The Roto Grotto: pitcher stashes for 2014

Stashing pitchers is much trickier than stashing hitters. The volatility of the position makes comparable pitchers less valuable than hitters as keepers. It also means that most pitching sleepers are coming off an injury, which makes them difficult to predict.

However, in deep dynasty leagues, you have to fill your roster spots one way or the other. Sometimes, taking gambles on previously-valuable players that are sitting on the wire makes more sense than holding on to marginal healthy players.

Marco Estrada | 33 percent Yahoo ownership

Whatever sleeper buzz Marco Estrada had built over last offseason was dashed in his May 5 start versus the Cardinals. In that game, he allowed eight earned runs over 3.1 innings. Inside of 30 days, Estrada was on the DL and dropped in most shallow leagues.

Since his return on August 7, Estrada has been the pitcher many thought he would be to start the year. In four starts, he has 21 strikeouts against only four walks. His overall 4.80 ERA is still inflated by a 15.2 percent home run-per-fly ball rate after hovering around 10.5 percent in his previous two seasons. Your league setup will dictate whether Estrada is worthwhile, but he should be a viable fifth starter in even 10-team leagues next season.

Jason Motte | 21 percent Yahoo ownership

Edward Mujica has made the Cardinals forget all about Jason Motte, but Mujica will be a free agent after this season. Given his effectiveness as a closer, chances are he’ll earn a better payday that the $3.2 million deal he signed last offseason. That payday likely will come on another team.

The Cardinals are fairly loaded with relievers. Even with Mujica likely gone, they’ll have a trio of young arms in Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez, all of whom could make sense in the role depending on what the Cardinals decide to do with their rotation.

I think the team will peg Motte to return to the closer role. Motte been effective in the job previously, and the young arms all have a chance to be starters in the future. It will be easier to for the Cardinals to manage their progression and, potentially, innings from outside of the closer role.

Josh Beckett | 20 percent Yahoo ownership

Josh Beckett is not the same pitcher he was five years ago. His velocity has been in a steady decline, which led to a decline in his strikeout rate prior to his trade to the Dodgers. In the National League, Beckett saw a small resurgence in his strikeout rate offset by a big increase in his home run rate.

However, Dodger Stadium is a near-neutral home run park for both lefties and righties. That increased home run rate is most likely poor luck over a small sample of innings. Meanwhile, the Dodgers project to be among the best offenses and defenses in baseball next season. Wins can be fickle, but if any team can give a pitcher a boost there, it’s one like Los Angeles.

Corey Kluber | 15 percent Yahoo ownership

Corey Kluber’s breakout 2013 season was the result of his improved command. Kluber is one of only 21 pitchers with 100 or more innings this season allowing fewer than two walks per inning. Of that group, only Matt Harvey, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, and Kluber are striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings. It is pretty good company, and company that Kluber should be able to keep.

His decreased walk rate is due to throwing more fastballs, 51.8 percent this season, up from between 43.0 and 44.0 percent the previous two seasons. He is my favorite starter of this list.

Matt Harrison | 13 percent Yahoo ownership

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Matt Harrison was shut down for the season a few weeks ago when he experienced numbness in his hand while trying to rehab from his offseason back surgery. Early indications are that the move is precautionary rather than a real setback, and so Harrison should be ready to go by the start of the 2014 season.

From 2011-2012, Harrison was very effective. He won 32 starts over two seasons while walking fewer than three batters per nine innings. As with Beckett, Harrison has much of his value tied into the run support of his team, but in a deep dynasty league, he is a viable bounce-back candidate.

Bruce Rondon | 5 percent Yahoo ownership

Bruce Rondon couldn’t stick as the Tigers’ closer this season, but with a 100-mph fastball, poor command, and no plus offspeed pitches, Rondon’s future clearly is in the bullpen. That limitation will hold him down in prospect rankings, but high-leverage relievers are worth much more in fantasy baseball than real baseball.

Joaquin Benoit has been excellent since taking over for Jose Valverde, but Benoit will be a free agent after this season. Since the Tigers are in their title window, they may be inclined to spend some money to shore up the bullpen, but Rondon likely will have another shot at closing games in the next year or two.

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S. Urista
S. Urista

Motte’s had TJ surgery in mid-May, and it’s what, a year or so to get back? Plus rehabs, and there’s no way the Cardinals would just throw him right back in the closer role his first day back. So for at least the first 2-3 months of 2014, Motte isn’t going to be in position to be the closer, I would think. The earliest I can see Motte being the closer in St Louis is after the All-Star Game break.

I think the job is Rosenthal’s to lose.