Joseph Pytleski

In light of our recent top 100 SP release for 2014 I wanted to take a closer look at some of the more “unknown” quantities that will be receiving a lot of hype, helium, and sometimes incoherent delirium as experts and fantasy managers alike will be trying to predict the next Clayton Kershaw. It’s all about cost effectiveness and return on investment in fantasy so, for some of these guys, the chance to buy at discounted prices may be closing rapidly.

Dan already looked at Danny Salazar (19) a bit earlier. According to our pitcher rankings, here are five names in our top 40 and who may not be as hyped as, say, Jose Fernandez (11) or Gerritt Cole (26) but could make an impact in fantasy for 2014. Their 5×5 rankings are in parentheses:

Michael Wacha (14)

Hyun-Jin Ryu (21)

Tony Cingrani (27)

Sonny Gray (34)

Corey Kluber (39)

First, I’ll give you a few words about some positives about the pitcher, a few things to watch out for, and a final verdict about these starting pitchers.

 

Michael Wacha (STL), #14

You should be excited because:

  • 9.05 K/9
  • 80% LOB
  • 7.4% HR/FB
  • He plays for a great team to accumulate wins, in a great division for pitchers, and is in a great ballpark (only five more pitcher-friendly parks than Busch last year according to ESPN).

You should worry because:

  • He only threw two pitches last year (for the most part), the FB (65%) and the CH (25%). If he doesn’t find a third pitch, players may begin to get to him (of course there’s always a rebuttal).
  • He only pitched 64 innings last year. There’s way more risk when you add a full load (i.e., 200 IP) to a starter.
  • The Cards have a crowded rotation with Wainwright, Garcia, Kelly, Lynn, Miller, and Wacha are all worthy to be rostered as starters.

Verdict:

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM because all advanced metrics (xFIP, SIERA, tERA) suggest that he’s no fluke. Look at the guys who were taken before him, too, on draft day. #chiponhisshoulder

 

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD), #21

You should be excited because:

  • 4-pitch repertoire keeps hitters off balance (fastball (2/4-seamer, changup, slider, and curve).
  • GB% is above average (50%), BB/9 is above average (2.30/9).
  • Again, great pitcher’s park in one of the easiest divisions in baseball, so he should cash in on wins, although his defense may not do him any favors (no. 24 in team defense)

You should worry because:

  • He’ll be 27 this year, so he’s probably at or near his peak value.
  • Average fastball and K-rate limit his upside.
  • TJ surgery in his past

Verdict:                   

SLIGHT BUY for the right price. Even though I don’t see much more upside than what he showed last year he’s the least “sexy” name on this list—and the oldest—so there’s a chance he gets overlooked. He’s a perfect #3 for your rotation, so don’t sleep on him.

 

Tony Cingrani (CIN), #27

You should be excited because:

  • There was only one pitcher last year (100 IP min) that had a higher K/9 ratio than Cingrani. That’s right, folks. ONE! Yu Darvish.
  • And that, my friends, is the good news.

You should worry because:

  • He loves the fastball, as he threw it 81% of the time last year! (League average 54%)
  • His fastball sits around 92 mph, not bad, but not devastating.
  • He walks too many (3.7/9), gives up the long ball (1.2/9), and has inverted batted ball numbers (which is to say he does not generate enough ground balls while generating a lot of fly balls). This is not a recipe for success, especially in Cincinnati.

Verdict:                   

PASS. Let someone else fall in love with that 10+ K/9. There’s just too much bust potential here for me. If he loses any velocity or hitters start figuring out his deceptive delivery then what does he do? I couldn’t agree more with this assessment; you should too—and I haven’t even mentioned the luck factor either!

 

Sonny Gray (OAK), #34

You should be excited because:

  • #16 overall in K/9 rate, min. 60 IPs
  • #17 overall in GB% (53.6%), min. 60 IPs
  • #22 overall in HR/9, min 60 IPs

You should worry because:

  • Like Wacha, he’s only pitched 64 MLB innings. Who knows how he’ll hold up over the course of a season as he’s only pitched over 150 innings once in 2012.
  • Expect the 9.42 K/9 to decrease as his 8.97/9  mark in AAA was the highest in his career.

Verdict:                   

BUY. Between the hammer curve, the mid-to-high 90s fastball, average change, and intense-competitor mantra, I am a believer. Maybe even more so than Wacha because he’s got the third pitch. Great ballpark, defense, and with the A’s the favorite in the AL West again (along with a revamped bullpen from Mr. Beane), I like his chances. Advanced metrics back up his performance as well.

 

Corey Kluber (CLE), #39

You should be excited because:

  • His 8.28 K/9 came in ahead of Cole Hamels, Julio Teheran, and Adam Wainwright, to name a few (min. 140 IP)
  • The 2.09 BB/9 came in right behind Mike Minor, Felix Hernandez, and Cole Hamels.
  • He was unabashedly adored by Fangraphs Carson Cistulli all year last year (and for good reason).

You should worry because:

  • He gives up the long ball. Tied for #15 overall HR/FB with fellow HR-bedfellows, Aaron Harang and R.A. Dickey at 12.7%.
  • It may be too early to tell, but hopefully this isn’t Rick Porcello 2.0 in terms of a guy who’s got the stuff to succeed, by what the stats tell us, but who’s real-life performance doesn’t live up to it.

Verdict:

INCOMPLETE. I know we saw 140 innings of Kluber last year, and Cistulli primed the pump all year for me last year and I spent $1 on him in Ottoneu. The curve is something special, or nasty, depending on which team you’re on. There’s no doubt he was one of the unluckiest pitchers last year, according to our rotobanter luck factor post, but unless he can keep the ball in the yard, I’m just not close enough to jumping on board quite yet. But you can bet he’ll be a guy I keep my eye on this year.

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