We’ve seen what the bottom has to offer. Now, it’s time to take a look at 20 guys stuck in the middle.
Wilson regressed to his career averages after a career year in 2011? That never happens! Wilsonâ€™s 2012 season looked a lot like his 2010 season or a normal season for a slightly above average starting pitcher. It also turns out he was pitching with bone spurs in his elbow. He underwent surgery in October and appears to be on schedule to be fully recovered by the time pitchers and catchers report. His 4.05 BB/9 should be a red flag, but heâ€™s had success with a BB/9 in that range before.
Sanchez generated a lot of buzz when he posted a K/9 over 9.00 in 2011. His K/9 fell back to his career average in 2012 and he was dealt to Detroit. A pitcher with a 46.4% GB % was dealt to Detroit and re-signed there during the off-season. Fantasy GMs should like the strikeout rates, but everyone should be concerned about Detroitâ€™s team defense.
Harrison provided value last year because he lucked his way into 18 wins. He doesnâ€™t whiff very many(5.61 K/9 last year) and the 3.29 ERA was a mirage. He posted a 4.13 xFIP. Harrison puts a ton of balls in play and really wonâ€™t be much help if he isnâ€™t lucking his way into Wâ€™s.
Holland was actually really lucky on balls in play (.261 BABIP), but he was murdered on balls hit in the air (15.2% HR:FB ratio last year). When a pitcher gives up fly balls 40.1% of the time, homers are going to be a problem. At this point, itâ€™s safe to chalk Hollandâ€™s 2012 season up as a statistical variance, but fantasy GMs need to exercise caution when considering a guy who gave up 32 homers.
Hughes has only reached over 30 starts twice in his career and heâ€™s turned in competent seasons both times. In his two full years as a starter, heâ€™s posted K/9â€™s over 7.00 and BB/9â€™s under 3.00. His home/road splits are really bizarre. Hughes is a fly ball pitcher (0.75 GB:FB ratio for his career), but heâ€™s had more success at New Yankee (3.74 ERA in 98 2/3 innings) than on the road (4.76 ERA in 92 2/3 innings). He posted a 14.1% HR:FB ratio at home, but a 10.3% on the road. Heâ€™s a slightly above league average guy with some goofy home/road splits, but heâ€™s a mortal lock for double digit wins.
Parker profiles as a ground ball pitcher with slightly underwhelming stuff. He never posted exceptional K totals in the minors and probably wonâ€™t crack a 7.00 K/9. He got by last year with a lower than average HR:FB ratio (only 6.8%) and a .290 BABIP. Heâ€™s generating a lot of pre-season sleeper buzz due to his home park and ground ball rate. Both are nice, but thereâ€™s not that much to be excited about here.
Speaking of not much to be excited about…Gavin Floyd, ladies and gentlemen! Floyd has four consecutive seasons of 7.00+ K/9 and 4.00+ ERA. Letâ€™s not all kill ourselves trying to draft this guy!
Lewis went down with â€œforearm tendinitisâ€ in July, but needed surgery for a torn flexor tendon in his pitching elbow. Heâ€™ll likely be back sometime in June and Martin Perez is likely to assume his rotation duties until Lewis is ready to return. Lewis has lost about 2.5 MPH on his fastball since he returned to the US. It remains to be seen what heâ€™ll look like when he comes back and if he can still post K/9 numbers over 7.00. You could spend a pick on Colby at the very end of the draft, but heâ€™ll likely go undrafted.
Norris provides the K numbers that fantasy GMs crave, but not much else. Norris has pitched three full seasons and never cracked double digit wins. Heâ€™s posted one season with a sub-4.00 ERA and his WHIP has always been over 1.30. If youâ€™re light on Kâ€™s at the end of the draft, you could do worse than Norris.
Ubaldo has lost four MPH off his fastball since his run in â€˜09 and â€˜10. His 4.84 BB/9 took a lot of ratios with it last year and his K/9 plunged below 8.00 for the first time since 2008. He also posted a LD % over 20% for the first time in his career last year. Ubaldo just isnâ€™t the same anymore and hitters are letting him know it. Heâ€™s a buy low guy, but what, exactly, are you buying?
Patrick DiCaprio’sÂ cuddle buddy is the odds on favorite to win the Yankeesâ€™ fifth starter job. Nova doesnâ€™t really have the minor league track record to match the 8.08 K/9 he posted in 2012, but he does have the tools to repeat his 2012 performance. The issue that Nova had last year was his .331 BABIP. He got slaughtered on balls in play last year. He also got battered on balls hit in the air last year with a 16.6 HR:FB ratio. Both of those numbers should normalize and Novaâ€™s 2013 ERA should be closer to his 3.92 xFIP than his 5.02 actual.
The concern with Doubront isnâ€™t over injury or regression. He finished the year healthy and his 3.81 xFIP indicates that he was a better pitcher than his 4.86 actual ERA. The concern is with Doubrontâ€™s innings bump. He went from throwing about 80 innings over three different levels in 2011 to logging over 160 innings for the first time in his career. Doubront admitted to tiring down the stretch, but he didnâ€™t need to miss any starts. Part of the problem might be Doubrontâ€™s slight frame. Heâ€™s 6â€™2, but was only listed at 165 lbs. Thatâ€™s not Chris Sale territory, but he could use some added muscle. His ridiculous 9.34 K/9 makes him a worthy addition to any fantasy staff looking for additional Kâ€™s.
Morrow finally turned in an ERA (2.96) and ratio (1.11) that didnâ€™t make fantasy GMs want to wretch. Thatâ€™s good. His K/9 fell from 10.00+ to 7.80. Thatâ€™s bad. His 2.96 BB/9 was also a career low. Thatâ€™s good. He missed roughly 30% of the season with a â€œveryâ€ strained oblique muscle. Thatâ€™s bad. His oblique is also cursed. Also bad. Itâ€™s starting to look Morrow might be better in the bullpen than in the rotation. When heâ€™s healthy, heâ€™s posting gross ratios and when heâ€™s good, heâ€™s not striking out nearly enough batters. His 4.03 xFIP claims heâ€™s due for a regression from his 2.96 actual. Heâ€™d be a stay away if he didnâ€™t have such amazing strike out potential.
Danks started the 2012 season with a bad shoulder and it got worse as the season progressed. Thatâ€™s the only way to explain his career low K/9 (5.03) and career high BB/9 (3.86). The mid-season surgery was also an indication that he was having some issues, but thatâ€™s just a hunch. The reports have been positive during the off-season and the White Sox appear to believe that Danks will be ready for the start of the 2013 season. His status is worth monitoring in spring training. If you start hearing words like â€œweakness in the shoulder,â€ or â€œdead arm,â€ or â€œDr. Andrews,â€ it might be a good idea to stay away from Danks.
Fister missed time last year with a concussion, a groin strain and an abdominal strain. He enjoyed a really solid season despite these injuries. Fister posted a career high 7.64 K/9 with an acceptable ERA (3.45) and WHIP (1.19). Heâ€™s a ground ball pitcher(1.91 GB:FB ratio last year) with one of the more porous infield defenses in the league and not even that stopped Fister from avoiding regression after a career year in 2011. If playing a full year with the Fielder/3-headed bad second baseman monster/Peralta/Cabrera infield didnâ€™t cause Fister to regress last year, nothing will. Heâ€™s actually an intriguing pitcher if the K/9 numbers werenâ€™t a mirage.
Pettitte posted his highest K/9 (8.24) since 2004 (8.57). What do those two seasons have in common? Pettitte made fewer than 16 starts in both. Pettitteâ€™s average fastball was under 88 MPH, so heâ€™s lost a few clicks on the radar gun, but he got by thanks to his cutter. Expecting a repeat of an 8.00+ K/9 is foolish at best. Pettitte posted a 7.05 in his last full season and that was two years ago. Heâ€™s not likely to improve at age 41. Heâ€™s an innings eater with some upside for wins if he gets lucky and thatâ€™s about it at this point in his career.
Chen was actually kinda okay last year. His BABIP was slightly low (.274), but he fits the fly ball profile (0.88 GB:FB ratio) and should maintain a lower than average BABIP. What was surprising about Chen was the K numbers. He posted a 7.19 K/9 last year. Thatâ€™s ownable! Itâ€™s not fantastic, but itâ€™s definitely better than a waiver wire guy.
Buehrle was the same guy heâ€™s always been. He didnâ€™t miss a lot of bats (5.56 K/9), didnâ€™t walk very many (1.78 BB/9) and was generally effective as long as his BABIP was under .300 (.270). Heâ€™s moving back to the American league, but this time heâ€™ll be playing on a faster surface. The field turf in Toronto will play faster than the grass in Chicago or Miami. Buehrle could be in for a rough ride unless Toronto invests in some new technology for its defenders. Giant gloves, laser beams or gadget arms for Jose Reyes, stuff like that.
2012 Tillman was essentially smoke and mirrors. He posted a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP thanks in large part to a .221 BABIP. He does profile as a fly ball pitcher (0.78 GB:FB ratio), so he should be able to maintain a lower than average BABIP, but this is ridiculous. Tillman allowed 21.0% LD % last year. Thatâ€™s almost as high as his BABIP. Heâ€™s a likely regression candidate and heâ€™s shown in his limited time in the minors that his minor league K numbers donâ€™t translate to the big league level. Fantasy GMs sleeping on Tillman could be in for some pain.
The last time we saw John Lackey he was walking more than three batters per nine and striking out fewer than seven batters per nine. Oh, and he was absolutely murdering both his real life team AND every fantasy team he was on. Heâ€™s about 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery and it sounds like the Red Sox are counting on him to be part of the 2013 rotation. He could be a decent buy low guy if he shows up 1. Healthy, 2. In a shape other than â€œroundâ€ and 3. effective. Despite all his arm issues, he hasnâ€™t shown any drop in velocity…yet. He still has basically the same stuff when he was a competent pitcher in Los Angeles.