Anyone who’s touting Jeff Samardzija as a 2013 fantasy sleeper is a year late to the party (that said, you can probably expect a “Jeff Samardzija is a 2013 fantasy sleeper” post coming from us in the near future). Samardzija put up great numbers in 2011 that hinted at potential fantasy relevance, however those numbers came almost exclusively out of the bullpen.
In fact, in his first four years with the Cubs, Samardzija made 128 appearances with just five of those being starts. While Chicago is thin on starting pitching, it was tough to tell (1) if Chicago would actually commit to making him a full-time starter, and (2) if he’d actually stick there in the event the Cubs elected to go that route.
Well, 2012 showed us the kind of potential Samardzija has. I’ve already commented on how much Samardzija has improved over the last three years with regards to his strikeout rate and getting opponents to chase pitches, and that bodes well for his future development. He’s a strikeout machine, and last year he finally got the walks under control.
His 3.21 K:BB ratio in 2012 ranked 30th of the 88 pitchers to toss at least 162 innings, so slightly better than league average, but just four of those 29 pitchers ahead of him had ERAs of 4.00 or higher (Ian Kennedy, Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton). Kennedy and Hughes are fly ball pitchers, who tend to have higher ERAs anyway, Haren had an even ground ball-to-fly ball split, and Blanton has always had issues with his HR/FB rate. Samardzija is a ground ball pitcher, so he’s not likely to exceed 4.00 if he keeps up the same K:BB ratio in 2013.
At a Glance
Strengths: K, K/9, ERA, QS
Neutral: WHIP, W, L, BB
Best-case scenario: Chris Sale (CHW)
Likely scenario: Yovani Gallardo (MIL), Matt Moore (TB), Lance Lynn (STL)
Worst-case scenario: Bud Norris (HOU)
Jeff Samardzija 2013 Fantasy Projection
All signs point to at least a repeat of 2012′s numbers. Samardzija broke out with a 3.81 ERA last year, but his FIP was even lower at 3.55. Wrigley Field is slightly homer-friendly, so that means we can expect Samardzija to have a small issue with his HR/FB rate (and that means his FIP might be a little lower than his ERA again), but all-in-all he’ll be a contributor there. And of course with the Ks.
Can he keep up the sub-3.00 BB/9? That’s the biggest question. I feel very confident that he can, and that’s why Samardzija earns a ranking comfortably inside our top 200. The development of Chicago’s offense will dictate how much higher he goes, though. We project him for just 11 wins this year, but a little luck and some good offensive support could push that number closer to 15, and that would make Samardzija a top-75 player.