As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, I prefer to follow a hitter heavy approach on draft day. Rather than shelling out big bucks on starting pitching, sometimes with the exception of one ace caliber guy, I instead go after bargains, turning my attention to a player’s career stats as opposed to strictly his results from the previous season. In last week’s column, I assembled a team of hitters that could be drafted at a significantly discounted price in 2015. Now, let’s focus on the pitching side.
SP Derek Holland - I’m not saying that Holland will be completely overlooked in drafts next spring, but at the same time, it’s highly likely that he will be undervalued. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting just how good he was in 2013, registering a 3.42 ERA, despite pitching his home games in a hitter-friendly park, while racking up 189 strikeouts. After spending the majority of this season on the DL following knee surgery, the Rangers southpaw returned to action earlier this month and has been absolutely dominant, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 24-to-4 K/BB ratio through five starts. Unlike a year ago, Holland will go through a normal off-season and will slot in right behind Yu Darvish in the Rangers’ 2015 rotation. Draft him as your fourth or fifth starter in mixed leagues and enjoy the profit.
SP Gerrit Cole – Injuries have limited Cole to 21 starts this season and outside of the strikeouts department, all of his stats have taken a step in the wrong direction. This is good news if you’re planning on targeting him next year. Seriously, how many 24-year-old starting pitchers would sign up for a 3.78 ERA and 1.24 WHIP? As a former #1 overall pick, the kid obviously has tons of talent, and I’m looking forward to seeing what a fully healthy, 200-plus inning campaign could bring.
SP Matt Cain – Maybe I’m letting my emotions overtake my better judgment. Maybe not. Either way, I can’t help it. Cain has been one of my favorite players to own ever since he broke into the big leagues thanks to his durability and consistency. So much for that. 2014 marked the first time since his rookie campaign that Cain has failed to make at least 30 starts in a season, as elbow surgery put a premature end to his year, and it’s not like he was pitching all that well anyway. He also underwent ankle surgery but will be good to go for spring training and will turn 30 later this week, so he’s far from an old man. The extent of the discount for Cain’s services in 2015 remains to be seen, but chances are I’ll be a buyer.
SP Shelby Miller – After putting together a stellar rookie campaign in 2013, Miller has been the model of inconsistency this year. But take a closer look at his stats and you will see that his post-All Star break numbers are outstanding (3-1, 2.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP). His mediocre strikeout rate is somewhat puzzling, as he whiffed nearly a batter per inning last year. Still though, if he can make modest strides in that area next season, we could once again be talking about a solid mid-rotation fantasy starter. And the best thing is that you’ll be able to draft him for the price of a back end of the rotation guy.
SP Michael Pineda – Sure, the injury risk label will always be there with Pineda, and for good reason. But when healthy, there are few better pitchers in all of baseball, and the results this season have been tremendous. Don’t forget about this Yankee righty when rounding out your staff next year, though it’s possible that you will need to pay full price for him. The Yankees are a fairly popular team, and players on popular teams do not usually fly under the radar.
CL Neftali Feliz – When Feliz took over as the Rangers closer following the trade of Joakim Soria, all the talk was about his diminished velocity and how it was only a matter of time before he would pitch himself out of the ninth inning gig. Not quite. Since the promotion, Feliz has converted 12 of his 13 save chances while posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. The bottom line is that despite the lower velocity, he’s managed to get the job done, and there’s a decent chance that the velocity will improve with time as Feliz becomes further removed from his Tommy John surgery. Keep in mind that not too long ago, he was a top-10 fantasy closer. Would I be surprised to see him return to that level if given the opportunity? Not at all.