by Dave De Wit
In 2013, Cashner was finally able to stay healthy long enough to put together the breakout season that his stuff has shown he was capable of. After only pitching a combined 93.2 innings between 2010 and 2011, the 6’6” righty logged 175 innings on the bump this season and owned a sparkling 3.09 ERA, a 52.5 percent groundball rate and an 18.1 strikeout percentage.
Cashner was expected to miss a lot of bats, but his strikeout percentage wavered through his first few months as a starter as he registered just a 14.5 strikeout percentage in May and June. However, he cranked up his swing-and-miss stuff late in the year, striking out 19.8 percent of batters from July on, which included him striking out seven batters in six of his final seven starts of the season. His growth in strikeouts matched with his history of making hitters miss in the minors bodes very well for the hard-throwing Padre.
Cashner will no doubt be a much-hyped starter in the fantasy world throughout this off-season, and with good reason considering his mid-90s fastball and wipeout (when he wants it to be) slider. He also will start half of his games in the still very pitcher friendly PETCO Park.
Even with all this in his favor and even with a breakout season under his belt, there is still a lot of risk involved with Cashner. His injury history is storied, and when you throw a baseball as hard as he does injury seems to be lurking around every corner. When valuing pitchers over the off-season, don’t let Cashner’s tremendous upside blind you of his equally tremendous risk.
Like Cashner, Ross spent part of the season in the bullpen, started down the stretch and had himself a tremendous year. Over 119 innings pitched (88 IP as a starter), Ross finished the season with a 3.10 ERA, a 54.4 percent groundball rate and a very impressive 23.4 strikeout percentage. What’s even more impressive is that, contrary to the norm, Ross actually improved his numbers across the board when he moved from reliever to starter.
Through his 31 relief innings, Ross only managed a 17.3 strikeout percentage and was tagged for a mediocre 3.48 ERA. However, as a starter he struck out a massive 25.6 percent of batters and posted a beautiful 2.97 ERA. Most of Ross’ starts came in the second half of the season (he had three so-so starts in April), which has put him smack in the middle of fantasy owners’ radar.
While there is a little room for regression given the 72 percent left on base rate and.275 batting average allowed on balls in play that Ross showed in 2013, both of which were slightly below his career average, Ross will still be at least an obvious spot starter for his games in San Diego. And, with his excellent strikeout rate, Ross is definitely worth spending a late roster spot on in 12-team mixed leagues and deeper to see if he can continue the mound magic that he has ended with this season.