|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP|
Profile: For a guy that had an ERA under three, a good WHIP and 29 saves last season, Papelbon sure had a lot of things go really wrong. His strikeout rate fell precipitously — his rate of 8.3 strikeouts per nine was more than a strikeout worse than his previous worst, and more than three strikeouts worse than his 2012 number. In percentages, his strikeout rate fell ten percent! His swinging strike rate dropped from 12.2% to 10.6%. That was among the worst 30 drops in baseball. A lot of that had to do with his flagging velocity. He used to be 95+ with the Red Sox, that dropped under 94 in his first year with the Phillies, and then all the way to 92 last season. That last drop was tenth in lost velocity among with pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in both 2012 and 2013. Adding to the concern was that though Papelbon threw his slider the most he’d ever thrown it, the pitch slowed down to curveball-type velocity — and still features slider break. With the splitfinger and the fastball and elite control, Papelbon could be fine, though, there are role models in Boston that he can follow. What would be more worrisome about these numbers is if they are hiding an injury. You can’t treat him like an elite guy anymore, but if your saber-savvy league is too far down on him, remember that Papelbon still has more velocity than Koji Uehara, who throws today’s favorite splitter. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: With dropping velocity and swinging strikes, post-peak 33-year-old Jonathan Papelbon won’t be the same dominant reliever he once was. We knew that. What we don’t know is if the numbers are hiding an injury, or if his team will decide to ship him out because of them. Don’t treat Papelbon like an elite closer any more.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/19/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: With Kevin Gregg no longer in Chicago, there is an opportunity for someone to step into the closer role. Pedro Strop and Jose Veras may be the favorites to take over the role, but Parker should be in the mix as well. In his favor are a solid 46.1 innings last year and some experience closing in the minors. He posted a 2.72 ERA (2.88 SIERA) with a 28.2% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. The rates were much better than the league averages for relievers, which were a 21.7% K% and 8.9% BB%. Unless Parker happens to be named the closer in Spring Training, though, he’s not worth drafting. But he’s definitely a guy to watch when monitoring potential closers in-season. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: With Kevin Gregg gone, someone has a chance to assume the closer role in Chicago. Parker probably isn’t the favorite, but solid stats last year and experience closing in the minors mean he could be in the mix.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/24/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: Love Jarrod Parker’s changeup. Watch it drop off the table. Watch hitters whiff — the pitch is elite by whiff percentage. Look at Parker’s overall swinging strike rate and wonder why he doesn’t get more strikeouts. Then look at every peripheral for the rest of his pitches and discover why. Not one of Parker’s non-changeup pitches gets an average whiff rate or ground-ball rate. Of course, when he’s locating his sinker, he has a 92 mph worm-burner on his side, but that’s not often. Most of the year, you’ll see Parker befuddle hitters sitting on his fastball, and curse hitters waiting on the changeup. The end result of having one great pitch and a few mediocre ones is a statistical line that comes up short, especially if he ever leaves Oakland. Not enough strikeouts, not enough ground balls, and though his walk rate ends the season fine every year, it takes fits and spurts to get there. Appreciate Jarrod Parker’s changeup, consider him for the back of your rotation, but don’t spend on Jarrod Parker like he’s an ace. Aces have multiple elite pitches. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: As good as Jarrod Parker’s changeup is, he’s a pitch short of being an elite pitcher. If he ever leaves Oakland or has a season where he fails to have a great stretch of command, his final numbers will be surprisingly bad. As is, he’s a low-strikeout back-end guy with considerable risk.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/8/1984 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: Before suffering a herniated disk in his neck, Bobby Parnell was in the midst of vindicating his supporters. Parnell converted 22 saves, while blowing only four, and posting a career best home run rate and pacing his best walk rate. While he may have gotten a bit lucky on balls in play and is yet to fully convert his heat into a gaudy strikeout rate, Parnell does have the look of a serviceable, if not dominant, big league closer. The Mets are optimistic that Parnell will progress to be ready for the start of Spring Training, and thus on pace to be healthy and prepared for Opening Day. As long as his recovery remains on schedule, the closer job for the Mets is his to lose. The lack of name recognition, last year’s injury, and being on a mediocre team could add up to a bargain price for a solid closer in 2014. Keep your eye on Parnell, as he may end up going slightly cheaper than comparable assets. (Derek Ambrosino)
Quick Opinion: Parnell took his biggest step yet toward realizing his potential in 2014, but his promising campaign was cut short by injury. He looks to be a solid but unspectacular closer and is slated to return as the Mets closer in 2014. Keep an eye on his rehab progress, but if all goes according to schedule, he should be ready for Spring Training and then Opening Day, and could be a bit of a bargain.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/30/1982 | Team: Reds | Position: RP|
Profile: Manny Parra quietly enjoyed a tremendous 2013 season. His fastball velocity increased from 92.6 mph to 93.4 mph, he struck out a career high 29.8% of the batters he faced, and his 2.79 SIERA illustrates his overall dominance. Unfortunately, he re-signed with the Reds and will be behind perhaps three or four relievers for any shot at the ninth inning. He’s a good source of strikeouts for a reliever and could marginally help ratios, but with only 45-to-50 projected innings, that’s not something worth drafting. (JP Breen)
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 10/5/1983 | Team: White Sox | Position: P|
Profile: If Felipe Paulino has fantasy value this season, it lies with the possibility that he could get back to pitching like he did for the Royals. For many seasons, he just threw the ball. He had many seasons with plenty of strikeouts and walks and a high batting average on balls in play. The BABIP value led to a career ERA (4.93) which was run higher than other ERA estimators (4.09 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, 3.94 SIERA). With the Royals, he had closer to league average BABIPs (.327 in 2011 and .283 in 2012). In 2012, for the first time in his career, his ERA (1.67) was under his FIP (3.25). Then, he was required to have Tommy John surgery and has not yet pitched in the majors. He pitched seven rehab games, but kept coming up with difficulties. Finally, he had shoulder surgery and was shutdown for the rest of the 2013 season. Going into 2013, it will be almost impossible to have an idea of how he will pitch after not pitching in the majors for almost two years. I would keep an eye on his velocity. He has always thrown his average fastball around 95 mph, so use it as an initial baseline for 2014. Additionally, check to see if he can keep the velocity up over the course of the game. The only way I would roster him to start the season is if I am able to stash him on the disabled list until his talent is known. Otherwise wait and see how his first few starts go before buying. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: After not pitching for almost two seasons, Paulino’s production is totally going to be up in the air. Take a wait-and-see approach until rostering him.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 11/6/1988 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: James Paxton, part of the “big three” of Seattle Mariner pitching prospects, figures to have a good shot at making the Seattle Mariner rotation in 2014. Paxton was handed the ball four times in September of 2013, and the M’s brass had to like what they saw. He walked away with three wins, posting a 1.50 ERA (3.26 FIP), 0.92 WHIP, and a 22.3% strikeout rate. Certainly small sample size warnings apply, but the results demonstrate the kind of potential Seattle envisioned when they took the big lefty in the fourth round just three years ago. There’s no doubting that potential — Paxton has a very fluid and easy delivery for a guy who can run a fastball up there at 96 mph. But he’s always been dogged by a lack of control, with a walk rate as high as 12% in 2012 at Double-A. That rate did fall to nine percent in 2013, with his four major league starts showing just a 7.5% walk rate. He is 25, so he ought to have a little more maturity than most rookies and maybe, just maybe, he can manage to harness his stuff to reach his potential, which some say is a number two starter level. He’s definitely an intriguing arm, but there’s no guarantee he even makes the rotation out of camp, depending on other moves the Mariners make to their rotation in the Winter. A surefire keeper candidate, but it’s difficult to project his value for 2014. If he makes the rotation, chances are he’ll have some hiccups, but he should post good strikeout numbers and a 4.00-ish ERA, although his WHIP might hurt you. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: James Paxton is said to have “number two potential” but it’s anyone’s guess if, or when, he reaches it. His brief cup of coffee in 2013 was certainly a success as Paxton looked confident and comfortable on the big stage, posting a 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and good strikeout stuff. He ought to be in line for the number five slot on the rotation, but monitor any additions the Mariners make over the Winter.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 2/2/1988 | Team: Astros | Position: SP|
Profile: The one-time Nationals prospect opened the season with his third different organization in the past three seasons and finally had an extended audition in a major league rotation. Now in Houston, Peacock displayed above-average strikeout ability, but struggled with his control. Unfortunately, a weak swinging strike rate suggests that the respectable strikeout rate may not have been completely for real. Coupled with his inability to throw first-pitch strikes at a respectable clip, his fly ball tendency becomes a serious problem. On the good side of the ledger was his late-season performance, which came after he added a slider. He should open the year as a member of the Astros’ starting staff, and there’s a bit of upside here, but he’s no more than a middling gamble in AL-Only leagues. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Peacock’s first go-around as a major league starting pitcher didn’t go so smoothly, but as a soon-to-be 26-year-old on a rebuilding team, he should get another shot to stick. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by a weak supporting cast in Houston and is probably best left for the end-game of AL-Only drafts and auctions.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 5/31/1981 | Team: Red Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Since winning the NL Cy Young in 2007, Peavy has worked more than 175 innings just one time. Therein lies the risk with him — he has trouble staying healthy. His yearly start totals since that award: 27, 16, 17, 18, 32, and 23. He does not hurt himself with walks, but has been more charitable with home runs since coming over to the American League as his home run rate has been at least 1.1 in three of the last four seasons. His strikeout rate has adjusted from the mid 20’s to right around 20% these days as well. Additionally, his contact rate is increasing as batters are making more contact with him these days than they were before he switched leagues. He has nearly a 30-point split in his weighted on-base average between lefties and righties, preferring to face righties (.279) over lefties (.308). Wins, WHIP, and strikeouts is what Peavy brings you; the ERA upside is tied to his home run per fly ball rates, but he has to stay healthy in order to maximize his value. He has not been able to throw back to back 175+ inning seasons since 2006-2007. In recent seasons, he has spent time on the disabled list with a broken rib, a groin strain, shoulder tendonitis, a torn lat muscle, and an ankle injury — and nothing predicts future DL stints like past ones. Bank on 24 starts and good skills. (Jason Collette)
Quick Opinion: He has not been able to throw back to back 175+ inning seasons since 2006-2007. In recent seasons, he has spent time on the DL with a broken rib, a groin strain, shoulder tendonitis, a torn lat muscle, and an ankle injury. Bank on 24 starts and good skills.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 1/14/1984 | Team: Twins | Position: SP|
Profile: In the traditional sense, Pelfrey didn’t have a great season with the Twins in 2013. He went 5-13, with a 5.19 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, and a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.9. In fact, had Pelfrey thrown enough innings to be qualified — he was 9.1 innings short — he’d have had the fourth-worst ERA- in the major leagues, behind Edinson Volquez, Jeremy Hellickson, and Joe Saunders. His FIP (3.99) and xFIP (4.54) portray a much more flattering picture, but as someone who watched each of his home starts, the nicer numbers just doesn’t feel indicative of how he pitched. Pelfrey had a really nice run in the middle of the season. From June through August, he had a 3.73 ERA and .685 OPS against in an 82 inning span. The September run, however, was much like his early season struggles: Sept: 0-3, 7.45 ERA, .864 OPS against April-May: 3-6, 6.66 ERA, .907 OPS against Now it’s not entirely unreasonable for the Twins to think the guy from the middle of the season could be the Pelfrey they’re getting. It’s worth noting he was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Pelfrey himself said it took a while to get the feel back for his offspeed pitches. That could explain the early season struggles just as easily as fatigue could explain the September swoon. This is a guy who threw 150-plus innings the next year after surgery, and that shouldn’t go unnoticed. But finding a nice stretch also feels a bit like cherry-picking, and Pelfrey’s resume isn’t exactly that of a world-beating starter even in his healthier days, either. Fantasy-wise, he’s hands-off. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: The Twins are leaning on Pelfrey to stabilize the back-end of their big league rotation. For you the fantasy player, that means you should scram.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 3/23/1976 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: With the departure of Fernando Rodney in the offseason, Peralta — who’s locked into a long-term deal with the Rays — could possibly find himself in the closer’s role this season. Manager Joe Maddon tends to prefer Peralta, who has an FIP 14% better than league average over the last three seasons, in a high-leverage fireman role. But Peralta’s seniority, experience and recent success made him the best candidate for the final three outs at some point this offseason. Jake McGee, Heath Bell and Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Núñez) would have merely pushed Peralta for high leverage or save opportunities. But now, with Grant Balfour in town, he’s a little bit further away from saves. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Rays manager Joe Maddon has not committed to any one reliever to be the closer in 2014, but one has to imagine that Peralta, arguably the team’s most consistent reliever and a major component of the clubhouse, could translate his high-leverage success into closing success. He’s probably behind Grant Balfour, though.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/8/1989 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP|
Profile: In a farm system that’s experienced a dearth of homegrown pitching, Wily Peralta has been a mainstay on the Brewers’ top prospect lists for years. His mid-90s sinker can be absolutely devastating for opposing hitters. His transition to the big leagues, though, was rocky when he failed to miss bats and struggled mightily with his control. He was blatantly unownable in the first half, posting a 4.61 ERA with 5.56 strikeouts per nine. Things appeared to turn a corner over the summer. His slider became more effective and his strikeouts bumped up. He compiled a 7.59 K/9 strikeout rate with a 3.99 ERA in the second half, which made him a fringe option. If his improved strikeout rate carries into the 2014 season, he could be an intriguing pick-up in the late rounds. The raw stuff can be tremendous, and he appeared to have a better understanding how to use it in the later months. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: The burly right-hander showed noticeable improvement down the stretch last season, fostering some hope he can be more than a low-strikeout, high-ground-ball pitcher. He’ll turn 25 midseason and has a better track record of strikeouts than his season-ending numbers suggest. He’s a sneaky late-round flyer.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 8/15/1981 | Position: RP|
Profile: Since coming to the Mariners in 2012, Oliver Perez has been dominant against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .288 slugging percentage last season with his sinker-slider combination. Oliver isn’t a disaster against righties, but he’s not good enough to be competing for a closer’s job. Perez is best used as a high-leverage LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) type or middle reliever, and with his walk rate in double digits, he’s not a guy you’re going to roster in 2014. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Oliver Perez has revived his career as reliever, though his struggles against righties and high walk rate should keep him off fantasy rosters.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/4/1991 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: Perez originally signed as a 16-year-old pitcher out of Venezuela way back in 2007 and has been on the prospect landscape forever. He finally established himself as a big league caliber hurler in 2013 with 124.1 innings of solid — but unspectacular — baseball. His fastball sat firmly at 93 mph at the MLB level and he mixed in three other offerings including a slider, curveball and change up. No surprisingly, the young hurler struggled with his fastball command at times but his change up was a nasty offering for him. Perez, 22, will enter 2014 as the Rangers’ fourth or fifth starter, assuming the club doesn’t add another established arm. With his 43.1 minor league innings included, he pitched almost 180 combined innings in 2013 so 200 frames might be attainable in the coming season. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Perez doesn’t produce high strikeout rates because he likes to pitch to contact and induce a lot of ground-ball outs, but he should produce a decent ERA, solid win total and a good number of innings.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/1/1985 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: Chris Perez has been on the closer hot seat for what feels like years and years. Every year, his draft stock would take a hit because he was expected to get supplanted in the ninth. Every year, he would keep the job, accrue a pile of saves, and leave the season with everyone assuming he was again on the hot seat. Well, the seat finally caught fire this year and Perez lost his job in the midst of a pennant race. For those of you tired of riding the Chris Perez roller coaster, I have good news for you: his one-year deal with the Dodgers means you don’t have to pay him any mind this year. Not only do the Dodgers have a lights-out Kenley Jansen holding down the ninth, Perez is likely not even second on the depth chart, as Brian Wilson probably holds that honor. He’s an interesting candidate to keep an eye on for a closer role in 2015, but this year, take a deep breath, leave Perez off your draft board, and enjoy a year in which you don’t have to draft him with a handcuff. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Perez has tortured owners with the potential to lose his closing job for years, and now he has finally done it. Freed of the responsibility of the ninth, he has also been freed of his value in your fantasy league.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 3/2/1983 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: Perkins has only been a closer for two years, but he’s already etching his name among the best stoppers in Twins history. He already has two of the ten best seasons in strikeouts per nine among relievers in club history, and a third season in the top-20. And he does all on the strength of a 95 mph heater and a nasty mid-80s slider. Perkins has shown an advanced grasp of knowing exactly what he’s doing on the mound, and is a devoted student to the statistical side of the game. In 2013, some of the changes he made included throwing fewer sliders (35.5%–> 26.8%), inducing fewer grounders (42.5%–> 36.2%), and scrapping any semblance of a changeup. The results were quite good, as he set a career-high in K/9 (11.1) while allowing fewer home runs per nin than 2012 (1.02–> 0.72) and keeping his walk rate firmly in check (2.2). The strand rate was high, and that combined with the increased number of line drives may be something to monitor a little, but at the end of the day Perkins is still one of the finest closers in the American League. He saved 36 games for a team which only won 66, and both of those numbers should improve in 2014. He’s a guy to target. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Perkins is one of the truly elite closers in the American League, and have much in the way of in-house competition for saves. As long as he stays healthy, he should be a good bet for 35-40 saves in 2014.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 2/20/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2011, Vinnie Pestano was one of the best relievers in baseball. In 2012 he was a trendy pick to take over the closer role when Chris Perez inevitably lost the job. Instead, Pestano took a step back in 2012 (although he was still quite good) before the wheels (and health) fell off in 2013, and he ended up demoted to Triple-A well before Perez got ousted. Pestano lost some heat in 2013 (down almost two ticks from his 2011 breakout) but continued to strike out more than a batter per inning. The real issue was a spike in his walk rate (from 9.6% and 8.4% in ’11 and ’12 to 13.2% last season) and a big jump in his home run per fly ball rate (8.6% to 9.1% to 13.6%), both of which may have been related to the elbow issues that pushed him to the disabled list. Pestano has stated excitement for 2014 based on having a full off-season (the WBC cost him time and may have contributed to the elbow injury). If the elbow is healthy and the control comes back, Pestano could find himself piling up strikeouts and holds for Cleveland again, but he is unlikely to pitch the ninth and there is definitely some risk there, so draft accordingly. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Pestano’s 2013 was a big step back, but there may be valid reasons — an odd, WBC-shortened off-season; a maybe-related elbow issue — which led to a spike in walks and homers. If he can bounce back, expect great numbers and a pile of holds. But buyer beware.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/22/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: SP|
Profile: While many will point to Petit’s strong 2013 campaign and talk about how pitching in AT&T Park and in the pitcher-friendly National League West can make even an average pitcher a worthwhile commodity, he seems more likely to be the real-life example of how the sun shines on dog’s posterior at least once. He finished with a 3.56 ERA and while he had an impressive 2.84 FIP, his 3.48 xFIP seemed more indicative of how he was really pitching. He only made eight starts for the Giants last year and while his first four looked impressive, three of his last four were downright atrocious. He walks a tightrope with an 87 mph fastball, even if his offspeed stuff is good. Still, he’ll get a chance to compete for a rotation spot in 2014 and should he earn one, fantasy owners who aren’t careful are liable to walk away with the pitcher who is more closely represented by the career 5.20 ERA which he possesses. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Petit threw a complete-game shutout in which he allowed just one hit last year! However, his true talent reared its ugly head shortly thereafter. He’ll get the chance to compete for a rotation spot next season, but fantasy owners should take more notice of his career 5.20 ERA than his numbers for 2013.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/19/1990 | Team: Phillies | Position: SP|
Profile: Pettibone was an acceptable innings-eater for the Phillies in 2013 until a shoulder injury ended his season in July. The 23-year-old is a pitch-to-contact, ground ball machine with a career minor-league strikeout rate of just 6.38 per nine innings. Unfortunately, he walked 3.41 batters per nine last year, resulting in a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 1.74, and he allowed 1.47 baserunners per inning. Furthermore, the Phillies’ rotation appears to be pretty much set for 2013, leaving Pettibone on the outside looking in. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: If Pettibone had a spot in Philadelphia’s rotation locked down, he would be worth consideration in NL-only leagues. He doesn’t. And with Jesse Biddle and Adam Morgan, the organization’s top pitching prospects, getting close to major-league ready, I’m not confident saying that Pettibone gets a shot at starting in the majors this year, even if the rotation is plagued by injuries and/or ineffectiveness.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 6/15/1972 | Position: SP|
Profile: Back in September 2013, Pettitte announced that he was retiring for the second time. But, can we really trust him? After all, he did retire once before (after 2010) and is an admitted HGH user. So it is entirely plausible that his word is not final and that the Yankees can talk him out of retirement again, especially if they still need to fill two or three spots in their rotation come spring training. In reality, Pettitte likely is not coming back. He finished 2013 with a complete game effort near his home town and also got to ride off into the sunset with his legendary teammate, Mariano Rivera. At 41 years old, Pettitte was a serviceable starter with minimal fantasy value. Now he can spend his time trying not to “mis-remember” the highlights of his career. (Michael A. Stein)
Quick Opinion: There is no reason to draft Pettitte at all unless: 1) you are in need of someone to testify on your behalf and forget vital facts that could implicate you at trial, or 2) you have a very deep roster and want to stash him just in case he decides he wants to come back in the middle of 2014. Otherwise, we wish him well in his future endeavors.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/9/1986 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: For now, David Phelps is slotted in as the Yankees’ fourth starter, but now that they have Masahiro Tanaka, things have changed a bit. If Michael Pineda can finally get healthy, Phelps will be reduced to spot-start duty. That is probably his ideal fantasy role, as well. As a starter in his career — which is still less over less innings than a full-season starter — Phelps has struck out 7.83 and walked 3.44 batters per nine, good for a 4.15 FIP. His strikeout and walk numbers are similar against right and left-handed batters, but he has allowed nearly twice as many home runs per nine against lefties (1.37 compared to 0.72). That will make him especially difficult to use in his home starts. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Phelps’ role remains up in the air as the Yankees’ rotation gets more crowded. Even if Phelps becomes a rotation mainstay, his pedestrian strikeout and walk numbers and home park make him a spot starter in all but the deepest leagues.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/18/1989 | Team: Yankees | Position: P|
Profile: Ignore the fact that Michael Pineda had surgery on his shoulder and that shoulders are career-killers. Think back to 2011 and remember that the dude had velocity (94+ mph on the fastball), a killer slider that garnered whiffs by the buckets (24.9% strikeouts, 11.8% swinging strikes), and great command (7.9% walks, 64.5% first strikes). That’s what people will dream on when they pick him in 2014, and that’s what makes him interesting. But — and we’re still ignoring the shoulder problems and pretending that he can be as good as Anibal Sanchez, the other Success Story for SLAP surgery — there’s one asterisk still waiting. Pineda’s changeup is no good. That’s why his strikeout rate dropped 10% against lefties, and that’s why there’s still reason to doubt him. In the best-case scenario, Pineda’s 88 mph change is a hard change that gets more grounders, his velocity and command return, and his arsenal is enough to give him an ERA in the mid-to-high threes to go with a good WHIP and decent wins total. In the worst-case scenario, Pineda struggles to stay healthy, or never develops a grounder-inducing change and can’t get lefties out going forward. Justin Masterson has made that work some years, but it’s not a recipe for continued success. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Even if you ignore the fact that Pineda is coming off of shoulder surgery, there are questions. if the price is cheap — and we’re talking a dollar or the very last rounds of a deeper draft — it doesn’t matter and the upside is worth it. But if people get frisky, remember the questions.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/22/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: In 2013, the slow-curve tossing Pomeranz continued his pattern of minor league success and major league struggles. His minor league 26.2% strikeout rate and 9.0% walk rate melted into a 18.1% strikeout rate and 18.1% walk rate through his eight appearances in the majors. His pitch repertoire feels a bit like the trick pitcher who can abuse aggressive minor league hitters, but struggle to fool MLB hitters. As such, there’s a chance he may only find success in the bullpen, so it’s not too surprising that half his games were out of the bullpen when he reached the 25-man roster last year. Can Pomeranz still be a successful starting pitcher in the majors? Maybe. But if you can get him with the price and expectation worthy of a LOOGY or middle reliever, he’s not a bad option. Especially now that he calls Oakland home instead of Denver. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Pomeranz may develop into a middle reliever or LOOGY, but he’s still only 25. There’s a chance he can be a successful starter yet, but don’t pay for him like you think he can; pay like you think he can’t.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Ground ball specialist Rick Porcello was reportedly on the trade market this offseason but received a stay of execution when the Tigers instead dealt Doug Fister. So Porcello remains in Detroit, a situation that now looks more favorable for him with what should be an improved infield defense (thanks, full season of Jose Iglesias and removal of Miguel Cabrera from the hot corner). In 2013, Porcello continued to make improvements at the margin, lowering his ERA, FIP and xFIP for the third straight year, an impressive feat. His peripherals continue to suggest he should be better (4.32 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.19 xFIP), and now that he’s found his way to a higher strikeout rate without a resultant increase in walks, there’s reason for optimism. And it’s the heavier reliance on his slider and a new curve at the expense of his sinker to thank for the whiff increase, as well as an improvement in his strikeout-walk gap with runners aboard and a mellowing of his platoon split. Four years of underperforming his estimators can be cause for concern, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest a top-50 starting pitcher performance in 2014. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Ground ball specialist Rick Porcello will be pitching in front of an improved infield defense in 2014, reason for optimism on its own. But he’s also made strides when it comes to missing bats and pitching from the stretch, together making him a top-50 starting pitcher candidate.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 8/26/1985 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Despite missing six weeks with a scary sounding triceps injury, Price enjoyed another strong year, though he took a slightly different path this time around. His strikeout rate fell to its lowest mark since his rookie 2009 campaign, but he displayed the best control of his career to make up for those missing punchouts. But relying on pinpoint control rather than swing and miss stuff is riskier and his fastball velocity dropped two miles per hour from 2012. Price has been the subject of heavy trade rumors and given the various red flags in his profile, it would stand to reason that the Rays know exactly what they are doing. If he is indeed sent packing, his new team will obviously play a role in his fantasy value, but either way, he might be someone to shy away from assuming you would have to pay ace prices to secure him on your roster. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Over the past four seasons, Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. But an ominous sounding triceps injury during the season, plus a decrease in velocity, strikeout rate and swinging strike rate, suggest that fantasy owners should do as the Rays are doing — stay away from him in 2014 unless he comes at a discount.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/23/1989 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: There’s really no way to sugar coat “torn back muscle,” and that’s exactly what shut down Stephen Pryor in April of 2013. The big, hard throwing righty shot through the Mariners farm system with a fastball able to clock triple digits, and after a mixed-result 2012, Pryor was thought to be at least in line for a closer opportunity should anything derail Tom Wilhelmsen. But his injury shelved him early and there’s some question about whether he will be able to break camp with the Mariners this spring. There are enough question marks in the Mariner bullpen that Pryor could fall into some save chances, and potentially many holds. But if you’re considering him at all, be sure to monitor his health. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Stephen Pryor has a big-time fastball combined with a big problem of getting it over the plate. If he can return healthy in 2014 and harness his stuff, he could be a source of cheap saves with plus strikeouts.
|Debut: 2003 | BirthDate: 2/22/1977 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: After returning from the disabled list in late June, Putz was unable to take the closer role back from Brad Ziegler. And he won’t reclaim the role in 2014 because Arizona acquired Addison Reed in the offseason. But if Reed were to get hurt, Putz is the obvious candidate to take over. Putz’s ERA has been under three in each of the least four years (200.2 innings), and he has always had a well above average strikeout rate. If there’s one concern it’s that Putz’s usual above average walk rate went in the tank last year. His walk rate had been down around 5% in the previous two seasons, but it spiked up to 12.1% last year because batters just stopped swinging as much. His swing percentage fell 6.7%, and it fell more outside the zone than in. That’s a problem you’d like to see rectified. But it’s not so much of a concern to make you think Putz couldn’t hold down the closer role if he got it back. Especially since injury probably played some role in those outcomes. Putz should be a good source of holds as he’ll likely be the eighth inning guy for Arizona. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Putz’s walk rate rose sharply last year, but his other skills remained intact, so he should be able to hold down the eighth inning role in front Addison Reed. He’ll be a good source of holds and could possibly be the guy who gets the first shot at saves if Reed gets hurt.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 8/17/1978 | Team: Astros | Position: RP|
Profile: Chad Qualls has been mock-worthy for a while. It’s true. But there was a bad knee injury, suffered in 2009, that altered his mechanics and may have led to some of those terrible, terrible years. Last year, he went back to his early-career mechanics and let the ball fly. The result was more velocity on both his sinker and slider, as well as a return to the elite ground-ball and walk rates of his early career. Can he close for the Astros without a pitch he can use against lefties? That might depend on the health of Jesse Crain’s shoulder. Because if Jesse Crain isn’t healthy, the Astros will probably take 2/3 of a closer over no closer. And that’s what they had last year once Jose Veras left town. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Qualls’ career splits are non-existent, but Qualls has the arsenal of a ROOGY. It won’t matter to the Astros if Jesse Crain isn’t healthy to start the year — there’s nobody else that can really close for them other than the veteran.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/24/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Don Cooper’s latest reclamation project is starting to look like a huge success. Quintana has gone from nearly out of baseball to a legitimate middle-of-the-rotation starter in just two seasons. His fastball velocity increased to 91.2 mph last season, which helped him post a solid 19.7% strikeout rate. He also slightly cut his walk rate, though he could still improve in that area. Despite his gains, Quintana lacks the upside needed to be a must-have fantasy pitcher — his curve is his only pitch with above-average pitch peripherals, and those are only slightly better than league norms. He’s useful, particularly in the mid-to-late rounds, but expecting another big step forward would be foolish. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Quintana took a big step forward last season. The 25-year-old lacks the upside of an elite fantasy pitcher, but should have plenty of value in the mid-to-late rounds.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/2/1990 | Team: Mariners | Position: SP|
Profile: It’s kind of hard to believe that Erasmo Ramirez’s season didn’t get off the ground until mid-season because of Jeremy Bonderman and Aaron Harang, but that’s pretty much what happened in 2013. Starting the season on the disabled list, and then languishing in Triple-A until the roof caved in, Ramirez finally got his shot in the rotation in July, and the results weren’t quite what some of the craftier starting pitching mavens were hoping for out of the 23-year-old. Ramirez was inconsistent, struggling with his control where that was once one of his signature strengths. He induced fewer swings outside the strike zone in 2013 and when batters swung, they made 11% more contact than the year prior. His swinging strike rate was a far more human 8.8% vs. 11.3% the year prior and in general he appeared to be a pretty average pitcher. His role in 2014 is still yet undefined. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: An injury, a lost tick on the fastball, and suddenly Erasmo Ramirez looked a lot more human in 2013. Right now, he’s probably a factor in the Seattle rotation, but his odds of being a factor in your fantasy rotation obviously got a lot longer.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/22/1984 | Team: Rays | Position: RP|
Profile: Ramos stayed on the Rays 2013 roster on the merit of his contract status (being out of option years), but he went ahead and posted a decent rates in a long-relief / LOOGY role. Ramos should stick on the roster again in 2014, but his fantasy value will again be next to nil. He collects innings, but his strikeout rate, holds and saves numbers do nothing to help a fantasy team. Entering his age-30 season, Ramos is a long shot to make rapid strides in his career, but in the world of relievers, you can never know. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Ramos has a long-man / LOOGY role in the Rays bullpen, but his numbers simply aren’t good enough to help a fantasy team.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 9/20/1986 | Team: Marlins | Position: RP|
Profile: A.J. Ramos was a relief horse for the Marlins in 2013. He appeared in 68 games and pitched 80 innings. He was not a mere mop-up man, either, as he got into some high-leverage appearances and finished the year with a 3.15 ERA. Whether he can or will repeat his iron man performance in 2014 is questionable, though. Ramos is a pretty typical right-handed reliever, relying mostly on his fastball and slider, with a change he throws to lefties and the occasional curve. He is not useless against lefties, but he is clearly better versus righties. His control is poor, but his strikeout rate is good — again, pretty typical for a hard-throwing reliever. Ramos was pretty lucky on batted balls in 2014, and will probably see both a higher batting average on balls in play and home run rate. An ERA in the mid-threes is the most likely outcome. In the end, middle relievers, even good ones like Ramos, just are not that valuable even in deep (in his case NL-only) leagues, unless he looks like he will be in line for some save chances or your league counts holds. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Ramos had an impressive, 80-inning performance in 2013, but despite that, he is a pretty typical right-handed reliever without much value outside of deep NL-only leagues unless he looks like he will get some save chances.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 9/27/1978 | Position: RP|
Profile: Jon Rauch once again led the league in neck tattoos and menacing stares in 2013 but he didn’t manage to do much else, pitching 16.2 innings with a 7.56 ERA in Miami before getting designated for assignment. He then signed with Baltimore, threw 9.1 innings at Triple-A and opted out of his minor league deal. At 6-foot-11 and with a high release point, Rauch basically has no chance of avoiding home runs over the long run, and now that he’s struggled even when the ball isn’t leaving the park, it’s tough to make a case for signing him. There have been almost no rumors involving the 35-year-old’s name, so his career could be coming to a close after 11 seasons, eight teams and 595 innings. Nobody can take away that 21-save 2010, though. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Neck tattoos and crazy stares, that’s what Jon Rauch does. Unfortunately, we didn’t list “getting batters out” there.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/17/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP|
Profile: Todd Redmond, originally drafted in the 40th round by the Royals in 2003, was bordering on “minor league journeyman” status when the Blue Jays’ rotation fell apart in 2013, and he was surprisingly effective over 14 starts for Toronto. He only averaged about five innings a start and had a pronounced fly ball tendency leading to a high number of home runs, but his control was acceptable (if not great) and he had a very good strikeout rate. It still was just 14 (mostly short) starts, but a 4.41 ERA as a starter was still a nice surprise from a preseason afterthought. While Redmond proved he could be useful, at this point he is pretty far down the Jays’ depth chart. As of this writing, he would not open the season in the rotation. He might make the roster as a long reliever, but that usually doesn’t mean much in fantasy. Redmond looks like a major leaguer, but he is not the kind of pitcher worth drafting in fantasy ball, as he (or someone like him) could probably be picked up off of waivers to fill a hole on a roster. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Redmond was surprisingly effective as a starter for Toronto in 2013, but given his position on the Jays’ depth chart, he is not worth worrying about unless the rotation suffers two or three injuries in Spring Training.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/27/1988 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: RP|
Profile: Reed turned in a strong season as the White Sox closer, which led to the team dealing him to Arizona during the offseason. While Reed’s 3.79 ERA was higher than what you might expect from most closers, his 3.17 FIP indicates there’s some more upside here. While Arizona is not kind to pitchers, it helps that Reed has succeeded in a bandbox in Chicago. He shouldn’t be viewed as the type of pitcher who will take a big step forward now that he’s with a better team, but more of the same seems likely. Even with a drop in his fastball velocity, he has the pitches (and the control) to do well in the desert. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Reed turned in a solid season in Chicago. A move to Arizona won’t hurt too much, given both parks play favorable to offense. Reed should be fine.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/21/1981 | Team: Mets | Position: RP|
Profile: At one point last year, the Mets used Scott Rice in seven out of nine consecutive days. He had a 2.48 FIP against lefties, so he was useful to the real-life team. Considering that all that use lead to a Sports Hernia and only 17 holds… there will be more useful relievers available in your league, I promise. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 9/12/1983 | Position: SP|
Profile: Southpaw Clayton Richard remains a free agent after being outrighted by the Padres at the conclusion of ‘13. Richard showed career lows in ERA (7.01), strikeout rate (10%) and swinging strike rate (5%) before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery to prevent future issues with an AC joint. He is only now turning 31, meaning if he’s able to bounce back from this injury and find himself a team, he could turn out to be a servicable starter. Fantasy owners should look elsewhere for a late-round flier. (Alan Harrison)
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/27/1988 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Garrett Richards has been a bit of an enigma so far. He’s one of the hardest throwers in the majors, with a four-seamer that averages 94.8 mph, which ranked behind only Harvey (95.4) and Strasburg (95.2) amongst pitchers with 140+ innings pitched in 2013. His curveball is filthy, and, if PITCHf/x is to be trusted, has the biggest drop in the majors by a wide margin (a 13.5″ drop, followed by Darvish at 10.9″). Despite all that, his strikeout rate is far below average, at 15.7%, and his zone contact rate is among the worst in the majors. Something doesn’t add up. It would seem that unless he’s tipping pitches or locating horribly, he’s just having a string of very bad luck. It can’t all be the lack of a good changeup. Or maybe it’s a combination of the above. So, while starter projections rank him in the 120-140 range, his upside is massive due to his elite stuff. (Steve Staude)
Quick Opinion: Elite stuff and a mediocre track record combine to make Richards a major sleeper pick. Again.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 6/5/1988 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: When Rienzo made his White Sox debut, he became the first Brazilian pitcher to play in the major leagues. His countryman Yan Gomes became the first Brazilian position player when he came up in 2012 with Toronto. MLB can only hope this is the start of a new wave of talent from South America’s most populous nation. Rienzo isn’t a marketing gimmick, though. He’s a legitimate talent. He was a middle of the road prospect arm who started 2012 with a drug suspension — which he claimed was triggered by over the counter supplements. Upon his return from suspension, he showed improved stuff and got improved results. From there his star continued to rise. His major league results in a ten-game sample were fairly disappointing, but this is a solid major league arm. The stuff isn’t electric, though. His best pitch is his cutter, which is a strong offering. His fastball is fairly straight and too hittable and the rest of his secondaries are very vanilla. Rienzo can help the rebuilding White Sox rotation at some point soon and provide some fantasy value. In the end, his best fit is probably pitching the seventh inning. His stuff would play better out of the pen in short bursts. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: Rienzo provides a rotation option in the near future for the rebuilding White Sox, but long term his stuff would play best out of the bullpen in a set up or middle relief role.
|Debut: 1995 | BirthDate: 11/29/1969 | Position: RP|
Profile: Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever that ever played the game. I can see why you’d want him on your team. You can’t though. He don’t play no more, as my illiterate uncle would say. He could come out of retirement, but that would make that whole final-season hurrah seem disingenuous. (David Temple)
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/5/1986 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: One of baseball’s more pleasant surprises in 2013, Tanner Roark carried some fantasy owners down the stretch, posting a 1.74 ERA and 3-1 record in five September starts. Combining Roark’s work in the rotation and out of the pen resulted in a 3.34 SIERA during his rookie year. Command is where he made his money, only walking 5% of the batters he faced. This isn’t a new occurrence, either. He hasn’t posted a double-digit walk rate since 2008 when he was in rookie ball with the Rangers. Unfortunately for his fantasy upside, he doesn’t strike out too many guys either. He has decent velocity, sitting in the low 90’s but he throws a heavy fastball to contact rather than blowing guys away. He has a good shot at putting up 50%+ ground-ball numbers, though, which helps keep the ball in the park and minimizes extra base hits against. Even if we assume he has the potential to be a solid WHIP contributor for your fantasy team, his real value hinges on whether or not he wins a spot in the Nationals rotation. Headed into spring training, he’s probably the favorite for the final open spot, but with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister already locking up starting gigs, Roark will have to fend off all comers if he wants to stay out of the bullpen. Should he start, he’s a nice gamble in the late rounds — his strikeouts (or lack thereof) cap his ceiling, but he could be a nice back-of-the-rotation starter in deeper mixed leagues. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Roark burst onto the scene in 2013 with a 1.53 ERA after a mid-season callup by Washington. A groundballer who is stingy with the walks but doesn’t blow hitters away, his value hinges on whether or not he can lock down a rotation spot on a crowded Nationals pitching staff.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 4/9/1985 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: David Robertson has the unenviable task of succeeding a legend, and while we may never see another closer as productive and consistent as Mariano Rivera, Robertson has everything you want in a closer. Since 2012, Robertson has struck out 11.2 batters per nine, the 14th-highest rate among qualified relievers. Meanwhile, he has walked just 2.6 batters per nine. Those numbers are comparable to the likes of Trevor Rosenthal and Glen Perkins. Perhaps most importantly, the right-handed Robertson has better numbers versus left-handed hitters than right-handed ones over that span. A few blown saves as a fill-in for Rivera will likely depress his value, which is fair since the Yankees do not seem fully committed to Robertson despite his dominance. His is a volatile position, but Robertson is the perfect target for fantasy players who want to wait for a closer. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Name recognition is maybe the only thing that David Robertson doesn’t have. His elite strikeout rate, low walk rate, and lack of a platoon split make him the perfect candidate to inherit the closer job from Mariano Rivera and not skip a beat.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 3/18/1977 | Team: Mariners | Position: RP|
Profile: Fernando Rodney is the latest reliever to receive Jim Hickey and the Rays’ reliever magic. But he became a free agent in an offseason drenched with high-leverage relievers. And — despite the fact Rodney is now the record holder for single-season relief ERA — it appears more and more likely that Rodney’s absurd 5.3% walk rate in 2012 was not sustainable. He still managed an impressive to beat the league’s ERA and FIP by 11% and 25% respectively, but he might need to re-prove his control before teams offer him save opportunities again. In most any other offseason, Rodney might have signed with a contender and been granted the closing role out of a mix of courtesy and desperation. But in 2014, he’ll have to prove — to managers and fantasty owners — that he’s worth the risk. We wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the 37-year-old Rodney slung a good 70 innings of near-three ERA ball — but don’t bank on the saves. That’s still very much in the air. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Rodney revitalized his career with a two-year stint in Tampa Bay, but not the ERA-record-holding reliever will need to likely earn his way up the bullpen ladder again in 2014. He’s still got an elite fastball and change up, and as long as he’s throwing those for strikes, he can give any fantasy team relief innings, strikeouts, and probably a solid ERA.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 1/7/1982 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: Francisco Rodriguez continued to move around the big leagues in 2013, eventually finding his fourth team since 2008. Oddly, he had to open the season on a minor league deal with the Brewers, even after posting a 3.33 xFIP from 2010-2012. After shaking off rust in the minors, Rodriguez was summoned to Milwaukee and eventually replaced the injured Jim Henderson in the ninth inning. He notched 10 saves before being sent to Baltimore who used him a setup role during the stretch run. He finished the season with a 28% strikeout rate, his highest mark since 2010. After a somewhat down 2012, his SIERA and xFIP both rebounded to marks better than his career average. At 31, his fastball appears to have settled in the low-90’s, showing no signs of imminent decline. He did mix in a few more changeups than usual (up to 25% from around 18-20% the last half decade). The fact that he got whiffs on a quarter of those changeups helped push his swinging strike rate back into double digits. How much fantasy value K-Rod possesses in 2014 depends on who he ends up with. While not uber-elite anymore, he has the ability to put up 70+ innings of near-3.00 ERA performance, highly valuable to some of the bullpens in the league. If he lands with a bullpen where he’s the clear-cut closer, or a bullpen with weak late-inning options, he’s worth a speculative pick late in drafts. Should he sign with a team with a bonafide ninth inning man, he’s still a handcuff option, but less enticing as a standalone draft prospect. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Francisco Rodriguez turned a minor league deal into another solid season, splitting time between Milwaukee’s and Baltimore’s bullpen. Now a free agent again, K-Rod hopes to take his improved changeup to a team that needs a late-inning reliever, but his fantasy value hinges on whether or not he has a path to saves.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 1/18/1979 | Team: Pirates | Position: SP|
Profile: Since 2008, the Magic Wandy has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, posting ERAs between 3.49 and 3.76 in five of six seasons. Though he finished with an ERA in the mid-3.00 range yet again this year, he was limited to just 62.2 innings due to left forearm soreness. The injury is oftentimes a precursor to Tommy John surgery, but that’s not currently being discussed. He’ll be going the rest and rehab route, which makes him a risky choice in fantasy drafts. Aside from the injury concern, his swinging strike rate has been in freefall, declining every season since 2009, so there are performance questions as well. He appears to be merely a reserve round gamble in mixed leagues at this point. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Though Rodriguez was his typical solid self when actually on the field, the left elbow soreness that knocked him out for the majority of the season remains a major concern. Heading into his age-35 season and with a declining whiff rate, he’s become a risky choice.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 4/16/1991 | Team: Dodgers | Position: RP|
Profile: For five months, Paco Rodriguez was one of the better lefty relievers in the National League, putting up a 1.88 ERA and 56/13 strikeout to walk ratio through the end of August, and doing his best to shatter the “LOOGY” profile by effectively shutting down righties, too. But then September came, and Rodriguez fell apart, allowing three homers in 6.1 innings, plus another in the NLDS, and was actually left off the NLCS roster. Rodriguez claimed he wasn’t injured or fatigued, and the Dodgers badly hope so — 22-year-old lefties with 10.44 strikeouts per nine don’t exactly grow on trees. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Paco Rodriguez needs to overcome the tough end to his 2013, but even if he does, he has little shot at saves in Los Angeles behind Kenley Jansen & Brian Wilson, though he could rack up plenty of holds.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 2/25/1987 | Position: RP|
Profile: Henry Rodriguez’s profile is marked by two striking realities: his fastball that flirts with triple digits and averages 97 miles per hour, and the fact that he has very little idea where it’s headed when it leaves his hand. He continues to garner attention as a potential bullpen star on account of that heater, but he’s always yielded far too many walks to be even a passable major league arm. He was designated for assignment twice last season, and may be running out of chances to sharpen his control enough to deliver on the promise attached to his rocket arm. Spring training reports will mean everything for the righty. If his control improves, he can ride his fastball into a late inning relief role. If it does not, he can continue riding buses in the minors. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: Probably a pass on all fantasy draft days, Henry Rodriguez can still hit triple digits, which will always make him a name to track. Just in case he finally figures out where it’s going.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/14/1985 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Rogers was once a pitching prospect for Colorado, but control problems led to him be sent first to the bullpen, then to Cleveland. In Cleveland he pitched well out of the pen during 2012, but was traded after the season to Toronto for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. Given that Gomes turned out to be a pretty good catcher, it was not a great trade for Toronto, especially when Rogers was not exactly dominating as a reliever. With the 2013 season going down the tubes, the Jays decided to try give Rogers another chance as a starter. Rogers did not exactly embarrass himself; his 4.89 ERA as a starter was lousy, but a 3.78 xFIP seemed promising. Rogers currently might be just on the outside looking in for the 2014 rotation, but given the past injuries and non-awesomeness of some of the pitchers ahead of him, it is not hard to see him getting a chance. Despite the seemingly good stuff and decent flashes in 2013, there is not much there for him as a starter. He does not really have the secondary pitches to keep lefties off balance, which is probably why he was sent to ‘pen earlier. As a starter, he might have marginal value in very deep AL-only leagues if he ends up in the Jays’ rotation. He would be better as a reliever, but the Jays’ pen is so deep at the moment he would not have much value there, either. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Rogers’ peripherals as a starter in 2013 suggest that he might be decent in that role, but he probably is not good enough against southpaws to be truly effective. There is some potential there, but even in deep AL-only leagues, Rogers’ value as either a starter (should he end up in the Jays’ rotation) or reliever is limited to being an endgame pick with a bit of upside.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/24/1991 | Team: Rays | Position: SP|
Profile: Romero spent the majority of the 2013 season at the Double-A level, where shaky control marred his otherwise impressive performance. His well-regarded stuff does not generate many strikeouts, but can produce good amounts of weak contact. In his major league debut, a 4.2 inning start resulting from an injury-ravaged Rays rotation, he walked four and struck out no one. Romero will need to considerably improve his +12% walk rate if he hopes to earn a way into a crowded Rays rotation, and even then, he’ll need to develop his secondary pitches. He is a bit of a project, and while he could land more playing time in 2014, don’t expect much from the 23-year-old lefty just yet. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Romero might be a worthy minor league keeper in some dynasty leagues, but he is still at least another year away from offering fantasy teams positive value. For now, keep an eye on his control. If his strikeout rate goes back up and his walk rate continues to go down, he could make for a quality young arm.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 11/6/1984 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Ricky Romero was never going to look like a great pick given that the Jays picked him immediately ahead of Troy Tulowitzki in the 2005 draft, but he at least made up for some of it by making the majors in 2009, and pitching very well in 2010 and 2011, earning himself a five-year extension along the way. Romero had never had good control, but he struck out an above-average number of batters and kept the ball on the ground enough to make up for it. However, things fell apart in 2012. It was not just balls-in-play regression: his strikeouts dropped and his control went from “mediocre at best” to “where is that strike zone again?” It was so bad that Romero spent almost all of 2013 in the minors. As bad as his 2012 major league performance was, his 2013 performance in Triple-A (5.78 ERA) was even more discouraging. What ever “it” is, Romero seems to have lost it. Contract or not, Romero does not seem to have a place on the Blue Jays in 2014. It would make a great story if Romero could turn it around, but hoping for a great story does not win fantasy leagues. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: There have been stranger happenings than a potential Ricky Romero turnaround, but that is not enough for you to bother with him in your fantasy leagues outside of maybe talking up a turnaround in order to trick someone else into wasting a pick on him.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 3/4/1983 | Team: Giants | Position: RP|
Profile: In his first full season as the Giants closer, Romo came through in a big way for his fantasy owners as he racked up 38 saves with a 2.54 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, all of which ranked in the top five amongst National League closers. His ERA actually climbed from up 1.79 in 2012, but that is probably due to the decline in strikeouts which subsequently brought his strand rate back to Earth, going from a virtually unsustainable 90.7% to a more realistic 78.0%. He doesn’t possess a lights-out fastball by any means, clocking in at just 87.7 mph, but his command is outstanding and his slider is one of the best in the league. The only asterisk is his changeup — when it’s going well, he has a weapon against lefties. When it’s not there for him, he has to rely on guts, guile and command. He’ll enter 2014 as the team’s unquestioned closer and should be amongst the first five or six off the board in most drafts. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Romo produced like a champ for his fantasy owners in 2013, finishing in the top five amongst NL closers in saves (38), ERA (2.54), and WHIP (1.08). A drop in strikeouts shouldn’t be much of a concern as his command is still outstanding and his slider remains one of the toughest out-pitches in baseball. He’ll enter 2014 with the job in-hand and shouldn’t have too much trouble maintaining possession of the role all year.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 12/9/1990 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Rondon appeared to be the final piece missing from Detroit’s roster. He entered Spring Training as the favorite for saves, but inconsistency saw him quickly on his way back to Triple-A Toledo. He slimmed down some over the summer and regained his form, but Joaquin Benoit nailed down the ninth inning by then. The Tigers signed Joe Nathan this winter to be their closer, and that’s more bad news for Rondon’s near future. Yet Nathan is 39 years old while Rondon is still only 23. Nathan’s age, injury history and the fact he’s signed to only a two-year deal (with an option) makes the immensely talented Rondon one of the best set up arms to own in any format. (Al Skorupa)
Quick Opinion: The addition of Joe Nathan hurts Rondon’s value for 2014 and 2015. Nathan’s age and injury history, along with Rondon’s immense talent, make the set up man one of the best non-closing relievers to own.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 2/26/1988 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: It doesn’t jump off the page, but the most encouraging aspect of Rondon’s 2013 season is this simple fact: he threw 54.2 innings. That figure is higher than Rondon’s previous four seasons combined, a sad reality stemming from multiple elbow injuries, including Tommy John surgery and a fracture. The Cubs selected Rondon from the Indians in last year’s Rule Draft, and were able to keep him on the big club all season. He enters 2014 with a rare clean bill of health, and has all the stuff to be a back end bullpen presence. Whether his elbow can handle that is another story, but after passing that test in 2013, Rondon’s career outlook is brighter than it has been in years. Even with Jose Veras and Pedro Strop in the mix to close for the Cubs, Rondon is an arm to keep an eye on. (Jack Weiland)
Quick Opinion: Rondon was healthy for the first time in years last season, and although the Cubs have plenty of other late inning relief options, he’s a player with an outside shot for saves in 2014.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 5/29/1990 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: There were few pitchers in baseball last season who were better than Rosenthal on a rate basis. Among pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched, his 72 ERA- was 26th-best in baseball, his 52 FIP- was third-best in baseball and his 62 xFIP- fourth-best. In other words, there wasn’t a whole going for opposing hitters once Rosenthal enters the game. Here’s the wrinkle though — Rosenthal still wants to start. He was a starting pitcher until he reached the majors in 2012, and he really hasn’t done anything to say that he won’t be successful as a starter. If he did make the switch back to starting, he probably wouldn’t strike out 34 percent of opposing batters the way he did last year, but it’s likely that his percentages would still be high. That’s a maybe scenario fraught with potholes, as the team already has seven capable starting pitchers. More likely, he’s going to remain in the back end of the bullpen. He is slated to begin the season as the closer, though if he falters early the job could go back to Motte. Still, consider Motte a tourist to the closer’s role for now — it’s Rosenthal’s gig. In 2014, Rosenthal will either be closer for one of the better teams in baseball, or he’ll be a starting pitcher with a lot of promise. It figures to be a fun ride either way for Rosenthal owners.
Quick Opinion: In his first full season in the majors, Rosenthal made good on the promise he showed down the stretch in 2012. In short, he was downright filthy. By season’s end, he had taken the closer’s mantle, and that is likely where he will remain in 2014, unless he worms his way back into the starting rotation. Either way, he should be a valuable member of your fantasy squad.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/24/1989 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Robbie Ross is a solid little reliever for the Texas Rangers, who pitched to a 3.03 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, with a 22% strikeout rate. He features a heavy sinker, and produces his share of contact, and due to a 28% line drive rate, his WHIP remained rather elevated. A lefty without a LOOGY role, Ross is used against right-handed and left-handed batters alike, and his results going forward should probably look fairly similar to 2013. His value in fantasy circles is virtually nil as the Ranger bullpen is stacked with closer and setup candidates. Look elsewhere for holds. If the Rangers go with Ross as a starter with Derek Holland out, he might be interesting, but even then only for half a season. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Robbie Ross is just 24 and already has two years of Major League experience. He features a decent fastball with a plus sinker, although he doesn’t miss a tremendous number of bats. Although he’s capable of posting an attractive ERA, he’s not slated to set-up nor close, so this lefty is probably best fit for your local waiver wire.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 4/22/1987 | Team: Padres | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After three unspectacular seasons moving in and out of the A’s rotation and back and forth between Oakland and Triple-A Sacramento, Ross was traded to the Padres just before the 2013 season and quickly earned a rotation spot right out of spring training. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury landed him on the disabled list just three starts in. Upon his eventual return, he pitched and struggled out of the bullpen and was ultimately sent to Triple-A to correct his problems. When a rotation spot opened in July, Ross came back strong and over 13 starts, posted a 2.93 ERA and 85:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 80 innings. His velocity spiked, his command improved, and it suddenly didn’t matter that he didn’t have a changeup. He walks into 2014 with a rotation spot supposedly in-hand and should slot as the Padres third or fourth starter. Offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder shouldn’t have much of an affect on him, so consider him an interesting late-round flier. Should he pitch similarly to his final 13 starts, he’ll be an incredible value at a very low cost. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Freed from the bonds of the deep pool of Oakland pitchers, Ross found a home in the San Diego rotation in 2013 and though the first half of the season was ruined by a shoulder injury and inconsistent performance, he managed to post an impressive second half. He’s got a rotation spot locked in for the 2014 season and he’ll be ready for spring training and worthy of a late-round selection.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 9/8/1988 | Position: RP|
Profile: Chance Ruffin was one of the pieces in the Doug Fister trade for the Seattle Mariners and his career path is kind of indicative of how the Fister trade worked out in general for the M’s. Ruffin spent all of 2012 in Triple-A and pitched to a 7.00 ERA and a 11% walk rate. Plan B for Ruffin was to see how he might translate that unpleasantness to a starting role, where he made 16 Double-A starts and was generally underwhelming, with only a 16% strikeout rate, and a 4.63 FIP. That plan scrapped, he was moved back to the bullpen in Triple-A where he had better success with a 3.74 FIP and 20% strikeout rate. So coveted was Ruffin that he cleared waivers after being designated for assignment and he’ll likely continue to season in Tacoma. Meanwhile, Doug Fister is awesome. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: If Chance Ruffin is on your fantasy roster, then you play in a wicked format where points are assigned liberally in reward of minor league mediocrity.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 10/22/1986 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: Yeah, Rusin’s a lefty with multiple pitches and an above-average ground-ball rate who kept his ERA under four last year. Doesn’t mean he’s worth your time in fantasy. His fastball doesn’t crack 90 mph, and against right-handers, only the change-up has above-average whiffs. The stuff is very fringy against opposite-handed hitters, and his spot in the rotation is one that the Cubs will be looking to upgrade all year. That upgrade could come in the form of Jake Arrieta or Arodys Vizcaino, or even Carlos Villanueva. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Don’t spend too much time looking at Rusin’s 2013 numbers. Rather, call up some video and watch him pitch, and you’ll know how he was barely hanging on. He can be valuable to a major league pitching staff, but it doesn’t look like he’s a starter for a competitive team.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 3/25/1987 | Team: Dodgers | Position: SP|
Profile: When Hyun-Jin Ryu came to his first camp with the Dodgers, the concern was whether he’d have the velocity to make his plus change up work in America. Consider that question answered, because Ryu’s debut season was nothing less than a smashing success. Ryu’s 3.00 ERA was the 14th best in baseball; his 3.24 FIP was 17th. His change was better than advertised, coming in third-best in the game in pitch type values, and not only did he defy initial worry that he’d wear down over the long season, he actually improved, putting up a fantastic 61/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the second half. Ryu probably doesn’t strike out enough hitters to be considered an ace for fantasy purposes, but continued reliable performance and a Dodger offense that should get him wins makes him a potentially undervalued asset. (Mike Petriello)
Quick Opinion: Ryu’s debut season exceeded all expectations, and a dangerous Dodger team should help him with wins. That makes him a solid fantasy option, yet one who might be lost in the shuffle since he’s only the third best starter on his own team.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 8/29/1985 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Marc Rzepczynski’s name gave me so many fits even Google’s “did you mean?” option did not help me. He posted a small uptick in strikeout rate in 2013, although his platoon splits worsened. As a lefty specialist, he’s a passable fill-in option in deep formats which count holds but he’d need a tremendously unique set of circumstances to be fantasy relevant in anything other than “Words With Friends” leagues. (Colin Zarzycki)
|Debut: 2001 | BirthDate: 7/21/1980 | Team: Yankees | Position: SP|
Profile: In many ways, CC Sabathia remains a model of consistency. He just finished his 13th consecutive season with at least 28 starts, and while his 4.78 ERA was the worst of his career, neither his 7.46 strikeouts per nine nor his 2.77 walks per nine are greatly different than in some of his recent, successful seasons. Sabathia’s two biggest issues in 2013 were issues that tend to regress. First, he stranded a career-low 67.4% of his baserunners. Second, he allowed a career-high 13.0% home runs per flyball. The reason Sabathia will probably be closer to the 50th pitcher off the board than his usual top-10 is his decline in velocity. He has lost more than two mph over the last two seasons, which makes one wonder whether the home runs will continue to be an issue. On the other hand, he regained some of that velocity late last year and still has mixed-league value. (Scott Spratt)
Quick Opinion: Sabathia remains a steady source of both wins and strikeouts, but a recent loss in velocity may be the reason his home runs allowed have dramatically increased.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 1/11/1990 | Team: Indians | Position: SP|
Profile: Salazar’s meteoric rise to the majors after missing most of 2010 and 2011 after Tommy John surgery is nothing short of impressive. He easily has the highest ceiling of any pitcher on the Indians’ staff and could be their best starter in 2014 as a freshman. Salazar was used sparingly in 2012 but the organization took the reins off in ’13 and the Dominican Republic native compiled 145 innings over three levels so he could be good for at least 180 innings in the upcoming season. He should pile up the strikeouts but it will be interesting to see if the fly-ball pitcher can continue to keep the ball in the yard at an above-average rate. Being less predictable in fastball counts might help, too — big leaguers can square up even big fastballs if they know they are coming. (Marc Hulet)
Quick Opinion: Salazar should be in line for a healthy number of innings during his second taste of big league action, which could lead to lots of strikeouts, as well as favorable hit and walk rates that would add up to a solid WHIP.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 3/30/1989 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: Sale is the most recent example of how dumb it is to depend on wins in fantasy. Despite a 3.07 ERA, and 3.17 FIP, Sale went 11-14. He continued to be a big source of strikeouts, putting down 226 batters in 214 1/3 innings. He’s now started 59 games over the past two seasons, so durability concerns should be less of an issue this time around. On top of that, he’s with one of the best organizations when it comes to preventing injuries. The team will likely be bad again, which could lead to a low win total for Sale, but he does enough in other areas to be an elite fantasy starter. Take advantage of owners who still care about pitcher wins and draft Sale early. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Sale was fantastic for the second season in a row despite a low win total. He’s started 59 games over the past two seasons, which should quiet some of the durability concerns.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 1/23/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: SP|
Profile: So I guess some people don’t think Jeff Samardzija is elite. That’s fine. But he does have the sixth-best strikeout rate in the league since he became a starter, and his walk rate has not been a problem. And his ground-ball rate is above average. And even though he’s lost a little gas and is already 29 years old, he’s throwing in the mid-nineties still (94.5 mph average last season). The former tight end’s ligaments should be fresh! Platoon splits shouldn’t be a problem, he has a slider and a split-finger, and those two have opposite splits. That’s three plus pitches, okay control, and grounders. So what’s missing here? Homers. The last two years, he’s given up 13.1% home runs on fly balls for some reason — the league average is under ten percent — and that’s made his ERA balloon to the high threes despite an xFIP in the low threes. If you believe that he’s a Tim Lincecum type, and that his fastball command will always lead to homers, that’s fine. But the Shark has Lincecum’s old fastball, and splitter, and should at some point have his old numbers. To this writer, he’s got everything an elite starter needs other than elite results on balls in play, and that’s a recipe for a sleeper. Go get him. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Top-ten strikeouts with average control and above-average ground ball rates — backed by three plus pitches and gas? If you ignore the results on balls in play, Jeff Samardzija looks like an elite pitcher. Even if you’re worried about the homers, he’s an under-rated starter for the strikeouts alone.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 9/8/1988 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP|
Profile: Sanabia is probably most famous for spitting on a baseball and getting caught. He is not famous for being a good pitcher, at least not yet. A 1.24 strikeout-to-walk rate does not a good fantasy option make, even in the deepest of leagues. (David Temple)
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 2/27/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: Surprisingly, Sanchez enjoyed a career year after pitching his first full season in the more hitter-friendly American League. While he certainly benefited from a bit of good fortune — his 5.8% home run per fly ball rate is simply unsustainable — he posted the best skills of his career. Behind those surging skills was a dramatic strikeout rate spike. His fastball velocity, which had already increased gradually for an amazing five straight seasons, jumped 1.2 mph to reach a career best 93 mph. Oddly, even with better velocity than ever before, he threw the pitch less often, instead choosing to up his usage of the changeup. The changes boosted his swinging strike rate to a mark which ranked third-highest among qualified starters. While some regression must be assumed, he should again be one of the best starters in the AL if he can maintain the velocity gain.However, health continues to be an issue and he has yet to reach the 200 inning plateau. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: A sixth straight season with increased fastball velocity fueled a strikeout rate spike and led to a career performance. While health questions will limit his innings pitched expectations and cap his fantasy value, he should deliver another strong season if he can maintain the velocity spike.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 11/19/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: There are reports circling that the Cubs might have signed Sanchez with the idea to convert him to a reliever. If this is the case, he may have a chance to have positive value again, though that’s not even a given. Now in his age-31 season, Sanchez has yet to figure out his base-on-balls problem, and his saving grace — his strikeouts — have been declining for quite some time. I’m sure he’s a nice enough fellow, though. (David Temple)
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 12/12/1982 | Position: SP|
Profile: Ervin Santana had a disastrous 2012 season which was mainly caused by his league-leading two homers per nine innings and 18.9% home run per fly ball rate (among qualified starters). Both values were easily career highs. A drop in velocity (92.8 mph to 91.7 mph) and the inability to get left-handed hitters out due to a lack of a change-up (.371 weighted on base average vs. lefties and .288 vs. righties) were the main causes for the decline. The Royals took a chance on Santana in 2013 and it paid off. As should be expected, his home run values regressed toward his career values. Additionally, after a rocky start, he was able to increase his velocity to his 2011 levels around 92.5 mph. Finally in 2013, he posted a five-year-low walk rate but the cause isn’t obvious. He was in the zone a bit more (PITCHf/x zone percentage only). He got hitters to chase a bit more outside. Both don’t seem to be major changes. Maybe the Royals’ catchers framed pitches better? I expect his future walk rate to be closer to his career value of 2.8. With an expected strikeout rate around seven per nine, those sorts of rates should usually lead to an ERA around 4.20. His value could increase or decrease depending on his next team. If he goes to a large park in the National League with a good defense, he will likely produce decently, but the risk is obvious in a different situation. Some baseline value is there, but until he signs with a team, his true value will be unknown. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: Ervin Santana rebounded in 2013 from a disappointing 2012 season by mainly keeping the ball in the park more often. So, much of his 2014 value will be determined by which team ends up signing him, and what park he calls home.
|Debut: 2000 | BirthDate: 3/13/1979 | Position: P|
Profile: We’d love for Johan Santana to make a triumphant return in 2014, 20 months after he last pitched in the majors and nearly four years since he was last an ace. He’s now torn the anterior capsule of his left shoulder multiple times, however, and he was hardly vintage Santana when he last pitched. In 2012, he still struck batters out but no longer had precision control (it remained good, just not otherworldly), while batters were suddenly able to take advantage of his high fly ball rate. He’s going to find a home, perhaps in New York with the Yankees or in Minnesota with the Twins; maybe you can afford $1 late in auctions for old time’s sake and as a speculative play, but temper expectations for a guy who will be 35 when the season begins and has thrown 117 innings in the past three years. Nobody has ever returned from two surgeries on the same capsule. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Johan Santana might get a minor league deal for spring training, and it’ll be fun to root for him to make a successful return. Temper expectations, however, as he’ll be 35 and has thrown just 117 innings in the past three years.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/16/1987 | Team: Angels | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Santiago should see a nice boost in his numbers after leaving U.S. Cellular Field. Angel Stadium plays much better for home runs, which has been Santiago’s biggest issue in his brief career. Santiago is capable of posting decent strikeout totals based on a deceptive fastball and decent change up, but it comes at the expense of high walk numbers. Despite taking some steps forward last season, he can still be somewhat maddening on the mound when he’s off. Maybe it’s the screwball — it’s only a good pitch when it’s down, and he struggles to keep it down. Or maybe it’s just a lack of a real out-pitch. He’s been able to outperform his FIP by quite a bit in his first two seasons, so it’s tough to expect him to post another 3.50 ERA next season. But pitching in his new home stadium should help, and could make him a nice source of strikeouts late in fantasy drafts. (Chris Cwik)
Quick Opinion: Santiago should benefit from his move to Los Angeles. The strikeout totals are nice, but they come with a ton of walks as well.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/4/1983 | Team: Blue Jays | Position: RP|
Profile: Sergio Santos was something of a forgotten player in the Blue Jays’ bullpen shuffle. After being traded to Toronto from the South Side prior to the 2012 season, the shortstop-turned closer promptly got hurt after only five innings. By the time he returned to action in 2013, Casey Janssen was established as the closer. While Santos only pitched 25 innings in 2013 return to action, they were excellent innings, as he finished with an ERA and FIP under two. His pre-injury fastball velocity also seemed pretty much intact, a very good sign. Santos has a pretty standard repertoire for a reliever: fastball and slider, with a change he throws to lefties. He is almost as good against lefties as he is against righties, enabling him to be more than a situational reliever. Health is a concern, and little has been seen of Santos over the last two seasons. One could make an argument, though, that he is still the best reliever in Toronto’s pen. He is still behind Janssen for saves, and probably Steve Delabar as well. However, teams like relievers with “closer experience,” so if Janssen hurts or stumbles and Santos continues to pitch well, it would not be surprising to see him leapfrog back into the closer position. He is worth a pick in deeper leagues in which closers are scarce; even if he does not become closer, he is good enough to help in the strikeout, ERA, and WHIP categories over a full season. (Matt Klaassen)
Quick Opinion: Santos lost his closer spot in Toronto after missing most of the last two seasons. He seems to be back in dominant form, and if he’s healthy, is worth a pick in deep leagues not only for the possibility of saves, but for his likely statistical contributions.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/16/1981 | Position: SP|
Profile: Joe Saunders hasn’t been an useful fantasy pitcher since 2008, and that’s mostly because he somehow managed to win 17 games for the Angels. Saunders posted an ERA over 5.00 while getting to pitch in Seattle half the time, so you can imagine just how fun he was to watch last year. If Saunders ends up grabbing a major league rotation spot, you should run very far away. As fast as your internet legs will take you. (Zach Sanders)
Quick Opinion: Joe Saunders was bad while getting to pitch in Seattle half the time last season, so think about that and re-evaluate the choices that brought you to this capsule.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 1/17/1987 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Tanner Scheppers was one of the better bullpen arms for holds in 2013, tying for fourth in holds with 27 across both leagues. Scheppers posted a 1.88 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP to go along with a decent 19.5% strikeout rate, although his FIP was 3.74. Scheppers relies heavily on his fastball, going to it over 80% of the time, with his main secondary pitch being a slider. Word is that Scheppers prefers to be a starter and he’s preparing his arm to do so, but the club may prefer him as a reliever — and his repertoire suggests that might be a smart call. His name has been kicked around as a possible successor to Joe Nathan, but there will be some competition from Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria. Watch the news closely relative to his role, but either way, chances are Scheppers will once again have value as a set-up guy in holds leagues. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Tanner Scheppers turned in a great season for those of you in holds leagues, and reading the tea leaves, it’s likely he will occupy the same role again in 2014. Saves mavens should keep an eye on him, however, as it’s possible he succeeds departed Joe Nathan as the ninth inning guy in Arlington, which would obviously boost his value. Scheppers has the stuff to be a very good closer.
|Debut: 2008 | BirthDate: 7/27/1984 | Team: Tigers | Position: SP|
Profile: If you set aside a miserable April 2012, Max Scherzer finished that season going 15-4 with a 3.14 ERA, a 31% strikeout rate, holding opposing batters to a .232/.289/.392 slash line. Expectations were high coming into 2013, and it’s likely Scherzer blew most of them away. His final line featured a 2.90 ERA (2.74 FIP), 0.97 WHIP, 29% strikeout rate, and a career low 6.7% walk rate. He went 21-3, leading the Tigers to the playoffs and securing himself the American League Cy Young along the way. Scherzer once again dominated right-handed batters, holding them to a .164/.219/.275 slash line, but the difference in 2013 was improvement versus left-handed batters. In 2012, LHB slashed .290/.366/.465 off Scherzer, but in 2013 that was cut to .218/.278/.367. Scherzer himself credited the use of a curveball, which debuted in 2013 and was used almost exclusively to left-handed batters. He didn’t use it frequently, but the threat of the pitch appeared to pay dividends, and it suggests to me that his success might just be sustainable going forward. Scherzer might not sneak by with another .259 batting average on balls in play, but over his career that figure splits .317 to .283 from lefty to righty. In 2013, it was down to .283 versus LHB, so if he’s solved the mystery against them, it stands to reason 2014 could be well below his career rate of .302. Most projection systems are suggesting something in the range of 3.30 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 26% strikeout rate, which still easily puts him among the very best starting pitchers in the league. And he could easily exceed these expectations once again. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Quibble about Cy Young voting all you want, if his worst ranking was third-best in the American League, you know Max Scherzer threw well in 2013. Scherzer dominated from start to finish, and was no doubt featured on many championship fantasy squads. Even if he regresses a bit in 2014, he’ll still easily fit into the top ten pitchers in baseball. You’ll have to pay for it on draft day, but there are few other pitchers that can carry four categories the way Scherzer can.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 11/8/1987 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: Bryan Shaw’s fantasy value is a victim of circumstance. He is a solid reliever who has posted solid-but-not-great strikeout numbers, with very good ERAs and (at least in 2013) a solid WHIP. But in three major league seasons, he has earned only three saves and 31 holds (one and 12 last year). He did manage to grab seven wins in 2013, but you don’t buy relievers for wins and for good reason — reliever wins are not sustainable. The problem for Shaw is that he may not find himself in line for many saves or holds in 2014 either. The Cleveland ninth was up for grabs, but John Axford has been signed to fill that role. Cody Allen figures to be next in line, and first for the eighth inning. And Shaw may have to contend with a resurgent Vinnie Pestano (if there is a resurgent Vinnie Pestano), as well. In the middle of the off-season, Shaw figures to be either third or fourth in line to close games. Considering Axford and Pestano’s performance issues and Allen’s youth, there is some potential he moves up, but it’s not enough for fantasy owners to pay him much mind. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Bryan Shaw’s biggest fantasy contribution last year was wins, and there is no reason to think he’ll provide that value again. If he moves up the Cleveland pecking order and ends up with more holds or saves, he’s worth watching.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/20/1981 | Team: Royals | Position: SP|
Profile: James Shields showed up for another great season in 2013. He ended it with a 3.15 ERA which was lower than his all his ERA estimators (3.47 FIP, 3.72 xFIP and 3.85 SIERA). The difference doesn’t really surprise me — the Royals have the league’s best defense and as a team they had a team ERA–FIP of -.38. If Shields’ ERA regresses in 2014, it will probably be because the defense regresses. Both his strikeouts per nine (8.8 to 7.7) and walks per nine (2.3 to 2.7) got worse compared to his 2012 values. The strikeouts don’t concern me too much, since 7.7 K/9 is his career average. Additionally, his swinging strike rate was only down from 10.2% to 9.8%. The value I didn’t like was the walk rate jump. Shields gets most of his value from not walking batters. If he begins walking batters, his value will decline quickly. The only other issue I have with the 32-year-old is the mileage on the arm. He has thrown over 200 innings for seven straight seasons. Pitchers eventually break down and so will Shields at some point. He should produce double digit wins, 200 Ks and a 3.50 ERA… if he stays healthy again. (Jeff Zimmerman)
Quick Opinion: James Shields has been a steady performer over the past few seasons. I don’t see the performance changing unless father time finally finds him.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 7/20/1989 | Team: Cardinals | Position: RP|
Profile: The Cardinals converted Siegrist from a starter to a reliever in late 2012, near the end of his fifth minor-league season. In 2013, the 24-year-old lefty got the call to the majors, where he raised plenty of eyebrows with some stellar surface stats in his 39.2 innings, including a miniscule 0.45 earned run average and 11.34 strikeouts per nine innings. However, there were plenty of indicators that his performance was a red herring. His 4.08 walks per nine innings rate is pretty darn high, and not unexpected, seeing as Siegrist has a career 3.5 BB/9 in the minors. Add in the insane .195 batting average on balls in play and 98.3% strand rate, and you don’t need me to tell you there’s some serious regression coming. Finally, he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, with just a 39% ground-ball rate in 2013, yet only 3.3% of the fly balls he surrendered went for home runs. The warning signs are both loud and plentiful. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Siegrist throws some serious high-90s heat and is better against righties than one would expect. He can probably continue to strike out a batter or more per inning, but his control problems are a huge concern. If his unsustainable peripherals regress, which they almost certainly will, he’s probably looking at an ERA around four. He’ll pick up plenty of strikeouts and probably some holds, but he’s not fantasy-relevant outside of very deep leagues.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/13/1991 | Team: Angels | Position: SP|
Profile: Skaggs was part of a three-team deal this offseason that principally saw him and Hector Santiago go to the Angels, Adam Eaton to the White Sox and Mark Trumbo to the Diamonbacks. In Skaggs, the Angels are getting a major league arm, but there’s some debate about whether he’ll end up toward the front or back of a rotation. It was previously thought that Skaggs was more likely to be a front of the rotation guy as Baseball America ranked him a top 15 prospect in the game prior to the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He won’t be ranked that way this year because he struggled mightily last year with a drop in velocity receiving most of the blame. But in his short stint in the major leagues last year (38.2 innings), Skaggs was able to miss bats at an above average rate thanks to his secondary stuff. And his control was respectable enough to expect him to grow into at least a league average walk rate with more experience. Aside from the velocity, a high home run per fly ball rate really hurt Skaggs last year. Presumably that will regress toward the average somewhat going forward, especially when you consider that his home park is now much more pitcher-friendly. So with his secondary stuff and a little better luck, he could be a viable major league starter right now. But if the velocity ever comes back, he’s still got some of that upside that Baseball America portended. That makes him a good target in AL-only leagues, but you might wait to see if the velocity returns before looking at him in mixed leagues. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Skaggs was part of a three-team deal this offseason that saw him back with the organization that drafted him, the Los Angeles Angels. Skaggs lost some of his luster last year with a loss in velocity. But he still displayed solid secondary stuff, and the move to a more pitcher-friendly home ballpark should help him bounce back to some degree. And if the velocity ever returns, he still has some of that upside that previously made him a top 15 prospect.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/4/1984 | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Slowey was a pleasant surprise for the Marlins last season, as he went from a non-roster spring training invitee to pitching well as Miami’s number two starter. Unfortunately, forearm discomfort forced him to the bullpen in mid-June and ended his season on July 25. Non-tendered in the offseason, Slowey will likely be a non-roster invitee again this spring, with no guarantees of health or a spot in the big-league rotation. The 92 innings he tossed last year represented his heaviest workload since 2010, so even if he starts the season healthy and effective, it’s unlikely he will finish the year that way. (Scott Strandberg)
Quick Opinion: Even when healthy, Slowey has never been more than a middling fantasy option. His career 4.58 ERA and 6.79 strikeouts per nine innings aren’t numbers that anyone is salivating over. If he earns a rotation spot to start the year, he’ll be a low-upside starter worth rostering in NL-only formats.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 3/22/1984 | Team: Angels | Position: RP|
Profile: Joe Smith is a potentially interesting buy low in holds leagues. He won’t strike out a ton of guys and is unlikely to close, which means that most owners will underrate the value he does bring to the table. On the other hand, there are reasons to like him. Smith has not posted an ERA over three since 2010 (although his FIPs the last couple years have been in the mid-to-high-3’s). He has four straight years of 15+ holds, and broke 20 the last two years. He’ll pitch at age 30 this year, so while he is no spring chicken, there also isn’t reason to assume he’ll fall apart tomorrow. He’s a ground-ball-heavy pitcher, so getting away from Cleveland’s less-than-stellar infield defense should help, as well. He isn’t flashy or exciting, but he’s effective and in the right format (leagues that count holds) and on the right roster (one that can absorb low strikeouts from one reliever spot), he can have value. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Joe Smith should post solid holds counts, to go along with decent rates. He won’t put up the strike outs you typically want from a reliever, but if you can buy low, you can get good value from the holds alone.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 7/10/1989 | Team: Brewers | Position: RP|
Profile: The fresh prince swapped his Royal blues for Milwaukee mustard, and for a second it looked like he might be in the mix for a rotation spot. The lefty’s arsenal is better in the pen, though. He strikes out half as many righties as he does lefties and seems destined for LOOGY duty. (Eno Sarris)
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 4/12/1990 | Team: Padres | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: After making six Double-A starts, during which he produced strikeout and walk rates of 31.4% and just 5.1%, respectively, Smith earned his first major-league start for the visiting Padres in Tampa Bay. Ten batters into same, however, he’d recorded just three outs and conceded six runs on five hits and two walks. Unfortunately, his next two starts were varying degrees of dismal, as well. Upon returning to the minors — in this case, Triple-A Tucson — he was excellent once again, and a return to the majors in September saw him make four reasonably successful starts there. He’s likely earned himself further consideration for the Padres rotation. Barring a serious rash of injuries, however, his next tryout probably won’t occur before the All Star break. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Despite some conspicuously miserable starts in the majors, Smith’s 2013 season was more or less encouraging. That said, his opportunities for joining the major-league rotation are limited entering the season.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 6/13/1989 | Team: Tigers | Position: RP|
Profile: Drew Smyly spent all of 2013 coming out of the bullpen, and he was one of the best setup arms in the game. He finished with a 2.37 ERA (2.31 FIP), 1.04 WHIP, a 27% strikeout rate and registered 21 holds. As a starter in 2012, Smyly featured more of a fastball/slider/change approach but in 2013, it was mostly fastball/cut fastball, which makes sense given his role. With the trade of Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals, it’s expected that Smyly will have every opportunity to nail down the fifth slot in the Tiger rotation, and he’s certain to occupy plenty of sleeper candidate lists. Still just 24, Smyly doesn’t have a long track record in the minors, but over his 140-plus innings over three levels, he’s pretty much dominated and demonstrated great strikeout stuff. As a starter, Steamer projects him for a 4.03 ERA 1.30 WHIP, and a 21% strikeout rate, which would actually be worse results than the 18 starts he made in 2011 when he posted a 3.79 ERA (3.77 FIP) and 1.21 WHIP with a 22% strikeout rate. After his stellar 2013, I’m a bit more bullish than Steamer. Smyly strikes me as an excellent candidate to target later in your drafts — but don’t sit too long, because there’s likely to be plenty of interest. (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Drew Smyly had a breakout year as a reliever in the Detroit Tiger bullpen and he enters 2014 as the favorite to round out their starting rotation. He has the talent to to be a number three in a good fantasy rotation, but given his relative inexperience as a starter, it would be best to draft him as a number five with hopes for more. Keep an eye on how they stretch him out in spring, as well as any position battles that may emerge for that last rotation slot.
|Debut: 2007 | BirthDate: 5/18/1984 | Team: Rangers | Position: RP|
Profile: Although Joakim Soria posted a respectable 3.80 ERA, his 2013 season should probably not be used to predict future returns. His near 14% walk rate can perhaps be explained away by the fact that he missed a year and a half to Tommy John surgery — and his 28% strikeout rate exists as a reminder of his potential. Soria didn’t make it back to the majors until July and he only pitched in 23.2 innings in the second half, fading in September and October in what could very well be a sample size so small so as to be ignored completely.The good news is his velocity seemed to increase as the year went on. Soria enters 2014 with a very real possibility of being the closer for the Texas Rangers with Joe Nathan leaving in free agency. Watch closely what the club decides to do with Neftali Feliz first, and then perhaps Tanner Scheppers second. Soria certainly has the experience and pedigree as he was once a dominant closer for the Kansas City Royals. Remember those days? (Michael Barr)
Quick Opinion: Once a ninth inning force in Kansas City, Joakim Soria missed all of 2012 and part of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery and his results in the second half of 2013 were mixed. With Joe Nathan gone from Arlington, Soria has a chance to be a closer once again, but he’ll likely compete with Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz in the spring. Keeping tabs on everyone’s role will be important. Even if Soria does wind up closing, it’s likely he’ll be looking over his shoulder frequently as the Rangers have many options.
|Debut: 2002 | BirthDate: 12/19/1979 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: Soriano racked up 40+ saves for the second straight year, so he’s a lock to be drafted as a top five closer just as he was last year. But he showed some concerning signs of decline last year. His strikeout rate fell six percent and his swinging strike rate fell a little more than two percent. Opposing hitters made contact on pitches in the zone at a rate that was six percent higher than his career rate and at a rate higher than any other of his full seasons as a reliever. His velocity was down early in the seasons, and even a late-season recovery gave him his worst full-season fastball velocity of his career. Even if Soriano had repeated his excellent peripherals along with his 40 saves, he’d be someone to avoid if you ascribe to the “don’t pay for saves” theory, which you should. But with these red flags, Soriano is an obvious name to stay away from on draft day. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Soriano saved 40+ games for the second year in a row, so he’ll surely be drafted as a top five closer this year. If you’re smart and go cheap on saves, Soriano isn’t someone you would have considered to begin with. But when you consider the fact that his peripherals, notably his strikeout rate, dipped dramatically, he becomes a stay-away even for those fantasy owners who like to try to lock up reliable closers.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 9/11/1989 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Acquired by Arizona in the trade that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, the right-handed Spruill made his major-league debut in 2013, recording 11.1 unspectacular innings. Unspectacular, in fact, is an appropriate word for almost the entirety of Spruill’s minor-league resume, which consists largely of average strikeout rates, average walk rates, and average (or maybe slightly above-average) ground-ball rates. To his credit, Spruill had some success inducing whiffs against major-league right-handed batters with his slider; against left-handed ones, with his curveball. That package might be enough for him to become a serviceable major-league starter. When he becomes that is a different matter, however: the late signing of Bronson Arroyo gives the D-Backs a pretty crowded rotation. As a result, Spruill probably won’t see much in the way of major-league innings until the second half of the season, if at all. (Carson Cistulli)
Quick Opinion: Spruill’s future is probably more as a “command guy” than a “stuff guy.” When he makes the majors is “uncertain,” however, as suggested in part by these “quotation marks.”
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 3/9/1984 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: After struggling as a member of the Nationals starting rotation in 2009 and 2010, Stammen has found a home in the bullpen these past two seasons. As it usually happens, his velocity jumped (though not to the degree of the average starter turned reliever) and took his strikeout rate along for the ride. He also induces an above-average rate of ground balls, while displaying acceptable control. His elite swinging strike rate provides optimism for even better strikeout rates, and with his 80+ inning totals, would allow him to earn sneaky value in NL-Only leagues, despite possessing no opportunity to close games. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: Stammen has established himself as one of the better middle relievers in the National League and a swinging strike rate that ranked 24th among relievers hints at even further upside. He has no chance to save games, but could earn some NL-Only value given his high innings totals and potential for solid ratios.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 6/2/1982 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: The 31-year old right-hander avoided arbitration in the offseason by agreeing to a one-year, $1.6M contract with the Padres, all but ensuring that his days as a starter are behind him. Stauffer threw 69.2 innings out of the pen last season and posted a solid 3.75 ERA (3.55 FIP) with an impressive 8.27 strikeouts per nine (he’s got a 6.49 mark for his career). He’ll continue to pitch out of the sixth and seventh innings in 2014, serving as a bridge between the starters and Joaquin Benoit in the eighth, though there’s always the chance that he picks up a spot start here and there. Given closer Huston Street’s injury history, Stauffer could find himself in a decent spot for some holds if the Padres were to ever need to move Benoit into the ninth, but obviously he is more one to pick up off the waiver wire than someone to seek out on draft day. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Stauffer looked much better as a reliever than a starter. He’ll reprise his role in the sixth and seventh innings again. There’s also the chance that he picks up an occasional spot start, depending on the health of the rotation, but consider him more for holds and a small strikeout boost.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 8/11/1987 | Team: Nationals | Position: RP|
Profile: I started to look into why Drew Storen was so bad last year, but I realized that it probably doesn’t matter. Maybe he’ll bounce back, maybe he won’t. Even if you think he has a chance to do so, there’s really no reason to draft him. You could draft him in leagues where elite, non-closers relievers have value, but there are much, much safer bets that you can draft as opposed to Storen. Or you could draft him as a speculative closer. But Tyler Clippard is likely in line ahead of him if Rafael Soriano happens to relinquish the role. Storen is nothing more than a name to monitor. (Brett Talley)
Quick Opinion: Storen wasn’t any good last year and even if you think he can bounce back, there are other more reliable non-closer elite relievers and other guys closer to saves around the league. He’s a name to monitor in the never-ending chase of saves, but he’s not worth drafting on spec.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 12/1/1988 | Team: Athletics | Position: SP|
Profile: It took Dan Straily seventeen grips to find a changeup that worked for him, but we’re glad he did. Because even though the pitch is only about league-average when it comes to whiffs and ground balls, paired with his excellent slider and decent fastball, he has a major league arsenal. And with the change, he has a platoon-buster, a pitch he can use against lefties — and he does indeed use the pitch almost seven times as often against lefties as he does against righties. Straily ended his rookie season with well above-average whiff rates on the entire arsenal (11.1%, average is around 9%), and though those whiffs haven’t yet turned into strikeouts like maybe they should (19.4%, American League starters managed 18.9% as a group), there’s still a chance that the Athletic can sequence his pitches better to get better results. He has good command and will be pitching in a pitcher-friendly park this year, so the floor is decently high. Since his fastball only leaves his hand around 91 these days, and none of this pitches get elite-level whiffs or grounders, the ceiling isn’t ace-like. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Any pitcher in Oakland is interesting, for now. But Dan Straily actually has one of the more complete arsenals in that current rotation. Those pitches probably don’t give him ace-like upside, but they really bring his floor up.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 7/20/1988 | Team: Nationals | Position: SP|
Profile: Stephen Strasburg followed through on a public desire to throw 200 innings by reaching a career high 183 in 2013, but even that total doesn’t come without worry. That’s because Strasburg had offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow (following right forearm tightness in September), a procedure that is supposed to have him back for spring training but is concerning nonetheless. Strasburg impressed, though, despite falling short of lofty expectations. An ERA of 3.00 is great but his strikeout rate was “just” 26.1%, keeping him 17th in starting pitcher value. With a powerful if somewhat predictable fastball, a heavy curve and a disgusting change, there’s little risk Strasburg isn’t terrific when he pitches. The issue comes down to pricing him and deciding if he’s worth paying a premium even though he hasn’t yet had a top-10 season. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Even in a season where he threw a career high number of innings, injury concerns remain present for Stephen Strasburg. There are few better when he’s pitching, but as with many aces, determining your willingness to pay is an exercise in introspective risk-aversion assessment.
|Debut: 2005 | BirthDate: 8/2/1983 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: While he managed to stay relatively healthy in 2013, by Huston Street standards that is (only one quick disabled list stint), and post his first 30-plus save performance since 2009, the 30-year old Padres closer saw a significant decline in his strikeout rate (7.31 K/9 vs career average of 9.03 K/9) and a major increase in home runs allowed. In fact, his 1.91 HR/9 and 15.9% home runs per fly ball rate were each a career-worst. Still, he remains the unquestioned closer for the Padres and will open the 2014 season with the ninth inning all to himself. There’s an obvious risk involved when drafting Street, given the injury history, but because of that, his value on draft day is much lower than that of some of the other more-established relievers with good job security. If you do end up with him, then be sure to handcuff him to Joaquin Benoit. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Street posted his highest saves total since 2009, and good ratios, but saw a significant decline in his strikeout rate and a major increase in home runs allowed, each a career-worst. There’s also the significant injury risk that comes along with drafting him. When healthy, he is capable of posting a 30-plus save season with almost a strikeout per inning, but having to say ‘when healthy’ is always an issue.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/13/1985 | Team: Cubs | Position: RP|
Profile: Pedro Strop has always had above-average velocity and swinging strike rates, but the one thing that has stood between him and being an effective late inning reliever has been control. However, he appears to have taken a step forward in 2013, posting a 10% walk rate, the lowest mark of his career. It’s tough to figure how exactly, his first strike rate only ticked up slightly and he actually threw more sliders than any point outside of 2011. “More sliders” is not something you generally associate with “better command.” Strop also saw some regression in the ground ball department (49% after peaking at 64% in 2012), which is a bit of a disappointment given his transition from a four-seamer to two-seamer a few years ago. However, his 4.55 ERA was still “unlucky” thanks to a low strand rate and a home run per fly ball rate nearly double his career average. While his 3.14 SIERA and 3.30 xFIP don’t scream “elite!” he should once again be one of the late inning arms in a weak Chicago Cubs bullpen. Jose Veras probably has the inside track to the ninth inning, but you can’t really count on anything until the games start at Wrigley. He’ll be an interesting sleeper in the late rounds of mixed league drafts if you skip taking saves early, but make sure you aren’t passing on someone you really like. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Although his 4.55 ERA wasn’t fantastic, the decrease in Pedro Strop’s 2013 walk rate leads to some hope that he could be a solid late-inning reliever. In a weak Chicago Cubs bullpen, he could be in the in for saves on the North Side, making him a decent flier in the last couple rounds of drafts.
|Debut: 2006 | BirthDate: 12/9/1979 | Team: Padres | Position: SP|
Profile: The 34-year old lefty proved to be a fairly reliable back-end starter for the Padres in 2013 as he threw just over 200 innings for them with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. The numbers are far from great and the lack of strikeouts (5.79 per nine) makes him an even less enticing option for fantasy owners, but his high level of command (1.77 walks per nine) and ability to keep the ball in the park (0.80 homers per nine) help him stay in the discussion when searching for pitchers to stream. During the offseason he signed a one-year, $2.75M contract to stay in San Diego and he is fully expected to stay in the rotation. He remains the same pitcher and, given his FIP has stayed below 3.80 over the last two seasons, there is little reason to believe he’ll perform any differently than his career averages dictate. Simply use accordingly. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Stults doesn’t have great stuff but managed to post a decent ERA last season thanks to impressive command. He won’t dazzle you with strikeouts, but there is little reason to think he won’t be able to post numbers close to his career averages again.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 7/16/1987 | Team: White Sox | Position: SP|
Profile: After missing all of 2012 and much of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, Surkamp posted a 7-1 record with a 2.78 ERA over 71.1 innings for Triple-A Fresno last season. He also made one very unsuccessful start for the Giants late in the year, failing to pitch past the third inning. While his initial performance following a lengthy rehab should probably be taken with a grain of salt, he didn’t post the strikeouts he once had and struggled with his command on several occasions. Obviously the Giants saw something they didn’t like, or at least someone they liked better and released the southpaw two weeks before Christmas. Soon after, he was picked up by the White Sox and will now compete for a 2014 rotation spot during the spring. Considering some of his struggles and the fact that he is much more of a fly ball pitcher, things don’t seem too promising moving to the AL and to a very hitter-friendly park. (Howard Bender)
Quick Opinion: Released by the Giants following a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery and some post-rehab struggles, Surkamp was picked up by the White Sox and will be invited to compete for a rotation spot in 2014. He’s a fly-ball pitcher still struggling with his command, so a move to the American League and hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field may not be what the doctor ordered for your fantasy team.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 9/10/1985 | Team: Twins | Position: RP|
Profile: For the first time in his four-year career, Swarzak worked exclusively out of the bullpen in 2013. This was a positive development for the 28-year-old right-hander, who responded with by far his best season in the majors. Swarzak’s role was chiefly as a long guy, as he paced all big league relievers with 96 innings worked. The key developments to Swarzak’s emergence were adding strikeouts and shaving walks, in addition to posting a phenomenal — and quite frankly, unsustainable — 0.7 home run per nine rate. But even in a breakout, Swarzak didn’t light the world on fire. In an age where reliever strikeout numbers are off the charts, Swarzak still lagged well behind at 6.5 per nine. The walk rate was nice (2.1 per nine), as was the continued development of groundball tendencies (45.2%). All told, Swarzak looks like he pretty much fits his role perfectly. He has the stamina to go multiple innings from his days as a starter, and enough stuff to get a big strikeout when he needs it. He doesn’t appear to have late-inning utility, but can easily settle in as a sixth and seventh inning guy in a game that is constantly re-inventing the term specialist. He just probably won’t ever be a fantasy-relevant one, however. (Brandon Warne)
Quick Opinion: Swarzak broke out in a big way in 2013, but his role is still such that he could be here today, gone tomorrow. He’s not a candidate for saves in Minnesota, and even if traded likely wouldn’t be considered a late-inning type. He’s hands-off in fantasy.
|Debut: 2014 | BirthDate: 11/1/1988 | Team: Yankees | Position: P|
Profile: The first thing that leaps out at you from Tanaka’s Japanese numbers is his control. He just spent three years with a walk rate under one and a half per nine. Then you might notice that he’s on a three-year decline in strikeout rate, and that he spent the last year striking out fewer than eight per nine. Then you might remember that the ball changed in Japan recently, and that his numbers are not quite as exciting as those that Yu Darvish showed in Japan. Neither is his stuff. He’s more low nineties than mid-nineties, and he really has one standout offspeed pitch. Great command of a low-nineties fastball and that great splitter could make him a younger Hiroki Kuroda — and that arsenal has worked out awesomely for the elder veteran — but there’s some talk that Tanaka’s fastball is flat and he could have homer issues in New York. Tanaka is worth an investment, as he seemingly has ace upside. But we don’t know how he’ll do with the larger ball and the tougher competition just yet, so don’t pay ace prices. (Eno Sarris)
Quick Opinion: Tanaka has a fun personality, great control, and a great splitter. That should bring his floor up. His ceiling depends on the other things: his fastball, his breaking pitches.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 6/6/1986 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP|
Profile: Of all qualified relievers with at least 50 innings over the last two seasons, Koji Uehara blows the rest of baseball out of the water with 12 strikeouts per walk. However, you might be surprised by the pitcher hanging out in second place. Not Craig Kimbrel (third) or Mariano Rivera (fifth), but Boston’s Junichi Tazawa. The Japanese import continued to be stingy in the walk department, only issuing 12 free passes to the 284 opposing hitters he faced. He continued to keep his elite strikeout rate north of 25% and was able to maintain his fastball velocity around 93 miles per hour. Tazawa was even Boston’s closer for a brief period of time while Andrew Bailey was on the disabled list, but when Bailey came back and promptly re-injured himself, the Sox turned to the one reliever on the staff with more impressive rates (Uehara). Now with Uehara entrenched as Boston’s closer headed in 2014, Tazawa will likely go back to a high-leverage setup role. He will re-assume a role as one of fantasy’s most valuable middle relievers, though. He’ll likely be neck-and-neck with Edward Mujica for Uehara handcuff status, but will also help immensely in ratio categories while contributing 70-80 strikeouts to a roto owner’s ledger. Keep your ERA/WHIP clean by plucking guys like Tazawa up in the last round or two. (Colin Zarzycki)
Quick Opinion: Junichi Tazawa’s peripherals are eerily similar to Boston’s other top Japanese reliever, Koji Uehara. While he doesn’t have Uehara’s closer gig (and the value that comes with it), he should continue to be one of baseball’s more valuable middle relievers, and his rates are good enough that he’s a useful late-round, plug-and-play reliever in standard leagues.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 1/27/1991 | Team: Braves | Position: SP|
Profile: The one-time top pitching prospect finally made good on his promise after struggling at Triple-A in 2012 and seeing his star dim. Though his velocity was down from when he made his MLB debut in 2011, he essentially ditched his change-up, and traded half of his curve balls for a new slider. That pitch generated a ton of swings and misses and led to a swinging strike rate that ranked 19th among qualified starters. He continued to display impeccable control as well, while the only real blemish in his skill set is a fly ball tendency. While his SIERA and inflated strand rate both suggest he was a bit lucky, this was a legitimate breakout. (Mike Podhorzer)
Quick Opinion: After a forgettable April, Teheran found his strikeout pitch and enjoyed a true breakout season. While his ERA is likely to rise, he should post an above-average strikeout rate and pair it with strong control, leading to another solid performance and an ERA in the mid-to-high 3.00 range.
|Debut: 2013 | BirthDate: 10/12/1988 | Team: Rangers | Position: SP|
Profile: A month and a half on the disabled list punctuated his rookie debut, but despite the elbow injury, Tepesch sported a decent 18.7% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate. He may not have a rotation spot waiting for him in 2014, but he will be on the Rangers’ speed dial once injury or ineffectiveness requires a starting pitcher. Tepesch does not have an extraordinary ceiling — and playing in a hitter’s park will never help his value — but he has ever look of a solid, decent starting pitcher. Don’t be surprised if he tosses 100 innings at or around a 3.90 ERA. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Tepesch has had a decent start to his career, and entering 2014 healthy, he should be able to collect a good number of starts with around a league average ERA. He’s worth a look in leagues with extra deep benches.
|Debut: 2012 | BirthDate: 9/29/1988 | Team: Brewers | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Tyler Thornburg became a popular name in Milwaukee last summer, as he posted a 2.03 ERA and found significant success in August and September. However, those numbers were bolstered by a minuscule home run rate and a high strand rate. He didn’t miss many bats and walked too many. Furthermore, his 7.1% swinging-strike rate suggests his low strikeout rate wasn’t a fluke, as his true swing-and-miss pitch in the majors is his change-up. Considering his 4.45 SIERA, his impressive debut was more mirage than harbinger for future success. With the acquisition of Matt Garza, however, the right-hander should transition to the bullpen. The back-end of the bullpen remains rather entrenched for the Brew Crew, so to have any fantasy impact as a middle reliever or an occasional set-up man, he’ll have to amass elite strikeout totals, and it just don’t seem probable, even if his stuff plays up out of the bullpen. He’s just not a viable fantasy option at the present time. (JP Breen)
Quick Opinion: Barring injury or a heroic spring training, Thornburg projects to begin the 2014 season in the bullpen. He turned some heads with a 2.03 ERA in 66.2 innings last year, but his peripherals weren’t pretty. His best chance for fantasy value lies in a high-leverage relief role. Even then, though, I don’t see him missing an elite number of bats.
|Debut: 2004 | BirthDate: 9/15/1976 | Team: Yankees | Position: RP|
Profile: Once a sleeper closer candidate, Matt Thornton’s strikeout rate has declined each of the last four years. Now 37 with a slower, straighter fastball, his swinging strike rate has nearly been cut in half. Yes, the Yankees still paid him 2/$7m this offseason, but leave him off your draft board.(Colin Zarzycki)
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 4/15/1988 | Team: Orioles | Position: SP|
Profile: Following what feels like a decade of trade rumors, Chris Tillman settled in for a full season with Baltimore in 2013 and delivered on the potential he flashed in 2012. The 25-year-old righty threw 206.1 innings, going 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA. There are some troubling signs, namely a favorable batting average on balls in play (.269) and strand rate (80.5%) that underlie a 4.42 FIP. On the other hand, his 14.2% home run per fly ball rate rate was unfriendly, though that’s an issue he’s had in prior major league stints as well. These negatives only serve to bury the positives, however – Tillman mostly maintained his 2012 velocity spike and improved both his strikeout rate and walk rate in the second half. Most importantly, he trimmed the fly ball rate, something he needs to do even further in 2014. One of the most profitable starters in 2013, don’t pay an expectant price this year but feel comfortable drafting him for an ERA around four and 7.5 strikeouts per nine. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Chris Tillman followed up a 2012 mini-breakout with a full-blown one in 2013. Home runs remain an issue that limit his upside so don’t pay for a repeat performance, but he shouldn’t be too far off.
|Debut: 2010 | BirthDate: 10/19/1984 | Team: Indians | Position: RP|
Profile: In 2011, Josh Tomlin was Manny Acta’s “Little Cowboy,” as the 6’1″ (is that really that little? maybe for a cowboy, I guess) starter moseyed his way to a solid-but-not-spectacular 165.1 innings total. Fantasy owners could be excused for not noticing — pitchers who strike out only 13.4% of batters they face are not exactly early round draft picks (they aren’t late rounders either, usually). In 2012, Tomlin’s cowboy act grew old — the strikeouts stayed low, the walks doubled, and the already-high homer rate rate got even higher. The 4.25 ERA/4.27 FIP ballooned to 6.36/5.09. Then, in 2013, Tomlin was new manager Terry Francona’s “Little Guy With an Injured Elbow Who Pitched Only 29.1 Innings.” And those were spread across four levels, with most coming in Triple-A and only two coming in Cleveland. Tomlin will fight with a host of others for the fifth spot in the Tribe rotation, but when a guy who was never that impressive is coming off a lost season on the heels of a terrible season, the odds are most definitely against him. (Chad Young)
Quick Opinion: Tomlin was injured in 2013 and now has to re-earn a rotation spot he lost with a dreadful 2012. He’ll likely make at least some starts for the Indians this year, but a mid-4’s ERA and a strikeout rate only minimally higher than terrible doesn’t make for an attractive fantasy option.
|Debut: 2009 | BirthDate: 10/22/1982 | Team: Mets | Position: SP/RP|
Profile: Carlos Torres has taken his sweet time making inroads in the majors, finally posting a career-high 86.1 innings at age 30 in 2013. He played a swingman role for the Mets, making nine starts with 24 relief appearances, and acquitted himself better than expected with a 3.44 ERA. His home run per fly ball rate was an extreme 16.3 percent, and that can be killer for a pitcher who allows a fairly average batted ball profile. Still, Torres managed success by finally figuring out his control, posting the lowest walk rate (4.8%) he had at any level, ever, and keeping his strikeout rate at an acceptable 21.3% mark. His fastball isn’t dominant at barely 90 MPH, so he relies on coaxing whiffs with three different pitches. He may not have much upside left and it’s unclear if he’ll start or come out of the pen in 2014 but the improvement to his control makes him an intriguing play in deep and NL-only leagues. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Carlos Torres tasted success for the first time in 2013 at age 30, figuring out how to coax swing-and-misses without being wild. The improved control makes him interesting if he can earn a rotation spot this year.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 12/8/1987 | Team: Padres | Position: RP|
Profile: Rays fans were clamoring to see Alex Torres take Roberto Hernandez‘s rotation spot in 2013, and while they did not get their wish, the fans did at least get to see Torres dominate in a fireman relief role. With an absurdly low ERA over 58 innings, Torres elevated himself into higher leverage roles throughout 2013 until he became a major component of the second best bullpen in the American League (3.36 FIP). Even if Torres stays in the bullpen in 2014, he should be a great acquisition for any fantasy team. His control problems in the minors have nearly vacated him, and his pitched have an extra bite in the bullpen. There’s even a chance the Rays give him a shot at making the rotation now that Jeremy Hellickson will miss time. Torres — who was a Triple-A starter as recently as 2013 — could be back in the rotation if Jake Odorizzi fails to take control of the open rotation spot in the spring. (@BradleyWoodrum)
Quick Opinion: Torres, at the very least, is an elite and little-known reliever. On those grounds alone, he could make for a crafty bounty late in a draft. But he also was a starter as recently as the beginning of 2013. Struggles in the Rays rotation could lead Torres back into the rotation, where there is a hope he could develop into a solid number three or four starter.
|Debut: 2011 | BirthDate: 5/21/1991 | Team: Marlins | Position: SP|
Profile: Jacob Turner got the call to the Marlins late in May and didn’t look back, starting 20 games with a 3.74 ERA. Despite the impressive sophomore campaign, there are troubling signs beneath the surface, ones that the 23-year-old has plenty of time to figure out. Most pressing is his inability to strike batters out – he has just a 15% strikeout rate in 185.2 major league innings, hardly surprising given his minor league track record. What’s curious is that despite showing strong control in the minors, Turner struggled with walks (4.12 per nine innings) in 2013. In any case, Turner has looked largely the same whenever he’s been called up, with only strand rate, batting average on balls in play and home run per fly ball variations swinging his stat line. You could say split the difference between the years (maybe a 4.50 ERA), but experience, a decent slider, and an improving curveball that can draw whiffs and ground balls leave room for optimism. (Blake Murphy)
Quick Opinion: Jacob Turner still has time to deliver on his promise, but his 3.74 ERA in 2013 masks the fact that he still has trouble missing bats. His curveball, a pitch he doesn’t use a ton but that performs well for whiffs and ground balls, may hold the answer.
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