2017 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers: Don’t Reach, Young Blood

by Jonathan Chan
2017 fantasy baseball overvalued pitchers

When it comes to Fantasy Baseball, there are two cardinal rules I follow during draft season:

  1. Never draft Giancarlo Stanton or Stephen Strasburg with the impression that they will play a full season. Stop trying to make it happen. It's not going to happen.
  2. Don't reach for players who play a deep position.

Rule one has hopefully become common knowledge in the community. Rule two is preached every year, in every possible pre-draft resource but always falls by the wayside when people are on the clock. Much like quarterbacks in Fantasy Football, pitchers seem to fly off the board earlier than you anticipated, based on your hundreds (or thousands) of mock drafts.

If you're the type of owner who likes to draft Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer to anchor your rotation, more power to you. Rule two applies to the tier of pitchers who get drafted after the elites are off the board. With the depth of pitching, I advise to let other people reach for their favourites in the middle tier. Just kick back, relax and stack your lineup with a bunch of stud bats. Then panic when your late round sleepers bust (thanks Eduardo Rodriguez) and you're scrambling on the waiver wire. God, I missed Fantasy Baseball.

In the previous installment of this series, I went over five pitchers who are currently being undervalued in drafts. This time, I'll go over five pitchers who are being drafted a little too high, and should be avoided at their current ADP.

2017 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers

Cole Hamels, SP, Texas Rangers (FantasyPros ADP: 79.0)

Maybe I'm putting Hamels here because his 5.86 September ERA ruined my season. Or maybe he's here because signs are pointing to a decline in the former Fantasy ace. All season long, his inflated walk rate (3.45 BB/9) had owners wondering how long Hamels could continue out pitching his xFIP. The walk rate was a career high, and it was no surprise that struggled in the fall. Maybe it was the full season in Texas, but Hamels' HR/9 was also his highest since 2010.

Hamels' struggles may be attributed to two things. First, the amount of hard contact he surrendered in 2016 (32%) was significantly higher than his career average of 27%. This likely attributed to the bloated HR/FB ratio he posted. Second, the effectiveness of his changeup drastically declined. According to Fangraphs, the value of Hamels changeup, formerly his most effective pitch, was 1.5 last season. The pitch had averaged a value of 17.2 over his career.

The drop-off might be a one year aberration, but I'm not willing to take the risk on Hamels at his draft price. In the same range, I'd much rather wait for a guy like Jose Quintana.

Mark Melancon, RP, San Francisco Giants (FantasyPros ADP: 81.3)

Melancon has been one of the more consistent closers in baseball over the last three seasons. His control is impeccable (1.51 BB/9 in 2016) and he consistently keeps the ball in the park (0.38 HR/9). So why am I putting him in the overvalued column? Because he's being drafted as the fourth closer off the board.

As good as he's been in the ninth, I don't believe that he'll repeat his 1.64 ERA from last season. The Giants defense and park will continue to limit the runs he allows but an ERA over 2.00 sounds more realistic. The biggest reason I think he's being overvalued a tad is that he doesn't carry the same strikeout potential that other closers carry. Guys like Wade Davis, Cody Allen and Ken Giles will rack up the save chances while providing a huge boost to your strikeout totals at a lower price.

If you draft Melancon at his current ADP, he needs to be paired with a high strikeout ace in order to offset his good but not great K/9. This means paying a premium on both a closer and an ace at the expense of filling out the lineup. That's a strategy I cannot condone.

Kyle Hendricks, SP, Chicago Cubs (FantasyPros ADP: 65.7)

Just to re-iterate, this piece isn't for players I would completely avoid. This article is for players who are being overvalued at their current ADP. Now with the shields up, I can talk about Hendricks. Hendricks had an amazing season last year, posting a 2.13 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. The advanced metrics paint another picture, as his 3.20 FIP, 3.59 xFIP make me hesitant to draft him at his current price.

Hendricks reminds me of Dallas Keuchel from the 2016 pre-season. Hendricks had an amazing season predicated on his great control and improved swinging strike rate (10.2%). However, Hendricks was very lucky last season, as he held a .250 BABIP and 81.5 LOB%. The Cubs' historically good defense had something to do with that, but some regression is still to be expected. If the league makes adjustments and Hendricks isn't able to locate everything as perfectly as he did last season (similar to Keuchel), his ERA could creep towards to low-mid threes. I'm staying away at his current fifth-sixth round ADP.

Julio Urias, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers (FantasyPros ADP: 163.7)

This has nothing to do with the young man's talent. When Urias is fully unleashed, he has the chance to become one of the best pitchers in the game. However, the 2017 season will not be the year he is fully unleashed on the league. Urias pitched 122 innings last season, which was far and away his career high. The Dodgers haven't said what his innings limit will be this season, but you better believe it will be a strict one.

If the Dodgers continue to baby him, Urias will continue to see abbreviated outings. Of course, that means that his chances at earning wins will decrease so long as the Dodgers limit his outings to fewer than five innings. Even with his excellent 9.82 K/9, owners will be feeling short changed if Urias can't pitch deeper into games.

When Urias has the kid gloves taken off, every owner will want to be a part of the hype train. In re-draft leagues, I'm staying away from Urias due to the uncertainty surrounding his workload and his ability to contribute down the stretch.

Roberto Osuna, RP, Toronto Blue Jays (FantasyPros: 88.7)

Osuna has been very consistent in his two seasons as the Jays' closer, posting ERA's of 2.58 (2015) and 2.68 (2016) over the last two years. His low walk rate (1.70 BB/9) will help limit the poor outings he'll have. Osuna is the unquestioned closer in the Jays' bullpen, which gives him appeal as a safe option. However, his current ADP doesn't leave any room for profit.

Osuna is primarily a flyball pitcher, which hasn't hurt him thus far, but you're playing with fire with that strategy in the AL East. While his K/9 is a solid 9.97, it's not quite up to the level of the pitchers being drafted around him (i.e. Craig Kimbrel, Edwin Diaz, Ken Giles).

The Jays lineup will continue to provide Osuna with leads and save opportunities, making Osuna a solid contributor of RP stats. However, any change in his luck (.256 BABIP) could see his ERA creep closer to his 3.60 xFIP.

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