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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.
Justin Masterson – RHP – Cleveland Indians
2013 Stats: 14-10, 193 IP, 3.45 ERA, 195 K’s, 1.20 WHIP
Mock Draft Central: 227
FSTA Draft on January 15th, 2014: Drafted 19th round (235th overall)
Fantasy owners are not buying on Justin Masterson early on in the drafting season. This could be a result of his every other season pitfalls that have plagued his career. More likely this is because players are not buying in to his almost three point spike in K/9 rate (6.9 to 9.1).
At 28, Masterson is still in the prime of his career and is set to hit the free agent market next season. So there is plenty of incentive for him to come up huge in 2014.
He’s got a very good, reliable fastball that plays heavy. He has great command of it and doesn’t allow many HR’s on it when it is hit into the air.
Perhaps the best attribute of Masterson is his ability to generate groundballs. Both his sinker and slider are thrown down in the zone and are difficult to get under. In 2013 Masterson had a 58% groundball rate which is only slightly above his career 56.4% mark. These ground balls translate to double plays that kill rallies and save him from a lot of trouble.
Justin Masterson dominates right handed hitters. For is career righties only hit .218 with a .298 OBP against him. His batting average for balls in play (BABIP) is also a very healthy .285 against right handed hitters in his career.
Masterson has been up and down basically every other year since coming into the league in 2008. Since 2013 was his best season overall to date, there is much cause for concern about his 2014 campaign.
Despite good fastball command, he has trouble locating his other pitches. This has lead to a career BB/9 rate of 3.6 which is quite a bit more than the recommended 3.0 max of a starter in Fantasy. His WHIP also suffers as his career mark sits at 1.35 entering 2014.
The single most important pitch for Masterson is his changeup. He has always had trouble varying speeds on it and it often arrives at speeds that make it equivalent to a low grad minor league fastball. Without deception here lefties absolutely crush him to the tune of .283/.361/.418 which is very unhealthy.
The Indians will have Masterson start on Opening Day meaning he will often line up against other teams aces. This is obviously not a good sign for his potential to win ballgames this season.
It isn’t often that you can get an ace of a staff in the 19th round but that is exactly the bargain Masterson presents. While I don’t expect him to be an strikeout an inning type of guy, he does have the skill set to strikeout more than the 6.5 per 9 he had the previous two seasons. A regression back to 7.5-8 is likely and still incredibly valuable later on in the draft. Also, his ability to generate groundballs will allow him to throw fewer pitches, stay longer in ballgames and get more opportunities for wins. He needs to limit his base on balls though. Allowing more baserunners will hurt him and Fantasy owners especially with his ineffectiveness against left handed hitters. Overall, if you can slot Justin Masterson into your fourth or fifth starting slot you are in real good shape. It is also always good to bet on a starting pitcher who is pitching for a new contract in the next offseason as Masterson is.
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