Although Washington Nationals starting pitcher Doug Fister has been scratched from his scheduled Spring Training start against the Houston Astros today due to elbow inflammation, reports indicate the organization is not overly concerned with his upcoming MRI — and you should not be either. Fister is and will be a sleeper candidate in fantasy baseball in 2014.
After being traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Detroit Tigers during the 2011 season, he dazzled for Detroit, going 8-1 in 11 starts with a 1.79 ERA. He won ten games in 2012 and 14 in 2013 for the club, yet with the Tigers needing to lock up Max Scherzer and already having a highly paid ace in Justin Verlander, Fister became expendable this offseason. He was traded to Washington for mainly insignificant players because they simply were not going to be able to afford him long term.
In 2013, he made 33 starts for Detroit, going 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA and a serviceable 1.21 WHIP. Many fantasy owners might balk at drafting Fister due to his low strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) ratio of 6.9, but you should not. Currently, Fister is ranked as the 48th best starting pitcher option and 141st fantasy baseball player overall, and he is carrying an average draft position (ADP) of 139.4 according to the fantasypros.com charts — which means he is going right around the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th round of most fantasy baseball drafts.
Identifying a pitcher in the 14th round who is likely to win 15 games is typically an incredibly difficult task. But with the Nationals looking to take the NL East by storm in 2014 and considering that they have pitchers like Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg at the top of their rotation taking the brunt of the pressure for their staff, Fister becomes a huge sleeper candidate who will go highly unnoticed and make fantasy owners look smart this season.