Just a few years ago, Justin Masterson was atop most baseball experts list of top pitching prospects and on most fantasy experts' sleeper lists.
But a couple of mediocre seasons and a trade away from the spotlight of Boston to the back roads of Cleveland have banished Masterson from most breakout candidate conversations.
But a closer look at the stats, as well as an understanding of the talent he possesses, shows that Justin Masterson could be the steal of the later rounds in this year's fantasy drafts.
Justin Masterson — SP — Cleveland Indians
- 2010 Stats: 6-13, 4.70 ERA, 180 Innings, 140 K's, 1.50 WHIP
- Average Draft Position: 343
- Sleeper Scale Rating (#1-5): 4
Masterson is a big, intimidating presence out on the mound, as he stands 6'6" and weighs in close to 250 lbs.
His delivery is especially deceptive to right handed hitters as he throws from a 3/4 arm slot, in which the ball will start out almost behind that of a right handed hitter and break into or just outside the zone.
His career splits clearly indicate that Masterson can be, at times, dominant to right handed hitters with most of his troubles coming against lefties.
Masterson has a hard time finding the strikezone against left handed hitters walking them at a near 2:1 ratio. This is most likely due to his funky throwing motion and the varying looks that his fastball has as a result.
Masterson changes speeds well on his fastball and runs it up anywhere from 88-95 MPH, depending on the arm slot he uses. His best pitch is his devastating sinker, which when right can have right handed hitters look like they are swatting at flies.
He uses his sinker to induce double plays too, which help off-set the high BB rate to LH hitters. He also will use a slider and changeup, however the changeup is far too inconsistent from start to start.
If he could use the same throwing motion and establish his changeup as a pitch he can locate, his numbers versus left hand hitters would improve significantly.
This is precisely what the Indians have Masterson working on in spring training this year.
This will be Masterson's second full season of being a full time starter, though many scouts believe he would be better served as a late inning reliever. The truth is that Masterson is just getting accustomed to pitching at the big league level and is figuring out what works for him and what does not.
He has a ton of upside if left along to figure it out as he was for much of 2010. He should be able to settle into the Indians rotation nicely and is poised to be one of those under the radar type fantasy pitchers that most championship teams are able to find late in the draft.
Masterson has a lot going for him. He is the prototype intimidating figure out on the mound and already has had good success against RH hitters. He is still developing his pitches and learning what works for him against left handers, which ultimately will vault him into the top tier of starting pitchers.
He also is well-equipped to keep the ball low and can locate his pitches toward the bottom edge of the strikezone, which allows for fewer extra base hits including homeruns allowed.
The Indians also play in a very pitcher friendly ballpark in Progressive Field which helps his overall numbers also.
This is the year where we find out exactly what we have in Justin Masterson. He will either follow through on the immense potential that his pitch repertoire suggests or settle back into a dominant late inning reliever.
Either way, the potential return for fantasy purposes is great and definitely worth a later round selection for those who decide to wait awhile on starting pitching in this year's draft.
Jeff Mans is a Bleacher Report contributor and the Senior Writer at Fantasy Alarm.
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