From The Fantasy Oracle 2016 MLB Draft Guide Is Here! 

2014 Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: James Shields

James Shields is a borderline fantasy ace, even if no one seems to notice. Don't believe that statement? Here's the data...

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Try this sometime. Ask your friends a simple question. “Where would you rank James Shields, of the Royals, in terms of starting pitchers in the fantasy game?” If you ask the question you will get a myriad of answers. Some might say he could be a top-25 arm. Others would say the think of him and think that, in a best case scenario, he's a third starter in fantasy. Others might even call him an SP4. How would I answer that question? I'll give me answer at the end of this piece.

Let's begin at the beginning. How often does Shields toe the rubber? After all, you have to be out there competing to help a fantasy team. Some facts on durability as it pertains to Shields.

* Every season since 2007 Shields has thrown at least 200 innings (remember Stephen Strasburg has never thrown 185). Only three other men can match that level of durability: Mark Buehrle, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

* Every season since 2008 Shields has made at least 33 starts. Only one other in baseball can match that mark: Justin Verlander.

There is obviously a tad more to pitching than merely taking the ball, it's not like anyone is excited to have Buehrle on their squad, but the fact is that Shields is as durable as any pitcher in baseball. I like that.

What about the fantasy numbers?

(1) Shields has a career 3.79 ERA which is solid, but not great, for a guy who has spent his whole career in the AL. However, he's really locked things in the past three years with an ERA of 3.15. That mark places Shields 9th in baseball among guys who have thrown a total of 480 innings. Some big name guys that are behind him: Matt Cain (3.18), Felix Hernandez (3.20) and Zack Greinke (3.32).

(2) Shields has a career WHIP of 1.22, a very strong mark for an AL hurler. His marks the past three season have been 1.04, 1.17 and 1.24. Add those marks up and the result is a 3-year average of 1.16, the 11th best mark in baseball among qualifiers for the ERA title.

(3) Shields has 187 or more strikeouts in each of the last four seasons, and each of the past three years he's punched out at least 196. Only six men in baseball have at least 187 punchouts the past four years (Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Verlander, Hernandez, Tim Lincecum & Shields). Only five men have at least 196 K's the past three seasons (Hernandez, Verlander, Cliff Lee, Kershaw & Shields). Shields' total of 645 Ks is one behind Max Scherzer leaving Shields in the 6th spot.

(4) Shields has never won more than 16 games in a season but his total of 44 victories the past three seasons is the 10th best mark in baseball.  

Doesn't all of that, points 1-4, mean Shields has been a borderline ace over the past three seasons? How could it not? To reiterate, the past three years...

Shields has the 9th best ERA in baseball.
Shields has the 11th best WHIP.
Shields has the 6th most strikeouts.
Shields has the 10th most victories.

If you are in a 12 team league that is a traditional 5x5 league, and you have a starting pitcher who is in the top-11 in the four categories that matter for starting pitchers, how would that guy not be considered an ace? It's because he's on the Royals and the name on the back of his jersey says “Shields.”

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Searching for answer for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.

Often times I try to say something like 'I know the results haven't been there, but trust me there is enough skill here for a big season to emerge.' In the case of Shields the numbers already show that he has “arrived,” even though few seem to take note of it. Pretty shocking really.

Before my final thoughts, a quick review of the skills.

Shields has struck out at least 7.71 batters each of the past four seasons. His career mark is 7.73.

Shields has failed to match his 2.18 career BB/9 mark the last four seasons, but he's also not hit 2.70 in any of the last seven seasons. He doesn't beat himself often and is well ahead of the 3.02 league average from 2013.

Shields used to be a bit of a homer magnet, but each of the past three seasons he's held opponents to less than one homer per nine innings.

Shields had a 1.18 GB/FB ratio last season. It was a three year low, but it was also a number that is a good match for his 1.24 career rate.

Shields surrendered a seven year worst in line drive rate (23.2) in 2013. Over the previous seven years that mark was under 21 percent. Given the totality of his effort last season some regression seems likely in the LD-rate. This is good news since his BABIP of .298 could come down a bit. His career mark is .298 though, so he was smack on it last season.

So where would I rank Shields? If you want to know exactly you pick up a copy of the 2014 Draft Guide. I will tell you this. I like him. Stability/durability on the mound is very meaningful to me. I don't look at Shields and think he will win the Cy Young Award, or that he will be appreciably better in 2014 than he was in 2013. In fact, he might pitch exactly the same and see his ERA go up a hair. What I do think is that Shields will continue on keeping on, and that means he is someone I will gladly roster in every fantasy league if the right opportunity presents itself as everyone passes on him thinking he's merely good, when in fact, he's been a borderline star for years, right under everyone's nose.

By Ray Flowers


  • 64x64

    Rob Johnson 22 Mar 10:40 / Reply

    What's up,Ray? He's very underrated. I get him in the 9th round in every league I'm in. People are not reading between the #s. Love watching him pitch on my At Bat app

  • 64x64

    KB 11 Feb 14:25 / Reply

    Ray, great write-up. I traded for Shields last year and he was a really solid addition to the team. I have a keeper question for you, if you have to pick three between JUpton, Carlos Gomez, Hosmer, BPhillips, and Ryan Zimmerman...where do you sit? Thanks!

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