Fantasy Baseball: James Shields Vaults into Top-15 Pitchers


The San Diego Padres capped off their stellar offseason by reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal with pitcher James Shields. The deal is going to be worth between $70-75 million, making him the highest paid player in Padres history. According to sources, there were rumors that the Miami Marlins were actually offering up to $80 million, but Shields chose San Diego.

Shields joins Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers (to read about Kemp, click here and to read about Upton, click here) on a team that had been in the bottom half of the NL West for a number of years. When the Padres originally traded for Kemp, I was really skeptical of what the Padres were doing. I personally thought that Kemp was going to just rot away in PETCO Park, but it turned out that that was just the beginning. The one thing they were really lacking was pitching. Was Andrew Cashner ready to be an ace on a contending team? Could Tyson Ross repeat 2014? But this signing quiets any qualms about the Padres’ staff.

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  • As mentioned previously, PETCO is well-known as a pitcher’s best friend, and Shields will be no different. In 2014, he allowed 23 homeruns (17th highest in the MLB). That number certainly figures to drop in San Diego. It’s obviously not all about the stadium, as now ex-Padres pitcher Eric Stults allowed 26 homeruns in 2014. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Shields is a tiny bit better than Eric Stults. But Shields has long been a fly ball pitcher as he has produced significantly more fly balls than ground balls in every season of his career except 2012. A bigger stadium will make that ground ball to fly ball ratio a lot less scary than it was at Kauffman Stadium and Tropicana Field.

    Another benefit for Shields is his health. He’s gone over 200 innings in every year since 2007, including 249.1 in 2011 (2nd in MLB). Obviously anything can happen, but Shields is nearly guaranteed to put up another season of double-digit wins. He is currently ranked as the 20th starting pitcher on I would argue that Shields is now a top-15 pitcher with potential for more. His current ranking puts him behind guys like Sonny Gray and Julio Teheran. While both of those pitchers are great young talents, Shields’ experience and new team gives him a major boost.

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    The one problem I could see arising for Shields is the NL West. To me, the Padres are still only the third-best team in the West. You can’t ignore the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, whose only change is losing Pablo Sandoval. And the Los Angeles Dodgers are still a top-tier team in baseball, and have been for a while as the team has only been under .500 twice since 2000. For me, Shields isn’t going to be Clayton Kershaw, but he can compete with Zack Greinke. If the Padres are going to contend, they are going to need a heroic effort from the bottom of the rotation. Ian Kennedy has mostly just played the role of eating up innings in his career other than 2011 where he posted a 2.88 ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Since then, he has had an ERA over 4.00 three times and somewhat of a revival season in 2014 where he dropped to 3.63. He doesn’t need to return to his 2011 self, but I would want a repeat from last year with a slight improvement. If your fourth starter can provide that kind of production consistently, now we’re talking about a playoff contender.

    Overall, this is a great move for the Padres and brings them into the same conversation as the Giants and Dodgers. Shields should thrive in his new home, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he puts up top-10 numbers. But for draft purposes, I would expect to see him go between the 10th and 20th pitchers.

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