second highest K/9 in the league, so it’s going to be an innings thing. He threw 172 innings last year, so can he get to 200-210 this time around?
Wins – Matt Garza
A (hopefully) full season of Ryan Braun, along with new left fielder Khris Davis, the Brewers sport one of the best offense in the National League. Garza has thrown 200 innings twice over his career, so if healthy, we know he has the stamina to do so.
Saves – Steve Cishek
Why not? He has excellent skills, combining a strong ground ball rate with a high strikeout rate and improved control. Despite featuring a fastball/slider combo, he was still excellent versus left-handed batters, limiting them to a .288 wOBA and posting a 3.21 xFIP last season. He doesn’t get the fanfare, but he’s as good as any other closer beyond the top tier.
Print This Post