2014 Fantasy Baseball - Starting Pitcher Sleepers
Shawn Childs, High Stakes Fantasy Baseball Winner and Contributor from scoutPRO.com is helping FFToolbox readers dominate their fantasy baseball leagues this season.
When the Tigers traded Fister to the Nationals, their starting rotation didn't lose a beat. Drew Smyly had success as a starter in 2012 and he made a huge step as reliever last year. His command (2.0) is now in an elite area, which led to a plus K rate (9.6). His AFB was 90.9. He stopped throwing his slider, which led to his cutter being his #2 pitch. Drew also throw a curveball. He dominated LH batters (.189 with only 5 extra base hits in 122 at bats). Smyly was 11-8 in the minors with a 2.57 ERA and 155 K's in 143.7 innings. He is a high upside pitcher. His innings may be capped due to his year in the bullpen. He has 150 K's upside with a sub 3.50 ERA.
Kevin Gausman struggled in the majors last season, but there were signs he could make a step forward in 2014. He had solid command (2.5) in the majors and plus command in the minors (1.5). His K rate (9.3) remained strong in the majors. Kevin has an elite fastball (95.9), but too many of those FB's left the park at the major league level. He throws a split-finger fastball as his 2nd best pitch plus a slider and an occasional changeup. Gausman has limited experience at the upper levels of the minors so he isn't a lock to start the year in the majors. He has an elite arm with upside once he gains experience. I expect him make a nice step forward this year, but his innings upside will be limited. A player to watch in 2014.
Erik Johnson has shot up through the White Sox system over the past 2 seasons. He is 18-8 in his minor league career with a 2.21 ERA and 220 K's in 236.3 innings. His success in 2013 led to a September call up. Chicago gave him 5 starts in September. He finished with a solid ERA (3.25), but his command (3.6) couldn't match his minor league career (2.7). It led to a low K rate (5.9) and a huge HR rate (1.6). Lefties crushed him in the majors (.348 with 4 HR's allowed in 69 at bats). His AFB was 92.0. Erik threw a slider as his #2 pitch plus a solid curveball and occasional changeup. Johnson has an upside arm. His fastball can reach the mid 90's. Both his slider and curveball are plus pitches. Erik is expected to start the year in the starting rotation. Johnson has enough talent to make a nice step forward in 20124, but he needs to prove he can handle left handed batters. I expect some growing pains, but his end results will be more than serviceable. His innings shouldn't be capped this year.
Tyler Skaggs has a nice upside arm, but he struggled in the minors and the majors in 2013. He has a career 3.34 ERA in the minors with 544 K's in 498.7 innings. Tyler has had decent command (2.9) in his minor career, but last year his walk rate was high in the minors (3.9) and the majors (3.5). He allowed 6 of his 7 HR's to righties in 118 at bats. Skaggs had an electric spot start in May (6 shutout innings with 9 K's), but he only pitched well once in his 6 other starts in the majors. His AFB (89.2) lacked upside last year, but his scouting report suggests he has another level with his heater. Tyler has a plus curveball and developing changeup. Skaggs is real close to being a factor in the majors, but his lack of success at AAA and the majors in 2013 tells me he may need some time at AAA early in 2014. Tyler is a player to watch in spring training. If his command falls in line with his previous success, Skaggs may very well be the 3rd best starter on the Angels this season.
The Mets acquired Noah Syndergaard in the R.A Dickey trade in 2012. After stalling at A ball in 2012, he pushed his way up 2 levels in 2013. Noah has a career 22-12 record in the minors with a 2.64 ERA and 329 K's in 293.7 innings. His fastball can reach the mid 90's with some upside. His curveball isn't elite, but it has been strong enough to get minor league batters out. This pitch needs to improve for him to have success in the majors. His changeup is still developing. Syndergaard has had solid command (2.5) in the minors with a plus K rate (10.1). His innings have been short in his career. I'm sure New York would like to get him to the 150 innings mark in 2014. Noah has a nice upside arm and the Mets could have the building blocks for a strong starting rotation in the near future with Harvey, Wheeler, Montero, and Syndergaard. I expect him to start the year at AAA. He has about a half season behind Montero in his development.
C.J. Edwards may be the ace in the hole of the 2013 trade for P Matt Garza. He is 13-5 in his minor league career with 1.72 ERA and 240 K's in 183.3 innings. C.J. has only given up 1 HR in his minor league career. He is averaging 11.8 K's per 9 innings, but his command (3.2) still needs work. Edwards is barely visible on the mound if he turn sideways, but he has a fastball that can reach over 95 plus a solid curveball and a changeup with upside. C.J. has pushed through 4 levels in 2 seasons, but he is only averaging 4.8 innings per outing as the Cubs have limited his pitch counts early in his career. He is expected to start the year at AA and his skill set will have more upside when he adds more bulk.
Jamerson Taillon is also on the fast track to the majors. He has a plus fastball that can reach the upper 90's with a deadly swing and miss curveball. His changeup hasn't made an impact at this point of his career. Jamerson is 16-21 in his minor league career with a 3.72 ERA with 356 K's in 382 innings. Overall, his command (2.6) has been very good in the minors, but it did take a step back at AAA (3.9). His K rate (8.4) will have more upside down the road if his changeup develops. Last year he made 6 starts at AAA so he is really close to making his major league debut. Upside pitcher that won't be elite in the majors until his 3rd pitch makes a step forward. He has enough talent to win the 5th starting job out of spring training.
Colorado selected Jonathan Gray with the 3rd overall pick in last year's MLB June Amateur Draft. He went 10-3 at Oklahoma with a 1.64 ERA and 147 K's in 126.7 innings. He has an upper 90's fastball with a plus slider. His changeup will be the key to his success in the majors. At this point of his career, it is only an average pitch. Last year Gray had 9 starts at rookie ball and High A. He had elite command (1.9) with a plus, plus K rate (12.3). Batters only hit .189 against him with NO HR's in 132 at bats. His arm is on the fast track to the majors and he could be the Rockies future ace. He should start the year at AA with a chance to make the majors some time over the summer. Last year he threw 164 innings between college and the pros so he should be good for 200 this year.