Lester finished 2016 as one of the most effective pitchers in MLB and helped carry the Cubs to their first World Series in over 100 years. However, he’s due for a major regression in 2017 due to a variety of factors and shouldn’t be targeted as high as he’s currently ranked (#10 SP in ESPN Points rankings). Lester’s personal catcher, David Ross, retired and Lester’s career stats with other catchers are nothing to write home about (2.75 ERA with Ross vs. 3.72 ERA without Ross). Further, Lester enjoyed a comparatively lucky season with a LOB% (left on base percentage) of 84.9% and a BABIP of .256. I’d expect both of those numbers to regress to the mean and result in more runs allowed and more hitters to reach base over the course of the season. Both of these would result in a much higher ERA. While the Cubs ended their World Series drought in 2016, their Ace will find that 2017 may not be as prosperous.
Prediction: 14-7, 3.46 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 206 IP
Sanchez was one of the darlings of 2016, breaking out as a sleeper with a 3.00 ERA, to go along with his sterling 15-2 record in almost 200 IP. However, a deeper look into his stats show that it may not be as sustainable as originally thought. Not an overpowering pitcher, Sanchez relies on his defense to bail him out of trouble. With a high ground ball rate of 54.4%, he excels at keeping the ball in the park. However his .267 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) suggest that he was luckier than the average pitcher considering his high amount of ground balls. A ground ball typically results in a hit more often than a line drive or a fly ball so the fact that his BABIP is so low despite being a heavy GB pitcher is a huge red flag to me. Don’t over draft on Sanchez for 2017.
Prediction: 11-10, 3.65 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 184 IP
Once Roark managed to convince the Nationals he had the ability to stick in the rotation, he produced with a sub-3.00 ERA season. Combine this with his 15 win, sub-3.00 ERA season in 2014 and you have a pitcher everyone should target. Not quite. While he will still be a productive pitcher and one I would love to have on my team, he will likely be drafted way too early for what he’ll actually produce. Roark benefitted from a low BABIP and an above average LOB% in 2016, similarly to Sanchez, he does not have the pure strikeout potential to escape these situations easily. His FIP and xFIP were both well below his ERA and closely aligned with his numbers from 2015 when he spent the majority of his time as a reliever. As a SP, he’ll have more innings in which to encounter bad luck and his ERA will likely regress. He’ll still be a good source of wins, however, Win totals are somewhat out of the pitchers control as their success relies on the offense providing enough support. Is this the year that luck catches up to Roark? I’d rather not spend a high pick to find out.
Prediction: 13-9, 3.53 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 201 IP