Jake Peavy has been one of fantasy’s biggest surprises this season. While Peavy had been an ace with the San Diego Padres, his time with the Chicago White Sox left quite a bit to be desired. Though he missed time with various injuries, the biggest one came last season. Peavy tore his right latissimus dorsi tendon completely off the bone. No major league pitcher had ever suffered from that injury. Because of that, no one knew what to expect from Peavy. After a resurgent 2012, Peavy has re-established himself as a fantasy ace. But he still carries considerable risk, which could make him a questionable keeper for next season.
For many owners, holding onto Peavy will depend on how many keepers your league allows. In order to determine Peavy’s value next season, we can try and estimate when he’ll be drafted. Peavy finished as the 17th best starting pitcher according to ESPN’s player rater. That puts him in pretty strong company. Using ESPN’s rankings, Peavy was better than CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Zack Greinke this season. All of those players will likely be drafted above Peavy next season. Looking at all the guys that finished ahead of Peavy, there are a few players that probably won’t be taken ahead of him. Kyle Lohse, Kris Medlen and Hiroki Kuroda are guys that won’t rate as highly next season. Lohse due to his track record, and Kuroda due to age. Medlen could go in the same range as Peavy based on how experts treat his second-half surge.
If we move all those players around, Peavy probably slots in as the 20-25 pitcher next season. Last season, the average draft position for the 20th pitcher taken in ESPN leagues was 75.9. So, at best, Peavy is likely a seventh round pick next season. Depending on how strongly you feel about him, he could be an eighth or ninth round guy.
Using that logic, it would be easy to say that Peavy is a keeper if you can keep seven or more players. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy with Peavy. The White Sox are expected to decline Peavy’s $22 million option, meaning he’ll be a free-agent in a few weeks. Obviously, where Peavy signs could have an impact on his value. U.S. Cellular Field is known as a good hitters park, and Peavy is a fly ball pitcher, so moving to a more spacious park definitely boosts his worth.
At the same time, the White Sox are known to have a pretty strong medical staff. They’ve done a great job keeping their players healthy in recent years. Even injury-prone guys like Jim Thome, Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye stayed relatively healthy with the team. They also did a great job managing Chris Sale‘s innings this season, even though many expected him to be an injury risk. Even though Peavy stayed healthy this season, there’s no telling how he’ll perform next season. Perhaps there’s no fear of increased injury, or perhaps the White Sox did an exceptional job working with Peavy. That uncertainty makes him a risk, and could drop him lower in drafts or among keepers.
Still, Peavy showed that he’s still capable of strong production. It would be foolish to downgrade Peavy a lot based on an injury he suffered in 2011, especially after he showed no signs of fatigue tossing 211.0 innings the following season. Even if you take risk into account, Peavy shouldn’t be drafted any lower than the 10th round. If you can keep seven or more players, he definitely deserves consideration. Any less, and he’s not worth the risk.