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2015 Fantasy Busts – Starting Pitchers

Pitching, especially starting pitching, is probably the most debated about position when it comes to draft strategy. Do you wait — or do you not wait on starting pitchers? I’m in the “wait” camp, if you must know. The reason is — there are more pitchers that you can get later in a draft that can help you more than hitters. Just think about this — there were a whopping 22 pitchers that had an ERA under 3.00 in 2014. That is a ridiculous number of pitchers.

For those of you who play Fantasy Football, you can compare pitchers to running backs. There are so many injuries to pitchers that there will be plenty of guys who will be great free agent or waiver-wire pickups throughout the year, not to mention just the guys who seemingly come out of nowhere to have great seasons, much like Corey Kluber and Garrett Richards last year.

Now don’t get me wrong, having somebody like Clayton Kershaw can carry your pitching staff the entire season. I just can’t see myself taking a pitcher that high knowing the depth there is at this position and with all the risk that comes with it, from just plain starting pitching busts to Tommy John surgeries.

Cliff Lee and Justin Verlander are perfect examples of starting pitching busts last year that you would have had to draft early and would have paid for it.

Overvalued Fantasy Starting Pitching Busts for 2015

Below are two pitchers that I think will be guys that will be busts this year for the price you will have to pay.

High-End Bust: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

I first want to remind you how good Matt Harvey was in his first two seasons. In 237 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and a 9.88 K/9 rate. Those are elite numbers.

Now let’s talk about the issue with Harvey this season. He is returning from having Tommy John surgery in October of 2013. Almost every pitcher that returns from TJS struggles at times in his first season back. This is especially true during the first half the season a pitcher returns. I know this is not true for every pitcher, but a great example of this is Adam Wainwright, who had surgery in February of 2011, and proceeded to miss that entire season. Here are his stats from 2010 and his split season stats in 2012.

SeasonERAWHIPK/9BB/9HR/9
20102.421.058.322.190.68
2012 1st-Half4.561.358.592.540.88
2012 2nd-Half3.281.148.062.160.47

As you can see all but his K/9 rate were worse in the first half of 2012 than it was in 2010 and the second half of 2012. I expect to see something similar for Harvey this season.

My other major concern for Harvey is the talk that the Mets will limit his innings pitched. There are multiple ways for them to do this:

  • Pull him early from games
  • Have him skip his turn in the rotation
  • Just shutting him down early.

Either way it is bad news for Harvey’s Fantasy owners.

I likely won’t have Harvey on any of my teams because he is going to get taken way too early for my liking. However, if he falls to maybe Rounds 10 or 11, I would consider taking a flier on him, since he would likely be my third starter at that point.

Back-End Bust: Phil Hughes, Minnesota

Phil Hughes had a remarkable season by normal Phil Hughes standards. A career 4.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP pitcher, improved significantly in 2014 posting a 3.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Hughes’ second half was one that if you are drafting him late in Fantasy drafts, you really hope he continues to build off of, as he had a 2.97 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.

2015 Fantasy Busts
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Did the move to the pitching-friendly Target field really make that much of a difference? The answer is both yes and no. Yes because his home-run rate declined, as expected, from a career 1.16 HR/9 pitching for the Yankees to 0.69 last season in Minnesota. Why I say no is because another major reason he improved so drastically was his walk rate. He dropped it to a career-best 0.69, which is actually an MLB best in 2014. Hughes never had a BB/9 rate below 2.16 before, and actually was hovering at or above 3.00 most seasons.

So did Hughes suddenly learn in his eighth season in the majors how to control his pitches? Maybe, but I expect plenty of regression here and thus will make his ERA and WHIP increase to above 4.00 and 1.200. Those are not the stats of a pitcher that I want to carry on my Fantasy Baseball team.

Comment below to let us know if you agree/disagree and mention other starting pitching busts candidates for 2015.

Photo Credit: Paul Hadsall

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