This list highlights the top ten sleepers who are starting pitchers for the 2013 MLB season. My fantasy sleeper lists contain players that I believe will outperform expectations and are worth considering during your fantasy baseball draft. Although all of the players on this list will not be worthy of a draft pick, players may prove their value after the season has started and may be a smart waiver wire acquisition for your team. View my list for top ten sleepers regardless of position for the 2013 season here on Yahoo! Voices.
#10. Ivan Nova – New York Yankees
Ivan Nova will be 26 at the start of the 2013 MLB season. Although he has been a top New York Yankees prospect since 2006, this will only be his third full season. After a strong 2011 season, Nova took a step back in 2012, with a 5.02 ERA and a 12-8 record. Nova did have an increase in strikeouts with 153 in 170.1 innings, while in 2011, he had 98 strikeouts in 165.1 innings. Nova is still getting better and with some consistency in the bullpen, the Yankees should have a better season in 2013. Nova should be a cheap buy due to last season’s performance, and is an underrated fantasy player for the upcoming season.
#9. Chris Tillman – Baltimore Orioles
Although he has only started a limited number of games over the past four seasons, Chris Tillman has showed some promise in his 15 starts in 2012. Last season, Tillman had a 2.93 ERA, 66 strikeouts, a WHIP of 1.05, and compiled a 9-3 record in only 86 innings. He is only 24 and will be the third starter in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation. Expect him to have his first full season with the team and the opportunity to put together impressive fantasy statistics. Tillman is a solid sleeper for 2013.
#8. Matt Harvey – New York Mets
Matt Harvey will be a household name in the future, but for now he is a promising rookie who had only 10 starts with a 3-5 record, but the record does not reflect his talent or his overall performance. Harvey has a 100-mph fastball and had 70 strikeouts in only 59.1 innings. The 23 year-old will be a starter this season and is a must to add to your team near the end of your fantasy draft as a sleeper. Harvey could be the closest dominant right-handed pitcher to Justin Verlander that we have seen in the last few years, it might just take him a season or two to live up to his potential.
#7. Marco Estrada – Milwaukee Brewers
Even though his 2012 season was not as good as expected, Milwaukee Brewers’ starter Marco Estrada showed some promise with striking out 143 batters in 138.1 innings. Estrada had a 3.64 ERA with a 5-7 record in 23 starts. He started the season in the bullpen but ended the year as a consistent starter. His ERA improved throughout the season, improving each month after May. Look for Estrada to settle in as a starter and become a legitimate fantasy starting pitcher to have on your team.
#6. Miguel Gonzalez – Baltimore Orioles
Rookie Miguel Gonzalez was impressive in his 15 starts. The Baltimore Orioles pitcher had a 9-4 record with a 3.25 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 105.1 innings. The most impressive performance of the year for Gonzalez was his postseason debut against the Yankees, in which he had 8 strikeouts over 7 innings and only allowed one run. Gonzalez will not take anyone by surprise due to his late season performance, but I believe he will outperform expectations with around 15-17 wins and an ERA around 3.00.
#5. Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma had his first season in MLB at the age of 31. Although he started off in the bullpen, his performance earned him a starting spot in the rotation where he was able to compile an 8-4 record and had a season ERA of 3.16 with 101 strikeouts in 125.1 innings. Iwakuma is dedicated to improving on his performance from last year and opted out of the World Baseball Classic to train and prepare for his second season with the Mariners.
#4. Scott Diamond – Minnesota Twins
Scott Diamond had a solid season despite allowing 17 home runs and an opposing batting average of .274. For the Minnesota Twins, Diamond had a 12-9 record with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts. He is a solid left-handed pitcher who is still finding his groove for the Twins. In his second full season in 2013, you can expect better overall numbers. Look to draft Diamond in the late-middle rounds of the draft.
#3. Jeff Samardzija – Chicago Cubs
The name may be familiar, but until now, Samardzija hasn’t had much fantasy value. A pitcher’s record can often be misleading, and Samardzija’s 9-13 record in 28 starts looks much worse than it actually was. He had a 3.81 ERA with 180 strikeouts in 174.2 innings. The Chicago Cubs may not be a much improved team in 2013, but Samardzija will have a much better season as the team’s #2 starter behind Matt Garza, and as he settles in as a starter.
#2. Kris Medlen – Atlanta Braves
The only reason Kris Medlen is #2 on this list, and not first, is because he will not take anyone by surprise because of the high expectations he created with his incredible finish to last season. After converting into a starter at the end of the season, Medlen went 10-1 in 12 starts and gave up only 9 runs. Medlen should be the #1 starter for the Braves this season and will be a fantasy standout.
#1. Lucas Harrell – Houston Astros
After only 37 career starts, Lucas Harrell is already the #1 starter in the Houston Astros’ rotation. In his first full season as a starter, Harrell went 11-11 for the Astros with a 3.76 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 193.2 innings. Harrell looked sharp even though the Astros were one of the worst teams in all of baseball with a 55-107 record. With his improvement and the potential for the Astros to improve, Harrell could have a valuable fantasy season. Look at drafting Harrell near the end of your draft as a 4th or 5th starting pitcher.
*All statistics from MLB via MLB.com