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While pitchers and catchers do not report until the third week of February, the SCFE gang continues to do their best to have you ready for the upcoming baseball season. Today, we divulge our 2016 starting pitcher busts.

The starting pitcher pool is deep, especially at the top. Even after Clayton Kershaw is off the board, you still have 12 to 15 hurlers that are bona fide aces. In most 12-team mixed leagues there will be at least 80 starters selected, and according to NFBC ADP, the 80th drafted starter is Erasmo Ramirez. In 2015, Ramirez posted an 11-6 record along with a 3.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 126 Ks over 163.1 innings. Like I said, pitching is deep this year.

The key to picking the right starting pitchers is to focus on their expected ratios and strikeouts. Do not spend too much time forecasting wins, since they tend to be fickle. Wins depend on numerous elements outside of the starting pitcher’s control. The starter’s bullpen, his team’s hitters, his team’s fielders, and his opponent on the mound are all factors that impact whether or not he gets a W.

As a reminder, a bust is determined by looking at the player’s market price and comparing it to where their expected final performance will rank. The “bust” may still have a good year, but if a great year was expected, good is not enough. Let’s use NFBC ADP data as the gauge of market price.

Now, on with the show. Here are the 2016 starting pitcher busts. We have three for mixed leagues, and one each for AL-Only and NL-Only leagues.

Starting Pitcher Busts

Mixed League Busts

Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

Zack Greinke was lights out last year, but he had a lot of help from Lady Luck. I am not sure if he pitched with a rabbit’s foot stuffed in his pocket, but I struggle to see him repeat his insane LOB% and BABIP numbers from 2015.

Last year, despite his peripherals being similar to his career averages, he still posted a LOB% of 86.5-percent and a BABIP of .229. This compares to career marks of 74.9-percent and .298 respectively. If he remained a Dodger, it would have been prudent to assume his 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP of 2015 would regress to roughly a 3.00 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

Now in Arizona, Greinke is leaving the friendly confines of Chavez Ravine and entering the hitter haven that is Chase Field. This has to be combined with the fact that over his Dodger career, Greinke had an ERA 0.60 lower at home and a WHIP nearly 0.25 lower at home.

In 2016, Greinke will need to be lucky to better his career ERA of 3.35 and WHIP of 1.18, but don’t bet on it. When he finishes the year outside of the Top 15 SPs, Greinke’s Fantasy owners will be very disappointed.

Steven Matz, New York Mets

Steven Matz has a lot of potential, and last year, for the most part, he delivered. It is tough to read too much into such a small sample size, but last year he recorded at 91.4-percent LOB%, which helped him post a sparkling 2.27 ERA. He also had a very pedestrian swinging strike rate of only 8.3-percent, something that will likely have to increase to maintain his strikeout rate.

Matz also battled a variety of injuries last year. They all may turn out to be nothing, but at the very least it has to increase the risk of drafting him.

With only 14 career starts in Triple-A and six in the majors, it seems a little presumptuous to be making Matz the 30th SP off the board. He has the makings of a solid starter, but I am just not sure 2016 is the year where he justifies his draft day price.

Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves

Julio Teheran took a step backwards last year, after posting back-to-back solid seasons. His main issue was with his control, as his walk rate (BB/9) jumped from 2.1 up to 3.3. His strikeout rate (K/9) was nothing to write home about, as he ranked outside the Top 50 among starters with at least 100 innings.

His batted ball profile was not impressive, especially when you consider the amount of hard contact he allows. For 2016, there seems to be a reasonable chance that his .288 BABIP of last year will rise to a level greater than the league average. It is hard to see any material improvement in both his ERA and WHIP.

He was better in the second half last year, but he still finished outside the Top 60 SPs according to the ESPN Player Rater. This year, his name is being called inside the Top 50 SPs, but at that price a loss seems much more likely than a profit.

Deep League Busts

AL-Only Bust

J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays

J.A. Happ was in the midst of another run-of-the-mill season until he was traded to the Pirates and caught lightning in a bottle. He was helped by a couple of pitcher-friendly parks in both Seattle and Pittsburgh, but that will not be the case now that he is a member of the Blue Jays again. Other than a slight improvement in both his strikeout and walk rates, his under-the-hood stats look very similar to his career numbers.

In his previous go around with the Jays, which spanned portions of three seasons, Happ posted an ERA of 4.69, 4.52, and 4.22 along with a WHIP of 1.29, 1.47, and 1.34.

Given the fact that the Jays signed Happ to a three-year free agent contract, his spot in the rotation should be secure, but the Jays look to open Spring Training with six rotation candidates. This is in addition to their two electric bullpen arms that have been starters in the minor leagues. Fantasy owners who draft Happ based on his 2015 numbers will be destined for regret.

 

NL-Only Bust

Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals

Mike Leake parlayed his pitch-to-contact tendencies into a five-year deal with the Cardinals. Leake doesn’t miss many bats, and last year he posted the fourth lowest K/9 mark among qualified starters. In general, he does a good job of limiting hard contact, but last year luck was on his side as he posted a .260 BABIP.

The main issue with Leake is that there is absolutely no upside, none. To be fair, the downside may be limited too, but it is there (check out his 2012 numbers). Leake is being drafted at a price where you should be looking for more potential. Plus, with an ERA around 4.00 and a WHIP approaching 1.30, it is not like Leake will provide a strong base for your ratios either. If you draft him, your visions of a Fantasy championship may Leake away.

 

These starting pitcher busts will underperform their ADPs. Consider all the data and let the costly mistakes fall upon other Fantasy owners. Do not forget that SCFE will continue to get you ready with insightful analysis up to Opening Day and throughout the baseball season.

 

Early 2016 Fantasy Baseball Rankings
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