KEEPERS: 2013 Dynasty reload—AL SP

This is the eighth of a 10-column series designed to help owners playing in keeper league (KL) and dynasty formats address their weak spots over the next three to five seasons. Through mid-January, we'll be putting forth by-position lists of our favorite players and prospects who could 1) be relatively available in your leagues; and 2) earn double-digit dollars sometime between 2013 and 2015.

Our filter uses the following criterion:

  • Player must be growth-age—27 years old—or younger as of April 1
  • Player must have earned less than $10 in 2012
  • Player must have accumulated at least 50 IP above A+ ball

Pitching is always iffy, but tabbing a mound breakout or two is critical to your chances of winning.  Both Chris Sale and Brandon Morrow from our 2012 list indicate that at least a few of these names will step up.  And other names like Jarrod Parker—coming off of TJS and with zero MLB experience—can emerge from out of nowhere to be profitable. 

WARNING:  This is a long column. Our filter produced a surprisingly large list of AL pitchers worth watching.  When in doubt, we gave preference to those with age, experience, and MLB results.  Ceiling and risk-wise, there's something here for everyone.

Predictably after all the hype, 23-year-old Matt Moore (LHP, TAM) couldn't fully live up to the lofty expectations of his rookie season. But even in light of the Ctl spike and a 23% PQS-DIS, the 3.81 ERA, 8.9 Dom and 11 wins were hardly disastrous.  Still oozes talent, while age and health say his sky-high upside remains.  This could be your last chance to buy him low. 

Brett Anderson (LHP, OAK) has always had limitless potential, but not the durability.  Since a 175 IP rookie season in 2009, Anderson has averaged just 84 IP over three seasons thanks to ongoing elbow issues that finally culminated in 2011 Tommy John surgery.  Outstanding small sample comeback included a 3.30/3.50 ERA/xERA combo, 3.4 Cmd, and 60% GB%—until an oblique strain sidelined him for the final two weeks.  Physical breakdowns have yet to impact stuff, still has age working in his favor.  High risk, high reward.

Tommy Milone (RHP, OAK) doesn't have his teammate upside, but he's a strike-throwing, speed-changing artist toiling in a FB pitcher's paradise. His 3.8 Cmd fueled a 13-win rookie season that left him just a dollar away short of escaping our 2012 earnings filter.  A 2.74 home ERA—4.83 on the road—points to the risk, and significant growth is unlikely.  But at 25, Milone is a potential double-digit earner in the short-term, as long as he's in OAK.

A.J. Griffin (RHP, OAK) is another A's youngster with outstanding Ctl.  But his stuff is a tick better than Milone's, he misses a few more bats, and he didn't struggle on the road during a fine 82 IP MLB debut.  Still, that 4.06 xERA, a 31% PQS-DIS%, and not enough GBs point to the risk.  Young enough to take another step forward, some scuffles along the way wouldn't surprise. Mid-rotation ceiling with some downside.

Derek Holland (LHP, TEX) fell ill, lost weight and velocity early, then improved gradually en route to a 4.40 ERA, 1.6 hr/9—and a big letdown after a fine 2011.  Even as his GB% spiked to 46% in the 2H, Holland's hr/f rocketed to 17%, with right-handed hitters being responsible for 30 of his 32 HR allowed.  Holland repeated a solid 7.4 Dom,and improved his Ctl to sub-3.00.  Health and an adjustment vs. RHBs suggest profit potential, just as more gopheritis and Arlington could produce a similar follow-up to that 5.55 home ERA.

Phil Hughes (RHP, NYY) took a huge step forward, velocity, performance and durability-wise—as suggested by career IP (191), Dom, Ctl and a 3.6 Cmd. Too many FBs and gopheritis (1.6 hr/9) remain an issue, but with just a tad better h% and hr/9 luck vs. RHBs, he could take another step up. A pitching adjustment away from being very good, Hughes will be interesting to watch this March.

Drew Smyly (LHP, DET) showed terrific Dom and solid Cmd in an 18-start rotation stint interrupted by July intercostal strain and the arrival of Anibal Sanchez.  Seemed to fix his GB and HR issues in the 2H while putting up a 104 BPV.  Smyly's broad repertoire and good deception turned average stuff into a solid MLB debut.  The DET rotation looks crowded at this point in time, but dynasty owners should buy skills, not roles.  At age 23, Smyly is still very much in growth mode.

Thanks to injuries, Alex Cobb (RHP, TAM) inherited a rotation spot and impressed in 23 starts despite some poor S% luck and a 13% hr/f.  The 4.03 ERA doesn't accurately represent 136 IP that also produced a 3.44 xERA, 2.7 Cmd, and a 92 BPV.  Relying primarily on solid Ctl and a 50%+ GB%, Cobb's 7+ Dom belies average velocity that could limit his ceiling—and he could further be victimized by TAM's pitching depth. Still, a legitimate rotation shot from the get-go and just a touch of luck or growth makes this skill set a double-digit earner.

The move from the NL and Dodger Stadium to hitter-friendly Fenway won't help Rubby De La Rosa (RHP, BOS).  But the early returns in 2011 as a 21-year-old with zero MLB experience—3.71/3.61 ERA/xERA, 8.9 Dom, 48% GB in 61 IP—prior to TJS suggest that his home venue won't be the difference maker.  Likely won't begin 2013 with BOS, but De La Rosa's mid-90s velocity and ability to add and subtract say he'll get there soon enough.  Top-of-the-rotation ceiling. 

Wei-Yin Chen (LHP, BAL) earned $8 in his rookie season largely on a workhorse 193 IP and limiting hitters to a .247 BA with runners on. Chen has just enough skill to be consideration-worthy, but at age 27 without a GB pitch in a hitter's park, his remaining upside looks marginal.

Talented Carlos Carrasco (RHP, CLE) looked to be in mid-breakout prior to tearing his elbow ligament in 2011.  The owner of seven PQS-DOMs in nine starts from mid-May thru June, Carrasco fell apart in July before hitting the DL in August and giving way to TJS in September.  In peak form, the hard-throwing Carrasco was capable of terrific command and the ability to rack up GBs.  Now at 25, he'll get a March opportunity to realize his mid-rotation upside with CLE.  It may take a little while, but he still has a window.

Change-up artist Erasmo Ramirez (RHP, SEA) parlayed typically excellent Ctl and a velocity hike into a 3.36/3.68 ERA/xERA combo and a 4.0 Cmd in his 59 IP MLB debut.  Minus a significant GB%, he won't continue to benefit from a 26% h%, and Safeco will be more HR-friendly than in the past.  But even with a modest ceiling, Ramirez' small sample returns at age 22 are positive—and that sub-2 bb/9 provides a nice floor for growth and profitability.

Wade Davis (RHP, KC) enjoyed a wildly successful transformation from failed SP to RP that ended with soaring velocity, Dom and GB% in the 2H.  Davis credits frequent bullpen sessions with helping tune his mechanics, which he will now put to use again as a KC starter.  His disparate performances between the pen and rotation make projections difficult, but anything near his 2012 performance is going to be worth owning.

Chris Archer (RHP, TAM) is another AL rookie who turned in a promising 2012 MLB debut in limited IP—notably an 11.0 Dom, 2.8 Cmd and a 3.37 xERA in 29 IP.  Archer was hurt by a 64% S%, and a 4.0 Ctl just hints at the biggest problem plaguing him throughout his minor league career.  But he showed growth in the 2H, and he has stuff worth waiting on, even if it doesn't happen immediately in 2013.

That 4.2 Ctl in 130 IP between AA and AAA needs work.  And 13 BB in 16 IP at ARI were troublesome, as was his sudden trade to CLE.  But Trevor Bauer (RHP, CLE) also produced a 10.7 Dom in 146 IP—and his huge ceiling suggests that he'll make the Diamondbacks look very bad, whether sooner or later.  Bauer's ability to moderate his Ctl issues will determine his ETA and profitability in 2013.

Missed our cut, but worth mentioning:

Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL):  Only 19 IP above A+ put him below the fold.  But the total package skills-and-stuff-wise gives him an outside chance to make his first big MLB profit in 2013, or shortly thereafter.

Danny Hultzen (LHP, SEA):  Huge talent with college experience, but BB struggles at AAA Tacoma and zero MLB IP say that he might be a year or two away from being an asset.  A more hitter-friendly Safeco—particularly to RHBs—is going to take the edge from SEA lefties.

Taijuan Walker (RHP, SEA):  Here mainly due to ceiling and 127 IP at Double-A.  Age, inexperience, unexceptional Double-A performance stamp him as an unlikely SEA contributor in 2013.  But he's another AL pitching prospect with sky-is-the-limit stuff that could fast-track him at any time.

Rick Porcello (RHP, DET):  Still generates GBs at 50%+ clip, still just 24 years old.  Dom and Ctl continue to improve marginally, but without better infield defense behind him, a breakout from that mid-4 ERA rut is difficult to envision.  A trade improves his outlook.

Ivan Nova (RHP, NYY):  A 17% hr/f accompanied GB% dip and fueled that 5.02 ERA.  A 3.96 xERA says  he was better than this, as Dom (8.1) and Cmd (2.7) spikes went almost unnoticed.  With just a mild GB retrace and improved hr/f, H% luck, he could be somebody. 

Tommy Hanson (RHP, LAA):  One-time stud with shoulder woes compensated with new delivery that resulted in less velocity, more walks, more gopher-balls. An 8.3 Dom offers hope, but health and two consecutive years of skills decline don't make us optimistic.  Risk trumps the upside here.

Zach Britton (LHP, BAL):  GB-generator had his moments, but hasn't been durable or consistent.  Still walks too many, and light Dom leaves his Cmd at a troubling sub-2.0 level. Growth could follow better health, making him a decent reserve stash.

Jake Arrieta (RHP, BAL):  Another Oriole pitcher with the parts not moving simultaneously in the right direction.  Now excellent Dom took another step up, mid-40% GB% works, but he was killed by H%, S%, and a repeat 15% hr/f.  At 27, he's running out of time.

Garrett Richards (RHP, LAA):  Showed flashes in first MLB rotation shot, but couldn't put GBs and Dom together in sustained run.  Hard stuff remains exceptional; command and consistency are not.  Will likely work on on off-speed pitch at AAA until starting job opens up.

Danny Duffy (LHP, KC):  Won't return from TJS recovery until mid-year at the latest, putting his projected 2013 value near zero.  But a 9.1 Dom prior to his injury speaks to his upside, while Ctl issues may have been injury-related.  Age, mid-90s stuff make him a nice 2014 stash.

Dan Straily (RHP, OAK):  Minor league strikeout leader got by on smoke-and-mirrors in OAK, as 5.04 xERA, 2.4 hr/9 and average velocity suggests.  Home venue helps extreme FB profile.  Has a chance, but moderate ceiling and early returns are cautionary in the short-term.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.