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The New Year is here, it is a clean slate, and what better way to kick off 2016 than to read about some starting pitcher sleepers and busts. Since New Years celebrations and resolutions go hand in hand, let me help you with two right off the bat. First, focus on exercising more, this will allow you to more time to listen to all the great SCFE podcasts. Second, focus on reading more, especially all of the in-depth SCFE Fantasy research.

With the Fantasy football season all but over, finally baseball has the center stage that is deserves. Can you believe that pitchers and catchers report in just over six weeks? There may be an offseason for the MLB players, but here at SCFE, time off is a foreign concept and we continue to pump out quality content on a consistent basis.

This week, we take to the mound and take a shot at ranking the starting pitchers. Previously, we have ranked catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, and outfielders.

There is no question that the starting pitcher pool is extremely deep. This allows for a number of different strategies when building your Fantasy team. The depth shows itself early on, as was mentioned on this week’s podcast, the starters ranked number two through 20 are relatively interchangeable. The depth also shows itself when you consider that numerous starters ranked outside the Top 50 have legitimate shots to post Top 30 type seasons.

In general, hitter rankings are not very volatile and the consensus is quite close throughout the hitter pool, especially near the top. For example, you will never see a hitter like Paul Goldschmidt ranked outside of the Top 10 hitters. On the other hand, starting pitcher views are extremely divergent, especially at the top. This differing of views lends credence to the saying one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.

There are sleepers and busts everywhere, and so far we have touched on a few at each of the positions: First base, second base, third base, shortstop, and outfield. This week we go 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate and unmask the starting pitcher sleepers and busts.

2016 Starting Pitcher Sleepers and Busts

Sleepers

Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
4.15
1.14
19.2%
.286
70.6%
21.0%
1.48
13.9%
25.8%
Career
4.15
1.14
19.2%
.286
70.6%
21.0%
1.48
13.9%
25.8%

 

Iglesias was a reliever during his Cuban career; however, when the Reds inked him to a seven-year contract in the summer of 2014, the plan was to convert him into a starter. He opened the 2015 campaign in the starting rotation, but things did not go as planned as he was temporarily jettisoned to Triple A to work things out. He struggled through both inconsistency and an oblique injury, and he didn’t turn his season around until after the All-Star Break. In the second half, Iglesias posted an impressive 3.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, along with 77 strikeouts over 66.1 innings. For the season as a whole amongst starters with at least 90 innings, Iglesias ranked 15th in K-BB%, 17th in swinging strike rate, and had the 20th best hard hit rate allowed. The ability to miss bats and limit solid contact should allow Fantasy owners to profit given Iglesias’s expected draft position. If you miss out on some of your Top 30 SP targets just relax, take a deep breath, and remember that Raisel Iglesias will be there waiting for you much later on.

Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
3.95
1.16
16.8%
.296
69.9%
21.8%
1.91
12.4%
25.6%
Career
3.49
1.14
14.7%
.287
72.5%
21.0%
1.74
9.6%
25.3%

 

With all of the young, offensive talent that the Cubs have, it is understandable why the soft throwing Hendricks has flown under the radar. In his first full season in the majors last year, Hendricks put together a solid campaign, showcasing his pinpoint control. With an average fastball just over 88 miles per hour, Hendricks still did a great job limiting solid contact as he finished with the 15th best hard hit rate allowed among qualified starters. He also finished within the Top 30 in a couple of other relevant stats: 21st in K-BB%, and 24th in WHIP. Part of the reason for his relatively high ERA was due his seemingly unlucky HR/FB rate of over 12-percent. He had shown the ability to limit the long ball throughout his minor league career, and given his penchant to limit both fly balls and hard contact, it seems like a good bet that in 2016 he will post a HR/9 lower than his 2015 mark of 0.85. Hendricks will likely be ranked outside of the Top 50 heading into drafts and it would not be a huge shock if he posted a Top 30 season. Do not let the Cubbie fall too far as this undervalued asset has profit written all over him.

Erasmo Ramirez, Tampa Bay Rays

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
3.75
1.13
12.9%
.272
70.5%
20.4%
1.51
10.4%
29.2%
Career
4.23
1.26
11.4%
.280
71.2%
20.9%
1.22
11.7%
28.7%

 

Ramirez never seemed to take advantage of his opportunities on the West Coast. Prior to Opening Day last year, the Mariners shipped him off to Tampa Bay where he would get a chance to start. He didn’t start on a regular basis until mid-May, but once he did, he ran with it. For the year as a whole amongst starters who pitched at least 150 innings, Ramirez posted the 22nd best WHIP, just ahead of teammates Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. His ability to miss bats (20th best swinging strike rate) and limit walks suggests the low WHIP is here to stay. Not surprisingly, Ramirez was much better at home in the pitcher-friendly environment of the Trop. He posted a 2.71 ERA and 1.05 WHIP at home versus a 4.82 ERA and 1.22 WHIP when living out of a suitcase. Currently, Ramirez slots in near the back end of a crowded Rays rotation; however, there have been a few trade rumblings out of Tampa Bay that could alleviate the logjam. I expect Ramirez to be a Top 50 starter next year, with an outside chance at cracking the Top 30. Ramirez will probably go undrafted in most mixed leagues as the early expert consensus according to www.fantasypros.com appears to have Ramirez ranked outside of the Top 80 starting pitchers. His value could even be enhanced if you sit him against some of the tough AL East lineups on the road. Either way, hitch your wagon to this up and coming Ray and enjoy the ride.

Busts

Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
1.66
0.84
19.0%
.229
86.5%
19.1%
1.46
7.3%
26.6%
Career
3.35
1.18
16.0%
.298
74.9%
21.0%
1.22
9.1%
28.1%

 

Zack Greinke had an epic season in 2015; however, it will not be repeated. Greinke is not only a starting pitcher bust for me heading into 2016, he is the biggest bust across all positions. I do not forsee a scenario that he will be on any of my Fantasy teams next year given his expected draft day cost. Greinke is no doubt one of the better pitchers in the game, but last year his numbers were aided by two important luck factors.

Among qualified starters, Greinke posted the highest LOB% at 86.5-percent, nearly four percent better than the second place finisher. He also was helped by a .229 BABIP, good for second among all qualified starters. Most of Greinke’s peripherals were essentially inline with his career figures except for the two mentioned stats. If Greinke had remained a Dodger, I would have expected an ERA around 3.00 and a WHIP of roughly 1.15, which would be good numbers, not great numbers.

However, since he signed his mega-deal with the Diamondbacks, I think his numbers will take a further hit. During his Dodger career, Greinke had a home ERA that was 0.60 lower than his road ERA. He also posted a WHIP that was nearly 0.25 lower at home versus on the road. He is leaving the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium and trading that for the hitter-friendly Chase Field. According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, from 2013 through 2015, Dodger Stadium ranked 28th, 27th, and 23rd in terms of runs while Chase Field ranked 18th, 2nd, and 8th. Do not pay market value for Zack Greinke, the price is wrong and lightning will not strike twice.

Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
3.53
1.18
16.1%
.288
77.8%
16.9%
2.09
15.3%
25.4%
Career
3.11
1.17
16.3%
.295
75.1%
18.1%
1.98
10.6%
26.9%

 

For nearly a decade, King Felix has been one of the top starters in the game. Since his first full season in the majors in 2006, no one has thrown more than the King’s 2,178 innings and the wear may be starting to show. Hernandez did not have an awe inspiring campaign last year, and his numbers across the board were much worse in the second half. He recorded his lowest strikeout rate and highest walk rate since 2011. It also wasn’t like he was unlucky last year as Hernandez posted his career best LOB% and a better than career BABIP mark, despite his peripherals being close to his career averages. When you look over the past five years, Hernandez’s tremendous 2014 campaign looks like an anomaly. The expectation heading into 2016 should be an ERA north of 3.00 and a WHIP of at least 1.15, numbers that will not be good enough for him to crack the Top 10, around where most rankers seem to want to place Hernandez. This is likely the start of the decline of Felix Hernandez, so heading into 2016 make sure you pass on him and don’t get caught up in the slumber of this former Fantasy stud.

Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals

ERA
WHIP
K-BB%
BABIP
LOB%
LD%
GB/FB
HR/FB
Hard%
2015
3.38
1.21
12.5%
.272
76.2%
22.2%
1.43
11.2%
29.5%
Career
3.21
1.19
13.8%
.277
76.0%
21.2%
1.28
8.6%
31.4%

 

Wacha, who won’t turn 25 until next summer, has had an interesting start to his career. After battling a shoulder issue in 2014, Wacha came back and had a full season, making 30 starts last year. For three straight years the trend has not been his friend as Wacha has seen his strikeout rate fall, swinging strike rate fall, walk rate rise, ERA rise, and WHIP rise. He gives up a fair amount of solid contact evidenced by his line drive rate and his hard hit rate. He was materially worse in the second half last year posting a 4.01 ERA along with a 1.38 WHIP and his peripherals confirmed the performance. Do not reach to grab Wacha since I doubt he can buck the trend of his deteriorating numbers, and he seems extremely likely to disappoint on his Top 30 ranking.

All drafts are different, but you need to grab the stud hitters quite close to their expected ranking as they rarely fall significantly. Starting pitcher depth provides an opportunity as their ranks diverge greatly. Be sure to check back next week when we unveil our final edition of the early sleepers and busts column, this time on relief pitchers.

Do you agree on the starting pitcher sleepers and busts? Got another name for us? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Data courtesy of www.fangraphs.com

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