Young Gun Pitchers and The Full Season Fantasy Grind


David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best feelings in fantasy baseball is to see one of your picks out perform their draft slot. It gives you bragging rights over the rest of the league.

You like to think that others in your league are asking themselves, “how’d he know?” to which you would respond with “I don’t give lessons.” But before you get to arrogant in your team and individual player’s success, remember that fantasy baseball is a marathon not a sprint, and you need to keep your focus the entire race.

That analogy has proven true over the past few years by young gun pitchers that lack the experience of being in a major league rotation for a full season. Specifically, a pitcher this season, if it is his first full season in a rotation, is about to go through something he has ever gone through before in his life.

In about a month he will be thrown off his routine with the All-Star break. After the break come the dog days of summer. Increased heat and humidity only increase the fatigue any athlete would endure over a 162 game schedule.

For young gun pitchers that never fully cycled through that experience, it can show up in their 2nd half numbers. As a fantasy manger running your own marathon, planning for your young arms to show some regression in the 2nd half might make you more willing to trade that arm in redraft leagues, thus maximizing the return on your investment no matter where you picked them in the draft this year.

Take a look at some of the recent examples that support my theory. Because I believe the full season major league grind to be unique and that I’m not trying to predict an injury, I am not counting innings in the minor leagues as a variable.


Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

  • Major League innings pitched in 2011: 71.0, (0 Games Started)
  • Major League innings pitched in 2012: 192.0, (29 GS)

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Chris Sale made the jump from the bullpen in 2011 to the starting rotation in 2012 with great success. Even though he still had a decent amount of fantasy value in the second half in 2012 with a K/9 north of nine, his number did show some fatigue and his ERA nearly doubled and there was a significant jump in his WHIP as well.

Come fantasy playoff time in 2012, Sale’s ERA in Sept/Oct was 4.11. So, by those numbers, I am concluding that Sale’s highest fantasy value in his first full year in the rotation was at the 2012 All-Star break.

Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals

  • Major League innings pitched in 2011: 34.2 (2 GS)
  • Major League inning pitched in 2012: 176.0, (29 GS)

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Like Sale, Lance Lynn was predominately a bullpen arm in 2011, sans a pair of spot starts. Lynn’s jump to the rotation in 2012 made for another impressive chapter in the book of should be Hall of Fame pitching coach Dave Duncan. As with Sale, Lynn fell off a bit in the 2nd half with increases in WHIP and ERA. Lynn actually was moved back to the bullpen late in 2012 around the time of fantasy playoffs.

Lynn did rejoin the rotation in late September with 3 quality starts, but I’m not sure how many fantasy owners were able to take advantage of those starts as confidence in Lynn was at a season low at that point. Lynn’s fantasy value peaked at the break in 2012.

Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Major League innings pitched in 2012: 107.0 (17 GS)
  • Major League innings pitched in 2013: 208.1 (32 GS)

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Corbin did not exactly come out of nowhere in 2013 as he was a highly regarded prospect and did pitch effectively in half a season for the Diamondback in 2012. However, it is safe to say Patrick Corbin blew away people’s expectations and looked like an ace during the first half of last year. Corbin fell back to earth with a very shaky 2nd half, and his fantasy owners were left disappointed especially come playoff time when Corbin’s ERA in Sept/Oct exploded to 7.04!

We did not get a chance to see who the real Slim Corbin is this season, as he was one of the 20+ pitchers to follow in Tommy John’s footsteps. Corbin’s highest fantasy value to date, last year at the break.

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

  • Major League innings pitched in 2012: 13.2 (1 GS)
  • Major League innings pitched in 2013: 173.1 (31 GS)

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Miller did not suffer as drastic as a falloff in ERA as Corbin, but his walk rate increased by over one batter per nine innings. Shelby Miller benefited by an excellent, or lucky LOB% of 81.3% last year in the second half; which prevented his ERA from climbing higher.

Miller has continued his command struggles in 2014 and has not been as fortunate with his LOB% as that decreased to 65.5% this May which led to an ERA of 4.94 for that same month. In short, Miller’s highest fantasy value to date was at the break last year.

Jose Fernandez, Florida Marlins

  • Major League innings pitched in 2012: 0.0 (0 GS)
  • Major League innings pitched in 2013: 172.2 (28 GS)

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Jose Fernandez bucks the trend as he actually improved in the 2nd half taking his game to a new level. However, he was shut down in early September, probably leaving his fantasy owners disappointed and searching waivers mid-playoffs. Fernandez’s performance was stellar in 2013, keeper worthy for sure.

Unfortunately, in re-draft leagues where you only had his services for that year, the best play would have been for you to sell high and land a player, whether that be another arm or addressing another area of weakness on your team to maximize your team’s performance come playoff time.

Click HERE for Part 2, a look at 2014’s young guns that are light on major league experience.