MLB organizations continue to pump out quality arms, and 2013 was another banner crop of young pitchers. Some of these pitchers made a significant impact on starting rotations and fantasy baseball leagues, or were key contributors for playoffs runs. Take a look at the Cards or A’s pitching staffs, loaded with fresh arms and prepared to carry the load. The caveat to relatively inexperienced pitchers is that when they have a breakout year, it very well could be followed up with regression. This is something to keep in mind when preparing for your 2014 fantasy baseball drafts.
There are several factors to consider when trying to predict pitchers taking a step back from their previous season:
• Additional workload
• Misleading statistics
• Poor second half performance due to familiarity by opponents or fatigue
• Outperformance of minor league numbers
And then there are other factors that no one can really predict:
• Tipping pitches
• Off the field issues
• Poor conditioning and training
• Playing with injuries
With that in mind, here are five candidates that may regress in 2014 from last year’s totals.
5 Breakout Pitchers That May Regress in 2014
Patrick Corbin - SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Corbin got off to a stunning start for the D-backs in 2013. During the first half of the season he was the anchor off the staff, allowing the team to stay on top of the NL West. But once August and September hit the story changed - his record fell to 2-6 during that time, with an alarming .353 opponents BA in the last month of the season. The top division rivals have had success against the lefty as well; Corbin was 0-2 vs. the Giants and his ERA ballooned to 5.21 while facing the Dodgers. At 208.1 innings pitched last year, the heavy workload could hold him back to more pedestrian numbers overall in 2014. Facing teams a second and third time gave Corbin problems last year, so future adjustments will need to be made for him not to regress in 2014.
Shelby Miller - SP, St. Louis Cardinals
St.Louis is on to something, drafting pitchers with big frames that can handle a lot of work deep into October. It is almost an embarrassment of riches, but a couple of their aces (Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright) over the last decade have broken down. A couple of numbers stood out in looking at Miller’s 2013 season. First, his K/9 was above 9 throughout the whole season until September when it fell to 4.6. Quite a drop, as it seems he could not put hitters away down the stretch. Couple that with a brief but shaky postseason. Finally, he piled on an extra 30 innings beyond what he recorded in any previous season past. Could these factors carry over to next season and affect Miller's 2014 performance? It will be interesting to see.
Tanner Roark - SP / RP, Washington Nationals
Roark exceeded expectations last year, with 7-1 record and a 1.50 ERA, pitching in a middle relief and spot start role for the Nationals. He spots his fastball well, and is not afraid to come inside to tie hitters up. In looking at his past career numbers, it comes as quite a surprise that Roark put together such a string of success in 2013. In 2012, just a season earlier and against lesser competition, he posted a miserable 6-17 record with a 4.40 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP in the minors. Relieving is probably his niche at the big league level, but after going through the league a few times Roark will most likely come back towards the middle of the pack statistically.
Jhoulys Chacin - SP, Colorado Rockies
Quick... start naming Rockies pitchers present or past that have consistently put up solid seasons year after year? Don’t strain yourself, because there aren’t any. After a few years of mediocrity, Chacin broke through with 14 wins and ranked 9th in WAR in 2013. Chacin’s biggest obstacle this year is the fact that he is not a big strikeout pitcher, throwing in a hitter's park, and his fastball only sits in the upper 80s. At 5.7 K per 9 innings, that is a lot of balls in play, with a lot of room for base hits. He also has a career WHIP of 1.33, which is nothing to write home about. Chacin is a good bet to regress in 2014, something to consider during your fantasy baseball draft prep.
Joe Kelly - SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Kelly is another Cardinals pitcher that will have a hard time repeating last year’s success. During the season, it was a Houdini act for Kelly as he posted a 2.69 ERA with so many runners allowed on base (1.35 WHIP). And he has also been trusted to pitch some big games in the post season the last two years. With Kelly’s low strikeout rate, and allowing an opponents BA of nearly .260, he may be the worst of the Cardinal starters in 2014. By mid-season, it would not be a surprise if Kelly was a fixture in the bullpen as he is a candidate to regress statistically in 2014.