NeftaliFeliz (Source: USAToday)

 

This article will examine how well I predicted the value of seven bullpen pitchers with the potential to start in 2012. I wrote:

 

I think you will have to overdraft him, or be willing to commit lots of auction dollars, in order to acquire him, because you can be fairly certain that at least one other owner in your pool will like Feliz more than you do. Rotochamp projects 170 innings 11 3.86 159 1.05. These numbers make sense to me, and it is hard to find where the profit will come from in a one year roto league, assuming a high investment to acquire.

 

Feliz pitched only 42 innings last season, then needed Tommy John surgery. I warned readers that an investment in Feliz was risky. If you invested, you lost.

 

He remains a great long-term investment. A lot of young pitchers have come back very strong from TJ. I wouldn’t hesitate to roster him in a dynasty league and look forward to his return in late 2013/early 14.

 

Chris Sale. Sale bulleted through the Sox system a couple years ago as a reliever, and had never started a professional game. His final college season, Sale started and was stellar, leading to his first round selection in 2010. Some Good: his FB sits at 95 MPH. His K/BB is close to 3. He is good at limiting home runs. He has a wicked slider. Some Bad: his career high as a professional is 71 innings. The same analysts who warned us about the high-stress deliveries of Mark Prior, Stephen Strasburg, et al, have similar concerns about Chris Sale, and his inverted w. Some Ugly: he pitches for the White Sox. His FB was not a plus pitch for him in 2011. Partially as a result, he increased his reliance on his slider to over 35%.

 

Rotochamp projects 150 innings 12 3.36 158 1.25. Again, I have no quibble these numbers. I don’t think Sale will cost near as much an investment as Feliz in most auctions/drafts, and therefore, you are more likely to earn back your investment. However, I still don’t see much room for profit unless the price for Sale falls below the value of the above numbers.

 

The only thing keeping Sale from earning top starter dollars was the short innings. His value still far exceeded his cost. Hopefully you passed on Feliz and bought Sale.

 

The innings cap caveat still applies in 2013. Perhaps more so. He remains an injury risk as his total innings pitched increased by such a high margin from 2011 to 2012 (71 to 192). Somewhat mitigating the risk is his increased use of the change, and his decreasing reliance on the slider.

 

Daniel Bard. Converted to relief in 2008, Bard took so readily to the change that he was a fixture in the Red Sox pen a year later. He did so well as a set-up guy (with Jonathan Papelbon expected to move on, in the winter of 2011), many anticipated that Bard would eventually get a crack at closing. Instead, Bailey and Melancon were dealt for this winter after Papelbon signed with Philadelphia, and Boston thinks Bard will transition smoothly to the rotation. This may happen. Some good: Bard’s FB sits at 97 MPH. He has an excellent K/BB ratio, out of the pen. His K-rate is >9 and has been since the shift to relief work. Some bad: he is still a two-pitch pitcher, FB/SL. His change is show-me at this stage. His professional maximum innings for a season is

 

Rotochamp projects: 155 innings 14 3.43 161 1.17. These are strong numbers and perhaps some potential for profit. His current ADP is just after Sale, and a few rounds after Feliz. Bard could turn in the best season of the three.

 

I really misfired with this projection. The warning signs were clear: Bard had never been successful at starting as a professional. It was folly to suggest he would thrive at the MLB level.

 

Aaron Crow. First pick overall 2009. No professional innings until 2010. Great peripherals in A+ debut. Not so great AAA. Made the Royals last season and worked out of the pen. Sub-3 era, now expected to challenge for a rotation gig. Some good: has pitched over 150 innings in a season as a pro. >9 K-rate. Fastball sits at 95 MPH. 2011 Siera 3.27. Some bad: like Bard, so far, has shown command of only FB/SL. Some ugly: unacceptably high walk rate. He has not shown the necessary command of the strike zone to succeed as a starter.

 

Rotochamp projects: 150 innings 9 3.30 157 1.39. I doubt it. Unless Crow falls into your lap for next to no cost, I have a hard time seeing a potential profit. He is one to watch this spring, especially his walk rate. Should it fall below 3, that would be a good sign. I would draft him for my bench, but not in any spot where I would have to rely on his contribution.

 

Crow pitched very well out of the pen in 2012. His BB/9 has dropped almost to 3. However, he still relies on just two pitches, FB/SL. He is a good dark-horse pick to close (I am still concerned about Greg Holland’s ability to stay healthy), but I would not draft him with the expectation he would contribute in a starting role... at least not until he shows good command of a third pitch.

 

Sam LeCure. 2012 will be Sam’s third season with the Reds. He spent five seasons in their minors. Sam started four games in 2011. He does not appear to have a rotation spot available to him at this time. He will likely have to wait for an injury or lack of performance from one of Cueto, Latos, Leake, Arroyo, or Bailey, before LeCure would be given another shot at starting. Also, there is noise about converting Chapman to starter. He is a long-shot to get starts in April. Some good: he has a starter’s repertoire, six pitches, including three fastballs, and three off-speed pitches, and controls them all. His control improved his last four seasons in the minors, from AA on.

 

He had an excellent K/BB rate last season near 3.5/1. His Siera last season was 3.01, and his whip = 1. He has exceeded 140 innings pitched four times. Should he start, the team defence behind him is excellent, as is the Red’s bullpen. Some bad: he allows too many homers. In Great American ballpark, that is an issue. 1.16 HR/9 IP allowed is borderline OK, given the strength of Sam’s other peripherals. His fastball barely cracks 90 MPH. He needs to be superfine with his control to survive. Some ugly: in his April 19 start last season, his third of the year, Arizona torched him for 4 hrs in 5.1 innings.

 

At this time, Sam is waiver fodder/reserve round stash in deep leagues. I will watch very closely for any sign that the Reds plan to put him into their rotation, because I think he’ll do very well in a spot start situation. I am bullish on most N.L. Central pitchers this season, especially Red starters, because two huge bats, Fielder, and Pujols are now in the A.L., and one more, Braun, looks like 50 games off.

 

Like Crow, Sam LeCure had a fine season in the pen, but was never called upon to start. Unlike Crow, Sam does have a starter’s repertoire, and I am still confident that if called upon, would provide plus value. A good sleeper option for the reserves in deep leagues.

 

Lance Lynn. Lance started exclusively in the minors the last four+ seasons. He got two starts last season, otherwise pitched out of the Cards’ pen. Some good: over 100 innings pitched each of the last three seasons. Excellent peripherals, including a 3.64 K/BB, and a .78 HR/9 IP. Three fastballs, slider, curve and change. Fastball sits at 93 MPH. 2011 Siera at 2.40. He is 6' 5'', 240-lb. Some bad: he may have trouble with lefties... but there just isn’t enough sample yet to make a hard conclusion. Some ugly: in his first MLB start last June, the Giants tuned him up for 5 runs in 5 innings. After one more start, a win in Houston, he was put in the pen.

 

Lance looks like more than waiver fodder to me, at this time. Westbrook is the Cards’ #5 pitcher, and Lohse is their #4. I don’t think there is much there to like and I think Lance gets another opportunity to start sooner than later. He is on a great ballclub with a great bullpen in a weak division. And he gets to pitch against another weak division in intra-league this season, the A.L. Central. Avoid starts against the Tigers, and the rest should be cool. I’ll be adding Lance to the end of my staff in N.L. roto, and to my reserves in deep mixed leagues.

 

Bingo. Lance helped me cash in a few leagues last season.

 

There’s been some concern that Lynn won’t start this season. I think he will, and I think he will do OK. Not nearly as well as last season however (when he set a blistering pace, then quite predictably fell off as he struggled to commend his off speed pitches), which makes him a risky pick since he will also be costly.

 

Hector Noesi. Appears to have a starting job to win, after the trade to Seattle. 2012 will be Hector’s seventh season in pro ball. Prior to last year, he was used almost exclusively as a starter. It took him five seasons to rise above A-ball. Some good: he showed excellent control through most of his minor-league career, and a high K-rate. In 377 innings, he has a 1.10 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9 IP and a K/BB > 5. He throws two fastballs, a slider, a curve, and a change. His FB sits at 93 MPH. He is moving from homer-haven Yankee Stadium to pitcher-lovin’ Seattle. Brendan Ryan will be his new shortstop. Some bad: Hector walked almost 4/9 IP last season. Rotochamp doesn’t think much of him, seeing a -$10 pitcher in 2012. Some ugly: his final two appearances of the season in 2011 were very poor starts, against the Rays.

 

I like Hector. A lot. Perhaps too much. He is a pitcher I’ve followed a couple of seasons and whom I added to my A.L. scoresheet rosters. I think the trade to Seattle will turn out excellent-well for Hector. I think he will improve his control in his second season in MLB. I see great potential for profit here.

 

Merde. Should have quit at six :) Hector couldn’t strike anyone out, lost control of the zone, couldn’t keep the ball in the yard. Lost season. He wasn’t unlucky: a .266 BABIP is just bad. Looking back, he wasn’t really an effective starter above AA. I will keep track of Noesi, but he will have to show extended success at AAA before I consider rostering him again.

 

As long as they come cheap. Don’t reach and don’t invest heavily on any of them in March. The primary value of a penny stock is its potential to earn unexpected profit if they turn good, and not cost you anything if they stay pennies.

 

Still true. I drafted Lynn with the 36th pick in a 15 team league, 50 picks deep. He was a late round flier in my N.L. roto. 

 


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