Last week, I looked at the 2014 Spring Training hitting leaders in the standard 5x5 rotisserie categories. So, as promised, we will now switch gears to the pitching leaders and review what happened to these guys once the calendar turned to April.
Jesse Chavez (5) - Actually, among pitchers who were exclusively starters during Spring Training, Marco Estrada's four wins led the Majors. But an inconsistent first few months of the season landed him in the bullpen, and he enjoyed considerably more success pitching in a relief role. As for Chavez, he also split the season between the starting rotation and the pen, posting solid numbers across the board (3.45 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 8.4 K/9). The 31-year-old righty is a legitimate candidate to open the 2015 campaign in the A's starting rotation, and he makes for a fine under the radar option in AL-only leagues and deeper mixed formats if he does indeed earn a rotation spot.
Jean Machi (4) - Spring Training saves cannot be taken seriously, as closers often get their work in way before the ninth inning. So feel free to ignore this, especially since Machi's ERA was 5.00. That said, he did go on to have an excellent regular season, registering a 2.58 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while collecting 17 holds. Still, he's at best third on San Francisco's closer pecking order behind Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, which means that he is irrelevant for fantasy purposes unless you're in an NL-only league that uses holds as a category.
Justin Verlander (0.00) - Now this is interesting. Verlander's Spring Training performance could not have been much better, as he tossed 20 scoreless innings while allowing just eight hits and whiffing 17. As we all know, the regular season was a completely different story, with the former dual MVP/Cy Young award winner suffering through his worst season since 2008. And guess what? Through two starts this spring, he's pitched five shutout innings. Regardless, I wouldn't mind taking a chance on Verlander this year at the drastically reduced cost.
Justin Verlander (0.65) - Oh, and the WHIP was pretty good too. Look, I understand that drafting Verlander this season is a risk, and it would be unwise to count on a return to ace form. But does he really deserve to be ranked outside of the top-50 starting pitchers? And yes, that is where he's being ranked by many outlets. To tell you the truth, I'm intrigued by this buying opportunity.
C.J. Wilson (35) - Not only did Wilson fan 35 batters across 28 2/3 innings last spring, but he recorded a 1.88 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Then of course, he puts up his worst regular season stat line since he was converted to a full-time starter back in 2010. Wilson did average over 210 innings pitched per season from 2010-2013, so perhaps all of that work caught up with him, and he finally did succumb to the DL in July due to a sprained ankle. His proven track record suggests that he could be a decent value pick this year because his price will be minimal. But the consistently high walk rate (3.9 career BB/9) limits his ceiling. Personally, I'd rather go in a different direction when rounding out my fantasy staff.
I've never paid too much attention to Spring Training stats, and that's not going to change anytime soon.