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.
2015 Outlook: After pitching 180-plus innings annually from 2010 to 2013, Latos was limited to just 102⅓ innings last season after starting the year on the DL following knee surgery and dealing with multiple elbow issues in the second half. The Reds shipped him to Miami for the final year of his contract, and it's reasonable to wonder whether internal concerns about his elbow contributed to that move. His strikeout rate dipped below 21 percent (17.6 percent) for the first time since 2009, but that can probably be attributed to his knee and elbow issues. Latos was still able to post a 3.25 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, although both were aided by a .269 BABIP. Now entering his age-27 season, the 6-6 righty will get a boost with his new pitching-friendly home environment, and there's reason to believe he could be in for a big year if his health cooperates.
2015 Outlook: It's easy to look at Cishek's nearly 90-point increase in ERA last season and assume his performance fell off dramatically from 2013, but he actually improved in several crucial categories. The right-hander's FIP was a full run lower than his ERA, and he improved his strikeout rate by more than four percent (26.3 to 30.6) while trimming his walk rate slightly as well. Cishek's numbers were bloated by an unusually high .331 BABIP (career .297), so there's reason to believe his ratios will return to more useful levels in 2015. His opponents' line-drive rate did see an alarming spike last season, but the 28-year-old fared far better against lefties, and A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps likely won't present any threat to his job in the early going.
2015 Outlook: The 2014 season was a tale of two halves for Uehara. After the right-hander posted a 1.65 ERA and .174 BAA in 43⅔ innings prior to the All-Star break, fatigue set in and he finished with a 4.35 ERA and .282 BAA in the second half, with all 10 of his earned runs allowed coming in a span of four innings (six appearances). His struggles forced manager John Farrell to make a change at closer -- Edward Mujica finished the year as the Red Sox's ninth-inning man -- but Boston re-signed Uehara to two-year, $18 million deal in the offseason, meaning the soon-to-be 40-year-old will return to the ninth-inning role to open 2015. It seems likely the team will take measures to limit Uehara's workload early on this season, potentially affording Mujica some save opportunities, but Uehara is still able to miss bats at a great clip (32.1 percent strikeout rate last season) and should have no trouble holding onto the job so long as his historically troublesome shoulder holds up.
2015 Outlook: The primary concern regarding Cashner entering 2014 was his ability to stay healthy. Lo and behold, he missed three weeks with an elbow strain and two months with shoulder inflammation. However, per usual, Cashner dominated when healthy. He posted a 2.55 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 123⅓ innings, although his strikeouts once again failed to match his dominant stuff. In 298⅓ innings in the past two seasons, his strikeout rate has hovered between 18.1 and 18.4 percent, which is below league average. Wins have also been hard to come by for Cashner, as he's 15-16 in that span despite a 2.87 ERA, but that could change with the Padres bringing in significant offensive reinforcements this offseason. Still, his status as a dominant run preventer who struggles to stay healthy remains the theme surrounding Cashner heading into 2015. The fact that he carries the tag of a borderline ace when healthy despite not providing ace-like strikeout totals may lead to him being overvalued on draft day.
2015 Outlook: Before succumbing to a left forearm strain in September, Perkins once again enjoyed a great deal of success in the closer role for Minnesota. On Aug. 21, Perkins was sitting on a 2.48 ERA and 32 saves in 36 chances. He wouldn't hit the DL until several weeks later, but the forearm issue began presenting issues before the end of the season's fifth month, and a 13.50 ERA in six September appearances marred his overall numbers. The lefty's biggest improvement last season was his control, as he trimmed his BB/9 to just 1.6 while maintaining a strikeout rate above 25 percent. He was prescribed only rest and rehabilitation after the season, but injuries of that nature need monitoring, as any sort of issue during spring training would warrant discounting Perkins a bit on draft day. When healthy, Perkins is a borderline top-five closer in the AL.
2015 Outlook: Rarely was it completely smooth sailing for Rodney -- he allowed a baserunner in 34 of his 51 save opportunities -- but the right-hander was able to shut the door on 48 occasions last season, more than any other pitcher in baseball. Rodney cut just one little tick off his FIP from 2013, but his ERA fell by more than half a run to 2.85, the second-best mark of his career. He trimmed his BB/9 by more than a full walk in his first season with Seattle, but Rodney's strikeout rate decreased slightly and he finished the year by giving up four earned runs in his final five appearances. Despite the shakiness at times, Rodney still has plenty of juice on his fastball, and his success in the role last season should afford him a relatively long leash to begin 2015.
2015 Outlook: Coming off a career season that was supported by the advanced stats, it was easy to view Sanchez as a No. 2 fantasy starter heading into 2014. Unfortunately, his season was shortened by minor finger and chest injuries, keeping his innings total below 180 for the first time since 2009. His strikeout rate also dipped below 20 percent for the first time since 2010, which limited his production when he was healthy. The drop in strikeouts can be attributed to an increased contact rate, but even as a more hittable pitcher, Sanchez was a well-above-average starter when he was on the mound. All told, he finished with a 3.43 ERA (2.71 FIP), 1.10 WHIP and 102 strikeouts in 126 innings. If he can return to eating 180-plus innings, he should finish as a top-30 starter in fantasy.
2015 Outlook: Tommy Hunter's struggles at the start of last season created an opening for Britton, and the lefty didn't look back, converting 37 of his 41 save opportunities from May 15 onward. He gave up just six more hits than he allowed in 2013 despite pitching 36⅓ more innings, though Britton did benefit greatly from a tiny .215 BABIP, well below his .293 career mark. Sure, Britton doesn't miss as many bats as your prototypical ninth-inning pitcher (7.3 K/9 last season), but his improvement against right-handers last season, his team context and the lack of an immediate threat to his job make him an interesting second- or third-tier closer option heading into drafts. Darren O'Day has posted outstanding numbers in recent years but has had struggles against lefties, and it seems the Orioles prefer to keep him in a setup role.
2015 Outlook: Liriano parlayed back-to-back seasons of 160-plus innings and an ERA in the low threes into a three-year deal that'll keep him in Pittsburgh through his age-33 season. Due to moderate spikes in his walk rate and HR/FB rate, the southpaw's 2014 was not quite as excellent as his 2013 season, but he still provided a 3.38 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 162⅓ innings. The two primary knocks on Liriano are his fragility and his potential to be a WHIP-mangler. He's topped 190 innings only twice in nine professional seasons and has never eclipsed 200 innings. Last season, he missed significant action with an oblique strain and was able to log more than seven innings in only one of his 29 starts. Liriano has posted a sub-1.30 WHIP in only four of his nine big league seasons, although he was at exactly 1.30 in 2014. Still, his shortcomings will be cooked into his price on draft day, and he offers a nice source of strikeouts with a low ERA in the later rounds.
2015 Outlook: At 32, Weaver's skills seem to be diminishing at least slightly, but he's a proven fantasy commodity. Weaver tied with Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer for the AL lead with 18 wins last season, marking the third time in the past four years he's reached that number, and he'll return to anchor the staff for an Angels team that won the most games in baseball last year. He has seen alarming spikes in his WHIP the past two years, going from 1.01 to 1.14 to 1.20, but Weaver brought his line-drive rate back down to 19.2 percent last season from 22.4 percent the year before. Further, his first-pitch-strike rate dropped to a career-low 56 percent last season; if he can get back to attacking the strike zone early in counts, it could go a long way toward improving his numbers in the ratio categories. A return to All-Star form seems optimistic, but Weaver should still garner interest as a third or fourth starting pitcher on draft day.
2015 Outlook: After Kennedy was traded to San Diego midway through 2013, there were some small indicators he was headed for a bounce back last season. But even those who were most bullish on the veteran righty likely did not predict that he'd set a career high with 207 strikeouts. In addition, he had a 3.63 ERA -- his best mark since his career year in 2011 -- and a 1.29 WHIP in 201 innings. Kennedy's 3.21 FIP points to his success being real, and his 3.44 xFIP indicates he can sustain this level of performance in 2015. Further, he was somehow able to win 13 games last year despite pitching on a team with one of the worst offenses in recent memory. The Padres have addressed that matter this offseason, adding some legitimate middle-of-the-order bats through a series of shrewd trades. Unfortunately, the added offense might come at the expense of defense, particularly in the spacious Petco Park outfield. Still, if a moderately worse defense is the primary knock on a pitcher's season outlook, it's safe to invest with confidence.
2015 Outlook: McHugh came out of nowhere to finish with the sixth-best WHIP (1.02) and 15th-best ERA (2.73) among starters with 150-plus innings last season. While he may not be quite as good as his numbers indicate, this does not appear to be entirely a flash in the pan. McHugh relies primarily on a low-90s fastball, a hard slider and a bat-missing curveball. His 157:41 K:BB ratio in 154⅔ innings demonstrates that his stuff and command are above average, and his 3.11 xFIP suggests he can remain fairly successful in his second full season with Houston. It's unlikely McHugh will continue to pitch like a borderline ace going forward, but his lack of prospect pedigree or a flashy repertoire, combined with the fact that he pitches for the Astros, should keep his price suppressed on draft day.
2015 Outlook: Watching Ventura pitch is a thrilling experience. His ability to change speeds in the upper 90s and low triple digits can often result in excited hyperbole, which seems warranted at the time but is not always represented in the box score. For a pitcher who combines unfair gas with a solid curveball and changeup, Ventura's 20.3 percent strikeout rate in 2014 leaves a lot to be desired. It would be unfair to expect the young righty to command his electric arsenal any better than his 1.30 WHIP illustrates, but the hope was that this package would result in at least a strikeout per inning, and that has yet to manifest itself against big league hitters. Factoring in the postseason, Ventura pitched 208⅓ innings as a rookie, so it's also fair to question how well his modest 180-pound frame will hold up going forward. By no means should owners view him as a finished product, as there's still plenty of upside here, and it's usually better to bet on stuff, which Ventura has in spades. However, as someone who lives in triple digits, saw national exposure during the postseason and was recently a highly touted prospect, the 23-year-old Dominican might have too much helium on draft day to return much of a profit.
2015 Outlook: Storen had a superb 2014 that saw him ultimately wrest the closer's job from Rafael Soriano at the end of the season, a role that he'll have to begin 2015. But Storen is hardly a stable commodity, as both his performance and his role have fluctuated wildly as a major leaguer. In a way, his experience with the Nats is a microcosm of max-effort relievers as a whole. He burst onto the scene after being a blue-chip prospect, held his own but didn't quite dominate as a rookie, took over the closer's job in his second year in the majors, suffered his first elbow injury, lost his job to a veteran alternative, then finally had the redemption story to get his role back. Storen has changed his approach on the mound, using his changeup more often in the hope of inducing weak groundballs rather than turning to a slider to strike batters out. However, he had a whopping 90.6 percent strand rate and a .271 BABIP against last year, suggesting that some regression might be in order for 2015. Washington signed a former closer, Casey Janssen, this offseason to provide insurance for Storen, but he still figures to have the ninth-inning role to himself to start the season.