2014 Outlook: Before declaring that the old Jon Lester is back, realize that his 2013 season as a whole was eerily similar to the previous year, with the exception of allowing fewer homers. That is, other than a stellar playoff run that could be clouding perception, he's settled in as a very good, but not great starter who can be counted on for 200-plus innings. In fact, his three-year xFIP string of 3.63, 3.82 and 3.92 suggest that last season was an accurate reflection of who Lester is. There's a place for Lester on a fantasy staff, just not at the front end, not anymore.
2014 Outlook: Peavy is a great example of why inducing groundballs should not automatically be thought of as a skill. If you limit walks and strike out at least the league average, then the damage inflicted by a gopher ball is minimal. And since a fly ball pitcher generally sports a low WHIP, fantasy-wise, a potentially bloated ERA doesn't hurt so much. The key is keeping the ball in the yard, and in albeit a small sample, Peavy was able to do just that after being dealt to Boston. And since Fenway Park is fairly resistant to homers, there's a good chance Peavy will carry that into 2014. Now the question is health. Peavy is at minimum a spot-starter in most fantasy rotations, just be ready to fill his spot elsewhere in the event of injury.
2014 Outlook: Buchholz is one of the bigger wild cards on the board. Of utmost importance is his health. Buchholz was hobbled in mid-June with shoulder and neck woes, and despite making it back in September and the postseason, he was far from 100 percent. Even though the early word is that he's fully healthy, Buchholz's history suggests that we temper expectations in terms of innings. Before hitting the disabled list, Buchholz was enjoying a stellar season featuring an increase in strikeouts and marked decrease in homers allowed. Some of the reduction in homers was better pitching, some has to be considered a sample size blip since he was unlikely to carry a five-percent home run per fly ball rate the whole season. So aside from keeping his games started in perspective, a staunch ERA correction should be anticipated. Buchholz is best picked when you're drafting your match-up starters as that builds in an expectations hedge.
Stephania Bell: His was a tale of two seasons: a fantastic start through May followed by a labored stretch due to convergent neck and shoulder injuries. Reportedly fully recovered, Buchholz has a history that raises the questions as to whether he can endure an entire season.
2014 Outlook: After missing 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Lackey surprised with a stellar campaign that could have been better, if not for a September ERA of 4.98 despite displaying the same skills as the first five months. Of particular note is the fact that Lackey set a career best in walk rate despite control usually being the last skill to come around after Tommy John surgery. The sole blemish was a high home run rate that could be an issue going forward if Lackey fails to maintain the control gains. In addition, Lackey's ERA was aided by a high left-on-base percentage. It appears as though Lackey is again a valuable fantasy asset, just don't expect a repeat of last season, as he was both good and lucky.
2014 Outlook: While the axiom about never having too much pitching usually rings true, Boston bringing in Chris Capuano after Ryan Dempster opted to take the year off is a signal that Doubront will not be handed the fifth rotation spot for the world champs. Doubront's 2014 featured a splendid 15-game stint in which he compiled a 2.55 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, so he has the talent, he just needs to be more consistent with respect to throwing strikes. Given that parsing data can be misleading, those 15 tilts should at least put Doubront on your radar in mixed leagues, especially if you can use him mostly at home. This is one of those rare occasions a pitcher may be more mixed-worthy than deep-league worthy, because you'd be more apt to stream him. His walks and penchant for the long ball make him risky in AL-only setups, especially if his punchouts don't rebound.
2014 Outlook: After posting his highest WHIP (1.45) and lowest quality-start percentage (48.3) since returning to starting in 2008, Dempster announced this spring that he would be taking the year off in 2014.