Last season I made a point of never drafting a starting pitcher in at least the first ten rounds of any draft. I was in seven Fantasy Baseball Leagues. I won two of those leagues and took second in three others. So, you would think that this strategy paid off pretty well and that I would stick to it in 2014. But I am not. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very against selecting a starter in the first or second rounds. I also do not advocate going pitching heavy in the earlier rounds either. But I’ve determined after years of waiting literally forever on pitchers that having at least one power arm and preferably two locked in is the best way to go. After you have locked in your guy(s) with a high K/9, low BB/9, high GB% & HR/FB rate (all of which are a necessity to select a starter in the early rounds) then you can safely wait to form the rest of your staff. That is why I started profiling these “Late Round Starters” that you can target late and still round out a high end staff when all is said and done. Over the coming days and weeks I will profile starters who are not in high demand despite being very Fantasy worthy.
2013 Stats: 7-4, 104.2 IP, 2.92 ERA, 120 K’s, 1.09 WHIP
National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC): 150.77
Mock Draft Central: 198.10
FSTA Draft on January 15th, 2014: Drafted 11th round (143rd overall)
Tony Cingrani seems to be slipping in drafts as we get closer and closer to spring training. This tends to happen with young pitchers because experienced players don’t value them very much. His value will rise however as we get closer and closer to the start of the 2014 season especially with an impressive showing in the Cactus League. There is a good chance that we won’t even be able to consider him among our Late Round Pitchers in a few weeks. So, let’s take a closer look at the good and the bad of Tony Cingrani.
Cingrani has a very deceptive fastball that he can run up there at 95+ MPH but also can take some off to keep hitters off balance. A hitch in his arm motion causes hitters trouble and has been a key to his success since changing to this delivery back in college.
He also offers a real good changeup that also offers great deception and exceptional late fade. This combo of pitches allowed him to dominate the minor leagues and rise quickly up the Reds organization.
Cingrani says “I’ve made a huge leap with my slider this offseason. It is harder than it was (80-82 mph) and with a good break.”
If this is true it is a development that could put him into the top 20 of starting pitchers in 2014. Even when he was basically a two pitch pitcher he was able to rack up the strikeouts at a rate of 11.8/9 in three minor league seasons. That rate stood up in Cincinnati where he struck out 120 in just 104.2 innings (10.32 K/9) in 2013. You just don’t find this type of strikeout ability plus upside in the late rounds very often.
A back injury in September shelved Cingrani for the final few weeks of last season. He has gone through physical therapy and has trained better this offseason in hopes of strengthening his core.
In 2013, Cingrani gave up 14 homeruns in just 104.2 innings. His groundball to flyball rate (GB/FB) was an alarming 0.54 last season. He must be able to generate more groundballs in order to keep runs from crossing the plate. For a pitcher with just a .245 BABIP last year he got away with balls in the air. This success is unlikely to repeat itself if those ratios don’t improve in 2014.
Generally, we should seek starting pitchers who don’t walk a lot of hitters. A BB/9 rate of fewer than 3.0 is ideal but if we are going to adjust for the later rounds anything 3.2 and under is solid. Cingrani had a 3.7 BB/9 in Cincinnati last year and only has one season of less than 3.2 in the minor league which came in rookie league ball. While it’s not uncommon for young power pitchers to walk a lot of batters, the combination of walks and homeruns are definitely cause for concern.
It is practically astounding that Cingrani has been going this late in drafts so far this season. For a young power arm with a great strikeout rate, whose career (minor league & major league) ERA is under 2.00 and WHIP is less than 1.05 this is stunning. But he is a young pitcher who wasn’t highly recruited or scouted until a breakout senior season at Rice University propelled him into the third round of the 2011 Draft. The previous regime in Cincinnati teetered on whether Cingrani’s future would be in the rotation or coming out of the bullpen. But a strong offseason getting his strength and agility up along with improvements to his slider make him pretty much a lock for the 2014 rotation. The Reds are a quality team too that should give Cingrani and the rest of their staff plenty of opportunities to win ballgames in a weak NL Central. Tony Cingrani would make an ideal number three starter on an Fantasy Baseball team this season.
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