Ace Pitchers Shot Down in Flames, Time to Panic?

This young season we are seeing a lot of top pitchers get off to terrible starts. Its scary as Hell when your ace pitcher’s stat line is as bloody as a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie. Stephen Strasburg, R.A. Dickey and Danny Salazar may be crushing your team’s championship hopes, but at least they are not on the overloaded conveyor belt into Dr. James Andrews’ operating room.

This week I will take a look at a set of really good starting pitchers who have gotten off to terrible starts here in 2014. All of these guys were drafted early and expected to perform much better than they have thus far. Who will bounce back and who really does suck? Let’s figure out which of these guys you should try to dump and which of them you should trade for while their owners in your league are panicking over their putrid April.

Homer Bailey — 0-1 record, 8.16 ERA, 2.02 WHIP (Yahoo Rank: #1323)

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Bold Luke’s 11 Bold Predictions about Bold Baseball Players. Bold.

1. Jose Abreu goes off for 40+ HRs/100+ RBIs

He didn’t destroy Cuba because he is bad. He destroyed Cuba because he is really good and he wasn’t allowed to play anywhere else. Probably the best Cuban to compare Abreu to is Kendry Morales and Abreu blew Morales’ Cuban numbers out of the water. So assuming Abreu is better his base line should be set at 34 HRs, 40 is going to be easily reachable.

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#TDGX Recap — Team Kantecki’s First 10

By now, you are well aware that my TDG mates and I have been participating in an intense 40-round, first-year dynasty league draft called The Dynasty Guru Experts League. We’re already 34 rounds deep and the pickings are slim — we’ve recently entered the part of the draft where the CBS player universe doesn’t house all of the players we’d like to draft on our respective teams. I entered the draft with a plan to stick strictly to value, but, as you’ll see, sometimes you need to re-adjust your plan on the fly.

The first ten picks from Team Kantecki:

1.03 — Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

After Mike Trout and Bryce Harper went first and second, respectively, there wasn’t much debate at No 3. Miggy is a top-three dynasty selection no matter how you slice it. While he’s on the wrong side of 30 and will likely lose third-base eligibility after this year, Cabrera should still provide elite numbers for at least the next three seasons. Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew McCutchen entered my thoughts briefly, but I couldn’t pass up the back-to-back American League MVP.

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The Dynasty Guru’s Top 200 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Nos. 1-20

From the 21st of January to the 20th of February, the writers at TDG will be taking you through our rankings position-by-position. As I mentioned in the primer, this year we’re doing things a little differently. Instead of having my personal rankings up on this site, like last year, these rankings for 2014 are of the consensus variety and being brought to you by all of the TDG staff. Everyone put a lot of work into this project, so we hope you enjoy the end result. And if you are looking for my personal dynasty league rankings, you can find them this off-season at Baseball Prospectus.

So we hope you enjoy the rankings package that we’ve put together here. And if you do, I hope that you will make a donation to show appreciation for the content you’ve seen here at the Dynasty Guru. You can do that through this link, or by clicking the “Donate” button on the top-right corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.

Starting pitching is always tough to evaluate as a whole since the group of usable starters is sooooooo big, but we have seen a shift towards more high-level performance out of younger and less-experienced hitters. In fact, were it not for Matt Harvey’s elbow explosion (dibs on that for a band name), we could have seen two pitchers in the top-five who came into 2013 with less than 60 major league innings combined. However, with great performance also comes great responsiblity–and that responsibility is for the fantasy owner to determine whether their young pitcher who was surprisingly good can continue at a high level over a long period of time. We’re pretty confident we know Jose Fernandez is going to be great, but can you say the same thing about Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar and Tony Cingrani. I’m not so confident. The other noticeable thing about starting pitching is that some of the depth we’re used to seeing is drying up a bit. But you won’t notice that with this group of studs (just wait until Thursday and Friday).

Now the 20 best starting pitchers in dynasty leagues, starting with a unanimous pick at the top spot among all TDG rankers (like you really need to ask who it is):

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Who Needs The Winter Meetings?

With the Winter Meetings a little less than a week away (Dec. 9-12), baseball’s hot stove wasted no time cranking up the heat; numerous free-agent deals of the big and small variety have already been agreed upon, and a trade no one saw coming–possibly including one of the two teams involved–might have solidified baseball’s premiere starting rotation for 2014.

(As I write this, another contract has been signed, sealed and drone delivered.)

Because my Hyper-jet Engine Status is on “Light Speed” and I can’t quite keep up with all of the baseball activity, I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the dynasty league implications from some of baseball’s most recent transactions involving starting pitchers. (FYI, I’m only going to focus on current major leaguers, so no minor leaguers yet. That’s for another day.) First, the big kahuna:

Tigers trade RHP Doug Fister to the Nationals 

No, it wasn’t surprising to see Detroit trade a starting pitcher this off-season, as Rick Porcello and even Max Scherzer were rumored to be on the move. But no one–and I mean no one–predicted the Tigers to trade Fister, who, over the past three seasons, has been the ninth most valuable starting pitcher, according to FanGraphs War. Fister was unlucky this year (hello, Tigers’ infield defense), posting a 3.67 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 208 2/3 innings. He performed much better than that, however, posting a 3.26 FIP and 3.42 xFIP. Fister, in fact, hasn’t had a FIP over 3.42 since 2010. He’s been really, really sneaky good, if someone would like to forward that bit of information to general manager Dave Dombrowski.

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Martin Perez and the Power of Patience

The most overused cliches in our vernacular are often overused for good reason. And the one which usually surfaces far too often in fantasy baseball columns throughout the year is “good things come to those who wait.” Unfortunately for you, the reader, you’re going to have to deal with another one–except unlike most of them, I’m going to talk about a player who won’t turn 23 years old until after the 2014 season opens.

Martin Perez has been no stranger to the spotlight in his professional career, as the hype train started early on the Venezuelan left-hander. His performance at short season Spokane, in the college-heavy Northwest League, got the blood flowing in prospect evaluators. But his 2009 season which saw him not only dominate in full season ball, but reach Double-A at 18 years and 4 months, thrust him into upper echelon of prospects. Kevin Goldstein at BP ranked Perez at #15 overall prior to the 2010 season and Baseball America had him at #17. This would end up being the height of his prospect stardom, as the his performance in the upper minors left a lot to be desired.

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Jordan Zimmermann and An Ace in Strasburg’s Shadow

*In case you were curious, this post was written on Saturday night, a mere 12 hours before Zimmermann decided to have his worst start of the season against the Dodgers. So while the referenced stats may have changed, my opinion of him has not. He’s still a stud. This has been a disclaimer.

If you ask a casual baseball fan who the ace of the Washington Nationals is, the two most common answers would be “Stephen Strasburg” and “I have no idea”. And even beyond that, Gio Gonzalez would likely be the third answer on the board. Somewhere further down the list would be Jordan Zimmermann, who just quietly goes about his business as the best pitcher inside the Beltway. Yes, he doesn’t have the flashy strikeout numbers that some of his rotation mates have, but that’s just one piece of the overall puzzle.

On the season, Zimmermann is 12-4 with a 2.58 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 95 strikeouts in 132 1/3 innings. And frankly, that last number is the most important one for both his current and future value. Zimmermann has been very good over the previous two seasons, with a combined ERA just slightly over 3.00, but he’s still been building up his workload after his late 2009 Tommy John surgery. Remember, he was the template that the Nats used when easing Strasburg back into his workload. But this year, he’s in the top-10 in baseball in innings pitched and on pace to throw over 220 innings–which would vault him up into the space that aces reside. And he’s been doing it with the best per inning performance level of his career.

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Dynasty Dynamics: Stephen Strasburg, Dylan Bundy, Jean Segura and Others

There’s nothing like a week of high-profile starting pitcher injury concerns to make you re-think how you go after pitching in fantasy leagues. And no, I’m not talking about Chad Billingsley having Tommy John surgery, which was just about the most unsurprising news blurb I’ve seen in a long time. However, when you start seeing the names of Stephen Strasburg and Dylan Bundy thrown around with elbow/forearm issues, things get a little more real. But before we start freaking out and doing something we’ll potentially regret, let’s take a look at each player individually to see how this is potentially affecting their value.

Stephen Strasburg

The fear with Strasburg isn’t necessarily going to go the way of Mark Prior, but that he will have too many injuries to reach the lofty potential we’ve all anointed him with. And I say we, as I’m certainly guilty of this too–after all, he was the #2 starting pitcher in my off-season dynasty rankings (next to Clayton Kershaw). And while I still feel pretty confident about the ranking, I don’t feel great about it. But let’s be honest, there’s a reason to feel not so great about anyone you could slide into that spot (unless you want to dig down a little bit for someone like Adam Wainwright). Verlander has his velocity issues, which are worrying some. Price and Hamels have have pretty bad starts to the season. King Felix has the specter of the elbow injury. The list goes on.

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The Top 225 Dynasty League Starting Pitchers, Part 1 (#1-50)

There are nearly a million ways to construct a starting staff for your dynasty league team. However, I cannot stress how important it is (especially for starting pitchers) to know your league’s scoring system inside and out. The rankings you’ll find below are for a standard 5×5 rotisserie league, but more and more leagues are switching over to a points format, which makes pitcher valuations a little trickier. Does your scoring system value overvalue or undervalue strikeouts? Does it give a lot of weight to wins, losses and quality starts, or not? How important is it for a starter to accumulate 225+ innings? The easiest way for you to determine where you can take advantage of your scoring system is by looking at previous season totals and comparing them to standard 5×5 end of season valuations (like the ESPN Player Rater). No matter how sharp the guys in your league are, there’s always room for arbitrage.

There is a lot of great information out there, when it comes to individual starting pitcher analysis, but nothing more comprehensive than Paul Sporer’s Starting Pitching Guide. If you don’t know what it’s about, check out the link here. And if you do, and haven’t ordered it yet (like I have), you’re starting out at a disadvantage. He’s running a 33% discount off the regular price, which you can get if you order it before my dynasty league rankings are complete on February 14th.

And now your top 50 dynasty league starters, with commentary:

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The Dynasty Guru’s Crystal Ball: 2017’s 5×5 Category Leaders

This is a fun exercise I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Right now, Opening Day 2017 is four and a half years away, but there’s absolutely no reason I can’t start speculating about who will lead the standard 5×5 rotisserie categories that season. Who knows if the 5×5 format we use now will still be the most commonplace scoring system that far into the future anyway? Maybe a standard ESPN league will be using OBP and QS instead of AVG and W. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that the categories are remaining the same.

Now, this isn’t an all-prospect list – although there are some prospects on here. And if you think I’m understating the impact of prospects in this exercise, here’s a fun fact for you. If we did this exercise after the 2007 season, looking at the 2012 category leaders, guess how many of the categories would be led by players who had not played a game in the majors at the time? The answer is 5 out of 10. And if you expand out to the top-3 in each category (including ties), you get 13 out of 33, which is 39%. Of those 13 top-3 category finishes, 7 were from players that debuted in 2008, 2 were from players that debuted in 2009, 2 were from players that debuted in 2010 and 2 were from Mike Trout, who was a junior in high school when the 2007 season ended. In fact, Trout and Buster Posey were the only two players who finished in the top-3 of any 5×5 fantasy category in 2012 to be drafted AFTER the 2007 season.

Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction – let’s go to the Future Dynasty Guru for the breakdown of what happened in 2017:

Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera (.341)

It feels like Miguel Cabrera’s been around forever, but he only turned 33 on Opening Day 2017. While his power has started to wind down (this was his first season with under 30 HR in over a decade), Cabrera continues to maintain a high batting average. The two main reasons for this are: 1) he’s still a fantastic hitter to all fields and 2) by the laws of physics, it’s been impossible for him to get any slower than he was back in 2012. Runners up: Oscar Taveras (.334), Starlin Castro (.328)

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