“What a Rush!” Biting the Bullet and making some calls for 2016 SP
Hi sports campers. I paused my existential crisis to stick with the Road Warrior Hawk tagline this week. Heck. With the South Carolina primary behind us, Bill Murray threatening to run for president, and Jesse the Body Ventura looming as a quality VP candidate, I need Hawk-like resolve to go on the record.
I will stick by my approach, then. Not going to go on about who should be #23 or #17. Instead, I’ll discuss tiers of SP among that list I used last week. I won’t discuss every single SP on the list. I’ll highlight noteworthy folks on it.
Before I get going, let me lay out some criteria for analysis:
- Defense Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS) matter. So, I focus on K, BB, Quality Starts, etc.
- Having said that, SP on the Yankees, Royals, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Astros get a bump in value in terms of W potential because of their outstanding BP. SP on these teams will seldom need to go more than 7 innings. Of course, that may chew into your K rate, but it adds longevity.
- Contract years and looming free agency matter. Madison Bumgarner is a machine with attitude (anyone recall that confrontation with Yasiel Puig a couple of years ago?). He’s now pitching for a new contract. Batters beware.
- Studs are studs. We might haggle over whether Kershaw is worth the money. But no one’s haggling over his skills.
- Injuries render anyone hinky.
- We will look for value down in the rankings.
- NL SP get to strike out opposing pitchers 3 times a game. AL SP do not.
- I’m still thinking in terms of auction league values. Snake leagues require a different calculus. Not better or worse, just different. That’s the stuff of another column later.
The studs. Back to our top 20 +/-. This is kinda easy: How much do you want to spend? These guys are all studs. The top 10 are
Things to think about: In general, you can’t miss. But, keep a couple of things in mind when drafting and bidding:
- Madison Bumgarner + contract year. Bid with confidence.
- Chris Sale is as steady as they come. Were he on the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, etc., he’d get much more press. Outstanding K/BB rate. Misses bats with ease. Undervalued because of the team. Bid the extra buck.
- David Price. As consistent as Sale. Nasty stuff. Great clubhouse presence. He is also a lefty who has just moved into a hitter’s ballpark that traditionally beats lefties up. No disrespect to a guy with quality stuff, but if you are in a bidding war, remember that Tampa Bay’s Trop is known as a pitcher-friendly park. The Rogers Center is a hitter’s park, but not as friendly as the Cathedral of Boston. That brief stop in the neutral abode of the Tigers does not count. He’s still a god. But Fenway may force him to pop a squat one seat down the Olympic bench.
- Jose Fernandez. WARNING! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! I love this guy. Can’t wait to see him and Giancarlo Stanton playing together again. But he’s back from Tommy John surgery and had a stint on the DL last year. He has unhittable stuff, but I’d bet on an innings limit. Keep an eye out in spring training.
The Next 10.
- Carlos Carrasco. Had a sore shoulder last year, but had a 15.1 dominance rate in September. He’s fine.
- Zach Greinke will continue to dominate. He’s undervalued at $22. He will not be in Kershaw’s shadow this year. Take note.
- Gerrit Cole. (See Will Robinson above). His ribs are hurting. Whenever I see him, I wonder when he’ll be up for Tommy John surgery. He is a GREAT talent. He is Cy Young award material. But, bid with caution.
- Johnny Cueto. I’m a bit surprised at his ranking. He’s good, but not solid. Which version will arrive in San Francisco? The one that helped KC win the World Series or the one that really did not help to get them there?
- The New York Mets. Three SP in the top 20. Their voices just changed and they just got their braces off. Is this not sick? Bid with confidence.
The Wider Tiers: 20-50
Here is where you gamble a bit. Sonny Gray is a legitimate top 20 sp. He had salmonella, a sore back, and hurt his hip in 2015. He’ll be undervalued thanks to the accompanying fade. He’s only 26. Bid with confidence.
Adam Wainwright is not getting any younger (34), but he remains a money ballplayer on a St. Louis team with a scary bullpen. If they land the Stone Buddha, they will have a legitimate claim to baseball’s best bullpen. He’ll get W and QS for sure.
Masahiro Tanaka. Anyone remember when the Mets were New York’s Junior Varsity team? Not anymore… Just asking… Forearm. Wrist. Elbow. Bone Chip Surgery. He still has an elite skill set, but his body is not cooperating. Still only 27. But, still. Let others bid him up over $20. With regard to that whole New York JV thing, let me skip down to…
Stephen Matz. Injury limited him last year. Still he’s a solid ground ball SP and he’s only 24. Did I mention that he is on the NY Varsity team? Sheesh!
Carlos Martinez. Another 24-year-old stud. The Cardinals shut him down at 180 innings and with a sore shoulder. They should have shut him down earlier. His skill set indicated that he’d break out last year. Keep an eye on the spring injury discussion. If he’s healthy, he’s a steal under $20. If the injury keeps the bidding low, he’s a better steal under $10.
Luis Severino. Is it possible that a 22 year old will be the Yankees’ #1? Tanaka is fragile and Pineda is solid. They will probably go higher in most drafts. The real question is the looming innings limit. He pitched 62 innings in 2015. When will they shut him down in 2016? A solid prospect. Just don’t bet on using him in the playoff stretch.
Yordano Ventura. See what being sent to the woodshed or your room does? After a brief demotion to the minors in 2015, he shut up, stopped looking for trouble, focused, and pitched up to his skill set. He has attitude, skills, and is only 25. He’s backed by a ridiculous bullpen in which Greg Holland is now almost pedestrian. Bid with confidence
Justin Verlander. Apparently, he was only mostly dead. Injuries nag him. He’s 33. I like his value better in single digit prime numbers.
Taijuan Walker. At the ripe old age of 22, he had a typical pubescent MLB season. But after a horrendous start, he settled down and pitched a quality second half. Seattle wisely shut him down in September. That awful first half masks a solid skill set. Dominance is outstanding. If he can keep the ball on the ground, look out. King Felix hears footsteps.
(Author’s note: Boy, I hope no one in my fantasy leagues is reading this. Actually, I meant to say that Walker, Matz and C-mart are terrible. Rumor has it they prefer automatic transmissions, drive beige Volvos, and are frequently caught sneaking 17 items through the express lanes. Stay away. Really. Would YOU trust anyone who puts road Warrior Hawk on his columns?)
Lance McCullers is only 22. He had ups and downs similar to Taijuan Walker, but he had a solid second half after working stuff out in the minors. He’s got quality stuff and is clearly a season or two away. A worthy investment, but he will be shut down as he approaches 180 IP.
Yu Darvish. The Gods are cruel. He is tossing and may do bullpen sessions in March. At best, he is a mid-season investment despite his elite skill set.
The Bottom half of the top 100. What do they call the person who finishes last in a med school class? “Doctor.” Keep that in mind.
We will loosen the analysis up. At this point, and at these dollar values, we are shopping at the bargain bin. If your stupid friends listen to you and snap up Walker, C-Mart, etc., here is where you earn your money. We will shift into love/hate mode here.
Jeff Samardzija has never lived up to the hype. He is right where he belongs at $4.75. My favorite analysis of Samardzija is from the Washington Post analysis by Barry Svrluga here. In baseball, his skill set gets him more money than Megatron got from the Detroit Lions. While the baseball gods may be cruel (see Darvish above), their fickleness can pay off. Be happy you will pay only single digits for him.
(But report to all your buddies that he is much better than Taijuan Walker.)
Carlos Rodon is just 23. He has an elite skill set, but he is still settling in. Ups and downs and an innings cap will drive you nuts. He’s solid at this price.
Michael Pineda. Noted above. At this price, he is a solid investment. He will go much higher, though.
Clay Buchholz. Not quite mostly dead (See Justin Verlander above). When he is on, he throws no-hitters and is dominant. But, the stars, moon, planets, tides, rites of spring, circadian rhythms, and injury history never align. I’m as big a homer as the next guy. But, stay away.
Since I’m going on about being a homer, let’s talk Rick Porcello. He had a disastrous 2015 in the wake of a ridiculous contract. But in 43 innings in September, he had a [45:10] K: BB ratio. By comparison: MadBum was 42:9 and Carrasco was [43:11]. David Price was [37:10]. Pay $2 when everyone else is down to their last buck. There is great profit here.
There is incredible value down here. Joe Ross, Anthony DeSclafini, and Eduardo Rodriguez are solid, young SP. Hope they fall to the end of the draft and snap them up. Ervin Santana still can get you K, but not much else. Tyler Glasnow is a solid, young rookie. He will have a cap on IP, but is a great early season investment. Andrew Heaney still needs to settle down, but when he is on, he has quality skills. Kevin Gausman has solid stuff that was masked by a mediocre start to last year.
Beyond this, in a 10 or 12 team league, we are dumpster diving and bargain hunting. When bidding on Derek Holland or Trevor Bauer, you should already have your batters and bullpen set. All these players are $1 investments at best. Lots to speculate on, but these are penny stock.
Comments welcome. Next week, we start the divisional previews.
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