Cheaper Stephen Strasburg draft alternatives

We know that in fantasy we are supposed to draft stat lines over name brands ro those we are sentimental for.That doesn’t always play out as that inner Homer tends to lean towards the name despite the similar statistics or potential upside presented elsewhere. In that spirit,I’ve done a little digging through the starting pitcher pile looking for arms with similar potential to and going much later than the man whose name appears in the article title.

Stephen Strasburg – I LOVE this guy! He has won me some leagues, and he’s definitely lost me some leagues.  Still, flags fly forever!  Strasburg is just outside the four super aces for me.  He might even be in that mix if not for his spotty injury history.  Howver, fantasy baseball is all about value. As much as I love Stras, if I can find similar value further down the draft board – like the players below – maybe it might be worth waiting on drafting the Ace hurler  I’ll let you be the judge; here are today’s participants.

Player Sw Str % K% BB% GB% Avg MPH NFBC ADP
Strasburg 12.9 29 6.7 47 95.6 26
Player A 12.5 28 6.7 45 95.4 74
Player B 15.1 23 5.5 49 92.2 101
Player C 12 25.8 7.8 61 94.2 151

As awesome as Strasburg is, I think picking him in the first 2-3 rounds is risky.  Think of the hitters that you might be missing out on in the 26 ADP range.  When searching for similar options to Strasburg down the board, I not only thought about skill set. I also thought about “Could this guy be a top 5-10 pitcher if he stays healthy?”  That was always and will always be the question for Strasburg.  So that’s what it should be for any poenttial doppelgänger down the board.

Player A = James Paxton

I’ve been writing love letters about James Paxton for 18 months now.  It’s not a crush – it’s the real deal.  I’ve heard some analysts say that he has “left-handed Thor” potential.  I think “left-handed Stras” would be just as apt.  You can see that the numbers bear this out.  The stat lines are like looking into a mirror.  

Paxton throws just as hard and strikes out just as many people as Strasburg .  I think his stuff might actually be a hair better than Strasburg. He does have the disadvantage of being in the AL as opposed to the NL, but you couldn’t ask for a nicer hime park.  Everything about Paxton screams ace potential.  He has performed like a top 5-10 SP whenever he pitches, but just has not been able to pitch enough innings to achieve ace-dome.  Paxton is a large man and seems to be learning to throw a little softer in games to help prevent injury.  I’m hoping this adjustment will lead to an injury free 2018.  If he pitches 180 innings or more, Paxton is likely to be a fantasy ace.  

Strasburg is going around names like Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, J.D. Martinez, and Dee Gordon.  Paxton is going around names like Jean Segura, Dallas Keuchel, Eric Hosmer, and Domingo Santana.  I would much rather have the Paxton side of that pairing.  Given they are both potential injury risks it makes even more sense.

Player B = Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka had a weird year last year and is not nearly as one-to-one with Strasburg as Paxton is.  That said, Tanaka has had performances in the past where he was an ace and his underlying stats from last year look beautiful.  The one scary thing about Tanaka is his UCL and whether or not it will finally tear to the point that he has to get surgery.  

Tanaka’s 15.1% swinging strike rate was actually the best of this group, which surprised me.  The splitter was apparently as good as ever.  It didn’t lead to an elite K rate, but 23% is nothing to scoff at and his control is generally better than the others in this grouping.  He gets plenty of ground balls as well, which is important since his home field is certainly prone to home runs.  

I love Tanaka this year and don’t think anyone in the industry would be that surprised if he finished as a top 20 or possibly a top 10 option.  He has an absurdly good lineup and bullpen helping to ensure he gets wins and all the underlying stats from last year say that he’s still awesome.  And while he doesn’t throw as hard as the others in this quartet, he did gain velocity from years prior.  I’ll take that as a positive for a guy with UCL worries.  

Tanaka is being drafted around hitters like Odor, Castellanos, and Realmuto.

Player C = Lance McCullers

I like McCullers almost as much as I like Paxton.  He’s another guy who has pretty much performed as an ace when he was healthy and on the field.  Sounds a bit like Mr. Strasburg.  His control is a little bit worse than the other three gents in this group, but he’s still a guy I will be targeting.  The 61% ground ball rate is something out of his teammate Dallas Keuchel’s playbook.  I’m not sure if that’s something he can sustain, but it’s absolutely outrageous.  I would guess that he gives back some grounders and his K rate goes up into the high 20s percentage wise.  His profile is most definitely that of an ace in the making.  

He throws gas and has one of the best breaking pitches in the league.  He plays for a team that will support him with both offense and defense.  And the postseason troubles notwithstanding, I think their bullpen is pretty solid as well.  I know he hasn’t been the picture of health, but neither has Strasburg or many other of the high end pitchers.

McCullers is currently going around names like Greg Bird, Trey Mancini, Adam Eaton, and Yadier Molina.  I will definitely be targeting McCullers this year and likely bumping him up a bit.


I prefer Strasburg to any of the other 3 pitchers named above.  That said, as much as I love the man, the cost is too high for me – especially when you realize that you can potentially get Anthony Rizzo or Josh Donaldson in that draft slot.  I would much rather get the stable hitter at the top and target a few SPs like Tanaka, Paxton, and McCullers and hope that they don’t get hurt. When you weigh the risk against the reward it just makes sense – that is if you agree with the arms I’ve presented here today. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.


Fantasy Rundown BannerBe sure to visit Fantasy Rundown for all your fantasy sports needs.

Mike Sheehan

Written by 

Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.

5 thoughts on “Cheaper Stephen Strasburg draft alternatives”

  1. Would want Strasburg that early in points league, in roto I’ll take any of the hitters you mentioned before touching SS.

    1. Don’t dismiss Tanaka. His underlying metrics were still strong and the strikeouts where there. Granted his arm is a ticking time-bomb, but it has held up so far. He’s not an ace, but I see him as a solid number two if you are the guy that waits on pitching.

    2. Hi David,

      Thank you very much for reading and for your comments.

      Not saying that I would rank any of these guys as well as I rank Strasburg. I definitely don’t, but they have similar profiles and come much later.

      I still prefer to build the majority of my team, even in points, with solid hitters that I can confidently project stats for. Pitchers are inherently risky, volatile, and fragile so I rarely pick an SP before the 4th or 5th round.

      I tend to pick a lot of bounce back arms, breakout options, sleepers etc. to fill out my staff. Most years I hit on at least 2-3 arms. Last year I hit on Severino, Paxton, Ray (who I didn’t even like), and Greinke with this approach across various leagues. I also had guys like Paxton, Keuchel, and McCullers perform at ace levels for periods of the year, which was still quite useful.

      All three of these other arms have promising underlying profiles and cost significantly less than Stras. They also have injury concerns, which Strasburg should as well given that he hasn’t started 30 games since 2014.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!



  2. Good strategy I think, Mike. Better to roster a few “value” arms that have proven capable in the past, and shown they can get it done when health allows than it is to just hope that the same old faces that have never proven much will suddenly become studs.

Leave a Comment