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NL SP: The Overvalued Club

“He’s a prime sleeper candidate”. “He has great breakout potential”. “He has huge upside this season”. Blah blah blah. Sometimes I get bored reading about all the potential sleepers and breakouts for the coming season. Too much optimism. I need some balance in my life. Avoiding the season’s busts, or in this case, the pitchers who will not earn their cost, may be just as important as unearthing the surprise stars.

I compared my own NL starting pitcher rankings with both the RotoGraphs staff composite (which includes mine…yeah this obviously makes this comparison less than perfect, but it’s close enough) and the current ADPs on Mock Draft Central. I then averaged out the difference between each pair of rankings (mine vs. RotoGraphs and mine vs. Mock Draft Central) to determine who my valuations indicate to be overvalued. Note that only those pitchers who appeared in all three sets of rankings were included.

The I Thought I Was A Sleeper? I’m Confused Club Member…

James McDonald

RotoGraphs Rank: 48
MDC Rank: 44
My Rank: 63

Isn’t it crazy when the same player could be considered both a sleeper and a bust (or overvalued in this context) depending on the source? McDonald seems to have been around forever, but the 26-year old has thrown just 140.2 innings in his career. Now in his first full season as a Pirate, it will be more difficult than ever to reach his potential, at least from a fantasy perspective. Besides his injury history, McDonald has been a fly ball pitcher in the Majors and his minor league track record does not give us much hope for that to change. Combine that with his mediocre control, and he is simply not someone I am too excited about. His SwStr%, Contact% and ClStr% from StatCorner hint at a pitcher whose strikeout potential is good, but not great. As such, he might be a cheap source of strikeouts in NL-Only leagues, but there are much better speculations to be had to fill out the end of your rotation in your mixed league draft.

Vice President of the Club…

Jair Jurrjens

RotoGraphs Rank: 33
MDC Rank: 25
My Rank: 56

David Golebiewski wrote an excellent article yesterday on Jurrjens’ missing ground balls, so I won’t add much to what he already said. It appears that his sparkling 2009 season when he posted a 2.60 ERA is still sticking at the forefront of fantasy owners’ minds. Of course, his xFIP that year was a much less impressive 4.34, so the 2010 regression, injury related or not, should have been no surprise. Bottom line with Jurrjens is that with only meh strikeout and walk skills, he will need to rediscover his worm-burning abilities to have any chance of contributing mixed league fantasy value.

And the CEO and Most Overvalued…

J.A. Happ(y)

RotoGraphs Rank: 53
MDC Rank: 37
My Rank: 80

I had to leave the “y” in there as I never fail to accidentally type it when spelling his name. This time was no exception. Maybe it’s a sign that I will be wrong about him, but I am pretty confident in saying that J.A. will not make his owners happy this season. Like McDonald above, it feels like Happ has also been around for a while now, but he has still pitched just 289 Major League innings throughout his career. With that in mind, it isn’t that crazy that Happ’s career 3.27 ERA is more than a full run below his 4.41 FIP and 4.61 xFIP, as not even two full season’s worth of statistics qualifies as a rather small sample size. Therefore, we simply cannot say just yet that Happ will be one of the rare exceptions to consistently outperform his expected ERA metrics.

Happ’s skills are as mediocre as you could find, as his strikeout rate has bounced around the league average, while his career walk and annual ground ball rates have been worse than the league average. A .266 BABIP and absolutely unsustainable 81.4% LOB% has made Happ look like a much better pitcher than he actually is. Though, his slightly higher than league average pop up rate and his fly ball tendencies have helped to reduce his BABIP. Even so, it would be wise to expect that mark to rise. That regression is going to cause Happ’s ratios to jump and ultimately hurt his fantasy owners. When you combine that with his injury history, I see little reason to invest, especially at the price required to roster him.