Building a Pitching Staff After the 14th Round
Many owners struggle with the concept of balancing out their draft and finding the right mix of 14 hitters and 9 pitchers who will give them the best chance of winning. But what if someone were to go all out to ensure dominance in the hitting categories, which tend to be easier to predict than pitching. Could someone build a pitching staff after the 14th round, using just their final nine picks? I set out to do just that.
The idea of building a pitching staff exclusively after the 14th round is not for the faint of heart. The merits of this strategy would depend largely on format. Regardless of format, you will definitely miss out on the top couple of tiers of both starting pitchers and relievers. You are certainly not going to want to match your “ace” against an actual ace each week in a head to head league. In roto, however, this seems like an intriguing strategy.
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The logic behind such a proposition is that by drafting all of your hitters early, you should crush all your hitting categories. I am going to use 12-team values for this experiment. Expecting a perfect 60 of 60 points out of your offense may be a bit unrealistic even under these circumstances. But if you picked 14 offensive players where your opponents were picking anywhere from 8-10, your offensive statistics should be head and shoulders above the rest. For argument’s sake, let’s give you 52 out of 60 points in hitting categories. That means you would need at least 35 points from your staff to potentially win your league. I am going to pick some of my favorite pitchers currently going after pick number 168 and use the thresholds listed by Doug Anderson in his great pitching piece to see where this staff would stand.
Building a Pitching Staff After the 14th Round
Nathan Eovaldi, ADP 173.77
Eovaldi has plenty of upside and is a potential breakout candidate. He had an excellent second half and should get plenty of opportunities for wins. However, I would not feel comfortable going against a true ace with him each week in a head-to-head matchup. Health is always a concern with Eovaldi, so let’s hope for 150 innings. If he gives you that, he can produce 10 wins with about 125 strikeouts. I will project a 3.96 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
Alternative: Tyler Glasnow, ADP 172.14
Rich Hill, ADP 182.17
Right away, we see the positives and negatives of this strategy. Eovaldi and Hill are examples of talented pitchers whose ADPs are suppressed because of their injury histories. Rich Hill is not likely to approach 35 starts this year. Even 30 would be a stretch. But starters are throwing fewer innings than ever. Recent history has proven that a pitcher can throw “only” 150 innings and still be a top-30 fantasy pitcher. Hill is talented enough to join those ranks. He should be able to strike out at least a batter per inning with an ERA in the 3.75 range and 10-12 wins in Los Angeles.
Alternative: Seranthony Dominguez, ADP 187.14
Yusei Kikuchi, ADP 196.58
Kikuchi joins the Seattle Mariners after eight seasons in Japan. The left-hander had some control issues early in his career but has made dramatic steps forward over the past two seasons. Kikuchi has a funky delivery and a deceptive fastball. He also has a slider which he uses as his out pitch. I think the league will have a bit of trouble getting a read on Kikuchi in the early going. His ERA should settle in right around 4.00 with just under a strikeout per inning.
Alternative: Hyun-Jin Ryu, ADP 193.34
Ross Stripling, ADP 210.95
Stripling is currently on the outside looking in for a rotation spot in Los Angeles. But with Clayton Kershaw’s status very much in doubt (not to mention a couple of other starters with checkered injury history), Stripling should work his way into about 20 starts this season. That will be plenty for him to earn significant value. He is also listed as a reliever on Fantrax, which could help for flexibility purposes in leagues that require a certain number of relief pitchers.
Alternative: Will Smith, ADP 216.03
Jose Alvarado, ADP 220.9
Many are worried that Tampa will not employ Alvarado as a typical closer. Diego Castillo’s presence also could threaten Alvarado’s status as a full-time closer. Alvarado may not approach 40 saves, but he should get at least half that. Alvarado has a sinker that generates a ton of ground balls and a devastating slider to put hitters away. He should provide excellent ratios with an elite strikeout rate this season.
Kenta Maeda, ADP 238.9
I have no qualms about taking multiple starting pitchers from the same team. Four might be overkill. But I have no issue with taking two or even three. As for Maeda, he could be one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. Last season, Maeda was one of 19 pitchers who threw at least 120 innings and had a K-BB rate of at least 20 percent. The other 17 (I am excluding Stripling, who is listed as a reliever) are all being drafted inside the top 25 starting pitchers. Maeda is being drafted 66th. He combines a devastating changeup (26.5 swinging strike rate, 42.4 K-BB rate!) and slider (25.5, 29.0) to attack hitters. He has a variety of ways to keep hitters off balance and plays on a good team in a good park for pitchers. I believe he will easily exceed his ADP expectations in 2019.
Alternative: Cody Allen, 234.64
Jordan Hicks, ADP 243.75
Andrew Miller, ADP 249.82
Archie Bradley, ADP 250.04
Mychal Givens, ADP 256.71
David Robertson, ADP 261.67
I am going to lump all of these quasi-closers here because you will need multiple relievers who can contribute saves. The values of these players may shift in the next couple of weeks as roles hopefully become more defined. All of these pitchers are capable of getting between 10-25 saves depending on how things shake out. I can’t say for sure who will end 2019 with the most saves of this group. But I like Robertson the best. To me, he has the best skill set and is on the best team. If he can earn manager Gabe Kapler’s trust and hold off Seranthony Dominguez, he will provide a massive return on investment.
Collin McHugh, ADP 266.02
Like Stripling, McHugh is listed as a reliever. Unlike Stripling, McHugh is basically already guaranteed a spot in the rotation. McHugh added a slider when he went to the bullpen back in 2017, and he has become a much better pitcher. If he can carry those gains back into the rotation, he could be a steal this late in drafts. He also pitches for a great team with an excellent defense behind him. I am totally fine grabbing McHugh a couple of rounds early if need be.
Alternative: Kyle Gibson, ADP 257.49
Drew Steckenrider, ADP 273.29
Shane Greene, ADP 273.47
Alex Colomé, ADP 289.67
Trevor May, ADP 292.49
Pedro Strop, ADP 310.02
Here I have lumped several additional closers together. In looking at the charts provided in Doug’s piece, you will likely need three sources of saves if you are building a pitching staff this late. Steckenrider feels the safest among this group, so I will go with him. Keep in mind that there are other options even further below, such as Joe Jimenez, Matt Barnes, Mark Melancon, Greg Holland, Brad Boxberger, and Ryan Brasier, just to name a few. For now, I will give Steckenrider 20 saves with decent peripherals.
Could this work? Well, it could. Here are the projections I have for this staff:
You can definitely put together a staff with decent ratios and find saves on the cheap, but wins and strikeouts would be hard to come by. I have projected the staff I assembled to amass 82 wins. That would have netted me 5.5 points in Fantrax leagues last season. 65 saves would have gotten me 6.5 points. My 3.71 team ERA would have provided 8 points and 1.20 WHIP would have had me at 9.5 points. Strikeouts would clearly be this team’s Achilles’ heel. My total of 1185 would have only garnered 2 league points, thus giving me a total of 31.5 throughout all five pitching categories. This would put me a bit short of my goal of 35.
However, this is not a case where all hope is lost. One thing we have to remember is that the figures above are not linear. First of all, the thresholds themselves are likely to change. This year, 82 wins might get me seven points, rather than 5.5. Wins are becoming harder and harder for starters to amass as bullpen usage becomes greater than ever.
Another thing to keep in mind is that I would not be tied to these players and these players only for the entire season. The main reason my wins and strikeouts are low is because my innings pitched are extremely low. However, there is a quick fix for this problem – streaming pitching. Using streamers would be a necessary evil for those who wish to go this route. If utilized properly, it would be a great way to boost counting categories with minimal ratio damage. There will also be a lot of turnover throughout the league as the season unfolds. This is especially the case at closer, the most volatile position in baseball. Therefore, scouring the wire to find those gems would be paramount to the success of a team trying to draft in this manner.
Ultimately, I would not suggest this strategy in deep leagues or in uber-competitive formats. For example, Alvarado and Robertson went significantly higher in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, which is a league of industry personnel. Because of this, your bullpen may be a bit behind the curve and you would likely be forced to overpay for the Hollands and Boxbergers of the world. But I am intrigued enough by this experiment that I might try it in one of my leagues just to see how it plays out. If anything, building a pitching staff after the 14th round should be an entertaining exercise and a learning opportunity.
Are you buying into thise extreme strategy? For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2019 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
Mick Ciallela has been writing for FantraxHQ since July 2017. He has also written for Bleacher Report. He is a lifelong sports fan and has been an avid fantasy sports player for many years. Mick was the Overall Champion of both the 2016 Football Challenge – Roto and 2017 Play 3 Football contests hosted by CDM Sports. Mick was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York and currently resides in New London, Connecticut.
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