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2017 Fantasy Baseball: NL Starting Pitcher PECOTA Projections A-M

Most fantasy players play in mixed leagues. The occasional hardcore fan will play in an AL or NL only league, but those are becoming fewer and further between. Yet, the question is always raised about why we would separate NL and AL pitchers in our profile. The answer is really quite simple: the median NL pitcher will usually be a little better than the median AL pitcher. Facing pitchers and pinch hitters in the batting order is better than facing a designated hitter. Of course, the gap is not what it used to be.

We are comparing NL pitchers with the median at the position. We took every pitcher projected to pitch 100 or more innings and put them on a spreadsheet. We then took the median of each of the four major categories for starters (wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts) and threw in innings as the fifth category. Pitchers that exceed or meet the median will be labeled in green font. The pitchers that don’t meet the median will be labeled in red font.

NL Median: 9 wins, 156 innings, 4.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 143 strikeouts

AL Median: 10 wins, 161 innings, 4.24 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 145 strikeouts

Jake Arrieta— Chicago Cubs

PECOTA: 14/194/3.58/1.15/197 (+5)

3 Years: 17/194/2.47/0.98/198

The 2015 CY Young award winner will be a free agent following the 2017 season. We say that only to mention that he has a lot riding on this season. Another brilliant campaign and he will be a nine figure guy like Jon Lester. PECOTA is projecting a step back based on the step back he had with his fielding independent pitching (FIP) a year ago. He is still one of the better pitchers in the league.

Clay Buchholz— Philadelphia Phillies

PECOTA: 9/159/4.19/1.24/155 (+4)

3 Years: 8/141/4.46/1.31/111

Buchholz is a enigma wrapped in a riddle. For most pitchers, the aggregate is a nice place to start, but Buchholz has been all over the map. The projections are banking on better success due to the league change and a removal from the pressure of Boston. However, it is just as likely that he could go the other way. He would make a decent late round flier.

Madison Bumgarner— San Francisco Giants

PECOTA: 13/208/3.41/1.16/235 (+5)

3 Years: 17/221/2.88/1.09/235

Bumgarner would be more valuable if you included his postseason performances. Unfortunately, his big game tendencies don’t particularly help him in fantasy baseball. Looking at the past numbers, there is no reason why we should see this kind of a jump in numbers. The fielding independent numbers reveal he should come in somewhere between his three year average and the projection.

Jhouyls Chacin— San Diego Padres

PECOTA: 10/180/3.99/1.31/164 (+4)

3 Year: 3/111/4.53/1.39/61

Chacin has spent most of his pitching career in pitcher hell. Now, he is going to be pitching in pitcher heaven. The key with him has always been health. When you allow for the home ballparks his last three years are pretty close to where he is projected to be. The difference is that PECOTA is projecting good health. In that case he becomes a median pitcher.

Wei-yin Chen— Miami Marlins

PECOTA: 10/183/3.98/1.19/167 (+5)

3 Year: 11/153/3.95/1.24/130

Before we get too excited we should remember that Chen is essentially the median pitcher when healthy. Fortunately for you, he wasn’t healthy last season, so many fantasy players will forget about him. Pitchers like Chen have value towards the bottom of your fantasy rotation. They don’t hurt you in any statistical category, but don’t get too hung up on the fact that he is a five category pitcher. He barely qualifies in every category.

Gerrit Cole–Pittsburgh Pirates

PECOTA: 11/174/3.60/1.27/167 (+5)

3 Year: 12/154/3.38/1.25/146

The difference between a pitcher like Cole and a pitcher like Chen could be night and day. Cole has all the upside of an ace, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the most part. The three year average contains two unhealthy seasons and one really good one. He went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in that season. That’s better than a pitcher like Chen could ever dream of performing. So, yes, they are both five category guys, but that’s where the similarities end.

Johnny Cueto— San Francisco Giants

PECOTA: 11/174/3.50/1.20/172 (+5)

3 Year: 16/225/2.83/1.06/205

You could spend a lifetime chasing wins and never quite catch them. Cueto won 18 games last year and has averaged 16 a season over the last three. That pretty much makes him a staff ace and he is lucky enough to have another one on his staff. PECOTA obviously can’t project wins well because they can only project what a pitcher will do along with an estimation of the defense behind him. They can’t figure run support. Cueto is near the top of the charts in the other three categories.

Jacob deGrom— New York Mets

PECOTA: 13/180/3.49/1.20/194 (+5)

3 Year: 10/160/2.74/1.10/164

The whole problem with every Mets starter is seemingly health. If they could ever get Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and deGrom right physically all at the same time they would likely win the World Series instead of just going. That hasn’t happened yet. All that being said, deGrom is similar to Cueto in every other way, so he should be a pretty high pick.

Anthony Desclafani— Cincinnati Reds

PECOTA: 10/180/4.02/1.29/159 (+4)

3 Year: 7/114/3.99/1.30/94

There’s really no secret here. The projections are simply an extension of what he has already done, but with a full season assumed. The thing is that performance rarely works out that way. Either players take a step forward or a step backwards depending on a variety of factors. For Desclafani it will all depend on the support he has around him. The infield and outfield defense might be a little better than the past, so he could be a decent sleeper candidate.

Jerad Eickoff— Philadelphia Phillies

PECOTA: 9/154/3.84/1.14/146 (+4)

3 Year: 7/124/3.44/1.14/108

Sometimes it’s hard to figure PECOTA, but there really is no secret to it. They are primarily going with the aggregate with some minor adjustments thrown in to allow for age, development, and batted ball luck. The three year average demonstrates where they are coming from, so the projection reflects some development, but the reality is that he already threw 197 innings last season, so the projection actually represents a step backwards that likely isn’t there. 180 innings seems a lot more reasonable.

Michael Foltynewicz— Atlanta Braves

PECOTA: 11/165/3.47/1.21/138 (+4)

3 Year: N/A

The Astros dealt Foltynewicz to the Braves in exchange for Evan Gattis. We know the tailor was pleased. If he produces the numbers above this season then that would represent a huge step forward and would make the Braves sudden competitors if the three veterans they brought in also produce. Scouts say he has an 80 fastball if he is able to locate it. Some have thought he would wind up in the bullpen if he doesn’t develop his secondary offerings.

Gio Gonzalez— Washington Nationals

PECOTA: 10/186/4.12/1.27/140 (+3)

3 Year: 11/171/3.94/1.32/167

Back in 2012, Gonzalez won 21 games for the Nationals. He has been incredibly consistent since then, and consistently has underwhelmed. If we take his numbers at face value then we see an above average starter with an impressive record of durability. He’s averaged 31 starts a season since 2010 and there is always something to be said for someone that will take the ball every fifth day.

Zack Greinke— Arizona Diamondbacks

PECOTA: 11/165/3.96/1.38/166 (+4)

3 Year: 16/194/2.91/1.12/180

One of the good things about taking over a franchise is that you aren’t held responsible for the mistakes of the past. If Greinke produces these numbers this year then his signing was a huge mistake. The fact that they represent an improvement over last season is even more alarming. The three year numbers tell a different tale. Far be it from me to guess which one is the real Greinke. The answer is probably somewhere in between.

Matt Harvey— New York Mets

PECOTA: 11/174/3.60/1.27/167 (+5)

3 Year: 9/153/3.28/1.14/152

Harvey is an interesting case. If he’s healthy he is among the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. The early spring returns have not been overly promising, but the fact that he is out there pitching at all is encouraging. Like his teammates, the key has always been health. He almost won Game 6 of the 2015 World Series all on his own. Last season was a bit of a disaster, so he may drop on the board. He is worth a middle round pick if he drops that far.

Kyle Hendricks— Chicago Cubs

PECOTA: 12/188/3.69/1.20/189 (+5)

3 Year: 10/150/2.92/1.07/128

The Cubs scored the most runs in baseball and allowed the fewest runs. That makes them a historically good team. The future looks bright for the team, but a part of being a great team is having players like Hendricks have out of context brilliant seasons. He could have been the NL Cy Young Award winner with his league leading 2.13 ERA. Don’t bet on that happening again.

Jeremy Hellickson— Philadelphia Phillies

PECOTA: 10/180/4.02/1.29/155 (+4)

3 Year: 7/133/4.28/1.31/110

It is hard to believe that the Phillies did not deal Hellickson last season at the deadline. The new management team did an excellent job of getting maximum value for their other assets. He was pitching above his head last season. PECOTA is assuming he will pitch just as well, but not have quite the batted ball luck (3.98 FIP last season). I’m not sure I’m taking that bet.

Rich Hill— Los Angeles Dodgers

PECOTA: 9/148/3.71/1.35/169 (+3)

3 Year: N/A

Hill was brilliant last season when healthy. The Dodgers re-signed him and hope he can give them a full season of starts. He’s had exactly one season with more than 20 starts in his career. PECOTA is projecting that again in 2017. If he is completely healthy he could end up being a really good fantasy second starter. If he does what he has always done it’s kind of hard to justify drafting him. Roll the dice.

Scott Kazmir— Los Angeles Dodgers

PECOTA: 9/131/3.26/1.20/154 (+4)

3 Year: 11/170/3.74/1.24/151

The Dodgers are a team of lefties that can’t seem to stay healthy. Kazmir is yet another one. Watching him pitch is a test in dealing with frustration. He has always had so much talent and his return to the big leagues was an inspiration, but he seemingly makes mountains out of molehills. It takes him more pitches to get out of innings than most guys. That will always limit his effectiveness even when he is healthy.

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