Tagged: Burch Smith

Early SP rankings for 2014

I wouldn’t say pitching is deep, but I’m surprised by the pitchers who didn’t make my top 60.

Note: I have deemed players highlighted in pink undervalued and worthy of re-rank. Do not be alarmed just yet by what you may perceive to be a low ranking.

2014 STARTING PITCHERS

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Adam Wainwright
  3. Max Scherzer
  4. Yu Darvish
  5. Felix Hernandez
  6. Cliff Lee
  7. Stephen Strasburg
  8. Jose Fernandez
  9. Cole Hamels
  10. Justin Verlander
  11. Anibal Sanchez
  12. Chris Sale
  13. Mat Latos
  14. Madison Bumgarner
  15. Alex Cobb
  16. Homer Bailey
  17. Gerrit Cole
  18. Zack Greinke
  19. David Price
  20. James Shields
  21. Jordan Zimmermann
  22. Michael Wacha
  23. Danny Salazar
  24. Jered Weaver
  25. A.J. Burnett *contingent on if he retires
  26. Kris Medlen
  27. Mike Minor
  28. Jake Peavy
  29. Corey Kluber
  30. Lance Lynn
  31. Matt Cain
  32. Hisashi Iwakuma
  33. CC Sabathia
  34. Gio Gonzalez
  35. Doug Fister
  36. Patrick Corbin
  37. Francisco Liriano
  38. Sonny Gray
  39. Ricky Nolasco
  40. Hiroki Kuroda
  41. Tim Hudson
  42. Marco Estrada
  43. Shelby Miller
  44. Trevor Rosenthal
  45. Tony Cingrani
  46. A.J. Griffin
  47. Brandon Beachy
  48. Tim Lincecum
  49. Clay Buchholz
  50. Ubaldo Jimenez
  51. Alex Wood
  52. Julio Teheran
  53. Tyson Ross
  54. Hyun-jin Ryu
  55. Matt Garza
  56. Andrew Cashner
  57. Johnny Cueto
  58. C.J. Wilson
  59. John Lackey
  60. Justin Masterson
  61. R.A. Dickey
  62. Kevin Gausman
  63. Jon Lester
  64. Dan Haren
  65. Ervin Santana
  66. Derek Holland
  67. Chris Archer
  68. Jeff Samardzija
  69. Bartolo Colon
  70. Ivan Nova
  71. Matt Moore
  72. Ian Kennedy
  73. Dan Straily
  74. Rick Porcello
  75. Jarrod Parker
  76. Carlos Martinez
  77. Jeremy Hellickson
  78. Kyle Lohse
  79. Scott Kazmir
  80. Jason Vargas
  81. Tommy Milone
  82. Wade Miley
  83. Dillon Gee
  84. Brandon Workman
  85. Chris Tillman
  86. Zack Wheeler
  87. Yovani Gallardo
  88. Miguel Gonzalez
  89. Jose Quintana
  90. Garrett Richards
  91. Robbie Erlin
  92. Felix Doubront
  93. Jhoulys Chacin
  94. Jonathon Niese
  95. Chris Capuano
  96. Nick Tepesch
  97. Alexi Ogando
  98. Bronson Arroyo
  99. Travis Wood
  100. Trevor Cahill
  101. Tyler Skaggs
  102. Randall Delgado
  103. Martin Perez
  104. Mike Leake
  105. Carlos Villanueva
  106. Todd Redmond
  107. Brandon Maurer
  108. Tyler Lyons
  109. Ryan Vogelsong
  110. Zach McAllister
  111. Wily Peralta
  112. Brett Oberholtzer
  113. Erik Johnson
  114. Jorge De La Rosa
  115. Paul Maholm
  116. Hector Santiago
  117. Burch Smith
  118. Jeff Locke
  119. Joe Kelly
  120. Jason Hammel
  121. Jake Odorizzi
  122. Danny Hultzen
  123. Anthony Ranaudo
  124. Archie Bradley
  125. Rafael Montero
  126. James Paxton
  127. Taijuan Walker
  128. Yordano Ventura
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Early 2014 rookie/sophomore pitcher rankings — UPDATED 12/30/13

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 Patrick Corbin or Hisashi Iwakuma on this list because they have closer to two years than one under their belts.

The pitchers are ranked best to worst and divided into separate categories: Top 60, Top 90 Consideration, and Not Worth Drafting. For example, I would draft Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole before anyone else on this list.

Rookies are denoted by orange text.

OK, enough chatter. Let’s go.

TOP 60:

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. 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. Even with a depleted win-column, he’s a top-15 pick at worst with upside.

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 reverted to becoming more of a control guy, cutting down on walks at the expense of the kind of strikeouts you expect from a power pitcher. Still, he’s a must-draft with top-15 upside out of the gate.

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
Wacha has gone at least seven innings allowing two hits or fewer in more than a quarter of his career starts. I know nothing about inning limits or manager Mike Matheny’s plans with them, but honestly, not drafting a potential ace because of an innings cap is a stupid strategy anyway.

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. The only starting pitcher with at least 10 starts that has more K’s-per-nine than Salazar is Yu Darvish. 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 given his Tommy John history.

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. Regardless, don’t be surprised if he is Oakland’s Opening Day starter for 2015.

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 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, but he may be a bit overvalued come draft day.

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 import, but expect the ERA to rise. He’s entering his age-27 season — if you have expectations of improvement, keep them in check.

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 strand rate. Still, the strikeout rate is what dreams are made of, and it will help temper some of the regression headed Cingrani’s way.

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
Miller will should improve upon his 2013 performance, but don’t be upset when the ERA backpedals. He’s due for regression, much like Julio Teheran, because of an abnormally high left-on-base percentage.

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, where he cleaned up his act. 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.

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.

TOP 90:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tyler Skaggs, LAA | 2013: 2-3, 38-2/3 IP (7 GS), 5.12 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
The strikeouts are there, but Skaggs has continued his trend from Triple-A of being very hittable and walking too many batters. He was the No. 10 and 12 prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America (respectively) for 2013, so he has potential, but with all the young pitching talent, I’d rather take a late-round flier on someone else.

Zack 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.

LATE-ROUND FLIER? (in no particular order):

Carlos Martinez, STL | 2013: 2-1, 28-1/3 IP (1 GS, 5 GF), 5.08 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
Massive upside, but he hasn’t shown us much yet. He has a chance to crowd Lance Lynn (or Jaime Garcia) out of a spot in the rotation, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

James Paxton, SEA | 2013: 3-0, 24 IP (4 GS), 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Another blossoming Mariner young gun. Small sample size, great results. He never exhibited great control in the minors, but there’s strikeout potential, and he will fight for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Brandon Workman, BOS | 2013: 6-3, 41-2/3 IP (3 GS, 5 GF), 4.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Workman’s ERA and WHIP are largely the doings of an inflated BAbip in a small sample size. In the meantime, try not to drool over the strikeout potential. Unfortunately, there’s no knowing now whether he’ll be in the rotation or the bullpen.

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 likely go undrafted, but I will watch him closely from his first pitch onward.

NOT WORTH DRAFTING in standard leagues:

Dylan Bundy, BAL | 2013: season shortened by Tommy John surgery
Don’t expect him until mid-2014, and even then he’ll start work in the minors.

Jarred Cosart, HOU | 2013: 1-1, 60 IP (10 GS), 1.95 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, 5.3 BB/9
A 1.95 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP… I didn’t even know that was possible. He one-upped Joe Kelly! Walks and lack of strikeouts are huge problems. Ignore.

Erik Johnson, CHW | 2013: 3-2, 27-2/3 IP (5 GS), 3.25 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9
I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperforms Sonny Gray in 2014, but a small sample size with poor results hasn’t left a very good impression. He also plays for the White Sox. Pass for now.

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.

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.

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
Annnnd the third of three Mariners prospects… They could be decent in 2014, you know? 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. 12/30/13 update: Signs point to Hultzen being left out of the rotation, or at least battling for the No. 5 spot during spring training with Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton. 

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

Streamers for Sept. 26 and 27

SEPT. 26 MARQUEE STREAM: Zach McAllister (CLE) @ MIN
McAllister (11.6 percent ESPN ownership) has dominated the hapless Twins, notching a 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 12 K in 13 1/3 innings (two starts) this year, and the Indians are busy demonstrating why they deserve to be in the playoffs. I’d take just about anyone against a gutted Minnesota lineup, and McAllister’s ownership of the Twins is more than encouraging.

Go ahead and deploy the Baltimore Orioles’ Miguel Gonzalez (10.1 percent) at home versus Toronto, too. The Orioles are eliminated from playoff contention, but the Blue Jays are helpless at this point. Gonzalez has a 2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 18 K against the Jays in four starts and, at this stage in the season, there’s no reason to believe the trend will reverse.

SEPT. 27 MARQUEE STREAM: Corey Kluber (CLE) @ MIN
Is it a coincidence I picked Indians in back-to-back spot starts? Does the pope wear a funny hat? I’m a huge fan of Kluber (12.1 percent), maybe a bit irrationally, but I don’t care. He has given up four earned runs only once in his last 10 starts coupled with 8.2 strikeouts per nine. Full disclosure: he hasn’t reached the sixth inning in his last four starts. Full disclosure: I don’t care — it’s the Twins!

Also take a gander at the San Diego Padres’ Burch Smith (1.7 percent). He has been solid in his first three starts — 2.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a very impressive 23 K in 18 innings — but he walks a lot of batters. That said, 1) he’s limiting the hits, 2) nobody on the Giants but Hunter Pence cares to hit, and 3) when’s the last time Ryan Vogelsong looked sharp? Exactly. Anyway, the kid’s good.

Happy streaming!

Need a Streamer? Young guns Ventura (tonight), Johnson (next week), others

  • MARQUEE STREAM for tonight: The Kansas City Royals have called up starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, who racked up a 3.14 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 134-2/3 innings in Triple-A. He struck out well more than a batter per inning but also walked too many guys. Control may always be an issue, considering Ventura’s fastball frequently exceeds 100 mph, but the strikeout potential is there as well as a possible win if he’s not held to a strict pitch count.
  • For Monday, Sept. 23: Chicago White Sox rookie pitcher Erik Johnson finally had the kind of outing I’ve been waiting for: 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K. Johnson doesn’t have the same strikeout potential as Ventura, but he has been a remarkably better pitcher, notching a 1.57 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 in 57-1/3 innings in Triple-A — in line with his career minor-league line of 2.24 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 8.4 K/9. I may consider slotting him next Monday against the Blue Jays; if I don’t, I’m certainly watching his start to see how he fares as I consider dynasty options.
  • For Saturday, Sept. 21: San Diego Padres pitcher Burch Smith hurled a gem in Atlanta on Sunday, striking out 10 across seven innings and allowing only three hits. He has 17 strikeouts through two starts (12 IP) with a 1.08 WHIP since his recall (although he has allowed six walks). He has a ghastly 6.57 ERA and 1.67 WHIP because of a horrendous string of outings when he debuted, but if you look past it, you have a rookie pitcher with strikeout potential and good control who appears to have turned a corner.
  • For Thursday, Sept. 19: Don’t quit on Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ricky Nolasco — and if you’re in a league where an owner has abandoned ship like I am, throw down a waiver claim. I acknowledged Nolasco’s quietly-good season on one of my league’s message boards and how a move to L.A. could greatly impact his value (I wish I had this blog at the time to back it up). He plays Arizona and San Francisco his next two starts, although I understand if you’re hesitant to start him against the Giants, who caused owners to jump ship in the first place.