Nate Karns 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 11/25/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Nate Karns has continued to rise in the Nationals organization over the last couple years. He’s a bulldog type who attacks the strike zone with a power sinker. He came up and missed bats in his major league debut but also showed his flaws. Command — especially of his secondaries — and finding an offspeed offering that works for him will determine how far Karns can go. He tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder in 2009, so durability will always be a concern, too. With the addition of Doug Fister, the Nats rotation ranks among the strongest in baseball and it’s not clear what opportunities for starters will be available, if any. So it’s easy to see the Nats using Karns out of the pen in the short term, but he could also stay in Triple-A as rotation depth. In that case, he likely spends a few years as an up and down back end starter before settling in to the bullpen. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Karns has the potential to be a useful starter as a back end ground-ball pitcher who misses some bats. Given the addition of Doug Fister to an already strong rotation, and the emergence of Taylor Jordan, it’s going to take injuries for Karns to get that chance. Long term, Karns likely fits best in the seventh or eighth inning.
Scott Kazmir 
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 1/24/1984 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: For my money, there was no better story in 2013 than the re-emergence of Scott Kazmir. From 2006-2008, Kazmir established himself as one of the best in the game, striking out more than a batter per inning and posting ERAs under 3.50 from ages 22 to 24. In 2009 he regressed badly; In 2010, the wheels came off, and by the end of 2011 he was essentially done, throwing just 1.2 innings in the ,ajors. But in 2013, despite a mediocre 4.04 ERA, Kazmir was back. He struck out 9.23 per nine, and walked just 2.68 per nine, the latter of which actually marked a career-best. He got back the giddyup on his fastball, throwing it over 92 mph on average for the first time since 2007. He caused batters to chase pitches outside the zone more than ever before and their contact rate against him plummeted closer to where he was in his prime. He found the strike zone at a career-high rate. And, as he heads to a cavernous new home park, he will take the mound as a 30-year-old. Despite having seemingly pitched for a while and gone through his decline phase, he is theoretically still in his prime years. The biggest knock on Kazmir at this point is that he fell apart before, so maybe he’ll fall apart again. But if his new park helps and the batting average on balls in play regresses to a more normal level, there is no reason to think he can’t repeat his bounce-back performance. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: Kazmir’s comeback was remarkable, but fantasy owners are more interested in repeatable than remarkable. There is nothing in the 2013 statistical profile that scares me, and although you can’t ignore the risk inherent in a guy with his track record, I’d expect another solid year.
Shawn Kelley 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/26/1984 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: The soon to be 30-year-old reliever was a big surprise in his first season in the Big Apple. While his ERA hovered in the mid-four’s, his 11.98 strikeouts per nine ranked 11th in baseball (minimum 50 innings) thanks to a sharp slider. His first and last months of the season were terrible, but from May 1st-August 31st he had a 2.50 ERA and 31.5% strikeout rate. He’s a bit homer and walk prone, which may keep him out of most high leverage situations. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: The strikeout numbers are nice, and unless the Yankees sign another reliever, Kelley should be used plenty in the seventh and eighth innings this season.
Joe Kelly 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/9/1988 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Kelly has been quite the revelation over the last two seasons, compiling a career 3.08 earned run average in 231 innings. However, it doesn’t take too much digging to discover that he’s been tremendously lucky on his way to that ERA. The 25-year-old is a pitch-to-contact guy who generates lots of ground balls, which is fine, but his career 3.12 walks per nine innings and 1.37 WHIP suggest that his ERA is far from sustainable. Last year, Kelly was the beneficiary of a ridiculously low strand rate of 82.4%, which is a big part of why his ERA was a full 1.50 runs lower than his expected FIP. Take that tremendous ERA out of your mind and think of Kelly as a luckier, right-handed version of Jeff Locke. Locke produces about one more strikeout and walk per nine innings as Kelly does, but other than that, they’re essentially the same pitcher on paper: A high-WHIP, low-strikeout pitcher whose success is directly related to his ability to strand the hitters he will inevitably allow to reach base. (Scott Strandberg )
Quick Opinion: Even with Jaime Garcia hurting again, Kelly will likely be battling both Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez for a spot in the St. Louis rotation. Kelly undoubtedly has the lowest ceiling of those three. Even if he earns a spot in the rotation to start the season, he’s far from a lock to stay there.
Kyle Kendrick 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/26/1984 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: After outperforming his peripherals in back-to-back seasons, Kendrick came back down to earth in 2013. His earned run average jumped significantly in each of the last two seasons, from 3.22 in 2011, to 3.90 in 2012, to last year’s 4.70 ERA. The two primary reasons for this regression are his steadily declining strand rate and increasing batting average on balls in play. Both of those numbers have been trending in the wrong direction since 2011. In real life, the 29-year-old is a perfectly acceptable back-of-the-rotation starter, but he doesn’t offer much to fantasy owners. His career strikeout rate is just 4.80 per nine innings, so unless his BABIP and strand rate return to his 2011-2012 levels, he’s not helping in mixed formats. (Scott Strandberg )
Quick Opinion: There’s room on fantasy rosters for a guy like Kendrick in NL-only formats, but his ceiling is far too low for consideration in all but the deepest mixed leagues.
Ian Kennedy 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 12/19/1984 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: Kennedy was never going to be as good as he was in 2011, but in the past two seasons, his value took a brisk turn for the worse. His home run rate rose to a dangerous level, and it showed in his ERA and FIP. With Arizona’s surplus of pitching, there was no reason for them to be loyal to the USC product, and to their credit they weren’t — they shipped him off to San Diego towards the end of the season. His home run rate didn’t recover in the 57.1 innings he tossed for the Fathers, but over the course of a full season, it should. That could be all Kennedy needs to recover his value, as his strikeout rate remains healthy. For the past few years, the Padres’ biggest problem has been consistency in its starting rotation in the early parts of each season. With Kennedy in the fold that will be less of a problem in 2014, and if the team is able to better settle in thanks to the continuity, that could be a boon for Kennedy as well. Help me, help you, etc. As such, Kennedy is a fantastic sleeper pick this season.
Quick Opinion: Thanks to his tendency to give up a lot of fly balls, Chase Field wasn’t exactly the best fit for Kennedy. But now he’s ticketed for Petco Park, there’s a pretty decent chance that Kennedy recovers his fantasy value.
Clayton Kershaw 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/19/1988 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Never draft a pitcher in the first round, unless his last name is Kershaw. He is the ultimate fantasy pitcher in that both his health and his skills are incredibly stable and he excels across the board statistically. The only variance in his game is his win total, proving he is at least human and not immune to issues other pitchers have to deal with. Over the past five seasons, his strikeout rate has been at least 25% and over the last three seasons, he has put the struggles with control behind him.Combine the low walk totals with the very low home run totals and low hit rates, and you have the perfect formula for fantastic ratios. The surprising thing is that he is getting even better. His swing and miss rate has improved each of the past five seasons, and that hammer of God curve he throws has kept his chase rate over 30% each of the past three seasons. He is a perfect example of pitcher establishing their own batting average on balls in play baseline as his 5-year average is .270; he scoffs at your .290-.310 range. There is no reason to expect anything different in 2014. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: The old adage goes that you should never, ever, draft a pitcher in the 1st round. Rules are made to be broken, and you should do so with Kershaw in 2014.
Dallas Keuchel 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/1/1988 | Team: Astros | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: With a two-year run of 5.00-plus ERAs, it’d be easy to write Keuchel off as a non-entity. He doesn’t throw particularly hard (sub-90s fastball), has a minor league stirkeout rate of 5.9 per nine, and has twice as many losses as wins after two tough seasons with the Astros. But 2013 was a little different than 2012. In 2012, Keuchel’s FIPs were pretty much the same as his ERA — 5.27/5.74/5.12. In 2013, he reversed course with a 5.15/4.25/3.58 mark. In conjunction with a couple other boosts, this makes the 26-year-old lefty a bit more interesting than in the past. For one, Keuchel fanned 7.2 per nine in 2013. This is thanks to adding a slider to his repertoire, which induced a 20.3 swinging strike rate. Small bumps to his whiff rates on his changeup and curve definitely helped, but the slider really put him on the map. Simply put, his two-seamer gets him grounders (64.3% in 2013), and the slider gets him the swing-throughs — and sometimes home runs, unfortunately — and those come together to make one Keuchel, a soft-tossing lefty with league average whiff rates who gets a ton of groundballs (55.8% in 2013, which would have been good for third in the majors had he qualified). It’s not sexy, but it has the potential to be effective. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Keuchel doesn’t blow anyone away, but has a solid two-pitch combination that gets grounders and strikeouts. He’s someone to watch as a free agent as the season moves along.
Mike Kickham 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 12/12/1988 | Team: Giants | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Mike Kickham made it to the bigs for three starts and nine relief appearances, and while he showed an ability to miss bats (29 strikeouts in 28.1 innings), it was drowned out by his penchant for allowing homers (eight), leading to that ugly four-digit ERA. Kickham has a good-enough fastball and at least three other usable pitches, but his ceiling is that of a fourth starter if he doesn’t find himself in the bullpen first. Either way, he’s likely headed back to Triple-A to start 2014, and while a decent fourth starter or middle reliever is great to have on a real-world team, it’s not exactly something that screams “fantasy relevant”. (Mike Petriello) 
Quick Opinion: Mike Kickham can miss bats, but he’ll have to work on that homer problem before he can be counted on either by the Giants or your fantasy roster. At least he’s in the right place to have homeritis.
Craig Kimbrel 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 5/28/1988 | Team: Braves | Position: RP|
Profile: Kimbrel was once again all kinds of fantastic in 2013, including a 48-appearance stretch in the middle of the season where he allowed only one run. He posted a 13.16 strikeout rate and 13.6% whiff rate, but the funny thing is that those superlative rates are MUCH worse than his 2012 numbers. He struck out over half of batters in 2012 and that rate dropped 12% to 38% last season. That’s still tied for the fourth-best rate with standout reliever Kenley Jansen. Kimbrel remains a hyper-elite reliever — one of the best to ever grace the playing field so far — and his abilities allow him to strand over 90% of his base runners. He’s entering his age-26 season and has been healthy throughout his career, so he’s not any more of an injury risk than any other reliever who throws 97 mph with a curve ball that he uses 30 percent of the time. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: It’s hard to aptly describe just how good Kimbrel has been in his young career. 2013 continued that trend, even if his peripherals declined from ungodly to merely elite. Relievers who rely on elite velocity and lots of breaking balls are a health concern long term, but he’s still young and injury free, so fantasy owners shouldn’t worry too much.
Brandon Kintzler 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/1/1984 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: If a reliever isn’t an elite strikeout guy, he must do several things to be effective: (1) limit walks, (2) generate ground balls, and (3) lack a significant platoon split. Kintzler epitomizes all three. His 1.87 walks per nine are better than average — and lead to a low WHIP — and his 57.4% ground-ball rate helps him consistently keep the baseball in the ballpark. As for the platoon split, he owned a 2.63 FIP against lefties and a 2.48 FIP against righties. That’s stellar. His 9.2% swinging strike rate suggests his strikeout numbers could increase in 2014, but they don’t figure to ever approach elite status for a reliever. For traditional fantasy leagues, Kintzler isn’t truly a viable relief option unless he gets access to the ninth inning. Leagues that utilize holds, however, should see the right-hander provide sneaky value on draft day, as few paid attention to the Brewers down the stretch last year. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Kintzler flew under the radar last season, but ultimately cobbled together a brilliant season for the Brewers and wound up the primary eighth-inning reliever. While he’s unlikely to provide many strikeouts, the right-hander projects to be a great source of holds and low ratios. And he appears to be the second-in-command for the closer’s role.
Corey Kluber 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 4/10/1986 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Corey Kluber was all but unknown before 2013, and went on to have a fantastic — if a bit short — season. In 147.1 innings, Kluber posted a 3.85 ERA and even fancier 3.30 FIP, with 8.31 strikeouts per nine and just 2.02 walks per nine. Steamer, Oliver and ZIPS all project a step-back from Kluber — nothing huge, but a few fewer strikeouts, a few more walks, perhaps a small spike in homers, all of which adds up to an ERA and FIP closer to four than the mid-3’s. I am not sure I see that much reason to be bearish, though. He has posted high strike outs in the minors and he did his damage last year despite an inflated batting average on balls in play. The biggest red flag for me is the control, which likely won’t be quite as good in 2014 as it was in 2013. I’d take a gamble on Kluber, though, and I’d watch that walk rate closely. If he continues to hover near 5.5%, he’ll be a terrific asset for both the Indians and fantasy teams. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: Kluber emerged as a solid pitcher last season, but the projection systems see reason for concern. The biggest question is whether or not he can keep the walks in-line. Watch them closely — if the control is there, his value could stay high.
Tom Koehler 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/29/1986 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Tom Koehler seemingly had a pretty nice 2013 season as the fifth starter for a lousy Marlins team, finishing the season with a 4.41 ERA. Hey, it could be worse. Still, there is not much to get excited about with Koehler. His 15.3% strikeout rate and nine percent walk rate would be pretty good for a hitter — not a good sign for a pitcher. Koehler does not seem to have been a notable beneficiary of batted ball luck in 2013, either, and the Marlins’ pitcher-friendly park is not something many fantasy leagues take into account. He does not seem to have a severe platoon issue, perhaps due to his curveball, but that is still not enough to make him more than a likely mid-four ERA starter of the sort that is probably not hard to find after the draft even in deep NL-only leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Koehler is pretty useful as a back-of-the-rotation National League starter in real baseball, but that does not translate into being worth a draft pick in many fantasy leagues.
Ian Krol 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 5/9/1991 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Krol was one of the pieces that Washington sent to Detroit in the strange Doug Fister trade. The reason it was so strange is that Krol and the other two pieces Detroit got don’t seem to be great prospects. Krol appears to just be a LOOGY. He apparently had splits issues in the minors, and he was much, much better against left-handers in his first MLB sample, albeit small. Unless your fantasy league has a category for percentage of left-handed batters retired, Krol doesn’t have any fantasy value. (Brett Talley )
Quick Opinion: Krol was sent to Detroit this offseason in the Doug Fister trade. Most people questioned the trade on Detroit’s end in part because Krol, one of three prospects sent to the Tigers, doesn’t seem to have a ton of value. And he doesn’t have much value to fantasy owners outside of some holds potential.
Hiroki Kuroda 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/10/1975 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: The 38-year-old Japanese import has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, having posted an ERA between 3.30 and 3.40 for the third time over the last four years. Kuroda has thus far defied the effects of aging as he has largely maintained his skills, resulting in SIERA marks falling within a narrow range between 3.53 and 3.79 since 2009. In fact, there are few, if any, warning signs suggesting a performance decline is imminent. The only real concern is whether Kuroda can continue to keep his batting average on balls in play below the league average, which is something that he has done every season of his career. His age is definitely something to consider during draft day, but it also could create an opportunity to purchase an undervalued asset. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: Kuroda has spit in the face of the effects of aging, maintaining a solid skill set with excellent control, lots of ground balls and the ability to get the punch-out when needed. While it would be silly to ignore the fact that he’ll be heading into his age-39 season, it’s not obvious that a collapse is coming.
John Lackey 
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 10/23/1978 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Fantasy owners and Boston fans made a 180 degree turn on John Lackey in a hurry. Once a Boston pariah (and crystallizing symbol of everything that was wrong during Theo Epstein’s last few years with the Red Sox), Lackey roared back onto the big league scene in 2013. After missing 2012 with a torn UCL in his elbow, the visibly thinner Texan posted his highest strikeout rate since 2005 (that’s a long time ago!) and the lowest walk rate of his career (whoa!). His 3.52 ERA was actually marginally higher than his xFIP (3.49) and just a touch below his SIERA (3.56) so this was no fluke. His swinging strike rate and velocity were both up, so there’s reason to believe there are sustainable gains headed into Lackey’s age 35 season. More good news? Most research indicates that it’s actually the second season back from Tommy John surgery where pitchers finally have both command and velocity back. While that’s good, Lackey continues to use his slider as much as ever, tossing it a little over 30% of the time. Sliders get the whiffs, but have questionable effects on pitcher arms; Jeff Zimmerman’s injury model projects a better than even chance Lackey sees some time on the disabled list in 2014. However, even another year older, there’s reason to buy into Lackey after you fill a few pitching slots on your fantasy staff. You shouldn’t expect him to anchor a staff like he could have in 2013, but if he starts slipping through the cracks late, he’s a solid fourth starter type with the potential to provide above-average contributions in all categories. (Colin Zarzycki )
Quick Opinion: John Lackey, once the poster boy for everything wrong during Boston’s 2011 implosion, turned it around in a big way after missing 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. While now 35, he posted tangible peripheral gains across the board and has the potential to be an above-average contributor in most roto categories who can be had at middle-to-late round prices.
Aaron Laffey 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 4/15/1985 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: If you are into swingers, Laffey is your guy. He has bounced between the rotation and the pen in recent seasons as, frankly, he’s not good enough for either role. If he were right-handed, he wouldn’t be around but long live lefties! He has a well-below average strikeout rate and a high walk rate as his approach is to work the fringes of the zone and entice batters to swing at borderline pitches. He has pitched for five teams in seven seasons as a pro, four of which have come over the past three seasons after he was traded to the Yankees in 2011. Pass like gas. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: He has pitched for five teams in seven seasons as a pro, four of which have come over the past three seasons after he was traded to the Yankees in 2011. Pass like gas.
John Lannan 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/27/1984 | Position: SP|
Profile: With a 5.33 ERA, 4.84 SIERA and 4.60 strikeouts per nine last year for Philadelphia, it doesn’t require much expertise to advise against drafting left-hander John Lannan. Still, don’t draft John Lannan. Even in New York. (JP Breen)
Mat Latos 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/9/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: In his two seasons since departing the pitcher friendly confines of PETCO Park to the home run inflating environment of the Great American Ballpark, Latos has laughed in the face of those who were worried about his effectiveness. All he has done is post an ERA nearly identical to his last year in San Diego, followed by even better results this year. While his SIERA has jumped, he had no issues with the long ball, surrendering just a 6.9% home run per fly ball rate rate this year. Though his strikeout rate has dropped, his swinging strike rate has remained constant, while his first strike rate hit a career high. The SwStk% suggests that a return to a strikeout rate well above eight per nine is a strong possibility. Latos underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow in mid-October, but those procedures are typically minor and it shouldn’t affect his performance in 2014. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: Latos enjoyed another strong performance, while maintaining pretty consistent skills. While his ERA is likely headed upwards after he benefited from a low home run per fly ball rate, some of the regression could be offset by a jump in strikeout rate, given his healthy whiff rate.
Brandon League 
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 3/16/1983 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Well, that couldn’t possibly have gone worse. Lavished with a three-year extension thanks to a good six weeks to close out 2012, Brandon League was terrible from the start, lost his closer’s job by June, and didn’t even make either of the Dodger playoff rosters. Never a huge strikeout guy to begin with, League simply stopped missing bats, leading to an atrocious 4.64 strikeouts per nine rate. Toss in 1.33 homers per nine, and you can see how this got ugly quickly. It’s not like it was just a bad stretch, either — there were only two months all year where he allowed a weighted on-base average lower than .380. (!) He’s still got a big contract, so he still has a big league job, but he’s miles behind Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, and pretty much any other reliever the Dodgers might find. (Mike Petriello) 
Quick Opinion: Brandon League was an enormous bust in 2013, and his contract might be the only thing keeping him in the big leagues. Needless to say, he’s not contributing saves or strikeouts, and shouldn’t be on your draft boards.
Mike Leake 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/12/1987 | Team: Reds | Position: SP|
Profile: Though his underlying skills were nearly identical to his 2012 season, Leake parlayed better luck into an ERA that sat more than a full run lower at 3.37. Despite having a batted ball distribution that suggests a higher than league average batting average on balls in play, excellent defensive support and good fortune kept that mark below the average, which also helped him to strand runners at a career best rate. But this is still the same pitcher as he’s always been — one with mediocre stuff who fails to induce a whole lot of swings and misses and relies on strong control and a good ground-ball rate. He should once again earn value in NL-Only leagues in 2014, but mixed leaguers should not be fooled into believing he’ll be worth a roster spot. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: Leake enjoyed a career year on the surface, but SIERA suggests that it was actually his worst performance from a skills perspective. He remains a low strikeout, good control pitcher, which will cap his fantasy upside and limit his value to NL-Only leagues.
Cliff Lee 
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/30/1978 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: It’s been rumored this offseason that the Phillies could look to trade veteran ace Cliff Lee. That sound you just heard was 29 general managers grabbing their phones and 29 fanbases salivating simultaneously. Lee is one of the best in the game, posting his sixth straight season with an ERA of 3.22 or less and an FIP of 3.13 or less. You know what you’re getting here – 200-plus innings, a 25% strikeout rate, no walks and a pretty average batted ball profile. There may not be a more reliable fantasy producer over the past half-decade, save for the fact that the Phillies basically went all of 2012 without scoring a run for him. In any case, not even a one mile an hour drop in fastball velocity should worry you, as Lee’s still deceptive enough that he draws nearly as many called strikes as balls, something nobody else comes close to. Everyone falls off eventually, but at 35 years old, Lee still looks just fine. (Blake Murphy )
Quick Opinion: Clifton Phifer Lee is the best. One of the most reliable arms in the game for the past six years, the only reason for even moderate concern would be a drop in velocity in 2013. It didn’t seem to bother him much, though, and you once again got what you paid for.
Jon Lester 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/7/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: In the both the real and fantasy worlds, Jon Lester rebounded in a big way in 2013. After a mediocre 2012 and a fastball velocity drop caused consternation, Lester posted his best season by WAR since 2010 and the most innings of his career. Some of the success was owed to a rebound in that velocity, which was up to 92.4 mph from his career low 92 mph 2012 mark (by PITCHf/x, at least). It wasn’t all huge gains, peripherally, though — a large part of Lester’s 2013 success was merely correction to peripherals. His batting average on balls in play dropped to .300 (career .301), his strand rate rose to 73.7% (career 74.6%), and his home run per fly ball rate was nearly halved, down to 8.3% (career 9.8%). Thanks to all these underliers (I had to confirm with Merriam-Webster that this is a word), Lester’s xFIP-ERA was 0.15, compared to 2012’s much larger -1.00. His strikeout and swinging strike numbers have dropped off since his 2009-2010, and, at 29, he may not touch those elite numbers again. However, Boston’s lefty has offset some of that with a walk rate that has dropped each of the past four seasons. Lowering your K% and BB% opens you up a bit more to the BABIP gods, but also leads to more economical outings and more innings pitched. In 2014, Lester will remain on the right side of 30. He’s shown close-to-workhorse inning totals (205.1 inning average over last six years) and is a good bet for another 200+ IP season with a high-3.00’s ERA and 12-15 wins. Maybe not huge upside like you’d get with a young ace, but Lester will be a pretty safe value pick to slot into your staff. (Colin Zarzycki )
Quick Opinion: While Jon Lester’s counting stats tell you he rebounded in a big way in 2013, his season really just represented the correction of same bad luck (and expunging of fried chicken) from the year prior. With a slight decline in strikeouts, his ceiling isn’t as high as it once was, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistent pitcher over the last six years, and there’s lots of value in that.
Colby Lewis 
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/2/1979 | Position: P|
Profile: Lewis re-signed with the Rangers on a minor league deal the week before Thanksgiving, giving both he and the Rangers a shot to tap back into the potential he showed from 2010-’12 when he came to the club after a stint in Japan. Lewis had been quite good since returning — 32-29, 3.93 ERA, 8.1 strikeouts per nine, 2.4 walks per nine, 1.18 WHIP — but hasn’t pitched since mid-July 2012 after undergoing flexor tendon (elbow) and hip surgery each within roughly a year of each other. It’s obviously a big “if” that Lewis will suddenly be healthy and be ready to give the Rangers 180-200 innings like he did the first two years back stateside. And for that reason, it seems hard to envision adding Lewis in drafts or early in the season. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: If Lewis is healthy, he can make for a nice addition to a the back end of a fantasy roster. But by the time the 2014 season rolls around, it’ll be nearly twenty months since he last pitched in the major leagues. That seems a bit too risky.
Ted Lilly 
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 1/4/1976 | Position: SP|
Profile: Ted Lilly’s full name is Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. He also retired after 2013. Sweet name, bad fantasy pickup. (David Temple)
Tim Lincecum 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 6/15/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: It was another disappointing season for the two-time Cy Young award winner, as Lincecum’s strikeout percentage remained at the same depressed level as 2012 and he struggled again with the long ball. Though his walk rate rebounded to pre-2012 levels, he had trouble stranding runners for the second straight year. While SIERA suggests much of his poor performance these past two seasons has been due to poor fortune, his skills have clearly been in decline. His fastball velocity sits two miles per hour below his 2011 mark and he has therefore continued to throw the pitch less and less frequently. He is still inducing swings and misses at similar rates though, so it doesn’t appear that his stuff has truly deteriorated. While we are unlikely to see peak form Lincecum ever again — without major improvement in his fastball command at least — he is still plenty good enough to push his ERA back below 4.00. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: With a decline in fastball velocity that has led to a decrease in strikeout percentage, it isn’t that surprising that Lincecum is no longer the ace that he once was. But, he continues to induce a healthy rate of swinging strikes and still possesses a pretty attractive overall skill set, giving him strong rebound potential.
Josh Lindblom 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/15/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Lindblom was traded to the Athletics from the Rangers in the Craig Gentry trade. He’ll probably serve as the seventh starter and swing man. Although his arsenal has some interesting facets — an above average four-seam, curve and slider — he hasn’t gotten the ground balls he was supposed to. He’ll need to make some changes before he’s fantasy relevant. (Eno Sarris )
Matt Lindstrom 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 2/11/1980 | Team: White Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Lindstrom enters 2014 with a realistic shot at being the White Sox closer. While Nate Jones has received most of the hype, Lindstrom has more experience, which sometimes plays a role in these types of competitions. His value is basically dependent on whether he gets the job. Though he turned in some fine stats, Lindstrom did see a decline in his strikeout rate and an increase in his walk numbers last year. Unless his numbers continue to decline, there’s no reason to think he would fail in the closer role. Jones would have a higher upside — Lindstrom hasn’t ever been able to put up strikeout rate commensurate with his swinging strike stuff — but Lindstrom would warrant a draft pick if he wins the job. (Chris Cwik )
Quick Opinion: Lindstrom turned in another solid season despite some decline in his numbers. He’ll be owned in most leagues if he can take over the closer role in Chicago, but Nate Jones seems like the favorite.
Francisco Liriano 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 10/26/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Last season’s Comeback Player of the Year has a history of erratic performance, which makes it hard to be comfortable targeting him in 2014. Liriano has seen his strikeout and walk rates bounce around about as wildly as any pitcher in the big leagues. Obviously, last season was a good one, he struck out 24.5% of batters and walked 9.5%. A lot of his trouble over the years has been attributed to unstable mechanics and tinkering. There is some talk that his mechanics are more consistent now, but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard that narrative in connection with Liriano. He’s a three-pitch pitcher, with a fastball, slider, and change up. The slider is a big piece of his repertoire and he uses it over 30% of the time. Heavy slider usage is associated with increased injury risk. He’s entering his age-30 season, so prospective owners should be careful about the various risks associated with him. It’s most correct to project mild regression from last season’s stats, but he could also collapse completely. He’s a wild card. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Liriano is perhaps the most inconsistent successful pitcher of his generation. It’s rare to see a pitcher go from dominant to terrible to dominant as many times as Liriano has. That makes handicapping him a dangerous and possibly pointless game. Tread carefully.
Chia-Jen Lo 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 4/7/1986 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: At one point, it was thought that Lo was set to close games for the Astros, or at least be a big part of a committee. But he ended up saving just two games in two months. What likely caused the team to shy away from using Lo in the role was his lack of control. He walked 13 batters in 19.1 innings, or 15.5% of the batters he faced. An inability to throw strikes wasn’t something new to Lo, as he has struggled with his control at times throughout his minor league career. Without the promise of a high strikeout rate to offset the control issues, he’s unlikely to sniff the ninth inning in a close game anytime soon. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: With an unsettled bullpen, the opportunity was there for Lo to take over closing duties for the Astros and run with the job. Alas, his control deserted him and he simply doesn’t possess the skill set to be trusted in a high-leverage situation.
Jeff Locke 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/20/1987 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Suggesting that it was a tale of two halves for Locke might be the understatement of the year. Over 109.0 innings in the first half, Locke posted a sizzling 2.15 ERA. But the luck Gods enacted their revenge over the rest of the season, which resulted in a brutal 6.12 ERA. The crazy thing is, his skills package was essentially identical during those two periods! His first half xFIP was a below average 4.21, while his second half mark was actually better at 4.14. Not surprisingly, the difference came down to the three luck metrics. He went from being one of the best at preventing hits on balls in play and home runs on fly balls and stranding base runners to one of the worst. Obviously, a pitcher’s true talent doesn’t swing so drastically from half to half. His 4.54 SIERA paints the picture of a fifth starter who should be avoided in most fantasy leagues. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: Though a poor second half would normally make a pitcher a potentially undervalued choice in fantasy drafts, Locke’s skills simply aren’t good enough to be any more than a flyer in NL-Only leagues. He’ll need to improve his control for a chance to show up on mixed leaguers’ radars.
Boone Logan 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 8/13/1984 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Logan, who signed a three-year deal with the Rockies this offseason after four years in the Bronx, is a solid LOOGY, holding left-handed hitters to a .281 weighted on-base average in 2013. His success mostly comes from a sweeping slider he throws nearly half of the time. While his strikeout rate is quite good (over 11 per nine the past two seasons), it comes in just 40-50 innings per year. He’s a valuable addition to any bullpen, though the price tag is a bit high, and his splits will probably continue to keep him away from any save chances. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: A better reliever in real life than fantasy, Logan will help with strikeouts and should be more valuable in NL-Only leagues.
Kyle Lohse 
|Debut: 1998 | BirthDate: 10/4/1978 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: Lohse enjoyed a tremendous 2012 campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals and was rewarded with a three-year, $33M deal by the Milwaukee Brewers. The important questions were (1) how would his numbers change in a homer-friendly ballpark, and (2) could he maintain an increased swinging-strike rate? The right-hander surrendered more home runs in 2013 and his ERA reflected that; however, it never became unwieldy and his low WHIP helped limit the overall damage. A 3.35 ERA is nothing at which fantasy owners should scoff — and considering he’s outperformed his FIP each of the past three seasons, it seems reasonable to expect that to happen again. As for his swinging strike rate, it stayed above seven percent for the second consecutive reason. A large portion of that can likely be ascribed to the fact that he’s featuring his mediocre fastball less and relying more upon his offspeed pitches, particularly his slider. If that trend continues, his strikeout rate could even increase a bit. Overall, though, that’s not where owners should expect to derive value from Lohse. He’s good for a low-threes ERA and a low WHIP. With what should be an improved Brewers’ lineup, he should rack up more wins, too. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Lohse has surreptitiously become one of the most-productive starters of the past few seasons. His transition to Miller Park understandably yielded more long balls, but he projects to offer significant value in ERA, WHIP and even wins. Confidently treat the 35-year-old as a top-50 starter on draft day.
Javier Lopez 
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 7/11/1977 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: Oh, to be left-handed and be able to neutralize left-handed batters. Lopez is enjoying a new three-year deal for $13M while he is asked to do one thing — shut down lefties. Over the past five seasons, his .232 weighted on-base average against lefties is eighth-best among all relief pitchers. That’s a good thing, because his wOBA against righties is the fifth-worst in the same group. He works too irregularly to help you in a fantasy league unless he falls into the closer role again as he did for a short time in 2012. Instead of drafting him, go tie your son’s right hand behind his back. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: He works too irregularly to help you in a fantasy league unless he falls into the closer role again as he did for a short time in 2012. Instead of drafting him, go tie your son’s right hand behind his back.
Wilton Lopez 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 7/19/1983 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: When the Rockies acquired Lopez heading into the 2013 season, it was hailed as a decent buy-low move. Lopez had no place on a rebuilding Astros team, but for a team with playoff aspirations, Lopez could be a boon. The Nicaraguan native had turned in three straight seasons with an above-average FIP-, and an ERA- that was at least 25 percent better than league average. And truth be told, he posted similar results in 2013, but they weren’t as good. His ERA- and FIP- crept up a lot closer to league average, and the reason was his failings in high-pressure situations. From 2010-2012, Lopez had averaged 19.3 Shutdowns and 12.6 Meltdowns a season. Certainly not the best ratio, but he recorded his first +10 SD-MD season in 2012, and if he got better, that’d be pretty great. Unfortunately, he got worse. He once again totaled 13 Meltdowns, but instead of 24 Shutdowns, he only recorded 15. WPA may not be the best stat for relievers, but when you have the fifth-worst WPA out of 135 relievers, that’s certainly not good news. Also of concern is the drop in velocity, and corresponding lack of productivity, of Lopez’s fastball. Add in the fact that the Rockies signed LaTroy Hawkins to pair with Rex Brothers and Matt Belisle in the late innings, and it’s not clear that Lopez will be a good source of even holds, nevermind saves.
Quick Opinion: Entering 2013, Lopez was in the mix for saves, but after a season in which he failed time and again in high pressure situations, it’s incredibly unlikely that Lopez will be part of the late-inning mix again in 2014.
Aaron Loup 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 12/19/1987 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Despite everything else that went wrong for the Blue Jays in 2013, they did have a good bullpen, and Aaron Loup was a non-trival part it. Both after his callup in 2012 and in his full-season 2013, Loup was no strikeout machine, although he was not bad in that regard. What Loup did display was good control and a strong ground-ball tendency. Loup maybe have been lucky on balls in play in 2012 and with men on base in 2013, but he still has solidified his place as a middle reliever for Toronto. The southpaw relies quite heavily on his sinker, mixing in some curves versus lefties and changes versus rigthies. Although he is better, as one would expect, versus left-handed hitters, surprisingly for a sinker-reliant pitcher, he is not bad versus righties either. So he is not simply a left-handed specialist, as one can see from his 69 innings of relief work in 2013. Loup is probably not a true talent sub-three ERA pitcher, but something in the low- to mid-threes is doable. Despite Loup’s virtues in real baseball, in fantasy baseball his value is limited. His ERA and WHIP might be okay, but his pedestrian (for a reliever) strikeout rate and lack of expected save opportunities makes him a very low priority. In deeper leagues that count holds, he might have a little value near the end of the draft. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: In real baseball, Loup is a decent middle reliever. In fantasy baseball, he does not have much value outside of leagues that use holds as a category.
Derek Lowe 
|Debut: 1997 | BirthDate: 6/1/1973 | Position: RP|
Profile: We can finally close the books on the Heathcliff Slocumb trade, sixteen years after the fact. The 21.6 wins above replacement Derek Lowe posted with the Red Sox before leaving in free agency would have made him the fifth-most valuable Seattle pitcher of all time, and he only started 111 games in those six seasons. Mariners baseball! Lowe will never really get the level of respect he deserved, given that he spent his twenties pitching the seventh and eighth, and had the temerity like so many other jerks to be overpaid in his waning years. But someday America will finally conquer its strikeout fetish, take another long look at Lowe’s life accomplishments, and say, “You know, that guy was above average.” (Patrick Dubuque)
Quick Opinion: There are many worse ways to sum up a baseball player’s career.
Cory Luebke 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/4/1985 | Team: Padres | Position: P|
Profile: Luebke impressed in 17 starts in 2011, leading the left-hander to ascend the starting pitcher rankings ladder prior to the twenty-twelve season. He got off to a quick 3-1 start in ‘12, but his season ended after just five starts due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Luebke missed all of ‘13 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but could potentially start the ‘14 season out of the bullpen  in an effort to build up his arm strength. With a career strikeout rate north of 25% and a 3.25 ERA (3.05 FIP), Luebke makes an interesting late-inning stash for those in holds leagues and deep benches. With a rotation in San Diego that’s gotten more crowded recently, though, he makes an iffy pick in mixed leagues, despite the upside. (Alan Harrison)
Quick Opinion: A strong slider, a changeup for ground balls, good control and a deceptive delivery — all these things are Luebke’s. However, health and a role in the starting rotation are questions big enough to make him a late-round pick at best in standard mixed leagues.
Josh Lueke 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/5/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Josh Lueke is a pretty terrible human being, so it’s fortunate that he’s also a mediocre middle reliever not worth your fantasy roster or pre-draft preparation time. Okay, fine, his ERA and WHIP will probably regress in 2014, and he might end up accruing a bunch of holds. But there’s plenty of non-rapists who will also fulfill that role, so why slum? Ignore him completely, on all possible levels. (Patrick Dubuque)
Lucas Luetge 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/24/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Lavish ladies love Lucas Luetge. Lads loathe Lucas Luetge. Lucas Luetge’s left lever launches lurching lasers. Leave Lucas Luetge lurking, lest lunacy. (Lzach Lsanders)
Jordan Lyles 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 10/19/1990 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: Baseball America listed Lyles among its top 100 prospects twice, yet now at age 23 he’s already moved onto his second organization — the Rockies — after parts of three uninspiring seasons in the big leagues with the Astros. It’s still too early to give up on him, though. One thing Lyles has going for him is an extraordinarily low strand rate. Over Lyles’ career, his strand rate is just 62.9%; in that time frame, that’s still nearly 10 percent worse than the lowest league rate. As a result, Lyles has had a raw ERA a full run or more over his xFIP in each of his three seasons with the Astros. Another reason to buy Lyles as a potential future riser is his ground-ball rate. Whether looking at last year’s rate (48.4%) or the previous year’s (53.9%), Lyles is still well above league average when it comes to burning worms, and that’ll play up when moving to a team that employs Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, both of whom are rock-solid defenders. D.J. LeMahieu is no schmuck either, and Justin Morneau is generally pretty good over at first — though not as good as in the past. Lyles isn’t the kind of guy someone should target in a standard draft, but he’s definitely an early season watch-list kind of guy as someone who can emerge as a priority pickup early on. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Lyles should benefit greatly simply by having his ground-ball tendencies supported by a rock-solid defensive infield. He may not become a fantasy warrior, but should at least have week-to-week fill-in potential at the outset as well as deeper league utility. Entering his age-23 season, he’s someone to monitor.
Lance Lynn 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/12/1987 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: Lynn posted his first 200-inning campaign, and was essentially the same guy as he had been in 2012 when he tallied just 176 innings. In fact, he was a touch better, as his 90 FIP- bested his 92 FIP- in ’12. Unfortunately for Lynn, that wasn’t reflected in his ERA, and it may cost him a spot in the starting rotation. The Cardinals rotation is quite deep, and with Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly ready to go in addition to Lynn, Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller, St. Louis has seven capable starting pitchers, and that’s not even counting Trevor Rosenthal. There’s a chance that as a result, Lynn could find himself back in the bullpen, even though he is two years removed from active bullpen duty. And while he still isn’t great against left-handed hitters, he was a lot better against them in 2013 than he was in 2012. He drastically cut his walk and home run rate against left-handed batters, and that led to a reduction in his FIP against lefties down to 4.21. It may not be sustainable, but it’s good to see that progress nonetheless. Unfortunately, until Lynn’s role becomes clear, it will be hard to know how quickly to draft him. If he is shifted to the bullpen, it’s unlikely that Lynn would usurp either Rosenthal or Jason Motte for the closers role. In other words, Lynn could go from being one of the 35 best starting pitchers to being completely worthless from a fantasy perspective. Tread lightly.
Quick Opinion: If Lynn could face a lineup of all right-handed hitters in every single outing, he would be the game’s best pitcher. Unfortunately for him, a lot of hitters bat left-handed, so Lynn will have to settle for being just a pretty good pitcher. He remains a good value, and at this stage might be a touch underrated. The only question with Lynn is whether or not he will retain his rotation spot, as St. Louis is stuffed to the gills with talented starting pitching, and Lynn has achieved past success in a relief role.
Tyler Lyons 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 2/21/1988 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Lyons pitched decently for the Cardinals in 2013 after being pressed into duty following Jaime Garcia’s shoulder injury. His earned run average over 53 major-league innings was 4.75, but that figure was more than a full run higher than his fielder independent pitching, which usually leads one to figure in some positive projection. However, that’s really not the case with Lyons. Throughout his minor-league career, the 25-year-old’s strand rate has been under 70% every year, at every level. That didn’t change in the majors, as he stranded just 63.9% of baserunners. Lyons simply cannot get hitters out on a consistent basis unless the bases are empty, which is why his ERA has been higher than his FIP at every stop in his career. (Scott Strandberg )
Quick Opinion: Even if I was bullish on Lyons’ ability to contribute in 2014, it wouldn’t really matter. He has very little chance at a spot in the rotation to start the season, as he’s buried on the depth chart behind Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly. It’s going to take a whole lot of injuries for Lyons to even make his way back to the big leagues in 2014, unless it’s as a reliever.
Jean Machi 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 2/1/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: Machi enjoyed a fairly successful first full-season in the majors in 2013, as he posted a 2.38 ERA with an impressive 4.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 53 innings. He’s a right-handed, ground-ball pitcher (54.4%) who relies most heavily on his two-seam and split-finger fastball while using his 81 mph slider as a perfect out-pitch. He’ll likely walk into 2014 with a job in the bullpen already in-hand, but has minimal fantasy upside as he’ll probably be relegated to more low-leverage situations and not see any holds or saves at all. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Machi will enter the 2014 season as a member of the Giants bullpen and will be looking to improve upon his already solid numbers from 2013. He could provide some fantasy help if you need someone to help stabilize your ratios, but he’ll likely pitch in more low-leverage situations which reduces the number of holds or save opportunities that he’ll see.
Ryan Madson 
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 8/28/1980 | Position: P|
Profile: Following the 2011 season, it seemed like Madson — who had tossed just 630 innings by the end of his age-30 season — was destined to have a second career as a closer. Then he blew out his elbow, and has pulled a vanishing act since. Most players are able to fully recover in a 12-15 month window following Tommy John surgery, but not all players are. Madson has proved to be one of those increasingly rare exceptions. He will enter 2014 at age 33, having not thrown a major league inning in two years. That is not the type of player that generally lands a closer’s gig, and even if he does eventually work his way back into game shape, he still might not. Joakim Soria, for instance, has not yet retained the capital “C” next to his name, and he had a far longer track record than did Madson when he got hurt. If Madson lands in the right situation, where the closer’s role is fluid, then he might be worth watching. But for now, he is the definition of a stay away.
Quick Opinion: Once a promising closer with a deadly arsenal, Madson has been unable to successfully return from Tommy John surgery. He has pitched one inning in a game — a High-A game — in the past two seasons. He is not going to land a high-leverage gig for ’14, and you should not draft him until he proves capable of once again handling a major league workload.
Matt Magill 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 11/10/1989 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: After a solid 2012 as a 22-year-old in Double-A (168 strikeouts in 146.1 innings) put him on the Dodger prospect radar, Matt Magill was prepared to spend 2013 proving himself at Triple-A. Unfortunately, injuries to the big league staff forced him to be rushed to the Dodgers before April was out. It didn’t end well — only two of his six starts were any good, and a June disaster in Colorado left him as one of just two pitchers since 1916 to allow four homers and eight unintentional walks. While he showed that he can miss bats in the bigs (8.46 strikeouts per nine), the absurd 9.11 walks per nine is no typo, and along with homer issues meant that he had little chance to succeed. Magill is still only headed into his age-24 season and six uneven starts shouldn’t undo a career, but some of the shine is clearly off as compared to this time last year. (Mike Petriello) 
Quick Opinion: Magill remains an interesting prospect, but he’ll never make it work unless he can get a handle on his control issues, and his likely 2014 home of Triple-A Albuquerque isn’t exactly a great place for young pitchers to excel.
Paul Maholm 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/25/1982 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: Maholm, a free agent as of this writing, got out to a fast start in 2013. He managed an unusual number of strikeouts in April, but declined back to career averages in later months. He finished the season with a 4.41 ERA and had a home run problem for the second season in a row. The soft-tossing lefty is a stable pitcher who could help most major league rotations. He missed a couple games with a wrist injury but has been otherwise durable throughout his career. He usually pitches to a league average level, but his numbers aren’t very useful to fantasy owners. He’s below average in all four standard starter categories, which makes him hard to roster for anything but innings. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Maholm is a stable real world pitcher, but his fantasy profile is extremely limited. He’s not better than average in any standard category, which makes it hard to find any advantage to owning him.
John Maine 
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 5/8/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: The last time John Maine logged over 50 innings, it was 2010. He has since been a part of four different organizations and has been a free agent since April 2013. Chad Billingsley, a pitcher, hit a perfect three-for-three lifetime against Maine with a 2.500 OPS. Are you still reading this? Move along. (David Temple)
Shaun Marcum 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/14/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: Shaun Marcum has been something of a stats-guy darling throughout his career and when the Mets signed him going into 2013, many thought it was a savvy move, buying low on an unappreciated asset coming off of an injury-plagued 2012. Unfortunately, things could not have gone much worse for Marcum last season, he was consistently hurt and ineffective when healthy. When he did pitch well, the run support was not there. In 2014, he comes off thoracic outlet surgery (nerve problems in the neck and arm/hand) and has landed in Cleveland where he’ll have a chance to compete for a rotation spot in the spring. It’s a worthwhile gamble for the Indians and if he regains form, he could prove a diamond in the rough. The odds are against it though, so just monitor his progress, and be willing to invest a dollar or two if reports are positive. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Acquired by the Mets in 2013, Marcum had a disaster of a season last year, characterized both by ineffectiveness and worrisome nerve-related injury. In 2014, he finds himself in Cleveland with a minor-league contract, but the opportunity to compete for a roster spot on team whose rotation can very easily be cracked. A good spring could open the door for Marcum to be a great comeback story.
Carlos Marmol 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 10/14/1982 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: Do you play in a league that rewards pitchers for walks as well as strikeouts? Then you probably already know that Carlos Marmol is your league’s best option. If this totally stupid premise is inaccurate in your case, then Carlos Marmol may not be the best option. (David Temple)
Jason Marquis 
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 8/21/1978 | Position: SP|
Profile: Last season, the 35-year-old veteran right-hander went 9-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 20 starts before season-ending Tommy John surgery struck in July. The optimist suggests Marquis could be ready to return to the bump before the 2014 season is complete, but at that point, he’ll need to find a team to work for. (Alan Harrison)
Ethan Martin 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 6/6/1989 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Martin made his major league debut in 2013. While his overall numbers left something to be desired — including a 6.08 ERA — he also showed some promising signs. Martin showed major control issues and extreme command problems. These led to 5.85 walks per nine. He did strike out nearly 25% of the batters he faced (10.58 per nine), which is the aforementioned positive sign. Martin profiles much better out of the bullpen where his pitches could play up. Because he has a full starter’s repertoire, the Phillies are likely to leave him stretched out in the Lehigh rotation. The Phillies are also short on starting pitcher depth, with Martin currently projected as the seventh or eighth starter on the depth chart. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Martin debuted last season and left something to be desired. There might be a major league pitcher hiding within him, but his future is probably in the bullpen. Martin will probably spend one more season in the rotation in order to provide additional depth.
Joe Martinez 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/26/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: How did you end up here? Were you looking for another Martinez? Perhaps Victor? Or maybe Pedro? Or were you just curious who had the highest strikeout to walk ratio in the majors since 2011, minimum five innings pitched? (Joe’s is infinity! He has no walks in six innings pitched, along with four strikeouts!) If you were looking for fantasy roster fodder, though, my friend, you are in the wrong place. Martinez had 19.1 mediocre major league innings in 2010, and since then has the six aforementioned walk-less innings, along with nearly 400 innings in Triple-A, most of which were quite ugly. The Indians just optioned him back to Columbus, and despite the team being in dire need of a fifth starter, and with a couple bullpen spots still up for grabs, Martinez isn’t even in the consideration set. Go back to that search box in the top left and add a “Victor” or even a “Carlos” to that Martinez search, and see if you don’t come up with a more useful player. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: Since 2010, Martinez has only thrown six major league innings, and while those innings have been solid, the nearly 400 innings he has thrown in the minors look much, much worse. He may add to that six in 2014, but I bet he doesn’t increase it by more than 50%.
Carlos Martinez 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/21/1991 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: There’s probably a way for a pitcher to fail despite having a 97-mph fastball, above-average curveball, and reasonable command of both. Carlos Martinez doesn’t appear to be a candidate to find his way to failure, however. After having made all but one of his 68 career minor-league appearances as a starter, Martinez made all but one of his 33 appearances with the Cardinals in 2013 (including the postseason) as a reliever. The results were encouraging, as Martinez recorded better-than-average strikeout, walk, and ground-ball rates — and posted better figures by all three measurements in the playoffs than regular season. Promising, that, all of it. Of some interest with regard to Martinez is the low-ish strikeout rate — not relative to the league, of course, but to the quality of his repertoire, which he appears to use more to the end of inducing weak contact than swings and misses. Also of some interest is his future role. Probably a reliever in 2014 owing to the quality of the Cardinals’ rotation, and perhaps the less-than-stellar quality of Martinez’ change-up, the pitcher is talented and young enough to imagine the club entertaining the possibility of him starting in the future. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: A starter for the entirety of his minor-league career, Martinez pitched well in set-up for Trevor Rosenthal last year — a role he’s likely to reprise in 2014.
Justin Masterson 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/22/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: When the Indians plucked a young relief ace who was death to righties out of Boston in the Victor Martinez trade, they made it clear that they believed this sinkerballer had ace-potential. He flashed that potential in 2011, thanks in large part to a decrease in walk rate, but the dip proved unsustainable, his walks came back in 2012, and it appeared the success was fleeting. But in 2013, Masterson made a significant change in pitch usage, relying much more heavily on his slider, and seemingly solved his two biggest issues — adding strike outs and finding a way to control lefties. As a fantasy owner, I am always looking for pitchers who get a a strike out per inning or post a high ground ball rate. Masterson, always among the league leaders in GB%, struck out 9.09 per nine innings. If the pitch selection is the cause, Masterson looks like a serious fantasy asset. He threw most of his innings last year to Carlos Santana, and will now have a big defensive upgrade in Yan Gomes behind the plate. He’s not far away from having prospect Francisco Lindor and his elite defense behind him at SS, which can be a game changer for a guy with Masterson’s profile. Fantasy owners will look at his 2010-11-12-13 roller coaster and be nervous. I’ll be buying at the discounted price and laughing all the way to the fantasy-value bank. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: Sudden spikes in performance are curious, but when you combine Masterson’s past potential with a significant change in pitch selection, you end up with a case where the spike may be less suspicious and more sustainable. Add the potential for much improved infield defense behind him, and Masterson is a nice target.
Daisuke Matsuzaka 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 9/13/1980 | Position: SP|
Profile: It seems like a lifetime ago that Dice-K dominated the 2006 World Baseball classic and subsequently landed a gigantic contract to bring his talents to Boston. His first season didn’t live up to expectations, but was solid enough, but his second season wasn’t quite as good. Always prone to control fits, the former sensation was beset by injury and sub-par performance and has thus failed to be a factor since 2008. Dice-K can still strike guys out, but that’s about all he has to offer. Matsuzaka found his way into the starting rotation for the Mets toward the end of last season and, after a few disastrous outings, actually finished the season with four relatively strong outings. That prompted the Mets to take a chance on offering him a one-year deal iand a chance at a role in the back end of their rotation, but there’s no reason to expect him to have value in virtually any league as anything beyond a potential start starter to an owner desperate for strikeouts. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Once a full-on sensation turned highly competent, yet flawed, major league pitcher, Dice-K has not been fantasy relevant since the Bush administration. He made seven starts for the Mets last season, the first three of which were awful and the last four of which were surprisingly effective. There’s little reason to expect him to provide anything useful beyond an above average strikeout rate.
Brian Matusz 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/11/1987 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: The Orioles pulled the plug on Brian Matusz the starter in 2013, having the lefty operate exclusively from the bullpen. In 65 appearances, Matusz threw 51 innings with a 3.53 ERA and a 2.91 FIP while limiting lefties to a .164/.225/.277 line. He appears to be a LOOGY at worst, but reports are that Baltimore will give him a chance to earn a starting job once again in 2014. He’s also a closer candidate with Jim Johnson gone, though, as he’s has allowed just a .647 OPS to righties as a reliever. There’s always more value in a starter than a bullpen arm, but Matusz’ inability to strike batters out as a starter, possibly due to a velocity drop and reliance on a sub-par change up, would limit his fantasy upside in that role. (Blake Murphy )
Quick Opinion: Brian Matusz was far more effective as a LOOGY in 2013 than he ever was as a starter, but there’s little fantasy utility in that. He’ll get a chance to earn a rotation spot again in 2014 but expect his strikeout rate to drop if he starts.
Brandon Maurer 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/3/1990 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Brandon Maurer showed up a little out of nowhere in the spring and posted strong enough numbers to earn a shot at the rotation on the big league squad. He threw 24 innings last spring, giving up just four earned runs (1.50 ERA), and striking out 25, and started popping up on a lot of sleeper candidate lists. By the end of May, he had a 6.93 ERA with a 2-7 record, striking out just 32 and giving up 66 hits in 49.1 innings pitched. Yeeks. He didn’t have much better success pitching from the bullpen, and when sent down to Triple-A Tacoma, his troubles continued, with a 5.21 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. Maurer is still just 23, he was rushed a bit, and he’s likely a much better pitcher than what he demonstrated in 2013, but he’ll probably start the year at Triple-A in an effort to right the ship and get him back on track as a back-of-the rotation kind of candidate. He’s a keeper flier on draft day, but dodge him in standard formats. (Michael Barr )
Quick Opinion: Brandon Maurer pitched well enough out of Spring Training that Seattle’s “big three” of Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen started to stretch to a “big four.” It didn’t take long for Maurer to lose his rotation spot and what seemed to be his confidence as all of 2013 was pretty much a loss. They’ll no doubt try to get him back on track as a starter at Tacoma, and there’s certainly potential for this youngster to contribute down the road. But he’s not likely to be a good addition for your fantasy roster.
Zach McAllister 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/8/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Over the last couple years, Zach McAllister has made himself a fixture in the Indians rotation, although not a particularly impressive one. His 17.4% strikeout and 8.5% walk rates are not terrible when looked at alone, but as a combination, they are not pretty. Add in a low ground-ball rate and a tendency to give up the long ball, and you have a recipe for a guy who can get by, but not much more. From a fourth or fifth starter, the Indians can live with that, and McAllister likely heads to Spring Training knowing that he’ll break camp in the rotation. As a fantasy owner, though, there just isn’t much to like. The rates are not great — a WHIP north of 1.30 and an ERA likely around four are doing you no favors — and he won’t post big strikeout totals. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: McAllister is a solid back-of-the-rotation type for the Indians, but doesn’t have much of a place at the fantasy table. If I am going to take the unimpressive rates he provides, I want big strikeouts with them, and he doesn’t have those.
Brandon McCarthy 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 7/7/1983 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: If his on-field production was as awesome as his Twitter production, he would be worthy of a first round draft selection. He has an 80 grade presence in the social media (as does his wife), but his career has been a continual struggle to stay healthy. He has had perpetual issues with his pitching shoulder and forearm, as well as the unfortunate life-threatening doming he took in 2012. It is tough to invest anything but a very late pick in a guy that has never won 10 games in a season or has pitched more than 170 innings in any one season. He looked good in Oakland, and if he can ever find that changeup he could be interesting, but hitter-friendly ballparks have not been his friend and he is still in one in Arizona this year. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: It is tough to invest anything but a very late pick in a guy that has never won 10 games in a season or has pitched more than 170 innings in any one season. He looked good in Oakland, but hitter-friendly ballparks have not been his friend and he is still in one in Arizona this year.
James McDonald 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: After a breakout first half back in 2012, McDonald has been a disaster ever since. He followed up a 7.52 second half ERA with a 5.76 ERA in just six starts to open this season. The explanation may lie in what happened next — he was soon placed on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation which knocked him out for the majority of the season. He was then designated for assignment in early September and is currently a free agent without a team. When healthy, his control was never good enough to offset his only slightly above average strikeout rates and he allowed too many fly balls. Even if he finds a new home, he’s unlikely to be worth monitoring no matter the league format. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: A shoulder injury wrecked McDonald’s season and likely explains his poor performance in the starts leading up to his placement on the disabled list. Now a free agent without a home, his upside isn’t high enough to offset the questions about the health of his shoulder.
T.J. McFarland 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 6/8/1989 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: A Rule 5 pick in 2013, T.J. McFarland spent the majority of the season coming out of the bullpen for the Orioles. He had moderate success there, posting a 4.22 ERA, but a winter league stint as a starter indicates he could get a chance at the number five job in spring training. While he didn’t strike many batters out, the 24-year-old posted an excellent ground-ball rate (57.8%), an important trait to have in Camden. With no platoon edge on lefties and little in the way of velocity, it’s tough to see McFarland’s long-term role, but perhaps he holds value as a swingman or long man for Baltimore. He’s unlikely to hold value for fantasy owners in any role, though, as the lack of strikeouts limits any potential ERA breakout. (Blake Murphy )
Quick Opinion: A successful Rule 5 selection, T.J. McFarland could get the chance to win a starting job in 2014. The ground balls are encouraging, but a complete lack of strikeout ability renders him a low-upside fantasy play.
Jake McGee 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/6/1986 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: For a while, it appeared the Rays were grooming Jake McGee — their one-pitch lefty flamethrower phenom — for a future closer job. But Joe Maddon, who understands bullpen usage far better than the average manager, prefers to use McGee as his left-handed fireman. While he did collect the first save of his career in 2014, McGee owners well know he posted a 4.02 ERA. The good news is that McGee also had a filthy 2.75 SIERA, to go with a still very strong 28.9% strikeout rate and 8.5% walk rate. McGee will continue to miss save opportunities in 2014 as Joel Peralta  likely slides into the closer role for the Rays, but McGee should profit in the form of holds. Peralta averaged over 30 holds per season with Rays, and it would be no surprise if McGee crosses above that threshold to improve upon his career-best 27 holds, set in 2013. (@BradleyWoodrum )
Quick Opinion: Don’t fret about McGee’s inflated ERA in 2013. He’s a power lefty who actually handles righties better than lefties. This far-from-LOOGY lefty will likely move to a more prominent setup role in 2014 as the bullpen reshuffles. While his save opportunities will be limited, expect the 27-year-old reliever to set a new career high in holds.
Dustin McGowan 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/24/1982 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Dustin McGowan will be 32 in March. Time flies on the disabled list. It seems like only yesterday that McGowan was the “young stud with potential” portion of a tough Blue Jays rotation, but that was actually six or seven years ago. McGowan missed all of 2009, 2010, and 2012, yet here he is, still under contract with the Blue Jays. Incredibly, he was pretty good out of the bullpen in his 35 appearances for Toronto in 2013, sporting a 2.45 ERA while striking out about 23% of the batters he faced. Even over this good small sample, though, there were issues: he walked more 10% of batters he faced, and a .236 batting average on balls in play is quite lucky for just about any pitcher. McGowan is still under contract for 2014, but even when he is healthy, he does not project as anything more than an unspectacular, generic right-handed reliever. There are plenty of options along those lines on the waiver wire in most leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Dustin McGowan might make for a good comeback story after being superficially effective for the Blue Jays in 2013, but even when he is healthy, at this point he’s a generic right-handed reliever or the sort that is rarely scare on most leagues’ waiver wires.
Collin McHugh 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/19/1987 | Team: Astros | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: How’s this for an achievement: Collin McHugh is unquestionably in the running for the title of Unluckiest Pitcher in 2013, and also still one who generally stunk. A hilariously high batting average on balls in play of .379 and a laughably low strand rate of 50.2% conspired to give McHugh a grotesque ERA of 10.04, roughly twice his FIP (5.78 FIP) and xFIP (4.51). And yet he can’t really make a case that his awful luck distorted his true skill. He struck out just 8.8% of batters faced last year, and while that small sample reading may not be fair, he has yet to approach anything close to the 8.8 strikeouts per nine he earned as a minor leaguer. Until he does, he won’t have much value as a starter, and embarking on his third pit stop since the start of last season, he seems more and more like middle relief material with each passing opportunity. (Jack Weiland )
Quick Opinion: McHugh was unlucky in 2013, and also not very good. His strong minor league strikeout rates haven’t translated to the majors, and until they start to, he won’t have much fantasy use.
Yoervis Medina 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/27/1988 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: After an abysmal 2011 in single-A ball, Yoervis Medina was pretty much scrapped as a starting pitcher and moved to the bullpen to see if the club might eek some value out of the hefty Venezuelan. He moved rapidly up through the minors, showing a plus fastball and ability to miss bats, although always having trouble knowing exactly where the ball was going. Promoted to the big league club, that trend carried over, as Medina managed a 24.4% strikeout rate, but also an unseemly 14% walk rate. His 2.91 ERA significantly outpaced his 3.86 FIP and although he did just give up 49 hits over 68 innings, his propensity for blow-up innings clouds his future role. He’s not likely to close nor set-up in 2014 and likely possesses little value in most fantasy formats. (Michael Barr )
Quick Opinion: If you’re hanging your hat on Yoervis Medina, you’re playing in a truly intriguing fantasy scoring system. Medina might throw hard and strikeout a fair number of opponents, but he also lacks command and isn’t likely to have a high profile role in the Mariner bullpen.
Kris Medlen 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/7/1985 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: Entering 2013, the narrative around Medlen was “to regress or not to regress.” Some fantasy owners paid a lot for Medlen, hoping for a follow up to his 1.57 ERA from 2012. It turns out that plenty of regression was in store. Both his batting average on balls in play and home runs per fly ball increased about four percent and ended up near league average (.298 BABIP and 9.9% HR/FB). Combined with slightly worse performance in strikeout and walk rates, he posted a still good 3.11 ERA and 3.55 xFIP. His ground-ball rate also fell seven percent, which didn’t help things. There’s still some scope for additional regression of the bad kind since he stranded a few more runners than expected, but this is generally the type of performance we should expect in the future. Medlen has been healthy since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2011, and the Braves were careful to bring him along slowly. He’ll be 28 in 2014 and should be a reliable fantasy performer, if not the stud he was in 2012. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Medlen got bit by the regression monster and declined from his superlative 2012 season. The result was still good, if a bit inconsistent at times, and he should be expected to perform near his 2013 numbers in the future.
Jenrry Mejia 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/11/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: Optimism regarding Mejia’s future had become pretty muted by the end of 2012. Eno Sarris wrote of the young right-hander in last year’s profile that, despite Mejia’s armspeed, “the whole package isn’t working at the major league level.” Five starts in 2013 were enough to suggest that the package would indeed work at the major-league level — in terms of preventing runs, at least. The addition of a slider to his repertoire and hitherto unseen command allowed Mejia to record strikeout and walk rates of 24.1% and 3.6%, respectively, while also inducing ground balls at a considerably above-average rate (58.0%). The perfect pitcher, is essentially what Mejia was for 27.1 innings. Unfortunately, after having his season debut delayed until late July with forearm tendinitis, Mejia was done by mid-August, in need of surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. If healthy, he’s a definite candidate to outperform his projections. The frequency of injury has been frustrating, however. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Mejia was nearly the perfect pitcher in 2013 — when he pitched, that is. Arm injuries both delayed and then cut short his season, however. Health and not talent is of greater concern now.
Mark Melancon 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/28/1985 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: Jason Grilli was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, but when he landed on the disabled list, Melancon stepped in as the Pirates’ closer without missing a beat. Melancon struck out a healthy 25.1% of batters, walked a stingy 2.9%, managed an impressive 60.3% ground ball rate, and allowed just one home run all season. That’s the quadfecta of reliever dominance and it’s pretty safe to say that we shouldn’t expect a repeat. With Grilli healthy once again, Melancon will fall back to being one of the better setup relievers in baseball. One of the keys to his success was the walk rate, which translated to just eight batters all season. He’s never shown that level of dominance in the past and regression is likely. He’ll be most useful to owners in holds leagues, but his performance should be good enough to roster in almost any league. Grilli is rather old and may be fragile at this point in his career, so Melancon has a good chance to save some games next season too. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Melancon had one of the best reliever seasons of recent memory and he did it without the gaudy strikeout rates of a Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman. Instead he channeled his inner Scrooge to allow just eight walks and one home run over 71 innings. Regression is likely, but strong performance should still be expected.
Luis Mendoza 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/31/1983 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Luis Mendoza and his beautiful shiny locks signed with Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. Good luck to him! (Jeff Zimmerman)
Jose Mijares 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/29/1984 | Position: RP|
Profile: Mijares is a situational lefty for the Giants who just seemed to run into all sorts of bad luck last season as evidenced by his insanely high .410 batting average on balls in play and the incredible disparity between his 4.22 ERA and 3.05 FIP. It does seem a bit disconcerting that two of his last three seasons have been filled with struggles, but he’s still managed to produce well more often than not. He was released by the Giants in early December to make room on the roster and there has been little talk of bringing him back. He’ll likely pick up with someone else, but unless he’s used more prominently, his fantasy upside is very minimal. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Mijares seemed to suffer from some serious bad luck last season. Still, while the numbers may not have been indicative of Mijares’ talent level, the Giants parted ways with him to make room for others on the roster and he remains an unsigned free agent. He’ll likely catch on somewhere soon, but his fantasy upside is still fairly minimal.
Wade Miley 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/13/1986 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Wade Miley finished his breakout 2012 season as a borderline top 25 starter. But fantasy owners weren’t totally buying it, and he was drafted as roughly the 50th starter in 2013 drafts. And the skepticism paid off, as Miley barely finished the year as a top 75 starter. A 5.6% jump in his home run per fly ball rate helped push his ERA up 22 points. A 3.2% rise in his walk rate helped push his WHIP up 14 points. The walk rate change is particularly concerning, because Miley’s control was his best asset in 2012. The reason his walk rate rose is that hitters simply stopped swinging as much at Miley’s offerings. The swing percentage of opposing hitters fell drastically on his four-seamer, change up and curve. Miley’s zone percentage and first strike percentage have essentially been league average in his young career, so it would appear his above average “control” was largely a function of hitters being too eager against him. On the bright side, Miley’s ground-ball rate rose to elite territory as he finished sixth among qualified starters. That probably prevented Miley’s roto rate stats from rising further than they did. And if it doesn’t stay at an elite level, we may see some additional regression this year. At best Miley is a late-round flier to fill out your staff, but, more likely, he’s just a spot starter. (Brett Talley )
Quick Opinion: After a breakout season in 2012, Miley fell back to earth last year. His luck with keeping balls in the park ran out, and his above average control turned out to be a result of hitters being too aggressive. He could be worth a late round flier for your staff, but he’s probably just a spot starter.
Andrew Miller 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/21/1985 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Andrew Miller didn’t have a lot of time to pitch in 2013, but when he did, he proved that his 2012 renaissance as a reliever was not a fluke. Miller’s strikeout rate, which jumped from the mid-teens to 30% in 2012, spiked again. His new rate put him next to Steve Delabar as the only non-closers in the top-10 for reliever strikeout rates over the last two seasons. He also maintained his velocity spike, holding a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. His control, the key factor in his fall from grace after being the sixth overall draft pick in 2006, continued to be a bit of an issue (12.6% walk rate), but the punchout rate lets him walk a few more guys than desirable and still hold down a sub-3.00 SIERA. While Miller wasn’t terrible against righty hitters (3.34 xFIP), he obliterated lefties (1.33 xFIP). Unfortunately, a left foot injury required surgery and Miller was relegated to watching the Red Sox finish out the year and win the World Series from the dugout. However, the 28-year-old expects to be ready for spring training, and will immediately regain his place as a key left-handed cog at the back end of Boston’s bullpen. Fellow southpaw Craig Breslow should also return, but has less pronounced platoon splits and less strikeout prowess, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miller eventually usurp the higher leverage situations available to a Red Sox left-hander. Unfortunately, with Koji Uehara in place, Miller’s fantasy value is primarily limited to holds leagues. He could be a useful waiver wire plug-and-play RP if you need a few extra punchouts in standard leagues. (Colin Zarzycki )
Quick Opinion: Andrew Miller picked up right where he left off last season, showing that his massive strikeout gains in the bullpen are real. While his 2013 ended early with ligament damage in his left foot, he heads into 2014 healthy and makes for a nice low-cost, high-upside selection in leagues that count holds.
Shelby Miller 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/10/1990 | Team: Cardinals | Position: SP|
Profile: The postseason search party sent out for Shelby Miller has not yet located the breakout 23-year-old righty. That might make him a candidate for great value in 2013 drafts. Because mostly his team was trying to protect the youngster’s arm. After 150.1 innings in 2012, he went 173.1 in 2013. While his fastball velocity stayed steady, his curveball velocity became inconsistent in the late season , and perhaps the team saw something that made them worry. Assuming he’s fine now, there’s still a little bit of risk. Only nine starters threw the fastball more than Miller last year, and it might be tough to strike out almost a batter per inning in 2014 if he continues that trend. Even though his fastball gets almost 50% more whiffs than your average fastball, it’s not generally a great pitch for that sort of thing. It’s also bad news that his changeup and curve don’t have great pitch peripherals — neither gets average whiffs or ground-balls for their pitch type. With a great fastball and good control in a pitcher’s park and league, Miller is worth an investment no matter what, and especially if his postseason depresses his value. With these risk factors, though, make sure to rein in your enthusiasm on draft day. (Eno Sarris )
Quick Opinion: Don’t be like the Cardinals and forget about Shelby Miller. Do be like the Cardinals and make him part of a large collection of young pitchers, especially if he’s relatively cheap on draft day. The quantity over quality approach should help mitigate some of his performance and health risk factors.
Tommy Milone 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/16/1987 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: Milone’s strikeout rate climbed from 6.49 per nine in 2012 to 7.25 K/9 last year, but unfortunately his walk and home-run rates trended in the wrong direction. Still, he was a steady performer in AL-only leagues, finishing the season with a 4.14 ERA in 156.1 innings. However, it’s hard to see him having much value in 2014, simply because there isn’t room for him in the rotation at present. (Scott Strandberg )
Quick Opinion: Jarrod Parker, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray and A.J. Griffin are all pretty much assured spots in the opening-day rotation, leaving Milone battling with Dan Straily, Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom for the last spot. He may slide in sixth and wait in the minors for an injury to the top five.
Zach Miner 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/12/1982 | Position: RP|
Profile: The Phillies signed Miner prior to last season to provide depth in the minors. He provided 85 solid innings to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and was rewarded with a late season promotion to the major league bullpen and a few spot starts. The return was his first major league work since 2009. Miner isn’t somebody that any fantasy owner need follow. He’s currently a free agent and will probably sign another minor league contract. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Miner made his triumphant return to the majors for the first time since 2009, but it was likely a temporary return. He is all but certain to sign on with a new Triple-A roster next season.
Mike Minor 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 12/26/1987 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: 2013 was a breakout season for Minor. A fly ball oriented pitcher, Minor boosted his swinging strike and strikeout rates last season while cutting his walk rate down to about two walks per nine. The result was a strong 3.21 ERA that was only slightly better than his 3.37 FIP and 3.64 xFIP. The improved performance appears to be the result of better command and control or possibly more effective sequencing. The 26-year-old is entering his third full season in the majors and profiles as a stable fantasy target. Because the improvements in his numbers aren’t based on any substantial change in his profile, it’s unlikely that he’ll show continued gains. He’s held batting average on balls in play below league average these past two seasons, but has not shown any of the peripheral statistics usually associated with low a BABIP. As such, it’s safest to project mild regression along with the usual injury risk when setting a price for your fantasy drafts. (Brad Johnson)
Quick Opinion: Minor saw substantial improvements in his ERA and FIP-related peripherals, but there was no obvious change in his skill set besides improved command and control. With health, he should be a stable fantasy asset in 2014.
Matt Moore 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 6/18/1989 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Owners in traditional leagues loved Matt Moore’s 3.29 ERA. Owners in linear weights leagues were not nearly as excited about his worse-than-league-average 3.95 FIP. Now 337 innings into Moore’s career, it’s apparent the lefty from New Mexico is not quite the pitcher who debuted with a 2.89 ERA / 2.17 FIP in the 2011 Rays bullpen. Instead of strikezone-pounding, bat-missing Moore of ’11, the Rays have received a rather pedestrian 22.3% strikeout rate and 11.8% walk rate from Moore. He’s only going to be 25 in 2014, and the Rays have team options on his contract that could keep him in white and blue through his age-30 season, so the team is invested his potential. But Moore needs to improve his control and his swinging strike rate if he wants to develop into anything more than an innings eater who doesn’t eat innings. Add to the warning flags: He missed a month in elbow inflammation and his fastball slowed almost two miles per hour from 2012. On the merit of his tools alone, Moore is still worth keeping on a roster, but he has too many shortcomings at his point to expect much more than 175 innings and a league-average FIP. Whether he’ll beat his FIP or not depends on how you see his career-best .259 batting average on balls in play. (@BradleyWoodrum )
Quick Opinion: Moore had a strong ERA in 2013, but he’s got enough warning flags to suggest he might be more of an average starter than the elite talent he appeared to be after the 2011 season. Don’t give up on him just yet, but don’t rely on him beating his FIP again in 2014.
Franklin Morales 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 1/24/1986 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Franklin Morales headed into the 2012 offseason with some interesting sleeper appeal. The former top prospect made nine starts for the Bobby-Valentine-led sinking ship, posting an above-average 25% strikeout rate rate in the process. Another stride of similar length in 2013 and we would may have been talking mixed-league relevance. Unfortunately, Morales injured his back before last year’s campaign even started, taking him out of the discussion for a spot in Boston’s rotation. When he returned in June, he wasn’t the same pitcher. He lost 5% off his strikeout numbers and his swinging strike rate dipped back below 10%. His velocity was way down, and, while it recovered towards the end of the season, he didn’t get the reliever bump he should have. More concerning, he backed up big-time in the walk rate, posting a walk rate in the double-digits for the first time since 2010, a year he posted a 5.68 xFIP. The control problems were the last thing Red Sox fans remember, too, as he was yanked from multiple postseason appearances due to his inability to throw strikes. Now traded back to Colorado, he figures to open the season in the bullpen as a swingman (at Coors). While that’s not a recipe for fantasy value, there’s always an outside shot he works his way into Colorado’s rotation. However, it’s hard to fathom a situation where you’d use Morales in fantasy leagues unless A) he’s pitching on the road and B) his velocity and swinging strike numbers rebound and C) he’s not walking more than a guy each time through the order. In other words, a (massive) longshot for value. (Colin Zarzycki )
Quick Opinion: After making some interesting strides in 2012, Morales fell off the map again in 2013. After a dismal postseason where he couldn’t find the strike zone, Morales was sent back to the Rockies. A swingman with a career 4.70 xFIP in Coors? No, thanks.
Bryan Morris 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/28/1987 | Team: Pirates | Position: RP|
Profile: Morris had a mammoth gap between his 3.46 ERA and 4.89 FIP last season, which immediately makes fantasy owners want to chuck him in the trash bin. He’s intriguing, though, because his paltry 5.12 strikeouts per nine were juxtaposed with a quality 11.6% swinging-strike rate. It seems to suggest his strikeout rate could increase significantly in 2014, which would improve his chances of compiling another solid ERA. However, he struggles greatly with his control. Only 41% of his pitches found the strike zone last year, which ranked 14th-worst among qualified major-league relievers. That resulted in a high WHIP, something that doesn’t project to change. Of course, non-closer relievers hold zero value in fantasy leagues if they cannot rack up strikeouts and suppress WHIP. Thus, even though he could see his strikeout rate rise markedly next year, he won’t be worthy of a roster spot unless he somehow notches a few saves for the Pirates, and with Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli firmly entrenched in the eighth and ninth, that seems rather improbable. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: The 26-year-old cutter specialist rode a healthy strand rate to a solid ERA, but until he begins to sniff the ninth inning for the Pirates, he’s a complete non-factor in fantasy leagues.
Brandon Morrow 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 7/26/1984 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Brandon Morrow’s time as a starter for the Blue Jays has three distinct eras: 1) the pitcher with great peripherals and a poor ERA (2010 and 2011), 2) the pitcher with decent peripherals and a great ERA (2012), and 3) the pitcher who was terrible and then got hurt like a bunch of other Blue Jays (2013). The Blue Jays have him penciled in as their number two or three starter for 2014, and they really do not have many other options. Morrow has a good four-seamer and slider, as well as a splitter that keeps lefties off balance. The last few seasons he’s improved his control (a problem early on), but his strikeout rate has also dropped. From a statistical standpoint, his samples have never been great, so projecting him to be a roughly league-average pitcher is almost as much due to regression as it is past performance. Morrow might be able to put together a top-of-the-rotation type of year, or he might not. That uncertainty is aside from not knowing how many innings Morrow might pitch — the “Radial Nerve Entrapment” problem in 2013 might seem new, but he’s had a long history of injury issues from previous years. Despite it all, Morrow has the projected playing time and potential to be worth a pick in all AL-only leagues and deeper mixed leagues. Just do not count on him for innings (or performance). (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Despite a long history of injuries and widely varying performance, Brandon Morrow is still worth a pick in deep leagues. Just make sure you have other, more reliable starters.
Charlie Morton 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 11/12/1983 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: After tantalizing with seemingly good stuff and a heavy ground ball tilt, Morton finally enjoyed a skills breakout after returning from Tommy John surgery in June. TJ surgery returnees typically struggle with their control early on, but Morton did not and actually posted a walk rate below his career average. Aside from the control gains, he also induced ground balls at a career best clip, a mark that would have led the majors if he pitched enough innings. But the real driver of his breakout was the strikeout rate surge. His fastball velocity jumped to just a smidge below his highest mark posted in 2010 and he induced swinging strikes at a rate he had never done so previously. Morton could thank his curve ball for that, as the pitch was the best it had ever been for him in terms of swinging strikes. There was nothing fluky about Morton’s season and another sub-4.00 ERA should be on the way… provided he keeps the velocity gains. (Mike Podhorzer )
Quick Opinion: Morton finally had the breakout many were hoping for and it was fully supported by his skills this time (unlike in 2011 when a low home run per fly ball rate pushed his ERA below 4.00). While left-handed hitters continue to give him trouble, he’s more than good enough against righties to once again be worth consideration in shallow mixed leagues.
Guillermo Moscoso 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/14/1983 | Position: RP|
Profile: Moscoso finished 2013 with a 5.10 ERA over 30 innings for the Giants and that actually looked good in comparison to his even more atrocious 2012 numbers. With that, he opted to celebrate Christmas by signing a contract with the Yokohama Bay Stars in Japan and will try his luck overseas. The long ball has been his biggest enemy recently, so perhaps the different style of play in Japan will help him learn how to fix that problem. In the meantime, his fantasy value is a big, fat zero. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: After two consecutive lousy seasons as a reliever who strongly resembled a punching bag, Moscoso has opted to take his act overseas. He recently signed a contract with the Yokohama Bay Stars and will try his luck in Japan. He couldn’t possibly pitch worse over there, could he?
Jason Motte 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 6/22/1982 | Team: Cardinals | Position: P|
Profile: Motte missed all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Despite saving 42 games with a sub-three ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio above five in 2012, he’s unlikely to be inserted back into the closer role whenever he returns in 2014. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has already said that Trevor Rosenthal will begin 2014 as the closer. But if Rosenthal were to hit the disabled list or be moved to the rotation at some point, Motte could find himself back in the fantasy-relevant closer role. If and when that happens, be quick to the waiver wire. But until that point Motte is only useful in holds leagues or deeper leagues where high-strikeout middle relievers have value. (Brett Talley )
Quick Opinion: Motte will be returning from Tommy John surgery, but he won’t be returning to the closer role right away. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said that Trevor Rosenthal will begin the season as the team’s closer. But Motte will still have value in holds leagues and as a speculative stash for those chasing saves.
Edward Mujica 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 5/10/1984 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: With Jason Motte missing all of the 2013 season, Mujica managed to rack up 37 saves after he got a shot to fill the role in mid-April. He tanked in September and ceded the role to the Cardinals’ closer of the future, Trevor Rosenthal. Mujica is now in Boston with his clone, Koji Uehara, and it’s hard to see him taking the role from the incumbent. With a sub-par strikeout rate for a late-inning reliever, his fantasy value is entirely dependent on being a closer. Could he take the gig from Uehara somehow? The factors that tend to predict closers that are in Mujica’s favor are an extremely low walk rate, an above average ground ball rate and the fact that he is right-handed. But the factors against him are a well below average strikeout rate and the fact that experience closing actually doesn’t predict future closing opportunities all that well. Right now, he’s good for ratios, but not necessarily rates and holds — the Boston pen is crowded behind Uehara, too. (Brett Talley )
Quick Opinion: After filling Jason Motte’s shoes admirably, Mujica signed a deal to join Boston’s crowded pen. His skill set doesn’t look like it’s demonstrably different than the incumbent closer there, so don’t be too dependent on Mujica to fill up the saves column in your roto league.
Brett Myers 
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1980 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Indians went into 2013 with three starters on their depth chart who were being rebuilt in some way — either from relieving, from ineffectiveness, or from near retirement. Two of the three turned in terrific years. Myers was the other. He threw only 33 innings across three levels, including 21.1 in Cleveland, and wow were those innings terrible. 4.22 would be an ugly ERA, if it were his ERA. Instead, it was his home runs per nine innings. By the end of April, his MLB season was over, and you have to wonder how many more chances he will get. He’s only 33 years old, but he hasn’t been particularly effective for a while. If he gets a job (and he’ll probably at least get a camp invite from someone), it will likely be as a reliever. And if he finds himself throwing MLB innings this year, they probably won’t be particularly late in games. Or particularly good. (Chad Young )
Quick Opinion: Myers was a disaster last year and is probably done as a starter, after the failed rotation-re-entry in Cleveland. If he pitches in 2014, it will be as a reliever, and not as a reliever who you want on a fantasy roster.
Chris Narveson 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: The southpaw spent 2013 battling injuries and laboring to a 5.14 ERA in Triple-A Nashville. He recently agreed to a one-year deal to pitch in Japan, so at most, he’s a fringe option in deeper NPB fantasy leagues. (JP Breen)
Joe Nathan 
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 11/22/1974 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Joe Nathan has 341 saves and it doesn’t look like he’s anywhere near slowing down. After enduring a little wobble post-Tommy John, Nathan has been lights out for the past two seasons and he’s coming off what’s probably about his third-best performance in a 10-year career as a reliever (let’s forget those two years as a starter). In his second season with the Texas Rangers, Nathan posted a 1.39 ERA (2.26 FIP) with a 29.2% strikeout rate and 0.90 WHIP. Despite walking more batters than the season prior, Nathan’s WHIP actually decreased notably as he only allowed 36 hits over 64.2 innings pitched. To that end, it’s worth pointing out his batting average on balls in play was .224 where his career rate sits at .253, so it’s perhaps there’s some natural regression in front of him with the Detroit Tigers in 2014. On draft day, try to not forget that Nathan is 39, and there aren’t too many relievers who dominate that late into their career. His fastball is declining, which required him to lean heavily on his slider in 2013. But even if he takes a step back, his results will probably be among the top five closers, although it might cost you more than you might like to pay given his name recognition and pedigree. (Michael Barr )
Quick Opinion: Steamer thinks Joe Nathan can put up a 3.07 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, with 28 saves and 68 strikeouts in 2014. And that would be his second-worst season in the last ten years. There’s big risk and reward with Nathan, as he was one of the best closers in baseball in 2013, but he enters 2014 as a 39 year old with a fastball on the decline. I’d bet on another big year from him, but there’s more than enough reason to be cautious.
Jimmy Nelson 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 6/5/1989 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Nelson made his (brief) MLB debut in 2013 but spent much of the year in the minors and split that time between Double-A and Triple-A. The right-hander isn’t flashy but he has a strong frame and should be a durable mid-rotation starter for the Brewers. He flashed good velocity with his fastball and his slider also showed promise. On the other hand, he used his change up about 2% of the time in those limited innings, and that was a trend that also followed him through the minors. Nelson may have to open the 2014 season back in Triple-A if he’s unable to wrestle a rotation spot away from the Brewers’ pair of sophomore hurlers: Tyler Thornburg and Wily Peralta. If the changeup doesn’t develop, the bullpen is a possibility, too. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Nelson should eventually be talented enough to provide 200-220 innings a year for the Brewers but there’s enough depth in the upper minors and the majors to keep Nelson in Triple-A for at least part of the season.
Juan Nicasio 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 8/31/1986 | Team: Rockies | Position: SP|
Profile: In 2012, Nicasio didn’t have a great ERA, but his 3.99 FIP was roughly league average, and his 21% strikeout percentage showed promise. He was slated to be in the rotation all season to boot, which meant he was someone to watch in the early going. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Nicasio followed the same basic profile — high ERA, pretty decent FIP. Just enough to keep you interested. In four different outings during the season, Nicasio tossed either six or seven shutout innings, and in two of those outings he struck out nine batters. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? Yeah, me too. But the overall picture was not as rosy. His 29% quality start percentage was pretty abysmal. In fact, of the 128 pitchers to qualify for rate stats this year (ie, those who started 20 or more games), only Barry Zito had a lower QS% than did Nicasio. The other side of the coin to his four great starts are four horrifying starts. Nicasio had four outings in which he tossed four innings or fewer and allowed at least seven runs. In three of the starts, he didn’t escape the third inning, allowed at least seven runs, and posted two or fewer strikeouts. Such a start would be an atomic bomb on your fantasy ledger, especially if you play in a weekly head-to-head league. There has always been debate about whether or not he belongs in the bullpen, as he has just two good offerings (fastball and slider). There is still a lot of talent there, but since it’s no longer a given whether or not Nicasio ends up being in the rotation, and because he is somewhat of a ticking time bomb, you want to avoid him on draft day.
Quick Opinion: Nicasio remains an enigma, capable of scintillating performances but also total stinkers. As a result, it’s not entirely clear whether he will be a starter or a reliever moving forward. Because of this uncertainty on both fronts, he’s not someone you want to draft, but he is definitely someone to watch on the waiver wire.
Jeff Niemann 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 2/28/1983 | Position: P|
Profile: Niemann always had good prospect billing, but serious injury concerns — even in the minors. Then Niemann missed the entire 2013 season with shoulder surgery. The now 31-year-old starter had showed good signs of progress in his age-29 season, but even then he lasted only eight starts as a broken ankle punctuated his career-high strikeout rate. Can Niemann still contribute at the major league level? Absolutely. Can a pitcher with this kind of injury history fizzle into oblivion? Even more absolutely. Niemann is worth keeping an eye on, but he’s not much more than waiver wire bait at this point. (@BradleyWoodrum )
Quick Opinion: Niemann has pitched in only eight games over the last two seasons. Keep an eye on his comeback because he looked his best in his most recent seasons.
Jon Niese 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/27/1986 | Team: Mets | Position: SP|
Profile: Heading into the 2012 season, it looked as if Jonathon Niese had some breakout potential, and while he didn’t totally fulfill that, he did appear to take another step forward. In April of 2013, Niese looked like he may have really been coming into his own, but an ugly May followed and midway through June, Niese landed on the disabled list. He came back to finish the season strong and remains a potential bargain in 2014. Niese is particularly effective limiting the long ball. He has shown flashes of being an above average strikeout pitcher, but expectations should probably hover more around average with the chance of being better than that. By playing on a bad team and coming off injury, Niese may fly under a lot of radars in 2014. He’s certainly draft-able and worth a couple of bucks in standard mixed leagues and could be somebody to legitimately target as a value asset in NL-only leagues. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Niese is a solid major league pitcher, with the potential to be better than that. He comes off a roller coaster of a season, which included an injury, and therefore he may be a bargain. Standard mixed leaguers could do a lot worse, in both track record and potential, in filling out their pitching staffs and consider targeting him in NL-only leagues as a potential value buy.
Hector Noesi 
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/26/1987 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Hector Noesi is the insult to the Jesus Montero injury. Back when these two were shipped to Seattle for Michael Pineda, there was some hope that Noesi could turn into a nice little back of the rotation starter. What he’s turned in so far might be little, but it’s not very nice. To date, his career figures include a 5.53 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, and a 16% strikeout rate over just shy of 200 major league innings. He’s likely quite a distance back on the starting pitching depth chart for the Seattle Mariners, and it would take a true disaster to see him getting any regular rotation time. And even if he did, it’s highly unlikely you would want him on your fantasy roster. His ceiling for 2014 is probably mop-up duty guy, and if your fantasy system rewards meaningless innings in blowouts, consider Noesi an excellent addition. Noesi is a better pitcher than he’s shown thus far, and if you’re in a chasm-deep league, he could be worth a stash in case he becomes relevant in 2015 or traded to another team where there is more opportunity. But otherwise, this is not the droid you’re looking for. (Michael Barr )
Quick Opinion: Hector Noesi isn’t likely to start at the major league level much, if at all, in 2014. And if he did, his results probably wouldn’t be anything you want on your fantasy roster. Do better.
Ricky Nolasco 
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/13/1982 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: Members of the Nolasco fan club  were finally rewarded with a good season after waiting for the 2008 guy to re-surface. The big difference was him rediscovering his ability to strike batters out. After seeing his strikeout rate decline each of the previous four seasons, Nolasco stopped the slide and bumped his strikeout rate back to 20%. That happened because his contact rate was a career-best 76.6% and he tied a career-best 10.5% swinging strike rate. He did not throw with any increased velocity nor did he add any new pitches. He did, however, change his delivery  early in March and stuck with it. The improvements showed when he pitched from the windup as his .281 weighted on-base average when pitching from it was his best effort since the 2009 season. The move to Minneapolis should help him continue to be stingy with home runs but may cost him some strikeouts as he no longer enjoys the luxury of throwing to pitchers. Pencil him in for 12 wins, a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.27 WHIP and you will not be disappointed. He doesn’t offer much upside, but his downside is still safe. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: The move to Minneapolis should help him continue to be stingy with home runs but may cost him some strikeouts as he no longer enjoys the luxury of throwing to pitchers. Pencil him in for 12 wins, a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.27 WHIP and you will not be disappointed. He doesn’t offer much upside, but his downside is still safe.
Sean Nolin 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 12/26/1989 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Nolin is a large left-hander with fairly pedestrian stuff but above average command and control. He surprised with strong performances in Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, but was hit hard in his major league debut. He profiles as a back-end starter who can be mildly useful in fantasy when he’s going well. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Nolin is a major league ready number four/five starter who doesn’t excite as a fantasy option.
Bud Norris 
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/2/1985 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Norris has posted a sub-four ERA just once in the past five seasons, and in that same span, has yet to post a WHIP below 1.33. There are two things he does well — gets strikeouts and handles righties. He has limited righties to a .307 weight on-base average and has struck out 23% of those he has faced from 2009 to 2013, but lefties have a .351 wOBA against him. Norris’s changeup isn’t good enough against lefties, so he relies mostly on his fastball and slider against them while keeping them honest with show-me changeups and cutters. 2013 was his worst season against lefties as they hit .315/.381/.509 against him in 448 plate appearances and 16 of his 17 home runs allowed came against lefties. Matt Holliday was the only right-handed batter to homer against Norris last year, and Norris allowed that one bomb in 325 plate appearances to righties. This, after allowing 24 in his previous 753 plate appearances to righties. There has been some talk about Norris possibly taking over the closer role in Baltimore now that Jim Johnson is gone and Grant Baflour failed the team physical. The splits Norris displays do not make him a demonstrably better candidate than Tommy Hunter, but perhaps his stuff would play up in a relief role to where his splits would not be as drastic as they currently are. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: There has been some talk about Norris possibly taking over the closer role in Baltimore now that Jim Johnson is gone and Grant Baflour failed the team physical. The splits Norris displays do not make him a demonstrably better candidate than Tommy Hunter, but perhaps his stuff would play up in a relief role to where his splits would not be as drastic as they currently are.
Ivan Nova 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 1/12/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: Ivan Nova quietly became a very productive pitcher for the Yankees in 20 starts in 2013. His 7.49 strikeouts per nine and 2.84 walks per nine were very similar to the numbers CC Sabathia had, except Nova enjoyed a high 79.8% strand rate and a low 8.4% home run per flyball rate. That productivity may be the result of a change in approach. In 2012, Nova threw a slider 14% percent of the time. In 2013, he basically scrapped it. Now, he relies more heavily on his fastball and a new-ish curve. For the first time in his career, Nova is generating strikeouts and ground-balls, which is the right combination for a right-handed pitcher in Yankee stadium. Nova will likely be the least-talked-about Yankee starter, especially with Masahiro Tanaka in the fold. Don’t overlook him. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Nova is coming off the best season of his career thanks to a change in his repertoire which increased his ground-ball and strikeout rates. He can be a quietly productive fantasy number four or five next season.
Vidal Nuno 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/26/1987 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: A spot starter who made his Major League debut in 2013, Nuno will likely compete for the fifth starter position in spring training. If he doesn’t land that job, then he’ll likely spend the season starting in Triple-A instead of wasting away as a long reliever at the big league level. His stuff just doesn’t make him very interesting — none of his pitches had an average whiff rate last year, and only the sinker was a great ground-ball pitch. Maybe he can eat some innings for your deap-league squad, but he’s a risk for bad outings given the level of competition in New York, and the home park. (Erik Hahmann)
Quick Opinion: He’s effectively the team’s sixth starter and of no value, even in AL-Only leagues.
Darren O’Day 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982 | Team: Orioles | Position: RP|
Profile: Darren O’Day had his second straight excellent season out of the bullpen for the Orioles and could be in line to inherit the closer’s chair with Jim Johnson now out of the fold. O’Day posted a 2.18 ERA with a 23.9% strikeout rate and walked batters four times less often, impressive numbers to be sure. He may not throw hard, but he is precise and his submarine delivery keeps batters whiffing at an above-average rate. The one knock on the righty’s candidacy for save opportunities would be his fly-ball tendency, a mark above 40% in all but one year of his career. Considering Camden is friendly to lefties and O’Day showed a strong platoon split for the first time in 2013, perhaps some ERA regression is coming (he had an FIP of 3.58 and an xFIP of 3.59). Still, the potential for saves and the strikeouts make him a low-cost, high-upside play late in drafts. (Blake Murphy )
Quick Opinion: Darren O’Day doesn’t throw hard, but his deceptive submarine delivery and excellent slider keep batters guessing enough to pile up strikeouts. Keep an eye on Baltimore’s closer chair in 2014, as O’Day could be in the mix for saves if he can iron out his split issue.
Brett Oberholtzer 
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/1/1989 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: Oberholtzer was quite likely the most effective Astros starter in 2013, garnering 1.3 wins above replacement despite throwing only 71.2 innings in the major leagues. Each of his colleagues that were in similar territory threw 125 or more innings to reach that mark. He is a sturdy lefty who works with a low-90s fastball, a changeup and a curve. Baseball Info Solutions’ classification labels his repertoire relatively simply, but according to the pitcher himself, he’s anything but. He adds and subtracts to his breaking ball — sliders and curves from the same grip in his eyes  — as he sees fit, sacrificing speed for movement in an attempt to change eye levels and simply keep hitters guessing. In an interview in the minor leagues, he even noted that he throws a knuckle curve. But while Oberholtzer was effective in 2013, it wasn’t remarkably so. He fanned just 15.4% of hitters, and while that looks good in comparison to his 4.4% walk rate, it probably isn’t good enough to carry him as a flyball pitcher (in Houston). One way he can benefit is to throw his offspeed pitches more, as each of his offspeed offerings garnered relatively good whiff rates. As someone who has kept the bases clean of free passes, this seems like a logical way for him to improve organically over the year to come. To his credit, it seems as though he works down in the zone very effectively. At this point, though, it doesn’t appear that Oberholtzer is someone to target in fantasy leagues, however. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Oberholtzer looks like someone who can hang as a back-end guy in a rotation, but for fantasy purposes that makes him useful only in AL-only or really deep leagues.
Jake Odorizzi 
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 3/27/1990 | Team: Rays | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: The Rays, with their magical faucet of pitching, appear to have yet another proper MLB-ready starting pitcher in the plumbing. Odorizzi had a strong 25.2% strikeout rate and 8.1% walk rate in Triple-A last season. He has been an extreme fly ball pitcher in both the minors and majors. As with extreme ground-ball pitchers, extreme fly ball pitchers can defy their FIPs (since 2004, this group of fly ball pitchers  beat their FIPs by 20 points). The main obstacle to his success? That very faucet of pitching talent. The Rays rotation, still containing David Price  at the time of publishing, may not have 180 innings to give to Odorizzi. But at age 24, Jake will no doubt find his fair share of innings — even if David Price is still in St. Petersburg — via injury or ineffectiveness. That might have already happened with the announcement that Jeremy Hellickson  will miss a large chunk of the season after elbow surgery. It would not be unfair to expect a better-than-average ERA from Odorizzi, but his strikeout rate will never be elite — his stuff just isn’t elite — and his FIP might never match his ERA. (@BradleyWoodrum )
Quick Opinion: There’s a chance he spends another season shuttling between the majors and minors, but Odorizzi ranks as arguably the Rays best pitching prospect. Odorizzi could already be in line for 150+ innings and possibly a 3.80ish ERA.
Alexi Ogando 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Alexi Ogando has four years of Major League experience. He started as a reliever, then a starter, then a reliever, and then a starter. And headed into 2014, he has been rumored to fill a role in either capacity. Wherever he’s been slotted, he’s had success, although his health has always been spotty — going on the disabled list three separate times in 2013 with shoulder issues. Because of durability questions, he’s been linked to the bullpen, and there’s even been mention as a possible successor to Joe Nathan, although there will be a good deal of competition for that role. Ogando as a starter should probably get you something south of 4.00 in ERA and something around a 1.25 WHIP to go with an underwhelming strikeout rate around 17%. Pitching for the Rangers should have some advantages in the win department as well. As a reliever, Ogando has flashed a plus-plus fastball and strikeout rates up in the 25% range. Should he nail down a closer role, he’d obviously have a good deal of value, but right now he’s a swingman and you need to monitor his role out of Spring Training. (Michael Barr )
Quick Opinion: It’s hard to pin down the value of Alexi Ogando. He’s been used in the bullpen twice in his career and he’s been used as a starter twice in his career. Headed into 2014, it seems like the club leans towards having him start, but he might be better suited as a reliever given his repertoire and durability. Monitor the situation — he has value as both a starter or closer, but if he’s turned into a seventh inning bridge for Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz, he won’t have much value.
Ross Ohlendorf 
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 8/8/1982 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Ohlendorf hasn’t even been worth spot starting in fantasy leagues since 2010, and he really hasn’t been relevant since 2009. He’s currently locked into a hybrid, spot starter/long reliever role and has almost no chance to have any fantasy relevance. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Ohlendorf had some fantasy relevance in 2009. It’s 2014.
Darren Oliver 
|Debut: 1993 | BirthDate: 10/6/1970 | Position: RP|
Profile: Darren Oliver caught the first pitch of the season from President Dwight Eisenhower at a game in Washington DC. Darren Oliver is now retired. One of these statements is true. It doesn’t really matter which one. (David Temple)
Ramon Ortiz 
|Debut: 1999 | BirthDate: 5/23/1973 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: There’s a video of Ramon Ortiz yelling from 2013. He’s yelling because he just blew out his elbow after throwing a pitch. It’s gross and heartbreaking — don’t watch it. Ramon Ortiz will almost certainly never pitch again. (David Temple)
Roy Oswalt 
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 8/29/1977 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Each of the past two seasons, Oswalt has gamely tried to pitch despite his back problems, and in each season there was a glimmer of hope. In his Rangers debut in 2012, he allowed just one run in 6.2 innings pitched, and notched six strikeouts to boot. In his 2013 debut with the Rockies, he struck out 11 batters in five innings, though he did allow four runs. In both seasons, his fleeting success did not last. That ’13 debut didn’t come until the end of June, and then Oswalt was only able to make four starts before landing on the shelf with a thigh injury. When he returned in September, he allowed seven runs in eight innings across two starts, and was then relegated to the bullpen. Oswalt has always been an efficient pitcher — you either hit the ball or you don’t, but you’re unlikely to earn a free pass — and it showed in 2013. He struck out 21 batters against two walks in his first three starts, which covered 16 innings. Unfortunately, he also allowed 27 hits — nine hits an outing. This lack of walks but cornucopia of hits ends up with him having a great 3.08 FIP, but that assessment of Oswalt is far too kind. Even if Oswalt was able to pitch consistently — which he probably is not capable of doing — it’s unlikely that he would be better than league average at this point. As sleepers go, he’s a horrible bet, and is someone you probably don’t even need to watch on the waiver wire.
Quick Opinion: Once upon a time, Roy Oswalt was one of the best pitchers in baseball. But back problems — problems that surfaced as far back as 2005 — have robbed him of that status, and even if he finds his way to a team and a rotation, his days of consistent success are almost certainly behind him.
Adam Ottavino 
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 11/22/1985 | Team: Rockies | Position: RP|
Profile: Last year began with some promise for Ottavino, and by the end of the season he had delivered on it. For the season, both his 2.64 ERA and 3.15 FIP were second-best among Rockies relievers. The next step in his progression will be performing consistently well in high-leverage situations. At 2013’s outset, he was used in the middle innings, and often pitched for two or three innings at a time. Given his success, he was pushed into more late-game situations in August and September, and he responded well. From August until the end of the season, he tallied nine Shutdowns against just three Meltdowns. One look at his peripherals might raise some red flags. For instance, he tallied far fewer ground balls than he did in 2012, but that wasn’t all bad news. Looking at his batted ball distance at baseballheatmaps.com, we find that Ottavino reduced his fly ball & home run distance from 296.21 ft. in 2012 to 274.46 ft. in 2013. In other words, Ottavino was generating a great deal of weak contact. Combine said week contact with a K rate over 20% and you have yourself a pretty nifty reliever.Ottavino did experience a pretty big drop in velocity from 2012 to 2013, so he’s not a slam dunk, and he’s certainly not first or second, and he’s probably not even third on the Rockies bullpen depth chart. He might even be fifth, depending on a) Chad Bettis and b) if the Rockies sign someone like Jose Veras in free agency. Ottavino should pitch well, but depending on the Rockies’ plans, it may not matter in fantasy baseball.
Quick Opinion: Ottavino made good on the promise he showed during the 2012 season, and should continue to be effective in the Rockies’ bullpen. The question will be what his role is, and whether or not it’s an important enough role for him to obtain fantasy relevance.
Josh Outman 
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/14/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Outman was never much in the starting rotation, thanks to his complete and total inability to retire right-handed hitters. For his career, right-handed hitters have posted a .368 wOBA against Outman, compared to a .237 mark against southpaws. He began the 2013 season in a long relief role that didn’t leverage his skillset, but as the season wore on Rockies manager Walt Weiss began using him more in the LOOGY role, and aside from one disastrous outing (9/24 vs. Boston) in September, he handled the role pretty well. He picked up eight of his career-best 13 holds in the second half, and for the season he was death to lefties. In fact, over the past two seasons, Outman’s 2.50 FIP ranks 26th out of the 327 pitchers who have tossed at least 40 innings against left-handed hitters. And his 2.41 xFIP across the same sample of pitchers ranks 11th-best overall. If Colorado continues to leverage him properly, Outman can be a real weapon in the Rockies bullpen. Whether or not they do is another question, and even if they do he probably won’t rack up enough holds to be relevant in the few fantasy leagues that use holds as a category, but given where Outman was following the 2011 season, even fringy fantasy relevance counts as a major step up.
Quick Opinion: After years of being an ineffective starter, Outman was converted to relief, and he has taken to the LOOGY role with aplomb.
Juan Oviedo 
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/14/1983 | Team: Rays | Position: P|
Profile: What was once a rose by another name has taken his time coming back from arm surgery and may soon be forgotten. But the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez should still have 94 mph gas and a strong change-up, and could at least be useful for holds in that Tampa bullpen. Too bad Grant Balfour and Heath Bell are probably ahead of him on the depth chart, even if he gets healthy. (Eno Sarris )