MLB Hot Stove Sleeper Comparison: Phil Hughes vs. Scott Kazmir


David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve recently learned that both Phil Hughes and Scott Kazmir will have new homes in 2014. Hughes will join Ricky Nolasco in a revamped Minnesota Twins pitching staff, while Kazmir will move to the Oakland Athletics, effectively replacing Bartolo Colon in the rotation.

Now, neither of these two will be fantasy baseball aces. But, what kind of value will the two bring? Let’s take a look. We’ll start with a Tale of the Tape. [table id=109 /]

That would seem to be a pretty big edge for Kazmir, unless you’re really putting a lot of stock in the age gap. Neither has a WHIP (or really ERA) that you’d want on your fantasy team. But if you draft/use the waiver wire well, you can work around that if you have a guy who will generate roughly a strikeout an inning. Though Hughes is well above average in the strikeout department, he certainly hasn’t stacked up to Kazmir.

So, is this as simple as it seems? Does anything work in Hughes’ favor?

Yes, yes it does.

First of all, he’s getting out of the American League East, which is rarely a bad thing for anyone. A few weeks ago, I wrote on the possibility of Hughes going to the Twins. I’ll go ahead and quote myself.

"…I’d say that if Phil Hughes gets himself out of the AL East, there’s sleeper potential. He’s not that different than guys like A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, who both had fantastic seasons in 2013."

My mind hasn’t really changed. How do I justify calling a guy coming off such a rough season a potential sleeper? Well, I’ll show the same numbers that I showed when I originally said that. [table id=62 /] What about how he’s done against the new opponents? [table id=110 /]

Those numbers all of a sudden look a lot more reasonable, don’t they?

Not convinced? You want more? Okay. [table id=111 /] Those are some fantastic numbers. Since this is a comparison with Kazmir, it’s worth mentioning what his career numbers in his new digs are. [table id=106 /]

As fantastic as Oakland is for pitchers, it hasn’t really met Kazmir’s eye that well, has it? Is that just a fluke, or is it a sign of something more. Sometimes, players just slump in certain places, and there often isn’t a rhyme or reason to it. Is that the case with Kazmir?

To answer the question, does anything work in Hughes’ favor? Yes.

But there are the more pressing questions.

1. Do either of these guys have fantasy value?

Yes, although I wouldn’t draft either unless you’re in a really deep league. You have to like the strikeout potential that both brings and that both play in very pitcher-friendly parks.

If either of these guys starts the season well, I wouldn’t waste time in picking them up. Every year, there seems to be a few guys who have strong revival seasons and/or come out of nowhere to be incredibly productive. The stars are properly aligned for both to be

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those guys this year. So, if they start strong, don’t let your preconceived notions about Hughes or Kazmir tell you to avoid them.

2. Which one do I like more?

I’m going to go against the Tale of the Tape here and go with Hughes. Really, it’s not that close.

As I said, both of these guys are gambles that you’re going to take at the very end of deep drafts, or in free agency once the season gets going. Kazmir had a nice season but got a deeper track record that tells me that his ceiling just isn’t much higher than what we saw in 2013.

Looking at what he’s done against the AL Central and his career at Target Field, his ceiling would seem to be higher than Kazmir’s. While his floor is also lower, I don’t think that matters much in fantasy baseball. If either of these guys are at their floors, they’re not fantasy relevant.

At the bottom of the rosters, I like to gamble a little bit more and take the guy who could get me the best season, even if it’s not terribly likely. In this case, that guy’s Hughes.