Draft This, Not That: Starting Pitchers

The deeper the league the more desire I have to lock up a pair of top-tier starting pitchers. The reason for this is because pitching is deep. If that didn’t make sense to you at all it’s because you’ve been brainwashed by all the people who tell you to pass on the aces because pitching is deep. I want to snag my pair of aces and then check back in on starting pitching sometime just after 200 names are off the draft board in a snake draft. That’s where I will really go to work on rounding out my rotation. Inside the top 200, I want my pair of aces, a pair of closers and every other pick to be focused on hitting. In a 15 team league that likely means I’m leaving the top 200 with 4 or 5 pitchers and 8 or 9 hitters. Meanwhile those who miss out on the top pitching are likely going to look to snag 6 or 7 pitchers to go with 6 or 7 hitters inside the top 200. To pull off a pitching plan centered on a pair of aces you’re going to need to do some work to really narrow down who is worthy of being targeted as you move into 200+ ADP range. Here are some names to pass on and target as you make your way through your draft this season.

Draft This Not That

Draft Marcus Stroman – Not Sonny Gray

Both Marcus Stroman and Sonny Gray are fine pitchers for what is reasonable to expect from them. I just prefer Stroman because he’s currently going off the board about 38 picks later than Gray based on early NFBC ADP data and he offers about the same upside as Gray. Gray gets the draft favoritism because he has had full season success in the major leagues before and he throws his home games in a pitcher’s park. I do not like to predict wins, but I feel the Blue Jays are likely to offer Stroman a chance at a few more wins than Gray should be expected to earn with the A’s.

Each player relies heavily on well-located fastballs that sit in the low 90’s and they both like to compliment the fastball with a slider, curve, and a change-up. Each player is considered to be of slight stature. Sonny Gray checks in at 5’11”, while Stroman takes the mound at just 5’9”.

What this really comes down to is what can you do instead of picking Gray at his ADP if you are willing to wait for his near mirror statistically in Stroman two to four rounds later (depending on your league size)? Let’s say you wanted to go with a closer and a starting pitcher in those two draft slots. You could have Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman along with Stroman. Or, you could go with Gray and then select Hector Rondon a few rounds later. I like making projections of my own, but let’s check in with the familiar Streamer on which option would be better:

  • Gray + Rondon = 3.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 230 K’s
  • Chapman + Stroman = 3.31 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 262 K’s
  • Jansen + Stroman = 3.38 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 241 K’s

Pretty easy decision, right? Now let’s say you wanted to pair Sonny Gray or Marcus Stroman with a hitter instead. If you wanted an outfielder, the nearest one going after Gray on average is Jason Heyward. Just ahead of Gray is Carlos Gonzalez. The nearest outfielder going off the board after Stroman is Michael Brantley. Just ahead of Stroman is Ben Revere. About the only thing you might be able to count on with a healthy Brantley doing better than Heyward would be to produce a slightly higher batting average. Now factor in that Brantley could miss anywhere from two weeks to two months this coming season and the option of a Heyward/Stroman combination is far more appealing than a Gray/Brantley one. I would also much prefer the Carlos Gonzalez/Stroman combination to one of Gray/Ben Revere. Revere is decent for what he can do in three categories and abysmal in two other categories. Carlos Gonzalez has shown us repeatedly what he can do across the five offensive categories fantasy players care about most. I could do this all day. Pass on Sonny Gray, load up on something else at that point in the draft and laugh all the way to your championship with Marcus Stroman as a part of your rotation.

For 2016, I project the following stat lines:

IP ERA WHIP K’s
Sonny Gray 205 3.35 1.20 170
Marcus Stroman 190 3.35 1.20 165

Draft Kyle Hendricks – Not Shelby Miller

We have moved a little further down the NFBC ADP chart with this one. Just taking a gander at the ERA outputs from a season ago you would think I was nuts with this call. Shelby Miller finished 2015 with an ERA of 3.02 while Kyle Hendricks checked in at 3.95. There are two statistics I put more weight in though and those are K/BB and xFIP. Those two statistics tell quite a different story about Miller and Hendricks. Comparing their K/BB marks from 2015, we see that Miller had a 2.34 K/BB, while Hendricks eclipsed him by a wide margin at a K/BB of 3.88. A quick look at the xFIP their 2015 seasons produced show Miller at 4.07 and Hendricks at an impressive 3.25.

Pitching in Arizona for half of his starts is not going to be anything like calling home to St. Louis or Atlanta as Miller has recently had the pleasure of doing. Chase Field in Arizona had a 2015 park factor for run scoring at 1.062 versus 0.937 in Atlanta’s Turner Field.  Shelby Miller will not be on a 2016 roster of mine. For those of you wondering, the park factor for run scoring in Wrigley last year was 0.950.

With Kyle Hendricks going off the board 60 picks later than Miller, I am more than willing to see what can become of his K/BB and xFIP produced a season ago. Hendricks’ 212 ADP gives you a good shot at getting what someone like Jordan Zimmerman could do, and he’s coming off the board at an ADP of 121. One area Hendricks seems to need a slight correction to is the .320 BABIP against his most frequently used sinker. That’s the same sinker he leaned on in 2014 that produced a .283 BABIP. Lefty hitters have also plagued him a bit with the long ball. As a player about to enter his third year in the big leagues, I like his chances of making the corrections necessary and plan on make Hendricks a part of every fantasy roster I can fit him onto for 2016.

For 2016, I project the following stat lines:

IP ERA WHIP K’s
Shelby Miller 200 3.90 1.30 165
Kyle Hendricks 190 3.55 1.21 170

Draft Kevin Gausman – Not Carlos Rodon

Long term, I am a fan of Carlos Rodon, and you should be too for dynasty purposes. I would have told you the same thing about Kevin Gausman a few years ago. Let Gausman’s ascent be a reminder to those in re-draft leagues that not every pitcher arrives on the season in the manner that Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard have in recent seasons. Rodon will take a step forward this year, but he has to really chip away at that 4.59 BB% from 2015. He began to show some promise down the stretch, but I just can’t get behind clicking on his name at his 152 NFBC ADP.

Gausman on the other hand is starting to show the signs that he’s ready to be the guy we expect him to be as soon as 2016. His K/BB of 3.55 far eclipses that of Rodon who posted a K/BB of 1.96 in his 23 starts this past season. Something else Gausman has going for him is an average fastball velocity of 95.2 that he locates nicely. Pass on Rodon at his 152 ADP and target Gausman a little before his NFBC ADP of 246 instead.

For 2016, I projected the following stat lines:

IP ERA WHIP K’s
Carlos Rodon 180 3.90 1.32 175
Kevin Gausman 180 3.65 1.23 180

Draft Erasmo Ramirez – Not Marco Estrada

I’m going to keep this brief. Let your league owners drool all over the 3.13 ERA and 1.04 WHIP Estrada posted in 2015. As they do that, you focus on his 4.93 xFIP and uncharacteristically high strand rate of 79.2%. Erasmo Ramirez checked in with a 3.88 xFIP and a strand rate of 70.5% that leaves some room for improvement this coming season. Finally, I’ll leave you with the K/BB mark for each pitcher. Estrada finished 2015 with a 2.38 K/BB while Ramirez trumped him with his own 3.15 K/BB. Pass on Estrada’s 256 ADP and target Erasmo Ramirez just ahead of his 310 ADP instead.  For most standard leagues, that’s an end-game pick.

For 2016, I projected the following stat lines:

IP ERA WHIP K’s
Marco Estrada 185 4.20 1.30 140
Erasmo Ramirez 180 3.80 1.20 140

Draft This / Not That Series
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfield

 

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Ron Vackar
Though Ron is a Dodgers fan, he is more likely to be found at Angel Stadium or Petco Park during the regular season. The Dodgers play 9-10 games a year in San Diego so Petco is basically Dodgers Stadium south. By day he is a high school teacher as well as a golf coach and previously coached baseball. When not working, he can be found at home with his beautiful wife and dog Brooklyn.
Ron Vackar

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