Late Round Pitching: Kazmir, Cain & More
Starting pitchers that can be found in the late rounds of your upcoming fantasy drafts: Scott Kazmir, Matt Cain, Ervin Santana and Taijuan Walker
Time for the Thursday edition of Late Round Pitchers that you may want to target later in your upcoming drafts. At present, these pitchers all have significant value, although naturally some look to me to be a better investment than others. That is the purpose behind the analysis presented below, together with my projections for their 2015 performance on the mound. I would note that ADPs are shifting as camps open and more information about injury recovery, off-season adjustments and the like come to light. Thus, there could be movement among the SPs I am covering prior to your actual drafts, so keep an open eye for lessening (or increasing) value as the spring progresses.
To spell out some guidelines, this series of articles is going to profile starting pitchers that have an ADP of 200 or better (meaning taken later than pick 200). In a 10 team league, those pitchers would be going in round 21 or later (it would be mid-way through round 16 in a 12 team league). By that point in your draft, you have more than likely filled out your starting offense and picked up an ace and closer, perhaps a couple more pitchers. Your mileage may vary depending on your actual league settings, but you get the general idea.
Please note that the projections for each of the pitchers below are my own, that I create after comparing various sources and adjusting for expected playing time, specifically, innings pitched for starting pitchers. As for the ADP numbers, I am looking at the ADP results our very own Howard Bender is compiling with his Mock Draft Army mocks.
Scott Kazmir OAK ADP: 249.5
Kazmir’s return to baseball after missing all of 2012, and just appearing in one game in 2011 with the Dodgers. He proved that the excellent results he achieved in 2013 were no fluke, putting up a 3.55 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 190.1 IP last season for Oakland. His 3.42 FIP and .294 BABIP indicate that he may have pitched a bit better than his final stats reflect, and the outstanding 0.81 batting average with runners in scoring position shows how he was able to perform when the game was on the line. My biggest concern is with how he seemed to wear down after the All-Star break, when his ERA ballooned to an unappealing 5.42. He did pitch his most innings since 2007 (190.1 IP in 2014 as opposed to 158.0 in 2013), so stamina was probably the issue. It is not like he is an aged veteran, being only 31 to start the 2015 season, and last season should have given him a bit of a clue as to how he needs to pace himself going forward. My projections may be a tad cautious, and as a stalwart in the Athletics’ rotation, you would do well to grab him late for a superb SP4/5.
2015 Projections: 13 Wins/160 K/3.80 ERA/1.22 WHIP over 185 innings
Matt Cain SF ADP: 258.4
Cain may be only 30 years old, but he is looking like a player in decline. His 90.1 innings in 2014 (all before the All-Star break) were a nine year low, although as evidenced below I do not think his elbow (bone chips-August) and ankle (bone spur-September) surgeries will unduly delay his arrival as part of the Giant rotation this season. Of course, those surgical procedures and his absence from the post-season heroics of his team will have other fantasy owners waiting to take a chance on his production. Do not be afraid, Cain will bounce back and be a superb late round selection if you draft early enough this year. As the spring wears on and he demonstrates his normal dominance, expect his ADP to shoot up significantly. My instinct is that his elbow and ankle were major impediments in 2014 and I see him as a medium level strikeout guy who needs to regain his control to prosper. Which I have to say I see happening.
2015 Projections: 13 Wins/155 K/3.69 ERA/1.19 WHIP over 185 innings
Ervin Santana MIN ADP: 264.8
Pitching your home games at Target Field is a good thing for a pitcher, especially for a pitcher that is flirting with only moderate GB/FB rates. Granted, his rates over the past two seasons are significant improvements for Santana, but the home run rate was a serious issue for him previously so look for him to continue to limit offensive production while pitching at home in Minnesota (beautiful ballpark, by the by). He increased his K/9 in 2014 (8.22, up significantly from his 6.87 in 2013 and 6.72 in 2012) but also saw a significant increase in walks (2.89 BB/9 in 2014 as opposed to 2.18 in 2013). Do I trust him to round out my rotation in the last rounds? No, but in deeper leagues or AL-Only leagues, you have to keep him on your radar.
2015 Projections: 12 Wins/172 K/3.78 ERA/1.27 WHIP over 200 innings
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Taijuan Walker SEA ADP: 266.3
Despite being touted as the top pitching prospect for the Mariners, he was essentially treated as the red-headed step-child in 2014. He is in a serious competition with Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez for the fifth rotation slot in Seattle this upcoming season. Mid-90s fastball, great K/9 rates in his minor league career, excellent GB/FB rate, his big concern for me is his control. 3.08 over 14 games at Triple-A and 4.26 with the Mariners in eight games is worrying to say the least. Personally, I expect him to start in Triple-A this season, unless he is exceptional in the spring, so you can probably wait to draft him until he makes the roster later this spring. If you are in a dynasty or keeper league, however, grab him if he is available, as his ceiling is incredible.
2015 Projections: 11 Wins/143 K/3.80 ERA/1.31 WHIP over 150 innings
Continue to peruse these articles as we try to uncover some late round gems for you to target in your drafts, and allow you to build a formidable starting rotation without sacrificing offense to do so. Also, if there is interest in later round middle relievers, I would be glad to include those pitchers in future articles as well. If you have any questions about starting pitching or fantasy baseball, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.