When looking down the top 10 pitchers in WAR on fangraphs, you see some familiar names and some upcoming stars. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez fill the first category, while Matt Harvey and Chris Sale represent the second. The third category, however? Guys you never expected this from – that’s where Homer Bailey and Derek Holland step in.
Granted, this success has not totally translated to fantasy success – Holland and Bailey rank 24th and 33rd among starting pitchers on the player rater, respectively. On the other hand, those strong strikeout and walk rates which lead to a high WAR are also better predictors of future fantasy success. There isn’t much hype surrounding these two in fantasy circles, but there should be soon.
Bailey and Holland took somewhat similar paths to 2013 as highly rated prospects with potential who struggled when they hit the major leagues. In his first two seasons, Holland (195.66 IP) had a 5.52 ERA. In his first three, Bailey (195 IP) had a 5.47 ERA.
Focusing on Bailey first, I’d be shocked if you realized that he is one of just four pitchers to have a K/9 of 9.0 or above and a BB/9 of 2.0 or below this season. Needless to say, that combination of control and explosiveness is hard to find. The four names? Bailey, Matt Harvey, Chris Sale, and Felix Hernandez. Pretty good company. Here’s a breakdown of his gradual improvement over the past three years:
Starting to make a little more sense that this guy has two career no-hitters? Slowly but surely, Bailey has pulled his repertoire together. Allowing home runs was his biggest problem early in his career and it came from generating far too few ground balls. By turning his fly balls into those grounders and upping his swinging strike rate, Bailey is here to stay.
While Holland has had a little more luck converting his peripherals into the traditional fantasy stats of ERA and Wins, he remains underrated by the majority of fantasy owners. He first showed his potential with a strikeout rate of 8.48 in 2010, but accompanied it with a walk rate of 3.77 per nine innings that brought his numbers way down. Holland has dropped is walk rate each year since then (chart below) and in 2013 his strikeout rate returned to that 2010 rate after dropping for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Overall, Derek Holland and Homer Bailey are two of the best up-and-coming pitchers in the league. They haven’t been as dominant as the Matt Harvyes of the world, but being rated 32nd (Bailey) and 41st (Holland) on FantasyPros’ consensus rankings from 16 experts is absurd. I’d put Bailey in my top 20 and Holland in my top 25 going forward – both should be solid for years to come.
Matt Cott is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Follow him on Twitter @KidCotti21 and his work all season long on CBSPhilly.com & RotoAnalysis.com!
 The rest of the top 10 includes Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, and Anibal Sanchez as of 8/5/13.
Photo Credit: http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/images/2012/03/24/yOhLRglW.png