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Fantasy Baseball Sleepers (Pitchers)

2015 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Sleepers

The 2015 Major League Baseball season is upon us and we all want to know which pitchers will outperform their projections (sleepers). We use peripherals such as FIP, batted ball rates, and K rates to judge whether a pitcher can have future success.


Dallas Keuchel

Keuchel gets lost in Houston, but his 2.93 ERA was legit last year due to having the highest ground-ball rate of any starting pitcher (64%). He was able to induce all those grounders with a great sinker, that he threw almost half the time he released the ball. This sinker also limited the HR hit against him to a miniscule 11 in 200 IP. Add to the ground ball rate a 2.2 BB/9 rate, and despite the limited number of strikeouts, Keuchel is a lock for a sub-3.50 ERA.

Andrew McCarthy

Another ground ball pitcher who is primed for a solid season is McCarthy, who has increased his ground ball rate each year over the past three seasons: 41% in 2012, 48% in 2013 and 53% in 2014. When the Yankees acquired McCarthy from Arizona in July, McCarthy had a 5.01 ERA. But then it all clicked and he continued the rest of the season with a 2.89 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His high ERA is contributed to bad luck as his BABIP against suggests (.330 vs. the average .300 BABIP for the rest of the league). I expect McCarthy's BABIP to regress down back to the norm and have a nice year.

Andrew Heaney

Heaney is now on the Angels, but he struggled in only 29.1 IP last year for the Marlins. His numbers were out of character for the most part. His HR/9 ratio was 1.84, but we can expect a number closer to his minor league ratio of only .97. Last year in AAA, Heaney struck out over 9 batters per 9 IP and had a nice walk rate, which carried over into the majors (2.15 BB per 9 IP). Heaney has an elite changeup, a pitch proven to predict success in the majors, and I believe Heaney will really show what he is made of this year.

Wade Miley

Miley is the type of pitcher nobody cared about when he was stuck in Arizona and posted a career 3.79 ERA and 7.03 K/9. But now we should take notice as Miley takes the mound for the American League favorites, the Boston Red Sox. Last year, we saw signs of a breakout when Miley posted his best K rate (8.18 K/9). He also had a career worst walks per nine (3.35) and home runs per nine (1.03). These two stats can change drastically from year to year. With a monster lineup behind him, Miley can be poised for a better year than we think. He should no longer be anonymous.

Taijuan Walker

There's a reason the Mariners said Walker is untouchable via trade. After getting called up last year, he posted a 2.61 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 8.1 K/9. Even better, he finished strongly in September with a 1.96 ERA. Walker throws a heater in the mid-90s with a devastating 90mph cutter that induces plenty of groundballs. It is fair to say, the former top Mariners prospect is due for a huge year.

James Paxton

Speaking of the Mariners, we can't forget James Paxton. His breakout season was cut short last year due to a shoulder injury, but his numbers were impressive. His K rate was an average 19.5% but his groundball rate was a phenomenal 54.8% (the league average was 44%). The lefty knows how to get people out. We should see more of the same, with a possible increase in strikeouts as he had a 7.9% swinging strike percentage last year, a nicer number than his K rate suggests. So, I'm looking to value the number 3 starting pitcher for Seattle higher than most.

Honorable Mention

Zach Wheeler, Drew Smyly, Homer Bailey, Carlos Carrasco, A.J. Burnett, T.J. House, Yu Darvish, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee

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For years, ERA was the be all and end all statistic for pitchers... until sabermetrics came along. That is when Fielder Independent Pitching came about, a statistic that basically tells us what a pitcher's ERA SHOULD be. FIP is calculated with this formula: FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant and the constant is calculated with this formula: FIP Constant = lgERA - (((13*lgHR)+(3*(lgBB+lgHBP))-(2*lgK))/lgIP). The truly gifted baseball analyst will look at this and know the implications of the FIP statistic but not all of us are that gifted, so basically what FIP means is it is the ERA a pitcher would have if he suffered the league average results on balls in play. So it eliminates the effect of fielders and luck, both of which are out of the pitcher's control.

So, how do we use FIP as a predictive statistic for pitchers. Well, it's easy. If FIP is what an ERA is supposed to be, we can simply see whose ERA was much higher than their FIP. These pitchers have falsely inflated ERAs that tend to revert back to what they should be (the FIP). So, here is a table of the pitchers with the biggest difference in ERA and FIP in the 2014 season. Pitchers must have pitched at least 100 IP. The guys at the top are sleeper candidates.

Jacob Turner6.134.161.97
Edwin Jackson6.334.451.88
Trevor Cahill5.613.891.72
Justin Masterson5.884.51.38
Clay Buchholz5.344.011.33
Ricky Nolasco5.384.31.08
Nathan Eovaldi4.373.371
Yusmeiro Petit3.692.780.91
Phil Hughes3.522.650.87
Brett Oberholtzer4.393.560.83
Marcus Stroman3.652.840.81
Justin Verlander4.543.740.8
Hyun-Jin Ryu3.382.620.76
Kevin Correia5.444.670.76
Josh Tomlin4.764.010.75
Tyler Skaggs4.33.550.75
Danny Salazar4.253.520.73
Anibal Sanchez3.432.710.72
Colby Lewis5.184.460.71
Kyle Gibson4.473.80.67
Travis Wood5.034.380.65
Drew Hutchison4.483.850.64
Jerome Williams4.774.160.62
Ervin Santana3.953.390.56
Gio Gonzalez3.573.030.55
Bartolo Colon4.093.570.52
Jose Quintana3.322.810.51
Brandon McCarthy4.053.550.5
David Price3.262.780.48
A.J. Burnett4.594.140.45
Tim Lincecum4.744.310.43
Gerrit Cole3.653.230.42
Ian Kennedy3.633.210.42
Mike Minor4.774.390.38
Jake Odorizzi4.133.750.37
Wade Miley4.343.980.36
Max Scherzer3.152.850.3
Tyler Matzek4.053.780.28
Jake Arrieta2.532.260.27
Hisashi Iwakuma3.523.250.27
Yu Darvish3.062.840.21
C.J. Wilson4.514.310.2
Stephen Strasburg3.142.940.2
Scott Kazmir3.553.350.19
Brad Hand4.384.20.17
Kevin Gausman3.573.410.16
Trevor Bauer4.184.010.16
Samuel Deduno4.474.310.16
Ubaldo Jimenez4.814.670.14
Ryan Vogelsong43.850.14
Rubby de la Rosa4.434.30.12
Jordan Lyles4.334.220.11
Carlos Carrasco2.552.440.11
Hiroki Kuroda3.713.60.1
Corey Kluber2.442.350.1
Matt Garza3.643.540.1
Vidal Nuno4.564.510.05
John Lackey3.823.780.04
Kyle Kendrick4.614.570.04
Scott Carroll4.84.770.03
Michael Wacha3.23.170.03
Jacob deGrom2.692.670.02
Tim Hudson3.573.540.02
Garrett Richards2.612.60.01
Aaron Harang3.573.570
Zack Wheeler3.543.55-0.01
Charlie Morton3.723.72-0.01
Jordan Zimmermann2.662.68-0.02
John Danks4.744.76-0.02
David Phelps4.384.41-0.03
Tom Koehler3.813.84-0.03
Clayton Kershaw1.771.81-0.04
Franklin Morales5.375.42-0.04
J.A. Happ4.224.27-0.05
Chris Archer3.333.39-0.06
Madison Bumgarner2.983.05-0.07
Dan Haren4.024.09-0.07
Hector Noesi4.754.83-0.07
Jarred Cosart3.693.77-0.08
Jason Vargas3.713.84-0.13
Roenis Elias3.854.03-0.18
Mike Leake3.73.88-0.18
Jeremy Guthrie4.134.32-0.19
Chase Anderson4.014.22-0.2
Jeff Samardzija2.993.2-0.21
Francisco Liriano3.383.59-0.21
Homer Bailey3.713.93-0.22
Matt Shoemaker3.043.26-0.22
Rick Porcello3.433.67-0.24
Jorge de la Rosa4.14.34-0.24
Zack Greinke2.712.97-0.26
Brad Peacock4.724.99-0.27
Masahiro Tanaka2.773.04-0.27
Jon Niese3.43.67-0.27
Mark Buehrle3.393.66-0.28
Dallas Keuchel2.933.21-0.29
Eric Stults4.34.63-0.33
Jon Lester2.462.8-0.34
T.J. House3.353.69-0.34
Wei-Yin Chen3.543.89-0.35

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