2015 Outlook: Archer's maturation from a fifth-round selection in 2006 into a legitimate No. 3 starter in the big leagues is one of the best stories in the Rays' storied history of prospect development. The athletic, 6-3 righty solidified his status as a mid-rotation starter last season as a 25-year-old, posting a 3.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 194⅔ healthy innings. He pumps gas with a 96 mph heater and a hard, 87 mph grounder-inducing slider while occasionally mixing in a changeup. For Archer to take another step forward both in real life and fantasy, going deeper into games will be key. In 32 starts last season, he pitched more than seven innings on just two occasions. He's shown he can remain effective the third time through the order, and now that he's entering his third full season, the hope is that the Rays fully set him loose. Entering his age-26 season, Archer provides the nice combination of a high floor and room to dream a little.
2015 Outlook: Street went from pitching in relative obscurity with San Diego to pitching for the American League's winningest team following a July trade, and while his numbers with the Angels weren't quite as good, he still finished with a 1.71 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 26⅓ innings with the Halos. He didn't blow a save until July 5, having converted his first 23 opportunities, and finished with a career-high 41 saves for the season, giving him 275 for his career (fifth among active players). Some will point to Street's otherworldly strand rates the past two years (99.5 percent in 2013 and 93.3 percent last season) and low BABIPs as reasons to be wary of the 31-year-old, but as long as he's striking batters out at close to a 25 percent clip and converting saves, he'll continue to make for an enticing fantasy option. Joe Smith is the only real threat to his job right now, and manager Mike Scioscia has been reluctant to give Smith an extended audition in the role.
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: 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: 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: 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: 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.