KEEPERS: 2013 Dynasty reload—NL SP

This is the ninth 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. Since November, we've been 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

The difficulty of identifying breakout pitching has been well-established. But as a pre-requisite to winning, the exercise can't be ignored. As Jon Niese, Brandon Beachy and others from our 2012 list suggest, at least a few of these names here are going to step up. And as with our AL list, there's plenty of upside—though not as much experience, which leaves some 2013 performances in question. At least a few have 2012 injury or role issues to work through, but like the AL, there's something for everyone.

Trevor Cahill (RHP, ARI) is no ace, but he has pluses.  The obvious is a terrific sinking fastball that generated a career-high 61% GB%—and the most prominent reason for Cahill's consistent 200 IP / double-digit win efforts over the past three seasons.  But Cahill also has upped his Dom from 5.4 to 7.0 over the past two years, including a 7.4 mark in the 2H of 2012.  Even his historically spotty Ctl trended positively last season.  A workhorse with a nice floor—and at age 25, perhaps with more ceiling than we think.

A blood clot in Dillon Gee's (RHP, NYM) shoulder ended his season in July.  All he'd done prior to this was to post a 3.54 xERA, 50% GB% and a 3.3 Cmd with significant Dom and Ctl gains.  Some poor luck in April and May was responsible for the 4.10 ERA that will keep him off some radars.  With health, there's big 2013 profit potential here.

Shoulder woes that included a frayed labrum put Jaime Garcia (LHP, STL) on the DL for two months—and perhaps had something to do with a career-high 3.92 ERA.  Garcia is officially a health risk, and shoulder problems are nothing to take lightly.  But his strong finish, another 50%+ GB%, a career-best 3.4 Cmd and a terrific team say he's worth some risk for the right roster.

Matt Harvey (RHP, NYM) was able to earn $5 in just 10 MLB year-end starts, thanks to a 2.73/3.44 ERA/xERA combo and 10.6 Dom in 59 IP. At age 23, Harvey is the complete high-ceiling package; just don't automatically assume a continuation of this performance over expanded 2013 IP. He's a terrific long-term building block likely to be a 2013 asset, but build some short-term growing pains into your projection.

Daniel Hudson (RHP, ARI) was a double-digit earner in 2011 but suffered some terrible H%, S% and hr/f luck just prior to a torn elbow ligament that ended his season in July. Hudson will likely return to action in July or August, but he's better considered as a 2014 stash-play for owners currently not in contention. His 3.49/3.77 ERA/xERA combo and 3.4 Cmd over 222 IP in 2011 speak to his value as a #2/#3 rotation asset.

Tyler Skaggs (LHP, ARI) was done in by uncharacteristically shaky Ctl and the HR ball in a six-start, 29 IP MLB debut during which his fastball averaged a touch below 90 mph.  But we'll chalk some of this off to late-season fatigue and his second level promotion of a season that he began at age 20.  Skaggs has a plus curve, knows how to pitch, and has plenty of room for growth, even a velocity uptick.  He'll see plenty of opportunity in ARI starting in 2013, though another AAA-Reno stint may be required. Observers give him a top-of-the-rotation ceiling; just don't assume he arrives there quickly.

Uber-prospect Shelby Miller (RHP, STL) started 2012 miserably before recording a 53/4 K/BB in August at AAA Memphis, then adding 14 dominating innings (139 BPV) in his MLB debut.  He's projected to crack a crowded STL rotation sometime in 2013, and has the stuff to generate a profit quickly.  He has rotation-anchor upside, with only consistency standing in the way of his ETA and first big MLB season.  A 2013 question mark, but a terrific near-ready long-term play at age 22.

Zack Wheeler (LHP, NYM) is another 22-year-old with the arsenal—if not the MLB experience—to succeed quickly.  His Ctl problems in a small sample at AAA-Buffalo offer reason for caution, even more time in the minors before he joins the NYM rotation for good.  But he has an ace ceiling and like Miller, should see significant MLB time in 2013.

A great September—29 IP, 3.4 Cmd, 51% GB% and a 112 BPV—suggests that Nathan Eovaldi (RHP, FLA) and his raw mid-90s stuff might be coming of age. Now 23 years old, Eovaldi is another guy who was likely rushed through the minors, and now with MIA, he'll likely be hamstrung by a lousy team/organization. But he'll have an immediate MLB opportunity, and now at age 23, Eovaldi is a sleeper talent who isn't getting the attention he deserves. He might be only a change-up improvement away from serious profitability.

Thanks in part to a natural velocity spike, minor league starter Trevor Rosenthal (RHP, STL) was impressive out of the pen in STL—23 IP, 9.9 Dom, 3.6 Cmd, 54% GB%, 2.78 ERA—which have been just a temporary move.  The STL rotation is crowded at this point in time, but even with less gas, Rosenthal has the skills to make good with a starting opportunity.  Minus a closer job, the rotation appears to be Rosenthal's fastest path to profitability.  But regardless of role, he's a pitcher who should be on dynasty radars now. 

Willy Peralta's (RHP, MIL) strong September finish featured a 55% GB% tilt and 7.1 Dom along with marginally better Ctl.  But a 4.66 ERA and a 4.8 bb/9 over 147 IP in his second season at AAA-Nashville suggest ongoing volatility. A legit March rotation shot makes him worth a reserve spot, but have a backup plan if you're going for it in 2013.

Julio Teheran (RHP, ATL) stays above the fold only due to his #1 upside, a decent Dominican Winter League campaign—31 IP, 2.7 Cmd, 3.23 ERA—and recent comments from GM Frank Wren indicating that he has the inside edge on the last ATL rotation spot.  Teheran endured a dreadful 2012 at AAA Gwinnet, during which some mechanics tinkering likely cost him some velocity and command.  At age 22, he still has top-shelf stuff, but he comes with big short-term risk for owners competing now.

Another ATL 22-year-old with big upside, Randall Delgado (RHP, ATL) currently projects as Teheran's March rotation competition.  He's pitched better than Teheran in 2012, as noted by an 8+ Dom and a 50%+ GB%, but the MLE 4.37/4.44 ERA/xERA combo speaks to his volatile Ctl and inconsistency.  2013 could remain bumpy, but he's now had 108 IP of valuable MLB experience over two partial seasons, and you'll want to be holding him when the light goes on.

Pat Corbin (LHP, ARI) posted a 4.54 ERA in 107 IP with the Diamondbacks, but his underlying skills—including a 7.2 Dom, 2.1 Ctl and a 46% GB%—were much better than this. If he can tame a 1.2 hr/9—all against RHBs—and adapt to life on the road (6.09 ERA), he could surprise a lot of people. Not a lot of velocity or ceiling, but he's being overlooked.

Missed our cut, but worth mentioning:

Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP, LA): 25-year-old Korean import signed to a six-year $36M deal that suggests he's rotation-bound. Posted 2.80 ERA over seven years in the Korean League, but how good will a plus change-up and 88-91 mph fastball work at the MLB level?

Gerrit Cole (RHP, PIT):  He has just 65 IP above A+ and zero MLB experience. But this elite-skilled college product whiffed more than a batter an inning while holding hitters to a sub-3 ERA across three league levels. Unless something changes, he'll be in PIT by year-end. At the latest.

Kyle McPherson (RHP, PIT): Career 5.0 Cmd in minors, including 63/9 K/BB in 67 IP at Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. Brought skills to PIT in 26 IP / 2.73 ERA debut, along with unexpected GB tilt. With average velocity, he'll need to repeat this command/GB combination, but if he can, we may be underrating him.

Andrew Cashner (RHP, SD):  Dom reflects filthy mid-90s hard stuff, but can't stay healthy for more than a few starts in a row. And now a hunting accident will likely result in a DL stint to begin 2013.  High risk, high reward—and a return to the pen if he can't hold up physically.

Juan Nicasio (RHP, COL):  Some awful luck with injuries over the past two seasons, though his durability is a question. Venue also works against him, but Dom still holds out hope as an end-game target for owners with reserve spots.

Henderson Alvarez (RHP, MIA):  Drew attention last spring after the carryover of his minor league GB% and terrific Ctl to 64 IP in TOR.  Then the season began, and a 3.8 Dom didn't get it done.  Has time at 23, but an immediate breakthrough in MIA isn't likely.

Tyler Thornburg (RHP, MIL):  8.2 Dom, 2.9 Ctl in 22 IP out of the pen in MIL, but was hurt by the HR ball.  Could battle Peralta for MLB rotation spot, but doesn't have his upside, physical size, or GB tilt.  Above average stuff, but a move to the pen is still possible.

Casey Kelly (RHP, SD):  Missed two-plus months due to elbow inflammation.  Flashed 8.1 Dom and propensity for gopheritis despite 56% GB% in 29 IP in year-end debut. With health, he might be good faster than we think, but PETCO won't be as pitcher-friendly as it once was.

Jose Fernandez (RHP, MIA): Missed our list only because of zero IP above A+, but he dominated both A levels at age 20 with a sub-2.00 ERA, 158/35 K/BB—and only two HR allowed in 134 IP. True ace upside, with the tools to succeed quickly at the MLB level in spite of his youth.

Tony Cingrani (LHP, CIN): Brought 10.2 Dom from 89 AA IP to CIN in token debut—and whiffed nine batters in 5 IP of one-run relief. Limited experience and handedness could ticket him for the CIN pen in the short-term. But stuff and deception give him at least a mid-rotation ceiling.

Robbie Erlin: (LHP, SD):  Another Padres youngster who missed significant time with elbow issues, hasn't seen any MLB time yet.  Extreme strike-thrower without great velocity or a ground-ball tilt, a combination that now presents more risk in the new PETCO, at least in the short-term.

Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL):  Short-term outlook improved with Ctl, better health and a smooth promotion from High-A to Double-A.  Good stuff, but size and durability remain question marks.  Unlikely to see much MLB time in 2013, and he's no lock for instant success there. Has time at age 21.

Jacob Turner (RHP, MIA):  Rushed prospect now has 68 IP of MLB experience over two partial seasons.  Has good Ctl and showing flashes elsewhere, but Ks and consistency aren't there yet.  Fastball velocity is troubling.  New organization doesn't help.

Tyler Cloyd (RHP, PHI): Unheralded soft-tosser who knows how to pitch. Outstanding season between Double- and Triple-A included significant H% luck.  Flashed terrific 30/7 K/BB in 33 IP PHI debut, but was hammered by HRs.  FB orientation locks in low ceiling for end-gamer with opportunity.

Jeff Locke (LHP, PIT):  Fringy stuff with good Cmd.  Fine AAA season, but coughed up too many HR again in second MLB exposure.  Still, BPIs at PIT in 34 IP—3.72 xERA, 3.1 Cmd, 49% GB%, and 110 BPV—suggest that we at least watch him.



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