This piece, the first of a two-part micro-series, is not designed to be a draft guide. It is not feasible, for example, to try and pick a draft slot and go from there; it would interfere with the point anyway. Mostly, this is a look at the 12 players in each of the first 15 rounds of a 12-team draft, which starting pitchers are “my guys”, and why. It’s okay that they may not be the same pitchers that you love and it’s okay to think I’m wrong. As a matter of fact, that’s part of the beauty of fantasy baseball drafts: plant your flag, hope you’re right, and acknowledge where you were wrong at the end of the season.
In each of these cases, you can see who I would prefer to take and why, but that doesn’t mean I would have the right pick to get him. It doesn’t even mean the ADP reflects the players who will actually be there in any particular draft. This is for fun. Just have fun with it.
Round 1: Picks 1-12
Steamer | W: 12 | ERA: 3.25 | WHIP: 1.10 | K: 221
ATC | W: 12 | ERA: 3.06 | WHIP: 1.04 | K: 219
Corbin Burnes, Nasty 84mph Curveball. 😨 pic.twitter.com/069D0VgdRZ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 25, 2021
In the first round, so much of your decision-making is about your draft slot, but, as mentioned, that’s not the point of this piece. I do not want to invest an early draft pick in a pitcher, so my favorite of the group happens to come toward the end of the round (around spot 11). There is not much that needs to be said about why you would want the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner and your opportunity cost isn’t as expensive either. He had a 1.63 FIP in 2022 to go along with a 12.61 K/9 and 16.6% swinging-strike rate. We all know he’s good. He’s the guy for round 1.
Round 2: Picks 13-24
Steamer | W: 13 | ERA: 4.11 | WHIP: 1.24 | K: 203
ATC | W: 14 | ERA: 3.56 | WHIP: 1.11 | K: 198
A couple of nasty, and I mean nasty, breaking balls from Walker Buehler to Darin Ruf. Second cut ends with a strikeout. pic.twitter.com/Z19k8J39qU
— Justin (@hobokenjustin) October 13, 2021
For a piece that’s not about draft position, it needs to be said that being able to snag him around 16 means being able to confidently take a hitter in the first and then Buehler in the second. He is also going to give you more volume than Burnes by maybe 25 innings; that’s nearly an extra-inning per Corbin Burnes start. He is also expected to get an extra win or two in 2022 which, in wins leagues, is a little something. Again, there shouldn’t be a need to “sell” or “defend” liking Walker Buehler, but his 5.5 fWAR 2021 can do the talking for me. The best part about taking him here is being able to pair him with a bat at the end of the first like Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuña Jr., or Kyle Tucker.
Round 3: Picks 25-36
Steamer | W: 12 | ERA: 3.36 | WHIP: 1.13 | K: 233
ATC | W: 13 | ERA: 3.31 | WHIP: 1.10 | K: 216
Every time Shane Bieber takes the mound, you know you're getting 6+ innings and tons of nasty curveballs pic.twitter.com/DOd9lfOqzf
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) May 12, 2021
Either there is a lot of concern out there for Shane Bieber’s health, or it is all concentrated in one of my home leagues where nobody wants to give me much value for him in trade. I digress. ATC and THE BAT both have Shane for 175 innings this year. Steamer is VERY optimistic with 193. If Bieber is getting that volume, it isn’t because he is still hurt. In 2020, he was outstanding, so let’s take a look at his “down” year 2021 effort. He had a 3.17 ERA, a 3.03 FIP, and a 2.91 xFIP. His K/9 was 12.48 with a 33.5 CSW% and 16.2% swinging-strike rate.
As a side note, in 2020 he had a strand rate of 91.1% which dipped (as should have been expected) to 80.5% so if you are looking for a Robbie Ray 2022 comp, 2021 Bieber may be the ticket.
Round 4: Picks 37-48
Steamer | W: 12 | ERA: 3.86 | WHIP: 1.25 | K: 191
ATC | W: 12 | ERA: 3.56 | WHIP: 1.17 | K: 183
Nasty CH from Sandy Alcantara pic.twitter.com/lTkLwAKhww
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 22, 2021
There are only TWO pitchers projected by Steamer to pitch 200+ innings. One is not Sandy Alcantara, but the other one is. With that volume of work contributing a sub-4.00 ERA over the course of an entire season and top 25 strikeouts, Sandy can easily be your SP1 and give you three rounds of offense at the top of your draft. He had a 98th percentile fastball velocity with a 95th percentile chase rate in 2021. His sinker had a ridiculous ground ball rate 20 percentage points higher than the league average in 2021; the barrel rate against it was just 2.7%. He also has a beast slider that had a 19.5 swinging-strike rate and 35.6% CSW. This could be a top-5 starting pitcher going as SP12 around pick 40.
Round 5: Picks 49-60
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 4.12 | WHIP: 1.26 | K: 199
ATC | W: 11 | ERA: 3.69 | WHIP: 1.14 | K: 206
Freddy Peralta, Nasty 76mph Curveball. 😨 pic.twitter.com/IRliJ91s0o
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 29, 2021
Peralta is nasty. Take your pick of stats: 32.4% CSW, 33.6% K-rate, 17.1% HH/PA% against…he is just so good. A 0.97 WHIP and sub 3.00 ERA are just gorgeous. He’s not going to get 180 innings, but the 160 you will get will be absurd. It is not ridiculous to say that the NL Cy Young might not only stay in the NL Central but might remain in the same clubhouse that houses Burnes, Woodruff, and Peralta. You could theoretically go hitter-hitter-hitter and then get Alcantara and Peralta in the 5th and 6th. Sounds good to me!
Round 6: Picks 61-72
Steamer | W: 12 | ERA: 3.66 | WHIP: 1.27 | K: 179
ATC | W: 11 | ERA: 3.50 | WHIP: 1.21 | K: 161
.@LoganWebb1053 is feeling it 🗣 pic.twitter.com/TXXu34rzmi
— MLB (@MLB) October 15, 2021
Logan Webb is a very interesting case. I will admit that I am totally bought in and if you take a quick look at his Pitcher List Player Page (as you should), you’ll see why: it’s nearly all various shades of red. In 2021, he had a below-average walk-rate and an above-average strikeout rate. His ground ball percentage is elite and he finished the year with a 3.01 ERA and 31.9% CSW. It comes down to whether you believe these numbers are a measure of his true skill, or if he caught lightning in a bottle in a season with less than 150 IP. ATC has him for 166 IP in 2022, and Steamer is very bullish with 189. His sinker and slider comprise around 2/3 of his arsenal and both produce well-above-average CSW rates; the slider, in particular, had a 38.4% CSW rate which is 10% above league-average. Sick.
Round 7: Picks 73-84
Steamer | W: 13 | ERA: 3.96| WHIP: 1.22 | K: 201
ATC | W: 13 | ERA: 3.85 | WHIP: 1.21 | K: 194
That curveball was just nasty 😳
First K as a Blue Jay for José Berríos! #BlueJaysOnSN pic.twitter.com/tTpFiCGGun
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 1, 2021
José Berríos is not an elite WHIP guy. There, it’s out of the way so we can move on. 13 wins with a sub-4.00 ERA and nearly 200 Ks look pretty dang good in the 7th round. If you got an elite arm early and then focused on hitting until now, pairing Cole or Burnes (or even Buehler) with Berríos is a nice little SP start. There are some curiosities in the profile worth noting. His CSW% in 2021 was 30.3%, but his swinging-strike rate was just 11.1%. He lived on called strikes but still had a 26.1% K-rate which suggests that he is excellent at getting called strikes early in counts when batters are less likely to swing and then uses his curveball and changeup (with 14.6% and 13.0% swinging-strike rates, respectively) to get the punch-out. With this intentional approach, it will be hard for Berríos to ever be an elite arm, but you can count on getting what he has given you in the past which is stabilizing in a fantasy rotation.
Round 8: Picks 85-96
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 4.12 | WHIP: 1.25 | K: 163
ATC | W: 11 | ERA: 3.83 | WHIP: 1.18 | K: 167
5 straight strikeouts!
Alek Manoah is nasty. pic.twitter.com/eWeni2StKP
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 2, 2021
Manoah is young and exciting and that makes him very enticing, especially with his upside potential. In 111 innings last year, he netted a 3.22 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He didn’t give up a lot of hard contact and had a K% of 27.7%. The question marks are more about how he fares in a longer season, how will the Blue Jays manage his innings, and what will the AL East do to him once they adjust. That said, his slider and his four-seamer generate a lot of swing-and-misses which is a very strong foundation upon which to build. Maybe some of it is FOMO on letting another team in the league ride the wave, but I’m very much in on Alek in round 8.
Round 9: Picks 97-108
Steamer | W: 11 | ERA: 4.09 | WHIP: 1.19 | K: 187
ATC | W: 11 | ERA: 3.96| WHIP: 1.14 | K: 192
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) January 28, 2022
Yu Darvish is an enigma. His chase rate and fastball velocity numbers are not great. However, his K% and walk-rate are 84th and 77th percentile, respectively. His WHIP was 33rd in the league at 1.10. He’s projected to throw between 162 and 171 innings next year which absolutely matters in an era where that puts him close or into the top 50 in the league. He has been elite before and has the talent to be great again; that’s what you want in a 9th round pick – somebody with a solid chance to return more value than he costs you at the draft.
Round 10: Picks 109-120
Steamer | W: 11 | ERA: 3.78 | WHIP: 1.28 | K: 189
ATC | W: 9 | ERA: 3.79 | WHIP: 1.25 | K: 175
Blake Snell, Filthy 82mph Curveball. 😷🦖 pic.twitter.com/P18S0G55hd
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 1, 2021
Will the real Blake Snell please stand up, please stand up, please stand up…if you listened to a recent episode of “On the Corner” you head Nick and Alex go back and forth on Blake Snell. In Round 10, he’s worth the price of admission to find out which Snell you get in 2021. But, buyer be(somewhat)ware: his ERA for the last four years has been 1.89, 4.29, 3.24, 4.20 and his walk-rate was WAY up last year, from around 9% for each of the three previous years to 12.5% in 2021. He is unlikely to be a high-volume arm, but 150 IP is reasonable and would make him well worth a pick in the 10th with the hope that he puts things back together and is an ace once again.
Round 11: Picks 121-132
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 3.63 | WHIP: 1.15 | K: 189
ATC | W: 9 | ERA: 3.55 | WHIP: 1.14 | K: 160
Carlos Rodón, Disgusting Sliders. 🤮 pic.twitter.com/DgafFIRJ7w
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 18, 2021
Maybe I am excited here for Carlos Rodón because so many other people are hyping their excitement for Carlos Rodón. That is not to say that it is crazy, especially at this price point, but it’s important to be transparent. He has thrown more than 69 innings just twice since 2017 (yes including 2020 where he only threw 7.2) and one of them was last year. He really put things together in 2021 over the course of 24 starts, netting a 2.37 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Perhaps the most encouraging numbers were his 34.6% K-rate and 16.7% swinging-strike rate. And this is why the enthusiasm is far from crazy. If he can replicate that over the course of 150-ish innings, he will be a steal in round 11.
Round 12: Picks 133-144
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 3.74 | WHIP: 1.21| K: 165
ATC | W: 9 | ERA: 3.66 | WHIP: 1.16 | K: 143
Just 1 of the 23 nasty changeups thrown by Pablo López last night pic.twitter.com/eGu9OOAxrg
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) March 19, 2021
Pablo López had an ERA of 3.07 last year. He will not do that again. But he should be able to keep it tucked nicely under 4.00. At this stage of a draft, that’s a nice get. He’s another guy who might only get to 140-150 innings, but that’s not the huge downside that it used to be compared to the field. What was really key for him last year was the ability to strand runners at a rate much higher than normal and the way he limited hard contact. The former may not be entirely skill-based and could regress a bit, hence the ERA boost for 2022, but the inducing of soft contact can continue. In 2021, his HH/PA% was just 21.5%, good for the 19th best in baseball.
Round 13: Picks 145-156
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 4.39 | WHIP: 1.39| K: 164
ATC | W: 10 | ERA: 4.00 | WHIP: 1.31| K: 154
Ian Anderson, Nasty 82mph Curveball…and Belt Buckle K strut. pic.twitter.com/HGWd054H3p
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 28, 2021
Ian Anderson is my favorite. Getting him this late in drafts feels like literal stealing; something that should warrant my appearance in court in front of a judge. As much as Pablo López is “my guy” from round 13, I’d rather have Anderson in the 13th than Pablo. Getting in a round later is a no-brainer. He is 23 years old and poised for a monster breakout. In 2021, his numbers were not outstanding, but none were truly terrible. His walk-rate of 9.9% was well above the league average of 8.0%, but finding a little more command at the edges feels like a step he can take. And with that change, he could get the K% up closer to the 29-30% he’s shown in the minors and the ERA solidly under 4.00 even accounting for some regression. He has a changeup that is really effective at getting whiffs, coming in with a swinging-strike rate of 18.7%. More command with the fastball, especially earlier in counts where batters are more likely to take it, can set that pitch up to be even more devastating. My bold prediction is that Ian Anderson is nestled in as a round 6-8 pick next year in 12-teamers. There is a chance that I’m a year too early here, but I’m willing to take that chance in the 13th round.
Round 14: Picks 157-168
Lance McCullers, Jr.
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 3.68| WHIP: 1.29 | K: 159
ATC | W: 11 | ERA: 3.62 | WHIP: 1.25 | K: 164
This was freaking nasty from Lance McCullers! #Astros pic.twitter.com/y1atY5Ypeh
— Astros Future (@AstrosFuture) July 17, 2021
This is the part of the draft where my favorite guy probably doesn’t matter as much as your favorite guy. I’ll give you the basics and then, obviously, you make your call. He induces a ton of ground balls while limiting hard contact. He has a decent K% at 27%, but a CSW% of 32.4% which gives him room to get that strikeout rate up. The real key to his 2022 success will be limiting walks. His walk-rate came way up in 2021 to 11.1%, the second-highest of his career. Converting some of those walks to outs is going to be very important, especially if some of them become Ks. At this stage, I’d prefer a guy with a wider range of outcomes that includes upside potential than a known commodity that is nearly guaranteed to be boring.
Round 15: Picks 169-180
Steamer | W: 10 | ERA: 4.07 | WHIP: 1.26 | K: 156
ATC | W: 9 | ERA: 3.687 | WHIP: 1.18 | K: 129
Luis Severino comes out of the bullpen 🔥#YANKSonYES pic.twitter.com/PJePdQnePY
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 25, 2021
Severino might be the easiest choice of this entire piece. In the 15th round, you might get a guy who could return top 10 SP value. He’s only thrown 18 innings since 2018, but we all know the story. He broke the 190 innings mark in both 2017 and 2018 with ERAs of 2.98 and 3.39, respectively. He has 30+% K-rate potential that could net him north of 150 Ks, depending on inning limits. Volume is key here, and how the Yankees will handle him for a full season coming off of Tommy John remains unknown, but if you want a guy at this stage with upside potential, there’s none higher than with Severino.
Photos by Patrick Tomasso/Unsplash and Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)