It does not matter if you are playing in a points league or a rotisserie league, starting pitchers are half the battle. Like in real baseball, a good pitching staff will take you far. And, like in real baseball, if you want a top-flight pitching staff you are going to have to pay for it.
There are a few ways to go about drafting your pitching staff, and I am sure you have seen them all in drafts already. You have the guy that spends his first six picks on starting pitching, then rattles off the six household names he drafted whenever the word baseball comes up. There is, of course, the opposite. The guy that has both his corner and middle infield spots filled before drafting his first starter. You know who both of these guys are in your league.
If you are one of those guys or gals, I’m here to try to snap you out of it. Whether it be football, basketball, or baseball, it is never a good idea to go into a draft with a rigid “strategy”. That isn’t to say go into a draft without a plan, but anything that limits your ability to adapt to the flow of the draft could sink your team.
When it comes to drafting starting pitchers, you want to take sure things early, usually at least one top tier guy in the first few rounds. As for the rest of your rotation, have a list of players that you are targeting and know how much you’re willing to pay. Then, follow the flow of the draft and see where other teams are to determine whether it is safe to wait on a player, or if it is time to reach for a guy you really like. Also, keep a list of sleepers that you want to keep in mind late in the draft.
Follow our position previews and the rest of our great preseason content to get yourself ready for draft day.
2018 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers Preview
HOW DOES SIGNING WITH THE CUBS AFFECT YU DARVISH’S VALUE?
The first big free agent domino has fallen. The Cubs went out and signed themselves an ace in Yu Darvish. As far as Darvish’s fantasy value is concerned, it is hard to argue that landing in Chicago doesn’t elevate him at least to some extent. Yu Darvish has spent most of his career in Texas, one of the worst parks for pitchers in the league. Despite that fact, Darvish has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league, especially in the strikeout category.
In his short stint for the Dodgers, Darvish proved what he could do in a pitchers park. He earned a 3.44 ERA and a 30% strikeout rate with Los Angeles, and his new home might be even more advantageous. While Wrigley Field is a pretty neutral park, the defense playing behind him is one of the best in the league and run support should not be an issue. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better situation for a pitcher.
So, it is clear that Yu Darvish has all the tools at his disposal to have a career year and touch well over 200 strikeouts. But where to take him? Our own Joe Bond and Tyler Thompson have Darvish ranked as the 13th pitcher off the board. Some would say that seems low based on what we’ve already said about Darvish’s new gig, it is spot on to me. All of these positives for Darvish sound great, but if he is not available none of it will matter. His recent injury history is a cause for concern, though the upside is immense if he can stay healthy.
WHEN SHOULD I DRAFT SHOHEI OHTANI?
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Shohei Ohtani is a guy that has been keeping league commissioners and big shots at popular fantasy sites up at night. What are we supposed to do with a player that projects to be in the Angels rotation once every five games and in the lineup for the other four? While this question remains to be answered by most fantasy sites, Yahoo has released their solution. Ohtani will exist in their player universe twice. While this is by no means a perfect solution, I can’t think of a better or more fair outcome.
Since his pitching will be the stronger of his contributions, and this is a pitching article, that is what we’ll focus on. The most recent players to make the jump from Japan with some fanfare were Masahiro Tanaka and Kenta Maeda. Both of these pitchers, and others who made the jump, usually saw their ERA go up by over one run. Ohtani averaged a 2.44 ERA over his last three full seasons in Japan.
As for when you should draft Ohtani, it all depends on how he is categorized and where his value is closer to draft day. If he is categorized in your league as only a pitcher I wouldn’t draft him in the first seven or eight rounds. His ADP will probably be above that come draft time, so if you really want him you’ll have to reach. That could prove to be a genius or a costly move.
HOW EARLY CAN I DRAFT CLAYTON KERSHAW?
The age-old first round question: Do I get the big bat or the top arm? It all depends on how you want to build your team. If you’re someone who prefers pitching and won’t be able to sleep if you don’t get Kershaw, then, by all means, draft him top-five. Because if you don’t draft him in the first round, someone else will. Just know what you’re leaving on the board if you spend a top-five pick on him.
You can still have a great lineup if you spend your first round pick on a player like Kershaw. What would be advised, however, is that you would spend the next two or three picks on building your lineup. If you know you’re going Kershaw in round one, you need to familiarize yourself with value picks at all positions for batters, because you will have to make up the ground you lost in the hitting categories.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
JOSE BERRIOS, SP, MINNESOTA TWINS
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2017 featured what seemed to be two different versions of second-year pitcher Jose Berrios. We started with a version that looked like a Cy Young contender. By the end of the season, however, we had a version of Berrios that was getting past five innings only about half of the time. So why is he on the rise?
In Berrios’ rookie season, he was a disaster. He went into the offseason before his second year and put in the work. The result was a dominant pitcher for the better part of three months. This shows that whatever Berrios needs to fix, he will fix. Whether the reason for his second-half struggles was stamina or a mechanical issue, he’s proven knows how to work on it in the offseason.
With another year under his belt, we should see continued improvement from Berrios. We will see more of the early season Jose Berrios in 2018.
LUIS CASTILLO, SP, CINCINNATI REDS
Luis Castillo was baseball’s best-kept secret in 2018. Hiding behind an ugly 3-7 record, arguably the least important stat for a pitcher, Castillo’s debut in the majors was received as underwhelming. There are a lot of other stats that tell the story of a player that had a great debut and will only be better in 2018.
Most impressively, Castillo ranked 1st among starting pitchers for fastball velocity at 97.5 mph. What may be the most important metric, however, is his groundball rate. Castillo ranked 6th in the MLB with a 59.7 groundball rate, an essential skill when pitching in Cincinnati. He can miss bats as well, racking up a 9.9 K/9 rate.
Castillo has already been named to the rotation for 2018 after only fifteen starts. He should probably be in your rotation as well.
PLAYERS ON THE DECLINE
FELIX HERNANDEZ, SP, SEATTLE MARINERS
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Felix Hernandez is no longer the king. One of the most fun players to watch on the mound is now a shell of his former self. Hernandez only managed sixteen starts last season due to nagging injuries and was not very good in those starts. Hernandez gave up seventeen homers in just 86 innings. His 4.36 ERA was a full run over his career average.
Probably the most dooming piece of information for Hernandez is the Mariners plans for him in 2018. They want to get thirty starts out of him, which is great, but it looks like their plan is to skip him in the rotation every now and again. It is also being discussed to monitor his pitches, which is an ominous phrase for fantasy owners. Felix Hernandez will go at a bargain up against the weight his name carries, but even then you’re not getting what you pay for. Let another sucker in your league fall for the name brand trap.
COLE HAMELS, SP, TEXAS RANGERS
2017 was a season to forget by Cole Hamels‘ standards. He posted a 4.20 ERA which was the second worst of his career and worst since 2009. His K/9 was by far the worst of his career at 6.89, and his strikeout percentage came in at 17%, six points lower than his career average.
What is even more scary about Hamels’ prospects for 2018, is that his BABIP. His was .251, about .50 points below what is considered average. While BABIP is not exclusively an indicator of luck, you have to figure that Hamels will not be so fortunate on balls he allows to be put in play this season.
PLAYERS ON THE HORIZON
BRENT HONEYWELL, SP, TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Every season I have “that guy”. That guy who makes me fall in love with his fantasy prospects the more I learn about him. That guy that I end up reaching for to make sure he is on all my teams. This season, Brent Honeywell is that guy.
Not a new name for most die-hard baseball people, Honeywell is universally considered a top five pitching prospect in baseball. He has dominated the Triple-A ranks and figures to make his major league debut this season. His 3.64 ERA is pretty good and was inflated by a higher than average BABIP (.356). His 11.1 K/9 is what really sets Honeywell apart. Hopefully, we will get to see him in the majors this season, where he has huge fantasy upside.
All of the stats aside, my favorite thing about Brent Honeywell is his attitude. When he was refused a promotion from Triple-A to the majors in 2017, he did not take it too well. This resulted in him earning himself a four-game suspension. On the surface, this looks like a negative. However, when you are a pitcher you have to have this kind of cutthroat attitude. You have to know you’re the best. The big stage will not be too much for this guy, and he will thrive under the lights.
MICHAEL KOPECH, SP, CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Michael Kopech is not as sure a thing to make the majors early in 2018, but his potential is as exciting as Honeywell’s. Kopech has seen less Triple-A time as his Tampa Bay counterpart but was better than his 8-7 record indicated in Double-A. He posted a 2.88 combined ERA over 25 starts (3 in Triple-A).
Kopech’s 11.5 K/9 is through the roof, though it would be good to see it against higher level competition. Kopech is the number two prospect in the White Sox system, earning him a non-roster invite to spring training. The White Sox are not exactly loaded at starting pitcher, so we very well could see Kopech this season.
PLAYER TO AVOID
GERRIT COLE, SP, HOUSTON ASTROS
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Gerrit Cole had the worst season of his career in 2017. To his credit, Cole is good for 200 innings almost without fail. The problem with Cole is his value. His 4.62 ERA came with 31 home runs allowed, more than the last three seasons combined.
Cole is being ranked much too high almost everywhere you look, ahead of players like Alex Wood, who you can get for cheaper. Moving from the NL to the AL has not been a recipe for success for pitchers as of late, and most of the players being drafted around him are safer bets. Cole will be a nice addition for the Astros, but he is a little rich for my blood.
|2018 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews|
|Catcher||First Base||Second Base||Third Base||Shortstop||Outfield||Starting Pitcher||Relief PItcher|
Check out the rest of our great Fantasy Baseball content as the 2018 season approaches.