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What’s up everybody! In this article, I’ll be identifying starting pitchers that you can slot in at RP, so you can maximize your innings. This list is designed to help owners in leagues with RP slots where playing a starter instead of a reliever can provide you with more value. Every fantasy platform is different in how they determine position eligibility, so for this article, I’m using three relief appearances as my threshold. If your league requires five, for instance, some of these guys won’t be reliever eligible. Got it? Then let’s go!
1. David Price (Boston Red Sox) – Price only made 11 starts in 2017 with elbow discomfort, and was forced to make five relief appearances at the end of the regular season. This is good news for our list, as it makes him the top SP/RP option for 2018. Price finished 2017 with a 24.0% K-rate and a 7.6% walk-rate. He can probably perform even better in 2018 with a clean slate of health, especially if he can get that changeup working again.
2. Danny Salazar (Cleveland Indians) – Salazar had multiple stints in the bullpen last year as he dealt with elbow and shoulder injuries. It was a rough season for Salazar, who finished with a 4.28 ERA in only 19 starts; however, he’s not number 1 on this list for no reason. His 33.0% K-rate is drool-worthy, and advanced metrics show that he was actually better than his ERA suggests (3.55 DRA, 3.48 FIP, 3.40 SIERA). Salazar should be entering 2018 with a clean bill of health and a guaranteed spot in the rotation, and you can likely get him at a discount this year.
3. Kenta Maeda (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Maeda actually improved his K% and BB% from 2016 to 2017, but he performed worse because of an increase in HR/9. But then again, what pitcher didn’t have an increase in home run rate? He should be a lock to stay in the Dodgers rotation and give you productive innings.
4. Mike Clevinger (Cleveland Indians) – Salazar’s teammate actually has a case for #1 on this list, but thanks to Josh Tomlin, he’s only third. There’s a real chance that the Indians leave Clevinger out of the rotation, at least to start the season. Clevinger’s coming off of an awesome season of a 3.11 ERA in 121 2/3 innings with a 27.3% K-rate. He probably can’t sustain that level of production for an entire season, but it’s enough to land him here if he can find a way to start.
5. Trevor Williams (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Williams’ numbers in his small sample as a reliever actually make him look much worse – as a starter, Williams had a 3.96 ERA in 138 2/3 innings. Better yet, his second half ERA was only 3.35. Williams makes it work with his strong fastballs – his fourseamer had a 12.3 pVAL, while the sinker had a 11.0 pVAL. He doesn’t have the enticing K-rate of the guys ahead of him on this list, but he doesn’t have much competition in the Pirates rotation, so he should get you a full season of some solid innings.
5. Mike Montgomery (Chicago Cubs) – Unless the Cubs make another splash this offseason, Montgomery is slated to be their #5 starter. He wasn’t great as a starter in 2017, posting a 4.15 ERA in his 69 (nice) 1/3 innings. With the Cubs defense behind him, his ERA shouldn’t get too bad, but he won’t be anything special. Update: With the Cubs adding Yu Darvish, we’ve removed Montgomery from this list as he will not be in the rotation to start the season.
6. Joe Musgrove (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Finally, some upside! Williams and Montgomery are ranked if you’re looking for some safe, reliable innings. Musgrove (and many of the guys to follow him) are more volatile but higher upside options. Getting out of Houston is good news for Musgrove’s career 1.42 HR/9, which was his main issue with the Astros. Musgrove had a 21.2% K-rate with a 6.1% walk-rate in 2017, and he’s only 25. There’s potential for a breakout if he holds a rotation spot with Pittsburgh.
6. Walker Buehler (Los Angeles Dodgers) – Now we’re talking upside! While Buehler isn’t expected to start the season in the MLB rotation, he could easily be starting in the majors by May. Buehler had a monster 34.0% K-rate in AAA last year. He’s got a ton of raw talent, featuring a fastball, curveball, and slider. Don’t be scared off by the short major league stint last year; Buehler could be one of fantasy’s most valuable call-ups this year, and he’s someone worth stashing in many formats.
7. Robert Stephenson (Cincinnati Reds) – I know many of you want to give up on Stephenson (if you haven’t already), but he was actually effective as a starter last year. He had a 3.41 ERA in 58 innings as a starter last year! There’s still some major command/control issues, but his electric stuff is enough to get him by (like his slider, which had a 45.2% K-rate). If he gets a shot in the Reds rotation, he’s worth a flier.
8. Collin McHugh (Houston Astros) – No, McHugh is not in the rotation right now. But between Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Gerrit Cole, McHugh should find plenty of chances to pick up starts. Hopefully he will grab RP eligibility by that point as he starts the year in the bullpen. McHugh would be a valuable starter on pretty much any other MLB team, as he had a 3.55 ERA with a 22.9% K-rate and 7.4% walk-rate in 2017.
9. Brandon McCarthy (Atlanta Braves) – Ok, back to boring. McCarthy should have a real shot at starting now that he’s been traded to Atlanta, and he wasn’t too bad last year. He’s turning 35 this year and has had a lengthy injury history, but he did have a 3.84 ERA in 16 starts last year.
10. Jake Junis (Kansas City Royals) – Junis went H•A•M in AAA, posting a 29.9% K-rate and 5.2% walk-rate. He didn’t have the same kind of major league success, though. The Royals will give the 25-year-old a shot at figuring things out in the bigs.
11. Bryan Mitchell (San Diego Padres) – Mitchell is an intriguing option after he tore through AAA last year with a 2.18 FIP and a 25.4% K-rate. However, he’s already turning 27 this year with very little major league experience. In a great ballpark without much competition in the rotation, it will be interesting to see what he does with the Padres, although the most likely outcome is mediocrity.
12. Chris Stratton (San Francisco Giants) – Stratton is basically the Giants answer to Mitchell, although he feels more boring. Stratton should be a decent innings eater at the back of the Giants rotation, but I wouldn’t expect much outside of a 4 ERA with a ~19% K-rate.
13. Erasmo Ramirez (Seattle Mariners) – Much like Montgomery, Erasmo is much better suited as a reliever. Unlike Montgomery, though, he was reeeeeealy bad as a starter. But if he can stick in the rotation for 130-140ish innings with an ERA hovering around 4, then there’s value here.
14. Jose Urena (Miami Marlins) – Urena had a 3.82 ERA in 169 2/3 innings as a 25-year-old. The reason that I’m not exploding with excitement, and instead burying him on this list, is because of the abysmal underlying stats. 15.6% K-rate, 8.8.% walk-rate, 5.20 FIP. Try to avoid him.
15. Matt Bush and Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) – The Rangers have gone AWOL and are trying these guys out as starters. Will it work? From a fantasy perspective, they probably won’t be able to throw enough innings to build much value. Their numbers won’t be anywhere as impressive as they were in relief. Still, either of them is worth a flier if you’re feeling ballsy enough.