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Weekly Pitcher Rankings: Opening Day Approaches

Paul Sporer

Sporer covers pitching for RotoWire. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and publishes an annual guide on starting pitcher. In his spare time, he roots for the Tigers.

Welcome to the debut of the 2014 Pitching Value Meter. It's going to a look a lot different today than it will during the season because we're working within a framework of precisely two games giving us a whopping four pitchers, however it will give you an idea of what to expect if you're new to it. Additionally for today's PVM, I'm going to discuss some of the pitchers I like and others I'm leaning away from as we head into the heart of draft season. If you want to read my analysis of more than 400 pitchers in 351 extensive pages, check out my Starting Pitching Guide.

For the week March 22-29



1. Clayton Kershaw - at ARI [in Australia] - He's the best in the United States, he's very likely to be the best in Australia, just as he would be in Greenland or Djibouti.

2. Hyun-Jin Ryu - at ARI [in Australia] - He had mixed results vs. ARI in his debut season, but closed with a pair of solid outings in September, including 8 IP with 2 ER on the 16th.

3. Wade Miley - vs. LAD [in Australia] - If he can balance the BB rate between 2012 and 2013, he can return nice value this year.


1. Trevor Cahill - vs. LAD [in Australia] - I've been a supporter, but he's starting to frustrate me; don't love an outing against the Dodgers.

MLB TOP 100 (or 4)

1. Clayton Kershaw - at ARI
2. Hyun-Jin Ryu - at ARI
3. Wade Miley - v. LAD
4. Trevor Cahill - v. LAD


As we embark on another season of baseball, I've hibernated through what has been a cold Texas winter (your Midwest and Northeast folks won't be pleased with that categorization by comparison) kept warm only by the glow on my archives (and a space heater aimed directly at my double-socked feet) as I pored over countless numbers and endless reams of online video uncovering both my favorites and those to avoid this draft season. A sampling of each for you now, starting with the former:

Corey Kluber (CLE) -
It's hard to say if I was ever alone with him, but he was a late-season favorite in last year's September PVMs, and that love has carried over to the 2014 season where I think he can break through in a big way. The 28-year old boasts an impressive arsenal that would've earned him legitimate prospect acclaim had it blossomed sooner, but at least it got here eventually! All three of his secondary pitches (slider, curveball and changeup listed in order of use) held opponents to a .538 OPS or better while both breakers yielded sub-.200 batting averages in 239 total PA (39 percent of his 608 for the season). The curveball is the big strikeout pitch, amassing 50 of his 136 on the season, but the 92-94 MPH fastball can hit the high-90s with regularity and may be ripe for a strikeout boost pushing his total from a healthy 22.4 percent into the elite territory north of 25 percent. While I'm not the only one who you will see touting Kluber's merits, it hasn't necessarily translated to the draft table as he's still going just 277th in NFBC drafts.

Andrew Cashner (SD) -
Another one of those chic picks, but I don't mind either adding to the chorus if you've already about him as a go-to sleeper this year or making him known to you if you've yet to see his name mentioned. Cashner has frontline potential. He is one of a handful of pitchers who could make "the leap" in and become a bona fide star. He has excellent velocity, a devastating strikeout pitch with the slider, a great groundball rate and plays in a tremendous home park. He went seven-plus innings in eight of his final nine and also struck out exactly seven guys in six of his last seven. There is elite potential here.

Gerrit Cole (PIT) -
Speaking of elite potential ... I've been beating the drum to temper the excitement on some youngsters (more on that later), but not Cole. The fantastic pedigree as a former 1.1 pick and a brilliant debut have me ridiculously excited about his 2014. He has four pitches that have all shown plus capability including a filthy curveball/slider combo that yielded a 414 OPS and 42 percent strikeout rate in 125 PA last year. Add in a fastball that sits 95-97 mph and a legitimate changeup and it's hard to see how batters are going to have much success against the future ace.

Lance Lynn (StL) -
The big righty on the Cardinals doesn't get the love of his teammates, but he's good and has some upside. He handles righties remarkably well (26.7 percent K and 5.7 percent BB rates), but he's still looking for the perfect elixir to tame lefties (18.7 percent K and 12.9 percent BB rates). His advanced metrics suggest the ERA has been higher than he deserved each of the last years baking in some upside from last year's 3.97. Plus he is a workhorse capable of piling up a ton of innings, which should help him post his first 200 K season in 2014. If he can improve against lefties, that WHIP should jump down to something more palatable in the 1.20s making Lynn a great asset as your third or fourth starter thanks to a more-than-reasonable draft day price tag.

Nathan Eovaldi (MIA) -
I've been a fan since his days back in LA. He has huge velocity and a wipeout slider to build on while also residing in a very favorable home park. He needs to work on his consistency from inning-to-inning and start-to-start and developing his changeup would certainly help that aspect of his game. He should be missing more bats with his raw stuff, but he's still learning how to pitch. I'm looking for a step forward in 2014 and his presence on the Marlins makes him dirt cheap.

Phil Hughes (MIN) -
There were fewer worse player/park marriages than Hughes in Yankee Stadium given his flyball tendencies and penchant for the home run. Last year's disastrous 5.19 ERA was fueled by a 6.32 ERA at home while he offered a far more reasonable 3.88 mark on the road. Now he heads to Target Field, which suppresses homers to both righties and lefties making it a near impossibility for him to deliver a similarly awful home ERA in 2014. Even a full season of last year's road work would be worth it given his minuscule price and the accompanying above average strikeout rate.

A handful of guys I'm a bit more tepid on include the following:

Michael Wacha (StL) -
This is more about his obscene cost than his actual talent. He has been a top 20 SP off the board in NFBC drafts with a 86 overall ADP. That saps every ounce of value out of him, and he now must be a near-frontline guy to earn back his cost for his teams. I would feel a lot better if he had a reliable third pitch as the curveball still hasn't really come along that much this spring. He was great last year, but it was still fewer than 100 total innings even if you add in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) -
We just don't know. Yu Darvish came in with markedly more hype and he only managed a 3.90 ERA in his debut season. And Tanaka doesn't have the strikeout upside to sustain his value like Darvish did when he logged 221 in 2012. Home runs are my biggest concern for him as he gets acclimated to the States. Even before you factor in the launching pad he calls home, he's simply going to face exponentially more power than he ever did in Japan. His control-heavy approach will leave him susceptible if his command isn't consistently on point. He has an average draft position of 136 in NFBC leagues, but that figure factors in a handful of leagues when he was unsigned and his coming to the States was actually in doubt. He's gone as high as 48th in one league, which is just bananas.

Clay Buchholz (BOS) -
I'll probably never trust him. I've never been a fan. Until last year, his skills were downright unspectacular with a 17.3 percent strikeout rate and 1.9 K/BB ratio in 636 innings. He was fantastic last year with a boatload of career bests across the board except where it really matters: innings. His next 30-start season will be his first, same with his next 190-inning season. His great 2013 effort was cut after just 108 innings and I'm sorry that's simply not enough to turn the tide for me. The price isn't egregious, but I just have no desire to invest.