|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Familia recorded minimal innings in 2013, on account of a mid-season procedure to remove bone chips and maybe other sorts of things from his elbow. Returning, though, to make appearances in both the Arizona Fall and also Dominican Winter Leagues, he sat in the mid- to high-90s, notably crossing the 100-mph threshold at times in the Caribbean. Reports generally also praised the movement on his fastball. That pitch, in combination with a serviceable slider, provide some reason to believe that the large right-hander has promise as a major-league reliever. That will likely be his role with the Mets in 2014 — if not at the very beginning of the season, then at least soon afterwards. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Based on the quality of his fastball alone, is likely to find way into Mets bullpen in 2014. Quality of slider and overall command will dictate extent of success.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/17/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: At just age 26 and pitching in his fourth system, Danny Farquhar settled in as a high-leverage reliever for the Mariners. All it took was a new arm slot that led to bigger velocity numbers. Lord Farquhar saved 16 games for the M’s last year, and he enters 2014 with a chance to stay in the ninth inning. Farquhar has a sweet cutter and solid curveball, and he’s not afraid to bring his cutter back over the plate for a called strike. Farquhar may have had a 4.20 ERA last year, but his FIP was below 2.00 and his peripherals suggest an ERA below 3.00 is not out of the question. Farquhar isn’t a lock to gather saves this year — his team has been rumored to be in on a few late-inning relievers — but his strikeout rate should be good enough for you to roster him anyway, just in case. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Danny Farquhar finally got a chance to prove himself in the majors, and he saved 16 games in Seattle last season. Farquhar isn’t a lock to serve as the Mariners closer, but his strikeout rate should be good enough for you to roster him anyway, just in case.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 2/7/1983 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Feldman has worked at least 180 innings just twice in the past five seasons. He is primarily a ground-ball pitcher which allows him to limit his home runs, and that will be put to the test as his home park is now Minute Maid Park. He has a below-league average strikeout rate, and since he does not miss many bats, his success is predicated on how his batting average on balls in play behaves. The issue there is the Saberhagenmetrics ((c) Razzball) he has with that stat. In even-numbered seasons since 2008, his BABIP has been .284, .327, and .318. In odd-numbered seasons, it has been .273, .239, and .258. His WHIP in those even-numbered seasons: 1.43, 1.60, and 1.38. In odd-numbered years, it has been 1.28, 1.09, and 1.18.With 2014 being an even-numbered season, that may be a problem, especially with the Astros infield defense outside of Matt Dominguez. The run support in Houston is not likely to be there, which makes him a reserve pick in mixed leagues and a risky late-round pick in AL-only leagues. The strikeouts should be there, but everything else is a risk. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: The run support in Houston is not likely to be there, which makes him a reserve pick in mixed leagues and a risky late round pick in AL-Only leagues. The strikeouts should be there, but everything else is a risk.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/2/1988 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Neftali Feliz returned from August 2012 Tommy John surgery to throw just four innings with the Texas Rangers in 2013. His velocity wasn’t quite where he’s been historically, but it’s reasonable to think he wasn’t airing it out quite yet. He will have all winter to continue to build up arm strength and right now, he seems to be the favorite to fill the shoes of Joe Nathan who left in free agency. Still, it’s possible that the Rangers view Feliz better suited for the starting rotation (as they did in 2012) and the closer battle can be left to Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers. The Rangers have a wealth of ninth inning options, and what they do with rotation upgrades via free agency or trades will have an impact on their decision with Feliz. It’s a situation to monitor — but Feliz stands to have value in either case. In his career, he’s mostly been used as a reliever, flashing an uppper 90’s fastball very good to great strikeout rates. If I were a betting man, I’d say he opens the season as their closer. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Neftali Feliz appears to be the favorite to close in Arlington headed into 2013, as he did from 2010 to 2011. In ninth inning duties in the past, Feliz has been excellent with an ERA around 2.75 and a very low WHIP complimented by plus strikeout rates. Coming off Tommy John surgery, there’s still some question about regaining his past form, so go forward with caution.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/31/1992 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Let’s gush. Jose Fernandez has gas. His 95 mph fastball velocity was tenth in the big leagues last year. Jose Fernandez has a beautiful slurve thing. It gets whiffs (16%), grounders (55%) and thought he calls it a slurve, it didn’t suffer against lefties in 2013 (14%, 66% respectively). Jose Fernandez has a good changeup, even if people were worried about it. It looks like this, and it gets whiffs (15%) and grounders (60%) and gives him a weapon against tougher lefties. There’s been some noise about his age, but if he’s 23 instead of 21, who cares right now. That’s for real-life teams to worry about. Because right now, he’s one of the best young starters in the game, and his ligaments are fairly fresh. He has great control, great stuff, and gets grounders in a great home park. Now you have to decide how much his teammates will penalize him in the wins category, and if you’re willing to draft him as a top-ten pitcher. Because there will be someone in each league that’s willing to take that kind of leap for a guy with fewer than 200 major league innings. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Suddenly a fantasy ace, it’s easy to see why. Jose Fernandez has gas, break, and command, not to mention a little swagger on the mound. The only question that remains: how much are you willing to pay for a pitcher without a full season of track record in the major leagues?
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 8/19/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: Let’s not spend too much time on Josh Fields. He’s not the third baseman that had a hard time making contact. He’s the late-inning reliever that has a hard time commanding the fastball. His 94 mph fastball doesn’t actually get a lot of whiffs, though. His cutter/slider is about average in that category, and his curve his a ground-ball pitch (63%). You might see his lesser changeup less often in the future. The thing is, he still managed a good strikeout rate, built on a good whiff rate, and anyone who can say that in the Astros bullpen right now is a closer candidate. Now let’s see if he can give up fewer than two homers per nine innings. If he can — and he should be able to — he could close for most of the year and be a cheap pickup for saves. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: The incumbent closer is always the best bet for saves in a given bullpen. And since this given bullpen is the worst in the league, Josh Fields actually stands out from the crowd for being mostly competent. Just watch the free agent (Chad Qualls) and the homeritis.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/21/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Fien is no worse than the third option in the Twins bullpen for saves, and given Jared Burton’s age (32) and injury history (shoulder surgery in 2011), it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if Fien was neck and neck with Burton as Glen Perkins’ primary backup. Fien has completely re-invented himself in his two seasons with the Twins, and has done so by relying on very good control of a decent fastball and a very good cutter. There’s room for regression in Fien’s strand rate, but by and large he’s looked rather sustainable in his two seasons of work for the Twins, who hold his rights until after the 2018 season. That may make Fien an attractive trade commodity. As a result, Fien is a good stealth commodity to watch as a possible future closer. Don’t overpursue, however. Fien isn’t young (30), doesn’t throw particularly hard, and gives up a ton of flyballs. He’s money in the right situation. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Fien is a potential closer-in-waiting, but isn’t worth rostering unless it’s an extremely deep or AL-only league. Keep a close eye on him though, as a trade or injury could thrust him into saves consideration quickly.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/15/1985 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Fiers transitioned from unknown to fantasy darling in his rookie season, but in 2013, he threw only 22.1 innings in the big leagues before being optioned back to Triple-A Nashville. The right-hander couldn’t keep the baseball in the ballpark — more than three home runs per nine innings, even. He projects to begin the year in Triple-A and is unrosterable unless he somehow rediscovers the magic that allowed him to string together a stellar 2.85 ERA in his first 16 major-league starts. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/4/1986 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: The Dodgers went into 2013 with an extreme excess of starting pitching just so they wouldn’t have to use Stephen Fife again, yet an onslaught of injuries meant that Fife was in the rotation by the end of April. Though he went up and down a number of times (including two trips to the disabled list with right shoulder soreness), a very nice six-start run in June — 30/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 2.21 ERA that wasn’t even batted-ball-luck-aided — gave some hope that his brand of low-strikeout, mediocre-control groundballery might work. Unfortunately for Fife, a brief attempt to convert him to relief in Triple-A appeared to throw him off completely, because he was terrible there in August and lousy back in the bigs in September. He’s the prototypical “depth guy” — you always want him available, but you hope you never have to use him. With the Dodgers again having more starters than they need in 2014, look for a repeat from Fife. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Fife doesn’t miss bats or have impeccable control, but he’s shown he might be able to stick as a number five starter for someone. That probably won’t be the Dodgers, who will push him back to Triple-A in 2014 until he’s needed.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/7/1984 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Figaro spent a couple years in Japan and returned to the United States with increased velocity (95.2 mph) and a big-league job in Milwaukee. Until he sees higher-leverage innings and reduces the number of long balls surrendered, though, he won’t be remotely useful in any fantasy format. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/4/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: After spending about two and a half seasons on both the Mariners and then the Tigers, Fister was shipped off to the nation’s capital to don a Nationals cap this offseason. A move to the National League is typically a positive for a starting pitcher’s fantasy value and Fister also benefits from moving to a slightly more pitcher-friendly ballpark according to the 2013 park factors. Already possessing excellent control and a strong ground-ball tendency, he should enjoy a boost in strikeout rate now as well. Unfortunately, his run support could suffer, but he should be a strong contributor in the ratio categories and make a greater impact on fantasy teams’ strikeout totals. Fister will also benefit from better defensive support than he had last season, a problem that led to an inflated .332 batting average on balls in play. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: A move to the National League is always welcomed by fantasy owners. Fister will take his pinpoint control and ground-ball ways to Washington, D.C. A porous infield defense in Detroit hampered his ratios, which could make him undervalued in 2014 drafts.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/27/1983 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Floyd is about as boring as they come in fantasy. When healthy, he’s capable of putting up an ERA in the low-fours, with acceptable, but not great, strikeout and walk numbers. Floyd underwent Tommy John surgery after just five starts in 2013, and wound up signing a one-year “prove it” deal with the Braves. The team expects him to be ready by May, which is aggressive, but not impossible. It will likely take Floyd some time to fully recover from the injury, making him a questionable fantasy pick. He was pretty average prior to the injury, so his value is even lower coming off surgery. Even with the move to the easier league. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Floyd was average prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery. The team expects him to return by May, but it would be tough to expect him to be fully recovered by then.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 4/19/1990 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Having been acquired by the Marlins the season prior as part of the deal that sent both Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit, the left-handed Flynn began his 2013 campaign with four starts of unprecedented dominance at Double-A Jacksonville, recording 25 strikeouts and just three walks in 23.0 innings before earning a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. While not quite as excellent there, he still managed to produce a strikeout-walk rate differential of greater than 14 percentage points — still better, that, than any such figure he’d recorded during his first two professional seasons (2011-12). Four major-league starts yielded decidedly less excellent results, however. Between that and the small cadre of Marlins pitching prospects now in the high minors, it might be a while before Flynn gets an extended look in the majors. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Acquired by the Marlins in the trade that sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit, Flynn recorded his best minor-league season in 2013. A crop of promising pitchers alongside him in the minors creates quite a bit of competition, however.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/8/1981 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Getting close to your career-best K% over a full season at age 32 is a rare feat indeed. Achieving it when your fastball averages 85 mph seems downright impossible. Yet that is what Francis did in 2013, when he struck out 19.4% of the batters he faced (he struck out 19.5% in his first cup of coffee back in 2004). He did so by making sure said fastball was more of a change of pace offering, as he tossed it just 11.3% of the time. He turned to his sinker more than he ever had before, and that pitch, along with his curveball, allowed him to keep hitters off balance. Let’s be frank — this doesn’t make him a desirable fantasy commodity. The last time Francis was drafted in most fantasy formats was 2008. Then the physics major shredded his shoulder and has rarely been the same since. It seems like he has been around forever, but he’ll only be 33-years-old this season, and Steamer is actually optimistic about his chances — it has him pegged for 2.4 WAR over a full season. It’s unlikely that he’ll stick in a major league rotation for a full season though, which is why you can’t even count him as a sleeper pick. But if he lands in the right situation — somewhere with a big outfield and good fielders — he could surprise.
Quick Opinion: It’s pretty hard to be an effective pitcher when you only have an 85-mph fastball, unless you’re a knuckleballer. Francis is not a knuckleballer, but yet he has still managed to find a modicum of success at the big league level with his weak fastball the past three years. He’s not draftable, but if he lands in the right situation, he could be a sneaky waiver wire pickup in deep leagues.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/11/1979 | Position: RP|
Profile: After a nightmarish 2012 season in which he was unable to lock down the closer job on the Mets, who had few other attractive options, Francisco spent most of 2013 sidelined with elbow issues. He’s currently a free agent and if he gets a contract at all in 2014, it’s expected to be either in a mop-up role, or perhaps a minor league offer. There is nothing about Francisco that warrants attention for fantasy leaguers of any format. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: There are so many different formats of fantasy baseball that it is rare to be able to write that nobody playing fantasy baseball needs to pay any attention whatsoever to a particular player. However, Frank Francisco has earned that rare and dubious distinction.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/9/1977 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Jason Frasor has never really spent a full season as a closer, and his career high in saves was earned in his rookie year. That said, he’s mostly had the peripherals of a ninth inning pitcher his whole career. The control comes and goes a bit, and sometimes he gives up too many home runs. His fastball is a little under 93 instead of a little over 93 these days. But with a slider and a splitter, he escapes platoon issues, and his team sorta needs help at closer these days. He’s probably third or fourth in line, behind some combination of Neftali Feliz, Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Frasor’s a good reliever, there are just a lot of good relievers. Even in his own pen, he’s probably fourth- or fifth-best. That makes it hard to depend on him for saves or holds.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/19/1985 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: The good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: his strikeout rate and his contact rate are among the best of all relievers in the game. The bad: while his walk rate has gotten better each of the past five seasons, it is still below the league average. The ugly: his home runs. He has permitted 20 homers over the past two seasons. 11 of those came last season, which led to his 3.80 ERA. It may surprise many to learn that Frieri was 37 for 41 in converting his save chances last season. He had 50 scoreless outings of 67 last season, but was scored upon multiple times in eight of those outings, five of which came in the second half of the season. His second half slash line was .266/333/.477, which was quite a jump from the .178/.282/.308 line he had in the first half. He is a fly ball closer, but his home run per fly ball rate has been constant over the past two seasons so his issues with homers are not bad luck. They’re simply a result the volume of fly balls he generates when he doesn’t miss bats. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: He is a fly ball closer, but his HR/FB rate has been constant over the past two seasons so his issues with homers are not bad luck. They’re simply a result the volume of fly balls he generates when he doesn’t miss bats.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/21/1980 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Signed last offseason for two seasons and $9 million, many thought Fujikawa would supplant incumbent closer Carlos Marmol when the former Cub walked his way out of town (see what I did there?). Fujikawa did save two games, but his season ended in disappointment with Tommy John surgery in June. The Japanese righty should be back sometime around mid-season, and does still have some chance to close games for the Cubs. That is, assuming they win any. Health reports closer to his return will be worth watching. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: Fujikawa could still close games for the Cubs in the second half. He could make an interesting deep league DL stash.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/11/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Charlie Furbush has a funky delivery and a funky surname, but he’s been a pretty good reliever over the past two years. His delivery makes his slider a legitimate weapon against all batters, though he’s much more effective against left-handed hitters. Furbush walks too many batters to be worth a shot in standard leagues, but if you play in a sexy holds format, you could certainly do worse than Furbush. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Charlie Furbush has settled in as a solid MLB reliever, and his slider is a weapon, especially against lefties. The left-hander is worth a look in holds leagues, since he’ll be able to help out with strikeouts.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/27/1986 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: The 2013 season teemed with nightmares for Gallardo owners. He’s never provided value with his WHIP, as his walk rate is annually above average, but last year, the ERA topped four and the strikeouts dropped significantly to 7.17 per nine. Furthermore, his fastball velocity decreased for the second consecutive season. He averaged 92.7 mph on his fastball in 2011 and only 90.7 mph in 2013. Such a decrease hints at an arm injury or increased ineffectiveness, both of which should scare fantasy owners. The bottom also fell out of his swinging-strike rate. His SwStr% was only 6.9% in 2013, which was the eighth-worst mark in all of baseball amongst qualified starters. Some owners have pointed to his 3.09 ERA in the second half as reason for optimism, even dubbing him a buy-low candidate for the upcoming season. It’s worth noting, though, his strikeout rate actually decreased further in the second half to 7.12 K/9. Between the velocity issues, strikeout and swinging-strike declines, and the perennially-high WHIP, too many red flags exist for me to advocate targeting Gallardo as a buy-low candidate for 2014. I’d look elsewhere. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: The 28-year-old hurler was once a future fantasy ace in the making, but he’s fallen on hard times and was barely a top-100 starter in 2013. Some owners may see a bounce-back candidate based upon his second half. Too many red flags exist, however, to inspire much confidence heading into the upcoming season.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 10/6/1976 | Position: SP|
Profile: Freddy Garcia signed with the Orioles prior to the 2013 season, made ten starts for the Orioles, and was mostly garbage. In August he was sold to the Braves (traded for cash considerations) as a result of the injuries in the Atlanta rotation. He rewarded the Braves with 27.1 superb innings of 1.65 ERA ball, and even made a start in the NLDS against Los Angeles. He is back with the Braves on a minor league deal, and depending on how healthy the front five for the Braves are this year, he may be a streaming option in 2014. He’s mostly insurance for Brandon Beachy’s elbow and Alex Wood’s everything. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: One of the better insurance policies around the league, Freddy Garcia is probably the Braves sixth- or seventh-best starter. Which makes him waiver wire interesting at some point in the year, but not on draft day.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/8/1986 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Garcia hasn’t pitched in a game since May 17, as he missed the rest of the 2013 season due to shoulder surgery. The Cardinals expect the 27-year-old to be at full health in time for Spring Training, and general manager John Mozeliak has publicly stated that he expects Garcia to be in the rotation, not the bullpen. Regardless of any official statements, Garcia will be a pretty big risk for fantasy owners. The recovery rate from shoulder surgeries is wildly unpredictable, and Garcia will be on the fringe of relevance in mixed fantasy leagues if he’s anything less than 100% of his former self. A fully healthy Garcia can be counted on for an earned run average in the 3.50-4.00 range, with a walks plus hits per inning around 1.35 and seven punchouts per nine innings. The question is whether he’ll be at 100% health. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Because he missed nearly an entire season, Garcia will be a bit of a forgotten man for fantasy purposes this year. He can likely be had with a late-round pick or low auction bid, with the upside to be a solid back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter. The possible reward is higher than the minimal risk associated with acquiring him.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 9/27/1979 | Position: SP|
Profile: In a way, Garland’s career was a disappointment. He was basically done as a major leaguer at age 31, and he only posted a sub-4.00 ERA three times in a 13-year career. In another very real sense though, his career was pretty great. He had those 13 years, for instance. And among the 8,811 players to throw a pitch in a professional game, only 425 of them were able to amass 2,000 innings pitched. If you’re scoring at home, that puts Garland in the top five percent of big leaguers all-time. That’s pretty cool, and he also won a World Series ring to boot. A World Series in which he started a game and tossed seven innings of two-run ball. That’s a career that most pitchers would kill to have. So even if this is the last we see of him, don’t feel bad for Garland. He had a hell of a ride.
Quick Opinion: Released by the Rockies in June and unsigned by any major league team since, there is a good chance that Jon Garland’s major league career has come to an end.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/26/1983 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Garza started 32 games in back-to-back seasons for the Rays in 2009 and 2010 while working over 200 innings in both seasons. He has done neither since leaving the bay area for Chicago and then Texas. He has at least one stint on the disabled list each of the past three seasons with elbow and shoulder issues. He does not walk many batters, which allows him to post strong WHIPs, but he has been susceptible to the long ball and thus has had a sub-3.75 ERA just once in the past five seasons. He is not terribly pitch efficient so he does not work deep into games and has won more than ten games just once since 2009. On the plus side, he is split neutral. His velocity has held up well over the past three seasons, despite the physical issues but he is still primarily a fastball/slider pitcher. The slider usage increased after he left Tampa Bay as they took the pitch away from him — which is their unconfirmed organizational philosophy for their starting pitchers. Skills aren’t the issue here; it’s his health. There was scuttlebutt at the Winter Meetings at least one team did not like his medicals when evaluating him for a contract. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: Skills aren’t the issue here; it’s his health. There was scuttlebutt at the Winter Meetings at least one team did not like his medicals when evaluating him for a contract.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 3/24/1983 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The soon-to-be 31-year old journeyman right-hander was a big surprise for almost everyone in 2013 as he posted a 3.06 ERA (3.34 FIP) with an increased strikeout rate while playing the jack-of-all-trades role for the Giants, pitching in both short and long relief while also making a dozen starts. However, it’s difficult to believe in his improved numbers when he possesses a career 4.44 ERA (4.45 FIP), was shut down towards the end of the year due to complications from carpal-tunnel syndrome, and hasn’t proven to be very reliable over the years. Obviously that seems to be a general consensus around Major League Baseball as well — he remains unsigned as of the first week of January. His 2013 numbers should afford him an opportunity to compete for a back-of-the-rotation spot, but his history should keep fantasy owners from investing too heavily in him regardless of where he ends up. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Gaudin posted one of his finest seasons last year but left it all on the field, ending the season injured. He worked as both a short and a long reliever while also making a dozen starts when the team needed him to play a bigger role. History isn’t exactly on his side here and neither are the numbers — fantasy owners should be hesitant to invest much in a repeat performance.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/6/1991 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Put in your eyeballs, nerds, and watch this pitcher actually pitch for a bit, and you’ll know why he was atop prospect lists on the way up. He’s got 97 mph filth plus a hard splitter that leaves hitters scratching their heads. He adds impeccable control and college-arm polish. He’ll be 23 next year and not ready to start losing velocity just yet. Yeah, the slider isn’t a great offering, and maybe the sinker needs work — neither pitch got average whiffs or grounders — but even as he was, 22 and in the bigs for the first time after less than 100 innings in the minor leagues, he managed to strike out more than a batter per inning and show a great walk rate. It’s just all the balls in play that didn’t work out. Maybe a 25% line drive rate and nearly one in five fly balls turning into home runs is really a thing to worry about. But most research says those things are not stable year to year and need much more sample to be believable. So believe the stuff! Believe the command! Believe the pedigree! Believe the filth. Believe in Kevin Gausman as one of the best young sleeper starters in fantasy baseball in 2014, considering his debut and uncertain place on the depth chart can’t make him an expensive acquisition. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: As the only starting pitcher on the Orioles with ace-like upside, Kevin Gausman has to be considered a relative lock for the starting rotation in 2014. If he gets the job, he immediately becomes one of the best sleeper starting pitchers in baseball — his stuff is so nasty, his division doesn’t matter.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/28/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: At the age of 27, Dillon Gee has spent the last four seasons proving himself as a competent major league pitcher. Without standout “stuff” other than a good change up, he has done this largely by mixing up four pitches, limiting walks, and benefiting from a neutral-to-friendly home park. Gee has a rotation spot in Flushing in 2014 but projects to be useful in standard mixed leagues more as a situational play. He’ll be an injury fill-in and a streamer. Pitchers with mediocre stuff like Gee often wind up spending time on the waiver wire as well as short stints on numerous teams throughout the season. He has minimal upside, but won’t exactly hurt you. He doesn’t need to be drafted or purchased on draft day. In weekly leagues, he will probably make a decent option in two-start weeks with neutral to favorable match-ups. In NL-only leagues, he projects as the fantasy equivalent of an innings eater in roto formats, depending on league innings settings. Ideally, owners should be looking for players with more upside late in the draft, but he is a player who shouldn’t really hurt you and is slated for a full season of starts. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Dillon Gee is basically a league average pitcher. He has limited upside and unspectacular weapons, but mixes his stuff up effectively enough and limited free passes. In standard mixed leagues, he can be ignored on draft day, but is sound enough to be attractive in two-start weeks for weekly leaguers, especially at home or against weak offenses. NL-only leaguers wishing to fill out their staffs could do worse, but are unlikely to reap any sort of breakout.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/23/1987 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Gonzalez Germen made his major league debut out of the bullpen for the Mets in 2013. He spent most of his minor league career as a starter before being converted last season before his call up. He struggled with his control in his brief stint in Flushing, but that was inconsistent with his profile as a minor leaguer. He posted a useful strikeout rate of roughly one per inning and is not prone to giving up the long ball. With a good slider and change up, he also can pitch to both righties and lefties. If he can recapture his control, he profiles as a useful major league reliever with the potential to fill in as a spot starter when needed. Middle relievers are highly undervalued in most fantasy formats, but they are fairly plentiful as well. So, even if Germen can rise to level of the better middle relievers, that would only make him one of many. Therefore, there is no reason to target him in any format. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Gonzalez Germen profiles as a useful major league reliever since he features no pronounced handedness splits, frugal long ball rates, good strikeout rates, and a history of control in the minors. While Germen has potential to rise to the level of a very good reliever, he doesn’t seem poised to distinguish himself from several other useful players of the like. Therefore, he can be ignored in all formats on draft day.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/23/1987 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Long considered one of the most promising arms in the Minnesota farm system, Gibson has yet to break into the rotation as he enters his age-26 season. Tommy John surgery is responsible for a big chunk of missed time, but Gibson has never really gotten results that match his raw stuff. The University of Missouri righty features a bowling ball of a sinker than can reach the mid 90’s and is very difficult for hitters to elevate. His secondary pitches are both strong — a change up with strong fading action and a slider that flashes plus with two-plane tilt at times. A pitcher with that arsenal sounds like someone you’d love to add to your fantasy team, but Gibson never seems to live up to his billing. He’s got more control than command — he’s around the glove instead of at it — and despite how good each of his pitches look, they don’t seem to miss bats. All things considered, we’re not really talking front of the rotation stuff and you shouldn’t expect front of the rotation kind of results. Minnesota has done a lot to improve their starting rotation this winter, adding Ricky Nolaso and Phil Hughes. That’s bad news for Gibson given the other similar young arms Minnesota has been trying. Yet pitching is by nature unreliable and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see others fail and Gibson get a chance at some point in 2014. If he does get that chance look for a number three-four starter with an okay amount of strikeouts: just a guy to fill out your fantasy staff. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Gibson enters camp on the outside looking in at a rotation spot in the Twin Cities. When he gets his chance he won’t rack up a lot of strikeouts, but he can be a useful arm in the number three-four ground-ball starter mold.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/15/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: After posting an eye-popping 34.9% strikeout rate and 8.4% walk rate through his 19.1 innings in 2013, Gomes appears to have locked a bullpen spot for the 2014 season. Despite entering his age-29 season, Gomes could develop into quite the reliever for the Rays. He has consistently posted strikeout rates above 30% in the minors, and while his 6.52 ERA did not win any fantasy owner’s love in 2013, his 2.43 SIERA hinted at this potential for the coming season. The only obstacle between Gomes and great fantasy value is a bevvy of veteran relievers weighing down the back end of the Rays bullpen. Joel Peralta, Heath Bell, Juan Oviedo, Jake McGee, and Grant Balfour all stand in front of Gomes in the Saves Queue. There’s even a chance Gomes will start the season in Triple-A, though he’s out of options, making this an unlikely scenario. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Gomes has consistently been a strikeout machine in the minor leagues, but he will need to make a major impression with so-so stuff in order to fight his way up the saves ladder. Keep on eye on him if desperate for relief innings, as he may get only limited holds and saves.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/10/1988 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: Gomez started eight games for the Pirates last year, but projects to be a middle reliever or a swingman for them in 2014. Such a role makes him a non-factor in almost all fantasy leagues. And considering his 5.91 strikeouts per nine were a career high, he should remain unownable unless he magically becomes dominant in middle relief or the entire Pirates’ bullpen implodes and he wears the closer crown — neither of which seem remotely probable. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/27/1984 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Miguel Gonzalez replicated his 2012 almost exactly in 2013, posting nearly identical strikeout (16.9%) and walk (7.4%) rates and seeing his ERA inch closer to his FIP thanks to a larger innings sample. What the Orioles have with Gonzalez is a pitch-to-contact righty who doesn’t induce many ground balls, making him a risky proposition on any given day. Yes, his ERA over 276.2 career innings is 3.58, but his FIP (4.42) and xFIP (4.43) both suggest he probably won’t sustain that level of production. He’s fine as a back-end guy — or more preferably, a swingman – and he’ll need to go back to using the slider that helped him miss a few more bats in 2012 to have any real success. Hoping for another sub-four season is probably a little too optimistic, especially if he ever begins to show a platoon split in lefty-friendly Camden. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Miguel Gonzalez doesn’t walk anybody, but he also doesn’t miss bats and doesn’t keep the ball on the ground. Even after a year and a half of success, he’s anything but a safe bet given the home run tendencies.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/19/1985 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Repeated success can become boring over time, but that doesn’t make Gio Gonzalez any less valuable an asset. The 28-year-old threw 195 innings for the fourth straight season in 2013, sporting a 3.36 ERA that looked high given his recent successes. 11 wins hurt, but that’s hardly the fault of the pitcher and can be reasonably expected to rebound. What caused his drop from sixth to 40th in fantasy value wasn’t any one thing (other than wins), as Gonzalez performed marginally worse with strikeouts, walks, ground ball rate and batting average on balls in play. Essentially, everything Gonzalez did this year was just a shade worse than last year, with only the ground balls sticking out as something that was apparent with all of his non-fastball offerings. The drop in wins could see Gonzalez go at a slight discount in 2014, but don’t pay for regression all the way back to the top-10. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Gio Gonzalez only won 11 games in 2013, through little fault of his own, dropping him from sixth to 40th in fantasy value. He remains very good though not quite elite, so be ready to pounce if the win total drops his draft-day price tag.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/12/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Gorzelanny’s overall numbers are slightly misleading. His 3.90 ERA and 3.94 FIP include ten starts. Not only does the lefty project as a reliever in 2014, but he also didn’t perform as well in the starting rotation. Thus, the numbers are skewed. As a reliever, Gorz owned a 2.70 ERA and struck out 8.59 per nine. One must acknowledge the ridiculous .198 batting average on balls in play as a reliever, but it’s important to note he posted a 2.88 ERA as primarily a reliever a year earlier. The relief role allows him to face primarily lefties, where he’s most effective. To be truly relevant in fantasy leagues, however, he’d need to accumulate saves. And he’d have to leapfrog a few arms to have a legitimate shot at the ninth inning. In the end, Gorzelanny is one of the myriad of fine middle relievers that will go undrafted, and that’s how it should be. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: After bouncing around between the Brewers’ rotation and their bullpen, Gorzelanny is poised for an entire season of middle relief. That role seems to fit the southpaw best, but it doesn’t make him draftable. Middle relievers must be truly exceptional to receive that kind of designation.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 11/7/1989 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: This past October, Sonny Gray exploded onto the national consciousness like a 96-mph fastball up and in on Torii Hunter. It’s still hard to know exactly what that will do to his stock this spring. Most likely, he’ll be a bit over-rated due to his excellent short-sample numbers last season and signature playoff start. Though his curve is excellent and his fastball 94+, his approach against lefties leaves something to be desired. The change is not good and the curve loses a lot of whiffs against opposite-handed hitters. But a little refinement in his approach could handle that — big curves like his can still get grounders from lefties, he does have a cutter, and that four-seam gas might be enough. If others in your draft are looking too hard at his 2011 and 2012 numbers in the minor leagues, he may actually be under-rated. Yes, his strikeout rates disappeared those years, and his velocity took a dive too. But of his own admission, he was working on his mechanics those years. Once he returned to his natural mechanics — with some refinement that stuck with him — he was able to let it fly and gain the velocity back. Yes, it’s too bad he doesn’t have a changeup. He still plays in the coldest park in the league, and he has all the tools he needs for success. In the short term. We won’t worry too much about his mechanics and stature with regards to his long-term prognosis. Pitchers are pitchers, after all. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: It’s worth watching Gray’s approach against lefties in the Spring. It’s all that holds him back from ace-dom, in real life and fantasy. He’s got the gas and the signature weapon, he just needs a little more refinement in approach.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/14/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: A staple of the Padres bullpen, Gregerson has been an outstanding bridge to closer Huston Street. Over the last two seasons he posted a combined ERA of 2.54 with a 8.90 strikeouts per nine over 138 innings in 150 appearances. While he’s been one of the team’s most reliable arms out of the bullpen, the Padres dealt the 29-year old right-hander to the Oaklnad A’s in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith. In Oakland, he joins a very strong and experienced bullpen and will share the seventh and eight innings with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook as the bridges to closer Jim Johnson. Because of the quality of the back-end of the bullpen, it will be easier for Bob Melvin to play the match-ups on a regular basis. That could mean fewer holds for Gregerson and should anything happen to Johnson, it would seem that a committee approach would be in order rather than him just stepping in as he would have done in San Diego. From a numbers standpoint, though, there is no reason to think that he won’t put up numbers similar to those of his last two years. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Though he had been one of the more reliable relievers in the San Diego pen, the Padres traded the 29-year old right-hander to the Oakland A’s. He’ll join a very strong and experienced bullpen and will share seventh and eighth inning duties. Overall, he should post numbers fairly similar to those of the last two seasons, but with such quality depth in the bullpen, he could lose out on a number of holds.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 6/20/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: If you went to Vegas before the 2013 baseball season and put money on Kevin Gregg saving 33 games for the Chicago Cubs, your name is Biff Tannen. Otherwise, you had no idea that was coming. And how could you? Gregg signed a minor league deal with Chicago and two weeks later saw himself thrust into the closer’s role. He managed to hold it most of the season until the Cubs started grooming Pedro Strop for the role late in the year. He is again unsigned as of this writing, and is unlikely to land a ninth-inning gig, or be a meaningful fantasy factor again. Then again, how did that work out last time? (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: Lightning probably won’t strike this particular spot again, right?
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 10/21/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Zack Greinke’s first spring as a Dodger was sidetracked by elbow soreness, then his entire season was blown up in his second start when Carlos Quentin broke his collarbone in a brawl. With the Dodger season in turmoil, Greinke rushed back after barely a month, and suffered through a few mediocre starts with lessened velocity. Needless to say, don’t focus on his full-season numbers, because after that, the ace Los Angeles had paid for appeared. In his final 16 starts of the season, he allowed more than two earned runs exactly one time; In the second half of the season, he had an 80/19 strikeout to walk ratio with a 1.85 ERA. He answered every question about whether he was worth the money, and topped a 10% swinging-strike percentage for the second time in his career. He’s every bit the ace you think he is. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: It says a lot about Clayton Kershaw that Zack Greinke isn’t even the best starter on his own team, but based on the second half of 2013, the gap may not be as large as you’d expect. Greinke is one of the best starters in baseball and should be drafted as such.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/28/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: In his first full big league season, A.J. Griffin managed to log 200 innings while tallying 171 strikeouts. A right-handed starter who’s heater is closer to lukewarm, Griffin uses a mix of off-speed and breaking balls to keep hitters off balance. If his offspeed pitches aren’t moving the way they should, hitters tee off on Griffin to the tune of 36 home runs allowed last season, the most of any qualified starter. Unsurprisingly his 1.62 homers per nine innings also led the league (or followed the league?). Home runs will always be a factor for Griffin give his fly ball tendencies — his 32.1% ground-ball rate ranked last in the majors — however his home park helps suppress the dingers. Griffin’s fly ball style cuts two ways: he’ll produce a better than average batting average on balls in play at the cost of an elevated home run rate. For a relatively cheap starter, Griffin is a great player to grab late in drafts or to stream in favorable match ups in shallow leagues. (David Wiers)
Quick Opinion: At home, or in favorable match ups on the road, those are the best time to play Griffin. He’ll miss some bats with the offspeed stuff, but batters won’t miss his sub-par fastball for the occasional dinger.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 11/11/1976 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: When targeting relievers, fantasy owners must certainly prize saves, but should be equally concerned with securing strikeouts and a low WHIP. With that in mind, Grilli proved to be an elite reliever for much of the season before succumbing to a forearm injury. His 13.32 strikeouts per nine ranked third among qualified relievers, and his 1.06 WHIP was better than average. Everything seemed like it would continue without a hiccup. An overpowering fastball-slider combination resulted in a 14.5% swinging-strike rate, which was eighth-best in the league. A forearm injury, however, short-circuited the projections. His velocity dropped noticeably after he returned from the disabled list in September, and the elite strikeout rate crumbled to a mere 9.39 K/9 in the final month of the season. That’s not to suggest an offseason of rehab won’t allow the right-hander to return in 2014 at full strength. Instead, it hints the forearm injury could be a harbinger of further arm troubles, or at least of a permanent velocity decline. At 36 years old, that’s a legitimate possibility for Grilli. And if he begins the 2014 season much like his final month of the season, his value won’t be as lofty. Wise fantasy owners will exercise caution, especially since a competitive Pirates squad won’t hesitate to hand the ninth inning to Mark Melancon if Grilli cannot fully bounce back from his injury. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Grilli dazzled fantasy owners in 2013, posting a stellar 2.70 ERA (1.97 FIP) with 33 saves. He also proved to be an elite source of strikeouts for a reliever. However, a forearm injury and later velocity issues have muddied his true value heading into the 2014 season.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 4/8/1979 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeremy Guthrie somehow did not have a horrible 2013 fantasy season. Among qualified starters, his 4.7 strikeouts per nine and 4.79 FIP were both league-worst values. Most of the time numbers like that will get you run out of a rotation. But somehow he won 15 games (more than Justin Verlander or Cliff Lee). He is not going to get close to that number of wins again. First, he was helped to that 4.04 ERA. The Royals defense helped to drive the entire staff’s ERA below their FIP (team ERA–FIP of -.38), but it seems Guthrie got an additional amount of luck. Second, there’s the lack of strikeouts. He’s barely going to strike anyone out. An owner might as well play a crappy starter who can strike out batters than one who can’t. There just are not many reasons to roster him. He is going to produce near a 4.50 ERA with average luck. He is not going to get close to that number of wins again. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Jeremy Guthrie’s 2013 win total gave him some fantasy value. Don’t expect a repeat in 2014.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/27/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: If you needed a few solid innings in September, whether it was because you needed another win in head-to-head playoffs or needed a few extra punchouts to win your strikeout categories, David Hale may have helped you. The Atlanta righty made his big league debut late in 2013 and didn’t disappoint, posting a 14/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over two starts (11 innings). Unfortunately, his small sample strikeout rate at the MLB level dwarfed his minor league peripherals. At the Triple-A level last year, Hale put up a decidedly more mediocre 3.89 FIP and a 15% strikeout rate. That’s not to say he doesn’t have the ability to whiff major league hitters, but with multiple seasons of near six strikeouts per nine innings, it’s unlikely he magically found enough stuff to suddenly become Nolan Ryan. Hale’s biggest problem is not his questionable stuff, either, but whether or not he can sniff Atlanta’s rotation in 2014. Returning an already crowded squad, the Braves added Gavin Floyd to the mix this offseason, meaning at least six non-Hale starters are fighting for five spots. The most likely scenario for him is a repeat of 2013 — another year where he works at Triple-A for the majority of the season while being on standby in the event injury (or massive ineffectiveness) strikes the Atlanta rotation. Either way, he’d only be worthy of a mid-season waiver add, not a draft pick. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: David Hale had a couple solid starts for Atlanta down the stretch last year. Don’t be fooled, however. He owns mediocre minor league peripherals and is on the outside looking in when it comes to Atlanta’s crowded rotation.
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 5/14/1977 | Position: SP|
Profile: Halladay announced his retirement on December ninth. With careful misdirection, the Andre Nowzik’s of your league may still be convinced to draft him next season. The particularly crafty among you might choose to draft Halladay and then trade him to these gullible owners. I recommend packaging him with Manny Ramirez, who’s totally making a comeback bid next season. Totally. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: He no longer plays baseball professionally. Generally speaking, that hurts a player’s fantasy value.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/27/1983 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Cole Hamels may look like he took a step back in 2013, but he was basically the same pitcher with a crappier team around him. His 3.60 ERA was above his ERA estimators (3.26 FIP), but that was no surprise with the Phillies having the second-lowest team Ultimate Zone Rating defensive value and the third-worst team ERA-FIP value (.40). The 30-year-old’s strikeouts were still at 8.3 per nine which is just under his career value of 8.5 K/9. He only won eight games and I think most people figured he must be to blame, but again owners should look at the team’s offense. In 2011, the Phillies scored 713 total runs. In 2013, that value was only 610 runs which was the league’s fourth-lowest total (tied with the Astros). I do see an issue with Hamels to keep an eye on. His ground ball to fly ball ratio has gotten worse over the past few seasons (1.60 to 1.24 to 1.17). The GB/FB ratio is just a small issue and I don’t see any reason to expect any drastic change in production going into 2014. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Cole Hamels has continued to pitch as he always has, now he just needs the team around him to help with better run support and defense.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/2/1982 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: New Cub Jason Hammel reportedly drew interest from several teams but ended up signing a minor league deal. That’s why it’s unfortunate to hit the market following your worst full season in the majors, one in which Hammel sported a 4.97 ERA with peripherals to match. Always around the league average with his home run per fly ball and strand rates, Hammel saw his strikeouts rate plummet this year and, with it, his ground ball rate. Essentially, his 118 innings in 2012 — spent striking out nearly a batter an inning with a ground-ball rate of 53.2% – appear to be a mirage, and his 2013 – with just a 15.7% strikeout rate and a below-average ground ball rate – lines up with his prior performances. He might be a back-end guy, especially in a friendly park, but we wouldn’t want to be the team betting money on his slider re-emerging, especially following a season-ending elbow strain. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: After a successful 2012, Jason Hammel bucked sleeper-hype in 2013 by returning to his previous self. His 2014 value will depend on how the rotation shuffles out ahead of him in Chicago unless he somehow regains 2012’s ground ball profile.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/6/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: The news went from bad to worse for Joel Hanrahan in a hurry. Coming off a 2012 where Hanrahan somehow posted a 2.72 ERA despite a 15% walk rate for the Pirates, Pittsburgh turfed him to the Red Sox who headed into 2013 with him anchoring the back of their bullpen. Fate did not smile kindly on “The Hammer” as he posted even worse walk rates while completely imploding on multiple occasions during the first month of the season. It was eventually discovered that Hanrahan had a torn UCL and needed Tommy John surgery. Welp, there goes 12-16 months. Whether or not Hanrahan’s declining velocity and loss of control are directly a result of his elbow woes, he’s facing a steep uphill battle back to fantasy relevance. He’ll almost certainly head into 2014 on an incentive-laden one-year deal as a middle reliever for some team willing to gamble on him rebuilding value. Given his May surgery, he can’t be reasonably counted on to contribute in any significant fashion until at least the all-star break. Possibly an interesting candidate in 2015 depending on how he bounces back, Hanrahan is off the redraft radar this year, and is probably not worth a hold in keeper/dynasty leagues, even with his pedigree. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: After wild showings in 2012 and 2013, Hanrahan required Tommy John surgery in May. His rehab is progressing well, so he’ll probably see time in someone’s bullpen in 2014. However, since he won’t pitch until mid-season and won’t be gifted a closer gig, he’s not worth drafting.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/28/1986 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: 2013 was a terrible year for Tommy Hanson, both personally and in pitching terms. Due to the death of his step-brother and the dreaded “forearm tightness,” he spent much of the season on the disabled list. After being non-tendered by the Angels, it remains to be seen whether he will pitch in the majors in 2014. It would have been hard to predict this fate for a guy who started off his career as a 3.5 FIP pitcher, although the ERA estimators suggest he was really more of a 4.7 ERA pitcher in 2013 than the 5.42 he ended up with. Still, he’s not old, and you have to think some team will try to revive his 2009-2011 self. Should your fantasy team follow suit? Steamer seems to think so, placing him in the low 60s amongst starters. If you agree, you might point to his decent slider and historical strikeout rates. OLIVER, on the other hand, is much more pessimistic, pegging him as a clear non-pick. That might aline with Hanson’s terrible mechanics, inability to stay healthy, and lack of a third pitch to help get lefties out. It’s fair to say Hanson is a risky choice, so you’ll probably want to keep an eye on him, but not actually waste a pick on him. (Steve Staude)
Quick Opinion: High-risk, medium-reward — probably not an enticing pick.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/19/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Unlike many of his teammates on the 2013 Blue Jays, J.A. Happ was not disappointing. That is mainly because not much was expected of him in the first place. Happ strikes out his share of batters, but the rate is hardly an exceptional number, and not enough to balance out his control problems. Nor does he have anomalous batted ball numbers to make up for it. Happ does not have a huge platoon split or anything, he just is not that great against either left- or right-handed hitters. In real baseball, Happ is pretty typical of a lot of back-of-the-rotation starters. In fantasy baseball, he has very little value outside of being an endgame pick in very deep AL-only leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Happ does not do anything exceptionally poorly, he is simply not very good in a number of categories. He is still draftable as a bench player or filler in deeper AL-only leagues.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/9/1978 | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2013, Aaron Harang had one of his best seasons in four years. The 36-year-old’s strikeouts (7.1 per nine) were at a four-year high and his walks (2.5 per nine) were at a four-year low. These two improvements were overshadowed by his 1.6 homers per nine. The home run numbers led to an 5.40 ERA (4.79 FIP) while his xFIP (4.38) and SIERA (4.22) were closer to his career values. For 2014, I would expect him to perform near his career ERA numbers, maybe a bit worse, and go with something like a 4.50 ERA. The 4.50 ERA and the rest of his stats will be determined by which team eventually signs him. While his role and the defense around will eventually be known, I just don’t see him being any kind of real option in all but the deepest of leagues. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Home runs destroyed Aaron Harang’s 2013 season. He will need to find a team and role before his 2014 value is truly known.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/17/1980 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Dan Haren will continue his tour around the majors in 2014, joining the Los Angeles Dodgers, his sixth team in just 12 seasons. Haren has had disabled list stints in each of the past two years due to back issues and as such isn’t quite the workhorse he was from 2005 to 2011, but he’s a pretty reliable rotation piece. While he had his second straight season in decline (4.67 ERA), there are signs Haren could return a profit on his $10 million contract. Namely, Haren’s back to striking out 20% of batters and still doesn’t walk anybody. The fly ball rate has climbed some, too, but he’s a guy who is on when he’s on and off when he’s off, regardless of the venue. Perhaps most importantly, his splitter (splitters?) looked much improved following his return from the DL this year, helping him to a 3.52 second half-ERA. He’s not a fantasy ace by any means, worth a buy but not worth being a cornerstone. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Dan Haren should rebound in 2014, a safe bet for decent strikeout numbers and a complete lack of walks. He’s always been inconsistent with the long ball, but a late 2013 surge leaves room for optimism.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 6/3/1985 | Team: Astros | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Lucas Harrell lost more games than any other pitcher in 2013 with 17. It just goes to show that leading the league in something isn’t always good, and it’s actually quite incredible given that Harrell made just 22 starts and 14 relief appearances. While he’s rumored to be drawing trade interest this offseason, at present Harrell looks set for another year in Houston, either at the back end of the rotation or playing a swingman role. At age 28, there’s still room for hope that Harrell can rediscover his 2012 success (193.2 innings, 3.76 ERA, 3.75 FIP) but it doesn’t seem at all likely given the turd sandwich he turned in last season (5.86 ERA, 5.42 FIP). His ground-ball profile just isn’t enough to get by on because he can’t strike anybody out (12.6%) and can’t hit the plate (12.5% walk rate). The strikeouts and ground balls have always been this way but the walks hadn’t been this big an issue in some time; even if he could find his way to average control (and he can’t), the strikeouts really cap his upside. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Calling someone the ace of the Astros is damning praise, to be sure, but Lucas Harrell failed to live up to even those low expectations in 2013. Even if the control improves, he can’t strike anyone out and figures to be a back-end guy at best.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/28/1984 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Harris’ first full season in the majors was surprisingly good. He spent six-and-a-half years in the Colorado system before breaking in with the Rockies late in 2012. After being claimed by Arizona off waivers, Harris appeared in 61 games for the Diamondbacks and posted a sub-three ERA with above average strikeout and walk rates. But despite the good numbers, he’s unlikely to have any fantasy relevance in 2013. Saves are almost assuredly out of the question for Harris, as Addison Reed was acquired in the offseason to close. And Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez and J.J. Putz are likely ahead of him on the depth chart should Reed lose the job or get injured. And those guys are all ahead of him for the setup roles as well, so Harris doesn’t figure to have much value in holds leagues. To further illustrate this point, about 74% of Harris’ work came when Arizona was trailing last year. He’s a good bullpen arm, but not really someone you need to know about. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Harris is an above average middle reliever. But there are too many guys in line in front of him for the fantasy relevant roles. In fact, about 74% of his work last year came when Arizona was trailing. Harris is unlikely to be all that relevant.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/16/1985 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Even when Harrison is healthy, there’s nothing particularly sexy about the rate stats he brings to the table. His career strikeout rate is 5.6, and his career ERA is 4.15 — adequately backed by a 4.29 FIP and xFIP. His walk, grounder, and home run rates are all pretty much right around American League averages. Nothing in his underlying numbers is particularly noteworthy, either. He gets his swing-throughs on his changeups, and his grounders on his two-seamer. Essentially, it appears as though Harrison benefits greatly from a defense that is among the best league-wide year in and year out. Latest reports suggest he should be good to go when the season starts, but he looks to be in a large group of pitchers jockeying for position for the last couple spots in the Rangers rotation, with others such as Colby Lewis, Nick Tepesch, and perhaps Alexi Ogando. If healthy, Harrison will give you innings. On the free agent market in real-life, that’s one thing. In fantasy, well, that’s a completely different thing. A less attractive thing. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Harrison has given fantasy owners wins and a good ERA when he’s been healthy. Still, there aren’t a lot of things about his good seasons that lend credence to the possibility of similar future performances. He had late-round flyer written all over him, but it may be better to target someone with more upside.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/27/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: The Dark Knight of Gotham was the most exciting thing on the New York baseball scene in 2013 and was on pace to be a legitimate challenger to Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young march before being shut down and eventually having Tommy John surgery. Harvey throws four above average pitches, and maintains one of the highest average velocities on his fastball in the game. He’s simply one of the best hurlers in the game. Unfortunately, little of this matters as he will not be pitching next season, as he recovers from surgery. There isn’t a great reason to worry that he won’t regain form as soon as he regains health, which makes him an interesting proposition in keeper and dynasty leagues. If you have the room, the budget, or are simply headed for a rebuilding year, throwing a few dollars at Harvey sounds like a wise long-term move. He’s essentially the best prospect in the game who is not much more than a year away from a call-up. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: After establishing himself as one of the league’s best pitchers over the first two thirds of the season, Matt Harvey joined the esteemed list of Tommy John surgery patients. He will not pitch in 2014, but will be ready for 2015, most likely in prime form. Depending on your team and league make-up, Harvey could be wise investment despite the injury.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 12/21/1972 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: At 41 years of age, LaTroy Hawkins is coming off a very productive season in which he served as the closer for the Mets over roughly the final two months of the season. His efficacy in that stint earned him a two-year contract with the Rockies. He’s projected as the closer to open the season. His contract is modest, and therefore there’s not much to keep him in that role if he does not perform. In 2013, he posted strikeout and walk rates better than in previous years, and if those continue, there’s the potential for him to hold the job and be a serviceable closer, yielding clear value in all leagues. Somewhat troubling for his outlook in Colorado is his tendency to post above league-average fly ball rates. So, one has to worry whether he can sustain last season’s peripheral gains and succeed given his age and environment. Also, Rex Brothers is a fine young pitcher and ready to close. That said, closers are a finite group and Hawkins needs to be on radars in all leagues next season. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Latroy Hawkins parlayed as successful over-40 season into an opportunity to be the favorite for to close for Colorado when the 2014 season opens. His peripherals from 2013 were a bit better than in previous years, and he serves up his share of fly balls. This is certainly a recipe for apprehension regarding his ability to successfully close for the Rockies all year.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/11/1986 | Position: SP|
Profile: Before suffering a season-ending injury that required Tommy John surgery, Hefner was in the midst of putting together a somewhat surprisingly solid season. A few rough outings toward the end his season ballooned his ERA back above four, but for a good chunk of time, he was certainly NL-only roster-worthy. Hefner will probably miss all of 2014, so he can essentially be forgotten about in all formats this year. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: In 2013, Jeremy Hefner showed that he can be a viable NL-only regular — a few ugly starts toward the end of his season made his final numbers a little uglier than perhaps they deserved to be. He’s recuperating from Tommy John surgery this season though, so he can be ignored in all drafts.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/8/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Jeremy Hellickson went from top prospect to infield-fly phenom to fantasy black hole in the span of three seasons. Desptie an ERA a full run and a half lower than his FIP entering 2013, Hellboy’s strand rate and batting average on balls in play both cratered. His usually high 82% LOB dropped beneath league average to 66%, and his ERA likewise ballooned from the three neighborhood into the fives. All this despite his full-season career best 18.3% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate rate. Of course, if your career best strikeout rate is 18.3%, that’s not a great sign in itself. Hellickson’s FIP relative to the league was his career best since becoming a full-time starter — obviously not ideal — but he’s got a solid swinging strike rate (9.6% whiff rate in 2013 and on his career). That leads us to suspect his strikeout rate should climb, at least towards league average. Despite being somewhat of a fantasy stud for both 2011 and 2012, Hellickson might make for a buy-low candidate in 2014 despite the elbow surgery that should keep him out of half the season. When he returns, keep an eye on his contact and swinging strike rates — if they start to veer away from good, then jump ship. But don’t be surprised if he can post a 3.50 ERA across 180 innings. In linear weights leagues, don’t bother with Hellickson. Not until he’s got a strikeout rate in the 20s. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Hellickson’s peripherals finally swung toward league average, only to pass it and touch the other end of the spectrum. He could have made a decent buy-low candidate in ERA leagues, but recent surgery will keep him out of a good portion of the first half. (@BradleyWoodrum)
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/29/1988 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Given his armspeed and the magical half-season he produced in the California League in 2011, Hellweg will likely receive the benefit of the doubt more often than other pitching prospects. He presumably used many of those same benefits with the Brewers this past season en route to recording a nearly one-to-three strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight appearances (seven of them starts). Indeed, no typos have been made: Hellweg struck out nine batters while walking 26 more in 30.2 major-league innings. He neither threw his fastball for strikes, nor did he demonstrate any capacity to produce swings and misses with his breaking or offspeed stuff. He’ll need to demonstrate the ability to do one or the other — although, preferably both — before he experiences any success in the majors. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: The velocity remains intriguing, but major league success requires a complement both command and at least one effective breaking or offspeed pitch.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/13/1989 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Once tabbed as the Giants closer of the future, Hembree has struggled mightily over the last two seasons. In 2012, he finished with a 4.74 ERA as his strikeouts dropped significantly while his walks saw a major increase. In 2013, he regained his strikeouts and improved his overall command, but he then started to give up far too many home runs and posted a career-worst 1.14 home runs per nine over 55.1 innings. Heading into 2014, the hope is that he finally puts it all together and earns a spot as a set-up man in the majors while building towards being a potential closer in due time. He’ll need to start by dominating the hitters at the Triple-A level, something he’s failed to do in two seasons. Unless he comes out and pitches lights-out this spring, he’ll open the year at Triple-A Fresno and while everyone understands the hitter-friendly ways of the Pacific Coast League, he won’t earn a promotion without dominating hitters at that level first. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: After two straight seasons of poor performance, Hembree has a lot to prove before anyone tabs him as the Giants closer of the future again. He’ll need to maintain strong command while continuing to improve his strikeouts against inferior hitters and until then, he’ll stay put in Triple-A for most of the season. His fantasy value is minimal right now, but if he does show significant improvement, his long-term upside could increase exponentially.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/21/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Once he stepped into the closer’s role vacated by John Axford, Henderson provided ample fantasy value. He saved 28 games with an above-average 11.25 strikeout rate. The WHIP wasn’t anything special, but a .261 batting average on balls in play and sparkling 88.4% strand rate helped keep the ERA depressed. The right-hander struggled down the stretch, though, posting a 5.59 ERA in September and experiencing some home run issues. He also must develop a pitch to neutralize lefties. As a fastball-slider pitcher, he’s got a significant platoon split between lefties (4.73 FIP) and righties (2.62 FIP), which is obviously undesirable in a closer. Henderson will begin the season as the Brewers’ closer and should be a good source of strikeouts, but the platoon issues combined with the late-season implosion should make fantasy owners pause before pulling the trigger on draft day. There’s a very good chance he doesn’t make it through the season as the team’s closer. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: He’s officially the closer in Milwaukee and impressed with a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings, but late-season struggles cast a rather large shadow on his expected 2014 campaign.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: The Australian-born Hendriks was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2011. This was the culmination of a solid age-22 season spent between Double-A and Triple-A, and earned him a full-season promotion to Triple-A in 2012, where Hendriks again flourished to the tune of a 2.20 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, and nearly three strikeouts for every walk. But Hendriks has the sort of skillset that dominates Triple-A, and can come unglued in the big leagues. He’s a nibbler. Armed with a fringy fastball (90.2 mph career average) and good command, Hendriks never developed even a slightly effective secondary offering other than a decent curveball. As a result, Hendriks has been pummeled in the big leagues to the tune of a .313/.369/.529 triple-slash. That’s a line that’d make Nick Blackburn blush. Twins GM Terry Ryan spoke of Hendriks in a positive sense towards the end of the 2013 season, largely citing his age as a reason to hold future hope for the right-hander. But something must have changed in the interim, as the Twins designated Hendriks for assignement to open a roster spot for Phil Hughes. Hendriks has landed with the Orioles — via the Cubs — and may have a chance to crack the back end of their rotation. More likely, he’ll start the season with the Norfolk Tides, and try to regain some of his former Triple-A magic. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Hendriks, the owner of a 2-13 career record, is a Quad-A type pitcher who is nothing more than a spot-start option for big league teams. He may do well to work out of the bullpen for the Orioles in the future, but he’s not a fantasy consideration.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/8/1986 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Felix Hernandez turns 28 in April and he’s already logged over 1800 innings, amassing 41.2 wins above replacement in that time. “The King” has been a fantasy stalwart for six consecutive years and despite his well-documented steady decline in velocity, he’s coming off his highest strikeout percentage in his career at 26.3%. There’s not a lot of agreement in pitch classification systems on exactly what Hernandez is throwing, but it’s clear he’s moved away from the fastball in lieu of more sinkers and changeups, with his arm angle and movement being particularly deadly on the latter two. No longer possessing blow-you-away stuff, Hernandez challenges batters with a “hit it if you can” recklessness which tends to produce weak contact. Having a plus slider and curve at his disposal gives batters a broad repertoire which keeps them guessing. There are occasions where he lacks command, and that’s when the current absence of a plus four seamer can expose him. And don’t forget workload concerns, with the ominous “injury clause” the team threw into his contract extension when it wasn’t 100% thrilled with his medicals. But until the King proves us wrong, you have to consider him one of the top starting pitchers available on draft day. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Felix Hernandez has been a stud fantasy contributor going on six seasons. He might not throw 98 mph anymore, but his ability to miss bats has never been better. Still just 28, Hernandez should have plenty left in the tank for 2014 despite workload concerns. Oliver projects a 2.90 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with a 24.5% strikeout rate. Tasty.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 5/13/1985 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: After a career year in 2012, Hernandez struggled mightily last season as his both his walk and strikeout rates regressed while he saw a significant spike in the number of home runs allowed. Things got so bad for him that the Diamondbacks opted to send him down to Triple-A Reno in order to fix his mechanics and hopefully get him back into his 2012 form. Whatever it was they did to him down on the farm, it worked as he returned in September and allowed just one run over 14 innings. Once considered a potential closer, Hernandez will remain in middle relief with the team’s acquisition of Addison Reed and his fantasy value will remain just as it’s always been. If he can continue to pitch well, he’ll be an excellent source for holds and could see the occasional save opportunity. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Hernandez followed up his 2012 breakout campaign with a season of struggles in 2013 and he looked nothing like the pitcher he was the year before. A trip to the minors seemed to right the ship, but not enough to prevent the team from acquiring Addison Reed to handle closing duties for the team in 2014. Hernandez will continue his role as the team’s right-handed set-up man and should be a solid source for holds and possibly even the occasional save.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/12/1989 | Position: SP|
Profile: Hernandez is a slightly-built lefty with fringy stuff (88.8 mph career fastball) who simply can’t get right-handed hitters out (.352/.421/.626). The Twins outrighted him off the 40-man roster in the offseason, and he has signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal. If he has a big league future, it’s quite likely as a left-handed specialist. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Hernandez is still young, but nothing on the tape makes him look like a future big league starter. He may have a future as a LOOGY, though. Fantasy-wise, stay away.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/30/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Hernandez was a topic of great contention among sabre-savvy fans during the 2014 season. He had a bloated 4.98 ERA through his 24 starts (142.2 innings), but he also had a career-high 17.3% strikeout rate and career-low 5.4% walk rate, resulting in a strong 3.65 SIERA. The Rays pushed Hernandez to use his change up a career-high 30%, but the change may have resulted in more hittable pitches crossing the plate. As a ground-ball pitcher, Hernandez has always had a higher-than-normal home run per fly ball rate, but for the second season in a row, it crossed into crazy territory with a 20.9% number. Did the increased change up usage result in more homers? It’s hard to say, but in 2014, he’ll have a chance to re-establish his innings-eater reputation with the Phillies. Consider Hernandez a buy low, low candidate because anything better than a 3.50 ERA over 180 IP would be a very pleasant surprise. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Hernandez could very well develop into a decent innings eater with the Phillies, if he can maintain his strikeout- and walk-rate improvements from 2013. But he needs to resist the homer, which derailed his time in the Rays rotation. Consider Hernandez only when looking for low-risk, medium-reward types.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/31/1989 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Kelvin Herrera came into 2013 as the setup man for Kansas City’s closer, Greg Holland. Herrera was all shiny with his 2012 98.5 mph fastball and 2.35 ERA. In 2013, he did not live up to his expectations. Herrera’s main issue was his 1.4 home runs per nine rate (or the 18% home run per fly ball rate). Almost all the damage came over the first two months when he gave up eight of his nine homers and posted a 4.87 ERA and a 2-4 record. He was sent to the minors to clean up his mechanics and work on keeping the ball lower. After returning, he posted a 3.32 ERA and allowed only one homer. Going into 2014, I expect him to post an ERA around with around 10 strikeouts per nine. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in a stacked Royals bullpen. Lockdown closer Greg Holland will be getting the saves. Besides Kelvim Herrera, you’ll see Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, and Luis Coleman — all fighting for the holds. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Kelvin Herrera turned his 2013 season around once he quit giving up the long ball. His 2014 value will be limited because of a stacked Royals bullpen.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/15/1983 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Thank God, the Luke Hochevar five-year starting pitcher experiment is finally over. Over those five seasons, he had 5.45 ERA which was the highest (min 500 IP) value with Brad Penny coming in second at 5.16. In 2013, Hochevar was moved to the bullpen where he has thrived. His ERA and ERA estimators dropped like a rock (1.92 ERA/2.96 FIP/2.90 xFIP/2.33 SIERA). Pitches usually improve moving to the bullpen, but Hochevar’s move exceeded expectations. His average fastball velocity jumped three mph. His strikeout rate went from 6.2 K/9 (career) to 10.5 K/9. He became an anchor in a deep and talented Royals bullpen. That talented bullpen will lead to value issues for the 30-year-old in 2014. He needs to land one of the setup roles on the Royals or he won’t even be useful for holds. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: If only the rest of the Royals’ bullpen wasn’t so awesome, the transformation that Hochevar underwent in his move out of the starting rotation might be more stark. As it is, he’s just a good reliever in a good bullpen right now, and that makes his fantasy value very niche.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: It might surprise you to discover that Derek Holland outperformed (in wins above replacement) the likes of David Price, Doug Fister, Jon Lester, and Hisashi Iwakuma. The Rangers’ young starter didn’t light up the win column but he pitched to a 3.42 ERA (3.44 FIP) with 21.1% strikeout rate which generated darn near 200 K’s on the season. Holland induced more swings outside the strike zone and less contact on those swings than any point in his career, and his swinging strike rate of 10% was also a career high. His success is in large part wrapped up in his increased use of his excellent slider when ahead in the count (generating a 37% whiff rate) and his ability to generally stay out of the middle of the zone in all counts. One knock would be his walk rate which sat at 7.2% and was in large part why he barely broke 1.30 on his WHIP. Entering his age 27 season with a pretty stacked Texas Ranger lineup, he should have every opportunity to rack up more wins and given his ability to pitch to his strengths, he ought to be able to reproduce his success from 2013. Holland isn’t a world beater, but in standard leagues, he would be a nice number three starter with some upside. Too bad he’ll miss half the season after having microfracture surgyer on his knee. Blame his dog. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Don’t mistake Derek Holland for a fantasy ace. He gives up too many hits and walks too many opposing batters to provide plus contributions in ERA and WHIP. But he should be able to give you a 3.60-3.70 ERA with a WHIP around 1.25-ish, which ain’t too bad considering he would throw in 175 strikeouts and double digit wins in a full season. Now that he’s out half the season, he’s a bench play, a stash for later. Still relevant.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/20/1985 | Team: Royals | Position: RP|
Profile: Greg Holland can be mentioned right in the same sentence as the handful of top closers in the league. (See?) Over the past two seasons (minimum 50 innings pitched) he is 13th in ERA (2.08), second in FIP (1.82), sixth in strikeout rate, second in FIP- (44) and tenth in saves (47). He took over the Royals’ closer role partway through the 2012 season. In a full 2013 season, he had 47 Saves and 103 strikeouts (two more than qualified starter Kevin Correia). There is a lot to like about Holland (the high saves and strikeout totals). His velocity stayed consistent over the course of the season. He has job security. Going into 2014, I only see one reason to worry about Holland — walks. In 2012 he posted a 4.6 walks per nine rate. Walking a batter every other inning is not acceptable for a top-flight closer. If he happens to revert back to his past high-walk ways his value may be knocked down a notch or two. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Greg Holland is a top five closer and should be drafted as such.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/19/1991 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Holmberg is definitely not flashy but if you want a reliable innings-eater, this lefty is your man after compiling at least 154 innings each of the past three seasons and topping out at 173.1 in 2012. He made his MLB debut in 2013 (albeit just one start) with the Arizona Diamondbacks but was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason. That swap actually works out pretty well for the southpaw because he has less young pitching depth to contend with for another shot at the big league level. He likely won’t break camp with the Reds but he could be the first player promoted in the event of an injury or disappointing performance. Holmberg has the ceiling of a number four starter. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Holmberg is set up well to pitch a solid number of innings at the big league level for the Reds in 2013 as their number six starter on the depth chart. He isn’t flashy but he logs innings and has a tendency to keep his team in the game.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/13/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Hoover doesn’t possess the makeup of someone who should find success at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. He owns a career 28.6% ground-ball rate and walks 3.63 per nine. That’s not supposed to work in Cincy. Yet the right-hander strikes out a batter per inning and has displayed an ability to depress his batting average on balls in play so far, which makes sense for an extreme fly-ball pitcher who largely keeps the baseball in the ballpark. Hoover did log three saves last year and should be second in command behind Aroldis Chapman for the ninth inning. Thus, fantasy owners must keep the 26-year-old reliever on their respective radars, but he does become less attractive if his 81.1% strand rate and .244 BABIP return to earth. Or if his home run rate better reflects someone with a career 28.6% ground-ball rate — though, to be fair, he has shown an ability to limit homers in the minors. In the end, he may not be the second-best reliever on the Reds, but he projects to setup for Chapman and could ultimately see more save opportunities. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Fly-ball pitchers with healthy walk rates don’t generally flourish in pitcher-friendly ballparks, but Hoover has compiled a 2.61 ERA over the past two seasons. He’s struck out over a batter per inning and could start the season first in line for saves if Aroldis Chapman becomes unavailable.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 4/25/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: After a few years spent dealing with shoulder difficulties in Tampa Bay, J.P. Howell bounced back in a big way in Los Angeles, putting up a career-best 2.18 ERA. That’s partially due to a low .241 batting average on balls in play, but Howell also induced more grounders and gave up fewer homers than usual, all while throwing harder than ever. That performance earned him a nice multi-year extension from the Dodgers, where he should serve as a primary bullpen cog in 2014, though one with no shot at saves in a bullpen full of closers, which hurts his fantasy utility in saves leagues. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Finally healthy, J.P. Howell put up his highest swinging-strike percentage since 2009, though he’s only fantasy useful in leagues that count holds.
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 7/14/1975 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: Hudson’s 2013 ended with a gruesome ankle injury. He’s been one of those pitchers who is much better in real life than in fantasy due to a low strikeout rate and a high ground-ball rate. Those ground balls are his bread and butter, and they have allowed him to post ERAs in the mid to high threes in recent seasons. Hudson will now return to the Bay area (this time to San Francisco) and should provide the Giants with a reliable veteran presence. Fantasy owners can count on decent rate stats and a chance for wins, but strikeouts will be a problem category. Be sure to pair Hudson with an elite strikeout reliever if you opt to roster him. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Hudson was signed early in the offseason by the San Francisco Giants. With his ground-balling ways and new spacious home park, Hudson should provide stable innings and decent rate stats. Alas, he’s always hurt fantasy owners in the strikeout category, which limits his value.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/22/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: David Huff was actually drafted three times: by the Angels in 2003 (31st round), the Phillies in 2005 (19th round), and by the Indians (with whom he finally signed after being the 39th pick of the first round) in 2006. Despite the draft-day demand, Huff never really impressed once he got the the majors with Cleveland, and he has a career 5.57 ERA as a starter. The Yankees selected him off of waivers early in 2013, and he mostly pitched out of their bullpen in the majors, a role he will probably return to in 2013 — for the San Francisco Giants. As a starter, Huff simply could not get batters out, with a worse than average walk rate, a terrible strikeout rate, and, to top it off, balls in play stayed in the air. As a reliever, he has been better, as one would expect, but it is hard to say how good he might be in that role, as the sample is limited. He might be a sub-four ERA reliever, especially in a nice home park and league, but that is hardly all that impressive these days. He is a long way from any save opportunities in San Francisco at the moment. Don’t worry about him on draft day. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Huff might have some potential in the bullpen, but he has not shown enough to be a draft day concern in fantasy leagues.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/24/1986 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Phil Hughes has struggled to stay on the mound in his career. Since his 2007 debut, Hughes has exceeded 150 innings just twice and never thrown for 200 innings in a season. Despite his up-and-down health, Hughes has remained very consistent statistically. In his three (relatively) full seasons, Hughes has struck out between 7.45 and 7.76 batters and walked between 2.16 and 2.96 walks per nine each season. Apart from health, the major obstacle for Hughes has been the long ball, and given that his 33% groundball rate is the fourth-lowest among qualified starters since 2010, he could not have been a worse fit for Yankee Stadium. In his career, Hughes has allowed nearly twice as many home runs at home (1.69 home runs per nine) than on the road (0.86 home runs per nine). Enter Target Field. Where Yankee Stadium had a 110 home run factor in 2013, Hughes’ new home park (he signed a three-year deal with the Twins) had a 93 home run factor. Hughes remains a major health risk, but when he does pitch, expect an ERA closer to his 4.10 career road ERA than his 4.96 career home ERA. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Phil Hughes received a major upgrade in ballpark in moving from the Yankees to the Twins. That should help him cut down on his home runs allowed and approach an ERA in the threes. Unfortunately, health remains the major concern with Hughes.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/21/1982 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: A former top-five selection in the MLB draft, Humber has been an unmitigated disaster in the major leagues. Aside from a decent 2011 season, and a perfect game in an otherwise awful 2012, the highlights have been few and far between for a right-hander who was one of the big prospects in the Johan Santana deal between the Twins and the Mets. If this wasn’t bad enough, the 2013 season might have been Humber’s worst as a professional. He went 0-8 for the Astros, with an ERA just an eyelash under eight. He’s signed a minor league deal with the A’s for 2014, but it’s hard to imagine him cracking a pitching staff which had the second-best ERA in the American League in 2013. He could be done. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: It’s been a long time since Humber threw that perfect game.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/3/1986 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: After failing as a starter over parts of four seasons, Tommy Hunter settled in as a hard-throwing reliever in 2013, increasing his fastball velocity by more than four miles an hour to a mark of 96. As a result, Hunter posted a 2.81 ERA and had his strikeout rate climb above 20% for the first time. This is standard stuff for a starter moving to the pen, but it’s at least encouraging that Hunter also managed to trim his walk rate even further to a tiny 4.2%. Like his primary competition for the closer’s role in Darren O’Day, the knock on Hunter is a fly-ball tendency in a friendly ballpark, explaining how he managed 10 meltdowns despite not cracking the top-50 in leverage index. Whether Buck Showalter will trust him in further high-leverage situations remains to be seen, though Hunter is on record as wanting the chance to close. Fantasy owners would probably prefer O’Day’s higher strikeout rate, given the choice. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Tommy Hunter’s velocity spiked in a major way with a move to the bullpen in 2013, and success followed. He still doesn’t strike batters out like a closer, but the job could end up in his hands entering 2014.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 2/25/1987 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: With the exception of his curveball — which Prometheus stole from the gods right after taking fire, reports suggest — Irwin’s repertoire isn’t particularly dynamic. As such, his success depends on throwing strikes. He’s done that throughout his minor-league career. A time he didn’t do it was during his major-league debut last April, when he walked four of the 23 Cincinnati batters he faced. Perhaps related, he was on the disabled list with arm trouble three weeks later and undergoing an ulnar nerve transposition procedure two months after that. He returned for some Arizona Fall League innings, however, and should be ready for the season. His upside remains back-of-the-rotation starter, at this point. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Despite a very pleasing curveball, Irwin’s upside remains back-of-the rotation starter, probably.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/12/1981 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: Hisashi Iwakuma is less than flashy, but he’s been a quietly dominant starting pitcher over the last two seasons. Through over 300 innings as a starter in Major League Baseball, Kuma now has a 2.66 ERA with a nearly 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. One could forget that Iwakuma was a quasi-hot commodity just a few short years ago, when the Oakland A’s were unable to come to terms with the Japanese right-hander through the posting system, so it’s not as if his success has come out of nowhere. Iwakuma lives in the high-80s with his fastball, but a dominant splitter and his ability to surprise hitters with occasional fastballs in the 90s have led to great success, even outside of Safeco field. Kuma isn’t going to win you the strikeout title, but he’s going to be a huge factor in lowering your WHIP and ERA while not hurting you with a lack of Ks. His shoulder problems seem to be a thing of the past now, and at 33, the right-hander has shown the ability to be one of the best starters in the American League. Draft him appropriately. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: You may not think of Hisashi Iwakuma as a top-of-the-line starter, but he’s pitched that way during his two MLB seasons. Slot him in as a great number two starter in your roto rotation.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 9/9/1983 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: On the face of it, Jackson’s first season in Chicago was a flop. He threw his fewest number of innings since 2007 when he was a member of the Devil Rays (they were the Devil Rays then), he lost a career high 18 games, and posted an ERA just barely shy of five. But buried in those ugly truths remain reasons for optimism in 2014. Jackson’s batting average on balls in play jumped 44 points from 2012 as a National to his first season on the North Side, and his strand rate was the lowest it has ever been as a starting pitcher. His FIP and xFIP were both sub-four, as they have been every season since 2010. He’s a virtual lock to keep his spot in the Cubs’ rotation all season, and has made at least 30 starts in seven straight seasons. He won’t carry your fantasy team, but there’s significant bounce-back potential here. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: While his traditional stats make it seem like his first season in Chicago was a flop, Jackson’s sub-4 FIP and xFIP hint that last year was unlucky and there’s significant bounce-back potential here.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/30/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: For the second year in a row, the Dodgers attempted to give an inferior pitcher the closer’s job, and for the second year in a row, Jansen regained the role before the first half was out. There likely won’t be a third time around, because Jansen has proven himself to be one of the elite closers in baseball. Over the last three years, only Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman can best Jansen’s 14.10 strikeout rate, but if anything, Jansen is getting more dangerous — his walk rate has dropped from 5.00 to 4.36 to 3.05 to 2.11 in his four seasons. We know that relievers rarely have long shelf lives, but Jansen is still only 26 and isn’t just a good one — he’s a great one. For the first time, he’ll have the ninth inning to himself all season in 2014. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Jansen misses bats like few others, and now he’ll have a full season to pile up saves. He should be valued as a top-three closer headed into 2014.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 9/17/1981 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Casey Janssen seems like he has been in Toronto forever, but it has been during the last three seasons when he has come into his own. He has quietly become a very good reliever, andthe closer in Toronto despite their attempts to go in different directions. Janssen is not a flamethrower (his fastball averages about 91 or 92), but he mixes in a sinker and a hard cutter, a curve, a slider, and even an occasional change. That mix — and elite command — allows him to be almost as good against lefties as righties. He has strikeout and walk rates substantially better than average, and though he is not an extreme ground-baller, generally keeps the ball in the park. Any closer is going to have substantial value in leagues that count saves, but Janssen is no Jose Valverde — he is legitimately good. He is not in the same level as, say, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Greg Holland, but he is at the top of the second tier. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Janssen has quietly become one a very good reliever, and he is Toronto’s closer. After the likes of Greg Holland, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman, he is one of the better fantasy reliever values in leagues that count saves.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/21/1987 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Teams are going to give just about any pitcher with a fastball in the high nineties, a curveball, and a 90 mph change up plenty of chances. So, despite bad results (mostly due to serious control issues [ahem]) with the Brewers and Royals in the majors and minors, and again with the Blue Jays in both Triple-A and the majors, Toronto is holding on to the dream. Jeffress is not only still around, but the team is reportedly toying with the idea of trying him as a starting pitcher. Given Jeffress’ great tools and mostly lousy results, one might argue that the Blue Jays should be trying to turn him into a pitcher, period, rather than just some guy who throws really hard. As a either a starter or reliever it is hard to see how Jeffress past results justify any fantasy attention. There is the stuff, and he did have an amazing ERA as a reliever in the majors in 2013 — but it was just 10 innings. Only worth a pick for his potential in deep leagues with big benches. See, not even a single Cheech and Chong joke! (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Jeremy Jeffress has incredible stuff, but despite his improvements in 2013, still does not project as a useful fantasy pitcher. Only worth a pick for his potential in very deep leagues with room on the bench.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/22/1984 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2010, I mocked a fellow fantasy owner for overvaluing Ubaldo Jimenez. The looked like a well-deserved mocking when Jimenez’s value fell off a cliff in 2011 and 2012. 2011 seemed like it might have been more bad luck (his FIP was still solid) than anything, but 2012 was a disaster. His strikeouts dropped, his walks spiked, he spent his first full season outside Coors Field and his home run per fly ball rate went up to a new career high. Then, in 2013, the pitcher who had always been fastball-forward decreased the usage on that pitch and his curveball and put more focus on his slider and his new splitter. His swinging strike rate rebounded as did the strikeouts, and by the second half of the year, Ubaldo was the ace the Indians gave up so much to acquire. There will be concerns about his future going forward, as their should be, but there is nothing in his 2013 that looks unrepeatable or concerning. The biggest question I have is where he’ll land. He needs to keep the ball in the park to limit the damage from his still-high walk rates, and a good pitching coach who can help keep his mechanics in-line likely wouldn’t hurt either. Regardless, the Big U may not be the guy he was at his peak, but he is an extremely talented pitcher and well worth your focus in fantasy. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: The 2013 resurgence from Ubaldo Jimenez comes from a shift in pitch usage, increased control, and a decreasing home run per fly ball rate, all of which look like potentially sustainable improvements. He is probably never going to relive the heady days of 2010, but to be a valuable fantasy asset, he doesn’t have to.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 6/27/1983 | Team: Athletics | Position: RP|
Profile: Jemile Weeks. That’s the return the Orioles got for Jim Johnson this offseason when they shipped his $10 million-plus arbitration figure to Oakland, opting to forego having an “experienced closer” for the time being and instead sending the extreme ground-ball closer to friendly O.Co Coliseum. The big number for Johnson is 101, the number of saves he has in the past two seasons, nine more than any other closer. Save chances are fickle and Johnson is the rare closer without strikeout power – his 17.3% strikeout rate is the lowest of anyone with a combined 30 saves the past two years – but he’s about as gopher-proof as relievers come with a 60.7% ground ball rate over three seasons. That didn’t stop him from recording 12 meltdowns and blowing nine saves last year, but the tight-budget Athletics aren’t going to pay him handsomely not to close. Still, fantasy owners shouldn’t pay heavily for saves, especially when they come without strikeouts and when said closer is backed up by several strong closing options. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Jim Johnson has nine more saves than anyone else the past two seasons but strikes out fewer batters than anybody given the chance to close. He’s well paid and in a good situation, but tread lightly paying for the “established” closer.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 8/31/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Somehow, Steve Johnson continued to get plenty of strikeouts with a straight, sub-90 MPH fastball in 2013. Unfortunately, he couldn’t place it anywhere near the plate, turning him into a bit of a Rick Vaughn-type, minus the velocity. That’s not a compliment, by the way. Johnson threw just 15.2 innings in the majors, walking 13 and sporting a 7.47 ERA. He had some success at Triple-A as a starter, with a three-to-one strikeout-to-walk-ratio and a 3.18 FIP, but it’s unclear what the Orioles plan is for the 26-year-old from here. He’s in a large group vying for a back-end rotation spot and maybe the team will give him another shot in the bullpen failing that, but the profile is far too scary – three true outcomes, baby – to invest much, regardless of the role. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: The man with the most charismatic name in baseball continued to coax whiffs with what looks like a sub-par fastball, but his control fell apart in the majors. The strikeouts are definitely enticing, but there’s too much not to like entering 2014.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/31/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: It is hard to come up with a satisfactory gambling metaphor for Josh Johnson’s fantasy value, so why bother? Johnson was arguable the biggest disappointment on a 2013 Blue Jays team full of them, giving up hits, homers, and runs aplenty before he (surprise!) went down with a forearm injury. The tough part as fantasy owners is balancing his dreadful 2013 season with the reality that even when injured in prior seasons, he was pretty much always a very good pitcher. Even among his healthy seasons, Johnson has only pitched more than 200 innings in one season, back in 2009. Moreover, his fastball velocity has been declining pretty steadily every season since then. His control also seems to be getting worse. Perhaps his change up caused some of the injury issues he has had in the past, but gradually eliminating it from his repertoire might also give hitters an advantage. On the “pro” side, Johnson’s fastball still is in the low-90s, his 2013 home run rate was probably a fluke, and he still struck out a high proportion of batters. Also good for his fantasy value in 2014 is that he has signed with the Padres, who still have a pitcher-friendly park. Getting to pitch to pitchers again will also help. Johnson is still an innings gamble. He’s probably still capable of putting up an ERA in the mid-3s, especially in an NL pitchers’ park. He should definitely be drafted in all NL leagues and some bigger leagues, but do not count on him for major production. He is obviously an upside pick. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Josh Johnson’s terrible 2013 and injury history make him a high-risk pick, so he is no longer a number two fantasy pitcher you can trust. However, his good peripherals even in 2013 and prior performance means owners should not allow him to drop too far in NL-only leagues in particular.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 12/30/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Johnson’s easy motion and fastball-slider-curve combination were polished enough to portend an ascent to the majors in 2013, but the addition of two mph to his heater turned him from just a potential fourth starter to a pitcher who could really make an impact. Johnson’s power slider — which reaches 90 mph — and big overhand curve give hitters two effective and dramatically different looks to worry about, and his big frame and easy delivery portend durability and command. After breezing through the upper minors and turning in five passable September starts, he’s primed to be a solid innings-muncher in his rookie campaign on the rebuilding White Sox in 2014. He could evolve into a reliable mid-rotation rock and should reach his ceiling in fairly short order. (Nathaniel Stoltz)
Quick Opinion: Johnson ascended to the big leagues in his second full pro season and looks ready to hold his own there in 2014. He has three average-or-better pitches and projects to have good command and durability, making him a potential third starter in the near future.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/28/1986 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: With the trade of Addison Reed, it’s assumed Jones will take over the closer role for the White Sox. His 4.15 ERA may look shaky, but his 2.64 FIP paints a more accurate picture of his ability. While walks still remain somewhat of an issue, Jones can rack up strikeouts at a high rate due to a blazing fastball and solid slider. He does have somewhat of an unorthodox delivery, which has led some to worry whether he’ll be injury prone. But it’s all about next year with relievers, and he’s young enough to project into a healthy season. If he is the team’s choice to close out games, he could have significant value based on his high strikeout numbers. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Jones could be in line for a huge boost in value if he’s named the closer. He has the skills to succeed, and could rack up strikeouts at a high rate.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/17/1989 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Jordan will likely compete for fifth and final spot in the Washington rotation, but Tanner Roark and Ross Detwiler are probably in line in front of him. The main thing Jordan has going for him is an excellent walk rate. His walk rate was 5% in nine major league starts last year, and he had excellent walk rates throughout the minors. He also had a nice ground-ball rate in his nine starts. But he doesn’t appear to have the ability to miss bats. His strikeout rate was only 13.2% and he didn’t post big strikeout rates in the minors. Other names with good ground-ball and walk rates but well below strikeout rates are Kyle Kendrick and Mike Leake. Those comps should tell you all you need to know about Jordan’s fantasy value. And you can’t even compare him to those guys unless he lands a spot in the rotation. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Jordan has good control and the ability to generate ground balls, but he can’t miss bats. He’s in the mix for the final spot in Washington’s rotation, but he’s unlikely to get it.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/29/1986 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: It’s been a tough road for Jair Jurrjens following successes in 2009 and 2011. Hammered by the regression monster, he bounced from Atlanta to Baltimore and then Detroit, pitching just 7.1 innings in the majors in 2013. His performance at Triple-A was hardly encouraging, and those sub-three ERA seasons from a few years back sure look like they will stand up as the high-water marks of his career. Jurrjens is without a home and underwent offseason knee surgery, so his best-case scenario is probably a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Even then, he’d need injuries, a favorable ballpark and some luck to see success once again. Operating essentially with just a fastball-changeup arsenal, consider Jurrjens someone the league just straight figured out. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Jair Jurrjens may have a lot of Js and a lot of Rs, but he doesn’t have many Ks. Or a job, for that matter. Since his 2009 and 2011 successes, Jurrjens has struggled just to be average at Triple-A, and it’s unlikely he’ll make any major league impact in 2014.
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