As we approach the month of March and prime time Fantasy Baseball season, we should take a last look back at the 2015 season, and some of the more intriguing starting pitching options that you might consider among those who’ll be toiling for new teams this season.
Wade Miley (Mariners), Doug Fister (Astros), Jon Niese (Pirates), Matt Latos (White Sox) and Henderson Alvarez (A’s), will all be vying to summon up some of the skills that made them serviceable Fantasy pitching options in the past. None of them have much Fantasy value at this point, but should be monitored and could end up being eventual waiver wire adds.
J.A. Happ, Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage’s most recent reclamation project, will see if he can take what he learned in Pittsburgh and use it within the hitter-friendly confines of Toronto’s Rogers Centre. I think he’s due for a bit of regression, but with an ADP of 345 according to FantasyPros.com, it won’t cost you too much to find out if he’ll be able to apply what Searage taught him in his new adventure north of the border.
It’ll also be interesting to see how former Oakland A’s pitcher Jesse Chavez fares in Toronto this season. Chavez has shown flashes of Fantasy relevance from time to time, but that was when he pitched in spacious Oakland’s O.co Coliseum.
In past articles we’ve covered the impact that changes in venue would have for pitchers like David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmermann and John Lackey. Here are a few other pitchers whose degree of Fantasy relevance can be affected by their new homes.
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
On the surface, it seems that the Diamondbacks made a huge splash by hooking one of the biggest fishes from a relatively small sea of available top free agent starting pitchers when they signed Zack Greinke to a six-year contract this offseason. His 1.66 ERA and 0.84 WHIP across 32 starts last season represents one of the best performances by a pitcher in baseball history, but will Greinke continue to dominate opposing hitters now that he won’t be pitching his home games in Dodger Stadium? In 2012, when Greinke pitched for the Brewers in their hitter-friendly park, he had an overall pedestrian ERA and WHIP of 3.83 and 1.20, respectively. It wasn’t until the following season, and only after he had signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers, that Greinke’s career really took off.
While pitching for the Dodgers for the next three seasons, Greinke had a 29-5 won/loss record with a 2.00 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. In comparison, his career numbers at Arizona’s Chase Field (3.34 ERA and 1.31 WHIP) are nowhere near as elite. Yes, there’s good reason to believe that Greinke will pitch well in 2016, but just like his largely unsustainable 2015 BABIP (.229) and strand rate (86.5 percent), he could be due for a good dose of regression. The D’backs may have weakened their division rival Dodgers by removing a big weapon from their starting rotation, but they may eventually be faced with a bit of buyer’s remorse when they have to fork over $35 million dollars to a 37-year-old Zack Greinke.
Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks
Some will look at Shelby Miller’s 6-17 won/loss record from last season, and the fact that he’ll be pitching from a new home base in Arizona’s Chase Field, and automatically dismiss him as a Fantasy option for 2016. Despite pitching well, many of Miller’s issues from last season can be attributed to the Braves’ anemic offense scoring an average of just 2.54 runs per game when he was on the bump. Miller relied on his cutter more last season, which resulted in more groundballs and fewer strikeouts. Although he faded a bit in the second half, he still posted an overall 3.02 ERA, which was the lowest of his career since he became a regular starter in 2013. The downward action on his cutter and his sinker helped him cut his HR/FB rate nearly in half, and although he threw 21 quality starts last season, none of that was enough to overcome the lack of support he received from the Braves’ batters. With the Diamondbacks lineup behind him, run support shouldn’t be an issue for Miller this season. Don’t expect too much of an uptick in strikeouts, but double-digit wins are a definite possibility.
Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals
Ian Kennedy is another back of the rotation starter who can help you round out your Fantasy team with one of the last picks of your Fantasy baseball draft. Kennedy isn’t the type of pitcher most Fantasy players consider when building their pitching staff, but with a K/9 rate that has gone up every season since 2010 (it was 9.30 last season), and a sub 4.00 career ERA, maybe they should. Although he worked out of pitcher-friendly Petco Park in 2015, Kennedy had a rocky 2015 season, and the notoriously slow starter stumbled out of the gate due to a hamstring injury. As has become his modus operandi, he compiled a 4.91 first half ERA, but it dropped to 3.64 in the second half. A career high 17.2 HR/FB rate further muddied his season and caused his ERA to inflate to 4.28. He might be due for a bit of a bounce back this season since his 2015 xFIP came in at a just above average 3.70. He might not be your typical power pitcher, but Kennedy’s velocity has actually increased a couple of ticks since 2012. That’s pretty unusual for a veteran pitcher, but it should also continue to make him a viable option as a resource for strikeouts late in your draft.
Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals
Like most of the pitchers mentioned in this article, Mike Leake has limited strikeout totals due in part to his average velocity. What the newest Cardinals pitcher does have going for him is plus command and some pretty good career numbers when pitching in St. Louis. In 42.1 innings pitched in Busch Stadium, Leake has a 3.19 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Although he has a career 50.2 percent groundball rate, Leake still has an awful 13.7 percent HR/FB rate. Perhaps getting away from Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park and pitching his home games in Busch Stadium, a venue that yielded the fourth fewest average home runs per game in the NL last season, will help him limit the number of home runs he yields. There’s no need to overpay for Leake. With a 219 ADP he should be there for you very late in typical Fantasy baseball drafts.