Early look at 2014 rookie/sophomore pitchers

As my father said, more and more young players are making a greater impact on fantasy baseball than he could remember. Here is a compilation of young, fantasy-relevant pitchers, including sophomores, freshmen and young pitchers you may have forgotten or not heard of. You won’t see breakout pitchers like Matt Harvey or Hisashi Iwakuma on this list because they already have two years, more or less, under their belts.

The players below will be ranked in a permanent page to be added later. Until then, players are listed in alphabetical order, and it’s up to you to rank them as you please.

SOPHOMORES

Chris Archer, TB | 2013: 9-7, 128-2/3 IP (23 GS), 3.22 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Archer has, for the time being, become a control guy, which means fewer strikeouts but also fewer walks. He’s pitching more to contact, though, so his .253 BAbip will be hard to sustain. Owners will miss the upside strikeout potential — and it may reemerge as Archer develops — but the lack of K’s makes him less desirable than his sophomore counterparts.

Trevor Bauer, CLE | 2013: 1-2, 17 IP (4 GS), 5.29 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 8.5 BB/9
Don’t try to draft him as a sneaky sleeper unless you want to be the laughing stock of your league. Ignore Bauer — if he makes the 2014 rotation, that is.

Tony Cingrani, CIN | 2013: 7-4, 104-2/3 IP (18 GS), 2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
It’s hard not to be totally enamored with Cingrani, but beware his .241 BAbip and astronomical 82.1-percent LOB% (left-on-base percentage). Still, the strikeout rate is what dreams are made of, and it will help temper some of the regression headed Cingrani’s way. The only thing left in his way is the question of a guaranteed spot in the Reds’ rotation, of which there isn’t a clear one.

Gerrit Cole, PIT | 2013: 10-7, 117-1/3 IP (19 GS), 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Cole has also reverted to becoming more of a control guy, cutting down on walks big-time at the expense of strikeouts. Even then, he’s a must-draft with top-15 upside out of the gate.

Jose Fernandez, MIA | 2013: 12-6, 172-1/3 IP (28 GS), 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
There’s nothing I can say about Fernandez’s dominance that hasn’t been said, so I won’t bother. What I will say is Fernandez benefited from some good luck, as indicated by his .244 BAbip. It could be legit, but even Pedro Martinez’s career BAbip is .282 with a season-best .237, and Clayton Kershaw’s career mark is .275. Still, he’ll end up being a top-50 pick with upside. The only thing that will hold him back is the wins column.

Kevin Gausman, BAL | 2013: 3-5, 47-2/3 IP (5 GS), 5.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
Not all prospects dazzle upon first glimpse. Gausman, Baseball America’s No.-26 prospect for 2013, struggled out of the gate, posting a 7.66 ERA and 1.62 WHIP across five starts before being shipped to the bullpen. He then cleaned up his act and posted a 3.52 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 23 relief innings. Ignore the ERA — his WHIP and solid strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio is a sign of good things to come. His devalued stock makes him a potentially very cheap, and very valuable, post-hype sleeper worth a late-round flier or cheap bid at auction.

Sonny Gray, OAK | 2013: 5-3, 64 IP (10 GS), 2.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
The strikeout rate is (probably) unsustainable, but aside from that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the A’s Opening Day starter for 2015.

Shelby Miller, STL | 2013: 15-9, 173-1/3 IP (31 GS), 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9
As a youngster with a lot of talent, Miller will likely improve upon his 2013 performance. So don’t be upset when the ERA backpedals. He’s due for regression, much like Teheran is, because of an abnormally high LOB%.

Martin Perez, TEX | 2013: 10-5, 119 IP (19 GS), 3.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Am I the only one who is underwhelmed by Perez? What about him points to him turning into a viable fantasy option? I’d rather gamble on a slew of young arms other than his.

Michael Pineda, NYY | 2013: did not play … 2011: 9-10, 171 IP (28 GS), 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Tendinitis turned into an anterior labral tear in Michael Pineda’s throwing shoulder, sidelining him for all of 2012 through July 2013 when he was optioned to Triple-A. He was fantastic in the minors before his debut, and he was equally fantastic in 2011. Pineda could be the definitive post-hype sleeper. He was Baseball America’s No. 16 prospect heading into 2011, and he could very well pitch like it again — assuming he’s fully healthy.

Tyson Ross, SD | 2013: 3-8, 125 IP (16 GS), 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Ross got hardly any attention last year, but he induced the 7th-lowest contact rate and 9th-highest swinging strike rate of all pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. You know who that trails? Yu Darvish, Francisco Liriano, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Tim Lincecum, Matt Harvey, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw. That’s it. He’s entering his age-27 year and had zero fantasy relevance until halfway through 2013, but that’s no reason to ignore him on draft day. (The fact that he plays for the lowly Padres, though, could be a reason. Not a good enough reason, though!)

Hyun-jin Ryu, LAD | 2013: 14-8, 192 IP (30 GS), 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9
Solid first year from the Korean implant, but expect the ERA to rise.

Danny Salazar, CLE | 2013: 2-3, 52 IP (10 GS), 3.12 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
All Salazar has done since he debuted is humiliate batters. I have no idea how long that will last — everyone expected batters to make adjustments against Tony Cingrani, and 100 innings later, they still hadn’t — but the strikeout potential is way too good to pass up. The Indians have been very careful with his innings and pitch counts, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it carried over into 2014, thus devaluing him a bit.

Burch Smith, SD | 2013: 1-3, 36-1/3 IP (7 GS), 6.44 ERA, 1.651 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 5.2 BB/9
Ignore the stats you just read. Now focus on the fact that he struck out 46 batters in just more than 36 innings. The walks are a huge problem and could ultimately relegate him to a relief role. But he exhibited great control in the minors (along with the strikeouts, so they’re not a fluke), so I wouldn’t discount him yet. But until he recovers his control, he’s not worth the speculative draft pick. Remember the name, though.

Julio Teheran, ATL | 2013: 14-8, 185-2/3 IP (30 GS), 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
Teheran was the same pitcher all year, despite how badly he started and how solidly he finished. He’s a good pitcher, but Matthew Berry is right in saying he over-performed: the number of runners he stranded (and, thus, his ERA) was not sustainable given his peripherals. His control and strikeout ability makes him a solid bet regardless, and if his strikeout rate improves, he will be a valuable commodity.

Michael Wacha, STL | 2013: 4-1, 64-2/3 IP (9 GS), 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Between a seven-inning, two-hit debut start and a no-hitter taken into the final out of his last start, Wacha has shown why some people call him “Adam Wainwright’s clone.” He will likely fall to the late rounds of the draft with an innings cap contributing to his devaluation. Take advantage.

Taijuan Walker, SEA | 2013: 1-0, 18 IP (3 GS), 3.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
Walker will likely enter 2014 as a sleeper on many lists because of his strong 2013 performance, albeit across a small sample size. Keep an eye on Walker’s walk rate during spring training — free passes were his only major struggle in the minors, and they could be what hold him back in the bigs if his strikeout rate doesn’t fully rebound.

Zach Wheeler, NYM | 2013: 7-5, 100 IP (17 GS), 3.42 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
Wheeler gets a lot of hype, but I’ll buy when I see results. Wheeler continued his disconcerting trend of walking batters; it has been almost 500 professional innings and it seems he still has yet to make a serious adjustment. Don’t let his ERA fool you. I’m sure he has elite potential, but the walks simply will not cut it for me, especially on a Mets team that will flirt with mediocrity sooner than it will playoff contention.

Alex Wood, ATL | 2013: 3-3, 77-2/3 IP (11 GS, 9 GF), 3.13 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9
Wood’s ERA is not reflective of his WHIP — it should be much higher — but, fortunately, his WHIP is not reflective of his actual performance, with a .333 BAbip inflating his ratio. Also, his low ERA is a testament to his ability to strand runners as a reliever. It may not translate as well as a starter, but I would never doubt an Atlanta Braves pitching prospect.

FRESHMEN

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, PHI | 2013: did not play in U.S.
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is the latest of many highly talented Cuban players to defect in the past couple of years, following Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Aroldis Chapman and Yoenis Cespedes. Gonzalez was on the verge of signing the most lucrative contract of all the aforementioned names — his $10 million per year would have exceeded Cespedes ($9 million), Puig ($6 million), Chapman ($5.05 million) and Fernandez ($490,000) — before concerns arose about his shoulder health. Salary (typically) indicates ability, and considering the contract Gonzalez almost signed, I’ll venture to say he has a whole lot of ability. Because he won’t start throwing for the Phillies until spring, he could be 2014’s best-kept pitching secret.

Danny Hultzen, SEA | 2013 (AAA-AA): 5-1, 35 2/3 IP (7 GS), 2.02 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 10.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9
SEPT. 25: VISITING DR. ANDREWS. MIGHT MISS 2014 ROTATION SPOT. MLB.com’s No. 18 prospect will likely battle for a rotation spot in the spring. Control issues plagued him throughout the minors this year, when he made one start in Double-A and took the step up to hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he posted a 2.05 ERA and 10.0 K/9 across six starts. It’s a small sample, but if he continues to exhibit control during the spring, he’s definitely worth a speculative draft pick.

Rafael Montero, NYM | 2013 (AAA-AA): 12-7, 155 1/3 IP (27 GS), 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9
Montero is all but guaranteed a rotation spot in 2014, especially in light of Matt Harvey’s elbow surgery. His minor league numbers are incredibly impressive for someone who hasn’t cracked any top-prospect lists, although his performance dipped after his promotion to Triple-A. He’ll go undrafted, but I will watch him closely from his first pitch onward.

To Be Ranked: Dylan Bundy, Jarred Cosart, Erik Johnson, Carlos Martinez, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Tyler Skaggs, Brandon Workman

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