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Three Starting Pitchers Who Will Underperform Their 2015 ADP: Rankings Analysis

What Appears In This Article? hide

Below, you’ll find three starting pitchers that I’ve identified as potential underperformers based on ADP. As a frame of reference, I've provided the RotoBaller consensus ranking for each player as well.

Keep in mind that this isn’t to say you should necessarily avoid drafting these three players. Rather, it's a warning to make sure that other more worthy candidates are already off the board before you pull the trigger.

After all, remember that in 2014, the difference between a championship and second place could well have been selecting Max Scherzer over Cliff Lee.


Three Overvalued Starting Pitchers

Madison Bumgarner (RotoBaller Rank: 8.6)

Stop me if I sound like a broken record on Bumgarner. The fact is that Bumgarner threw a ton of high leverage innings last year, while most of his colleagues were at home getting ready for 2015. If you were fielding a real baseball team, he might be one of the top five guys you'd want, because he’s a workhorse. But this is fantasy baseball, and having a guy throwing on short rest through all of October is a big red flag. Couple that with everyone’s memory of Bumgarner as an unhittable freak for 30 days, and you've got a recipe for an overrated pitcher. The pundits at RotoBaller have him ranked conservatively (as high as five and as low as fifteen) compared to elsewhere, which brought his composite ranking to 8.6. I think that’s reasonable, but you might run into trouble if you follow the rankers that have him near fourth or fifth.

Ultimately, here’s what it comes to for me: remember 2012, when Johan Santana threw 134 pitches to complete his no-hitter? People said, “Wow, you probably shouldn’t do that.” Well, his season (and likely his career) ended two months later. Last year, Bumgarner threw 52.2 innings (the most ever) in the postseason, and while his career won’t be over in two months, it's probably not the way to ensure peak performance in the following season.  Be aware.


Hisashi Iwakuma (Rotoballer Rank: 19.1)

File this under the “gut feeling” index. Since 2013, Iwakuma has pleasantly surprised owners– in 2013, he sported a very fortunate 2.66 ERA with a respectable 7.6 strikeout rate, and he followed that up with a moderately unfortunate 3.52 ERA and 7.7 strikeout rate in 2014. Iwakuma also posts one of the best WHIPs in the game with 1.01 in 2013 and 1.05 last year, so what’s not to like?

It really comes down to perception. Iwakuma was an under-the-radar pitcher last year, but he’s getting a lot of love going in to 2015, and I think he’s inched too high in the rankings. Last year, he ranked in the low-to-mid 30s in terms of starting pitchers; this year, I don’t want to take him as a top-20 guy, because I think his ceiling is significantly lower than the guys around him (Cobb, Carrasco, Teheran, Arrieta). On top of that, Iwakuma's age is a red flag (he’ll be 34 on opening day). There's no doubt that pitchers can be very successful past that age, and Iwakuma isn’t one to rely on velocity anyway, but the injury risk becomes increased as the years and inning psile up. Don’t avoid Iwakuma in drafts this year, but make sure the price is right.


Adam Wainwright (RotoBaller Rank: 14.1)

You’ll notice that Wainwright has already began to fall on draft boards after an abdomen injury, but I’d like to say that I was on the “Wainwright = Bust” bandwagon late last year, as his season began to deteriorate in July and August. The truth is that he had a productive September and ended the season in relative stability. The problem, though, is that when you look at his body of work over a full year, you’ll notice a pitcher with an elite name who is lacking the numbers to match.

There are some comparisons to both Bumgarner and Iwakuma here: Wainwright is a guy who has been a workhouse since 2009, and like Bumgarner, threw his fair share of high leverage postseason innings (though never near 52!). Like Iwakuma, Wainwright's 2014 included an acceptable strikeout rate and an elite WHIP. So is he more like Bumgarner or Iwakuma? The answer is somewhere in the middle, but he has the name recognition that will keep him near the elites on draft day. It will be an interesting season for Wainwright, because he started off 2014 guns blazing, before fading out in the summer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar this year.



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