Strikeouts. We all need them, and we all seem to chase them at some point during the baseball season. But for this article, we’re going to focus on securing those strikeouts before the season begins. Specifically, we’re going to look at some late round strikeout targets that can be easily acquired on draft day.
The following players are currently being drafted outside the top-250 draft picks, based on NFBC ADP since February 1. If you need a late strikeout boost on draft day, all of these players can pile up the Ks for you!
2022 Cheap Strikeouts for 2022 Fantasy Baseball
Bailey Ober, Minnesota Twins
NFBC ADP: 263.85
Bailey Ober was called up in May and put together a strong debut. He finished the year with a 4.19 ERA (3.82 SIERA), 1.20 WHIP, and a 20.3% K-BB% across 92.1 innings. He only reached six innings twice in 20 games started, but he improved throughout the season.
- 1st Half: 5.45 ERA 1.36 WHIP 18.3% K-BB .358 wOBA
- 2nd Half: 3.49 ERA 1.11 WHIP 21.5% K-BB .313 wOBA
Much of Ober’s success has to do with his control. His 5% walk rate in 2021 ranked in the 94th percentile, and it was consistent with his career 3.4% mark in the minors. Ober is a fastball-heavy pitcher; and while the pitch isn’t overpowering, its 24.8% whiff rate was better than league average. He also has a slider, curveball, and changeup in his pitch repertoire, with his slider and curveball having double-digit swinging strike rates.
Ober has swing-and-miss stuff, and gets hitters to chase. In fact, his 35.4% chase rate last season ranked 30th amongst pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched. However, when hitters made contact – especially with his fastball – many of those pitches went over the fence, leading to a bloated 1.95 HR/9 last season.
The core skills are there with Ober, and his home run issue could be remedied with a greater reliance on his breaking pitches. He’s currently going just outside pick 250, and is a solid source of strikeouts at his current draft price.
Josiah Gray, Washington Nationals
NFBC ADP: 285.65
Josiah Gray’s professional debut last season was a bit of a mixed bag. He finished 2021 with a 5.48 ERA (4.60 SIERA) and 1.36 WHIP across 70.2 innings pitched. That also came with a 24.8% strikeout rate and 10.7% walk rate.
It may not look like it on the surface, but Gray has a ton of strikeout upside. Much of that upside stems from his whiff-inducing curveball and slider (47.8% and 45% whiff rate, respectively). His fastball is not as effective (.282 BAA, .620 SLG, and .414 wOBA), but it does have potential with its 94.5 mph velocity and above-average vertical movement.
Gray’s 5.48 ERA and 10.7% walk rate should keep his draft cost low; but don’t let that fool you. His 4.57 xERA and 5.05 xFIP show he pitched better than his final stat line; and his 10.7% walk rate was above his 6.4% rate in the minors. Additionally, Gray’s plate discipline skills were better than league average. He posted a 35.1% chase rate, 83% zone contact rate, 14.1% SwStr%, and 28.3% CSW%.
Gray has a rotation spot locked up and could be a strikeout machine this season. There will likely be some growing pains, but take advantage of this draft day discount!
Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Dodgers
NFBC ADP: 293.68
Full disclosure: For the past couple of years Andrew Heaney has been a regular on my Do Not Draft List. This is mainly due to his long-standing home run problem (career 1.62 HR/9) and his career surface stats (4.72 ERA and 1.32 WHIP). However, after the Dodgers signed him to a one-year, $8.5 million contract, I figured a closer look at Heaney was in order.
Last season, Heaney finished with a 5.83 ERA and 1.32 WHIP across 129.2 innings. Yuck. But his 4.85 FIP and 3.84 SIERA indicate he pitched better than that. Additionally, he posted a 19.5% K-BB% rate, which ranked 31st amongst pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched.
Digging a little deeper, Heaney’s plate discipline metrics in 2021 were impressive. His 35.7% chase rate ranked in the 91st percentile, and his 12.5% SwStr% and 81.1% zone contact rate were well above league average.
Heaney would likely benefit from a pitch mix change. He leaned on his fastball close to 60% of the time, but didn’t command it well. In fact, 17 of his 26 home runs last season came from hitters teeing off on the pitch. Instead, a greater reliance on this curveball could be beneficial, as it had a .196 BAA, .268 wOBA, and a 35.1% whiff rate in 2021.
Perhaps Heaney and the Dodgers can figure out the home run elephant in the room. Perhaps not. But there’s a lot of strikeout potential sitting here at pick 300. At this price, I’m taking Heaney off my Do Not Draft List; and you should consider drafting him, too.