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Underrated & Overrated Fantasy Pitching Prospects for 2013

Last week I looked at a few underrated and overrated position player prospects. This week I wanted to follow that up by doing the same thing with some pitching prospects. The rule with prospects is always caveat emptor as they can’t typically be counted on for consistent production or performance. Still, “hitting” on a few helpful guys your league opponents didn’t expect to be useful can lead your team to fantasy glory.

Remember that these players are being evaluated entirely for their 2013 usefulness, without regard to keeper or dynasty implications.

Underrated: Trevor Bauer, RHP, CLE

If you gave up on Trevor Bauer in 2012 I think you gave up too soon. If you only soured slightly on Trevor Bauer in 2012… well, you probably soured too soon but your expectations might have been too high to begin with. Bauer is not without flaws. He’s more control than command with his “tunneling” approach. He’s talked about how much he enjoys pitching up in the zone. That’s a great way to rack up strikeouts – especially against amateur and low minors hitters. As you progress through the minors and face more advanced hitters a higher percentage of those high pitches get hit out of the park. His mechanics are complex but he repeats them well and I like a lot of qualities in his delivery. So Bauer is perhaps more flawed than you had been led to believe. I’m not confident now nor was I confident when he was drafted that he has true “Ace” upside. The important thing for our purposes is that Bauer is going to miss lots and lots of bats. We live in a world where our fantasy pitching categories are dependent on lots of different variables like defense, park, etc.. and in that context strikeouts are one solid thing you can count on. Bauer has a great shot to produce high strikeout totals and that can be a boon for your fantasy team. The friction with Arizona has been overstated in my opinion, but there’s plenty of reason to think Bauer will thrive in Cleveland. His stuff certainly translates well to the American League. Cleveland’s starting rotation isn’t a strong point. Bauer might get a chance sooner rather than later.

Overrated: Dan Straily

Let me say that I like Dan Straily a lot. He’s got a great feel for getting hitters out and a strong mix of pitches. I actually thought he’d be underrated but he seems to be a favorite target of fantasy owners looking for a young pitcher with upside. That’s really the point, too. When we’re taking a gamble on a rookie, young pitcher or other unproven commodity the thing to focus on is whether the player has the upside to justify the risk. Does Straily really have that kind of upside? I’m not sure he does. He does play in a great pitcher’s park with spacious outfield dimensions and acres of foul territory. He’s a competent big league arm who can get batters out. I don’t know if it’s enough, though. Straily is kind of the opposite of Bauer. He doesn’t have a real legitimate swing and miss offering or “out” pitch. His game is more about a lack of weaknesses than any great strength. In addition to that, Straily lacks a real track record of minor league success. His stuff and velocity leaped forward last season. Before that Straily looked like just another minor league arm. Straily isn’t a lock for a rotation spot either. I think fantasy owners are a little overzealous in their estimation of what Straily can do for their teams this season. There are a lot of pitchers around baseball who can give you equivalent production at a cheaper price. There are a fair number of prospects around baseball who have the potential to be better assets for your fantasy team.

Underrated: Danny Hultzen

It’s kind of funny to mention Danny Hultzen along with Trevor Bauer as “underrated” since teams were debating between those two college hurlers at the top of the 2011 draft. Admittedly, I’ve always been higher on Hultzen than many. When I saw him pitch in college for the University of Virginia I was extremely impressed by the left-hander. I saw the potential for three well above average pitches and present low 90’s velocity from a lefty. That mixture tends to lead to major league success. I also saw a very athletic pitcher who needed to get physically stronger. That leads me to Hultzen’s dip in form at the end of 2012. It seems like many people are emphasizing his struggles at Triple-A. I don’t believe the command issues were being exploited by Triple-A hitters as much as Hultzen just ran out of gas. This was something that happened to him in college, too. The adjustment from amateur to professional baseball isn’t just about the difficulty of the competition. The big change for pitchers is going from a once a week schedule to every 5th day. Beyond the extra innings and less rest pitchers get, this alters their throwing and workout schedule as well. Further, the season gets a lot longer when you’re a pro. There are just a whole lot more games to play and you’re playing them more often. Hultzen had an almost teenage body a couple years ago. He’s done a good job getting stronger and adding good weight since then and he reportedly really stepped it up this offseason. He’s likely to start back at Triple-A Tacoma, but when the call comes you’ll have one of the harder throwing left-handers in the game with very good stuff pitching in a pitcher’s park in front of good defenders. Sign me up.

Overrated: Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi is a quality arm I’d like to have in my organization. Yet he’s not on the shortlist of young pitchers I’d gamble on giving me fantasy production this season. Odorizzi was traded to Tampa Bay along with Wil Myers in the deal that sent James Shields to Kansas City. This is Odorizzi’s first Spring in a Rays uniform and his new organization may want to make some changes to the way Odorizzi does things. If they do, they’ll almost certainly prefer he make those adjustments in the minors. This is a team that is notorious for bringing along pitching prospects slowly, too. If Odorizzi were the only depth option in the upper minors then I could still see the logic behind stashing him this year. The fact is that he’s far from the only depth option Tampa has. With Roberto Hernandez (I hope you all appreciate I didn’t make a lame Carmona joke here!) likely filling the fifth spot in the rotation there’s not even room for the far more established Jeff Niemann right now. Chris Archer is one of Tampa Bay’s top prospects and he’s on the cusp on the majors as well. Enny Romero, Alex Colome and Mike Montgomery are also in the equation. So there’s no guarantees at all that Odorizzi gets a chance any time soon. Even if hes doing well the pitching rich Rays may have better options. Much like Straily I don’t think you’re looking at any kind of super valuable fantasy option even once Odorizzi does get a shot. The command is lacking and his inability to so far find an effective offspeed offering are both worrisome. Odorizzi is a flyball pitcher, too, though Tropicana Field will mitigate some of the concerns there. I see the appeal in a minor league pitcher with good strikeout numbers who reached the majors last season. I’d rather wait and see how Odorizzi does in Triple-A Durham first.