2015 Outlook: Despite pitching in a park that favors home runs, Quintana permitted just 10 long balls last season. Despite a lack of wins, he did pitch 200 innings with a good ERA and WHIP, and he improved his strikeout and walk rates for the third consecutive season. In fact, Quintana's 2.81 FIP suggests he might have been even better than his 3.32 ERA. He has a good fastball, but it's Quintana's curveball that does the dirty work, as opponents hit .198/.223/.277 on the hammer last season. The White Sox have improved their roster this offseason, which should provide Quintana with better run support and perhaps allow him to reach double-digit wins for the first time. His results certainly merit it.
2015 Outlook: After missing the last two seasons due to injury, the simple fact that Pineda made it back to the mound to pitch was impressive enough. He was limited to 13 starts in 2014, as he missed more than half the season with a strained shoulder, but looked very good when he was on the mound -- with or without pine tar. While he won only five of his 13 starts, he limited batters to a .200 average and allowed just seven walks (against 59 strikeouts) and five home runs in 76.1 innings of work. Pineda's .233 BABIP and 80 percent strand rate mean his stats are in for some regression, but that 1.89 ERA and 0.83 WHIP can readily absorb some regression. As a fly-ball pitcher who enjoyed a 5.4 percent HR-to-FB rate in a bandbox of a park, we're sure to see Pineda surrender more long balls this year. Nonetheless, the skills have mostly returned -- the bigger issue is that he's managed to pitch little more than total 100 innings over the last three seasons.
2015 Outlook: McGee was dominant from start to finish in 2014, maintaining an ERA below 2.00 for all but one week of the season. Although he blew three saves in his final seven appearances, McGee finished with just four blown saves for the year, along with a 1.89 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, a 90:16 K:BB ratio, 14 holds and 19 saves. Opposing lefties hit .236/.267/.306 against him, and he was even tougher on right-handed hitters (.170/.232/.220). The 28-year-old was able to miss bats more frequently while trimming his walk rate by more than one per nine innings (from 3.1 BB/9 to 2.0 BB/9), so while his low 2.9 percent HR/FB rate was fluky, nothing else about his season was (1.73 FIP). Unfortunately, McGee will miss the start of the 2015 campaign following arthroscopic elbow surgery in December, but a late-April or early-May return seems to be in play, and he figures to at least force a closer committee upon his return, if he doesn't take the job back outright.
2015 Outlook: Keuchel went undrafted in standard mixed leagues in March, but finished the season with more value than the likes of Alex Cobb, Chris Tillman and Yu Darvish. The lefty reinvented himself by adding an effective breaking ball to his repertoire and making a concerted effort to live nearly exclusively in the bottom reaches of the strike zone. The result was that he became tougher to hit, surrendered fewer walks and halved his home run rate from 2013. His FIP legitimizes his efforts last season, but it's tough to envision Keuchel taking another step forward, given his lack of velocity and true swing-and-miss stuff. That said, he should remain a solid back-end starter, as he maximizes his stuff and does not give away free baserunners and runs.
2015 Outlook: Simply by relocation, Hughes was going to be better in 2014. As a fly-ball pitcher, Yankee Stadium was a terrible match for him, and he allowed 85 home runs there over his last six seasons in the Bronx, compared to 35 on the road. Switching to the more accommodating Target Field was helpful, but so was a change in process. Hughes decided in camp that he was going to scrap his ineffective slider, and use his breaking ball and cutter more frequently. The change in his repertoire helped him post the best strikeout rate of his career as a starting pitcher, and he was historically stingy with walks: He issued just 16 free passes all season, which coincidentally is also how many home runs he gave up. There's no reason he can't turn in another campaign of that quality in 2015.
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.
2015 Outlook: In 10 starts from June to July, Odorizzi pitched like a No. 2 starter. Unfortunately, those exceptional outings were sandwiched between rough stretches to start and finish the season, so the end result was a 4.13 ERA over 168 innings. Despite the high ERA, Odorizzi's overall fantasy stock saw a boost in 2014 because he surprised owners with a 24.2 percent strikeout rate. Coming up, most evaluators saw Odorizzi as a backend starter who would not miss an exceptionally high number of bats, but his 2014 strikeout rate placed him 15th among qualified starters, ahead of names like Cole Hamels, Zack Wheeler and Jeff Samardzija. As an extreme fly-ball pitcher, Odorizzi carries some risk, but there's room for continued growth entering his age-25 season. The Rays should allow him to log closer to 200 innings this year, which could translate into a sneaky 200 strikeouts. If Odorizzi's 3.75 FIP from last season proves more representative than his ERA, he could be a shrewd pick in the later rounds of drafts.
2015 Outlook: K-Rod got off to an unbelievable start last season, turning in a whopping 19 straight scoreless appearances to begin the year, with just eight hits allowed over that span. Regression was inevitable, and the right-hander indeed struggled to a 3.97 ERA after the All-Star break, but Rodriguez still finished with 44 saves, good enough for third in the NL, including very useful numbers in the ratio categories. Although he was relatively lucky with a .216 BABIP, that was offset to a large extent by a bloated 23.3 percent HR/FB rate, and his 6.7 percent walk rate was a career best. After re-signing with Milwaukee on a two-year deal in late February, Rodriguez is set to once again open the season as the team's closer, and his success with the club last season and lack of options behind him should afford the right-hander a fairly long leash in the role. Rodriguez should warrant consideration as a high-end second closer.
2015 Outlook: In a season wrought with pitching injuries, perhaps none was mourned as much by the collective baseball world as Fernandezís torn UCL, which resulted in Tommy John surgery last May. It's not an exaggeration to say Fernandez looked like the best pitcher in baseball prior to the elbow injury, as the thick, powerful righty had a 2.18 FIP, 0.95 WHIP and 70:13 K:BB in 51 2/3 innings over the first six weeks of the season. The expectation is that he will be ready to rejoin the Marlins' rotation between June 15 and July 15, so his value in 2015 will be very format-dependent. His value will be lowest in rotisserie leagues without a DL and with limited bench spots, while those in head-to-head leagues with a DL designation or a deep bench can afford to be much more aggressive about acquiring the 22-year-old phenom on draft day. He may struggle with his command when he first returns, but a slightly lesser version of Fernandez could still be a top-15 starting pitcher.
2015 Outlook: Once the Red Sox did away with the notion that Miller could be a starter, a whole new world opened up to him as a max-effort reliever. He went from striking out roughly seven batters per nine innings to well over 11 in 2012, and then more than 14 per nine innings the last two years. But 2014 was the real breakout for Miller, as he cut his walk rate in half from 4.99 walks per nine innings down to 2.45. he'd previously never even come close to 4.0, so it's worth wondering whether that improvement is sustainable, but it's believable that the former top prospect has developed his command. The Yankees are buying the breakout, as they inked him to a four-year, $36 million deal in December to be the chief setup man for Dellin Betances.
2015 Outlook: One of the Blue Jaysí top starting-pitching prospects, Sanchez spent the final 10 weeks of the 2014 campaign pitching out of the major league bullpen. Having begun the year as a 21-year-old starter with Double-A New Hampshire, Sanchez actually had a mediocre season in the minors, only to shine with the Jays. He posted a 1.09 ERA, 2.80 FIP and 0.70 WHIP over 33 innings (24 appearances), on the strength of a 7.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.3 HR/9 and whopping 65.9 percent groundball rate. With Marcus Stroman out for the season with a torn ACL, it now seems likely that Sanchez will be a member of Toronto's rotation if he can prove up to the task this spring. He won't turn 23 until July, and should eventually develop into more of strikeout pitcher, but command as a starter will be the primary thing to watch as it is something he struggled with in the minors. Sanchez could stick in the rotation long-term if he wins a job this spring, but the Jays will likely cap his innings in the 150-160 range in 2014.
2015 Outlook: When a pitcher basically fails out of baseball before the age of 30, "reliable" is probably one of the least fitting adjectives to describe that player. But Kazmir has completely remade himself on the mound, and after a healthy and successful 2014, most indicators point to the 30-year-old lefty picking up right where he left off. While his strikeout rate dropped from 24.1 percent in 2013 to 21.1 percent last season, his WHIP also dropped from 1.32 to 1.16 as his BABIP normalized and he moved to a more pitcher-friendly park, so in the end, fantasy owners came out ahead. His 3.55 ERA and 3.59 xFIP from last season are basically identical, which should lead owners to invest with relative confidence in Kazmir repeating what he did in the first year of his two-year deal with Oakland.
2015 Outlook: Rondon illustrates how hard it is to project the ultimate closer for any ball club without an established ninth-inning man. Once a starting pitching prospect in the Indians' organization, Rondon had to go under the knife and missed the entire 2012 season. The Cubs snagged him in the Rule 5 draft prior to the 2013 season and put him in the bullpen, where his initial season was pretty choppy -- though not surprising, given that Rondon had never pitched in the majors or out of the bullpen -- but Chicago had to keep him on the roster because of his Rule 5 status. But in 2014, when everyone above him fell apart, Rondon was given his chance to close and ran with the job. He struck out more than 24 percent of the hitters he faced while walking just 5.9 percent. Rondon's a ground-ball pitcher too, which allows him to keep the ball in the park, even at the Friendly Confines. For all the improvements the Cubs made, they didn't bring in too much competition for the job -- just Jason Motte, who didn't look like a closer candidate upon his return from injury last year. More save opportunities for the improving Cubs should come in 2015, which makes Rondon a bit of a sleeper.
2015 Outlook: Justin Verlander's right arm has logged a lot of miles over the years, as he has fronted the Detroit rotation while also making 16 starts in the postseason. From 2011 to 2013, his strikeout rate declined each year while still finishing above the league average for starting pitcher strikeout rates. That streak ended in 2014, as his strikeout rate fell to a career-worst 18 percent and he posted his first ERA above 3.50 since his poor 2008 season. His average fastball velocity, 95.3 mph at the start of this decade, was down to 92.3 last season, and the swing-and-miss rate on his pitches has dropped from the mid-20s to an even 20 percent. Once a safe four-category investment, he's now maybe a two-category arm at best. There is some upside here, but don't pay for the name value.
2015 Outlook: Dickey's 2014 season was nearly a mirror image of his 2013 season all across the board. Same wins, same losses, same WHIP and essentially the same strikeout and walk rates. His ERA improved by half a run because he didn't give up as many home runs as he did in 2013, but that was the only difference. Even with the dancing knuckler, Dickey has a slightly below-league-average strikeout rate for a starting pitcher, but he pitches deep into games and has won at least 14 in each of the past three seasons. He has also been a WHIP asset for the past five years. The Toronto offense should continue to support him well, and the cagey vet should once again be a safe two-category pitcher with low risk, but also low upside.