|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/15/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: After walking more batters than he struck out in an inauspicious stint with the Astros’ big league club last summer, he was outrighted to Triple-A and currently has no value even in the deepest of leagues. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/27/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Gallardo is the best Milwaukee has to offer on the mound in 2013. Home run issues have prevented him from becoming a True Ace, but he still has a tremendous fantasy profile. He combines consistent strikeouts — at one per inning each of the last four seasons — with durability — at least 30 starts — and a solid offense behind him to pile up the wins. Expect a mid-3.00s ERA, double-digit wins and 200 strikeouts again. Those numbers look pretty good near the top of a fantasy staff. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Gallardo has been consistently good now for four years, and there’s little reason to expect much change in 2013. His strikeout-heavy profile makes him an especially attractive fantasy option.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/8/1986 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Garcia has been relatively consistent throughout his first three years in the big leagues. His strikeout rate has hovered around the league average, his ground-ball percentage has been well above average at 53-55%, and his home run rate has remained below average at .50-.60 home runs per nine. Last season did mark a shift in run prevention, as he posted a below-average ERA (3.92 ERA, 102 ERA-) for the first time since making the full-time jump to the big leagues, but his 2.97 FIP indicates he actually threw the ball extremely well. The culprit was the .339 batting average on balls in play and 69.1% strand rate. In fact, Garcia had the fifth-highest BABIP amongst starters who threw at least 100 innings in 2012. Expect his ERA to decrease significantly as his BABIP decreases in 2013. Keep in mind, though, Garcia dealt with a shoulder injury last year and also has seen his fastball velocity drop two miles per hour over the past two years. He already had Tommy John surgery following the 2008 season, so any elbow or shoulder injuries should raise red flags. Fantasy owners would be wise to see if the left-hander proves healthy in the World Baseball Classic this March before drafting him for their fantasy roster. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Garcia is a solid number-three starter for your fantasy rotation when healthy, but shoulder issues plagued his 2012 campaign and cast a large shadow over his 2013 outlook.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/24/1985 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: In 27 appearances at Triple-A Syracuse, Garcia threw 32.1 innings striking out 38 batters pitching to a 0.56 ERA. Naturally, that level of performance garnered a promotion where he pitched 13 games on the Nationals, throwing 12.2 innings and giving up three runs while striking out 15 batters. Now, after trading some of their younger rotation depth in the offseason to acquire Denard Span, the Nationals are having Garcia prepare to be a starter. Garcia was previously a starting pitcher while in the Yankees farm system and possesses a mid-90s fastball, a curve and a change. It’s the kind of repertoire that would suit well in the rotation but he’s also had two Tommy John surgeries, likely the reason he was moved to the bullpen in the first place. Still, given Garcia’s production the last couple of seasons in the minors and his brief cup of coffee last year, he’s an intriguing player for fantasy owners in whatever role he’s in. Barring an injury before Opening Day, the Nationals won’t have a spot in the rotation for Garcia so if he makes the roster it will be in the bullpen where Garcia should provide a solid strikeout rate and peripherals. And, if Garcia stays in the rotation, he’s certainly someone to track. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: Christian Garcia appeared in 13 games last year for the Nationals, earning a spot on the playoff roster in the bullpen. In 2013, Garcia is looking to possibly enter the rotation, something he hasn’t done since 2010 in the minor leagues, the same year he had his second Tommy John surgery.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 6/6/1976 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Garcia’s 2012 5.20 ERA may look ugly, but a jump in strikeout rate and a drop in xFIP to 4.06 should be enough to land him a back-end rotation job somewhere. If his landing spot is favorable, he could be useful as a streamer, but the lack of upside as he heads into his age 37 season means he shouldn’t be on the late round draft radar. (Colin Zarzycki)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/26/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Matt Garza had a breakout season in 2011. But then he posted a 3.91 ERA and 4.17 FIP in 2012, almost identical to his 2009 and 2010 numbers. Add to that: He made only 18 starts while struggling with injuries, and he had some malpractice-level-bad fielding problems. As a 29-year-old pitcher with no full season worse than 99 ERA-, Garza still represents a solid investment for most any fantasy team. But do not let the reputation of his stuff, or his role as the Cubs’ “ace,” fool you. Garza is useful, but easy to overpay on. Given his injury problems and recent history, 180 innings of a 3.90 ERA seems like a realistic expectation. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Garza’s reputation may have outpaced his ability. Do not expect much better than 180 innings and a 3.90 ERA (something around 90 ERA-). If you can get him at a moderate price, pull the trigger. Otherwise, gamble elsewhere.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/28/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: Dillon Gee’s promising season came to an end in mid-July, after emergency shoulder surgery to remove a blood clot. Gee did begin throwing again before the end of last season, and is expected to be healthy for next year. But the injury does make him a pretty big question. That’s a shame, as Gee saw some nice improvement last year. His minor-league walk rates translated to the majors, and he upped his strikeout rate by nearly 5% — which seems to be sustainable, given his well-above-average swinging strike rate (10.6%, good for 19th in the league among pitchers with more than 100 innings pitched). He’s one of the players to keep an eye on this spring, even if his fastball is meh. If he proves to be effective during March, and his secondary stuff looks sharp, he could be a solid late-round sleeper. If he looks bad, it will be tough to invest a draft pick in him coming off surgery. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Gee’s season ended after surprise shoulder surgery to remove a blood clot. He was having a nice season before the injury, and is definitely a guy to watch next spring. His performance in March will determine whether he’s worth the investment.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/6/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: Germano is a soft-tossing righty who is coming off a 6.20 ERA that’s only marginally better than his career 5.27 mark, and he’s now headed to the tough American League East (or, far more likely, Triple-A) after signing a minor-league deal with Toronto. What’s not to like? (Mike Petriello)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/10/1988 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Gomez pitched quite well in 21 Triple-A starts in 2011, seemingly establishing himself as a potential key cog of the Indians rotation. And early in 2012, he seemed to be filling that role. Not counting a two inning appearance at Kansas City (he was tossed for a retaliatory hit-by-pitch to start the 3rd), Gomez was solid in his first three starts — 18.1 innings, six earned runs, 18 hits, four walks, 12 strikeouts. But the rest of the year was not kind and, when all was said and done, his 5.96 ERA was only slightly more brutal than his 5.47 FIP. He couldn’t strike anyone out, he walked far too many, he was homer-prone. But the Indians are short on starting pitchers and may need Gomez again. Just hope that your fantasy team does not. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Jeanmar Gomez has shown flashes in the past, but in 206.2 major league innings, his 4.88 FIP leaves much to be desired. He’ll be 25 on opening day, so there may still be time, but I wouldn’t want him on my roster.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1985 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Many looked for Gonzalez to take a significant step forward once the Nationals traded for him prior to the 2012 season, and the southpaw didn’t disappoint. His 9.35 strikeouts per nine ranked number one amongst qualified starters in the National League, and his 2.82 FIP illustrates exactly how dominant he was last year. The most encouraging aspect of Gonzalez’s season, however, was his decreased walk rate. He had dropped his walk rate every season since coming to the big leagues, and that trend continued with him only walking 9.3% of batters he faced. He didn’t work in the strike zone more often (42.8% in 2011 and 42.7% in 2012), nor did he see his swinging-strike percentage increase. Instead, it seems Gio made a concerted effort to work ahead in the count early. His first-pitch strike percentage ballooned from 53.1% in 2011 to 59.0% in 2012 — easily a career-high in his five major-league years. No doubt the move to the National League aided his numbers, too. Don’t be shy. Confidently draft the 27-year-old as a top-ten starter for the upcoming year. He projects to be one of the main cogs in a high-powered Nationals machine. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Gonzalez is a bona fide ace who can anchor your rotation, providing elite numbers in every major pitching category (except saves), and the left-hander should once again be a top-ten starting pitcher this season.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/27/1984 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Gonzalez filled in nicely for a beat-up Orioles’ starting rotation late in 2012. He provided great results — nine wins and a 3.25 ERA. His ERA was over a point lower than his FIP (4.38), xFIP (4.63) and SIERA (4.40), though. A ~4.50 ERA puts a pitcher below-average compared to other starters, and even less useful in fantasy baseball. With his ERA and wins basically suspect, there is not much else to like. 6.5 strikeouts per nine is okay, but not when combined with three walks per nine. Basically, there is a reason the 29-year-old right-hander didn’t debut until last season — he is not that good. Don’t chase the 2012 mirage and instead try to acquire a pitcher with talent. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Miguel Gonzalez got the win in nine of the 15 games he started in 2012. Don’t expect anything close to a repeat.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/12/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: After primarily pitching out of the rotation for the bulk of his eight year career, Gorzelanny had a nice 2012 in the bullpen in Washington. His 2.88 ERA was the best mark he’s had yet but the underlying numbers say it’s more of the same for the lefty, pitching to a 3.97 FIP/4.21 xFIP, numbers in line with his performance since 2009. However, after having an average fastball velocity of 89.6 mph in 2011, Gorzelanny dialed it up a bit to 90.9 mph in 2012. It’s no surprise that his velocity increased (even if it was ever so slightly) as a result of pitching out of the pen and that should help him going forward in 2013. Of course, there is no guarantee he stays in the bullpen as the back of the Brewers rotation isn’t a model of health or experience. For his career, Gorzelanny has a 4.61 ERA as a starter and a 3.23 ERA as a reliever so the Nationals were probably onto something. Although the peripheral numbers weren’t anything to write home about and Gorzelanny isn’t someone who makes you swoon, he might have found his niche as a middle reliever out of the pen and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have continued success out of the pen. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: After pitching as a full-time reliever for the first time in his career last year on the Nationals and finishing with the best ERA of his career (2.88), Tom Gorzelanny will continue to pitch out of the bullpen this year for the Brewers after agreeing to a two-year contract.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/14/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: After a down year in 2011 that saw his strikeout rate drop to a career-worst 5.5 per nine, Gregerson returned to form in 2012 and continued his success as the top set-up man in San Diego. While his strikeout rate failed to return to the double-digit marks we’ve seen in the past, the 9.04 K/9 was still strong when paired with a reduced walk rate and an increase in ground balls induced. Reluctant to toy with the improvements, the Padres passed over Gregerson for the closer’s job when Huston Street first landed on the disabled list, but ultimately turned to him late in the year when the position went vacant for the second time. The results were strong as Gregerson recorded nine saves with a 1.50 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 24 innings from late August through the end of the season. He’ll return to his regular set-up duties for the Padres in 2013, but look for him to be a strong saves sleeper as the team probably won’t pass him over for the job again when Street makes his annual DL trip. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Gregerson has been a staple in the Padres bullpen since 2009 and will continue to be an integral set-up man heading into 2013. He finished 2012 as the team’s closer but is expected to give way to Huston Street again once the season opens. However, given Street’s track record for health, Gregerson should be considered a strong sleeper candidate for saves as he should be the next in line.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 6/20/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Gregg, 34, remains unsigned as of this writing. He doesn’t miss as many bats as he used to (18.5 K% in 2012) and he won’t see enough (any?) save chances to make his average-at-best ERA worthwhile. Maybe he’ll be helpful in a holds league, but even that seems very unlikely. (Mike Axisa)
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/21/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Zack Greinke is behind only Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia in wins above replacement over the last five seasons and yet he typically doesn’t get that kind of respect in fantasy baseball circles. He does present a degree of inconsistency that perhaps makes would-be owners nervous, but Greinke has the skill to be the anchor of your fantasy staff, and he will probably come at a fairly reasonable price. Now in Los Angeles, Greinke will have a good offense behind him and a field that ought to play better than both Milwaukee and Anaheim. The move back to the National League should also bring more strikeouts, and if you’re living clean, maybe Greinke will sniff that 28% strikeout rate he had back in Milwaukee. Expect a low three’s ERA, a WHIP just south of 1.20 and nice heaping dose of strikeouts for your cause. He’s still just 29, so it’s possible he saved his best for Tinseltown. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Zack Greinke is probably the least expensive high-end starter you’ll find. He comes with wild warning labels that are largely unwarranted and you should play that to your advantage. Greinke might not post a sub-three ERA or a WHIP below one, but his move to the National League, as well as his win totals in Los Angeles, his 200+ strikeouts and all around excellent counting stats will make you happy he’s on your squad. Draft him without reservation.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/28/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: A.J. Griffin was drafted in the 2010 amateur draft, and was signed on June 30. Exactly two years and 11 days later Griffin found himself on a big league mound for the first time. Just weeks after his debut, he started Game 5 of the ALDS against the Tigers.A pretty meteoric rise, no? Griffin’s sub-optimal heat — his fastball just averaged 90.3 mph — is offset by a strong mix of pitches, including an absolutely devastating curveball. His 3.06 ERA looks shiny on the surface, but his 3.85 FIP and 4.02 xFIP tell a different tale. Griffin was able to post a mere .264 batting average on balls in play thanks in large part to his fly ball tendencies, his home park, and his team’s defense. Griffin’s 37.5% ground ball rate ranked 26th out of 189 starting pitchers that threw at least 80 innings. He also was able to limit his walks and post the fifth highest infield fly ball rate, up at 16.3%. I’m not ready to call him Matt Cain Light, but there are some resemblances in the batted ball data. It’s a perfect storm of right type of pitcher and right type of ballpark. If Griffin manages to crack the opening day rotation — no guarantee with Brett Anderson, Dan Straily, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, and Bartolo Colon on the roster — then he makes for the ideal home starter and occasional road starter. Grab him late in drafts and stash him. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: A.J. Griffin and the perfect storm — sometimes the perfect situation arises. Sometimes a fly ball pitcher lands in the perfect situation: a park that plays big and that has more grass in the foul territory than most National Parks. Griffin is the perfect spot starter at home or against weaker lineups.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/31/1985 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: There may not have been a more predictable bet heading into 2012 than “Javy Guerra will lose his job to Kenley Jansen,” and that’s exactly what happened after barely a month of play. But it wasn’t quite how we expected, because his peripherals barely changed at all, other than an increased walk rate, leaving him with a 3.34 FIP that was almost identical to his 3.30 mark in 2011. If he can stay healthy, that makes him a decent part of a bullpen, though with Jansen & Brandon League ahead of him for ninth-inning duties, the days of Guerra racking up saves seem very far away. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: 2011’s bullpen surprise became 2012’s nightmare as Javy Guerra lost his closer’s job, took a liner off the jaw, and missed time with knee & oblique injuries, leaving his future uncertain.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/8/1979 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeremy Guthrie becomes a very rich man in Kansas City, but he’s unlikely to make you much in your fantasy leagues. Guthrie is kind of a classic back-end of the rotation guy in real baseball — with an ability to eat innings, and be just good enough to flirt with double-digit wins every year. For your fantasy team, Guthrie might manage an ERA around four if you’ve been living clean, but don’t expect much more than 120 strikeouts. His counting stats looked pretty attractive in his 14 starts as a Royal, but it’s extremely optimistic to expect anything close in 2013. His HR/FB rate was just 8.3% in KC and will likely come up around his career average of 10.6% — which is in large part why xFIP thought he pitched closer to 4.31 than his 3.16 ERA. His BABIP as a Royal was just .268 although xBABIP would have pegged it closer to .308. Guthrie might be nice to stash in case disaster strikes or for occasional spot starts in good match ups, but keep your expectations in check. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Guthrie might win you 10 games in a good season and post an ERA that isn’t altogether offensive, but there’s little else about his profile that should put him on your fantasy team unless it’s extremely deep and/or league-specific.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/14/1977 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Much like Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” Roy Halladay’s struggles remind us that even beautiful things must come to an end. Halladay’s six year run of making at least 31 starts and tossing 220 innings ended after Halladay missed nearly two months with a strained back muscle. He returned in July, but struggled more than usual, particularly down the stretch, giving up 20 runs in 26.1 September innings. Though his peripherals remained good, there were some reasons for concern. Halladay’s fastball averaged just 90.6 mph last season, a significant drop from his 92.0 mph career average. His 3.69 FIP suggests that he will experience a slight bounce back this season, but, for perhaps the first time since he burst onto the fantasy scene, Halladay comes with some risk. Here’s hoping he’s able to stay gold for just a little longer. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Halladay finally showed some signs of decline last season. While his peripherals suggest there’s still the potential for a quality season, he now comes with some risk. Watch his velocity in spring training and proceed appropriately.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/27/1983 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Cole Hamels has been a model of consistency since he reached the majors, which is kind of surprising considering how much he struggled with injuries in the minors. Last season marked the fifth straight year in which Hamels has made at least 31 starts. His strikeout rates have always been above average, and he’s really stingy with walks. The only blemish in his game is an average home run rate, which he seems to have improved over the last two years. You can’t ask for much more from a top-tier fantasy starter. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Hamels has turned into one of the most consistent pitchers in the game. He’s a top-tier fantasy starter, and should remain as such for next season.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/2/1982 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Jason Hammel was traded from the Rockies to the Orioles before last season for Jeremy Guthrie. The 30-year-old right-hander pitched as well as a pitcher could wish to in Colorado with a 4.63 ERA and a 2.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over three seasons. Baltimore must have seen something they liked and Hammel thrived while in Baltimore. First, his strikeouts were up from 6.3 per nine in three Colorado seasons to 8.6 K/9 last season. The move also saw him drop his ERA over a point to 3.43. Then his knee started acting up. In early May, it started to get sore because of some loose bodies in it. Eventually he had to have surgery on the knee. He tried to come back in September, but was forced to go back on the disabled list. His 2012 season had three seasons in it. Before the injury, he had a 2.09 ERA and 3.45 K/BB. After the knee started hurting, he posted a 4.08 ERA and 2.4 K/BB. Also, when he did return, he was a missing 1-2 mph off of his fastball. Hammel will be a great sleeper pick for 2013. Read any reports on his health and velocity and buy cheap a possible top-flight pitcher in the late rounds if you like what you see. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Jason Hammel left Colorado and thrived until a knee injury shortened his season.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/6/1981 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Despite walk rates that we can only describe as Crazy Town Banana Pants, Joel Hanrahan assembled a 2.72 ERA with a 4.45 FIP. Given that this represents the first time Hanrahan has veered above a 3.90 FIP since becoming a reliever, it may be reasonable to brush off the last few months of the 2012 season — when Hanrahan threw the ball in every one of the 360 degrees except the one degree represented by home plate. At this point, though, it is safest to expect something akin to his 2010 season in terms of ERA. If he cannot pull his walk numbers back to his previous, elite levels, then he may be in for a 3.50ish ERA and possibly fewer than 30 saves. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Hanrahan had some serious walk problems in 2012, but dodged any major repercussions in his ERA or save totals. If those walk numbers don’t improve, be ready to sell and sell fast.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/28/1986 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: Tommy Hanson has seen his ERA rise from 2.89, to 3.33, to 3.60, to last year’s dreadful 4.48 mark over his four major league seasons. The continued drop in performance allowed what was once thought of as a future Cy Young candidate to be traded for a relief pitcher in Jordan Walden. There are big concerns in Hanson’s shoulder, which caused him to be shut down in 2011 and is often looked at as a reason for his fastball dropping from 92.3 miles per hour in his rookie year to last year’s lackluster 89.7 average. Now Hanson moves to the American League, though he is fortunate to be pitching in mostly pitcher-friendly ballparks in his division. However, the concerns around his shoulder and his consistently diving performance make him a player worth avoiding no draft day, even though the Angels should boast a tremendous outfield defense and win a ton of ball games. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: The Angels are relying on Hanson to rebound and be a key cog in the middle of their rotation. Do not make the same mistake on draft day, as even with a relatively big name and still some potential, the risk outweighs the potential reward here greatly. Unless he increases his velocity and performs well both in spring training and out of the gate, owners should look elsewhere and let him bring an opponent’s numbers down.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/19/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Statistically, J.A. Happ’s 2012 season was the best of his career. That doesn’t mean you’re going to draft him or spend any of your hard-earned money on him, but, hey, credit where credit’s due, especially considering Happ was traded to the Blue Jays and the American League East during the season. Happ’s 4.01 FIP and 3.92 xFIP were the best of his career, as was his 8.96 strikeout rate. In 40.1 innings with the Blue Jays, he struck out 46 batters, and allowed only two home runs, after allowing 17 home runs in 104.1 innings with the Astros. While on the whole Happ still walks too many batters and allows too many home runs, he showed flashes of, well, something in 2012, enough to make you wonder. Perhaps better competition brings out the best in him; that’s what I’ve been telling myself, anyway. Unfortunately, thanks to, oh, a few roster moves here and there by Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos during the offseason, Happ will likely be pitching out of the Toronto bullpen in 2013. And that’s only if he fights off a few other relievers for a job. A trip to the minors isn’t out of the cards, considering Toronto’s depth. In short: Happ has some, limited fantasy value, especially in your deeper leagues, but he may not get a chance to build in his 2012 success. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: J.A. Happ’s strikeout rate gives him limited fantasy potential in your deepest leagues, even though he walks a few too many batters and allows too many home runs. There’s a glut of pitchers in Toronto, though, meaning Happ could find himself in the Blue Jays bullpen, or in Triple-A.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/9/1978 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: In the five years since Dusty Baker helped end Aaron Harang’s brief run as one of the better pitchers in the National League by overusing him in a short stretch, he’s been one of the more consistent back-end starters in the league, posting FIP marks between 4.14 and 4.79 each year. Due to the vagaries of pitching for three teams in three parks with some inconsistent luck, he’s lived through some wild changes in win-loss record and ERA, but he’s generally supplied league-average innings. As Harang enters his age-35 season, however, the trends are worrisome — his strikeouts are down by about a third from his heyday, and his 4.26 walks per nine in 2012 represented a career worst. Conversely, he found career lows in bating average on balls in play and home runs per nine that don’t seem likely to be repeated, so tread carefully with Harang. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Aaron Harang has found a second life as a roughly league-average starter, compiling his second consecutive sub-four ERA in 2012, though little about him is exciting at this point.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/17/1980 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Whether it be back problems, another injury, or normal aging, Dan Haren lost approximately 1-2 mph in velocity last year, and his overall performance took a hit. Haren’s ERA was over 4.00 for the first time since 2006, and his WHIP was essentially the highest of his career. Haren’s back and hip problems and declining performance have ostensibly become a legitimate concern, as well as the reason his deal with the Nationals was only for a single year. However, Haren still avoids walks like the plague, and moving to the National League should help alleviate some of his performance problems on the mound. Don’t treat Haren like an ace, but instead like a top-36 pitcher who should be able to pick up some easy wins and post a solid WHIP while healthy. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Dan Haren’s back has become an issue, and the reason he had to sign with the Washington Nationals on a one-year deal. Don’t treat Haren like an ace, but instead like a top-36 pitcher who should be able to pick up some easy wins and post a solid WHIP while healthy.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/3/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Fantasy owners received underrated production from Lucas Harrell in 2012. Many overlooked the 27-year-old due to a lack of strikeouts and an above-average walk rate, but he owned a 3.76 ERA and 11 wins by the end of the season. That’s valuable at the back end of any fantasy starting rotation. Before getting too crazy and drafting him as a sixth-or-seventh starter for your squad, however, note that question marks exist heading into the 2013 season. Harrell and the Astros transition to the American League last year, and the AL is regularly tougher on pitchers. He also had the third-lowest swinging-strike rate amongst qualified pitchers last season, so the lack of strikeouts should be expected to continue. Even worse, he’s backed by one of the league’s worst defenses. The Astros ranked second-to-last in the league with -70 DRS (defensive runs saved) and third-to-last with -31.3 UZR. For a ground-ball pitcher who will see the ball put in play more often than the average pitcher, that’s concerning. Harrell enjoyed a solid season in 2012, but plenty of red flags exist for the upcoming season. Tread carefully. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: After a surprising season which saw Harrell compile a better ERA than Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, and Adam Wainwright, the right-hander projects to take a step backward in his sophomore campaign due to a lack of swing-and-miss stuff and a move to the American League.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/16/1985 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: For the past two seasons, it appears that Harrison’s success is built upon smoke and mirrors. His skill set is decent enough, but is certainly more valuable in real baseball than in fantasy. He induces a better than league average rate of ground balls and possesses good control, but his strikeout ability leaves something to be desired. There is no reason to believe he will continue to strand a high rate of runners or maintain a batting average on balls in play much lower than the league average, especially since ground balls go for hits more often than fly balls do. Given the wide discrepancy between his ERAs and SIERA marks the last two years combined with his low strikeout rate, he’s a candidate to be overvalued in fantasy drafts. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: For the second season in a row, Harrison has posted an ERA significantly lower than his SIERA. With a low strikeout rate, he has little room for error and his downside is too great given his likely cost on draft day.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/27/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: That was an electrifying debut for a team that sorely needed hope for the future. With emotions down in the dumps in Queens, Harvey came out and blew the doors off the competition with a 95 mph fastball backed up by a wicked slider and a decent curveball. Much was made of his inadequate changeup in the minor leagues, and the coaching staff coaxed him into throwing the pitch more often in his debut, but with a curveball in hand, Harvey probably won’t have platoon issues with his repertoire. A show-me change, used less often, might lead to better results in the future. And it’s hard to imagine better results, as the 24-year-old struck out more than a quarter of his batters and showed a miniscule ERA and WHIP. His control wasn’t — and probably won’t be — elite, but with whipeout stuff, it won’t need to be. Don’t point too hard at his .262 batting average on balls in play: Matt Swartz found that BABIP is negatively correlated with strikeout rate, and Harvey will always strike batters out. Fantasy owners can expect bundles of strikeouts, a strong ERA, and maybe an average WHIP in 2013. He’s worth an early flier once all the best number ones and twos are off the board, considering that last year’s Yu Darvish might be his floor. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Matt Harvey is the future for the Mets. Don’t worry about the flaws — the changeup, the iffy control, and the possible luck on balls in play in 2012 — because they all have mitigating circumstances. Focus instead on the stuff. The sweet, sweet stuff.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/11/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: At age-26, Jeremy Hefner got a chance to show what he could do in the majors. He alternated between starting and reliever with the Mets, and actually had better peripherals while in the rotation. He ended the year with two strong starts, and could find himself spot-starting for the big league team some in 2013. Hefner seems to have solid control, but he’s not a big strikeout pitcher. His upside is probably fifth starter, which doesn’t help your fantasy team that much. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Hefner won’t walk a lot of hitters, but that’s his only above-average skill. That’s not enough to make him fantasy relevant.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/8/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: The fact that he finished with a sub-.500 record last season was certainly not the fault of the man with the 3.10 ERA. He received 3.86 runs of support per game, the 4th-lowest in all baseball. He’s one of the more interesting pitchers in that he doesn’t strike anyone out, has one of the lowest batting averages on balls in play in baseball, and has been able to strand runners at an historic rate. His 82% strand rate over the past two years is the highest for anyone from 1969-2012. With the trade of James Shields, Hellickson will shoulder an even larger burden this season. Armed with one of the game’s best changeups he should be able to handle the challenge. Despite those looming peripherals, he’s been good two seasons in a row, and remains in the same ballpark, in front of (mostly) the same defensive team, and coached by the same staff. There’s also the fact that his peripherals have been improving slightly and haven’t caught up yet with his excellent minor league work. Because of those major league peripherals, he might even be a bargain in your saber-savvy league. Don’t count him out just yet. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Seemingly able to outperform his FIP and batting averages on balls in play, Hellickson will always be labeled a bust candidate. Until that happens there’s no reason not to love his performance.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/21/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Henderson earned some closer run in the dumpster fire known as the 2012 Brewers bullpen. Milwaukee is committed to John Axford to begin the season, but Henderson could be in the mix if things go south again quickly in 2013. Henderson’s story and profile are uncannily similar to that of Axford — a hard-throwing righty surging to a major league debuts in his late 20s on the back of improved control. Now 30, Henderson posted 13.8 strikeouts per nine last season with a 95 mph fastball. He has a vanilla relief arsenal, but enough power to do some damage. Definitely worth monitoring. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Henderson’s high-90s fastball gives him enough strikeout punch to warrant some late-inning usage. He’s behind John Axford for now, but keep an eye on the situation in the early going this year.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: To date, Hendriks has been a fringy Quad-A pitcher who has been Greg Maddux in the minors and Mike Maddux in the majors. Simply put, he just doesn’t have a true out pitch — hence his 5.5% career SwStr% — which leads to his otherwise solid control pretty much working against him. He’s only thrown 113 big league innings, so Hendrik’s career in the bigs is hardly a cold case, but at some point he’s going to have to find a way to neutralize his long ball luck (1.7 HR/9) or he risks being a taxi squad guy for the rest of his career. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Hendriks hasn’t made it work in the majors yet. Even when he does, his fantasy upside is limited by his lack of bat-missing ability.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/13/1985 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Yes, J.J. Putz will once again hold down the ninth inning in the desert, but that doesn’t mean David Hernandez should remain unowned in your fantasy league. Through his age 26, 27 and 28 seasons, Hernandez progressively missed more bats (10.0, 11.1, 14.1 swinging strike rates respectively) resulting in an increase in strikeouts per nine (8.17, 10.00, 12.91 respectively). Additionally, over the same time frame, the righty reduced his free passes allowed (4.76, 3.89, 2.90 walk rates) aiding the decrease of his WHIP (1.44, 1.14, 1.02), which could also have been useful to your fantasy squad. Looks like he’s taken to the pen. The 23 and 25 holds Hernandez converted over the last two seasons may take a hit in 2013 due to the addition of Heath Bell, but each of the previous statistical improvements he’s made over the last three season makes him worth a late-round pick. And then there are the handful of saves he’ll accrue when Putz takes his annual two-week break. (Alan Harrison)
Quick Opinion: Since joining the Diamondbacks in 2011, David Hernandez has evolved into one of the most elite relievers in baseball and deserves your attention in relatively all fantasy league formats.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/8/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Felix Hernandez is known as “King Felix” for a reason, and his perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays brought the ace back into the national spotlight, allowing baseball fans everywhere to remember his brilliance. Since the beginning of 2009, Felix has been remarkably consistent, and best yet, he’s done it all without any sort of arm injury. Owners know what they’re getting with Felix – 230 innings, 220 strikeouts, ERA around 3.00 – and that certainty will drive his price up a few extra dollars on draft day. Don’t be hesitant to pay it, even with Seattle bringing the fences in a few feet. Felix truly is King, and he’ll anchor your rotation all year long. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Felix Hernandez is a remarkably consistent ace, and while that’ll cost you a few extra shekels on draft day, he’s worth the price.
|Debut: 1996 | BirthDate: 2/20/1975 | Position: RP|
Profile: Livan Hernandez’s transition to the bullpen in 2012 didn’t work out too well. A free agent, Hernandez will turn 38 in February, and he wants to pitch in 2013, and beyond. Who knows if anyone will grant him that wish. Never one to throw hard, Hernandez was victimized by the home run in 2012, allowing 15 in only 67.1 innings of relief. Known as an innings eater, if he’s not starting, he’s not worthy of fantasy consideration. Actually, even if Hernandez does find a job as a starter in 2013, let’s face it, he shouldn’t be on your fantasy team. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Livan Hernandez went from being a slightly above-average innings-eater starter over the past few years to a mediocre reliever in 2012. A free agent, no matter what happens to him in 2013, you shouldn’t even be thinking about him and your fantasy team in the same thought. You can do better.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/31/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Herrera looks to step into the Royals’ closer role if Greg Holland happens to get hurt. The 23-year-old’s fastball constantly reaches 100 mph with his fastball. He has used his strikeout ability to almost average one strikeout per inning (8.2 per nine) over his career. Besides the high number of strikeouts, the flamethrower allowed only 2.2 walks per nine and a 0.4 home runs per nine. He does have a couple of pitfalls. First, he has a platoon split (7.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio against righties and 1.8 K/BB vs lefties). Second, his stuff is good enough to start, but he had health problems in the minors as a starter. Throwing 100 mph and staying 100% healthy may be an issue for him. In deep leagues where all the closers are taken, Herrera is a great play to rack up decent rate stats. And he’s probably next in line for saves. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Not many people had heard of Herrera before last season. Most still haven’t, so buy low.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/15/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: It was another year of disappointment in 2012 for Hochevar as the former number one draft choice (2006) failed to produce a season of stats worthy of even the deepest of fantasy leagues. While he increased his strikeout rate, nearly everything else went up as well, including his walk rate, his ERA, his WHIP, his FIP, and the number of home runs he allowed. About the only thing that didn’t increase was his ground-ball rate, and that’s not a good thing. No matter how many times the Kansas City coaching staff insists that they’ve finally fixed what’s wrong, all roads continue to lead to poor end-of-season totals and now things might finally be coming to an end. With a completely overhauled rotation, Hochevar will now compete for the fifth starter’s job, the only position (next to mop-up duty) that remains open. If Hochevar doesn’t figure things out this spring then he will likely find himself banished to the bullpen for the season. If/When that does occur, he’ll be worth even less in fantasy leagues, if that’s even possible. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Once taken first overall in the 2006 draft, Hochevar continues to be a disappointment and the bane of the Royals pitching coaches who have tried to work with him over the years. He’ll be forced to compete for the fifth starter’s job this spring, but the odds of him winning a spot aren’t great. Expect to see the 29-year old right-hander pitching out of the pen in what should be his final year in Kansas City.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: At least for his fantasy stock’s sake, Holland really needs a change of scenery. In 284.2 career innings at The Ballpark In Arlington, Holland has served up 48 home runs and 315 hits; in just one less out away from home, Holland has allowed 10 fewer home runs and 52 fewer hits. Blame the high fastballs if you want to focus on process, but at this point, it would take a metamorphosis in his command to change the fly-ball results. Holland has consistently been about a run to a run-and-a-half better on the road than at Arlington, which would give him mid-3.00s ERA upside. As is, he’s likely to run something in the low-4.00s without the strikeout stuff needed to elevate him into the top or even middle tier of fantasy pitchers. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Be ready to pounce on Holland if the Rangers move him. In Texas, though, his susceptibility to home runs reduces him to fantasy mediocrity.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/20/1985 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Greg Holland has been in the bullpen his whole career — even during his college days. He has been solid with the Royals, with his ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA all under 3. Holland has struck out over 11 batters per nine in his career. Along with the high strikeout value, he almost never allows a home run (career 0.5 home runs per nine). The 27-year-old righty is able to get out both right- (career 2.79 FIP) and left- (career 2.08) handed batters. His one issue is allowing too many base runners from walks and hits (career 1.23 WHIP). A career 3.8 walks per nine ( 4.6 in 2012) and .313 batting average on balls in play (.346 in 2012) lead to the high number of baserunners, which keeps him out of the elite tier of closers. He is a good, healthy, safe closer and should be one of the top ten closers drafted in 2013. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Greg Holland deserved to be the Royals closer. He finally got the job and should keep it if healthy.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/25/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Howell, 29, recovered from major 2010 shoulder surgery to post a 3.04 ERA (4.78 FIP) in 50.1 innings with the Rays last season. His overall strikeout (7.51 K/9 and 20.7 K%) and walk (3.93 BB/9 and 10.8 BB%) numbers were underwhelming, and he didn’t show big peripheral numbers against left-handers either: 7.40 K/9 (20.2 K%) and 4.81 BB/9 (13.1 BB%). The Dodgers just signed Howell to a nice contract and figure to use him as their primary matchup southpaw, ensuring plenty of hold opportunities. I wouldn’t count on save chances, but the holds will be there. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: The Dodgers signed Howell to be their primary matchup left-hander, meaning the hold chances will be plentiful. He doesn’t figure to see enough save opportunities or strike out enough batters to be a fantasy force, however. Just fantasy useful.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/14/1975 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: While Tim Hudson was solid with his win total with a decent 3.62 ERA, he posted his lowest strikeout percentage since 2004 and will turn 38 in the middle of next season. He’s a decent pitcher to own, but draft or acquire him with the understanding that he is in the decline phase of his career which may lead to continually worse numbers on an annual basis. And remember that his strikeout rate will be a minus that will potentially require work to undo. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: Hudson will enjoy having Andrelton Simmons behind him for a full season, but his age and declining strikeout rate make him a back of the roto rotation type pitcher.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1987 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Hudson will spend the first half of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he’s still good enough to warrant drafting in a large majority of formats. The 25-year-old posted a 3.17 ERA with a 3.29 strikeouts per walk from 2010-2011, and fantasy players shouldn’t be discouraged by his nine terrible, injury-influenced starts from 2013 (7.35 ERA, 4.84 FIP). His fastball tickles the upper 90s when he’s right and TJS should allow him to continue to do so. Draft him, stash him, and grab your favorite sleeper off the waiver wire while you wait. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Hudson will miss the first half of the season with Tommy John surgery rehab, but his excellent 2010-2011 run is more than enough to justify him as a draft-and-stash.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/22/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Don’t let the 3.38 ERA fool you — 2012 was not a great season for David Huff. That stat came over just six major league appearances (four starts) and was accompanied by a 4.78 FIP. He keeps the ball in the zone, but he cannot get anyone to swing and miss, and way too much of the contact is hard contact, as he gives up 1.69 home runs per game. In 2008, Huff struck out more than a batter per inning in Triple-A and looked like he might have a future, but since then, he has yet to post a sub-4.00 ERA or FIP at ANY level, other than a single appearance in Double-A, and that luck-infused 3.38 in Cleveland last year. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Huff is likely to get a shot in Cleveland’s rotation — if not to start the season, then sometime over the summer. But his fantasy value is completely tied to keeping the ball in the park to keep runs off the board, and he has not been able to do that.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/24/1986 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Phil Hughes regressed in 2011 just when the Yankees thought that their former blue-chip prospect was finally emerging after putting up two solid years prior. Still only 25 on draft day in 2012, many owners took the plunge anyway, and were treated to a mediocre option who provided 16 wins, volume, and little else. Hughes’ ERA was 4.23, and his 4.35 xFIP didn’t point to him being a different pitcher at any point during the year. While he generally puts up a low walk rate (7.5% career) which portends a lower WHIP, he also lacks serious swing and miss material that many had hoped he’d develop as he matured into an older starting pitcher. Now heading into his age-27 season, hope that Hughes’ stuff will eventually play up needs to be tempered, if not abandoned. Being a starting pitcher for the Yanks means you are always draftable; wins are almost assured if you can keep the Bronx Bombers in the game. However, with each passing year, Hughes ceiling falls a couple inches. He shouldn’t be drafted as an average option with huge upside, but there is something to be said for pitchers who chew innings and provide wins at the back of fantasy rotations. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Hughes is slowly settling in as a back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter as his xFIP continues to be middling and his 8.3% swinging strike rate is a far cry from what the Yankees envisioned as he tore through the minors in 2006 and 2007. Of course, since the Yankees seem enjoy putting up runs, he’s always worth a late-round flier, but it’s probably time to stop drafting him like he still has blue-chip upside.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/21/1982 | Team: Astros | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: To call Philip Humber the worst pitcher to throw a perfect game is cruel and difficult to prove. Easy to prove and accurate: He had the worst season ever that included a perfect game. This helps explain how he managed to work himself out of a White Sox rotation that wasn’t exactly the league’s deepest. It would be a stretch even to roster him as a starter-eligible reliever in the deepest leagues, as he won’t see many holds. (Dan Wade)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/3/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Hunter has been a below-average starter over his career. The 26-year-old posted a 4.88 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 4.9 strikeouts per nine as a starter. Two-thirds of the way through the 2012, the Orioles moved the right-handed Hunter to the bullpen and his season took off. His fastball jumped from averaging around 91 mph to around 96 mph. His K/9 jumped from 4.7 to 8.5. His walk rate saw a small bump from 1.8 to 2.1 BB/9. The main improvement was his home run rate going from 2.3 to 1.1 HR/9. Putting all three together, his FIP went from 6.09 as a starter to 3.45 as a reliever. He isn’t in line for saves right now, but he has some great value in hold leagues. A strikeout-to-walk ratio between three and four is always nice for padding rate stats. Also, he will have the starting-pitcher qualification, so he can fill in when a SP has an off day. All the excitement from the move to the bullpen is for naught if he has to be used as a starting pitcher again. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Tommy Hunter found new life in the Orioles bullpen in 2012 and looks to continue the trend in 2013.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/22/1990 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Drew Hutchison underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2012, a right of passage among Blue Jays pitchers. Hutchison will be out until August 2013, and, thanks to Toronto’s roster revamp, he’ll have to fight for playing time once he returns. All in all, Hutchison’s big-league debut in 2012 could have been worse: he posted a 4.48 FIP and 4.03 xFIP in 58.2 innings (11 starts), while striking out 49 batters. While his 2013 fantasy value is severely limited, Hutchison could contend for a job in the starting rotation in 2014, depending on whether Josh Johnson returns, and whether Alex Anthopolous goes on another shopping spree. But he has his work cut out for him, considering his more modest upside and the win-now state of the current roster. However, the Blue Jays will be the first to admit that they’re intrigued by his arm, as are many Toronto supporters. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Drew Hutchison underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2012, as Blue Jays pitchers are wont to do, and will miss most of the 2013 season, limiting his fantasy value. Keep an eye on his return late in the season, though, in your deeper leagues.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 9/7/1972 | Position: RP|
Profile: Jason Isringhausen has retired after collecting 300 saves during his lengthy major league career. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/12/1981 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Hisashi Iwakuma amassed 55 wins over 113 games started in five seasons in Japan before coming stateside and joining the Seattle Mariners in 2012. In Japan, Iwakuma had a career 2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a solid 3.87 strikeout to walk ratio. With Seattle, Iwakuma struggled early on, used mostly in mop-up duty, posting a 4.75 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, almost a 12% walk rate, and just an 18% strikeout rate. But after allowing him to start games, Iwakuma finally showed some promise. Over his 16 games started, Iwakuma posted a 2.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, striking out 20% of opposing batters and walking just 7%. Iwakuma doesn’t overpower hitters, but if he can get ahead in the count, his split finger fastball is pretty rude to people — and it was as a starter where he started to find his control. He enters 2013 with a clear role in the rotation, and although Seattle is moving the fences in a bit, it shouldn’t affect Iwakuma much as he’s much more of a ground ball pitcher (52.2%). Even though he gave up more than his share of home runs in 2012, his 17% HR/FB rate ought to come down a good deal. Iwakuma won’t carry you in the wins or strikeouts category, but he’s a sneaky play given the right match-ups. A regular in league-specific formats, Iwakuma would be nice to have around as a spot starter in deeper leagues. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: 2012 was a tale of two seasons for Hisashi Iwakuma. As a reliever, Iwakuma couldn’t find the strike zone, gave up piles of home runs and overall looked to be a bust. As a starter, he found his groove and over 16 starts posted a 2.65 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and struck out 20% of opposing batters while demonstrated his expected stinginess with bases on balls. Iwakuma flashed a terrific ground-ball-inducing splitter when ahead in counts, and he enters 2013 without any questions about his role. A sneaky-good starter for your deeper leagues.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Edwin Jackson is the quintessential draft-day tease. He annually intrigues fantasy owners because he’s a potential stud without the lofty price tag. Guys like that help win fantasy championships. And there’s a lot to like about the 29-year-old hurler. His strikeout rate jumped to a career-high 7.97 K/9 last season thanks to a large increase in his swinging-strike rate (12.2%). He also lowered his walk rate for the third-consecutive year, which led to a career-low 1.22 WHIP. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has increased in each of the past four seasons, and his 3.75 SIERA indicates he pitched slightly better than his 4.03 ERA would otherwise suggest. Yet, despite all of this, he only ranked as the 49th-best starting pitcher in 2012. He also killed fantasy owners down the stretch with a 6.54 ERA in September. Those who draft Edwin Jackson must take the good with the bad, weathering the brutal couple months in which he’s seemingly struggling to remain in the starting rotation and not getting overly excited when he dominates for a month or two. For aggressive fantasy owners who prefer to draft high upside, Jackson is the perfect gamble. For the more risk-averse owners, though, Jackson represents a roller-coaster ride that’s best avoided. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Jackson remains woefully inconsistent from start-to-start, which severely limits his overall fantasy value, but his increased strikeout rate and flashes of brilliance will likely entice someone into overpaying on draft day.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/30/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Say hello to one of the most dominant young pitchers in the game: over the last two seasons, only Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel has a higher strikeouts-per-nine rate than Kenley Jansen’s outstanding 14.79 mark. As expected, Jansen took the closer’s job away from Javy Guerra in late April and proved himself to be one of the best firemen in baseball, putting up a 66/14 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 25 saves in 30 opportunities in 44 innings between April 27 & August 27. Unfortunately, he was then sidelined for a month with a flare-up of the heart problem which had plagued him in the past, and by the time he returned, Brandon League had positioned himself in the ninth inning. Jansen has hopefully put his health concerns behind him with offseason cardiac surgery, but with League’s fancy new contract, Jansen is likely to start the season as a setup man. Then again, given the histories of the two relievers, it’s far from a guarantee that the former catcher finishes the season that pitching the eighth. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Flamethrowing righty Kenley Jansen continued to destroy the opposition, but he once again missed time to ongoing cardiac concerns. The absence may have cost him his closing job, which now seems to belong to Brandon League.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/17/1981 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Casey Janssen got new business cards in 2012, his job title changed to “Closer.” After Sergio Santos was lost to Toronto to shoulder surgery, Janssen took over. He stepped into the role without missing a beat, putting up similar numbers to his 2011 campaign while posting 22 saves. Both Janssen’s 9.47 strikeout rate and 2.99 xFIP were career bests, and with his velocity steady in the low 90s, there’s no reason to think he can’t deliver strikeouts out of the Toronto bullpen at the very least. Janssen is, however, coming off minor shoulder surgery during the offseason, and will be battling for the closer’s job with the aforementioned Santos, who owns more traditional closer’s velocity. Janssen is a key cog in the Blue Jays’ pen, and your fantasy team could do worse in middle relief. Consider any saves a bonus. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Casey Janssen is a reliable member of the Blue Jays’ bullpen, good for 50-65 innings, a low ERA, and a healthy strikeout rate. He pounds the strike zone and doesn’t walk a lot of batters, and will be competing for the closer’s job in Toronto against Sergio Santos. Your fantasy team could do a lot worse in relief.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/22/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2011, even as he seemingly struggled mightily, Jimenez posted a 3.67 FIP which was right in line with what he had done previous years. But in 2012, the bottom fell out. His strikeouts fell dramatically and his walks jumped even more. The guy who used a high ground ball rate to avoid homers in Colorado’s thin air started giving up fly balls left and right, and the home runs spiked, as a result. His velocity has been down, but his control is the bigger issue. The ball is staying up and is not staying in the zone, and that is a bad combo. He’ll get drafted in most leagues, and at the right price, you could take a shot — but that price is a late draft pick or a couple dollars at auction, and not much more. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Velocity is down, the ball is up, and the control is gone. But 2011 wasn’t as bad as it seemed, and the question you have to ask is if 2012 was the end or an aberration. I’m willing to take a flyer on it being the latter.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/31/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Johnson took the long road to the majors, finally debuting in 2012 after being drafted all the way back in 2005. And yet, the right-hander is still just 25 and looks capable of being a solid back-end innings-eater for an Orioles rotation in need of some stability after the inconsistent production and health of former top prospects like Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta. Johnson’s performance in the bigs last season (2.11 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 in 38.1 IPs) was a little out-of-nowhere-ish, much like the entire Baltimore organization’s, so don’t try projecting those numbers over a full season. But his Triple-A digits (2.06, 1.06, 8.5 in 91.1 IPs) were very similar, so Johnson has at least shown he’s ready to battle for a rotation spot next spring. Even if he doesn’t crack the Opening Day five-man, he could be a reliable long man out of the pen and on the short list to replace an injured or ineffective starter, making him one to keep tabs on in deep AL-only leagues as a streaming option with a little upside. If he makes the rotation out of spring, he might be borderline mixed-league relevant. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: Armed with none of the pedigree or hype of his Baltimore prospect brethren, Steve Johnson nonetheless outshone the lot in 2012. He may have to begin that battle all over again, depending on how the rotation shakes out this spring.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/31/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Can Josh Johnson rediscover his fastball velocity? It is the likely key to any ace-level performance to be had in the American League East. Johnson’s fastball doesn’t blaze like it did prior to his shoulder injuries, and 2012 saw a more ineffective pitcher across the board — fewer strikeouts, more walks, fewer ground balls, and more home runs. Even if Johnson regresses toward his past form, any statistical improvement from 2012 is suppressed by Rogers Centre and the quality of the AL East. So he’s not an ace anymore, instead a solid number-two type pitcher given his still-sharp secondary stuff. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Unless Johnson regains the fastball velocity he lost between 2011 and 2012, returning to the overall numbers he posted from 2009-2011 seems unlikely. Throw in a move to Toronto’s Rogers Centre and the likelihood of fantasy ace numbers only decreases. More of a number two or number three than an ace now.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/27/1983 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: From 2006 to 2010, Jim Johnson struggled a bit as a relief pitcher with a 3.65 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 1.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He turned around his career the last two seasons, with a 2.59 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 2.8 K/BB. Also he led the league with 51 Saves in 2012. The reason for the turnaround has been a move from using a 4-seam fastball to a 2-seam fastball which breaks downward more. The change has increased his ground-ball rate from around ~52% in 2009-2010 to ~62% in 2011-2012. The higher GB% has dropped his home run per nine rate to 0.4. His role as the Orioles’ closer looks solid going into 2013. Even though the number of saves will regress some, he still should be a top-ten closer. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Jim Johnson transformed himself into one of the best closers in baseball last season. Can he repeat?
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/28/1986 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: After the stalwart Matt Thornton, no pitcher saw more action for the White Sox than Jones. Unfortunately, he saw it at times that were wholly irrelevant to fantasy baseball. As Thornton recedes, Jones could see more high-leverage action in the future, but there isn’t a sure line of succession and that chance surely isn’t worth betting on before the season even starts. (Dan Wade)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/29/1986 | Position: SP|
Profile: Jair Jurrjens was able to put together a few seasons in which he outperformed his peripherals in Atlanta, but last year the smoke-and-mirrors show ended and he was absolutely blasted to the tune of a 6.89 ERA over 10 major league starts, which lead to an eventual non-tender. Jurrjens showed an awful ability at punching batters out, with an 8% strikeout rate that nearly matched his walk rate. Now the right-hander somehow was given a major league deal with the Orioles and will be entering the hitter-friendly American League East. Look at Jair Jurrjens as a bounce-back candidate at your own peril. The likelihood of him performing as he did in 2009 or 2011 is very slim considering how poor he was last season in both the majors and minors (4.98 ERA, 4.85 strikeouts per nine in Triple-A over 14 starts). (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: It would be in your best interest to avoid Jurrjens on draft day. With a lack of a quality third pitch, Jurrjens is essentially a two-pitch pitcher who will consistently face some of baseball’s top quality offenses in hitter-friendly ballparks. If he finished the season in the rotation, it would be a surprise.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/24/1982 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: The Pirates swingman had another season under a 4.00 ERA, but that did not necessarily make it a good year for him. The now-30-year-old righty missed over 60 games with various injuries, most notably including a long stretch caused by the return of throwing-arm shoulder inflammation issues. Karstens limits walks, eats innings, and shows great pitcher face, but his age and injury history make him a waiver-wire acquisition in only the most dire of circumstances. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/4/1989 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Kelly, 23, bounced back from an early-season bout with elbow soreness that cost him about three months to make his way up to San Diego by late August. The former first-rounder (taken by the Red Sox in 2008) was impressive in his debut outing (six innings, three hits, no runs) but not good in his next five starts: 23 IP, 36 hits, 20 earned runs (albeit with a 22:8 strikeouts-to-walk ratio). The 6’3, 200 right-hander with big league bloodlines (son of Pat Kelly) has always been a favorite of scouts, but his stats have had trouble measuring up, especially at Double-A and above. Kelly’s athleticism could wind up being his saving grace — formerly a two-way prospect at shortstop, he’s focused entirely on pitching only since 2010 — as he sports a repeatable delivery and has displayed above-average control and command (2.4 walks per nine, career), making him the type of pitcher who could get better in the majors, if everything clicks into place. With the Padres rotation open-ended, Kelly will get plenty of chances to pitch in the bigs in 2013, and he could be a sneaky, cheap arm to own in NL-only leagues, especially if deployed at Petco. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: Even if the walls are coming in at PetCo, San Diego should still be a good place for a young pitcher to develop. Kelly still needs some seasoning, but there’s a little more to him than the numbers might suggest.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/9/1988 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Kelly flashed big-time velocity and was effective as both a starter and reliever for St. Louis last season. The club says he’ll be a starter this season, but there doesn’t appear to be room in the rotation for Kelly at the MLB level to begin the season. His grounders and gas should make him a solid option if he earns some spot starts later in the season. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/26/1984 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Kyle Kendrick completed his second straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA. Once again, FIP doesn’t believe he’s as good as those numbers suggest. He did show some improvement last season, upping his strikeout rate to 17.2%. That’s still not great, but it’s a substantial gain for Kendrick. Other than that, he won’t walk a ton of hitters and he’s prone to giving up the long ball. He’s definitely hurt by his home park, and would be better suited pitching in Petco (then again, who wouldn’t?). He does enough to have value as a back-end innings-eater in the big leagues, but his upside is too small to make a difference in most fantasy leagues. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: The Phillies seem primed to give Kendrick 30+ starts next season. He could be effective in the back end of a major league rotation, but doesn’t do enough to help your fantasy team, except in deeper leagues.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/19/1984 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Kennedy set up some unrealistic expectations with his 2011; those should be corrected by his 2012. Kennedy can miss bats and rack up strikeouts but he doesn’t get enough ground balls to stave off the home runs. He allowed 1.21 home runs per nine innings, a mark effectively barring him from acehood. The combination of a 37.5% ground ball rate and having Chase Field as his home park adds up to more home runs in the future. Kennedy offers enough durability and bat-missing to make him above-average, but nowhere near the staff head he was drafted as last season. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Kennedy proved last year he isn’t the kind of pitcher who should be heading staffs, fantasy or otherwise. Grab him for strikeouts and durability, but be wary of home runs.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/19/1988 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Kershaw’s 2012 was pretty darn close to his 2011, and if not for a spectacular season (and story) from R.A. Dickey, Kershaw might have repeated as the NL’s Cy Young award winner. Kershaw did slip a little in 2012. His strikeout rate dropped from 9.57 to 9.05 and his walk rate rose to 2.49 from 2.08. But his K/9 was still the fifth-highest in the National League. His BB/9 was only good for 23rd-best, and contributed to a 1.02 WHIP, compared to 0.98 in 2011. But Kershaw continued to excel at the things that make him an elite pitcher. He induced swinging strikes on 11% of his pitches and held hitters to a .204 batting average. Only Gio Gonzalez had a lower BAA in the National League. Kershaw’s kept his batting average on balls in play at or below .275 for the fourth consecutive season, which suggests Kershaw’s pitches induce more weakly-hit balls. That’s especially true in 2012, when the Dodgers’ defense rated only 8th-best in the National League. If Kershaw stays healthy — not a given, considering his hip issues in the past — expect another monster season from the lanky left-hander in 2013. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
Quick Opinion: Kershaw was at the top of his game again in 2012. The lefty nearly matched his remarkable Cy Young award-winning season from 2011, but a growing walk rate and shrinking strikeout rate made him only one of the five best pitchers in the National League, instead of the best. He misses bats on more than 10% of his pitches, and induces weak contact when hitters do connect. Look for Kershaw to dominate the National League again in 2013.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/1/1988 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: The 25-year-old had a rough major-league debut with the Astros last season, posting a 5.33 SIERA with more walks than strikeouts. Historically, Keuchel has found some success limiting walks and generating ground balls throughout his minor league career, but fantasy owners should currently not rely upon that success translating to the majors next year and should stay away on draft day. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/28/1988 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: No reliever has been as good as Craig Kimbrel since he entered the league late in the 2010 season. He took his performance to an even higher level after winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2011, with a 1.01 ERA and mind boggling 0.68 SIERA as Fredi Gonzalez lowered his workload from 77 innings to 62.2. Kimbrel’s strikeout rate bumped up almost 10% and his walk rate was nearly cut in half, as the fireballer saved 42 games in 45 opportunities. The stellar season allowed him to finish fifth in Cy Young balloting and eighth in MVP voting. While his season was certainly one for the ages, it is difficult to expect him to improve on those numbers. Even so, Kimbrel should be in for another dominant season as the ninth inning man for an expected playoff contender, and his strikeout rate is so dominant that he can far outpace any other reliever — especially now that Aroldis Chapman is making a bid for the starting rotation. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: While drafting Kimbrel means you’re taking the first closer off the board, it is hard to be upset with taking a reliable and dominant closer relatively early. His raw strikeout totals of 127 and 116 provide excess value along with his other worldly ERA and WHIP. While the main reason you are drafting him is for 40+ saves, the extras make him a worthwhile target on draft day even with the expensive cost.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/10/1986 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Kluber has shown flashes of strikeout ability in the past, and his FIP last year was a not-bad 4.29 over 12 starts. He likely gets another shot with Cleveland, is unlikely to have fantasy value, but could be worth keeping an eye on. (Chad Young)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/12/1985 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Kontos didn’t debut with the Giants until June and very quickly made himself an indispensable part of the bullpen. His 9.07 strikeout rate was second-highest among Giants relievers, behind only Sergio Romo, and good for 30th-best among National League relievers with 40+ innings pitched. Not bad for a guy with only six innings pitched in the majors before 2012. He showed good numbers against both hands, although the sample size is small. He might be useful for rates and ratios in deeper leagues in 2013. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/10/1975 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Hiroki Kuroda’s year-to-year consistency since entering MLB in 2008 borders on ridiculous. Over the last four years, his xFIP has sat squarely between 3.43 and 3.67. His K% and BB% have similarly featured remarkably little spread, deviating no more than a percentage point from his career averages in any given year. Kuroda will be 38 come Opening Day, but there is little reason to think he’s ready to fall off a cliff. His fastball velocity has declined the last few years, but only by a few tenths of a mph. Some of this velocity “loss” might not even be old age at all, but rather, as Chris Cwik noted, Kuroda moving away from his four-seam fastball in the Bronx to help induce more ground balls and lessen the potential impact of Yankee Stadium’s short left porch. Kuroda offers little elite upside, but given his year-to-year rates and the fact that he plays for the run-happy Bombers, he has one of the highest floors of any guy who won’t be drafted as a fantasy ace. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: After saying “he needed a break” which was followed by a little bit of flirting during fall vacation, Kuroda decided the grass isn’t always greener and re-upped with the Yankees. While Kuroda is another year older, he’s as steady a pitcher as you’ll find the last few years — consider him a solid starter; one without an elite ceiling, but one who has a high floor, too.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/23/1978 | Team: Red Sox | Position: P|
Profile: Lackey will be on the comeback trail in 2013, as he missed all of the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. While 2011 was a bit of a disaster, it may have been somewhat mitigated by the elbow injury. Still, Lackey is not the star he once appeared capable of becoming. In 2005, Lackey had a 22.3% strikeout rate. Since that season, his K% has been flat or trended downward in every season. His performance in his last season may have trended further down than it should have due to his elbow injury, but it still may not rebound much. His swinging strike percentage was 7.0% in both 2010 and 2011, and ’05 was the only season in which it topped 10 percent. That might be fine if Lackey was still the efficient pitcher he was in 2007 and 2008 when his walk rate was under six percent, but that rate has also gone in the wrong direction. To top it off, research has shown that pitchers are better in their second season following Tommy John surgery, so even if Lackey does surge, it may not be until 2014. Given his contract, he will be given every opportunity to try and justify it, but definitely don’t take him unless you need an extra starter in a deep league. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: While he’s draftable in deep leagues simply because he will be given an opportunity to stick in Boston’s rotation, you shouldn’t be investing heavily in Lackey’s comeback season.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Aaron Laffey started 16 games and threw 100.2 innings for the Blue Jays in 2012; that’s how desperate the situation was in Toronto. The lefty can’t do anything for your fantasy team. He doesn’t strike out enough batters, and he was torched by the home run last year. He signed a minor-league contract with the Mets during the offseason, to which you’re thinking, “Of course he did.” (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/27/1984 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Lannan spent the majority of last season in Triple-A, where he compiled a 4.30 ERA and 4.46 FIP over 148.2 innings. His FIP dropped to 3.71 in a brief 32.2-inning stint with the Nationals, but the results remain consistent with his career performance. He’s a low-strikeout, ground-ball pitcher who will hover around a 4.00 ERA. Unfortunately, he also walks a healthy number of batters, making his career 1.42 WHIP unappealing in standard rotisserie leagues — not to mention he only threw 41.8% of his pitches in the strike zone last year. That’s certainly a small sample size, but it doesn’t suggest his career 3.40 walk rate isn’t dramatically decreasing anytime soon. Lannan should be a solid fifth starter for the Phillies in 2013. That doesn’t mean, however, that he should occupy the same role on your fantasy squad. Only in extremely deep NL-only leagues should he be considered on draft day. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Despite moving from Washington to Philadelphia, the left-hander still does not provide much value in fantasy formats, as Lannan essentially provides a Joe Saunders-esque ERA with fewer strikeouts and more walks.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/9/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Mat Latos saw the expected uptick in home runs allowed in his move from San Diego to Cincinnati, but he was able to remain nearly as effective despite the move to the more difficult ballpark. Latos got off to a pretty terrible start in Cincinnati and there was certainly at least some worry that he was a product of pitching in Petco through his first 14 starts, where he netted a 5.20 ERA. Latos essentially ditched his changeup midseason and turned his year around. It is worth monitoring the usage of that pitch this spring, but he seems to be excelling with his fastball and two breaking balls. Entering this year, Latos has recorded three consecutive years with at least 31 starts and will be pitching in his age-25 season. His 2010 campaign may have been a bit on the fluky side, but he has proven to be a well above-average pitcher and has remained consistent despite his fastball dropping a full mile per hour from his first full year. Latos is certainly not an elite pitcher, but he is a consistent three-win pitcher and should continue to produce at this level. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: For fantasy purposes, moving to Cincinnati certainly hurt Latos’ value and he has had issues out of the gate throughout his career, with a 5.73 ERA in March and April. There is a chance that his overall ERA does not match his actual value as he was a different pitcher when he removed his changeup from the equation. With a solid defense behind him and on a team that should win many games, Latos is a good bet for mid-teens wins and an ERA below 3.50.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 11/2/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Midway through his sixth professional season, Layne was a failed starting pitcher who had been traded from Arizona to San Diego for the always elusive “future considerations” and had pitched so poorly in five post-trade Triple-A starts that the Padres had bounced him back to San Antonio. But after reinventing himself as a reliever, the soft-tossing lefty was summoned to the bigs to post an absurd 1.17 FIP in 26 games. Though he has three decent-to-better pitches from his days as a starter, it’s difficult to count on him given his long track record of medocrity, and he has the look of a future LOOGY (though he had some success against righties as well, perhaps due to his multiple release points). That said, considering that he had the look of a future bartender when the second half started, I doubt he’d complain. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Former 26th-rounder Tom Layne was 0-10 with a 6.37 ERA in the minors in 2012 but somehow managed a 26/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.2 late-season innings for San Diego. Who says baseball isn’t the greatest sport on Earth?
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/16/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: The Lord of the Lower-Tier Closers is back again in 2013, albeit in slightly darker blues, and once again is given a closing job over someone younger, cheaper, and more talented than him. After 27.1 innings of work as a Dodger, the team took about three hours into the offseason to sign him to a three-year, $22.5 million contract, meaning that he’ll get a fair amount of rope next season. Whether you believe in him depends on whether you believe in the splits: his K/9 (8.89), GB% (57.6%) and FIP (2.77) all improved dramatically in southern California, reportedly due to improvements in his mechanics. His BB/9 was still notably high (actually increasing from 3.83 to 4.61 after the trade), but this was due to a return to the splitter and a willingness to miss low, rather than flail up in the zone. Keep in mind that $22 million isn’t that much in LA, and Kanley Jansen is rumored to be pretty good, so try to handcuff him if at all possible. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Brandon League improved dramatically after leaving Seattle for Los Angeles, and has the closing job for a good team in a good pitcher’s park. The question is: was his improvement mechanical and repeatable, or the result of small sample size?
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/12/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Leake has been replaced in the rotation by Aroldis Chapman, so he has no place being drafted in a standard league unless something happens to a starter in spring training. The Reds had an incredibly sturdy rotation last year, as only one start was made by a pitcher who was not a member of the opening day rotation. Leake will have to wait until a pitcher is injured or performs terribly to regain a spot in the rotation. With his home run tendencies, he may be better off in a new home, which may be the final outcome. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: Mike Leake may be on his last legs in Cincinnati, as the perennial National League Central contender could not afford to watch him continue to struggle and cost them games.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/7/1984 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Unless the Marlins make a surprise signing prior to spring training, LeBlanc should get a chance as the their fifth starter. The lefty reeled in his control a bit last year, lowering his walks per nine to 2.5, but he doesn’t have enough fantasy-relevant skills nor a good enough supporting cast to give him much worth. He hardly misses bats — 7.4% swinging strikes, 5.6 strikeouts per nine in 2012 — and he doesn’t get ground balls — 34.4% in 2012. Even if he conspires with his home park to produce a solid ERA like he did last season (3.67), he’s unlikely to contribute in the other basic fantasy statistics. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: LeBlanc has uninspiring stuff and uninspiring peripherals. The result, unsurprisingly, is an uninspiring fantasy profile for the presumptive Marlins’ fifth starter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/4/1984 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Sam LeCure’s transition into a full-time reliever has gone quite well for the Reds, and the right-hander has evolved into one of the team’s top relievers. As a member of what should be one of the league’s better bullpens, that is rather impressive. With Sean Marshall and Jose Arredondo expected to set up, LeCure will have difficulty finding holds unless one of the aforementioned struggles or gets injured. It is doubtful that LeCure will be fantasy relevant, but in holds leagues he could eventually be useful if his performance remains as quality as it was last season. (Ben Duronio)
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/30/1978 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: If you’re reading FanGraphs, you already understand how foolish it is to chase wins. Cliff Lee proved that last season, winning just six games for the Phillies. Other than that, his numbers were actually pretty solid. What he lost in his strikeout rate, he made up for by being even more stingy with walks. The only cause for concern with Lee was an elevated home run rate. Even with that, he still had a 3.13 FIP. He’s a strong bet to improve on his win total, which should allow him to reclaim his role as one of fantasy’s top starting pitchers. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: A lack of wins held Lee back last season. That’s unlikely to happen again, and Lee should reclaim his role as a top fantasy pitcher.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/7/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: 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. (Colin Zarzycki)
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.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/2/1979 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Lewis was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery after just 16 starts last season.The Rangers managed to turn the lemons into (drinkable?) lemonade by inking Lewis, a free agent to be at the time, to a $2 million contract for 2013. Lewis won’t return until midseason, but if he can replicate what he did in his 2012 half-season it will pay off in spades, both for the Rangers and owners who can sneak him onto their rosters. Lewis managed a 3.48 ERA and 3.88 FIP last season and has a 3.93 ERA and 458 strikeouts in 506.1 innings as a Ranger. Getting league-average pitching on the cheap is always a solid deal, and Lewis should be no different. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Lewis will miss the first half of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but if you can sneak him onto your roster for cheap he should pay dividends in the second half.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/4/1976 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: If you look only at the top-line stats of 5-1, 3.14, it certainly looks like a shoulder injury robbed Ted Lilly of what was shaping up to be a fantastic season. That’s only because he didn’t stay healthy enough for reality to catch up with him, however, because in every other way Lilly was trending downward. His 5.73 strikeouts per nine rate was down substantially from the seven and eight range it had been in for the previous few years, and that was paired with a walk rate that was higher than it had been since 2006. Lilly was saved by career-best home run rate and batting average on balls in play, but he’s a notoriously homer-prone pitcher, and coming off shoulder surgery & headed into his age-37 season, his future — including his rotation spot on an overstuffed Dodger roster — is uncertain at best. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Ageless lefty Ted Lilly saw good results in eight games before losing the rest of the season to shoulder injury, but his poor peripherals meant that it’s likely the missed time just helped him skip the regression that was almost certainly coming anyway.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/15/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Lincecum is one of the top mysteries heading into 2013 after his miserable 2012 season. Most analysts peg Lincecum’s troubles to a substantial decline in his fastball velocity. Even in the post-season, when he pitched well out of the bullpen, his fastball velocity didn’t spike. According to PITCHf/x, Lincecum’s four-seamer averaged only 90.4 mph and in many games sat mostly at 88-89 mph. When Lincecum reared back to add velocity, he lost command of the pitch. The drop in fastball velocity also affected the effectiveness of his change-up (his outpitch) as hitters could lay off the change-up waiting for a fastball in the zone to hit. The result for Lincecum was the second-highest walk rate (4.35) among qualified starters in the National League. His strikeout rate (9.19) sat just above his 2011 numbers (9.12), but a long way from the 10.51 K/9 he posted in 2008, the first year he won the NL Cy Young. Another troubling development for Lincecum was his tendency to give up the long-ball. His 1.11 home run rate was the highest of his career by far. Sure, he gave up 16 of 23 home runs on the road, but he still yielded seven home runs at AT&T Park, the toughest home run-hitting park in the majors. Bill James projects a bounce-back season for Lincecum in 2013. Whether you should expect that for your fantasy team is anyone’s guess. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
Quick Opinion: It’s anyone’s guess whether the old Lincecum will re-appear in 2013. He committed to a off-season weight-gain and exercise program prescribed by the Giants training staff. Whether that, or any change to his approach or mechanics, will result in a rejuvenated fastball remains to be seen. Be very wary with Lincecum in 2013.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/25/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Brad Lincoln began the 2012 season in the Pirates bullpen. He made a few starts for the Pirates — five, if we’re being precise — before settling in the bullpen for good. Then he pitched well in relief for a bit. In late July, he was traded to Toronto, but left his success in Pittsburgh. Lincoln’s strikeout rate spiked last season, up to 9.00 from 5.48 in 2011, and 4.27 in 2010; he found extra gas on his fastball and curveball. In homer-happy Toronto, though, Lincoln was victimized by the home run, allowing six in 28.2 innings in the American League, as opposed to only eight in 59.1 innings in Pittsburgh. Acquired as a power arm for the Blue Jays bullpen, Lincoln’s future is in flux: reports out of Toronto are that, thanks to a crowded Toronto bullpen, he’ll be stretched out in spring straining, in order to become the Blue Jays’ seventh starter, should the team need him. (If Toronto’s 2013 season is anything like 2012, they’ll need him.) That makes it possible that he starts the season in Triple-A Buffalo as a starting pitcher if he fails to make it north to Toronto as a reliever, which, let’s face it, means he’s of no fantasy value to you, me, or any one of us. But if things change — the best laid plans often go awry, and all that — and Lincoln does find himself in the Toronto bullpen, and he keeps his velocity up, he can provide some strikeouts, provided he keeps the baseball in the yard. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: a lot has to go right in order for Lincoln to contribute to your fantasy team. But crazier things have happened. Or so I’ve been told. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Brad Lincoln found himself a home in the Pirates bullpen in 2012, but a trade to Toronto didn’t see his results translate to the American League. Thanks to a strikeout rate that spiked, and new-found velocity, Lincoln has an intriguing arm — who doesn’t love strikeouts? But his future is in flux, with the Blue Jays reportedly set to stretch him out to become their seventh starter, should they need one.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/15/1987 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Lindblom’s once-quick ascent to the majors was derailed when the Dodgers attempted to make him a starter in 2009-10, but after returning to the bullpen in he made a nice impression in his 2011 debut with the big club, posting a 2.35 FIP in 29.2 innings. He was at times one of the most consistent Dodger relievers in the early part of 2012, but his swing-and-miss stuff (8.87 strikeouts per nine with Los Angeles) was often weighed down by problems with control (3.40 walks per nine) and especially home runs (1.70 home runs per nine). After a July trade to Philadelphia, he somehow increased both the strikeout & walk rates while continuing to allow far too many long balls, and so an overall 5.15 FIP looks a lot worse than his 3.55 ERA. He’s now headed to his third team in five months after a December trade to the Rangers, and while he’s got talent, two good pitches, and lots of potential, Texas is not exactly the place to be trying to sort out home run troubles. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Josh Lindblom keeps getting traded for formerly-great players who are on the back nine, doesn’t he? After being traded from Los Angeles to Philadelphia for Shane Victorino at the deadline, he won’t find life easier in the AL now that he’s been shipped to Texas for Michael Young.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/11/1980 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Matt Lindstrom likely won’t be trusted as a closer, but he can give owners holds and strikeouts. As long as his batting average on balls in play sits below .310, Lindstrom is a great addition to your roto bullpen, especially in AL- or NL-only leagues. (Zach Sanders)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/26/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2011, Francisco Liriano battled shoulder inflammation. He went on to post the lowest strikeout rate of his career. His velocity was off significantly. With a 5.09 ERA and just a 19% strikeout rate, it seemed like we could finally close the book on the pitcher who flirted with a Cy Young performance just a year before. 2012 only proved to add to the confusion with Liriano. His velocity was back, and in a big way, averaging over 93 mph. His strikeouts were back with a 24.1% K rate, better than his career 23.5%. Yet, his control was as bad as it’s ever been and although his signature slider was still an effective pitch, his runs allowed on both fastballs registered well below league average. He’s still preventing great contact and inducing high swinging-strike numbers, but until Liriano can figure out where the ball is going, he is going to be consistently frustrating to fantasy owners. Now a Pittsburgh Pirate, Liriano is seeking to pull an A.J. Burnett and resurrect his career. PNC park is a friendlier place to pitch than what he experienced in Minnesota and far better than U.S. Cellular. Even better, PNC suppresses home runs by right-handed batters that could come in particularly handy for Liriano since 18 of the 19 home runs he gave up last year were versus righties. With a move to the National League, you might also expect Liriano to see an uptick in strikeouts as well, although if the pitchers simply stand there he might just wind up walking them too. Don’t completely ignore him on draft day, but certainly don’t have high expectations either. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Now a Pirate, Liriano moves to a park that is a little more friendly than what he was used to in Minnesota and a whole lot more friendly than Chicago. Yet, having steady work doesn’t mitigate that Liriano is as consistently inconsistent as ever. His fastball is back, his strikeouts are up and he keeps hitters from making good contact, but that might be because Liriano has as much of an idea where the ball is going as the opposing hitter does. Until the control issues are addressed and remedied, Liriano isn’t going to be useful.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/9/1985 | Position: P|
Profile: Jesse Litsch didn’t pitch for the Blue Jays in 2012, thanks to shoulder and arm injuries, and, now a free agent, he won’t be pitching in 2013, either. Litsch is awaiting bone graft surgery intended to save his pitching career, which may be over. We wish him the best. (Navin Vaswani)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/20/1987 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: As a starter in the International League in 2012, Locke did some terrible, unforgivable things to hitters, sporting a 22.4% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate — good for a 2.48 ERA and 3.24 FIP. In his second coffee cup callup, Locke brought almost the exact same peripherals, sans his usual home run rate, which led to a solid 3.51 SIERA in 34.1 IP. The lefty stands a chance of making the rotation out of Spring Training and should be a useful, inexpensive acquisition in most ottoneu leagues, or leagues with benches of some depth. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: The lefty Locke has had some okay years in the minors, but his big league ceiling is yet limited. Consider him in the deepest leagues if he makes the Pirates’ rotation this spring.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/10/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: Loe’s inability to get lefties out limits him to ROOGY status — far, far away from the ninth inning. (Jack Moore)
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 10/4/1978 | Position: SP|
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/19/1983 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Say what you will about the merits of the Rockies trading a former top pitching prospect for a middle reliever, but for fantasy purposes, Wilton Lopez has been one of the more underrated relievers over the last few seasons. Since 2010 Lopez has a 2.64 ERA, 1.126 WHIP and a 5.16 strikeout-to-walk ratio — not too shabby for a guy most fantasy owners hadn’t heard of until he took over closing duties last year in Houston. Lopez is behind Rafael Betancourt in the pecking order for saves this season, sharing set up duties with Matt Belisle, and he doesn’t rack up the strikeouts that one likes to see from a relief ace. But Lopez’ sinker gets tons of ground balls (55% ground-ball rate) and his aversion to walks (1.09 walks per nine in 2012) should make him a solid reliever in Colorado. However, it should also be noted that Lopez spent a month on the disabled list in 2012 with an elbow issue so he doesn’t come with a completely clean bill of health. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: The Rockies are hoping Wilton Lopez’ worm-killing ways will be an antidote to the thin air.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 7/11/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Lopez only pitched 36 innings in 2012, down from 53 innings in 2011. The reason? Giants manager Bruce Bochy significantly reduced Lopez’s innings against right-handed batters, and with good reason. His splits were more pronounced in 2012; he finished the season with a .239 wOBA against lefties and a .420 wOBA against righties. With limited exposure to RHBs, Lopez saw his strikeout rate jump to seven per nine, the highest of his career, and saw his walk rate drop to 3.50, the lowest since his rookie season in 2003. He’s a LOOGY, but an effective one. (Wendy Thurm/@hangingsliders)
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 6/1/1973 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: It has been a while since the 39-year-old Lowe had value as a fantasy starter, given the sinker-baller’s high ERAs (4.68 from 2009-2012), high WHIPs (1.49), and low strikeout rates (5.50 K/9 and 13.9 K%). He did have some success with the Yankees after moving to the bullpen last season (3.04 ERA and 14.3 K% in 23.2 IP) and could emerge as a holds sleeper if he settles for a similar role in 2013. Lowe is more waiver wire fodder than someone you target on draft/auction day at this point of his career. (Mike Axisa)
Quick Opinion: Lowe has little fantasy value as a starter given his propensity for base-runners and earned runs, but he could emerge as a holds sleeper next summer if he settles for a relief role. Either way, he’s more waiver wire fodder than anything.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/7/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2011, Mark Lowe averaged 96.6 mph on his fastball with 8.4 strikeouts per nine. In 2012 those numbers fell to 93.9 mph and 6.41 K/9 — this is not a good sign. Certainly 94 mph is plenty good enough to get out major league hitters and Lowe did post a 3.43 ERA last year but much of that was luck related with a strand rate of 85% and a .259 batting average on balls in play which is reflected in his FIP (4.34) and xFIP (4.64). It doesn’t seem sustainable to lose mph on your fastball while also giving up hits at a lesser rate. Lowe is a useful pitcher for a major league team who can provide a few decent innings but he’s largely fantasy irrelevant, especially when he’s not even on a team. (Ben Pasinkoff)
Quick Opinion: With a two-mph drop in velocity in 2012, Mark Lowe found his strikeout rate drop, and he now currently finds himself unemployed.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/4/1985 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: On the one hand, Luebke has very limited experience as a starting pitcher (just 25 games started in the majors) and is coming off of Tommy John surgery. On the other, Luebke has been fairly fantastic in his limited time in the Show. Since 2010, 192 pitchers have started at least 20 games, with Luebke being one of them. Among those 192 pitchers, Luebke’s 3.05 FIP ranks 10th, just after recent phenom, Kris Medlen, and just ahead of Zack Greinke. And that includes his five starts from last season, when he managed to be effective despite a drastically reduced strikeout rate that may or may not have been related to his elbow injury. Assuming that it was (and his velocity was the same in both roles, so it might be a fair assumption) Luebke is a guy who generates a lot of strikeouts and ground balls, keeps his walks down and plays in a pitcher’s paradise in San Diego. In other words, he’s a stud. He will probably be better in 2014 than he will be in 2013, but if you’re in a keeper league, grab him now. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: There’s a good chance that Luebke won’t pitch in the majors before Memorial Day, but if you have the room to stash a pitcher for the first two months, Luebke should be at the very top of that list.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/24/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Lucas Luetge the LOOGY could probably be a children’s book, but for now it will have to represent a pretty wild left-hander in the Mariners bullpen who should never face a right-handed bat. Luetke is well down the depth chart to close games although he might snag you a handful of holds should those matter to you. (Michael Barr)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/19/1990 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Lyles owns a 5.20 ERA in 235.1 career big-league innings over the past two seasons thanks to a penchant for surrendering too many home runs and significant troubles stranding runners.That level of production has no place on a fantasy roster. His career 4.12 SIERA, however, indicates that Lyles has pitched better than his ERA would indicate over the last two years. He also just turned 22 in October, so it’s far too early to discount the young right-hander as a below-average starter at the big league level. It’s important to note that he did add two miles per hour to his fastball last year. It’s conceivable that his stuff is still developing, as he’s essentially a college senior pitching in the majors. Strangely, though, his swinging-strike rate dropped to 6.9% with that velocity increase, so it does not appear his increased velocity will help his below-average strikeout rate in the near future. He also has one of the league’s worst defenses behind him, which doesn’t bode well for his strand rate. At this point, Lyles is a bit of a flyer in deep NL-only leagues, but should be avoided on draft day in mixed leagues. Just keep an eye on the young right-hander if he shows some life early in the year. He’s not anywhere near a finished product at this point. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Once a highly-touted prospect in the Astros’ system, Lyles has experienced back-to-back disappointing seasons. His FIP and SIERA, however, indicate he could provide more value for fantasy owners in 2013 than otherwise suggested by his previous underwhelming results.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/12/1987 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: The right-hander was the 32nd-best fantasy starter last season. Lynn struck out 24.2% of the batters he faced and won 18 games thanks to a potent Cardinals offense, yet St. Louis may break camp with him in the bullpen. This is largely due to his platoon split that sees lefties tag him for a .366 wOBA, while he handcuffs righties with a .273 wOBA against. The Cardinals have depth in their rotation and might like Lynn as a set-up man for Jason Motte if they deem Shelby Miller ready and Jaime Garcia healthy. If St. Louis slots Lynn in the rotation, he should provide strikeouts and wins while hurting in WHIP, and if he begins the season in the bullpen, his value only extends to leagues that feature holds. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Lance Lynn enjoyed a breakout season — providing more fantasy value than Adam Wainwright, Ian Kennedy, and Mark Buehrle in 2012 — but his uncertain role heading into 2013 clouds his overall fantasy outlook.
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/10/1979 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Brandon struggled in 2011, showing a 11.48 ERA and 2.40 WHIP and eventually succumbing to shoulder surgery. Since coming back from the surgery, the 33-year-old right-hander has thrived. Even with a career-low fastball speed (90.2 mph), he posted a career-high strikeout rate (9.3 strikeouts per nine, 24.4 K%) in 2012. Along with fewer than three walks per nine, he was able to post a strikeout-to-walk ratio over three for the first time since 2008. Additionally, he produced a nice 3.10 ERA and a career low 3.23 FIP. Much of Lyon’s value depends on the team that signs him. Will he be the closer? The setup man? The ROOGY? Is the team’s incumbent closer solid or shaky? Stay away until some questions have been answered, including where all those strikeouts came from. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Brandon Lyon seems to have recovered from shoulder surgery — and then some. Where did all those strikeouts come from?
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/28/1980 | Team: Angels | Position: P|
Profile: Settling for a one-year deal with the Reds proved to be a disappointing decision for Madson, who received Tommy John surgery before the season started and missed the entire year. A healthy Madson has been given an opportunity to close for two of the top teams in baseball, which makes him a very appealing option on draft day. The changeup master posted consecutive seasons with his ERA/FIP/xFIP all under 3.00 before his injury and we have seen several pitchers successfully return from the elbow ligament surgery he received. Draft Madson with confidence, as many may overlook him due to his injury and lack of experience in a closing role. Don’t be that person, take advantage of the buy-low opportunity. He’s likely to be the Angels’ saves leader this year, even if it takes him an extra week or two to get going in the early season. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: He’s hurt, may miss time, and doesn’t have an extensive history as a closer. All of that just means Madson will be cheaper on draft day.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/25/1982 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Paul Maholm underplayed his FIP from 2007 through 2011. Entering 2013, he aims to have his third straight year of the opposite trend. In a season split with the Cubs and Braves, Maholm managed an ERA beneath his FIP for the second-straight season, which led to a deadline trade to the contending Braves. Maholm set a career-high in strikeout rate, and nearly hit a career-low in walk rate — both very encouraging signs for a pitcher who had an uncharacteristically high home run per fly ball rate. It is hard to say which version of Paul Maholm will appear in 2013 — the FIP-beating or FIP-beaten pitcher — but for a guy who will likely be taken in the latest rounds and lowest bids of the draft, he makes for a safe and wise gamble. Do not expect any roster-carrying production, but instead 170 decent, if not good, innings. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Maholm had a 3.67 ERA through 31 starts, and his career-best 3.87 SIERA suggests he could maintain his strong performance through a second season. He will be 31 in 2012, and his image as an innings eater took a hit in 2011 with a throwing-arm shoulder strain. But in most leagues, his value should be low enough to make him a mid-level steal.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/14/1981 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: At most, Shaun Marcum will cost the Mets $6 million this year. That’s the sort of approach fantasy owners should take with the pitcher. Obviously, his excellent changeup still gets whiffs — still in the double digits in swinging strike rate, still over seven per nine — and his always-excellent control is still there. But after only managing 124.1 innings last season, the aches and pains that are usually there with Marcum seem like they are on their way back. He’s already had significant surgeries before, and he’s a risk to have them again this season. But if you get him in the final rounds, he might still give you fifty or a hundred good innings before crapping out. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: It’s not a particularly good sign that the Brewers, who need help at the back end of their rotation, wouldn’t pony up the dosh to sign Marcum. Especially since Marcum’s asking price was so low.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/14/1982 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry signed Carlos Marmol to a regrettable contract extension in 2011, an extension that pays Marmol “closer money” whether he is closer-capable or not. Since that contract, Marmol’s strikeout rate has veered south and his walk rate ambled north. At the time of press, it appears the Cubs hope to trade Marmol and make recently-signed Japanese relief ace Kyuji Fujikawa the team’s closer, but if that does not come to fruition, Marmol will be getting the save opportunities, at least to start the season. Fantasy owners must guard themselves against the temptation of overspending on Marmol. His role is valuable, but his skills are volatile. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Marmol’s control is as erratic as his value. He will enter 2013 as a closer, but if his strikeout rate or walk rate don’t improve, his time in that role will not last long.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 9/5/1989 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Maronde, 23, had made more stops in 2012 than a rush-hour bus, going from the Rookie Level Arizona League to the Cal League (High-A) to the Texas League (Double-A), all before earning a September call-up to pitch out of the bullpen for the Angels. Along the way, the lefty proved he can be a legitimate prospect as a starter, though, after posting a 2.26 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 8.1 strikeouts per nine and a measly 1.7 walks per nine in just under 100 innings in the minors last year. The Angels have shored up their rotation this offseason, trading for Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas and signing Joe Blanton, so it’s a little tougher to see how (or if) Maronde will fit in next year, but none of the three newcomers is a health monster either. A good spring would go a long way to keeping Maronde on the radar, but after such a whirlwind 2012, he would benefit from a return to the high minors so he can help the club more in the future. That makes him an afterthought in re-draft leagues but an intriguing arm for keepers and dynasties, especially AL-only. (Jason Catania)
Quick Opinion: The young lefty has a lot of talent, but with the newcomers in town, Maronde may have to wait another year to ply his trade regularly at the major league level.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/21/1978 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: When the Twins cut Jason Marquis in May despite having one of the most atrocious rotations in baseball, it wasn’t hard to see why; in 34 innings, he allowed 33 runs and had only three more strikeouts (12) than homers allowed (9). San Diego signed him out of desperation, and he somehow managed to post a career-high 7.59 strikeouts per nine despite losing more velocity off his fastball (now down to 88.4 mph). Needless to say, it’s hard to see a lot of value here outside of National-League-West-only leagues — that’s a thing, right? — but pitching in Petco has helped worse pitchers look usable in the past. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: The 2012 group ERA of Minnesota starting pitchers was worse than anyone in baseball outside of Colorado, and even they couldn’t stand to hang on to Marquis past May. Scooped up by the Padres, he was surprisingly decent (4.28 FIP in 15 starts) before a broken wrist ended his season in August.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/30/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: After expected closer Ryan Madson went down due to injury last season, ninth inning duties initially fell to Marshall. But despite excellent peripherals, poor fortune bloated his ERA and he lost the role to Aroldis Chapman in May. However, Marshall is arguably the best non-closing reliever in baseball. He strikes batters out at a fantastic clip, is stingy with the base on balls and induces ground balls by the bushel. With Jonathan Broxton now assuming the closer role in Cinci, Marshall remains a top set-up man behind a relatively shaky closer. It’s the recipe for an great profit regardless of league size and format. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Though he opens the season as a set-up man and not the closer this time, Marshall should not be ignored in fantasy leagues. His skills are elite and the man ahead of him on the depth chart is no sure bet, making Marshall a nice grab with strong profit potential.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/26/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: The Cleveland Indians inked Martinez to a minor league deal in the offseason after being granted free agency by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Martinez has logged just over 20 Major League innings since 2010 and is unlikely to appear in many more this season unless the Indians’ staff falls apart. (Alan Harrison)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/17/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: P|
Profile: Nick Masset missed the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury. He suffered the injury in spring training and had a number of setbacks throughout the year as he attempted to return. The end result was shoulder surgery in September, but he is expected to be throwing off of a mound by spring training. Regardless, he has no fantasy value. (Ben Duronio)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/22/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2011, Masterson appeared to have turned a corner, bringing down his walk rate enough to bring his FIP from the high-3.00’s to the low-3.00’s and to emerge as one of the better starters in the American League. He got his problems with lefties under control — mostly by walking them less, since his arsenal remains unchanged — and seemed to have turned a corner. But this year, the bottom fell out. His walk and home run rates returned to their earlier levels and he again couldn’t stop lefties to save his life. Now Masterson is saying he knows what the problem was and it dates back to not going through a normal off-season last year. He always seemed like a guy who could become a solid number two if he put it all together, and there is at least reason to believe he can repeat 2011. This doesn’t make him a guy I would pay a #2 price for, but as a buy-low candidate, Masterson is definitely an intriguing option. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: If you can buy him at a price reflective of his 2012 performance, you might be able to steal value more reminiscent of his 2011. He’s not a sure thing, but he’s worth a flyer for sure.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1980 | Position: SP|
Profile: For the foreseeable future, whenever anyone cites the downside risk of signing a Japanese pitcher, Matsuzaka’s name will be at the top of the list. The Red Sox paid more than $100 million for his services, and all they got was 10.5 WAR. Even in the new free-agent market where wins cost more than they used to, it would be hard to justify that contract. What is interesting is that research points that a pitcher’s second year back from Tommy John surgery is actually the year to expect him to pitch like normal, so there is a chance that Matsuzaka bounces back this year. Unfortunately, we may not see that stateside, as he is garnering little interest. And based on his track record, it’s not hard to see why. While expectations should have been tempered for his 2012 return, he was downright awful. He made 11 starts, and only three of them could be considered a success. In the other eight, he allowed at least four runs, and never retired more than 16 hitters (or if you prefer, 5.1 innings). In five of those eight, he pitched 3.2 innings or less and allowed at least five runs. So while he may rebound this year, what exactly is he going to rebound to? (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Finally free from his contract, the Red Sox waived Matsuzaka a not-so-fond farewell, and the now 32-year-old righty may head back to Japan.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/11/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Matusz breezed through the minors, but has struggled in four seasons as a starting pitcher posting a 5.51 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and a two strikeout-to-walk ratio. The 26-year-old lefty didn’t pitch awesomely in 2009 and 2010, but he lost all effectiveness in 2011. He went on the disabled list for an intercostal strain which caused him to lose almost five miles per hour off his fastball from his previous high. In 2012, he improved, but not enough to be an effective starter (5.42 ERA and and 1.6 strikeouts per walk). His main issue over the years is that he just can’t get out right-handed hitters. Against lefties, he has an amazing 4.9 K/BB, 3.28 FIP and .284 batting average on balls in play. Against righties, those values degrade to 1.6 K/BB, 5.20 FIP, and .325 BABIP. With his inability to get out right-handed hitters, he was moved to the bullpen where he thrived in a small sample of 13.1 innings (18 appearances) by posting a 1.35 ERA and a 6.3 K/BB. Matusz might be done as a starter. His future role looks to be in the bullpen and with his inability to get out righties, he may just end up as a LOOGY specialist. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Brian Matusz’s future is tied to his role. Is he a starter or a releiver?
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/8/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: McAllister tantalized last year with a solid start to the season, including a terrific June, before fading down the stretch. Was the career high in innings (including more than 100 more major league innings than he had thrown before) just too much for him to handle? If he can keep the strikeouts closer to eight than seven per nine innings, and the walks closer to two than three per nine, he’ll have a shot to have some fantasy value, but only if he can keep the ball in the park. He’s worth watching early in the season, but there is no need to use a draft pick on him. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: McAllister will likely be asked to be a key member of the Indians rotation, but that doesn’t mean he should be a key member of yours. Worth watching in the early season to see if he can keep the strikeouts up and the home runs down.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/7/1983 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: McCarthy is the all too common blend of undeniable talent and injury frustrations. A come-backer that struck him in his head — and required him to have emergency brain surgery — is what ended his 2012 campaign, but McCarthy has struggled with more common pitching injuries before. If one were to combine the 2011 and 2012 seasons, FIP ranks McCarthy as the 15th-best pitcher (minimum 250 innings pitched) in the league. His 3.29 ERA over those two seasons places him in the top 25 pitchers in the league again. If healthy, there is no denying McCarthy’s usefulness on a fantasy team. Because of a recent two-year deal with Arizona, McCarthy brings his control (4.00 strikeouts per walk in 2011 and 2012) and his well-known twitter antics to the desert. I’d expect his outstanding home rate to go up a touch, but he is still worthy of a roster spot in any league format. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: Spectacular on the mound and on the inter-webs, some just follow him (and his wife) on twitter, some will do that and also draft him for a fantasy team. The latter group is where you want to be.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: James McDonald began the 2012 season in conquering fashion. Many suspected the righty had turned yonder corner and was ready to meet the expectations he built in the Dodgers minor leagues. Alas, he asploded in the final three months to the tune of 5.97, 4.45, and 12.75 ERAs. Was it exhaustion? Maybe. His velocity did ease down through the final starts of the season, but not consistently enough that we would have raised red flags had his ERA not gone blam. So, instead of a sophomore breakout season, McDonald had a freshman flunk. He now has two consecutive years with exactly a 4.21 ERA through 171 innings. And though he allowed the same amount of earned runs through the same amount of innings pitched, he actually faced almost 40 fewer batters — a testament to his mildly improve peripheral numbers. The 28-year-old may take a genuine step forward in 2013, and his secure spot in the rotation should mean no playing time issues, but do not overpay on this one. McDonald has potential, but probably not enough to build around. (Bradley Woodrum)
Quick Opinion: Resist the temptation to think McDonald’s hot start in 2012 was a portent of great things to come in 2013. He may and should improve in 2013, as his peripherals suggested better production, but keep him in the medium-risk bucket, where he can help you the most and hurt to only a little. That is, wait to look his way when trying to fill out the starters on your bench.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/6/1986 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: In his first full season, the 26-year-old lefty dominated opposing hitters out of the Rays pen. Always talented, McGee had control issues in his early minor league years and even in 2011. He was able to harness his talents last season with a mixture of an overpowering fastball, changeup, and a sweeping slider that lead him to post the best strikeout-to-walk ratio among American League relievers (6.64) and third-best in all of baseball. Currently used in the seventh inning man/fireman role for Joe Maddon’s bullpen, McGee has future closer written all over him and that could come sooner rather than later if Fernando Rodney somehow returns to his pre-2012 form. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: McGee is a strikeout machine (11.87 strikeouts per nine in 2012), having posted a K/9 below double-digits just twice in his seven seasons in professional baseball.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/24/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: P|
Profile: Dustin McGowan’s return to the mound in 2011, after three years away, was short lived. Injuries returned — plantar fasciitis and more shoulder issues — and he didn’t pitch at all in 2012. But he’s signed through 2014, so he’ll keep getting chances. McGowan’s once again looking to get healthy; the latest reports suggest he “could be back for spring training.” With McGowan, you don’t really know what that means. His status for 2013 is up in the air, and therefore he’s got no fantasy value outside of the deepest AL-only leagues Frankly, we just want him to be happy. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Signed through 2014, the Blue Jays, for better or worse, are going down with this ship. And you know what? I can respect that.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Kris Medlen burst onto the scene last year, and is one of the more intriguing starting pitchers on draft day. With how good Medlen was last season in his 12 starts, there is a lot of reasons to think he can be had at a discount due to his tremendous control and small sample size. He has displayed tremendous control throughout his professional career, and he possesses one of the game’s deadliest changeups which allows him to miss enough bats to be a top of the rotation arm. The problem with drafting Medlen is you might be buying high, and there is certainly a lot of risk in a pitcher who has made just 30 career starts across three seasons of 60+ innings. He has never started for a full season, so the increased workload is something to monitor. Additionally, keep in mind that last year was his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he threw just over 150 innings between the majors and minors when he was sent down to get stretched out for starting duty. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: Medlen is on a lot of people’s minds on draft day, and could end up being the ace of what should be a very good ball club. With a solid defense behind him, tremendous control, and the ability to strike out batters at a respectable clip, he could wind up being a steal for many owners. Expecting him to pitch like a Cy Young contender may be a stretch, but he should keep hold of an ERA in the low 3.00’s.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/11/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Jenrry Mejia has seen his star dulled considerably since he was once a mainstay on Mets’ top prospect lists. He still has 94 mph gas, but the whole package isn’t working at the major league level. He can’t control any of his pitches, really, and batters have just been refusing to swing. They definitely know not to reach when he goes out of the zone, an important part of keeping walk rates down. Some team mismanagement when it comes to his role — a lot of up and down and in the bullpen and back out again — may have stunted the development of his secondary stuff, but he’s still only 23, and he still has a fastball with good horizontal movement and great gas. Maybe he ends up closing for the Mets, sooner rather than later. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: He’s finally dropped off of all the Mets’ top prospect lists due to both his playing time and his upside, but don’t forget about Jenrry Mejia. There’s still some stuff underneath all that lack of control and those bad major league numbers — he may not make the rotation, but that pen shouldn’t be tough to crack.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/28/1985 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: To say that 2012 didn’t start in optimal fashion for Melancon would be a dramatic understatement. In four outings to start the season totaling two innings, Melancon allowed 11 runs, and was promptly demoted to Triple-A. While demoting him seemed like the proper move at the time, Melancon promptly turned things around, and pitched the way the team expected. He posted a 1.40 FIP, and was recalled to Boston in mid-June. He wasn’t perfect when he returned, as he allowed four runs in a game on three different occasions, but he pitched much better. He struck out 40 batters and walked just 10 in 43 innings from June until the end of the season, and his FIP in each of the final four months was 2.96, 3.50, 4.17 and 1.09 — a far cry from the 37.59 mark he posted in April. Traded to Pittsburgh in the offseason, he should be in position for a great deal of work at the end of games, and is a good bet to net some holds, if not saves. Jason Grilli is nominally the Pirates’ closer, but Melancon could figure in that picture if all goes well. That makes him a definite sleeper on draft day. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Back in the National League, Melancon has a chance to be a good end-of-game option, and should Jason Grilli falter, he may be next in line for saves in Pittsburgh.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/31/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: After two strong seasons at Triple-A Omaha, the Royals planned to have Mendoza take over as the team’s primary long reliever in 2012. He wasn’t a big-time strikeout pitcher by any means — he had a slightly below-average walk rate and seemed to pitch to a lot of contact, while stranding a good number of runners — but he kept his ERA down and showed that he was capable of eating innings. When injuries decimated the major league team’s rotation, Mendoza was given the chance to start and actually posted a satisfactory eight-win season with a 4.23 ERA and a 1.76 strikeouts per walk. He was never dominant, but did have a few shining moments such as posting a 2.07 ERA with a 2.63 K/BB over his final four starts of the season. But this season, it would appear that Mendoza will go back to working as a swingman as the Royals have revamped their rotation and have at least three other starters besides Mendoza competing for the fifth starter’s position. As a long reliever who doesn’t strike out a lot of hitters, Mendoza’s fantasy value will be extremely limited. However, if he gets another opportunity to start a few games, he could be worth a look in deeper mixed leagues as a short-term pickup. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: With a revamped rotation, the Royals will likely move Mendoza back to a long-relief role, a job he was supposed to have in 2011 before injuries pushed him into the starting five. That will certainly reduce his fantasy value as owners don’t have much use for long relievers who don’t strike out many batters. If injuries move him back into the rotation, he could be a decent innings-eater for your fantasy squad, but until then he is best left for your waiver wire.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/29/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Jose Mijares appeared in a nearly half of the Reds’ ballgames last year with 78 appearances over 56.1 innings acting as the team’s LOOGY. He performed much better last season than in his final season with the Twins, as his strikeout-to-walk rate jumped from an even 1.00 to 2.71. Mijares held 18 games and blew just one save, so he should be useful in leagues that have innings limits and count holds. Other than that, Mijares is not fantasy relevant. (Ben Duronio)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/13/1986 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Miley topped the crop of National League rookie pitchers in 2012 as he used pinpoint control to post a 3.33 ERA and 3.15 FIP in 29 starts. Expect a step back in his sophomore campaign — Miley is hardly a ground-ball maestro (43.3%) but he managed 0.65 home runs per nine despite Arizona’s home run friendly environment. Expect his 6.9% home runs per fly ball to rise, and if it does, his limited strikeout ability (6.6 strikeouts per nine, 8.5% swinging strikes) won’t hold him up in a standard fantasy setting. Other Arizona pitchers (Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill) are better bets. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Don’t expect Miley to live quite up to his rookie standard. Home runs could push him back to mediocrity, particularly fantasy-wise, given his lack of strikeout stuff.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/10/1990 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Profile: Miller couples impressive fastball location and a plus breaking ball to mow-down opposing hitters. The four seamer lacks bite in the lower half of the zone, but was dynamic as he moved up the latter. He relies on his breaking ball, which was located well with consistent break, to set up his fastball and changing hitters’ eye level. At times, the fastball can flatten out and be to hittable. Miller closed the year out in nasty fashion and will compete with many other talented Cardinals arms during Spring Training for a rotation spot. (JD Sussman)
Quick Opinion: Shelby Miller got off to a terrible start in 2012 but he dominated hitters at the end of the season to salvage his year. He will enter Spring Training with a chance to earn a spot in the Cardinals rotation. (JD Sussman)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/21/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Finally converted strictly to the reliever he probably would have been a few years back had he not been the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, Miller at last found sustained success in a major league uniform. His strikeout percentage shot up from the middling 16-18% that it had been in the first six seasons of his career to 30.2 percent, a figure that ranked him 20th among relievers who threw at least 40 innings in 2012. Despite the success, the team backburnered him in favor of Craig Breslow when they acquired the reliever at the trading deadline. From his May 6 season debut (he spent the first month-plus boning up for his role as a full-time reliever) until the trading deadline, Miller racked up 12 holds. For the remainder of the season, he picked up just one. Miller’s performance should keep him in the team’s plans for 2013, and he certainly proved capable of a meaty role, but given the team’s revamped ‘pen, there’s no guarantee that he gets one. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Miller figures to be one of the lefties in Boston’s 2013 bullpen, and could hold some value as a LOOGY, particularly in leagues that count holds, though his role was diminished following the team’s acquisition of Craig Breslow.
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 12/24/1974 | Position: SP|
Profile: It is unlikely that you have come to FG+ needing to know about Kevin Millwood. Late at night, in the darkness, we all know Kevin Millwood: he is us, what we will someday become. That said, Millwood wasn’t horrible last year, posting his best FIP (3.91) since 2006, and adding quality starts in half his outings. Perhaps most importantly, he saw his fastball move up a tick (averaging 90 mph) after a trend of dwindling down into the high 80s. Millwood’s shoulder gave out on him late in the year, though, and now he’s retired. He can no longer eat your innings. (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: Kevin Millwood is the outstretched canopy to the man falling off the building: it’s nice to know he’s there, but he’s probably not going to save you. Avoid him on draft day now that he’s gone.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/16/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: If pitching has three main components to it — strikeouts, walks and ground balls — then Tommy (not Tom) Milone is really only above-average in one of them. Well, elite at least in that one: only six qualified starters had a better walk rate than Milone last season. That work is built on an top-flight first-strike rate, which is the peripheral best correlated with walk rates, and also came after a minor league full of tiny walk numbers — it’s believable. Unfortunately, the strikeout rates in the minors were up and down, and despite a decent swinging strike rate in the majors, he hasn’t managed to put up good strikeout numbers. He’ll be 27 this season, so he’s in his peak, but his cutter/curveball/changeup repertoire doesn’t look like it’ll ever be all about the ground balls. Milone’s home park and control will always help him limit the ERA and WHIP, but without more strikeouts, his fantasy upside will remain limited. And if he ever calls another park home, the home run numbers might rise — he’s already a risky play on the road. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Not quite blessed with a Tommy gun for an arm, Milone uses impeccable control of an 88-mph fastball and a diverse pitching mix to results worthy of inclusion in any fantasy rotation. Unfortunately, his contact and ground-ball rates don’t suggest that he has much upside remaining.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/26/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Mike Minor has had an up-and-down career in the early portions of his major league tenure, but he has certainly shown the potential the Braves saw when they drafted him in the first round. He got off to horrendous start last season, recording a 6.98 ERA over the first two months (ten starts) of the season. He then made mechanical alterations and pitched tremendously over his next 20 starts. From June on, Minor recorded a 2.74 ERA and relied upon one of the game’s top outfield defenses to back up his lower walk rate. He ended the year with a decent 4.12 ERA, which is very impressive considering how bad he was in his first 10 outings. The final 20 starts make Minor a very appealing player in fantasy formats, as his end of season ERA likely does not match his overall talent. If not for Kris Medlen’s dazzling performance down the stretch last season, much more focus would likely have been placed upon Minor’s improvements. With the outfield defense expected to be stellar yet again behind the fly ball pitcher, Minor could be in for a big season as a key member of an expected contender. (Ben Duronio)
Quick Opinion: Minor dropped his strikeout rate a bit, but he also showed better control last season than he had in his first two stints in the major league rotation. With the improvements Minor made over the course of the year, Minor has likely yet to reach his potential and it is certainly possible for him to be Atlanta’s best starter this season. He is not an elite pitcher by any means, but he is a good pitcher to draft considering how impressive his final 20 starts were last year.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/18/1989 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Moore’s rookie campaign was a success by nearly every measure. He had double-digit wins (11), a good strikeout rate (8.8 K/9), and a useful ERA (3.81). Where Moore struggled was in his control, walking over four men per nine innings. He was also noticeably fatigued down the stretch, failing to work into the fifth inning in three of his last four starts. He’ll shoulder more responsibility with James Shields out of the rotation and his silky smooth delivery should allow him to approach the 200 inning mark. There’s little doubt he’ll improve in his sophomore season, and if he can reduce his walks he has a shot at moving into the upper tier of fantasy pitchers. The good news is that he showed plus control at all of his minor league stops, and looks completely capable of refining that part of his game. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: The strikeouts and ERA are there, and with improved control and a little more luck so, too, will the WHIP and wins.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/24/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: The former blue-chip prospect Franklin Morales had fallen on hard times before being scooped up by the Red Sox in 2011. Trying to make good on those former prospect writeups, he experienced a renaissance of sorts in 2012, posting the highest K% (23.4%), and second-lowest BB% (9.2%) of his career. He was even stretched out to make a few starts once the Sox season headed south, seeing his first meaningful innings in the rotation since 2009. While the lefthander showed flashes of above-average stuff during the middle stages of the season, he crumbled to the tune of a 5.12 ERA in August before being shut down for the season with shoulder issues. Besides the underwhelming stats even in what was Morales’ best season in the major leagues, another issue is the logjam in the Red Sox rotation. With Ryan Dempster and John Lackey being signed and returning from injury, respectively, the Sox already have committed five starters to the rotation, and prized Nick-Punto-Dodger-trade return Rubby de la Rosa will be pitching in his second season following Tommy John surgery. The Sox publicly maintain Morales will head into spring as a starter, but, barring injury, seems destined for a relief role in 2013. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Morales enjoyed a moderately successful run as a starter late in 2012, striking out more than a batter an inning and keeping the walk rate below his career average. Unfortunately for his fantasy prospects, he’ll be battling John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and any other comers for the last spot in the Red Sox rotation in 2013 and seems tagged for a long relief role.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/26/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Well, Brandon Morrow finally did it: he posted an ERA below 3.00. It was 2.96, actually, and it was the best of his career. An injury shortened his season, and while in some circles Morrow was thought to have had a breakout year, his strikeout rate fell dramatically, from 10.95 in 2010, and 10.19 in 2011, to 7.80 in 2012. At the same time, Morrow’s walk rate fell, finally coming in below 3.00, also at 2.96, and his batting average on balls in play fell for a third season in a row, down to .252 in 2012. So what are you going to get from Morrow in 2013? Your guess is as good as mine, but he’s proven himself to be a solid mid-rotation starter, with ace-like or ace-light potential. Know this: Morrow will get you strikeouts, and wins, as a top-three starter in Toronto, and is worthy of fantasy consideration. With Morrow, it’s all about balance: don’t get too high on him, but don’t let him slip through the cracks, either. (Navin Vaswani)
Quick Opinion: Brandon Morrow’s ERA finally came in below 3.00 in 2012, but by xFIP and SIERA, he was a better pitcher in both 2011 and 2010. A confounding pitcher, while his strikeout rate fell last year, again, and significantly, make no mistake: Morrow will contribute to your fantasy team through wins and strikeouts. And, I’ll be honest, because I like you: I remain high on Morrow’s potential.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/12/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Charlie Morton is coming off Tommy John Surgery and has had an ERA 18% worse than his career 4.36 FIP. If he finds his way into the rotation in 2013, he is only worth consideration in the most desperate of FIP-based ottoneu or deep linear weights league circumstances. (Bradley Woodrum)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/14/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Moscoso never really had a chance to establish himeslf as a starting pitcher for the Rockies last season. Then again, when you allow six runs in each of your first two starts, neither of which saw you record more than 15 outs, things like that will happen. Moscoso performed better in the piggyback reliever role that the Rockies created when they moved to their four-man rotation experiment, but you would be hard-pressed to call that greater success a “good” performance, as he posted a 4.35 FIP as a reliever. A fly-ball pitcher at altitude was never going to be a good idea though, so Moscoso deserves a little credit for not letting his season turn into a disaster. Still, while he is now freed of the thin air found a mile high, Moscoso’s prognosis has not improved much. Now a member of the Kansas City Royals, he figures to stand little chance of starting unless an unfortunate bout of food poisoning wipes out KC’s entire starting rotation. He could see action as a mop-up man, but even at that he is unlikely to provide any help to your squad. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Moscoso has left the Rockies, which counts as a point in his favor, but he will still be well down the depth chart of the Royals, and with just cause. Nothing to see here.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Motte acclimated himself well to full-time closing in 2012, saving 42 games with a 2.75 ERA and solid 3.12 FIP. Although it feels like Motte just burst onto the scene, he’ll turn 31 in June, and the problem that kept him in the background for so long cropped up again at times in 2012: the home run. Motte allowed nine home runs in 72 innings, his second season over one per nine innings in the past four years and his third over 0.85. Given his reliance on fastballs, it isn’t surprising opponents hit the ball hard on the rare occasion they can square it up. His blazing fastball should keep the strikeouts up and keep his job safe, but don’t expect him to rise into elite territory. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Motte’s reliance on fastballs means hitters are able to put balls into the seats when they square up. Expect Motte to continue to rack up strikeouts and saves, but home run issues will likely keep him out of the top tier of closers.
|Debut: 1986 | BirthDate: 11/18/1962 | Position: SP|
Profile: Moyer’s story became a novel one at the season’s outset, as his brief sojourn with the Rockies allowed him to become not just the oldest pitcher to ever win a major league game, but also the oldest player to record an RBI. Unfortunately, Moyer was on the Rockies for all the wrong reasons — specifically that the team hasn’t developed a good starting pitching prospect since Ubaldo Jimenez. In four of his last five starts for Colorado, Moyer threw five or fewer innings and allowed six runs or more runs. The Rockies hastily dropped him following the last such outing on May 27 in Cincinnati. He subsequently signed with both the Orioles and Blue Jays, but only tossed a combined five games for those organizations before they too parted ways with the 49-year-old pitcher. Following his July release from Toronto, he claimed that he wasn’t ready to retire, but at this point it seems likely that the game is ready to retire him. Not a fitting end for a warrior who battled intense rehab to return to the Show, but then, things rarely end the way that we envision. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: Moyer insists that he isn’t retired, but since he washed out of three organizations by early July last season, there’s a good chance that we have seen him in a major league uniform for the last time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With 49.1 WAR in 25 major league seasons, dude put in enough work for three careers.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/2/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Peter Moylan enjoyed a quality career in Atlanta when he was able to stay on the mound, with the latter half of that statement being key. Moylan has thrown just 13.1 innings over the past two years and missed nearly an entire season in 2008 due to Tommy John surgery. Now, the Aussie sidewinder is heading to the Dodgers and hopes to return to the type of relevancy he enjoyed in 2007, when he posted a 1.80 ERA over 90 innings pitched. The likelihood of that happening at age 34 is unlikely. Moylan is simply not an option in almost any fantasy format. (Ben Duronio)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/10/1984 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: Mujica is not a high strikeout pitcher like some others relief pitchers in the league — he sports a career 7.3 strikeouts per nine (6.5 K/9 in 2012). Instead, the 29-year-old righty allows few walks (0.7 walks per nine in 2012) and home runs (1.0 in 2012). The key to him getting players out is his split-finger fastball. He has used the pitch to raise his ground-ball rate each season since 2006 and help lower his batting average on balls in play almost 100 points. At the end of the 2012 season, he was the seventh inning man for the Cardinals. He is an almost must-draft in deeper leagues because of the strikeout-to-walk ratio and the possibility of becoming a closer if Jason Motte goes down. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Edward Mujica continues to be one of the top setup men in the league.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1980 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2012, Brett Myers moved from being a starter to being a closer. He had experienced a slow decline as a productive starter since 2007 (when he averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine with a 92 mph fastball) to 2011 (when his K/9 dropped to 6.7 and his fastball to 88 mph). The new role was great for his fantasy owners as he racked up 19 saves with starting-pitcher qualification. Halfway through the season, the White Sox traded for the 32-year-old righty and he lost his closing role. While he was able to pick up a few holds, it destroyed his fantasy value, especially for a reliever with a sub-three strikeout-to-walk ratio. As an Indian, he’ll probably start again, and fantasy owners should be worried — he was only able to manage a career-low 5.7 K/9 with a career high 92 mph average fastball out of the pen, and he’ll likely lose those velocity gains. His usefulness will depend on the fantasy league’s depth. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Brett Myers’ 2013 role will determine his fantasy value.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Narveson had thrown 160 innings in 2010 and 2011 before suffering a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his throwing shoulder. His strikeout rate in each of the last three seasons has been below average and his career 3.40 BB/9 walk rate leads to a high WHIP. So, even when healthy, he doesn’t provide much value in fantasy formats. However, he would benefit from a strong Brewers offense if he logs a higher-than-expected win total because of that. His velocity needs to rebound from last year, as he only averaged 86.6 mph on his fastball. Of course, if he is shuffled to the bullpen, fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about drafting Narveson. He won’t sniff save any save situations and shouldn’t strikeout enough to matter. The left-hander only deserves a look in very deep NL-only leagues, and even then, only if he breaks camp in the starting rotation. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Attempting to return from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2012, Chris Narveson’s ultimate fantasy value will be contingent upon his role: will he start or will he be the long reliever in the bullpen?
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 11/22/1974 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Nathan was a gamble for the Rangers, as the former Twins stud hadn’t been healthy and productive since 2009. The 2010 season was spent recovering from Tommy John surgery and in 2011 he looked a shell of his former self — he managed just a 4.82 ERA and 4.28 FIP, as he struggled both to miss bats and to keep the ball on the ground. His home run issues continued in Texas as we would expect, but he otherwise looked like the Nathan of old. He posted a 45.4 percent ground ball rate (well above his career average) and a 12.2 percent swinging strike rate, the drivers behind his 2.80 ERA and 2.78 FIP. Given his injury history and age (38) there’s still some risk, but when healthy Nathan should be one of the most solid closers around. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Nathan rediscovered his top form in 2012. Despite the injury history and age concerns, he should still be one of the top closers around for 2013.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/31/1986 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: Microfracture knee surgery is not yet all that common in baseball, and it features a long recovery time, both markers that point against Nicasio being a contributor at the major league level this season. Then again, Nicasio has made a habit of defying the odds, as he returned quickly from the neck injury he sustained in 2011 when he took a line drive to the head. If he is able to contribute, it should be of a positive nature. In both of his first two years in the majors, Nicasio has posted a FIP at least 10 percent better than league average, and his career FIP- stands at 86. Still, thanks to his neck and knee injuries, he has not yet crossed the 130-inning barrier. The health and production risks — he hasn’t quite refined a third pitch to go with his high-velocity fastball and wicked slider — probably mean that he’s a stash at best when it comes to pre-season drafting. But as you start building a list of guys to follow for in-season waiver wire pickups, definitely add Nicasio to that list. (Paul Swydan)
Quick Opinion: If he can successfully return from his microfracture surgery, Nicasio could be a good second-half sleeper, but that return is anything but a given, and as such you would be best served to bypass him on draft day.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/28/1983 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Never the picture of health before the season, Niemann was really bitten by the injury bug in 2012. He was pitching very well before a comebacker fractured his leg in mid-May. Tightness in his right arm caused him to be pulled from his first start back from the 60-day disabled list in September. In eight starts, he finished with an 8.05 K/9 and 3.08 ERA. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is the elder statesmen of the Rays’ rotation and currently slots into the fourth spot, though Alex Cobb and even Chris Archer could steal his spot away if he’s unable to remain healthy. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: Niemann’s health is always a concern as he’s only thrown 180 innings once in his four year career. Blame Rice if you want.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/27/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: There’s nothing sexy about Niese’s game. He has an average strikeout rate built on an average-ish swinging strike rate. His curveball and cutter are average. He has a 90 mph fastball, and that’s dead-on average velocity. His control is above-average, and he gets more ground balls than your average starter, but neither rate is elite. Maybe it’s no surprise that his career FIP- is 99. That said, Niese has had some bad luck on batted balls — his career batting average on balls in play is .311, and his career home runs per fly ball rate is 11.3%. Both of those numbers should be lower, and if they improve next season, he could even improve on his breakout 2012 season, when he posted a 3.40 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP along with 155 strikeouts. Admit it, those numbers surprised you (unless you were just looking at them). At least they provide enough room for regression — even worse numbers would play at the back end of most fantasy rotations. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Even after some nose work, there’s nothing particular alluring about watching Jon Niese. None of his pitches have GIF-worthy bite, and his fastball leaves his hand at 90 mph — he owns league-average velocity. On the other hand, once his batted ball numbers hit league average, the 26-year-old might actually hit his peak. What he did last year was already interesting enough statistically.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/26/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Hector Noesi wasn’t ever among the most exciting Yankees prospects, but upon being dealt to Seattle in the package for Michael Pineda, there were several sleeper tags hung around his neck. The opportunity to start appeared to be within grasp and then there was monstrous Safeco. But 2012 was pretty much a disaster all around for Noesi as he went 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. His strikeout rate was just 15%, his walk rate was near 9%, and he was sent packing to Tacoma by the end of June. When he returned, he was relegated to mop-up duty. On the plus side, Noesi enters 2013 at just 26, he’s got a pretty lively fastball and a plus change. He had good success with his slider last year, which wasn’t supposed to be much of a pitch to begin with. He’s certainly not as bad as he was in 2012, but he’s going to have to beat out Blake Beavan for the number five spot in the rotation in order to to start in 2013, which isn’t an impossibility. He might be worth a stash in deeper leagues to see what develops, but definitely don’t count on him. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: After making the rotation out of Spring, Noesi imploded. He was in the minors by the break and upon return, he wasn’t viewed as a starter. Although Noesi is almost certainly a better pitcher than the mess he made of 2012, he faces an uphill battle to make the rotation in 2013, which obviously impacts his value. Should the opportunity arise for him to start, he’s worth a slot waaaay down there on your depth chart in case he can start to master his four-pitch repertoire.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/13/1982 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Nolasco remains in the shadow of his peripherals. For the fourth straight season, the Marlins righty recorded an ERA at least a half run higher than his FIP. Also distressing, 2012 marked the fourth straight season in which Nolasco’s strikeout rate decreased, landing at a downright bad 5.9 per nine last year. Nolasco (who owns the team’s highest salary) has demanded a trade from Miami and will have what appears to be a horrible Marlins squad behind him. After four years of disappointment, don’t be fooled by the ERA estimators — there’s little upside to be had here. (Jack Moore)
Quick Opinion: Nolasco continues to underperform his peripheral stats, and there’s no reason to believe 2013 will provide a relief. Now even the big strikeout numbers are gone.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/2/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Norris has provided above-average strikeout numbers since breaking into the big leagues in 2009. That continued last season with an 8.82 strikeout rate and a 10.4% swinging-strike rate. The real issue is that success doesn’t extend to his run prevention due to the fact that his walk rate (3.53 BB/9) and home run rate (1.23 HR/9) are both worse-than-average amongst starting pitchers. A bigger concern for fantasy owners may be that his velocity has steadily declined over his four big league seasons — from 94.0 mph with his fastball in 2009 to only 91.8 mph in 2012 — and could be a product of his heavy reliance on his slider. He never really developed a third pitch, and a move to the American League is also worrisome. He could be useful for fantasy owners who need strikeouts, but be prepared to sacrifice in some other categories. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: A solid source of strikeouts, Norris will have to lower his walk and home run rates before he becomes truly valuable to fantasy owners. Without a third pitch, he may never be the top-end option that his swinging strikes suggest he could become.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/12/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Heading into last spring, Nova was on many “do not draft” lists thanks to a “lucky” 16 wins in 2011 after posting only 165.1 innings. The “lucky” moniker was also due to his xFIP being 4.16 — nearly a half a run higher than his 3.70 ERA. However, in 2012, his fortunes flip-flopped, with Nova posting an ugly 5.02 ERA (including a 7.05 mark after the all-star break) while actually improving his xFIP to 3.92. The fact that Nova’s walk rate jumped from 7.0% to 8.3% in the second half explains some of the late-season fade, but a .350 batting average on balls in play also played a large role. There was no significant fatigue and/or injury, either, as his fastball velocity actually trended slightly upward as the year progressed. If Nova is guaranteed a spot in the Yankee rotation, he makes for an attractive high-upside, low-risk, late-round flier — one that could pay off handsomely if he puts up another sub-4.00 xFIP while getting the ball for the Yankees every fifth day. Just don’t expect many strikeouts. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Nova struggled in the second half of 2012, putting up a 7.05 ERA which eventually kept him off the playoff roster. Nova’s peripherals weren’t bad last year, though, helping him register a 3.92 xFIP for the contending Yankees. His main problem will be competition at the back end of the Yankee rotation for starts, but he has upside as a late-round flier.
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