Fantasy Baseball: 5 Starting Pitchers Who Can Break Out in 2016
Last year, the Cy Young award in each league was nabbed by a breakout starter.
On the way, both returned great fantasy baseball value for their owners.
Can anyone follow suit this year?
Here are five pitchers who could catapult themselves into the ranks of the elite during the 2016 campaign, much like Keuchel and Arrieta did last season.
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
In truth, Noah Syndergaard was a breakout stud last season. However, early data from fantasy drafts show his superb 2015 effort isn’t being fully appreciated.
In 150 innings last season, “Thor” fanned 9.96 hitters per nine innings (K/9) while walking just 1.86 (BB/9), and he finished with a superb 2.91 xFIP. Among pitchers who tossed at least 150 innings, Syndergaard’s K/9 rate ranked 6th, his BB/9 clip was 17th and the xFIP was 7th.
Any way you slice it, Syndergaard was one of the game’s best pitchers in 2015. By the way, he was a rookie last year.
Somehow, according to the Average Draft Position (ADP) at FantasyPros.com, Syndergaard is just the 17th pitcher off the board. As a fireballer who maintained monster strikeout rates in the minors (9.81 K/9 in 133 innings at Double-A in 2014), Syndergaard has the potential to be the best pitcher on an otherworldly Mets staff. Actually, he had a better xFIP than Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey last season, so yeah, he’s a bad man.
Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman was a very popular breakout choice for 2015, but a torn ACL last March kept him out for a majority of the season. Stroman was able to get back and throw 27 innings last fall, and although it’s obviously too small of a sample size to draw anything meaningful, it was good to see him back on the bump.
The reason everyone was so giddy about Stroman prior to last season was the nasty/filthy/electric stuff he showed in 2014. In 130 2/3 frames that season, Stroman went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA, and his peripherals -- 3.17 xFIP, 7.65 K/9, 1.95 BB/9 and 53.8 percent groundball rate -- were actually better.
Entering his age-25 season, the 2012 first-round pick is again a somewhat popular breakout candidate, but at an ADP of 34th among pitchers, there’s value to be had.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Like Syndergaard, Martinez, who has an ADP as pitcher number 40, broke out last season, but he could take another step or two up the ladder in 2016. A year ago, Martinez’s K/9 rate of 9.22 ranked 16th, and he ended the season with an xFIP of 3.28, which ranked 16th.
The only reason for caution here -- and the likely reason for the lower ADP -- is his 2015 campaign was cut short because of an ailing shoulder. However, reports this winter have been good, and he is expected to be full go by Opening Day.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees
Michael Pineda is baseball’s equivalent of Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed -- a player who can’t stay healthy but has produced when he’s been on the field. Pineda threw 171 innings in 2011 as a rookie for the Seattle Mariners. In the four years since, he’s surpassed the 100-inning mark just once and thrown a total of 237 Big-League innings in that span, including missing the entire 2012 season.
When he’s pitched, though, he’s been really freakin’ good. In 160 2/3 innings last season, Pineda posted a sublime 2.95 xFIP, which ranked ninth among hurlers with at least 150 innings pitched. He was straight up diabolical with his command, walking a crazy-low 1.18 hitters per nine innings, the third-best clip in the league. It’s never a bad idea to bet on talent, and with an ADP as the 142nd pick, it’s hardly going to cripple you if he lands on the disabled list.
Hyun-jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Hyun-jin Ryu feels like a forgotten man, and with an ADP as the 114th pitcher, he really is a forgotten man. Ryu, a lefty, missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to be healthy for the start of the season.
He was very good for the Dodgers in both 2013 and 2014. Over those two seasons, Ryu pitched to a 3.27 xFIP with a K/9 rate of 7.67 and BB/9 rate of 2.16 in 344 innings. In 2014, he posted a 3.03 xFIP while whiffing 8.23 hitters per nine innings and walking 1.72. He’s an established, quality Major League pitcher, so instead of a breakout, it’s more fitting to say he’s in for a reintroduction.