Determining Andrew Cashner's 2014 Fantasy Value
Coming out of Texas Christian University, Andrew Cashner was a big time prospect for the Cubs. They drafted him with the 19th overall pick, and before he broke into the big leagues, Cashner was a top-five prospect in the Cubs organization. The Cubs would eventually include him in a deal for Anthony Rizzo, so the Padres had big expectations out of an arm like Cashner's.
At this point in the early fantasy baseball mocking season, Cashner is being picked around 155th overall, 36th among starting pitchers. This is coming after his 41st-ranked finish a season ago - a year that saw Cashner pitch to a 3.09 ERA, which ranked 11th in the National League. Keep in mind, Cashner had a 4.27 mark in 2012.
So, although Cashner was the 41st-ranked starter last season, he has seen a five spot jump with his average draft position. Is this warranted? Well, if you take a look at two of the most important fantasy stats for pitchers (ERA and strikeouts), it looks as though it probably isn't.
Andrew Cashner's 3.09 ERA has played a huge part into where he was ranked a season ago. Without the 11th-best ERA in the MLB, there's no telling how far he would drop amongst starting pitcher rankings heading into this season. Was his ERA inflated due to the fact that it isn't an exact showing of a pitcher's true ability to keep runs off the board? Well, according to SIERA, his ERA wasn't close to what his ERA should have been last season. His SIERA was 3.80 in 2013, making me believe that his 3.09 mark a season ago is going to be hard to replicate. This belief is only confirmed when looking at Steamer projections.
Steamer projects his 2014 ERA to be 3.74, which is only six points off last year's SIERA. Steamer's projected ERA sees an increase due to a few reasons. For one, his projected 2014 BABIP takes a nice sized jump from .269 to .292. The increase correlates with his 2010 and 2012 season's BABIP, both of which are his only seasons before 2013 in which he threw more than 45 innings. In 2010, Cashner's BABIP was .301, while in 2012 it was .311.
Not surprisingly, this increase in BABIP means a higher batting average against and WHIP. For the most part, those two stats go hand in hand, and in Cashner's case, it is expected that he gives up more hits in 2014. Last season he surrendered a .230 batting average against with a WHIP of 1.13. While these numbers are better than his stats from 2010 and 2012, it's his second half stats from last season that show unrepeatable numbers.
Cashner's 2013 second half digits included a .193 average and 0.95 WHIP over 75.2 innings. Cashner's never posted anything like before, and it's very unlikely that he sustains that sort of pace.
But with that being said, what can Cashner do to make up for the obvious ERA regression in 2014?
2014's version of Andrew Cashner could increase his K/9 to make up for a worse ERA.To be blunt, strikeouts are very important to starters in fantasy baseball. Starting pitchers have no impact on saves, and predicting pitcher wins is tougher than picking who wins The Bachelor (I'm zero for my last six).
In 175 innings last season, Cashner was only striking out 6.58 batters per nine. He's slacking in that area, ranking 60th in the MLB in K/9. Unless he increases velocity on his fastball, I'm not so sure he'll be able to increase his 6.58 K/9 rate. From 2012 to 2013, Cashner's fastball velocity dropped from 98mph to 94.6mph, and along with that, his SwStrk% dropped from 11% to 6.7%. It's not uncommon for these two to correlate, and boy did they the last few seasons.
With a 4.3% drop in SwStrk% for his fastball, throwing it 46.4% of the time is part of the reason why his K/9 went down from 2012 to 2013. The addition of a two-seam fastball deserves just as much of the blame as well though. His two-seamer was a pitch that he threw 15% of the time for a SwStrk% of only 6.7%. This new pitch got batters out (.213 average in 89 at bats), but only nine strike outs came of it.
Like Cashner's fastball, his changeup also lost velocity and effectiveness at getting swinging misses. The loss in velocity from 87mph to 84.1mph seemed to directly affect how many times it fooled batters. The SwStrk% of his changeup dropped from 17.8% to 9.8% from 2012 to 2013. This pitch was thrown almost 20% of the time, leaving Cashner with three pitches thrown just over 80% of the time that resulted in swing and misses at less than 10%.
While Cashner got a lot of outs last season, the Padres' fans always had too many "K" signs laying around after his games. As an MLB owner, you love those kinds of pitchers, but as a fantasy owner it's not ideal. We need more cowbell! Or in this case, strikeouts!
Where to Draft Cashner in 2014
His ERA dropped last season, but his SIERA showed us that it probably should have been higher. This has caused people to overreact and draft him higher than he should be picked. His low K rate due to loss in velocity in multiple pitches has shown that he is an overrated pitcher at this point, even with him pitching in pitcher friendly Petco Park.