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The Most Undervalued Pitchers

Posted By Mike Podhorzer On March 7, 2012 @ 8:15 am In Mock Draft Analysis,Projections,Starting Pitchers | 60 Comments

Last week, I determine who the most overvalued pitchers were based on my projections and dollar values in comparison to their average draft positions on Mock Draft Central. Today I check in on the other side of the coin. Pitcher projections and rankings always have the most disagreement, so it is always interesting to see where my opinion diverges from the mock drafters and the various projection systems. I decided to include the 5 most undervalued pitchers that are still worth drafting (expected to generate a positive value) in a standard 12-team mixed league and projected to be worth more than just a couple of bucks. I also excluded the reliever turned starter group since I’ve talked enough about them and they aren’t 100% locks for a spot anyway.

Mike Minor
ADP Rank: 87
My Rank: 49

For the second straight season, I like Minor as a sleeper. Last year, he lost the 5th starter job to Brandon Beachy, who had a breakout year of his own, but even when Minor did pitch, his results were disappointing. However, he has posted a very good strikeout rate over his short career and displayed solid control. His career SIERA of 3.63 is significantly lower than his 4.74 ERA, thanks to a ridiculous .359 BABIP. Two-thirds of the projection systems look at that astronomical BABIP and apparently assume there is a lack of skill in that department, rather than just poor fortune. This is surprising, considering 123.1 innings is quite a small sample size. My projection calls for a 3.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 160 innings, which as usual, agrees the most with the Steamer projection (one of the two systems that does not project a BABIP well above the league average, but only slightly). If he pitches well during Tim Hudson‘s absence, I cannot imagine him being booted from the rotation.

Ted Lilly
ADP Rank: 64
My Rank: 34

Given that drafters typically overvalue youth, it isn’t that surprising that the consistently solid, yet unexciting Lilly is being neglected. My projection is basically right in line with all the other systems, except the Fans, who are the only ones to project an ERA over 4.00, albeit just a tad. His SIERA has been remarkably consistent over the last four seasons, so there’s no hint that his skills are deteriorating. Yes, he’s boring to watch, but given how cheap owners are able to draft him, he can keep serving up those 87.0 mile per hour fastballs.

Colby Lewis
ADP Rank: 56
My Rank: 33

Have drafters already decided that his successful return to the league in 2010 was the fluke? Although his peripherals did take a bit of a hit last year, his SIERA was still 0.52 points below his actual ERA. The decline in strikeout rate can likely be traced to a drop in fastball velocity, but he still managed to punch out batters at an above average clip. So if his velocity rebounds, that’s just additional upside. Once again, my ERA projection matches up nearly identically to the Steamer system, while my WHIP projection of 1.21 is close to what the Fans are projecting. I am only projecting a slight increase in K/9, so anything more would make him even more undervalued. Like Lilly, he isn’t someone you get revved up about drafting or even watching pitch, but he should easily outperform his draft slot.

Brandon Morrow
ADP Rank: 51
My Rank: 31

Surprise, surprise, the sabermetric darling and anti-Matt Cain makes an appearance once again. There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before. The bottom line is that he has either suffered from some really poor luck and will be an absolute bargain in fantasy leagues this year and a major breakout, or he is one of the rare outliers who will continue to struggle with men on base. Obviously, my money is on the former. For those curious, I am projecting a 3.71 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with a 9.6 K/9 over 190 innings. That ERA is right around the Steamer (again!) and Bill James projections, so another good reality check that I’m not totally insane. The WHIP is lower than all the projections because they are all projecting a BABIP of at least .311. That makes absolutely no sense to me though since his BABIP last year was .299 and for his career right at .300.

Scott Baker
ADP Rank: 59
My Rank: 41

Baker is understandably undervalued after he missed six weeks last year with an elbow injury and only once pitching 200 innings. I am actually only projecting 170 and yet still think he is quite undervalued. The only knock on his skills is his extreme fly ball ways, but luckily he has Target Field to help suppress some of those long balls. For the most part, my peripheral projections are right in line with the other systems. Yet, my projected 3.59 ERA is the lowest of all the systems, as is the 1.20 WHIP. The reason for this is once again the BABIP projection. For some crazy reason unbeknownst to me, the lowest projected BABIP is .306, even though he owns a .302 career mark and posted a .297 mark last year. Like Lilly and Lewis, all of whom have fairly similar skill set profiles, Baker isn’t flashy or exciting, but he gets results, and those expected results might come cheaper than expected this year.


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