This last weekend, we put out a bit of a request on our Facebook page. Right now is a very important time for everyone with the drafts imminent (or having already occurred), so we wanted to know what you, the reader, wanted to see. Actually, we still want to know that. If you have a request for us, let any of us know by Twitter, Facebook, email, or any other way you can think of.
Anyway, one of our readers gave us this request:
I would like to see a ranking of pitching sleepers. Pitchers who will be available in the later rounds.
For those of you new to the site, once the season’s about a month old (give or take a week), you’ll see a Dixon’s Picks from me every Monday, going over some waiver wire guys who I think would be good pickups for that week of action. So, this request seemed like a good one for me to tackle.
Obviously there’s some assumption here as to when these guys will be going. But judging by rankings and auction value projections from our Draft Kit and a few other sites’ Draft Kits, I feel pretty good calling all of these guys sleepers.
Anyway, enough rambling here, let’s get to it. Here are some sleeper arms that will be available to you late in the draft, or on the wire afterwards.
Sleepers don’t need to be someone that not everyone has heard of, they can be someone that everyone and his mother knows about and has already dismissed. Enter Josh Beckett. I know, the end of his time in Boston didn’t exactly put him in anyone’s good graces in Beantown. The chicken & beer, the horrible 2012, the apparently pretty poor attitude.
Beckett will be dismissed by so many people, but take a look at what he did after being moved to the Dodgers last year.
It would be easy to look at that WHIP to wonder how long that kind of ERA could be maintained while allowing so many runners. There’s a point there, but remember that Dodger Stadium is much better for pitchers than Fenway Park is. Also, the hitters occupying the NL West in 2013 don’t appear to be as strong as the hitters that have made their livings in the AL East in recent years.
It’s a little easier to pitch out of jams. Heck, Ryan Vogelsong‘s WHIP over the last two years has been 1.24; not exactly gaudy. But his 3.05 ERA in that span is pretty solid.
What’s really intriguing about Beckett is how much his strikeout rate went up. It did exactly what it should when a pitcher moves from the AL to the NL.
Beckett will be 33 in May and I understand the desire to write him off. But he’s out of what was a toxic situation in Boston and in a better environment for pitchers. Don’t be afraid to give him a late-round whirl. ESPN has him ranked as the 227th overall player and 64th ranked starting pitcher. We have him 206th overall and as the 54th best starter. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. You’re gambling pretty big in that part of the draft anyway and he was stellar in 2011, which was just two years ago. Out of Boston, he’s a good late-round gamble.
While Cobb’s spot in the rotation is not assured, there is an opening following the trade of James Shields to Kansas City and he’s the favorite to break camp with the job. And if Cobb can translate his strikeout rate (better than a batter an inning) in the minors to the majors while maintaining the control he exhibited last season, Shields may not be missed. Sometimes you need to speculate on a breakout and Cobb is as good a bet as any to do just that. Monitor his progress during the spring; if he’s missing bats, Cobb’s worth a dart throw.
Okay, let’s take a look to see what he’s doing so far in the Grapefruit League.
Admittedly not a huge sample size, but that’s a pretty good start. The Depth Chart on the Rays Website has him listed as the fourth starter right now and with that start to the spring, he should easily stay in the Top 5.
Remember that Cobb has already shown that he can maintain decent numbers in the majors, with a career ERA/WHIP split of 3.86/1.27 in 189 innings. As he matures, he’ll learn to walk fewer hitters. That may mean fewer strikeouts, but that gaudy K rate will still be solid, and the other numbers will all be better.
I’m having kind of a hard time understanding why Marco Estrada is ranked so low by ESPN (232 overall, 65th starting pitcher). Looking at his numbers over the last two years, that doesn’t seem to add up.
I guess you could be a little worried about the innings. Estrada should be the Brewers’ second starter and prior to 2011, he had all of two career starts. Heck, prior to 2012, he only had nine career starts. But I’m choosing to look at that as a positive.
The 2012 season was far and away the best of his career, and 2011 was second. Before the 2011 season started, Estrada was used primarily as a reliever and had a career Major League ERA of 8.04 and a WHIP of 1.66. Now those career numbers are 4.32 and 1.23. It would seem as though he’s better as a starter, would it not?
The bottom line is that there aren’t many pitchers out there who will give you an ERA under 4.00, a WHIP under 1.20, and a strikeout rate of about a hitter an inning. Estrada did all of those things last year, but looking at his ADP and leagues owned percentage, he still easily qualifies as a sleeper. The ceiling is pretty high here.
I understand that there might be some hesitancy to look too much on past success as an indicator of what will happen in the future. But I want to show you what Erasmo Ramirez did throughout the 2012 season. Before looking at these, remember that he won’t even turn 23 until the beginning of May.
No typos there, he was better in the majors than in the minors. Also consider that between 2008 and 2010, Ramirez never had a season ERA of above 3.00.
Pitching in the major leagues becomes much easier if you don’t issue free passes. His rate is solid, especially for a 22-year-old who strikes hitters out at a decent rate. Again, you gamble in the late rounds, but I have a strange feeling that Ramirez could be the steal of the 2013 drafts.
Now, shifting gears a bit….
Oakland Athletics Rotation
According to the depth chart on their website, the A’s will enter 2013 with a Starting 5 of Brett Anderson, Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and A.J. Griffin, with Dan Straily waiting in the wings. In a weird way, every one of these guys can be viewed as sleepers, although a few probably won’t be drafted as such. But let’s take a quick look at all six of these guys.
- Anderson: It’s hard to overlook the injuries here. Even seemingly minor ones like the one that caused him to leave his last Spring Training start are worrisome when you’re dealing with a guy who’s only 25 but has had four different trips to the DL in his career. Still, this is a guy capable of a sub-3.00 ERA with a WHIP under 1.20. His injury history will make him a mid-late round pick. At that time, he’s worth a gamble. He doesn’t strike out many, but Anderson is a staff ace when he’s on the mound. He may miss some time, but again, you’re not looking at an early rounder.
- Colon: A lot of uncertainty here. The advantage to Colon is that he doesn’t walk anyone. This is why he allowed more than a hit an inning in 2012 but still had a WHIP at 1.208. The problems are obvious: You don’t know how he’ll perform coming off of the PED suspension, and he doesn’t strike a lot of hitters out. Heck, in his Cy Young Award winning season of 2005, Colon had a K/9 rate of 6.3. I like Colon as a spot-starter, maybe a full-time guy in deeper leagues, but only on the waiver wire. Don’t draft him.
- Parker: Parker is made to pitch at the Oakland Coliseum, or whatever they call it now, I’m from the Bay Area, I’ll call it by the name I grew up with, but I digress. The 2012 home/road splits were massive, with an ERA/WHIP of 2.61/1.18 in Oakland, and 4.54/1.37 elsewhere. How valuable he is comes down to a few things: What kind of league are you in and how deep is your bench? If you’re in a roto league, don’t go crazy on those splits. Realize that he gets to make half of his starts in Oakland and that it will all balance out. In a head-to-head league, I’d roster him in deep bench leagues, starting him when he’s in a good pitcher’s yard and benching him when he’s not. In head-to-head leagues with smaller benches, I’d avoid Parker altogether. He doesn’t strike out hitters at a great rate, so a lot of his success is based on pitching to contact, which is a much safer bet in some places than in others.
- Milone: There’s an echo here, as everything said about Parker applies here. The 2012 home/road splits were similarly huge, with an ERA/WHIP of 2.74/1.05 in Oakland, and 4.83/1.52 away from home. You do have to remember that both guys are young (Parker is 24, Milone is 26), but they still have to prove that they can pitch away from the cavernous Coliseum to carry value in all formats.
- Griffin: There’s a risk with Griffin. The A’s organization does not lack pitching and although he’s off to a decent start in Spring Training, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Griffin start the year in the minors. Because of that, he’ll probably be available very late, or even on the wire. But Griffin has something working in his favor that neither Parker or Milone have: He can pitch away from Oakland. As a matter of fact, Griffin actually had a lower ERA (2.90) on the road than he did at home (3.21). Griffin can make hitter’s miss, striking out just under a hitter an inning in the minors, while posting a decent rate at the Major League level in 2012 (7.0 per 9 innings). It’s really nice to have something like that to bank on, while not having to constantly worry about whether the A’s are home or not. It might be wise to consider easing him into your fantasy rotation, but his overall ceiling is higher than anyone currently in the five-man rotation.
- Straily: Straily is off to an awful start this spring, so he’d need a heck of a finish to make the Opening Day Roster. A spot could open up with Colon’s suspension, but he has only five games left there, so it wouldn’t be hard for the A’s to work around that while keeping Straily in the minors. The advantage to Straily is that he strikes out a lot of hitters, and has at every stop along the way, including a cup of coffee in the majors in 2012. He was prone to giving up the long ball in the show, coughing up 11 gopher balls in 39.1 innings, with eight of those coming in Oakland. The nice thing is that with his strikeouts, Straily is capable of pitching away from Oakland. He can challenge the plate more than you’d like, which is why he’ll likely start 2013 in Sacramento. But once he makes his way to Oakland, Straily has an exceptionally high ceiling.
New York Mets Rotation
Here’s another rotation I’m high on, although wins may be hard to come by with an offense boasting little more than David Wright and Ike Davis and a terrible bullpen to hold leads. The team website lists the starting five as Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Shaun Marcum, Dillon Gee, and Matt Harvey. Let’s have a look.
- Santana: He showed in 2012 that he can still strike hitters out, and even managed a no-no against one of the game’s best offenses. You just have to realize that injuries and fatigue will be a factor with Johan. He hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2008 and even if I give him an extra inning in 2010 to bump him to 200, he didn’t throw a pitch in 2011, threw only 117 frames in 2012, and will be 34 on Opening Day. He’ll be good in spurts, probably early in the year. Just don’t be patient when he starts to decline.
- Niese: Here’s a guy I’m really excited about. In 2010 and 2011, the last month the season was not a friend to Niese. In 2012, that was not the case, as he had an ERA of 2.49 and WHIP of 1.18. He makes hitters miss at a good rate (7.5 per nine innings), while getting better with walks. Now he’s heading into 2013, his age 26 season, with the confidence that he can do it for a full year. I foresee more good things from a guy who had an already solid ERA/WHIP of 3.40/1.17 in 2012.
- Marcum: What concerns me about Marcum is that he’s 31, but pitches like he’s seven or eight years younger, walking way too many guys. Still, a career ERA of 3.76 suggests he knows how to work out of the stretch. Marcum also strikes guys out at a good rate, giving him some strong value. His walk rate will inflate your WHIP a bit too much for him to be an every start guy, but if you’re in a league with a deep bench, keep Marcum around for some spot starts. He’s reached his ceiling, but consistency in the recent past suggests he’s probably got another decent year or two before hitting his floor.
- Gee: Gee’s similar to Marcum in style. He’ll walk more hitters than you’d like, but will also send quite a few back to the dugout with a K. Gee probably has the lower floor, but definitely has the higher ceiling. At this point of the draft, I’d much rather gamble on the younger arm, entering his Age 27 season. His walk rate in 2012 was much better than it ever was in the past, indicating that he’s becoming more well-rounded as a pitcher.
- Harvey: If nothing else, Harvey will get you a lot of strikeouts. Including limited time with the big club in 2012, Harvey’s never had a stop in pro ball where he failed to strike out a hitter an inning, which is a lot to be excited about. His Major League ERA/WHIP of 2.73/1.15 in 2012 is probably not sustainable in 2013, but I feel pretty good about our guess of 3.55/1.25. He’ll bring a lot of value in keeper leagues, but even in one-and-done formats, this is a valuable arm.