We’ve moved on to the middle 20 of our NL starting pitcher rankings.
Garza is coming off a season that saw him miss time with elbow issues and a triceps injury. Heâ€™s rehabbed his elbow and appears to be on track to be ready to answer the bell on Opening Day. Garza maintained his 8.00+ K/9 and didnâ€™t suffer any drop in velocity before he hit the DL. His name is always involved in trade talks and is a solid bet to get moved at some point in 2013. Fantasy GMs in NL-only leagues need to be careful.
Cahill is a ground ball machine. He posted a 61.2 GB % last year with a 2.69 GB:FB ratio. Heâ€™ll always be at the mercy of the luck stats with that many balls put in play. The good news is that his K/9 has gone from 5.40 to 6.37 to 7.02. The uptick in Cahillâ€™s K-numbers came with the development of a cutter. Heâ€™s a solid bet to maintain a 7.00+ K/9 and heâ€™ll have continued success as long as the guys behind him catch the ball.
Medlen worked his way back from 2011 Tommy John surgery first in the bullpen and then in the rotation. The Braves handled Medlenâ€™s return from injury beautifully. He started the year in the bullpen and transitioned into the rotation. He spent most of the year with the big club and worked 138 innings. The problem for 2013 is that Medlen was a little too successful and looks like an overdraft candidate. He got by with a .261 BABIP and a 5.7% HR:FB ratio. Both numbers are well under his career averages. Medlen is good, but heâ€™s not 1.57 ERA good.
Some might see Mike Minorâ€™s .252 BABIP and recoil in horror at images of statistical regression. Others should notice that Minor owns a 0.81 GB:FB ratio with a 43.7% FB %. He gives up a lot of fly balls and that plays a big role in keeping his BABIP lower than average. He could very well benefit from the uber-athletic outfield of Jason Heyward and the Uptons. Minor owns a 7.88 K/9 in over 300 career innings. Heâ€™s a solid bet to post a K/9 over 7.00. Donâ€™t be scared off by the luck stats, Minor is a solid source of Kâ€™s.
Miley was a 25 year old rookie who got by thanks in large part to a really lucky first half. He managed a .261 BABIP before the all-star break. Sadly, regression has already come for Wade. He posted a .326 BABIP in the second half of the season. These results were mirrored in his ERA with a 3.04 in the first half and a 3.64 in the second half. He doesnâ€™t walk very many (1.71 BB/9 last year), but he doesnâ€™t whiff many either (6.66 K/9).
Ian Kennedy proved that 2011 wasnâ€™t a fluke by posting a 8.08 K/9 and 2.38 BB/9 in 2012. Those numbers are almost identical to his 2011 numbers. The problem was that Kennedy didnâ€™t get nearly as lucky in wins or with balls in play (career high .306 BABIP last year). He maintained a sub=1.00 GB:FB ratio and heâ€™s due for a correction in 2013. Heâ€™s actually a little underrated after being overdrafted in 2012.
Niese finally posted a sub-.300 BABIP in 2012 after two straight years of suffering through bad luck and seasons with a higher than average BABIP. Niese set career highs in wins (13), ERA (3.40) and innings pitched (190 1/3). Heâ€™s posted a K/9 in the mid 7.00â€™s for the past three seasons and is one of the more bankable trends for pitchers in 2013. He might not win very many thanks to being on the Mets, but he should contribute solid ratios and Kâ€™s. Draft with confidence.
Lynn earned a starting slot and turned in a career year last year by striking more than a batter per inning and winning 18. Sadly, we might have seen the best Lynn has to offer. Heâ€™s never posted K numbers anywhere near the 9.20 K/9 he posted in 2012. His innings bump should also be a concern. Lynn jumped from 109 2/3 innings combined in Triple-A and with the big club in 2011 to 176 innings in 2012. Lynn did post a .321 BABIP in 2012. That number is likely a function of his 24.0% LD %. We also donâ€™t have enough of a sample size on Lynn to know if he was the victim of a statistical variance or not.
Bailey finally logged 200+ innings and turned in a competent season. Bailey struck out more than seven batters per nine and walked fewer than three per nine. It appears that Bailey has turned a corner after years of disappointment.
Fiers is gaining a lot of steam as a popular sleeper. Itâ€™s not entirely unfounded. The biggest red flag was the amount of time it took Fiers to make it through the minor leagues. Fiers turns 28 in June and he was a rookie last year. He routinely posted K/9â€™s in the 8.00s and 9.00s in the minors. He doesnâ€™t have the big fastball that most associate with K numbers, but he does two things really well. First, heâ€™s always in the strike zone. He threw a pitch in the strike zone 48.1% of the time last year. Thatâ€™s good for 14th among pitchers with at least 110 innings, but he was only 62nd in contact %. He threw a lot of strikes, but didnâ€™t really get hit around. He doesnâ€™t miss bats (his 8.3% swinging strike % is below league average). Â He gets by on location, movement and pitch sequencing. A K/9 over 9.00 is a little high for a guy like Fiers to post for a full year. but it wouldnâ€™t be a shock to see him end up with a K/9 around 8.00.
Gee is working his way back from a blood clot in his shoulder and it sounds like he could come back better. He had issues with recovering between starts. Doctors believe that increased blood flow to his shoulder should help. When Gee wasnâ€™t on the shelf with his shoulder issues, he was putting together a decent season. He increased his K/9 to 7.96 and dropped his BB/9 to 2.38. Heâ€™s a decent sleeper candidate if he makes it through spring training with a clean bill of health.
Capuano was basically the same last year as he was in his career year of 2005. His average velocity was actually higher in 2012 than 2005. The only real difference is that heâ€™s essentially ditched his slider in favor of a curve and relied slightly more on his change up. Heâ€™s always a tweaked shoulder or elbow away from the DL, but his skills appear to be repeatable and he doesnâ€™t have any sabrmetric red flags. The workload he had last year is a slight concern, but heâ€™s essentially in the â€œthrow-til-it-falls-offâ€ portion of his career.
Burnett was exactly what most fantasy pundits predicted after his return to the NL. He provided competent ratios and a K/9 over 8.00. He doesnâ€™t really have any red flags other than the normal, â€œA.J. Burnett might miss six weeks with tendonitisâ€ red flags. His average velocity has been in decline since 2007 and could become an issue as he marches towards 40.
Estrada is coming off his best season and finally has a rotation spot locked down before the season. He doesnâ€™t have a path to a job, he has an ACTUAL job. Estrada posted a K/9 over 9.00 and a BB/9 under 2.00. Heâ€™s a solid bet to supply the K numbers that fantasy GMs need.
Lilly is still rehabbing his shoulder and it sounds like he should be ready when spring training starts, but the Dodgers have a TON of healthy options in front of him. The Dodgers essentially have eight pitchers for five slots. The rotation will be headed by Kershaw, Greinke and Beckett. So that leaves two spots for five pitchers. Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin will likely start the season as the fourth starter. The fifth starter will be a competition of sorts between Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly with Chad Billingsley working his way back from TJS. Lilly is in his age 37 season, but heâ€™s still capable of posting a K/9 over 7.00. The problem is that he doesnâ€™t have a clear path to a job. He might need a change of scenery before he can be considered in most formats.
McDonald posted a .242 BABIP in the first half of the season and was striking out more than eight batters per nine innings. Then he regressed towards his career averages. His second half BABIP was .312 and it took his ERA and WHIP with it. The bigger issue was that his BB/9 ballooned from 2.54 in the first half to 5.61 in the second half. Be careful when adding McDonald to your roster in 2013.
Hudson is a pitcher to avoid in leagues with innings caps. Heâ€™ll likely log over around 200 innings, but heâ€™ll post a K/9 around 5.00. Thatâ€™s too many innings and too few Kâ€™s. Hudson relies on his crazy high ground ball rate(over 55% EVERY year of his career) and his defense helping him out. He could very well be the next Jamie Moyer and pitch until heâ€™s 50.
Baker missed almost the entire 2012 season with Tommy John surgery. Heâ€™s expected to be back at some point in April and looks like a fantastic buy low candidate. Heâ€™s routinely posted K/9 numbers over 7.00 and BB/9 under 3.00. Heâ€™s also moving from AL to NL. Baker should provide value as long as he emerges from spring training with his elbow still functioning.
Garcia was shut down twice last year with shoulder issues, but he managed to avoid surgery and will skip the WBC to focus on being healthy for Opening Day. The problem is that even Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isnâ€™t sure about Garciaâ€™s shoulder. He claims to be â€œholding his breath,â€ and â€œUntil you ramp it up and put yourself on the mound, we’re not going to know for sure.â€ Hmmm. It sounds like Garcia is a solid bet to miss time in 2013. When he his healthy, Garcia is known for a high GB rate(2.07 GB:FB ratio for his career) and competent K numbers(7.15 K/9 for his career). His shoulder issues could cause a drop in velocity, which could impact his strikeout numbers.
Harvey has the makings of a legit ace in fantasy baseball and in real life. He has all the skills fantasy GMs look for in a top twenty guy and those skills translate to his stats. Heâ€™s capable of posting a K/9 over 9.00. He does profile as a flyball pitcher, but he pitches half his games in Metco. Balls that would be homers in most park are just long outs at Citi Field. Heâ€™s penciled into the #3 slot in the Metsâ€™ rotation and should be able to throw without restrictions. He tossed 169 1/3 innings last year and should be able to handle the bump to a full-time schedule. The only red flag is Harveyâ€™s 3.94 BB/9 last year. He struggles with control. So do a lot of young pitchers. The difference is that most young pitchers arenâ€™t capable of striking out a batter per inning.