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1/7/1984 (33 y, 1 m, 17 d)
2002 June Amateur Draft - Round: 2, Pick: 16, Overall: 57, Team: Boston Red Sox
$155M / 6 Years (2015 - 2020) + 1 Option Years
Manager Joe Maddon announced that Lester will be an option out of the bullpen for the rest of the World Series if he is needed, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. (10/31/2016)
Early ADP Thoughts – Starting Pitcher, Part I
Paul Sporer (RotoGraphs)
Active Starting Pitchers Have Virtually No Shot at»
Craig Edwards (FanGraphs)
2016's Best Pitches Thrown by Starters
Eno Sarris (FanGraphs)
The Most Improved Changeup of the Second Half
Eno Sarris (FanGraphs)
Jon Lester's Favorite Strikeout
Jeff Sullivan (FanGraphs)
(Click Year to Expand /
Year in Review:
Lester’s ERA in 2009 was higher than in 2008, but that was largely the result of an inflated .323 BABIP, higher than the Sox as a team and his career average. Looking instead at his peripherals, it shows that 2009 was a major breakout for Lester. While maintaining his characteristically good walk (2.8 BB/9) and great ground-ball (47 GB%) numbers, Lester increased his strikeouts from 6.5 K/9 in 2008 to 9.96 K/9 in 2009, good for third best in the league. The contact rate on his pitches dropped from 82% in 2008 to 76% (average is 81%), which explains all the extra strikeouts and shows how nasty his stuff has become. His cutter is especially good, one of the best in the game, and gives him a solid pitch against RHBs.
The Year Ahead:
If Lester can just maintain his amazing 2009 performance and have his BABIP regress to a more reasonable level, he will have an even more amazing 2010. After a great 2009, entering his age 26 season and with two straight healthy seasons with more than 200 IPs, Lester is one of the top pitchers going into 2010. His 2009 ERA (3.41), WHIP (1.23), and wins (15) were good, but not as truly amazing as his performance would predict going forward, so in some very un-savvy leagues he might be had for a small discount. Still, there is no way to hide his 225 Ks in 2009, so the discount will not be huge. (Dave Allen)
As if Jon Lester weren't already one of the best fantasy pitchers in the game, he's just now entering his prime at age 27. One of these years he's going to put it all together and become a Cy Young winner, and there's no better year to bet on that than 2011. He has struck out 225 batters in each of the last two seasons, which has helped establish him as one of the AL's most dominant arms. He also benefits from the Red Sox defense, and has won 15 games in each of the last three seasons, including 19 last season. If he combines his walk rate from 2009 with his home-run rate from 2010, he figures to put up an ERA near or below 3.00, with a WHIP below 1.20. That's a lot of dreaming right there, but if there is any pitcher in the league on whom you can dream, it's Jon Lester. Leave him on the board at your own risk. (Joe Pawlikowski)
The Quick Opinion:
Already an elite pitcher, Lester is just now entering his prime and could experience a monster 2011. Even if he pitches along the lines of his 2009 and 2010 seasons, he's still one of the top pitchers in the league.
Despite continuing to post great fantasy numbers, Lester took a step backwards in 2011. The 28-year-old lefty had problems getting hitters to swing and miss, but he still managed to fan almost 23% of the batters he faced while maintaining a stellar ground-ball rate. Don’t let Fenway or the AL East scare you off; if Lester can regain his previous form -- perhaps by cutting his walks back to 2008-2009 levels -- he’s a top-five fantasy starter. Even if he continues to walk a few more than the average baller, he’ll still be a top-24 starter on a good team. He's a back-end ace with perennial Cy Young upside. (Zach Sanders)
The Quick Opinion:
Lester took a step back in 2011, but in a testament to his skill, the left-hander still posted great fantasy numbers. If he can bounce back, he’ll be a top-5 starter once again.
Drafted in many circles as a number one, Lester proved to be a huge disappointment for fantasy owners in 2012. Luckily for Lester fans (and unluckily for his redraft owners last year) the underlying rate stats weren't nearly as distressing as the ones that count in fantasy leagues. His 3.82 xFIP was only a bit above 2010's 3.62 mark and his 7.8% walk rate was a full tick below his career average of 8.8%. Slightly more concerning is his year-over-year strikeout drop -- his strikeout rate has gone from 26.1% to 22.8% to 19.0% over the last three seasons.
Mike Podhorzer notes it's possible Lester's strikeout tallies are merely regressing to his SwStr% rates
which have been generally league-average outside of 2009-2010. Bill James is rather bullish on the lefty's potential bounceback, however, projecting a slight uptick in strikeouts and walks which help lead to a 3.71 ERA. That seems overly optimistic, but a season where Lester's LOB% is closer to his 74.8% career average than his 67.6% 2012 mark should help him provide end-of-season return value which will likely be higher than his spring ADP. (
The Quick Opinion:
Caught up in the great "fried chicken and beer scandal of 2011," Lester woefully underperformed his average draft position in 2012, but his peripherals didn't tailspin as much as his counting stats did. While his strikeout rate decline is concerning, an ERA nearly a full run higher than his xFIP should mean he'll come at a decent discount in 2013 with plenty of room for a bounceback season. Pass the PBR.
In the both the real and fantasy worlds, Jon Lester rebounded in a big way in 2013. After a mediocre 2012 and a fastball velocity drop caused consternation, Lester posted his best season by WAR since 2010 and the most innings of his career. Some of the success was owed to a rebound in that velocity, which was up to 92.4 mph from his career low 92 mph 2012 mark (by PITCHf/x, at least). It wasn't all huge gains, peripherally, though -- a large part of Lester's 2013 success was merely correction to peripherals. His batting average on balls in play dropped to .300 (career .301), his strand rate rose to 73.7% (career 74.6%), and his home run per fly ball rate was nearly halved, down to 8.3% (career 9.8%). Thanks to all these underliers (I had to confirm with Merriam-Webster that this is a word), Lester's xFIP-ERA was 0.15, compared to 2012's much larger -1.00. His strikeout and swinging strike numbers have dropped off since his 2009-2010, and, at 29, he may not touch those elite numbers again. However, Boston's lefty has offset some of that with a walk rate that has dropped each of the past four seasons. Lowering your K% and BB% opens you up a bit more to the BABIP gods, but also leads to more economical outings and more innings pitched. In 2014, Lester will remain on the right side of 30. He's shown close-to-workhorse inning totals (205.1 inning average over last six years) and is a good bet for another 200+ IP season with a high-3.00's ERA and 12-15 wins. Maybe not huge upside like you'd get with a young ace, but Lester will be a pretty safe value pick to slot into your staff. (
The Quick Opinion:
While Jon Lester's counting stats tell you he rebounded in a big way in 2013, his season really just represented the correction of same bad luck (and expunging of fried chicken) from the year prior. With a slight decline in strikeouts, his ceiling isn't as high as it once was, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more consistent pitcher over the last six years, and there's lots of value in that.
Entering his age-30 season in 2014, Lester’s fantasy stock was fading. Sure, he had been a fantasy stallion in his first few seasons, but from 2011 through 2013, his FIP and xFIP nearly touched four, his strikeouts per nine innings dipped to 7.7 and he averaged just 13 wins a year. It wasn’t that Lester had lost his use as a mid-rotation fantasy arm, but his days as an ace seemed clearly behind him. That changed big time in 2014, when Lester put together what might have been the finest season of his career, vastly improving his strikeout and walk results, slashing his ERA and grabbing 16 wins en route to
among starting pitchers in Zach Sanders’ end of season rankings. The secret? As Nicholas Minnix
, manager John Farrell’s return to Boston — where he had served as pitching coach during Lester’s early years — helped the southpaw improve his mechanics, changes that began to bear fruit down the stretch in 2013 before fully blossoming the next season. Lester, of course, would be traded in July, but he continued his solid year in Oakland, posting a 3.13 FIP with solid strikeout and walk rates. Now with the Cubs, he’ll be getting a full-time taste of National League offense, and even if he suffers some regression in his strand rate and home-run-to-fly-ball rate in the Windy City, he’ll still offer fantasy owners value across the board. (
Karl de Vries
The Quick Opinion:
Lester won’t be among the top starters taken on draft day, but he’s re-established himself as a strong number two hurler with the upside of ace-like production.
For a fantastic pitcher, Lester surely has his warts. He's not a particularly good fielder. He simply doesn't throw to first base on pickoffs. But when it comes down to throwing the ball 60 feet and six inches, there are few better. Lester can move pitches in and out of the zone with ease regardless of count, pairs his pitches well in sequences, and pitched better than his ERA gives credit for in 2015. Lester posted his best strikeout rate since 2010, a stellar two walks per nine and posted his best ground ball rate since 2012. As far as number two starters go in today's game, there might not be many -- if any -- better. His 11-12 record last year might even have him a little, dare we say it, underrated? (Brandon Warne)
The Quick Opinion:
Lester might come a bit cheaper than how well he pitched last year due to an 11-12 record. But make no mistake, he threw otherwise like an ace in his first season on the North side.
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Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 3:33 AM ET
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