Spring training has started and already we’re hearing about shoulder woes, elbow tightness, and Tommy John surgery. The Braves entire pitching staff seems to have had some affliction bestowed upon each of them. We enter each fantasy season under a cloud when it comes to pitching. Further complicating it are trends and new philosophies. Closers are being devalued as managers experiment on using their best relief pitcher in various situations and not just to end the game. How will the advent of the “Opener” affect starting pitching as it further evolves?
Starting pitching is the foundation of 40% of your categorical points and even more important in head to head formats. Why do we allocate less than 30% of dollars towards the position? In a 12 team league most teams will spend about 25 of their 91 units on relief pitchers, leaving 66 units for starting pitching. I used an average of 6 starters per team in assigning my “prices”.
So how should you approach starting pitching in an auction format? Pay up for an ace or two. Last year I tried to go heavier on hitting than I usually do and the results weren’t so great. I struggled early in the season as my “ace” was Yu Darvish and that was a crash and burn. I made a trade in late May that helped me bounce back, trading Eddie Rosario for Blake Snell. The team faded in September and ended up in 7th, but only a few points out of 3rd.
I don’t set up a “budget”. On some sites you will see a table similar to the one on the right. There is also one similar to this for hitting. It’s an exercise you can do, but the results in an auction are so variable that I don’t like to be constrained by some pre-construed budget. Have an idea of what high-priced players you want to anchor your team, then wait for the bargains to come to you.
Once again the theme is to pay up for an ace or two. This is easy to say and obvious, but high-end starting pitchers are the most likely players to return their draft day cost. Take your pick. The only top-10 starter I’m adverse to is Chris Sale. I just see him as having a higher injury/late season fade risk than the rest. Be in on all of these pitchers, but don’t wait until there are only one or two left to try and get one. You’ll end up in a bidding war and paying more than you should.
Remember to track your targets for each category. Looking at Steamer projections, I think some of their ERA and Ratio projections are a bit high – especially for Aaron Nola with 3.56 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Last year he was 2.37 and 0.97 respectively. There is nothing in his peripherals that scream at you to expect such a large regression. If you end up with Miles Mikolas, who will anchor your ERA and WHIP but be short on K’s, you may want to pair him up with some high strikeout relievers such as Hader or Betances or lower priced starters such as Nick Pivetta to hit your K target.
When you look at teams who won their leagues last year, many had the likes of Nola and Blake Snell on their staff. They were lower priced pitchers who outperformed their prices. Most likely, though, they were paired with an anchor pitcher. After the top-25 or so pitchers, you’re basically throwing darts and hoping someone who you end up with can outperform the price you pay. Who would have predicted Joulys Chacin’s 15 wins and low WHIP last year? As you get to the lower priced pitchers, target those on better teams to help increase your chances at wins.
It’s too early in the spring to tell if any of the following young pitchers will make the journey “north” on March 28th, but they are worth tracking. If you are drafting closer to opening day and the following make their team, think about adding them to your tiers : Chris Paddack, SD, Freddy Peralta MILW, Forest Whitley HOU, Jesus Luzardo OAK. Whitley has the highest upside, but his limited innings the last two years will have Houston keeping a lid on his work load. If you have a large bench and can stash him, he may be worth it.
Starting pitching is a perpetual minefield. Navigating through injuries, “openers”, and dreaded blown saves is a constant struggle and reminds you that your auction/draft only sets the tone for the season to come.
|M. Scherzer||WSH||34||K. Freeland||COL||9|
|C. Sale||BOS||33||C. Hamels||CHC||8|
|C. Kluber||CLE||29||C. Archer||PIT||8|
|J. Verlander||HOU||28||Y. Darvish||CHC||8|
|A. Nola||PHI||27||N. Pivetta||PHI||7|
|B. Snell||TB||27||S. Bieber||CLE||7|
|G. Cole||HOU||26||A. Heaney||LAA||7|
|L. Severino||NYY||26||J. Quintana||CHC||7|
|T. Bauer||CLE||24||J. Lester||CHC||6|
|C. Carrasco||CLE||23||K. Gausman||ATL||6|
|N. Syndergaard||NYM||22||J. Lucchesi||SD||6|
|W. Buehler||LAD||22||N. Eovaldi||BOS||5|
|P. Corbin||WSH||19||R. Porcello||BOS||5|
|J. Taillon||PIT||19||E. Rodriguez||BOS||5|
|S. Strasburg||WSH||19||K. Maeda||LAD||4|
|J. Paxton||NYY||17||J. Gray||COL||4|
|M. Clevinger||CLE||17||J. Arrieta||PHL||4|
|J. Flaherty||STL||16||K. Gibson||MIN||3|
|J. Berrios||MIN||15||H. Ryu||LAD||3|
|C. Morton||TB||15||J. Musgrove||PIT||3|
|G. Marquez||COL||15||C. McHugh||HOU||3|
|L. Castillo||CIN||13||T. Skaggs||LAA||2|
|D. Price||BOS||13||M. Boyd||DET||2|
|C. Kershaw||LAD||13||T. Willaims||PIT||2|
|M. Mikolas||STL||12||J. James||HOU||2|
|M. Tanaka||NYY||12||C. Martinez||STL||2|
|JA Happ||NYY||12||J. Nelson||MIL||2|
|Z. Wheeler||NYM||11||A. Wood||CIN||2|
|R. Ray||ARI||10||Z. Godley||ARI||2|
|M. Foltynewicz||ATL||10||S. Matz||NYM||1|
|M. Bumgarner||SF||10||D. Bundy||BAL||1|
|R. Hill||LAD||9||M. Gonzales||SEA||1|
|T. Glasnow||TB||9||R. Stripling||LA||1|
|K. Hendricks||CHC||9||J. Chacin||MIL||1|