Another year, another Frugal 15: my list of starting pitchers that won't require a big wallet but can deliver similar returns of top, expensive names.
Cutter to fuel Cobb breakout?
I tried my best to limit this to anyone outside the top 50 of mixed SP ADPs (why I'm not including the likes of Dan Haren, Brandon Morrow, Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and many others), but I've included exceptions where I feel they apply. You can't call them sleepers; they're hardly forgotten commodities. But many have an ace ceiling, and more simply and accurately, many drafters just forget these arms' steady values.
In a loose listing order:
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds
Though he faced a lot of pushovers during his brilliant run last year, plenty of tangible growth awaits this diversely cached control-leaner who was once a top prospect. The 27-year-old (already a vet) won't post an elite K/9, but if the stars align for a true breakthrough, would you care?
Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers
You'll have to make up for strikeouts with another source; he'll probably lose some from last year. Still, he brandishes superior command of his pitches and finally knows how to use them for K's. He's not on this list for upside, but instead for cemented stability.
Trevor Cahill, Arizona Diamondbacks
His K/9 has grown by at least half a punchout in each of the last three years, and the resulting BB/9 sacrifices don't kill him because he still induces an elite amount of bouncers. Even if he's merely hit a plateau, he's a sound, unheralded investment. But at just 25, years after he was considered a bigger blue chip than Brett Anderson, Cahill has room to deliver more.
Jarrod Parker, Oakland Athletics
The innings jump was curtailed by his late-season velocity boost. That keeps his strikeout upside attractive for the near future; he's not just a fireballer anymore - he's gained pitching smarts, and anyone in Oakland with his profile warrants consideration, if not an extra dollar.
Alexi Ogando, Texas Rangers
Don't fret over his erratic spring; he's changing roles again and simply needed a bit to adjust. He won't induce as many whiffs as he did from the 'pen, but there's a good chance he'll top the total from his 2011 rotation stint. Heck, even a repeat of that will earn you bank.
Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves
The deceptive southpaw earned some polish last year - among other forward steps, learning to alter his mindset with runners on base. Corrections in BAABIP and LOB% may cancel out. Just as long as you don't expect a simultaneous pairing of his 2011 K/9 (8.38) and his 2012 BB/9 (2.81), you won't be disappointed. Still, he's likely to be the most overpriced member of this group.
Matt Harvey, New York Mets
For that crown, however, Minor faces competition from this righty, who could surpass him at this rate. K's overrule most of his flaws the later you get in a draft, but if you make Harvey one of your most important pitchers, you could be in for a frustrating year if his control problems continue.
Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals
A rough August was the only thing keeping Lynn from a more sparkling 2012 finish. The fear of his IP jump will temper your opponents' excitement. With adjustments versus lefty bats and a more effective third offering, he could be bound for an even bigger step this year. It's not as if this team can't cultivate hurlers.
I'm still behind the wheel
Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays
Adding a cutter - the recent kingmaker for pitching breakouts - to an already enticing profile should produce more strikeouts. Few on this list match his profit potential.
Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles
I'll gladly continue serving as president of his fan club. His 2012 was a valid reconstruction, not a lottery win. Let others' doubt allow him to drop into your lap for a near repeat.
Marco Estrada, Milwaukee Brewers
His bang for ADP buck may not be as big in many circles. That second half was lucky (HR/FB) but reflective of what he can offer over a full campaign. That historic command rate won't sustain for a whole season, and the jump in frames might wear him out a little. Still, his inducement of infield cans of corn at an above-average rate should quell some of his fly concerns, and you can count on his K's.
Shaun Marcum, New York Mets
Health? Unstable. Skills? The opposite. The Metropolitans are quietly churning out value SPs in recent years. Take advantage.
Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
Notice a theme here - a lot of arms in hitter-friendly ambiences; children, this is where bargains come from. Homer allowance has plagued Holland, but he's another candidate for productive LOB% recoil. Shiny peripherals and indicators won't always overcome gopheritis, but few options similarly priced options boast the combo of his foundation and age: the frequently coveted 26 with experience.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
This innings stalwart has adapted to playing in unfavorable parks for hurlers. His road splits last year say he'll miss Nationals Park, but staying in the Senior Circuit says his big K/9 rebound has a better chance of sticking. E-Jax has walked more than 3.35 per nine just once in the last five years, and that dominance uptick in the second half may mean more dynamic innings await.
Kyle Kendrick, Philadelphia Phillies
Kendrick's presence surprised me, even. He was gold versus lefty sticks last year and moved up nearly across the board in the spots on which we hone for breakout signs. The righty pounded the zone, learning to work effectively along the black thanks to his cutter. If this is his ceiling, it's still an enjoyable level.
Honorable bargains: Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics; Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers; Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers; Brandon McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks; James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates; Mike Fiers, Milwaukee Brewers; Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees
Stay tuned for the next two installments of the Starting Pitcher primer.
For more SP coverage, go to our Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide!
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
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