Jon Lester has been a dominant force for the Cubs this season. But, why is he still so underrated in most fantasy baseball circles?
Jon Lester may not be able to throw a pickoff throw to first to save his life for the Cubs, but that should not cloud the fact that he has been one of the best fantasy pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons. Yet, he still does not get the fantasy love he deserves.
A large part of him being underrated, is that fantasy owners have just grown bored of him. He has been a steady force since 2008, and outside of a tough two-year stretch in 2012 and 2013, owners have taken advantage of his talents. We wont go into his whole resume, but owners should simply focus on just how good he has been over the last three years.
When Lester was dealt to Oakland from Boston 2014, he took off thanks to the improvements he made with his cutter. In 2014 he posted a 2.46 ERA/220 K line, showing just how ridiculous he can be when he is locked in. He signed with the Cubs the following season, and he posted yet another solid season with a, 3.34 ERA/207 K line. That leads us to his dominance in 2016.
Lester was drafted as a top-20 SP, but balled out and way out produced his draft stock by posting a, 19 W/2.44 ERA/1.02 WHIP/197 K line. His control was solid as usual, but a vastly improved Cubs defense behind him, allowed him to really shine. He pitched like a top-5 SP, yet fantasy owners still do not rank him among the elites.
He was able to lower his LD rate to 20%, while also lowering his Hard contact rate by nearly 3%. While righties did get him for 18 HR this season, he did only surrender a .214 against them, while still shutting down LHP to the tune of a .200 AVG clip.
The only real bugaboo this season for Lester, was the long ball. He gave up 21 HR, the second highest total of his career, but nothing suggests that the long ball is going to become an issue all of a sudden. The Cubs defense will be just as good, if not even better next season, only further cementing his value moving forward.
Jon Lester eclipsed the 2000 IP mark in 2016, and will enter 2017 looking for his ninth straight 30+ start campaign. Lester has placed himself in the same breath as the top-5 fantasy SP thanks to his current situation, and skill. Astute fantasy owners should continue to reap the rewards, as he will surely slip through the cracks again next spring. Target him aggressively.