Three things can happen when young pitchers get their big call-up to the majors. They can be highly touted, with a ton of expectations placed on their shoulders, and excel. Some of those highly touted arms can fall flat, never coming close to the performances that got them to the majors in the first place. And then there are those young pitchers that fly under the radar in fantasy baseball leagues, and exceed everyone’s expectations. 2013 proved no differently. In fantasy baseball much of the time, drafting young, unproven talent can be a gamble. Conversely, striking gold with a young pitcher late in a draft can prove to be a great value, and potentially put your squad over the top. Just ask 2013 owners of Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, and Patrick Corbin. Here are 4 starting pitchers who didn’t have breakouts in 2013, but will breakout for fantasy baseball owners and their MLB teams in 2014.
4 Young Pitchers That Will Have Fantasy Breakouts in 2014
Zack Wheeler – SP, New York Mets
It’s hard to believe the number one prospect in the Mets organization could fly under the radar. But with the incredible 2013 campaign Matt Harvey put together, it is easier to see how Wheeler got somewhat lost in the shuffle. Now, while he won’t exactly be catching people off guard after a rookie debut of 7-5, 3.42 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 84 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched, he’ll have a spot in the rotation from season’s start, and 17 major league starts under his belt. Look for Wheeler to move beyond “impressive rookie” in 2013, to a breakout stud with numbers closer to his minor league peripherals that indicate a comparable ERA, WHIP in the area of 1.27, and an impressive 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. Zack Wheeler is definitely a young pitcher to keep on eye on for your 2014 fantasy baseball draft prep, as he has a great chance of breaking out for fantasy owners and the Mets this year.
Dan Straily – SP, Oakland Athletics
Dan Straily strikes batters out. While his somewhat brief stints in the majors haven’t brought his video game minor league strikeout rate to fruition over a full season yet, it was clear in September of 2013 that he was starting to trend that direction. In 2012, over two minor league levels, Straily struck out an incredible 192 batters in only 152 innings pitched. Couple that with a 2.78 ERA, a minuscule 1.00 WHIP, pitching in a great pitchers park, and playing on a solid A’s team – and there’s a lot to love with Straily’s major league prospects for 2014. So far in the big show, Straily’s been kind of boom or bust. He’s had moments of brilliance striking out 7+ batters five times in 2013, along with some growing pain blowups along the way. Look for Straily to put it all together in 2014, and become the pitcher that he was when it all seemed to click in September of last season (3-1, 2.10 ERA, 26 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched). He’s got the experience, and he certainly has the opportunity in the rotation in 2014. Keep an eye on Straily as you start preparing for your 2014 fantasy baseball drafts, there is a strong chance that he will breakout in a big way this year.
Taijuan Walker – SP, Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners have been making moves and spending a lot of money heading into the 2014 season. Whether it leads to the M’s competing in the stacked American League West is yet to be seen. While most feel the bigger question marks may lie in the Mariners’ lineup, the future (and possibly present?) seems bright with perennial Cy Young contender King Felix Hernandez and 2013 breakout Hisashi Iwakuma anchoring an otherwise young, talented rotation on the brink of big things. Of that young rotation, the Mariners put a ton of stock in their organization’s top prospect, Taijuan Walker. There is a reason Walker has been deemed virtually untouchable by the Mariners in trade talks involving the likes of number one starter David Price. Perhaps the combined 2013 minor league line of 2.93 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts in 141 innings pitched has something to do with their protection of the 21 year old hurler. Also, in his brief three-start stint in the big show in 2013, he proved he can handle MLB lineups by going 1-0, with a 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 12 strikeouts in 15 innings. He doesn’t walk many batters, misses bats, and should be holding down the number three spot in the M’s rotation shortly. Look for big things from Walker in 2014, and be sure to watch target him for you 2014 fantasy baseball draft prep.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez – SP, Philadelphia Phillies
Less on the side of “young” starting pitchers in major league years, Miguel Gonzalez is rolling into a likely spot in the Phillies’ rotation at 27 years old, a point most major leaguers are considered in their prime. But being a bit under the radar is just fine with Phillies management, and savvy fantasy baseball owners, alike. Gonzalez was afforded a large contract after defecting from Cuba in 2013. One thing that has been certain about Cuban talent of late – the general public knows little about them, yet they’ve come up very big for contending teams over the past few seasons (see Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes). While Gonzalez brings his talents to the mound, he should provide no less substance as the afore mentioned Cuban superstars. He throws a bevy of beyond serviceable pitches, including a fastball, changeup, splitter, sinker, cutter, curveball, and a knuckle ball, to boot. While the Phillies may look to tone down that arsenal a bit and have Gonzalez master a smaller sample, it will be interesting to see what that type of versatile catalogue can do to major league hitters who haven’t faced him yet. He’ll likely be in the Phils’ rotation in 2014, and he’ll likely be someone you can steal in the your fantasy baseball draft at a point others won’t be looking for him.
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