Jon Niese is coming off a solid 2012 campaign that brought him onto the fantasy radar. He had strong across the board numbers – 13 wins, 3.40 era, 1.17 WHIP and 155 K’s. The Mets are counting on Niese to continue his upward trajectory and RotoBaller likes Niese for a modest move forward in the right direction.
A big reason Niese improved in 2012 is because he started to master his cutter, which became his go-to pitch to get
out of jams. In 2012 he threw the cutter 28% of the time (compared to 17% in 2011) and it was by far his most effective pitch. He benefited from a 76% LOB rate (left on base %), which was a significant jump from a 60% LOB rate in 2011. His LOB rate may drop a little in 2013, but probably not much. Having figured out how to throw the cutter as an out pitch should help Niese support a higher LOB rate.
A good indicator for Niese is that he pitched better, considerably so, in the second half of 2012. His BB/9 went down from 2.78 to 1.77, HR/9 dropped in half from 1.30 to 0.73 and his WHIP declined from 1.23 to 1.11. Despite these promising trends, Niese is not a strikeout pitcher and he pitches for a bad NY Mets team will hurt two important fantasy categories – K’s and Wins. His strikeout rate has been stable around 19.5% for the last three seasons, which is serviceable but nowhere near elite. If he throws 200 IP in 2013, you can expect 150-160 k’s. As for wins, he had 22 quality starts (73%), but the Mets may not be able to reciprocate the favor and provide the support to get him those wins.
Entering his age 26 season, Niese is a promising starter who pegs as a solid number 4 or higher-end number 5 fantasy option. In 12 team leagues you can wait until rounds 13 or 14 to draft Niese. We don’t see him as a breakout candidate, but more of a steady pitcher who should be a safe play.
Projection: 3.5 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 160 K and 11-13 W
Target Round: 13