Rankings Counterpoint: Targeting Marco Estrada as a Breakout Candidate
As you know by now, the illustrious team of writers here at The Dynasty Guru put together a complete set of rankings for players at every position. If you haven’t seen them yet you should definitely check them out HERE! These rankings were built especially for use in dynasty leagues. Of course player values in dynasty leagues are dramatically different than in re-draft leagues but all the lists on other fantasy baseball sites were made for yearly leagues. We created our dynasty rankings as consensus lists compiling the opinions of all the TDG writers into the ultimate ranking system for dynasty leagues anywhere on the Net.
Since the lists were created on a consensus basis, sometimes each of us on the panel may disagree with the collective mind. I strongly believe our rankings are the best to be found anywhere, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the ranking of every single player. This article is the second of a series where I highlight a few examples of starting pitchers who I believe are more valuable than their rank. The first article was about Danny Salazar, read it HERE.
Marco Estrada — TDG rank # 147 among the Top 200 Starting Pitchers
Marco Estrada is 29 years old and has a career record of 16-20 with a 4.17 ERA. That kind of sucks doesn’t it? So why the heck am I saying you should target him? Well, most of the damage to his career stats came years ago when he was a struggling relief pitcher. His combined stats for the last two seasons are a 12-11 record with a 3.75 ERA, a stellar 1.11 WHIP, 261 strikeouts and only 58 walks in 266 innings. Much better. In fact, his peripheral stats compare favorably to the best pitchers in baseball over the last couple years. Don’t believe me? Check this out…
Here is a chart showing Estrada’s rank amongst the 109 pitchers who have thrown 250+ innings over the last two years:
3.75 ERA — 49th out of 109 pitchers
1.11 WHIP — 11th
8.82 K/9 — 15th
1.96 BB/9 — 12th
4.50 K/BB — 3rd
3.59 FIP — 27th
3.55 xFIP — 25th
3.34 SIERA — 11th
The chart clearly indicates that all of Estrada’s primary peripherals are very comfortably in the top 25% of all major league starting pitchers. The only stat that is not excellent is his ERA, but the peripherals indicate that his ERA should fall in line with his FIP, xFIP and SIERA. In other words, his ERA is likely to improve moving forward. Combine that improving ERA with his already stellar WHIP and strikeout numbers and you get a hot commodity for your fantasy roster.
Just a note about WHIP, the most misunderstood fantasy category. Everyone knows what a good ERA looks like, but many people just kind of gloss over the WHIP stat and assume that if a guy’s ERA is good his WHIP will be good too. WHIP scores for fantasy baseball teams usually range from a WHIP of 1.12 that is good enough to win the WHIP category in a league all the way up to 1.32 or higher, which will get you last place. A WHIP of 1.22 is about average for a fantasy team. Major league WHIPs have been falling in recent years just like ERAs have been. Your closers usually have much better WHIPs than your starting pitchers, so if you can get a starter who gives you 200 innings of a 1.11 WHIP that can go a long way to helping you score a lot of points in the WHIP category.
The reason that Estrada’s ERA has been higher than his peripherals say it should be is that he has given up more than his fair share of home runs. Although he is a fly ball pitcher in a homer-friendly Miller Park, we should still expect his unlucky home run rate to fall down to a more reasonable rate and help his ERA normalize around the 3.50 level.
The risk with Estrada is his injury history that has prevented him from throwing more than 138 innings in a season thus far. He missed two months of last year with a badly pulled hamstring. He also missed time in 2012 with a hip injury suffered while running the bases. The good news is that his arm is healthy. His injuries have not been to his shoulder or elbow so he shouldn’t be considered an injury risk going forward. His rotation slot is unchallenged in Milwaukee and we can feel comfortable that we will get a full season of work from him in 2014 and beyond.
If Estrada could pitch a full season while maintaining the rate stats in the chart above he would be a bonafide top 20 starting pitcher in fantasy baseball. He has the talent and the stuff to be an ace. But since he has actually never done it for a full season we definitely cannot give him full ace credit yet. His stats indicate he has the potential to be a very valuable pitcher, but until he actually delivers on all this promise we have to consider him as merely a candidate for a breakout season.
Marco Estrada is a very strong sleeper and breakout candidate in fantasy leagues right now. Taking a cheap gamble on him might reap you a jackpot. In my opinion Estrada should rank nearly 100 slots higher than the 147th he sits in on our Top 200 Starting Pitcher consensus rankings list. I think he should be right around #60 near the likes of quality pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman rather than being ranked way down with the bottom-feeders like Tyler Chatwood, Bud Norris and Kyle Kendrick.
Estrada has exhibited stellar strikeout and walk rates the last two seasons. This should translate into good ERA and WHIP numbers, and if the Brewers can score some runs this year he will rack up Wins as well. If he stays healthy and continues to pitch the same way he has the last two years he will provide your team with #2 fantasy starter production at a bargain price. Go get him. If you manage to snag him in a trade post your deal in the comments below so we can discuss how you stole him.