RotoGraphs Mock Auction Breakdown: NL Starting Pitchers

The first lesson I learned from this draft is one I want to share with you even before the table of players and prices; it’s just that important. Do not try to do an auction draft on a phone. Snake drafts are unpleasant but doable; auctions are a recipe for disaster.

Lesson learned? Good! Here are the National League starting pitchers who were drafted in the recent Rotographs and friends mock auction.

Price Player
$35 Stephen Strasburg
$34 Clayton Kershaw
$26 Cole Hamels
$25 Zack Greinke
$25 Matt Cain
$23 Cliff Lee
$22 Gio Gonzalez
$21 Madison Bumgarner
$19 Kris Medlen
$19 Johnny Cueto
$19 Adam Wainwright
$18 Mat Latos
$16 Jordan Zimmermann
$16 Roy Halladay
$16 Yovani Gallardo
$15 Aroldis Chapman
$12 Ian Kennedy
$10 Dan Haren
$10 Jeff Samardzija
$9 Matt Harvey
$9 Mike Minor
$9 Tim Lincecum
$8 Mike Fiers
$7 Matt Garza
$6 Homer Bailey
$6 Wade Miley
$5 Shelby Miller
$5 Jon Niese
$4 Kyle Lohse
$4 Ryan Vogelsong
$4 Lance Lynn
$4 Wandy Rodriguez
$4 Marco Estrada
$3 Tim Hudson
$3 Brandon McCarthy
$3 Josh Beckett
$3 A.J. Burnett
$3 Edwin Jackson
$2 Casey Kelly
$2 Zack Wheeler
$2 Chris Carpenter
$2 Cory Luebke
$2 Jaime Garcia
$1 Johan Santana
$1 Brandon Beachy
$1 Trevor Cahill
$1 James McDonald
$1 Francisco Liriano
$1 Hyun-Jin Ryu
$1 Chad Billingsley
$1 Jacob Turner

The top ought to surprise no one, Strasburg and Kershaw, who sit almost $10 ahead of the next set of players. I don’t see either of them being an injury risk, and I can’t imagine anyone regretting owning them, but are they that much better than Hamels, Greinke, or Cain? I’m not sure of that. In sheer dollar terms, Strasburg would need to be 4 percent better than Greinke across the board to equal the difference in price, which seems possible, but that ignores the opportunity cost that comes with spending 14 percent of your budget on a pitcher in the early going. In this particular draft, there was a lot of money left on the table, but a tighter group of players might punish overpayments more forcefully than we did.

If pitching weren’t so deep, I could see paying for the guaranteed quality those two provide, but even Felix Hernandez went for just $28. I might be willing bet those $10 that Kershaw will be better than Lee or Greinke, but Hernandez is another matter entirely. My highest paid pitcher was Max Scherzer at $19 and while I’d be willing to go higher, I just can’t see breaking $30 for a pitcher.

One of the biggest steals of the Rotographs snake draft was Halladay, who fell in the 12th round. He went for $16 this time around and I’m having trouble calling that a steal. Take out the name recognition: What would you pay for a 36-year-old coming off a poor season full of shoulder issues and declining velocity, but who has 51 wins with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP over the last three seasons? Performance-wise, I’d probably be willing to go into the high-20s, but those are huge red flags to me, which puts him down under $15. The name recognition pushes him back up by a buck or so and that puts him back right at his actual price.

The cluster of players at $9 is an interesting set. Harvey was a darling from the snake draft, Minor closed the season so much better than his final line shows that he hardly seems the same player, and Lincecum is…Lincecum. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but given $9 and one pitcher slot, which of the three would you take? I took Minor in the actual draft, so my bias is there, but knowing what I know now, Lincecum would be hard to turn down at that price.

I would rather have every player drafted at $3 than the players drafted at $4. Estrada and Vogelsong are my favorites of the $4 players, but the rest are a motley crew of players I either have serious concerns about (Lynn) or have never really liked (Lohse, Rodriguez). Meanwhile, there’s a ton of risk in the $3 section, but that’s great value for Burnett and even for Jackson and Beckett.

I want to pull McCarthy out of that set of players as what strikes me as a particularly good value. The two big knocks against McCarthy are his health and his low strikeout rate, and both are entirely valid. His move to the NL will help the latter a bit and the fact that the Diamondbacks have one of baseball’s best medical staffs will help address the former. He’s still an injury risk, and the move to the NL isn’t pushing him up to 8.5 K/9 or anything of that nature, but rare is the player who has value and gets both of his weaknesses addressed in one move. I’m not pushing McCarthy even into the $8-9 range, but I’d still be thinking about bidding at $5-6 depending on how the rest of the draft had gone.

Both of the Pirates at $1 intrigue the heck out of me. Liriano and McDonald have both shown the ability to make opposing hitters look positively awful. McDonald had half a season where he looked positively dominant, 9-3, 2.37 ERA, 100 K and a 0.97 WHIP, but his second half made him look grossly overmatched: 3-5, 7.52 ERA, 51 K, and a 1.79 WHIP. I don’t think he’s a pitcher who will put up 200 strikeouts and a WHIP below 1.00, but I also don’t see him as a pitcher with an ERA around 8.00, and for a buck, I’m willing to find out which one he is.

I think I’ve discussed in the past that Liriano and I are no longer on speaking terms from previous fantasy crimes, so I won’t be taking him for personal reasons, but a move to the NL Central is going to do him serious good. It’s a set of hitters who won’t have faced his slider, it’s a nearly guaranteed rise in his strikeout rate because of the pitcher’s spot, and it’s far fewer games in US Cellular Field, Yankee Stadium, and Angel Stadium. The NL surely has its share of pitcher traps, but I think he still stands to improve with the move. I’m not locked on him being a mixed option, but NL-only players could do far worse than him.

The last bargain player who intrigues me is Turner. At a buck, it’s not like Howard made a big gamble on him, but he’s a talented pitcher who will surely get his shot in a Miami rotation bereft of even semi-live arms. Turner could flop, plenty of good rookies do, and the challenge for owners will be to cut bait on him even when the team doesn’t, but that’s an issue for after draft day. As a pick in a vacuum, Turner has good upside and that’s about all anyone needs to be a good idea at the end of the draft.

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Dan enjoys black tea, imperial IPAs, and any competition that can be loosely judged a sport. Follow him on Twitter.

21 Responses to “RotoGraphs Mock Auction Breakdown: NL Starting Pitchers”

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  1. Tomcat says:

    Mccarthy had a 2,74ERA at home in 11-12 and a 3.74 on the road, given that he is leaving one of the 4 most run suppressing enviromnents in MLB and going to one of the 4 most extreme run environments can you give me one good reason I would rather have McCarthy at $3 than say Doug Fister at $1?

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    • Dan Wade says:

      I loved Fister for a buck, so I’m not going to argue that McCarthy’s the better pick there. 3.74 road ERA is hardly a nightmare, especially since it’ll be combatted by the league change. Honestly, his road games in Coors scare me more than his new home park does.

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    • Trey White says:

      I’m pretty sure Fister went for $11, not 1. Cause I definitely would have bid him higher at the end if he was still around.

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      • Dan Wade says:

        That would make a lot more sense. I stopped paying attention to pitchers once I filled up my slots, but Fister for $1 would be a huge miss by the rest of the drafters. We’re not *that* dumb…

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    • Tomcat says:

      My apologies I missed the NL only tag that said Chacin has a Road ERA a half a run lower than BMac on the road in 11-12 I don’t trust any pitcher leaving Oakland, although to be fair Haren was excellent in AZ and Cahill was decent

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  2. Scotty says:

    Mike Fiers for $8? Too high for me. Not really buying last year. Looked bad in August and September.

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    • Dan Wade says:

      I tend to agree on Fiers being too high at $8, especially with those who came in below him, but I don’t find it too hard to believe that he just fatigued at the end of the year and fell apart. He threw his most innings ever and had to do it in the majors for the first time, and I think it was just too much too soon.

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      • Pdiddy31 says:

        Amen brother. I saw the $8 and was floored. I was thinking $2-$3 max. He will likely be a guy readily available on waiver wires comes mid-may.

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  3. Kyle H says:

    Dan Hudson didn’t get drafted? Also what is the timetable on Jaime Garcia coming back?

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    • Dan Wade says:

      I had to check, but indeed Dan Hudson did not get drafted. He’d likely be one of the first off the waiver wire.

      Garcia’s timetable right now has him ready for opening day, but I’d be more surprised if he sticks to that than if he get knocked back by a week or two. He’s not playing in the WBC, which was a good choice I think, so he’ll be ready as soon as possible, but his injury just scares me. Andrews said he didn’t need surgery, Andrews doesn’t make many mistakes, but pitchers with extant shoulder injuries are just too much risk for me.

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  4. Antonio bananas says:

    You don’t see Strasburg as an injury risk? Please explain that one.

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    • BrazillianNightclubSmokeDetector says:

      He’s passed the injury nexus so he’s no more an injury risk than any random pitcher.

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    • Dan Wade says:

      I should clarify: Everyone who steps onto the field is an injury risk. Matt Clement was healthy until he took a line drive to the head and then his career was pretty much over, so bad things do happen without warning. What I mean is that both look good with respect to the elbow and shoulder, the type of injuries that render guys pretty much valueless.

      Looking at Strasburg specifically, he’s in the honeymoon period. His surgery was a success, the process of ligamentation was completed, and now he’s in a 3-5 year window where very few people have any further trouble.

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  5. DrBGiantsfan says:

    Not sure I’d be quite so confident in Kershaw’s health. He did miss a start or two late last year with a hip problem and there were even whisperings of possible surgery.

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  6. Kris says:

    The first paragraph forced me to stop reading and start imagining the notgraphs staff doing a telephone auction. There’s no way that auction is completed without the following interaction between Cistulli and Perry:

    “I bid one moderately used, but still quite functional, toilet brush on Strasburg, Steveeeeeeeeeeeey”


    “Steve Steve Steve Steve”

    “I bid my wife.”

    “Perry, Shut up, no one wants your wife. I bid my wife.”

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  7. davidsmarch says:

    dynasty league and have to decide between medlen or greinke as my last man in, who do i keep?

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    • Dan Wade says:

      Greinke, no doubt. He’s not that much older than Medlen, he’s in an easier division, and he’s just a better pitcher.

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