Complete 2015 Projections

Season:

ESPN's projections are the product of an analysis of a player's past performance, growth or regression potential and expected playing opportunity. While the overall ranking is based in large part on the player's projected performance, it also takes into account risk factors such as age, injury history and past statistical fluidity, the players' ceiling (upside), as well as positional and categorical scarcity.

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PROJECTED 2015 SEASON STATS
16. Alex Cobb, TB SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2727166.14714910002.871.148.06
2015 Projections3232199.05818013003.301.178.14
2015 Outlook: The only thing holding Cobb back from being a first-tier starting pitcher is health, as he's spent big chunks of time on the DL each of the last four seasons. But is Cobb actually injury-prone? His 2011 shoulder injury and subsequent surgery certainly are part of the job and worrisome, but his more recent injuries have been flukier -- a batted ball off his leg, the scary line drive off his forehead in 2013, and an oblique injury suffered while batting in 2014. He's not a strikeout machine, but he's also not a total void there. Cobb's an extreme ground-ball pitcher thanks to his split-change, so the Rays' switch from Yunel Escobar to Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop might hurt a little bit, but this could be the year that Cobb has a full 33-start season and turns a big profit for his owners.
17. Julio Teheran, Atl SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333221.05118614002.891.087.57
2015 Projections3333213.05417614003.381.167.44
2015 Outlook: Teheran's second velocity drop -- his average fastball lost 1.1 mph last year after having stabilized following a full-point drop from 2011 to 2012 -- is a matter of some question. Was this due to the wear and tear of a long season, one in which he exceeded 200 innings for the first time in his career, was it by design for purposes of longevity and increased control, or is this a warning sign? Along with that drop in velocity came a small drop in Teheran's strikeout rate, from 22 percent to 21 percent, not to mention his FIP, which suggests last year's 2.89 ERA was an aberration. Another point of concern is Teheran's team context -- the Braves traded away two-thirds of their starting outfield in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, then Evan Gattis, leaving them with an outfield of B.J. Upton, Nick Markakis and a big question mark in left field. The net effect will likely be a decline in outfield defense, which isn't good for a fly ball pitcher like Teheran, and he's likely to see reduced offensive support as well. Pointing out all of these concerns isn't to say you should avoid Teheran, but he might not take the next step in his development in 2015.
18. Jeff Samardzija, CWS SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333219.2432027002.991.078.28
2015 Projections3333215.05920614003.521.178.62
2015 Outlook: When Samardzija first reached the major leagues, his control was a major problem, but over the last two years, it's improved to the point where it's actually become an asset. He once walked 13.2 percent of the batters he faced, but in 2014, that rate slipped down all the way to 4.9 percent. Despite the big improvement in his ratios, Samardzija had a hard time notching wins, thanks to bullpen collapses and poor run support -- he got just 3.55 runs of support in a league where 4.07 was the average. Those factors should change with Samardzija's offseason trade to the White Sox, whose hitting has been boosted by the additions of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, while they've added David Robertson and Zach Duke to the back end of their bullpen. The change in ballparks and a little change in the normal ebb and flow of luck on batted balls might hurt Samardzija's ERA and WHIP, but he'll probably do better in the win column as a tradeoff.
19. Sonny Gray, Oak SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3333219.07418314003.081.197.52
2015 Projections3333218.08418115003.391.267.47
2015 Outlook: Gray was one of the buzziest names in last year's drafts, as his ADP climbed more than 50 spots throughout March, and he ended up delivering on the hype. The A's didn't treat the second-year starter cautiously, letting him throw 219 innings. Just as he pitched brilliantly in the 2013 playoffs, Gray came up big when the A's needed him most in September, throwing a complete-game shutout against the Rangers on the final day of the season to clinch a playoff spot. His strikeout rate dropped quite a bit in 2014, but it wasn't because of a loss in velocity, lending some hope that the strikeouts will return. He still has a superb curveball as his out pitch, and he toils in a good ballpark. The A's underwent a major overhaul in the offseason, so there could be some issues with his run support, but Gray's rate stats should remain strong.
20. Gerrit Cole, Pit SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2222138.04013811003.651.219.00
2015 Projections3030187.05917113003.181.208.23
2015 Outlook: Cole has been a very effective major league pitcher in his first two seasons, but his performance, especially in the fantasy realm, still lags behind the hype that follows the former No. 1 overall pick. He has a 3.09 career FIP in 255⅓ innings, but in his rookie season Cole failed to notch the strikeout totals owners had hoped for, and last season he missed 10 weeks with fatigue and a subsequently diagnosed strain in his throwing shoulder. The big, 6-foot-4 righty possesses a fastball and slider that are among the best offerings in the National League, and while healthy, his strikeout totals finally started to sync up with his elite raw stuff. Cole's 24.2 percent strikeout rate in 2014 was a nice improvement on his 21.3 percent rate from his rookie season, and it does not take much imagination to project further strides in this department in coming seasons. Until he has the 220-inning tour de force campaign most agree he is capable of, Cole's price on draft day will continue to offer room for fantasy owners to profit.
21. James Shields, SD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3434227.04418014003.211.187.14
2015 Projections3333218.05019014003.511.207.84
2015 Outlook: Shields turned in another solid performance in his final season with the Royals in 2014, posting a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings. He seemed to trade off a few strikeouts in exchange for better control, walking only 4.7 percent of the batters he faced. Given that hes a fly ball pitcher who pitched in a park that depresses home runs and had the best defensive outfield in the game behind him, this pitch-to-contact approach made a lot of sense. He will likely deploy a similar strategy once again in 2015, now that he can call Petco Park his home. San Diego is one of the best destinations for free-agent pitchers, so Shields' value will be trending up heading into drafts. The outfield defense could be a bit of an issue, but the Padres have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and will finally field a competent big league lineup, which should allow Shields to win double-digit games for the ninth season in a row.
22. Matt Harvey, NYM SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics----------------------
2015 Projections2424157.04917211003.041.109.86
2015 Outlook: Harvey is returning from Tommy John surgery, having not thrown a pitch in anger for all of 2014. The good news is that the success rate of pitchers returning from the procedure, while not uniform, is much better than a decade ago. Moreover, Harvey will be 16 months removed from his surgery by the start of the season, so he might not have some of the growing pains experienced by some of his peers who came back in 10-12 months. The Mets intend to limit Harvey's workload a little in 2015, so he'll probably throw fewer than 200 innings and might skip a start around the All-Star break.
23. Gio Gonzalez, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2727158.25616210003.571.209.19
2015 Projections3232198.07119613003.411.218.91
2015 Outlook: Gonzalez missed six starts in 2014 due to shoulder inflammation, which has to be frightening for fantasy owners considering him at the draft table. But when he was on the mound, his results were similar to his career numbers, if not better in some instances. His 24.8 percent strikeout rate was better than his career average, and his 8.6 percent walk rate, while not elite, was still the best of his career. He also was a little bit unlucky, as his strand rate was a tick below average at 70.6 percent. Gonzalez did lose half an MPH off his fastball, however, and that's probably not coming back at age 29. Look for him to receive somewhat improved run and bullpen support, and if he stays healthy, his peripherals suggest he'll improve on last year's 3.57 ERA.
24. Tyson Ross, SD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics3131195.27219513002.811.218.97
2015 Projections3232196.07218912003.171.228.68
2015 Outlook: Ross has been one of the best success stories on the Padres under manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley. After acquiring Ross from the A's before the 2013 season, the Black-Balsley duo changed the righty's mechanics -- giving him a higher leg kick, among other adjustments -- and he paid dividends starting midway through that season. He has one of the best sliders in the game, and he also uses that slider more than nearly every starter in the game. Ross might be paying the bill for that soon, however -- he missed the end of the 2014 season with a forearm flexor strain. The Padres overhauled their roster in the offseason, giving them a much better lineup, albeit at the expense of defense, especially in the outfield. Fortunately, Ross shouldn't be affected as badly as other starters on the staff, given his high strikeout and groundball rates from last season.
25. Cliff Lee, Phi SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics131381.112724003.651.387.97
2015 Projections3030190.02917512003.551.168.29
2015 Outlook: Lee is one of the bigger swing pitchers in 2015 leagues, as he's coming off an injury-filled 2014 season. After his first DL stint due to elbow inflammation, Lee tried to return -- with negative results -- and ultimately had to be shut down again. He and the Phillies have opted against surgery to repair the injury instead relying upon rest and rehab. Before he went on the DL, Lee lost a full mph off his fastball, and with it a full strikeout per nine innings. Because Lee pounds the strike zone so much, it's important for him to be able to miss bats, lest he catch a string of bad luck on batted balls or simply allow better contact. That's what happened to him in 2014, as he allowed a .371 average on balls in play. He did make an adjustment, however, generating more ground balls, which helped him limit the homers. Lee's velocity in spring training will help gauge the likelihood of a bounce-back year. A trade seems unlikely, as he's still owed $25 million for 2015 along with a $12.5 million buyout on a club option for 2016.
26. Jacob deGrom, NYM SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2222140.1431449002.691.149.24
2015 Projections3030191.05317712003.251.188.34
2015 Outlook: Arguably one of the best free-agent fantasy pickups in 2014, deGrom wasn't even listed among the Mets' top 10 prospects entering the year, but he excelled in 22 starts, winning nine times while posting excellent ratios and one of the best strikeout rates among starting pitchers. DeGrom's surprising success was credited to him honing his breaking ball and changeup during the spring, as both became above-average pitches to go along with his low-to-mid-90s fastball. That combination worked wonders, as he missed plenty of bats and kept the ball in the park. The 179 innings he worked between Triple-A and the majors represents an increase of 30 over any of his other seasons, but don't think of him as a rookie fluke -- the supporting statistics show that what deGrom did in 2014 was very real.
27. Doug Fister, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2525164.0249816002.411.085.38
2015 Projections3030195.03513613003.321.176.28
2015 Outlook: Fister enjoyed a huge 2014 season despite a sharp strikeout rate dip and a strained lat that pushed his season debut to May 9. After getting roughed up by Oakland in that initial start, he reeled off a 2.20 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 24 outings, going at least five innings in every one and failing to finish six innings just four times. The 14.8 percent strikeout rate, however, was a throwback to his Seattle days after an impressive 19.3 percent with the Tigers. He survived by walking virtually nobody, as his 3.6 percent walk rate was fifth-best among qualified starters; those who did reach were routinely left on base, as his 83.1 percent strand rate paced the league. The indicators can't see a repeat with these same skills, but the real surprise would be a repeat of these skills. The strikeout rate will almost certainly head upward and help negate the dip in strand rate, though you still shouldn't plan on an ERA among the league leaders. Buy the innings and WHIP while hoping that his continued presence on a great team yields another strong win total.
28. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2626152.02913914003.381.198.23
2015 Projections2929178.03715913003.131.178.04
2015 Outlook: Ryu improved his strikeout rate, reduced his walk rate and allowed half as many home runs in 2014 as he did the prior year but saw his ERA rise from 3.00 to 3.38 anyway because he failed to strand as many runners as he did in his rookie season. There's a lot to like in Ryu's profile because he generates plenty of strikeouts and ground balls. All in all, he has one of the better rounded profiles among starters around the league and arguably doesn't get as much love as he deserves. Ryu did go to the disabled list twice in 2014 with hip and shoulder issues, and the shoulder issue flared up again in mid-September, which shut him down for the rest of the regular season. However, the shoulder looked fine in the NLDS, and Ryu should be a safe and solid investment for 2015.
29. Homer Bailey, Cin SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2323145.2451249003.711.237.66
2015 Projections3030192.05016613003.471.197.78
2015 Outlook: It seemed as though Bailey was on the verge of putting it all together after his strong 2013 campaign -- which included the second no-hitter of his career -- but the former first-round pick (seventh overall in 2004) disappointed in his eighth major league season. Less than a month after signing a six-year, $105 million extension with the Reds, Bailey suffered a groin strain during a Cactus League outing, delaying his 2014 debut slightly. He struggled out of the gate, posting a 6.15 ERA in April, and while he did improve gradually in each of the following months, a torn flexor mass tendon in his right forearm forced Bailey out of action in August and ultimately ended his year. The injury required surgery, and manager Bryan Price left open the possibility that Bailey may not be ready to start the year. Keep a close eye on Bailey as he progresses through his throwing program; any setback would impact his draft position considerably.
30. Hisashi Iwakuma, Sea SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9
2014 Statistics2828179.02115415003.521.057.74
2015 Projections2828178.03914913003.341.167.53
2015 Outlook: On Aug. 31, Iwakuma beat the Nationals, allowing three runs in six innings, which left him with a 2.90 ERA and 0.97 WHIP for the season to that point. The month of September was pretty ugly, however, as he had a 7.60 ERA over five starts, with two disasters coming against the Astros. Iwakuma asserted at the time that he was healthy, but fatigued and not injured, but ended up leaving his very next start with back and groin ailments. So was he dealing with those issues all along, or did they develop in that game? When a player goes through a negative stretch like that, our first instinct is to find a reason for it and then evaluate whether it's going to be a control issue for the future. Iwakuma's control was a little off in September, but he was also victimized by poor batted-ball luck, and the back and groin issues don't promise to be chronic. Even with the down final month, his control was spectacular on the whole, as Iwakuma's walk rate was just 3 percent -- 21 in 179 innings. So long as he keeps pitching in Safeco, he's going to do well by pounding the strike zone like that.