If you’ve ever read anything by Matthew Berry, and especially if you’ve ever listened to his Fantasy Focus podcast, then you’re likely familiar with the term fantasy zombie. According to the glossary found on the Fantasy Focus website, a fantasy zombie is, “a once-great fantasy player who returns to relevance after a prolonged period of being completely worthless.” Scott Kazmir fit that description to a T in 2013.
From 2005-2008, Kazmir pitched 689.2 innings and had a 3.51 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 742 strikeouts, good for a 9.68 K/9. Then 2009 came around and Kazmir hit a wall. From 2009-2010, Kazmir was out on the mound for 297.1 innings with a 5.42 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and just 210 strikeouts. His K/9 dropped all the way to 6.36.
In 2011 Kazmir made it onto the field for just 1.2 innings, and he sat out 2012 entirely. Going into 2013, Kazmir had long been an afterthought in the world of fantasy baseball. Then out of nowhere, he reemerged like a zombie crawling back from the dead.
In 2013, Kazmir pitched 156.1 more innings than he had in the previous two seasons combined. He made his first start at the end of April against the Houston Astros and pitched his way back onto virtual GMs’ radars after his third and fourth starts. Those two starts were against the Minnesota Twins and the Oakland Athletics in which he threw 12 innings with a 2.25 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 17 strikeouts.
All of a sudden, he was relevant again. Many fantasy owners were reluctant (and justifiably so) to add Kazmir to their rosters but when the season concluded, the overall numbers weren’t too shabby: 158 innings, 10 wins, 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 162 strikeouts (9.23 K/9).
What should we expect from Scott Kazmir in 2014? I have Kazmir projected to pitch 160 innings with 10 wins to go with a 3.88 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and 156 strikeouts. I have Kazmir ranked as my 62nd starting pitcher heading into 2014, ahead of guys like, Clay Buchholz, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson.
The one thing that impressed me most about Kazmir last year was his velocity. For his career, Kazmir has averaged 91.8 mph on his fastball. Last season, he threw it at 92.5 mph, the fastest he’s thrown it since 2005. Kazmir clearly looked like he benefited from the extended time he had off and he came back throwing darts.
The second thing that Kazmir really has going for him is that he’s now pitching in Oakland. Throughout his career, Kazmir has been an extreme fly ball pitcher (he has a career fly ball percentage of 42.1 percent; the league average in 2013 was 34.1 percent) and the Coliseum in Oakland is one of the best parks for fly ball pitchers. It was the sixth-hardest park to hit a home run in last season.
Two years ago, I would have never imagined saying this, but Kazmir is a fantasy baseball sleeper in 2014.
Billy Moy is a Fantasy Sports writer at RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @william_moy6, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google