Complete 2015 Projections

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PROJECTED 2015 SEASON STATS
1. Clayton Kershaw, LAD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics2727198.13123921001.770.8610.85669
2015 Projections3232224.04325320002.130.9210.17676
2015 Outlook: Despite missing a month of the season, Kershaw managed to win 21 games in 27 starts while posting career-best ratios, good enough to win both the NL Cy Young and MVP. What can he do for an encore? The biggest concern about the lefty is that he's had rough starts in the playoffs against the Cardinals two years in a row. But even then, most of the damage against him came late in the game, including the critical homer by Matt Adams in the Game 4 elimination, with Kershaw was pitching on short rest. Perhaps you're worried about investing a pick this early on a pitcher, but this is where his stats suggests he ranks, and in today's low-scoring environment, it's less risky to invest that early pick on Kershaw.
2. Max Scherzer, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3333220.16325218003.151.1810.29548
2015 Projections3333216.06026216003.131.1010.92550
2015 Outlook: Scherzer followed his 2013 Cy Young year with another solid campaign in 2014, falling just short of some of his peers in the elite tier of starters. He did this despite seeing contract negotiations with the Tigers break down in a very public manner at the start of the season, with the Tigers disclosing the offer that his camp turned down. Much of Scherzer's improvement the past two seasons can be owed to keeping the ball in the park better despite not being a significant ground ball pitcher. Now that he has signed a big contract with the Nationals, he could realistically rack up 275 strikeouts thanks to all the times he will face the light-hitting NL East.
3. Stephen Strasburg, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3434215.04324214003.141.1210.13499
2015 Projections3434218.04924317002.971.0610.03556
2015 Outlook: In 2014, the gloves finally truly came off for Strasburg, as he topped 200 innings for the first time. In a way, he's a victim of his own hype, as a 3.14 ERA and 1.12 WHIP to go along with 242 strikeouts are elite numbers. But given the way he came up and then made his major league debut, we tend to expect video-game numbers. Those still might come, by the way; he turns 27 this season and still has a mid-90s fastball and snappy curve. One of these years, everything is going to come together for a monster season, and you'll want to be there when it happens.
4. Madison Bumgarner, SF SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3333217.14321918002.981.099.07528
2015 Projections3333216.05020916002.921.078.71514
2015 Outlook: Bumgarner posted career-best totals in strikeouts, wins and walk rate in 2014, and that's before his remarkable postseason. He threw a whopping 53 innings in the playoffs, so he logged a total of 270 innings overall. Interestingly enough, Bumgarner was much better on the road (2.22 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) than at home (4.03 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) during the regular season, a beguiling stat for daily league players hoping to take advantage of an elite starter in a pitcher's park. It'll be interesting to see if the Giants encourage him to rely less on his wipeout slider to preserve his long-term health.
5. Johnny Cueto, Cin SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3434243.26524220002.250.968.94659
2015 Projections3131208.05019416002.641.048.39510
2015 Outlook: Clayton Kershaw was the only pitcher in baseball to return more value than Cueto in 5x5 rotisserie leagues last season. In his age-28 campaign, Cueto tossed 243⅔ innings and fanned 242, both tops in the NL, and finished second in the Senior Circuit (behind only Kershaw) in wins (20), ERA (2.25) and WHIP (0.96). Meanwhile, Cueto improved his strikeout rate by more than four percent (from 21.1 percent to 25.2 percent) and trimmed his walk rate to 6.8 percent. Perhaps the most important factor in terms of his 2015 outlook was his ability to stay on the mound, as his 2013 season was plagued by recurring lat issues -- he made three separate trips to the DL that year. The Reds' decision to exercise Cueto's $10 million option for 2015 was a no-brainer, but prospective owners, especially those in NL-only leagues, need to be aware of the very real possibility that Cueto could be moved prior to the deadline if Cincinnati falls out of it. Oddly enough, Cueto owns a 3.01 ERA and 1.10 WHIP at hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark for his career and a 3.51 ERA and 1.27 WHIP on the road.
6. Zack Greinke, LAD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3232202.14320717002.711.159.21490
2015 Projections3333208.04820216002.901.148.74487
2015 Outlook: Two years into his six-season deal with the Dodgers, Greinke has been everything the team hoped for. In 2014, he posted a career-best 4.81 K:BB ratio, fueled by a career-low 5.2 percent walk rate. Greinke has been especially strong at home since signing with the Dodgers, posting 2.11 and 2.55 ERAs in his two years in Los Angeles. He's back among the first-tier starters now after having been relegated to the second tier for the previous two seasons.
7. Jon Lester, ChC SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3232219.24822016002.461.109.01536
2015 Projections3333218.05120814003.341.178.59452
2015 Outlook: Did Lester have a contract-year surge, or was his big 2014 year a matter of all health issues resolving in his favor finally? If you look at his numbers prior to 2012 and 2013, you might conclude that the latter hypothesis is more likely to be true. From 2009 to 2011, he averaged at least 8.55 K/9 before seeing a significant drop the next two years -- looking at that, his 9.01 K/9 in 2014 doesn't seem that out of line. Now that he gets to cross over to the NL and pitch for the Cubs, Lester should consolidate his strikeout gains and have another big year.
8. Jordan Zimmermann, Wsh SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3232199.22918214002.661.078.20484
2015 Projections3434216.03617916003.131.137.46463
2015 Outlook: Zimmermann emerged as more than just an extreme strike-thrower in 2014, raising his strikeout rate from 18.6 percent to 22.8 percent en route to the finest ratios of his career. While he's throwing a changeup here and there, he mostly relies on pounding opposing hitters with his fastball (93.8 mph on average) and excellent slider. Zimmermann is in the final year of his contract, and the Nats reportedly dabbled in trade talks with the Cubs over the offseason, but nothing materialized. Given that Washington expects to contend in 2015, a midseason trade seems unlikely.
9. Cole Hamels, Phi SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3030204.2591989002.461.158.71456
2015 Projections3232217.05920815003.151.158.63475
2015 Outlook: Though Hamels began 2014 on the DL for the second time in three years, this time with a biceps injury, he returned quickly and still logged 30 starts. When he returned, he actually had more velocity than ever, averaging 92.3 mph with his fastball. The big question about Hamels, however, is whether the Phillies will part with him as they continue their rebuild. The deal sending Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers seemed to signal that no veteran on this team is untouchable for the right price. Hamels is signed through 2018 with a club option for 2019 at a price that isn't a bargain, but isn't unreasonable either, though he has a no-trade clause with 20 teams. Still, he's the Phillie most likely to net a significant prospect package, so the team has to at least listen to offers. A midseason move out of hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, where Hamels had a 3.20 ERA last year (as opposed to 1.82 on the road) could jump him into the first tier of starters.
10. Aroldis Chapman, Cin RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics54054.02410603602.000.8317.67352
2015 Projections70070.02713044202.060.8916.71436
2015 Outlook: It would have been understandable had Chapman dialed back his fastball after being drilled in the head by a comebacker during spring training, a gruesome incident that resulted in multiple facial fractures, but the left-hander hit triple digits in his very first rehab outing. That fearlessness carried over to the majors following his May activation from the DL, as Chapman blew by hitters with an otherworldly average fastball velocity of 100.3 mph. Major league hitters could hardly touch him. Chapman finished the season with a 52.5 percent strikeout rate -- an all-time record -- as well as a minuscule 0.89 FIP and 36 saves in 38 chances. He gave up just one home run in 54 innings and held opponents to a .107 average after the All-Star break. While the Reds project to be one of the worst teams in the NL Central this season, the team context is largely moot with regard to Chapman's value, as he's simply one of the most dominant relief pitchers the game has ever seen.
11. Craig Kimbrel, SD RPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics63061.2269504701.610.9113.86402
2015 Projections71070.02510744402.060.9413.76428
2015 Outlook: There are little indicators here and there that Kimbrel might be taking a small step back from his position as the best closer in baseball, but once you realize how great the starting point was to begin with, those factors diminish in importance. Most max-effort relievers tend to have a velocity decline, but that hasn't happened yet for him --d in fact, his average fastball was a tick higher than in 2013, resulting in a 38.9 percent strikeout rate. Kimbrel's biggest weakness is his walk rate, which jumped from 7.8 percent to 10.7 percent in 2014, a level he hadn't reached since 2011. Perhaps the biggest worry is one that Kimbrel can't control -- the quality of his team. The Braves were sellers over the offseason, getting rid of Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Kimbrel's top two setup men in Jordan Walden and David Carpenter. As a result, Kimbrel might see fewer save chances than he has in the past. But with three years left on his contract, he's unlikely to be shipped out as part of Atlanta's rebuild.
12. Julio Teheran, Atl SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3333221.05118614002.891.087.57473
2015 Projections3333213.05417614003.381.167.44414
2015 Outlook: Teheran's second velocity drop -- his average fastball lost 1.1 mph last year after having stabilized following a full-point drop from 2011 to 2012 -- is a matter of some question. Was this due to the wear and tear of a long season, one in which he exceeded 200 innings for the first time in his career, was it by design for purposes of longevity and increased control, or is this a warning sign? Along with that drop in velocity came a small drop in Teheran's strikeout rate, from 22 percent to 21 percent, not to mention his FIP, which suggests last year's 2.89 ERA was an aberration. Another point of concern is Teheran's team context -- the Braves traded away two-thirds of their starting outfield in Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, then Evan Gattis, leaving them with an outfield of B.J. Upton, Nick Markakis and a big question mark in left field. The net effect will likely be a decline in outfield defense, which isn't good for a fly ball pitcher like Teheran, and he's likely to see reduced offensive support as well. Pointing out all of these concerns isn't to say you should avoid Teheran, but he might not take the next step in his development in 2015.
13. Adam Wainwright*, StL SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3232227.05017920002.381.037.10549
2015 Projections3333208.04417714003.461.147.66417
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.
14. James Shields, SD SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics3434227.04418014003.211.187.14440
2015 Projections3333218.05019014003.511.207.84411
2015 Outlook: Shields turned in another solid performance in his final season with the Royals in 2014, posting a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings. He seemed to trade off a few strikeouts in exchange for better control, walking only 4.7 percent of the batters he faced. Given that hes a fly ball pitcher who pitched in a park that depresses home runs and had the best defensive outfield in the game behind him, this pitch-to-contact approach made a lot of sense. He will likely deploy a similar strategy once again in 2015, now that he can call Petco Park his home. San Diego is one of the best destinations for free-agent pitchers, so Shields' value will be trending up heading into drafts. The outfield defense could be a bit of an issue, but the Padres have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and will finally field a competent big league lineup, which should allow Shields to win double-digit games for the ninth season in a row.
15. Gerrit Cole, Pit SPYEARGGSIPBBKWSVHDERAWHIPK/9PTS
2014 Statistics2222138.04013811003.651.219.00285
2015 Projections3030187.05917113003.181.208.23376
2015 Outlook: Cole has been a very effective major league pitcher in his first two seasons, but his performance, especially in the fantasy realm, still lags behind the hype that follows the former No. 1 overall pick. He has a 3.09 career FIP in 255⅓ innings, but in his rookie season Cole failed to notch the strikeout totals owners had hoped for, and last season he missed 10 weeks with fatigue and a subsequently diagnosed strain in his throwing shoulder. The big, 6-foot-4 righty possesses a fastball and slider that are among the best offerings in the National League, and while healthy, his strikeout totals finally started to sync up with his elite raw stuff. Cole's 24.2 percent strikeout rate in 2014 was a nice improvement on his 21.3 percent rate from his rookie season, and it does not take much imagination to project further strides in this department in coming seasons. Until he has the 220-inning tour de force campaign most agree he is capable of, Cole's price on draft day will continue to offer room for fantasy owners to profit.