2014 Rankings: Top 45 Starting Pitchers: #31-45 (Updated For Injuries)

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Over the past two days we’ve updated the first two portions of our starting pitcher rankings.  Let’s take a look at the next 15, which is filled with bounce back veterans and some intriguing youngsters:

31) Dan Haren – Los Angeles Dodgers
32) Hiroki Kuroda – New York Yankees
33) Jonathan Niese – New York Mets
34) Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels
35) Alex Wood – Atlanta Braves
36) Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle Mariners
37) Francisco Liriano – Pittsburgh Pirates
38) Justin Masterson – Cleveland Indians
39) Yovani Gallardo – Milwaukee Brewers
40) Ivan Nova – New York Yankees
41) Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves
42) Sonny Gray – Oakland A’s
43) Josh Johnson – San Diego Padres
44) Kris Medlen – Atlanta Braves
45) CC Sabathia – New York Yankees

Thoughts:

  • Hisashi Iwakuma could easily fall further down these rankings (as we discussed here), depending on the news in the next few weeks.  For now we are still projecting him for 175 innings (assuming he’s only going to miss 4-5 starts), and with his ability that keeps him as a solid SP4 who can really boost your squad over the final 5 months.  If we learn that he’s going to be out longer than that, he’s going to plummet even further down the rankings.
  • One of the more debated pitchers on my rankings has been Francisco Liriano, who I dug deeper into recently.  Make sure to check that out by clicking here to find out why I feel he is not a Top 35 option despite his strong 2013.
  • This part of the rankings is filled with youngsters with tremendous upside (like Alex Wood, Julio Teheran and Sonny Gray), as well as some intriguing bounce back candidates (like Dan Haren, Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia).  It all depends on your preference, though there’s a lot to like whichever direction you decide to take.
  • Is Jered Weaver a top starting pitcher option?  Not for me, and you can click here to find out why.

*** Make sure to order Rotoprofessor’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide and be entered to win an autographed David Price mini bat!  The guide comes complete with projections of over 600 players, expended rankings, sleepers, Top 50 prospects and so much more (including constant updates up until opening day).  For just $6 you will get everything you need to dominate your fantasy league!  For more information and to place your order, click here. ***

Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings:

7 comments

  1. CJ says:

    I’m really surprised Mike Minor is not in your top 45

    • MJB says:

      Or Wacha. Niese or Nova over Wacha? C’mon.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Got the same question on Minor last time around, so I’ll use the same response:

      “No, it’s not a mistake as I’m not as big of a believer in him. He has the potential to be homer prone (allowed 14 HR at home in ’13), I don’t buy his control (2.02 BB/9, despite a 2.8 mark in the minors) and there’s a chance that his .272 BABIP regresses.”

      As for Wacha, I’m not as high on him as many are (though he just missed the Top 45). He’s an easy pitcher to overvalue based on his postseason success, but don’t make that mistake. I touched on him in this article, so make sure to check it out. http://www.rotoprofessor.com/baseball/?p=20968

      • bigwang says:

        in your wacha vs cobb article you said “It looks like it’s going to be close”. as it is cobb is ranked number 24 and wacha is…outside of the top 45? that’s more like a significant gap.

        and niese over wacha – i am with MJB here, i can’t seem to find an argument for it.

        • Rotoprofessor says:

          Part of the issue with Wacha is a likely innings limit of around 175 (he pitched 149.2 in ’13). Will they all come in the rotation? Will he work out of the bullpen a bit? That’s going to take a hit in his value (as it does with Alex Wood, who is plummeting down the rankings with talk of him pitching out of the bullpen).

          In regards to Niese, I’m going to be talking about him in the coming days (I have a full article all lined up). He brings strikeout potential (7.64 K/9 in the second half), good control and good groundballs (over 50%). That’s a perfect skill set to thrive.

          Could Wacha match those types of numbers? Possibly, but the innings limit is going to hinder him and I do believe he’s going to be highly overvalued based on his postseason performance. Let’s not ignore that as a starter in the regular season he owned a K/9 of 7.67, BB/9 of 2.83 and a lesser groundball rate.

  2. bigwang says:

    good point about niese’s second half eric, he pitched terrific. just a few points from me.

    1. yes wacha’s innings will likely be capped, though niese is not a beacon of health himself. over the last 4 seasons his IP total looks like this: 173, 157, 190, 143. an average of 165 innings per season. last season alone niese’s injuries included a partially torn rotator cuff, and left shoulder tendinitis. not the most exciting words one would want to associate a pitcher with, and certainly a concern going forward. niese’s struggle with having consistent release points was also well documented.

    2. i don’t think wood is a good comparison to wacha in terms of starter-bullpen usage, because while no one is talking about wacha possibly beginning the season as a reliever (he is widely seen as the no.2 or 3 in the cards rotation), wood is a guy who is still fighting for a rotation spot, hence there already is talk about him starting out in the pen. the braves have done it before with medlen, so the likelihood is there. it is difficult to discount wacha based on speculation that he *might* be used as a reliever later in the season.

    3. it has been noted on fangraphs that wacha showed increase velocity as a starter after his stint in the bullpen last year. here is the data:

    Wacha’s average pitch velocities as a reliever:
    Fastball: 95.5 miles per hour
    Changeup: 86.8
    Curveball: 76.7

    Wacha’s average pitch velocities over his first eight big-league starts:
    Fastball: 93.6 miles per hour
    Changeup: 85.9
    Curveball: 75.6

    Wacha’s average pitch velocities from his last three starts, beginning September 24:
    Fastball: 95.5 miles per hour
    Changeup: 88.4
    Curveball: 77.3

    and here is jeff sullivan on wacha’s last 3 starts since sep 24:
    “In the first of those three starts, Wacha carried a no-hitter until there were two out in the ninth. In the second, he carried a no-hitter until there was one out in the eighth. In the third, he shut out the Dodgers for nearly seven innings. Wacha’s pitching the best he has all year, and driving that, at least in large part, is that he’s throwing as a starter as if he’s a reliever. His fastball velocity is where it was out of the bullpen. His secondary pitches are even faster. Wacha’s beyond 160 innings on the year — there was talk the Cardinals didn’t want him to get past 150 — but here there aren’t any signs that he’s wearing down. Very much the opposite of that, either because Wacha is pumped up, or he’s learned some things over the summer, or both or more than that. Again, someone else might have a good explanation. I just have the data, and it’s the data that helps us project performance.”

    the velocity increase allowed wacha to strike out around a batter per inning after returning from the bullpen. coupled with the fact that his SwStr% in 2013 was a whopping 3.7% higher than niese’s, gives hope that he can increase his strikeouts in the future.

    4. i think you’d agree that average draft position would be irrelevant to the discussion of who belongs in the top 45.

    5. i am still not sold on the inclusions of guys like dickey, weaver, gallardo, haren and josh johnson in the top 45. i’d take unranked guys like kluber (3.10 xFIP, excellent K/BB), kazmir (3.36 xFIP, excellent K/BB, moving to big park), wacha and minor over these guys. or even rick porcello, who has tantalized for years and may be finally ready to break out.

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