2024 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

by Keith Lott
2024 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

This MLB offseason, we saw a few transactions that are expected to have a huge impact on the 2024 Fantasy Baseball season. I will begin the Starting Pitcher Preview with the most recent one - Corbin Burnes being traded to the Baltimore Orioles. You can read a more in-depth breakdown of that trade, but the immediate takeaway is that Burnes moves from a less competitive National League Central to the American League East, a division that includes two of the top run-scoring teams in the league last year (Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays), the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Burnes had a much stronger second half last year and looks to continue to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, in a contract year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers went out and traded for Tyler Glasnow and signed Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Clayton Kershaw is now officially back, but most of last year's Opening Day rotation is no longer with the team or recovering from injury.

Julio Urias (domestic abuse) is likely to be suspended should a team sign him, as he is a repeat offender.

Noah Syndergaard was traded last season and how now pitched for four different teams in the past two seasons and remains a free agent.

Dustin May just started throwing again and is looking to return around the All-Star Break.

Walker Buehler and Tony Gonsolin are recovering from Tommy John surgery, leaving Bobby Miller, James Paxton and Emmet Sheehan to fill out the rest of the Dodgers rotation.

At least next year they will be able to slot Shohei Ohtani into the mix!

The Atlanta Braves acquired Chris Sale this winter, solidifying the backend of their rotation and the Boston Red Sox quickly replaced him by signing Lucas Giolito.

We are a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training and the 2024 Fantasy Baseball draft season will be here before we know it! Let's take a look at what this new season potentially has in store for us!

Be sure to check out the rest of Fantasy Six Pack's position previews!

2024 Fantasy Baseball Previews

2024 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Preview

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Can Spencer Strider Repeat His 2023 Dominance?

Drafting Spencer Strider (or Gerrit Cole) is akin to drafting Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts in Fantasy Football. It comes with tremendous upside, but at a pretty significant cost.

In order to draft Spencer Strider at the end of the first round, you have to pass on players like Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Trea Turner, Shohei Ohtani, Jose Ramirez and Matt Olson. It's a hard pill to swallow but his 13.55 K/9 last season is impossible to ignore. We are talking about the second-best K/9 from a starting pitcher ever (min 150 IP), behind only Gerrit Cole in 2019.

There is no reason to believe Strider is not going to lead the league in strikeouts, finish with one of the best ERA's and lowest WHIP and win a majority of his starts (20 wins last year) with plenty of run support from the Atlanta Braves offense that led the MLB in runs scored last season.

There really is no argument against Spencer Strider but you need to have a plan in place to draft your hitters, who play every day versus a starting pitcher who will every so often get a two-start week.

What Is The Best Strategy For Drafting Starting Pitchers?

Are there Fantasy managers out there still considering going pitching-heavy in the early rounds? As of February 6th, over the last two weeks, there are only six starting pitchers being drafted in the first three rounds, according to NFBC 12 team ADP and just 12 in the first 50 picks.

It is still important to make sure you grab an Ace for your Fantasy rotation, but you can find that SP1 in the fifth or sixth round if you want to wait it out. This is when you can start to build your starting pitching around guys like Framber Valdez, Kodai Senga, Logan Gilbert, Logan Webb, Max Fried and Blake Snell (should he ever sign with a team!).

Starting Pitchers On The Rise

Cole Ragans, Kansas City Royals

If Ragans can fix some control issues (3.39 BB/9 as SP), he could have a real breakout-type season as a 26-year-old in his first full season as a starting pitcher. The Royals traded for Ragans last year in exchange for Aroldis Chapman. He pitched out of the bullpen for Texas, but Kansas City immediately added him to their rotation and he took full advantage of this opportunity.

Over his first nine starts, he compiled 69 strikeouts in 53.1 innings with a 1.69 ERA and opponents hit .192 against him. He only allowed one home run during this stretch from July 15 to September 10th.

He is the Royals defacto Ace and around pick 100 he could be one of the more valuable draft assets this season.

Michael King, San Diego Padres

King comes to San Diego via New York in the Juan Soto trade. He is slotted in the middle of the not-so-deep Padres rotation, behind Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish,  He was used both as a starter and out of the bullpen by the Yankees and last year he pitched over 100 innings in 49 appearances, nine starts.

As a starter, King pitched to a 2.23 ERA over 40.1 innings with an 11.38 K/9 (25.8 K-BB%).

King is projected (ATC) to have very similar stats to Musgrove, who will be drafted three or four rounds earlier!

Among pitchers with 100 innings pitched last year, Michael Kings' 33.2% CSW% (Called + Swinging Strikes) trailed only Spencer Strider and Tyler Glasnow!

Starting Pitchers On The Decline

Marcus Stroman, New York Yankees

Stroman is coming off a very strange season with the Cubs, that ended very poorly and an injury to boot. After a brilliant first half of the season, Stroman fell apart in 24 second-half innings. Let's blame it on the injuries, I am fine with that. But that has been a recurring theme in recent years.

We all know who Stroman is at this point in his career, a ground ball pitcher who doesn't strikeout many batters. In years past, we have seen him struggle with his walk rates and now pitching at Yankee Stadium against a tough American League East, we could see his HR/FB% creep back up into the 16/17% range as it was during his tenure with the Blue Jays in 2016/17.

Last year, Stroman generated the lowest CSW% of his career at 26%.

Frankie Montas, Cincinnati Reds

Montas is now pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball. Not an ideal place for a guy looking to re-establish his career at age 31 coming off shoulder surgery.

His 2021-22 stretch with the Oakland A's was great, but his injury history and landed spot in free agency are a huge concern. It was obviously enough of a concern for MLB front offices as well as there are still teams looking for starting pitchers and Spring Training is about to start!

Montas will be drafted on name recognition alone later in drafts, he might be worth the late-round stash but it's hard to make any case for him having a bounce-back season.

Starting Pitchers On The Horizon

Kyle Harrison, San Francisco Giants

Harrison is 22 years old and the Giants' top prospect. He made seven starts in his first cup of tea with San Francisco and owned a 28.4 CSW%.

Behind Logan Webb, the San Francisco rotation is bare and Harrison should be afforded every opportunity to spend the entire season in the Majors, barring utter catastrophe. It's such a concern that they signed Jordan Hicks an are converting him to a starter!

They will watch Harrison's innings as he was drafted out of high school and has pitched about 100 innings in each of the last three seasons.

It will be interesting to watch his ADP this draft season as managers who love prospects will target him near 225 but in leagues where managers prefer veterans, he could slide down near 275.

Joe Boyle, Oakland Athletics

I put this article together before the A's traded for Ross Stripling. Now Boyle will battle Luis Medina for the final spot in the rotation or we could see a six-man rotation at times.

Boyle is 6'7 and has the highest strikeout upside in this current iteration of the Athletics rotation. Last season, Boyle won two of his three starts in September, striking out 11 batters (3 walks) over 14 innings. He was acquired from the Reds last season for relief pitcher Sam Moll.

He will have to limit his walk rate in order to be a successful MLB pitcher. His sub-3 BB/9 in the Majors last year was well below his career averages.

A hot Spring Training could turn him into a late-round stash, but more than likely we will see Boyle being used as a streaming option this season.

Starting Pitchers To Avoid

Looking at this from a purely analytical point of view, the following pitchers' projections (ATC) do not line up with their early average draft position.

Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers

Skubal is being drafted as a top-12 pitcher, but projections have him around SP20. Believe it or not, Skubal is already 27 years old and is only averaging 115 innings over his three full seasons in the Majors.

He was fantastic last year, debuting in July, but his upside should remain limited as he has thrown more than 117 innings in the Pros just once, three years ago.

Skubal to me seems like the type of pitcher that you should look to flip after a hot start, should he find his way onto your roster. Hopefully, you only added him because he fell outside the top 50!

Eury Perez, Miami Marlins

Perez looked great in his first MLB season and won't turn 21 years old until after the first pitch of the 2024 MLB season. Despite the 20% K-BB%, I would love to see Perez lower his walk rate below 8% as he also gave up a 1.48 HR/9 while stranding 83% of runners (which seems to me to be unsustainable).

The only other pitchers last season with 90 innings pitched, a 20%+ K-BB% and a xFIP greater than or equal to 4.00 were Hunter Greene, Max Scherzer, Bailey Ober. Of that group, Perez's xFIP and SIERA were the highest.

Perez is a special talent, but I am not sure I am spending my sixth or seventh-round pick on a guy projected for 134 innings and 25 starts.

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