2024 Fantasy Baseball Busts – Pitchers

by Corey Pieper
2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Pitchers

The 2024 Fantasy Baseball Busts for Pitchers is the next article in the ever-expanding 2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit on Fantasy Six Pack.

Some busts are inevitable in a game like baseball where luck is a factor. A batter can hit a screaming line drive at over 100 miles per hour, but it gets snagged by a great play by the third baseman. That next batter can come to bat and hit a dribbler 45 miles per hour that just stays fair for a hit.

For pitchers, that same luck affects the WHIP they offer, which in turn can lead to changes in their ERA. Some good luck can lead to being overvalued, while poor luck can lead to being undervalued.

Two risk factors can elevate bust potential: 1) A pitcher consistently walking batters is more likely to surrender earned runs because of more base runners and 2) A pitcher who has struggled with injuries in the past is unlikely to suddenly become a beacon of health.

Remember, the best site to play fantasy baseball this season is Fantrax. If you have never played a league on Fantrax, try the Fantasy Six Pack Series as your starting point. This is a free league where you can play against analysts from across the fantasy baseball industry.

Read on to see who the fantasy baseball bust pitchers are for 2024.

2024 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Pitchers

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Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians

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A discussion of Shane Bieber has to start with the injury to his throwing arm. He did not pitch between July 9 and Sept. 22 due to elbow inflammation. Bieber was also limited to 96 innings with a strain in his throwing shoulder in the 2021 season.

The elbow injury seems at least partially responsible for the scary skills decline that Bieber had. While never a hard thrower, his average fastball is down to 91.3 miles per hour. The swinging strike on the fastball fell to the 1st percentile in all of major league baseball. As a result, the strikeout rate plummeted to 7.5 per nine innings. Not getting strikeouts means giving up contact, and in his case, it was hard contact. He was in the bottom five percentile in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. He was able to mitigate that damage with a strong ground ball rate that kept his ERA to a manageable 3.80. It should be noted that his expected ERA was almost a full run higher at 4.77.

The FantasyPros ADP for Shane Bieber still sits at 139 overall. That's still an 11th-round pick in a 12-team league. Could he return to his Cy Young caliber form of a few seasons ago? Anything is possible, but between the health concerns and apparent skills decline, there are safer options later in the draft.

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

This selection all depends on risk tolerance. Walker Buehler's ADP is 121 overall. If Buehler is fully recovered from his second Tommy John surgery and is back to his 2021 self, that's a steal. He was a workhorse that season with 207 innings. He struck out 212 batters with a 2.47 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.  In his 2022 season, he looked like a shell of himself which led to a 4.02 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Of course, he would undergo Tommy John surgery that August. That was likely responsible for part of the skills erosion that we saw.

The biggest concern for Buehler is that this is his second Tommy John surgery. The list of pitchers who had substantial success after their second Tommy John surgery is small. The best successful examples are Texas Rangers Nathan Eovaldi and Chicago Cubs Jameson Taillon. Minnesota Twins Chris Paddack returned at the very end of last season from his second surgery with some limited success in a couple of relief appearances.

There was talk of a late-season Buehler bullpen appearance in 2023, but that never developed. However, some footage of him working out does help to boost confidence.

We recently learned that he will be unavailable for the first few weeks of the season. It's enough to look elsewhere at his cost.

Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

If you want strikeouts, Dylan Cease is your guy. Over the last three seasons, he has 667 strikeouts which ranks fourth in all of baseball. The three pitchers ahead of him are New York Yankees' Gerrit Cole, Baltimore Orioles' Corbin Burnes, and Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Gausman who go earlier in fantasy drafts. However, those three pitchers pitch more innings and limit walks when compared to Cease.

Over the last three seasons, Cease has led the league in walks issued. Shaky control all about assures an elevated WHIP. Only once in his five career seasons has he had a WHIP below 1.25. With opponents consistently on base, he is always walking a tightrope on where his ERA is going to end up. In 2022, he had a remarkable 2.20 ERA, but that was bolstered by a 260 BABIP. 2022 withstanding, his other three full seasons he's finished with ERAs of 4.01, 3.91, and 4.58. Seems likely he'll be within that range again.

Cease is more than likely going to hurt you in the ratio categories. While wins are fluky, as long as he remains on the White Sox it feels unlikely he will be a benefit in that category either.

This is a pitcher who is only guaranteed to help with strikeouts. With a consensus ADP of 95, that is too rich. If you want strikeouts, draft Kansas City Royals' Cole Ragans who has a later ADP.

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies

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Consistent starts, innings, and strikeouts are what fantasy owners have come to expect from Aaron Nola during his Phillies tenure. Going back to the 2018 season, Nola leads the league in games started with 175 games started. He is also second (Gerrit Cole) in innings pitched during that period with 1065 innings pitched. If you look at strikeouts, he falls to third behind Cole and Max Scherzer with 1,209 strikeouts.

Nola's inconsistencies during that time have come in the ratio categories. It seems that Nola alternates good ratio seasons with poor ratio seasons. In the even-numbered years, Nola's ERA's have been 2.37, 3.28, and 3.25. In the odd-numbered years, his ERA's have been 3.87, 4.63, and last year's 4.46. Nola's three lowest career WHIPs have been in the last three even-numbered years. Meanwhile, his odd-numbered year WHIPs have been 1.27, 1.13, and 1.15.

If you're a believer in the every-other-year paradox, feel free to draft Nola at his 46th overall ADP. He is still going as the eighth starting pitcher off the board. Nola's volume makes him a reliable SP2, but shoot for upside with your first starting pitcher. Detroit Tigers' Tarik Skubal and Milwaukee Brewers Freddy Peralta are pitchers going later that offer elite upside.

Blake Snell, Free Agent

Blake Snell won his second Cy Young Award in 2023. He earned that award by leading the league in ERA with a minuscule 2.25. He also led the league in walks this season with 99 which led to the unique fact that he is the only player in history to lead the league in walks and ERA in a single season. While it's unlikely he will lead the league in walks again, it is also unlikely he will lead the league in ERA.

We also are still waiting on a destination for where Snell will sign. He seems likely to sign before the season starts, but it's doubtful it will be in a better pitching environment than he did with San Diego. Statcast's Park Factors ranked San Diego's Petco Park as the 2nd best pitcher's park last season. The only park that was better to pitch in was Seattle T-Mobile Park.

Drafting Snell knowing you can bank his strikeouts is fine. Don't forget that before last season, he had reached 130 innings once in his seven-year career so you can't rely on volume. Some underlying stats to note are the .256 BABIP and the absurd 86.7% left on-base rate. Among qualified pitchers, his strand rate was 6% better than second-place finisher Gerrit Cole.

With an ADP of 58, you're looking at taking Snell in the fifth round. Should his numbers normalize he will likely return to being the pitcher he was the years before. That was also a pitcher that typically went outside the top 100 picks. Paying a premium after his Cy Young year is understandable, but that's too high.

Check out the rest of the Fantasy Baseball content from all of the F6P writers.

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