Diving into the player pool is essential in the initial stages of your Fantasy Baseball prep for the coming season. Knowing and understanding the player pool can help you formulate a better draft strategy. It may seem like common sense, but knowing the deep and shallow positions can take you a long way. Today, we will look at the Fantasy Baseball starting pitcher position, examine the player pool, and draft strategy for the position. This article continues a positional primer series that will take an in-depth look at each position across the diamond.
We have now made it through all of the hitting positions, which you can find linked below. We head to the center of the diamond today to attack the starting pitcher position. There are many approaches to take for starting pitchers in drafts. The “Pocket Aces” strategy was popularized, and many tried to use it last year by drafting a starting pitcher in the first and second rounds of drafts. Others prefer to stack hitters at the top of drafts. Is there a correct strategy when approaching starting pitching? Let’s dive in.
Starting Pitcher Primer and Rankings
2021 Starting Pitchers Rewind
Last season, pitchers were pushed up more than ever in drafts. Jacob deGrom was the highest-drafted pitcher according to NFBC at an average pick of 5.24. Gerrit Cole came in right behind him with an ADP of 7.19. Ten pitchers were selected in the top 30 picks, but most failed to return value.
Jacob deGrom was elite when on the mound but pitched just 92 innings. Cole struggled in the second half but still had a solid 181 innings, posting a 3.23 ERA with a 33.5 percent strikeout rate.
In drafts, Shane Bieber was the third pitcher off the board, but injuries limited him to just 96.2 innings pitched. Trevor Bauer was the fourth arm off draft boards. He was great on the mound, but off-the-field issues kept him off the field most of the second half.
Yu Darvish had one of the worst seasons of his career, posting a 4.22 ERA over 166.1 innings. His second-half collapse led to a 5.54 ERA over 65 second-half innings.
Lucas Giolito saw some regression and failed to return value but at least posted a 3.53 ERA over 178.2 innings.
Finally, we reach a pitcher whose value exceeds their cost in the first two rounds in Walker Buehler. Buehler pitched an exceptional 207.2 innings in the regular season posting a 2.47 ERA and a sub-one WHIP. Buehler lacked the strikeouts of most aces but made up for it everywhere else.
Aaron Nola was underwhelming all season despite the peripheral numbers looking very strong. Then there was Max Scherzer, who came in rated number one on the Razzball plater rater among pitchers. Scherzer had an ADP of 27 and lived up to expectations. He posted a 2.46 ERA over 179 innings. He also features a 0.86 WHIP and struck out 24 more hitters than Buehler despite pitcher nearly 30 fewer innings.
The 2021 season led to breakouts from young pitchers like Corbin Burnes, Julio Urias, and Freddy Peralta. But vets such as Zack Wheeler, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Adam Wainwright, and Charlie Morton also had outstanding seasons.
The moral of this long section is that just because a pitcher is going high in drafts does not mean they will return value. Injuries happen, pitchers regress; it is often a mixed bag for starting pitchers. You have to place a considerable emphasis on which starters you like early in drafts and be confident in them. With that being said, let’s talk draft strategy.
Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy: Starting Pitcher
In the intro, several approaches to starting pitching in drafts were discussed. Last year, the popular method was “pocket aces,” which involves drafting two starting pitchers in the first two rounds. The only problem with that strategy is hitting on the right two. Even if you hit on one of two, you likely have a leg up on the competition. Imagine drafting Cole in the first and one of Buhler or Scherzer in the second. You would be set when it comes to starting pitching. Still, it is a matter of making sure you stay balanced the rest of the draft and not waiting too long for your next arm.
Four starters are being drafted in the first round this year, not including Ohtani(NFBC DC ADP). Additionally, four more pitchers are going in the second. If you want a high-end starting pitcher, you will have to pay first or second-round value once again. The days of pitching being drafted late are over.
With that being said, the pitching pool feels deeper than ever. I like the outlook when you have Sean Manaea, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Luis Garcia(Houston) going off the board as P58-60. My confidence as a whole does drop after Rodriguez, though there are some arms littered throughout the draft that do have upside.
How should we approach starting pitching in drafts? There are a million different options. But I am looking to grab a starter in the first two or three rounds depending on how the board falls. Getting an ace to anchor your staff is highly important. You should always have an open mind and not be locked into one player because you might end up overpaying. See who falls and find the appropriate value for early arms.
After grabbing an ace, I am comfortable waiting until pick 60-80 in drafts. That is an extensive range of picks, but names like Jack Flaherty, Max Fried, Jose Berrios, Joe Musgrove, and Dylan Cease are excellent SP2’s. I love this range, for starters. I might be looking to grab my SP2 and SP3 in this range and feel good about my rotation for a little while and load up on bats.
The next range that is great to shop for starting pitchers is in the 115-130 ADP range, including Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Bassitt, Zac Gallen, and Ian Anderson. There is a strong chance for profitability here and another range where you can grab several of these guys depending on how your rotation looks.
We could talk all day about starting pitchers because there are so many to discuss, but this sets you up pretty well. I would suggest having four or five starting pitchers when you get to round 12 in your drafts. Factor in a closer or two as well, and you have an excellent pitching base. You can build out the rest of your rotation with a mix of safe innings and upside arms.
I have my tiered rankings below to help you throughout the draft.
Starting Pitcher Tiered Rankings for Fantasy Baseball
|45||Hyun Jin Ryu||TOR|
|46||Lance McCullers Jr.||HOU|
|96||Nestor Cortes Jr.||NYY|
Statistical References: NFBC ADP, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs
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