“Round Robinson”: Top 100 Starting Pitchers for 2015 (71-100) (Part 4 of 4)
We wrap up the MLFS Starting Pitcher ranks this week. Below you’ll find an eclectic mix of steadying veterans and risk/reward pups that you’ll have to choose from when your draft winds down. Maybe you want the known quantity, or perhaps, like myself, you choose to go with the late round lottery ticket. Whatever your taste, Round Robinson Inc. has plenty of makes and models for your perusing.
71. A.J. Burnett (PIT) – I’m not crazy about the spike in walks last year, but based on this rank, I’m pretty much disregarding anything that happened with the Phillies in 2014. That was a sinking ship I’m glad Burnett found his way off of, making the return trip across the state to Pittsburgh. You got SP2/3 numbers in 2012 and 2013 from Burnett and, while I’m obviously not projecting quite that much of a return to form, the industry as a whole has soured a bit more on him than I can handle.
Projection: 12-9, 3.90 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 182 K
72. Ervin Santana (MIN) – It couldn’t have gone any better for Santana in his first few starts with Atlanta in 2014 and he looked on his way to being one of the steals of the season. Unfortunately, that goodwill dissipated quickly as he turned in a 4.46 ERA over his last 25 starts and struggled mightily to keep ducks off the pond. He gets the anti-Scherzer treatment, leaving the NL East for the AL Central and some very good offenses. The saving grace is that he will call Target Field home, one of the softer landing spots in the American League. I think he hovers around a 4.00-ERA, but he’ll be a matchups play at best.
Projection: 8-11, 3.98 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 167 K
73. Jonathon Niese (NYM) – I can’t think of a single starting pitcher I’ve streamed more in the last few years than Jon Niese. He’s as true a matchups play as there can be, only providing true upside when the competition is below average. Although he has stretches of usefulness, Niese’s middling strikeout rate keeps him from ascending the ranks despite his decent ratios. It’ll be another season of selective usage for the forgotten man in the Mets rotation.
Projection: 10-12, 3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 132 K
74. Matt Shoemaker (LAA) – The emergence of Matt Shoemaker had to be one of the best, and most unlikely, stories of 2014. A career minor leaguer who only had one full season as a starter with an ERA under 4.50, Shoemaker blossomed one of the best pitchers in the AL, sporting a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP while collecting 16 wins. As much of a fairy tale season as that was, if you’re expecting anything resembling those numbers again, you’re in for a rude awakening. Shoemaker doesn’t have the overpowering stuff to dominate hitters and now there’s a book out on this former unknown. He’ll come back down to Earth this year, possibly with a resounding thud.
Projection: 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 141 K
75. Jesse Hahn (OAK) – It was a small sample size, but boy was it a good one. Jesse Hahn pitched phenomenally in his debut year, including an eight-start stretch in June and July where he went 7-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 49 K. If a pitcher has to leave the comfy confines of Petco and jump to the AL, I don’t think there’s a cushier landing spot than Oakland. I’m on record as being a believer in the Athletics’ ability to make good pitchers great, which gives Hahn an outside chance to repeat last year’s final numbers with an increased workload.
Projection: 11-7, 3.63 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 146 K
76. Shelby Miller (ATL) – Despite a K/BB ratio that is trending the wrong way, the Braves made Shelby Miller the primary piece in their trade with St. Louis that landed Jason Heyward with the Cardinals. No one will argue Miller’s arm talent, but his control is another story. Atlanta obviously thinks they can get him back on track and develop him as another core piece heading towards 2017. I expect a bounce back, but not a large one this year. The true jump is coming down the road, so don’t pay for his potential quite yet.
Projection: 10-12, 3.93 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 152 K
77. Carlos Martinez (STL) – Trading Miller served two purposes for the Cardinals. Not only did they acquire Heyward to replace the late Oscar Taveras, they also opened a permanent spot in the rotation for Carlos Martinez. If we’re ranking pitchers strictly on ability, Martinez is long gone by now, but because he has never reached even 120 IP in any one professional season, his considerable upside is capped in 2015. On a per start basis, I really like what Martinez brings to the table with his ability to miss bats, and if he can get that walk rate back down to his minor league levels, watch out.
Projection: 9-6, 3.73 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 132 K
78. Jake Peavy (SF) – The move from Boston to the bay was all it took to turn around Peavy’s fortunes. He became a key cog in the Giants winning their third World Series title in five years and resigned for another two seasons in San Fran. Both Peavy’s walk rate and home run rate dramatically plummeted after the trade, and he began to resemble the pitcher who left the NL West in 2008. Those numbers won’t stay as low in his first full season with the Giants, but you won’t see a regression to Red Sox levels either.
Projection: 11-8, 3.85 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 150 K
79. Mike Minor (ATL) – The word of the day when it comes to Mike Minor is unsustainable. He pitched over his head in 2013 to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, but a home run rate well below league average for such an extreme fly ball pitcher was a giant red flag. When that home run rate jumped nearly 2% last season, the results were as disastrous as you would imagine. In 25 starts, Minor posted a dismal 4.77 ERA and an equally repulsive 1.44 WHIP. Somewhere in the middle is the real Mike Minor, but there’s a wide range of outcomes that could result. Keep an eye on that home run rate and you’ll have an idea where on the continuum Minor will fall this year.
Projection: 10-12, 4.04 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 163 K
80. Mike Leake (CIN) – As a Leake owner last year, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by the jump in both his workload and his strikeouts. Not that Leake will ever be a boon to your K totals, but for once he wasn’t dragging them down as he managed 164 K in 214.1 IP. His peripherals suggest he’s going to give a little back in the ratio categories, but as long as Leake can continue to induce ground balls with the best of them while pitching in Great American, he’ll have a place in fantasy rotations.
Projection: 10-10, 3.89 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 153 K
81. Taijuan Walker (SEA) – I’ve always been a sucker for a young Seattle pitcher with a pedigree. I’m still fully on board the Michael Pineda train and have just as high of hopes for Taijuan Walker. I thought he’d be further along by now, but injuries have slowed his development, making 2015 what should be his coming out party. The kid throws gas but is still a ways away from the refinement necessary to be a front line starter. Still, he’ll get a good number of strikeouts on his gas alone, but the control must improve. No pitcher can achieve high levels of success walking a batter every two innings.
Projection: 9-7, 3.86 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 139 K
82. Jason Hammel (CHC) – Of course, there’s an exception to every rule. I normally trust pitchers going to Oakland, but Jason Hammel lost that trust in his first few starts with the A’s. What snuck under the radar was Hammel had a very strong finishing kick (final six starts: 35.2 IP, 2.02 ERA, 32 K). He made the wise decision to head back to Chicago and rejoin the Cubs this offseason, and I’m guessing the environment will again bring him back to relevance. I’d have no problem reaching a couple of rounds at the back-end of the draft in the hopes that Hammel recaptures at least some of last season’s early magic.
Projection: 9-11, 3.83 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 147 K
83. Henderson Alvarez (MIA) – You’d think for someone who throws as hard as Alvarez does, strikeouts would’ve been a key component to his ridiculous 2014 campaign. Somehow, with a K/9 that barely topped five, Alvarez still finished 11th in all of baseball with a 2.65 ERA. I’ll put 10-to-1 odds he never finishes that low again. He has to start missing a few more bats to get anywhere close to that kind of production, and I just don’t think Alvarez has it in him. Making half your starts in Marlins Park helps, but there’s a good size drop off coming in 2015.
Projection: 9-13, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 123 K
84. Kyle Lohse (MIL) – It might not be the most exciting brand of pitching to watch, but if you’ve owned Kyle Lohse in any of the past four seasons, you know how beneficial that brand can be to your ratios. In nearly 800 IP over that time, Lohse has managed a 3.28 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He is 36 years old, so expect those numbers to start sliding (as they did fractionally last year). If you lock up a ton of strikeouts early, Lohse is the perfect model of consistency to close out your staff.
Projection: 10-12, 3.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 130 K
85. Jarred Cosart (MIA) – Another starter who benefited greatly from a change of scenery in 2014, Cosart became a late season gem after the Astros shipped him to Miami, posting a 2.39 ERA in 10 starts with the fish. Unfortunately, that’s about as hollow an ERA as you’ll ever see as Cosart struggled to both strike batters out and avoid the free pass. He did finish among the top 10 in baseball in ground ball rate, something he’ll have to duplicate to have any chance of major regression setting in.
Projection: 11-11, 3.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 126 K
86. Yovani Gallardo (TEX) – Typically we peg the prime age for baseball players to be right around 27 years old. Unfortunate, we might have already seen the best of Gallardo before he reached that all-important birthday. His K-rate eclipsed 9.0 for four straight years, making him one of baseball’s best sources of punchouts. Sadly, that number dipped below 7.0 last year and Gallardo now has failed to reach 150 K in back-to-back seasons. Add to that the move to Texas, a ballpark I prefer to avoid (just check out my Yu Darvish ranking), and I’m pessimistic that we ever see a dominant Yovani Gallardo again.
Projection: 10-10, 4.14 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 144 K
87. Wily Peralta (MIL) – Peralta did everything last year you’d want to see from a young starter whose developing into a solid, consistent pitcher. His workload fell just short of 200 IP (198.2), his walk rate was cut by nearly 25%, and his K rate jumped to 7.0, a 10% spike over the previous season. Unfortunately, the advanced metrics just don’t seem to be as much of a fan and continue to see him as a 4.00+ ERA guy. I don’t think his ratios will quite match up to last year’s production, but I’ll still take a chance on youth and upside at this stage.
Projection: 10-13, 3.79 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 147 K
88. James Paxton (SEA) – Did I mention I have a thing for Seattle youngsters? I was pleasantly surprised by the returns Paxton gave us the last two months of the season after returning from a shoulder strain and am as high on him as anyone coming into 2015. His walk rate, like many young pitchers on this list, does leave something to be desired, but I can handle that considering how well he keeps the ball on the ground and in the park. The innings cap is definitely in play, but there will be plenty to enjoy in the turns he gives you.
Projection: 9-7, 3.76 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 131 K
89. Derek Holland (TEX) – 2014 should have been Derek Holland’s bust out season. Then again, a lot was supposed to happen in Texas last year that didn’t materialize thanks to an injury epidemic in the Metroplex. Holland missed most of the year with a knee injury, but did look good in his six starts in September. Unfortunately, I’m not buying the bounce back year for the Rangers and I’m not buying one from Holland. His elevated line drive rate combined with his fly ball tendencies don’t inspire much confidence as long as he calls Texas home.
Projection: 8-9, 3.95 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 139 K
90. Wade Miley (BOS) – We had a somewhat spirited discussion about Wade Miley’s prospects a couple of weeks ago on Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio, and I found myself on the glass-half-empty side of things. Getting out of the desert should’ve helped his outlook, but trading cactus for Sweet Caroline is an even trade at best in my eyes, especially for a pitcher who’s doubled his walk rate from what it was two seasons ago. Miley, like all Boston pitchers, will be helped in the win-loss column by what should be a prolific Red Sox offense, but it won’t keep those ratios from staying elevated.
Projection: 12-9, 4.06 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 172 K
91. Bartolo Colon (NYM) – He’s big. He’s rotund. And he just keeps finding a way to give us useful numbers. Bartolo Colon has to be one of the greatest late career resurrection stories ever. Yes, he fell off from his amazing age-40 season in Oakland (how could he not?), but Colon still gave you 200+ innings, 15 wins, a very useful 1.23 WHIP and a FIP (3.57) that suggests he should have been even better. Based on my projections alone, Colon deserves to be ranked higher. His consistency helps him, but there’s no upside beyond what I’ve forecasted. I just prefer some of the young lottery tickets a wee bit more at this stage of the draft.
Projection: 11-14, 3.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 128 K
92. CC Sabathia (NYY) – First and foremost, I’m no doctor. My medical opinion should be taken with many, many grains of salt. That being said, my BS detector is tuned just right and, after hearing Sabathia put on another 30 pounds to get up to 305, right now it’s red lining. A pitcher who’s dealing with chronic and degenerative knee problems shouldn’t be on the wrong side of three bills, even if scouts are saying a little weight gain would help. This is just overdoing it and it won’t be the magic elixir that returns Sabathia to All-Star form. There’s just too many innings on that arm and too much of a downward trend in his career to overcome.
Projection: 10-11, 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 154 K
93. Clay Buchholz (BOS) – It’s an out-and-out fact that Buchholz will be overdrafted this year. People are going to remember 2010 and 2013 and roll the dice that he gets back to that kind of form this year. But when your H/9 (hits per nine innings pitched) jumps over 50% from one year to the next, your home run rate triples and your strikeout rate tails off, sorry but that’s just too much negativity coming from one guy. When it’s all said and done, I really won’t be surprised if my projections end up being even a little too optimistic. Oye.
Projection: 11-10, 4.07 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 148 K
94. Nathan Eovaldi (NYY) – For all the electricity Nathan Eovaldi has in that fastball, he sure doesn’t do much in the way of missing bats with it. In fact, the former Marlin gave up the most hits in the league last year at 223. He also continued to strikeout batters to the tune of just 6.4 K/9, a number many want to see improve. It’ll have to for him to have any success in his new home. Lefties slugged .438 and had 10 HR off Eovaldi last year and that short porch in Yankee Stadium could elevate those numbers even more if he doesn’t alter his approach.
Projection: 9-12, 4.12 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 151 K
95. Wei-Yen Chen (BAL) – Chen’s peripherals suggest that he’s been a very stable commodity in his first three years with the Orioles. There hasn’t been much fluctuation in his strikeout rate, HR rate or his FIP since he made his debut in 2012. Yet, Chen managed to end 2014 with a 3.54 ERA after two years just barely above 4.00, and the only significant change was his walk rate dropping from 2.6 to 1.7 last year. We’ve seen enough, however, to know that Chen will probably never be anything more than a low-K, low-upside arm whose ERA will hover right around 4.00 and who will probably touch double digits in wins.
Projection: 11-12, 3.92 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 148 K
96. Bud Norris (BAL) – There must’ve be something to all those Maryland Blue Crabs as Norris, like his teammate Chen, also turned in his finest professional season last year, elevating the Orioles to the division title. And like his teammate, I don’t expect a repeat performance and neither do the peripherals. The long ball continues to be an issue for the former Astro, as does that inflated line drive rate. No pitcher can survive long with giving up solid contact in a quarter of their at bats. Add in that Norris’ 2014 BABIP was 30 points below his career average and you have a recipe for some decent regression.
Projection: 12-10, 4.11 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 149 K
97. Tim Hudson (SF) – Another veteran in the mold of Lohse and Colon that won’t strike out many batters at all, but he’ll do the job for you if you need late help with those ratios. Hudson continues to churn out productive year after productive year, and you can lock up another season with an ERA in the mid-threes and a WHIP approaching 1.20. My projection is on the cautious side because Hudson will turn 40 this year and is coming off ankle surgery, but he’s among the safest bets you’ll find in the endgame.
Projection: 12-8, 3.76 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 107 K
98. Josh Collmenter (ARI) – We’re 98 pitchers in and this is our first trip out to Arizona. Needless to say for D-backs fans, this is going to be a long, long season. Still, Josh Collmenter does present some intrigue after a successful transition from the bullpen to the rotation. The major problem Collmenter gives fantasy owners is that he didn’t bring his strikeouts with him from the pen. In almost 90 more innings pitched in 2014 as compared to 2013, Collmenter only struck out 30 more batters than he did the previous year. Should he somehow find a way to miss a few more bats, he could find himself crawling up this list.
Projection: 9-11, 3.90 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 132 K
99. Andrew Heaney (LAA) – I’m not ready to out-and-out dismiss all the potential Heaney had when he was first called up by Miami last year. His debut was a train wreck, and that’s probably putting it nicely, but I still think this is one of the more enticing names late or in AL-only leagues. Landing on the Angels means Heaney doesn’t have to be perfect every turn knowing he’s going to get plenty of run support. There won’t be nearly the pressure or expectation that he had his first time around, and I could see him turning a few heads in Anaheim.
Projection: 10-7, 4.04 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 141 K
100. C.J. Wilson (LAA) – We wrap things up going from a young Angel pitcher to a veteran one. Much like I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Heaney, I’m still holding out hope that C.J. Wilson has one more good go round in him, and I’ll give him a mulligan considering he had pretty good success in his first two years with the Angels. But if he decides to lead the league in walks again all bets are off. He’s a guy I’ll target late, but will have no problem cutting if his first couple starts don’t inspire any belief.
Projection: 13-11, 4.16 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 160 K
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