With plenty of drafts under our belts, it’s time to look at four starting pitchers I’ve constantly faded, refusing to purchase at their current prices. Beware of these potential busts as you consider who to pick in your fantasy drafts.
Chris Archer (Pittsburgh Pirates)
This one should be quick. Chris Archer is currently the 31st starting pitcher off the board and it’s madness. Madness! Three straight seasons of a 4.00+ ERA, just one season of a sub 1.24 WHIP in five years, and a 5.5 IPS in 2018.
But the strikeouts!
Archer is certainly good at making batters miss, fueled by a slider he throws over 40% of the time and returns a near 20% swinging-strike rate, but what else is there? Believe it or not, Robbie Ray is currently going after Archer, with higher strikeout upside and two straight seasons under a 4.00 ERA, even showcasing in a non-injured season the ability to return a sub 3.00 ERA.
The real reason for Archer’s draft stock is the belief that he can turn it around, stemming from hernia surgery in November; that there is another gear to hit that help return to 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP of 2015. I just don’t know where that “gear” is coming from. It’s not his changeup, a pitch that the Archer featured prominently with the Pirates for just one game last year, and it’s unlikely Archer gains enough with the same fastball/slider combination to take a significant stride to justify his current ADP.
Don’t fall for the trap of a big name. Archer’s ERA and WHIP may make his starts hurt your team more than help over the full year.
Jose Quintana (Chicago Cubs)
There’s a theme with most of these starters—boring old veterans whose stock has risen based on name value and the idea of a comeback. Quintana is just outside of the Top 50 starters off the board, while I find myself drafting arms in the final rounds that I’d rather own over the Chicago southpaw. Quintana is coming off a pair of disappointing seasons, boasting a 4.00+ ERA twice as his HR/9 rose to an inflated 1.10 clip to last year’s career-high 1.29 rate.
Meanwhile, his swinging-strike rate was an abysmal 8.0%, his WHIP jumped to 1.32 and walks blew past his previous high at a 9.2% mark. It was a poor year and maybe Quintana pulls himself together and rebounds.
But where? His curveball hasn’t been effective since 2015, his embrace of a changeup in 2017 sticks out as an outlier as the pitch was atrocious last season, and his fastball velocity took a small tumble. What we’re hoping for is a 3.80 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 20% strikeout rate and that can be found easily on the waiver wire in 12-teamers. Don’t pay for a Toby in your drafts, instead throw as many darts as possible, grabbing as many high upside starters with jobs out of the gate. Take your chances on a pitcher making a major impact through the year and avoid arms like Quintana who are barely removed from a replacement player.
Rick Porcello (Boston Red Sox)
We call him The Thief and spending his current price of a Top 50 SP pick will help him steal your possible fantasy crown. Porcello’s Cy Young 3.15 ERA season is the sole ERA under 4.25 in his last four years, while his recent spike in strikeouts to a career-best 23.5% mark comes with a pedestrian 8.7% swinging-strike rate that suggests another mediocre 20% strikeout season ahead.
Those that owned Porcello in 2018 will remember the glistening 2.14 ERA and 23.0% K-BB rate through his first seven starts, but it came to a screeching halt with 10 ER in his next two games, en route to his 4.97 ERA the rest of the way. Over 60% of those final 26 starts came with 5 or fewer strikeouts, while his 1.29 WHIP hurt your ratios.
The wins are intriguing, definitely, but it’s not enough to justify an early pick and can be found off the wire. For better strikeout and ratio numbers across similar volume, consider Jeff Samardzija for half the cost, or consider Wade Miley at a prime discount if you need the wins, and that’s ignoring the plethora of options that you should be chasing early in the season with Porcello’s roster spot. The Thief is not your answer.
Jon Gray (Colorado Rockies)
There are a lot of variables to take into account when assessing a pitcher, but there is one that is often overlooked.
Do you trust him on a given night?
The season is long and full of terrors and every morning you will look at your team, wondering if you can start each of your pitchers that evening. With a lot of pitchers I rank highly on The List, I believe we’ll quickly reach a point where we can trust them. Maybe their upside is rooted in developing that third pitch, changing their approach or simply maintaining velocity. But with a pitcher like Gray, I don’t see us getting to a point where we say “okay, I believe Gray won’t destroy my ratios tonight.” His teammates German Marquez and Kyle Freeland have much safer floors with their repertoire and ability from 2018, while we’ve been dancing around Gray for years.
Let’s say Gray shows up and pitches four stellar games out of the gate. Then he gets a matchup against the Brewers in Coors. You won’t trust him and why should you?
That’s the problem. Give me other arms that I can feel good owning in the early weeks and quickly cut if they aren’t taking steps forward to their path. With Gray, he’ll have moments of bliss and moments of abyss. And you won’t be able to tear yourself away. Don’t put yourself through it—Gray won’t win you your league, but maybe someone else deep in your draft will.
(Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire)