2020 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

by Jonathan Chan
2020 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

Welcome to the 2020 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview. Hopefully, everyone had a relaxing Sunday and is ready to jump back into draft research,

If you haven't already, check out the whole series of position previews.

Catchers | First Base | Second Base | Third Base | Shortstop | Outfield

Starting pitcher can be one of the most hotly debated positions in all of Fantasy. Some experts swear that waiting on starters is the only way to win your league, while others believe that spending a premium on pitchers is worth the stability at the top of your rotation.

As it has been for the last couple of years, the position is incredibly deep, filled with exciting young talent and veterans with the potential to bounce back.

With plenty of questions to answer, let's get into what we can expect in 2020.

2020 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

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Is Gerrit Cole still the No.1 option after moving to the Bronx?

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Cole signed a record-setting deal with the Yankees (nine-year, $324 million) in the offseason, making him the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history. Cole was incredible during his tenure in Houston, posting a 2.68 ERA with an absurd 5.38 K/BB ratio.

There is some concern that the move to New York will negatively affect him, but Yankee Stadium was actually a much friendlier park than Minute Maid Park was last season.

Yankee Stadium ranked 29th and 25th in both runs scored and home runs last season, according to ESPN Park Factors, making it one of the friendliest pitcher parks last season. On the other hand, Minute Maid Park ranked seventh and sixth in the same categories respectively.

Cole is remarkably consistent, hitting 200 innings in four of the last five years. Jacob deGrom is a close second, but Cole edges the two-time back-to-back in the wins category which, as much as baseball is moving away from it, still counts in standard Fantasy leagues.

Can Corey Kluber bounce back after a lost season?

2019 was the season from hell for Kluber and his owners. The two-time Cy Young winner started just seven games thanks to a fractured forearm and an oblique injury.

Kluber struggled mightily to start the season, even for his standards, finishing with a 5.80 ERA. The newest Texas Ranger has posted an April ERA above 4.00 in five of the last six years before picking it up as the season moves along. So even if he struggles to start this season, there's no need to bail early.

Prior to 2019, Kluber was coming off of two consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA and no one was complaining.

The move to the Rangers' new park won't hurt him as much, thanks to climate control. And the veteran should have no problem providing value at his current rank outside the top-20 pitchers.

Which Blake Snell will we see in 2020?

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Coming off a Cy Young in 2018, Snell was a massive disappointment in his follow up season. The 27-year old pitched just 107 innings with a 4.29 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.

His K% and BB% remained very similar to his Cy Young year, while his fly ball percentage and contact profiles (soft%, med%, and hard%) also remained the same.

Snell's bad season may have been a product of bad luck. His BABIP jumped from .241 to .343, his home run to fly ball rate jumped five percent to 15.4, and his LOB% dropped 17 percent to 71.6.

The "luck" based stats should normalize to somewhere between the last two seasons, as the BABIP and LOB% from 2018 would be hard to maintain.

If you're drafting Snell as a top 10 pitcher, you're assuming you'll be getting a full season out of him. The Rays are likely going to limit Snell's innings after season mired in elbow and toe injuries, meaning he'll have to be that much better when he does pitch.

Players on the rise

Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Gallen is coming off a spectacular rookie year split between the Marlins and Diamondbacks. The 24-year old posted a 2.81 ERA with a 28.7 strikeout percentage. His 12.8% swinging strike rate would have ranked 16th if he qualified, ahead of German Marquez, Noah Syndergaard, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler.

His 2.81 ERA is due for some regression, as indicated by his 3.61 FIP and 4.15 xFIP. If the young hurler is able to improve on his 4.05 BB/9 and maintain his strand rate he will provide SP3 value on a suddenly loaded Arizona team.

Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels

Canning started 17 games for the Angels last season, going 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA. While the results weren't great on the surface, Canning's underlying numbers point to a possible second-year breakout.

The Angel's second-round pick in 2017 maintained a 25 percent strikeout rate with a solid 7.8 percent walk rate. Canning's issue in the first half was home runs, giving up 1.80 HR/9. Before elbow surgery ended his season, Canning made big improvements in that area, giving up just one home run in his final 25.1 innings.

Like Gallen, Canning was excellent at generating swinging strikes, as his 13.8% rate would have tied Jack Flaherty for 10th in the majors. He allowed contact just 69.5 percent of the time, which would have been seventh-best in the league.

If Canning can maintain his K/BB rate and keep the ball in the yard, he could be in for a breakout season.

Players on the decline

Rick Porcello, New York Mets

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Porcello won 14 games with the Red Sox last season and cashed in on a new contract with the Mets. For years, Porcello has consistently found himself on Fantasy teams thanks to his ability to win games.

Porcello posted a career-high 5.52 ERA despite a career-best strand rate in 2019. The former Cy Young winner has never been a strong strikeout player and his 18.6 percent K-rate was his lowest since 2014.

His contact rate has gone up for three straight years and his fly ball rate reached a new career-high of 41.5%. With his move to New York, the ability to eek out victories behind a juggernaut offense is gone, and with it, the remaining bit of Porcello's Fantasy appeal.

Players on the horizon

Jesus Luzardo, Oakland Athletics

Luzardo was a favorite rising player last season, but an injury derailed his path to the Major League roster. When he did arrive in September, the 22-year old was excellent, posting a 1.50 ERA with a 28.3% K-BB rate in 12 innings.

He won't continue to put up such gaudy numbers once his .160 BABIP normalizes and he begins to make regular starts. However, his underlying skills will make him an excellent option when he does play.

The one reason to be wary of Luzardo is his longevity. He pitched just 51 innings last year and hasn't gone more than 78 in a single season.

Expect him to get moved between the bullpen and rotation throughout the year making him a tantalizing, but frustrating option.

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Urias has been jumping back and forth between the minors and the bullpen for the better part of three seasons. Before a serious shoulder injury, Urias was considered one of the best prospects in the majors. Finally back to full health, he has a chance to fulfill that potential.

As a starter, Urias posted a 3.26 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. The Dodgers will likely try to limit his innings once again, so owners shouldn't expect too many long starts from Urias.

Expect Urias to hit 130-140 IP with a shutdown schedule similar to what the Padres did with Chris Paddack last season. The Dodgers now have an absolutely loaded lineup, so Urias should have no problem picking up wins.

Like Luzardo, talent and output won't be the problem with Urias, it will be the number of innings he's expected to throw.

Players to avoid

Chris Archer, Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 was Archer's worst season as a major league pitcher. In just 119.2 innings, the two-time all-star posted a carer worsts in ERA (5.19), BB/9 (4.14), and HR/9.

Archer's FB% also reached a career-high, which makes the boosted home run rate even more concerning. He has name value that many owners will reach for in the middle-late rounds of drafts. The decline in performance combined with his recent injury issues (three trips to the IL in the last two seasons) makes him a very risky pick without enough upside to make up for the risk.

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2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Outfielders - Fantasy Six Pack February 13, 2020 - 8:00 am

[…] Catchers | First Base | Second Base | Third Base | Shortstop | Outfield | Starting Pitcher  […]


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