Cheaper draft alternatives to Ray and Arrieta

Last week I took a look at cheaper alternates to Stephen Strasburg that could be available later in the draft. Digging into the underlying stats helped me identify some arms that have some really similar attributes but might be separated by big gaps in ADP.  This week I continue my effort in search of value, targeting alternatives to Robbie Ray and Jake Arrieta heading into the 2018 draft.

Robbie Ray: Ray was a trendy, yet divisive sleeper pick heading into the 2017 draft.  The believers hit it big and received ace like production.  I think there’s some things to worry about, but I’m also intrigued by the addition of a humidor in Arizona.  My main concern about Ray at this point is his ADP, which has skyrocketed.  Below is a comparison of Ray with 3 mystery arms that share some resemblance.

Player Sw Str % K% BB% Avg MPH NFBC ADP
Ray 14.2 33 10.7 94.3 47
Player A 12.6 27.3 8.9 97.5 93
Player B 15.4 33 10 95.1 159
Player C 12.5 27 12 92.5 222

You can see that there are some pitchers with similar profiles much further down the board.  They all throw pretty hard with solid strikeouts and walk rates that are a little bit scary.

Player A = Luis Castillo

Castillo is one of this year’s huge industry guys.  If you’ve seen him pitch you know why.  The guy is filthy.  He also has an awesome profile.  Even though Castillo has a bit of helium going on, he can still be taken an average of 46 picks later than Ray.  

There are some things I like better about Castillo and some things I like better about Ray.  Ray plays for what should be a playoff team, and with the humidor should have a better park.  Castillo has even nastier stuff than Ray and seems to have a bit less trouble with control.  One of the big knocks on Ray is his walk rate.  I think this extends to his command as well.  Ray has a really high hard hit rate (40.4% in ‘17) for someone with his level of stuff. For me, it stands to reason that if he has trouble throwing strikes then he may also have trouble putting strikes exactly where he wants them.  That means more mistakes in the zone, which would lead to harder contact.  Castillo’s walk rate is not elite but is a bit better than Ray’s, and his hard hit rate is 29.6%, which makes me think he has been less prone to big mistakes.  Ray has done it before, which I like, but factoring in the price – I prefer Castillo.

Player B = Danny Salazar

Ray and Salazar make the most one-to-one comparison.  They have electric stuff with elite K potential with shaky control and command.  I would be preaching Salazar really hard if not for reports that he’s already two weeks behind with a shoulder issue, and the fact Cleveland has already toyed with moving him to the pen if those troubles persist.

We’ve seen Salazar be elite, bordering on ace-dom.  We’ve also seen him sent to the minors.  I think Ray’s profile is similarly volatile.  He seems to have a bit more mental strength than Salazar, but these are two peas in a pod for me.  If Salazar comes into the season remotely healthy, then he could be a steal at an ADP of 159.  We just have to wait for updates.  I would have a lot more to say about this if not for the injury report just a few days ago.

Player C = Mike Clevinger

The bad news about Salazar could be good news for Mike Clevinger.  One of the primary worries about Clevinger is that he wouldn’t earn a spot in the rotation.  It’s worth mentioning that I think Salazar and Castillo could be as good or better than Ray whereas Clevinger is more of a poor man’s version of Ray.  He doesn’t throw as hard and his walk issues are even worse.  His swinging and overall K rate are also less exciting than Ray.  The big takeaway with Clevinger is that you might be able to get a “lite” version of Ray at an ADP of 222.  I love low risk and that’s what Clevinger is.


To summarize the Ray conversation and comparisons, my main contention is Ray’s cost.  He is going in the same range as Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Archer, Rhys Hoskins, Marcell Ozuna, and Anthony Rendon.  I trust all of those names more to perform at a level worthy of this cost.  I would rather take the safety of one of those names and spend less on someone who has the skills to be the next Robbie Ray a bit later in the draft.

Jake Arrieta: For a season and a half, Arrieta was arguably one of the best starters in baseball.  It’s been a few seasons since this was true, but his name brand still persists.  Whenever I look at his stats, he’s always been a little bit better than I thought he was but is still certainly nowhere near who he used to be.  There are definitely other profiles out there that match up favorably with Arrieta and can save you at least a few rounds of cost.

Player Sw Str % K% BB% Avg MPH NFBC ADP
Arrieta 8.7 23 7.8 92.1 99
Player A 10 24 3.8 94.3 134
Player B 9.2 26 8 94 142
Player C 11.4 21.8 7.33 92.2 178

Player A = Jeff Samardzija

I’m close to all-in on “Shark” this year.  I know he has teased us in the past, but he’s a reliable workhorse.  He’s in arguably the best pitcher’s park in the league, and the Giants improved their offense this past year.  Comparing him to Arrieta, he costs around 3 rounds less pick wise.  His walk and strikeout numbers are more appealing to me.  Samardzija is also not losing velocity like Arrieta is (down almost 2 MPH in ‘17). I currently prefer “Shark” to Arrieta regardless of price, but I’m grinning from ear to ear if I can get him 3 round later.

Player B = Trevor Bauer

I’ve written a lot about Bauer over the last year or so, and digging into his numbers has made me grow to really like him.  Looking at the table above, you can see that he matches up pretty well with Mr. Arrieta.  Their swinging strike and walk rates are really similar.  I like that Bauer is a good bit younger and that he throws harder.

I believe the narrative of Bauer’s change in the second half.  His pitching coach told him to throw more breaking pitches in the 2nd half of 2017 and it led to his breakout.  He also plays on team with a stacked offense, bullpen, and infield defense.  I think this former first rounder is here to stay.  I don’t think he’ll be as good as Arrieta once was, but I think he’s just as likely to be top 30-40 pitcher this year.  I slightly prefer Bauer if price is equal, but even more so now with Bauer 43 picks later.  I think this gap will be higher in normal leagues as well since NFBC tends to attract skilled drafters.

Player C = Dylan Bundy

I loved Dylan Bundy coming into last season.  It was an up and down season that had a lot of good things mixed in.  Bundy’s line is certainly similar to Arrieta’s.  He has also had some velocity concerns as well, and it’s worth mentioning that Arrieta used to be a member of the Orioles.  So there’s some definite comparisons to be made here.

Bundy’s swinging strike rate make me think there’s a bit more potential in his overall k rate.  He throws a cutter that is flat-out filthy.  When he’s throwing that pitch, he’s very difficult to hit.  When he’s throwing that cutter and he’s throwing 93MPH+ he becomes useful in fantasy.  I prefer Arrieta to Bundy based on what we’ve seen to date, but am more likely to draft Bundy 79 picks later.  


To summarize the Arrieta comparisons and conversation, I don’t think he’s bad.  I often feel like Arrieta is bad, and then when I check the numbers he’s just fine.  It’s just worth remembering that he is not the guy that won the Cy Young a few years ago.  There’s not that kind of upside anymore.  He’s likely to finish in the top 30-40 and the cost isn’t even as bad as I expected.  It is worth repeating, though, that these are NFBC ADPs and NFBC players tend to be more savvy.  Arrieta has also yet to sign with a team.  If he signs someplace sexy, that might raise his ADP a bit – along with expectations.

Hopefully these later round options with similar skill sets for Ray and Arrieta will help you save some auction dollars or pick value.  Take a look at some of the hitters going in the ADP range of Ray and Arrieta – maybe you’ll thank me after your draft.


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Mike Sheehan

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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.

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