There are few better feelings in sports than doing a live fantasy baseball draft, but there’s one serious problem. Those draft rooms come pre-loaded with crappy rankings and ADPs that just really make no sense. While your draftmates might be foolish enough to fall prey to the junk that they see in front of them, you’re smarter than that, and with this primer in hand, you’ll know which players to be targeting for maximum value, and which players you’ll let your rivals overpay for.
Earlier today I talked about what hitters you should be targeting and avoiding in order to crush your draft on Yahoo. Now, I’ve cross-referenced our rankings against Yahoo’s ADP and pre-season rankings to find the best values throughout your pitching staff. If you want to win your draft on Yahoo, this is the guide for you.
Early Draft Targets: Lance Lynn, TEX – Lynn has one bad (and unlucky) season in 2018, and everyone seems to discount that he could be good again. His 4.77 ERA in 2018 was with a 3.84 FIP, and in his fantastic 2019, his 3.67 ERA was supported by a 3.13 FIP. Lynn increased his SwStr rate to a career-best 12.5% and saw a large uptick in strikeouts as well. He’s a safe, high-floor SP who should give you tons of innings, strikeouts, and a solid ERA. With that, he’s ranked as our #27 SP, but he’s being drafted in Yahoo as the #40 SP off the board. That’s a huge discount for a pitcher that could seriously anchor you and allow you to take some high-upside dart throws later.
Madison Bumgarner, ARI – Like Lynn, Bumgarner is a stable, boring pitcher who isn’t going to be an ace-like he used to be, but he should absolutely remain a quality SP. He’s getting discounted quite a bit, as do most of the older pitchers, but he has one of the highest floors among all pitchers in baseball. We think of him as a high-end SP3, but Yahoo has him being drafted as the 37th pitcher off the board.
Carlos Carrasco, CLE – Carrasco still had the goods last year, even while battling leukemia. The numbers don’t look great on the surface, but he was really unlucky (well-above his career average in BABIP allowed and HR/FB ratio) and he did really poorly as a reliever in September. He posted a 4.14 FIP as a starter and got a 15% SwStr rate on the year, showing that he still has great stuff. It’s obviously tough with the medical situation that Carrasco has, but he doesn’t lack the talent. We ranked him as our #18 SP to enter the year, he’s the 31st one drafted.
Zac Gallen, ARI – You know I had to mention Gallen here. Gallen is definitely someone we are planting our flag on, and for good reason. His stuff is insanely good. He has three solid offspeed offerings that make him a dangerous pitcher against any hitter, and I can’t honestly see a world where Gallen isn’t in the Diamondbacks rotation to break camp. He’s too good for them to send down to the minors. He’s the 38th ranked pitcher on Yahoo and 41st in ADP, and we have him ranked as our #23 SP.
Corey Kluber, TEX – Kluber is just one season removed from being one of the best pitchers in baseball when he posted a 2.89 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 2018. He had a freak injury early in 2019 (comebacker that fractured his forearm), and lost the rest of the season, which has led us all to discount him as he’s an old fragile man now. He’s only 33, which isn’t that old for a starting pitcher, and he has looked great in spring. We have him as our 16th best SP, you can get him as the 28th starter taken in Yahoo drafts.
Zack Wheeler, PHI – Wheeler has legit ace upside, he just hasn’t put it all together yet. Maybe a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered for Wheeler. Either way, he’s being drafted as the #30 SP in Yahoo, and he’s well worth that price tag considering he could be knocking on the door of acedom.
Middle Tier Targets: Carlos Martinez, STL – It wasn’t that long ago that Martinez was a consensus top-12 SP, and it’s been his health holding him back more than anything else since then. He’s shown the stuff is all still there, and his numbers have not suffered much from his 2015-16 reign of acedom. The Cardinals want him in the rotation, and there should be nothing holding him back from being an SP3 or better. He’s going off the board 51st(!!!) in Yahoo drafts, at pick 180, and you should be jumping all over that.
Luke Weaver, ARI – Weaver added a cutter to his repertoire in 2019 and it made all the difference, as he desperately needed a third pitch to complement his great fastball/change-up combination. Then we all kind of collectively forgot about him as he got hurt, and missed two-thirds of the season. He should pick up right where he left off, and be a solid part of your rotation. We think he’s an SP4, but Yahoo has him ranked as the 58th starting pitcher in drafts.
Kenta Maeda, MIN – Maeda has been a fantasy-relevant SP over the past two seasons, even with the Dodgers jerking him around from the rotation to the bullpen, and now he’ll finally have a solid spot in the rotation in Minnesota, where they are starved for good starting pitching. I think Minnesota will let Maeda pitch far more than the Dodgers ever did because they need him to be a big part of their staff. He’ll also be pitching against some of the worst lineups in baseball between Detroit and Kansas City. He’s being taken around pick 173, making him the 49th starting pitcher off the board, and he’s definitely a value there.
David Price, LAD – I’m a firm believer that it’s about the quality of innings, not the quantity of innings, and that’s why I’m going to be having a lot of shares of David Price this year. Given his injury history and Dodgeritis, you do have to be concerned about his potential to eclipse 150 IP, but he’s been so good over the past few seasons that I’m willing to let that slide. His poor ERA in 2019 was a product of him pitching hurt in August, as well as an inflated BABIP. He posted the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2019 and is moving to a division with much easier offenses (and no more DH to pitch to either). We think he’ll be the 35th-best pitcher this year, but he’s being drafted 44th on Yahoo.
Late Lottery Tickets: Mitch Keller, PIT – We’re not believers in Keller because of the numbers he put up in 2019, we’re believers because he has the stuff to back it up. His slider induced a 27% SwStr rate and an insane 51% O-Swing, and he has a great curveball as well. He had horrible luck last year (.475 BABIP, sub-60% strand rate), but all the underlying metrics speak to a much much better pitcher than the one we saw last year. I mean, he had a 3.19 FIP against a 7.13 ERA. That should tell you the kind of improvement we could be seeing in 2020. He’s essentially free on Yahoo, he’s being picked around 243rd on average, and we think of him as a top-50 SP.
Jose Urquidy, HOU – Urquidy seems like he has a spot in the Astros rotation all sewn up, and he’s shown enough in his limited opportunities to make him a decent flier at this point in the draft. He has a wide array of pitches, all of which have shown great stuff, and that will help him take on a larger role as a regular starter. Again, we’re talking late fliers, but he’s being drafted around 227th overall. The opportunity cost is not high for someone who should easily be a top-50 SP.
Joe Musgrove, PIT – We’re all in on the Pirates this year, well, at least their pitchers. That’s because they’ve overhauled their coaching staff, and that should mean a decreased organizational focus on sinkers that haven’t been working for years. Musgrove has some fantastic breaking pitches, and if he could utilize his four-seamer more for those to play off of, he could be the solid starting pitcher we’ve seen all along. He’s being drafted as the 64th starting pitcher, making him a really cheap upside play that still provides a decent floor.
Caleb Smith, MIA – The wheels fell off the wagon on Smith’s great rookie campaign, and that left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. But that was because he got hurt, and it’s very difficult to pitch through an injured hip. He was incredible when he was healthy, and he should be healthy entering the season as well. He’s being drafted as the 63rd SP off the board, and we think he’s closer to a top-50 arm. Certainly upside worth chasing this late in the draft.
Pitchers to Avoid: Hyun-Jin Ryu, TOR – Ryu had a magical 2019, not just because he had a legit case for winning the Cy Young, but because he actually stayed healthy for a full season. Ryu has always had serious injury issues, and we shouldn’t expect another full season of health. He also is a pitcher who greatly benefited from the Dodgers’ great defense behind him, and that will change (for the much worse) moving to Toronto. He’ll also have turf to deal with, and the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox, and all that spells disaster for a pitcher who’s currently being drafted as the #34 starter overall, a full 25 spots above where we have him ranked.
Marcus Stroman, NYM – I don’t understand why people want to roster Stroman. He’s a low-strikeout pitcher who pitches to contact in front of a terrible Mets defense. There’s no way this ends well for him. He’s being drafted around 200th in Yahoo drafts, and he is at best a streaming option for us; we have him ranked 76th.
Jose Berrios, MIN – I have a theory on Jose Berrios: he gets drafted as high as he does because that curveball is so absolutely insane that we just associate him as an ace in our mind. It’s a gorgeous pitch! But it doesn’t lead to the strikeout numbers you look for in a top 25 starter, which Berrios is being drafted as. He gets about as many swinging strikes as Kyle Hendricks does, which doesn’t make me optimistic about Berrios’s strikeout potential moving forward. He’s a safe pitcher, but he’s not an ace, and we need to stop drafting him like one.
Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS – Rodriguez doesn’t have the stuff to repeat his 2019 season, as he relies far too much on getting hitters to chase his breaking pitches out of the zone, and his fastball isn’t good enough to bail him out when he gets behind in the count. He’s never had a WHIP below 1.26, and he’s just too volatile a pitcher to count on. He’s being drafted as a low-end SP3, and that’s still too high for our taste.
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY – Tanaka actually has a decent amount of upside, as he posted a sub-4 ERA outside of one disastrous start in Boston, and had surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow that might have been bothering him. However, he’s being drafted as the #50 SP, which is kind of taking the value out of the upside. If he slides down to the 200s in ADP, go ahead and start thinking about him, but you can do better in the 14th round, which is where he’s being drafted now.
Chris Paddack, SDP – Paddack is a great starting pitcher, no one wants to take that away from him. But he’s being drafted as the #15 SP, and Yahoo has him ranked as their #10 SP. Paddack still has more development to do, as he doesn’t have a consistent third offering, and that will seriously limit his upside. He also was really lucky last year, allowing just a .237 BABIP. That’s not likely to repeat, and while Paddack could certainly be a great member of your rotation, you don’t want to pay this price for him.
Noah Syndergaard, NYM – I don’t blame people for overdrafting Syndergaard, you watch him pitch and he just looks like an ace. The fastball is fast, the slider has great movement, and he just kind of looks like Randy Johnson on the mound. But Syndergaard has never shown that he can put it all together, he’s regressed in so many ways since his fantastic 2016, and he doesn’t seem like he’s going to make the necessary changes to get the most out of his talent. Let someone else take him as the #21 SP off the board.
Dinelson Lamet, SDP – Lamet has one amazing pitch, his slider, and that’s about it. His fastball and changeup are mediocre at best, which calls to mind another pitcher who succeeded for a while on nothing but a slider as well: Chris Archer. The rest of the league has caught up to Archer, and I think they will on Lamet too. He’ll always rack up the strikeouts, but he’ll be prone to meltdowns as long as he doesn’t have any other strong pitches. We think he’s still a decent target as the 46th SP in our rankings, but Yahoo is all on in Lamet, ranking him as their 28th SP, ahead of players like Carrasco and Wheeler.
Targets: Nick Anderson, TBR – While the Rays haven’t officially announced a closer yet, and they may not do so at all, Anderson is such an electric reliever that you may not need him to get 30+ saves to return the value of his current ADP. He’s going as the 17th closer off the board in Yahoo drafts, around pick 157, and he’s going to give you elite ratios with a ton of strikeouts. Realistically, the Rays will spread around their closing duties, and Anderson will pick up around 20 saves, but as I said, he’s the 17th closer off the board. He’s a top 10 closer for us, easily.
Giovanny Gallegos, STL – There may be some questions around Gallegos’s role, but there really shouldn’t be. Martinez is going to be a starter, and Jordan Hicks won’t be ready to go until around early July. Gallegos is the 24th closer off the board by ADP and the 22nd one ranked by Yahoo, but he’s our 14th ranked closer. He’s more than just a closer, he’s also an excellent pitcher who will be elite in ratios and help out in strikeouts as well.
Jose Leclerc, TEX – Leclerc has some infamous meltdowns in 2019 and that obviously has not been forgotten by the fantasy baseball community, as he’s being drafted as the 23rd closer in Yahoo. Leclerc has a stronghold on the Rangers closing duties, and he’s a great source of strikeouts as well. He’s a lower-end option for sure, but we think he’s the 16th best closer entering the 2020 season.
Avoid: Archie Bradley, ARI – You should basically just swap where Bradley is being drafted with Leclerc, as Bradley is being taken as the 18th closer at pick 158. He had a stellar second half, but that was largely aided by luck, as his BABIP dropped over 100 points between halves and his swinging strike rate actually dropped quite a bit as well. He had the worst swinging-strike rate and zone-contact rate among qualified relievers last year, and he also walks a lot of batters, and that just doesn’t seem like a winning combination.
Brad Hand, CLE – Hand has been one of the best relievers in baseball, but he does have an insane amount of innings on his arm over the past four seasons, and that may have led to his sharp decline in the second half of last season. He should be a stable closer in 2020, but he’s being drafted as the 5th closer off the board, and there are better options going behind him, who have much higher upside in either ratios (Taylor Rogers), strikeouts (Ken Giles), or both (Liam Hendriks, Anderson). There’s no reason to be drafting Hand this high with all the closer talent on the board behind him.
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