The recent shoulder woes of Anibal Sanchez notwithstanding, the Detroit rotation looks to be set for 2014. Their top three are all going early in drafts, and there is a groundswell of support for those two guys at the back end of the staff as well.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
Justin Verlander disappointed through the first four months of 2013, putting up respectable numbers but certainly not what his owners expected based on the prior two seasons. Once he adjusted his mechanics in August, however, he returned to dominance. Even with his sub-standard (for him) early season performance, he still pitched 200+ innings and racked up over 200 strikeouts, too. He was near unhittable in the post season, and has recovered from his off-season sports hernia surgery. He is slated to open the season for the Tigers, and if you can draft him while he is still being undervalued, now is the time to strike and strike quickly.
The 2013 AL Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer fully came into his own last season. Always able to miss bats, he posted an elite K/9 of 10.08 along with a spectacular 0.97 WHIP and a 2.90 ERA. His continued refinement to his delivery assures his continued presence among the top starting pitchers in the MLB, although you have to expect some regression from his 2013 numbers. Not much to fear when drafting him, but you have to act early to secure his services this season.
Anibal Sanchez had a cortisone shot in his shoulder, which is worrisome. Although the Tigers initially said he will not miss his next scheduled start, word now is that he will rest for 3 days. He is still on track to start the season as part of the rotation, but you have to keep in mind that he has had a history of shoulder troubles, so prepare for the possibility of him missing time this season. Should this be merely a blip on the radar, expect another season with elite strikeout rates and great peripheral numbers. Limiting homeruns helps him succeed as will his moderate groundball inducing tendencies: 0.5 HR/9 and 1.52 GB/FB ratio in 2013. With the shoulder concerns, you may hesitate to draft him early, but then again, the news may push down his ADP to make him a value.
Rick Porcello is an extreme groundball pitcher, but what helped him succeed last season was the increase in K/9, improving from 5.46 in 2012 to 7.22 in 2013. With an improved defense behind him in 2014, expect his improvement as a starter to continue. His ADP has been rising, as more drafters are taking notice, but his 5.40 ERA in the spring should keep him in the value territory.
Moving into the starting rotation with the trade of Doug Fister, Drew Smyly leaves his relief role where he was extremely successful in 2013 and joins the rotation. Smyly has excellent control and has improved his strikeout ability, putting up a 4.76 K/BB in his role as reliever last season. He is struggling a bit this spring, but there is no reason to think he cannot return to the rotation where he began his major league career. As a late round sleeper, he provides great value, pitching for the reigning AL Central champs.
All five of the Tiger starters should be drafted in all leagues, although the values are found with the back half of the rotation in Porcello and Smyly. Still, if your league mates are leery of Verlander coming off surgery, he could be a steal, even if you have to take him in the fourth or fifth round (assuming he lasts that long).
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.