2015 Outlook: Wainwright turned in yet another stellar season in 2014, posting career-best ratios despite a strikeout rate that dropped to 19.9 percent. But that drop in strikeouts sometimes worked in his favor, as he needed fewer pitches to get through an inning than his high-strikeout peers. His status should be monitored carefully this spring after he had surgery to trim a piece of cartilage from his right elbow immediately after the playoffs. Another issue popped up in camp, with Wainwright suffering an abdominal strain that could keep him out of spring games until mid-March. His status should be monitored by prospective owners throughout spring training, but this represents a nice buying opportunity for the bold, as he is going at a firm discount in drafts due to his health concerns.
2015 Outlook: The hype surrounding the young Wacha following a dominant rookie season and an even more impressive showing in the 2013 postseason was so intense that there was no way he could possibly have lived up to expectations. Mix in a stress fracture in his throwing shoulder that forced him to miss about 14 starts, and fantasy owners were left thoroughly disappointed in Wacha's sophomore campaign. Now that expectations have simmered and people are beginning to realize he's a good No. 3 starter with the potential to pitch like a No. 2 at times, his draft-day price tag is much more palatable. The 23-year-old uses an effective four-pitch mix, generating plenty of whiffs with his 94 mph four-seam fastball, which allows his plus changeup to serve as an out pitch. Wacha had a 3.20 ERA (3.17 FIP), 1.20 WHIP and a 21 percent strikeout rate in 107 innings last year -- rates he should be able to replicate in a full season in 2015.
2015 Outlook: The big, 6-5 righty had a career year in 2014, thanks to some luck on balls in play and a reduced walk rate. Lynn should be judged by his 3.35 FIP -- which is right in line with his career average -- and not his 2.74 ERA, which was a far cry from his 3.97 in 2013 despite very similar peripherals. Lynn might never be a WHIP reducer, as he has lived in the 1.26-1.32 range in his three full seasons in the big leagues. However, he has now posted back-to-back seasons with 200-plus innings and 180-plus strikeouts, which is an appealing combination. He turns 28 in May, so there's no reason to think Lynn won't continue to be a steady innings-eater with valuable strikeout totals in 2015.
2015 Outlook: Lackey's 2014 was much like his 2013 season from a skills level, though both of his ratios took a step backward. His strikeout rate is right around the league average for starting pitchers, and he's very stingy with the walks, but home runs are still a bit of a problem. Lackey's numbers did not improve after he jumped to the National League at the trade deadline. In fact, they got worse, as he posted a 4.30 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 10 starts. He has continued to be a splits-neutral pitcher since returning from his surgery in 2013, but the 36-year-old vet offers little upside other than his ability to work deep into games and garner double-digit wins year after year. Draft him for strikeouts and wins, and hope for the best with the ratios.
2015 Outlook: Martinez has been on the typical Cardinals pitching prospect track, as he started in the bullpen to ease his transition into the majors. Unlike Trevor Rosenthal, however, it seemed Martinez was always headed back to the rotation, and the Cards' offseason moves have opened up a spot for him. The 23-year-old flamethrower was given seven starts in 2014 but spent the majority of his time in the pen (57 of his 89.3 innings). The results weren't eye-popping in either situation, but there's still a lot to love here. His 12.9 percent swinging-strike rate was tied with Dellin Betances and Chris Sale for fifth in baseball among those with 80-plus innings. He induced a lot of weak contact too, with groundball (51.2 percent) and infield fly-ball rates (13.2 percent) that were both well above average. The upside is intoxicating, but it's tempered by his erratic work to date (8.8 percent walk rate) and the fact that he's yet to exceed 104 innings in any of his five pro seasons.
2015 Outlook: One of the Cardinals' top prospects, Gonzales filled in reasonably well as a 22-year-old in 2014, posting a 4.15 ERA in 10 appearances, including five starts. His ERA was skewed by a few bad outings in June and July, but he was much better down the stretch, as he worked to a 2.45 ERA in six September appearances. The team's rotation is crowded near the top, but Gonzales should get a real chance to crack the bottom end of the rotation in spring training. Even if Gonzales fails to do so, manager Mike Matheny has indicated he could elect to put him in the bullpen rather than send him back down to the minors. The potential is there, so he could be worthy of fantasy consideration if he earns a starting role in the spring.
2015 Outlook: A bout of inflammation in Garcia's surgically repaired left shoulder delayed his 2014 debut until mid-May, and he lasted just more than a month (seven starts) before further shoulder complications sent him back to the DL. The results for Garcia when on the field were a mixed bag. From a skills standpoint, his swinging-strike rate of 12.2 percent was his best in six major league seasons, as were his 4.0 percent walk rate and 2.94 xFIP, but the sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions. He gave up six home runs in just 43 2/3 innings, and while his HR/FB of 18.8 percent was out of whack, his .270 opponents' BABIP was nearly 40 points below his career average (.308). Garcia's biggest obstacle will be his health -- he's been limited to just 16 starts in the past two seasons -- and until he proves he's able to stay healthy, he'll make for nothing more than a flier in very deep leagues.