Now that we have reached the MLB All-Star break, it is a perfect time for us to analyze which pitchers may by undervalued right now and worth following the rest of the year.
Half of the 2015 Major League Baseball season is in the books as we have reached the All-Star break, and it has been a banner year so far for our MLB picks as we are up over 50 units so far as documented in the Sportsbook Review Forum! This break makes this the perfect time to take a look at what pitchers we feel may be undervalued right now and are therefore worth following over the second half of the season.
No, you will not see any obviously elite pitchers on this list, but rather a mixture of pitchers that have done well under-the-radar thus far and figure to continue to do so, as well as pitchers that have been perceived to be disappointing but are showing signs of regressing back to good form the rest of the way.
And then we will be back next Friday on the first day of action following the All-Star break with our list of pitchers that should be faded over the rest of the season.
But for now and with no further ado, here is our list of starting pitchers that we feel are worth investing in at valuable prices over the rest of this year.
Rubby De La Rosa (Diamondbacks)
De La Rosa would be more of a commonly known commodity if not for pitching his home games in Chase Field in Phoenix, a hitter’s park that yields a lot of home runs and helps account for his high home run rate allowed of 1.52 per nine innings. Putting that aside though, De La Rosa has a nice command ratio of 8.18 strikeouts vs. 2.28 walks per nine innings that belies his 4.89 ERA. He also has nice velocity with a fastball that has averaged 93.8 MPH and topped out at 99.1 MPH and he has nice separation between the heater and a change-up that averages 85.3 MPH. Add in a 12.6 percent swinging strike rate that ranks 11th in the majors and a 3.30 xFIP and Rubby is an untapped gem worth keeping an eye on.
Carlos Carrasco (Indians)
The Indians have had a disappointing first half but they can still make a playoff push the rest of the way as they have not one, not two but three starting pitchers on this list! The first is Carrasco, who stands at 10-7 with a 4.17 ERA. Now normally when you see a pitcher with double-digit wins before the All-Star break with an ERA above 4.00, the natural inclination would be that he has been pitching in good luck and that the luck will run out soon. However in Carrasco’s case, it looks like it is the high ERA that is fraudulent as he has a great ratio of 10.21 strikeouts vs. 1.95 walks, and he has actually had bad luck in yielding a .340 BABIP. Take note of his excellent 2.74 xFIP as that is a better gauge of Carrasco’s ability.
Michael Pineda (Yankees): Pineda began this season pitching like a Cy Young Award candidate for the Yankees before tapering off a bit, but he has now regained his great form his last couple of starts as we approach the break. The end result has been an 8-5 record with a 3.79 ERA, but you would have a difficult time convincing opposing batters that those numbers are an accurate depiction of his ability. No, what is more important is that Pineda is averaging 9.48 strikeouts and 1.17 walks per nine innings while pitching around a .347 BABIP, helping result in a 2.62 xFIP and a 3.0 WAR that ranks 10th in the Major Leagues among qualified starting pitchers.
Danny Salazar (Indians)
Salazar is the second Indians’ pitcher on this list as he is only 7-4 with a 4.10 ERA despite owning great peripherals just like Carrasco. In fact, Salazar is currently ranked fourth in the Major Leagues in strikeout rate with his 10.80 per nine innings and his is in outstanding company in that regard, trailing only Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Archer. Salazar has a nice fastball that averages 95.1 MPH and has topped out at 98.7, but his change-up has become one of the best in the game as it has produced a 25.6 percent whiff rate, a figure topped this season only by the change-up of Cole Hamels. Yes Danny can improve on his 2.50 walks per nine but his electric stuff has still led to a 2.95 xFIP.
Corey Kluber (Indians)
And the third member of the Indians on this list is the reigning Cy Young Award winner Kluber. So how can a Cy Young winner be undervalued, you may ask? Well, Kluber did come out of nowhere last season and some observers may have considered him a flash-in-the-pan that will never match his 2014 numbers again. And those same observers are probably patting themselves on the back right now because of Kluber’s 4-9 record this year. Well, they would all be wrong because Kluber’s peripherals have not really varied that much from his Cy Young season. Like the other two Cleveland pitchers on this list, Kluber is also averaging double-digit strikeouts at 10.63 per nine innings, and he has done it vs. just 1.87 walks. One difference this year is he has been pitching in tougher luck in allowing a .338 BABIP, as he still has a superlative 2.59 xFIP and he is actually second in the majors with his 3.8 WAR behind only Max Scherzer.
Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)
Gonzalez received some Cy Young votes in his first season with the Nationals in 2012 when he finished 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA. So what happened between then and now? After all, Gio is just 6-4 with a 4.16 ERA at the midway point of this season. Well, the biggest difference are his walks are slightly up to 3.35 per nine innings, but other than that his other peripherals seem fine and has been hurt by a .345 BABIP. His 3.15 FIP and 3.46 xFIP make the ERA look rather fluky, and if we look at his ZiPS projections for the rest of the season, he projects out to a 3.29 ERA and 3.25 FIP the rest of the way, which means he should be cashing quite a few winning tickets down the line.
James Shields (Padres)
Shields was one of the most sought after free agent pitchers this past off-season, and whether or not you consider him a good signing for the Padres could come down to whether or not you believe his good 7-3 record or his rather high 3.88 ERA is more representative of his season. And remember he was 7-0 before going winless at 0-3 over his last six starts approaching the break. Still, he has not pitched badly during this winless stretch and his sabre numbers show that he has actually pitched better than the ERA all year. Shields is averaging 10.19 strikeouts vs. 2.91 walks, with that latter figure sometimes getting him in trouble. However, the bottom line has been a 3.21 xFIP and we would not be surprised if Shields has a similarly strong second half as last year when he had a 2.62 ERA and 1.06 WHIP after the All-Star break, especially now pitching at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
Tyson Ross (Padres)
The Padres have a second member of this “play on” list in Ross, who has quietly been extremely consistent this year despite being just 5-7 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. You see, Ross has made 18 starts this season and has allowed three earned runs or less in 16 of them while allowing exactly four runs on the other two occasions! While many have not noticed what Ross has done, the more important question is can he continue to do it? Well, we vote “yes” with the benefit of picking up more wins the rest of the way, based on his 9.72 strikeouts per nine innings, high .339 BABIP so far, 2.97 FIP and 3.24 xFIP. His ZiPS projects out to a 3.07 ERA and 3.14 FIP the remainder of the season.
Jon Lester (Cubs)
The other big free agent signing this past off-season along with Shields, many have been turned off by Lester going 4-7 with a 3.48 ERA. However, there is nothing wrong with that ERA and it seems legitimate when you consider it lines up with his 3.31 FIP and 3.21 xFIP. Thus more wins should come as long as Lester continues to keep doing what he is doing, and also keep in mind that the Cubs’ offense has been gradually improving over the course of the year as they keep tapping all of the talent they have in probably the best minor league system in the majors, which should be a boon not only for Lester but also for the entire rotation.