Every year, MLB trends – e.g., K’s are up, starter innings are down, the opener! – cause a lot of fantasy writers and players alike to rethink how they approach starting pitching in drafts. Reflection is generally a good thing but it is a waste of time if you keep making the same mistake.

There is no one successful way to draft Starting Pitchers. There are factors specific to you (the drafter). Are you better or worse than the average person in your league at finding hitter or pitcher bargains later in the draft? Are you better or worse at streaming during the season? Is your league format conducive to streaming (better in shallow leagues and daily rosters, harder in deeper leagues and weekly rosters)? How do your projected player values line up with the market?

Here is my only evergreen advice on the subject: Do not wing it when it comes to how much you spend of your draft capital (either auction $ or draft picks in snake) on starting pitching.

This is particularly an issue in one’s early drafts as most people tend to course correct issues through draft season.

You should be able to do enough pre-draft research to determine where the best SP values are based on ADP, league tendencies, and your draft board. In most mixed league formats, the ratios of Hitters/SP/RP is 67/24/9. The SP% is a little higher in Points leagues vs Roto since SPs are so valuable in that format. You should know how much draft capital you want to spend on SP within +/- 3%. I prefer to stay around the average (24%) since my only real preference post-draft is to not have any major roster imbalances. So my goal is to stay between 21-27% on SPs.

My draft strategy and research is built around this SP allotment (as well as a couple other considerations). In essence, I am trying to identify the ‘tough’ draft-day decisions and make them ahead of time rather than try to do it in the heat of the moment. For instance, If I decide I am likely going heavy hitter in early rounds, I am going to do more research in the late SP1-early SP3 range as I am probably drafting three. If I am likely going two aces, I am not spending as much time on that range.

It is tempting to want to stay 100% flexible and take advantage of any draft room inefficiencies in any given round. This is fine….in shitty leagues. Most competitive leagues do not have major inefficiencies. If you keep finding that everyone is overvaluing or undervaluing a position or skill set, it likely means you are guilty of the opposite. You should have identified this in your draft prep but at least sticking with the planned draft capital allotment keeps you from compounding the mistake and starting the year with a team that does not reflect your fantasy team managing strengths/preferences.

If you feel staying 100% flexible truly is a competitive advantage for you, then this is still a helpful exercise. You should just plan/research for the most likely scenarios. There will likely be a lot of overlaps on your roster in these scenarios but maybe ‘two ace’ team means you need to research cheap power in rounds 6-10 or ‘1st round SP and two SP3s’ means you put more time into your 2nd-4th round hitter picks. This also requires being conscious of each plan so you don’t go 1st/4th/8th round on SPs and then wonder why even the dumbass projected standings after the draft are laughing at your offense.

How do you this in snake drafts when there are no auction dollars to add up into a percentage? Easy. Go to one of our Preseason Player Raters that best meet your league size and roster format. Keep the rank and the $ value. Delete the rest. This will give you a $ value for each draft pick. When you mock draft, add up the pick value of your SPs and divide by $260 to see if you are staying within your range. You will likely find that your top 10 rounds are the determining factor and there are a limited number of combinations that work. For instance, if you draft 2 SPs in the first 5 round, you cannot expect to have league average SP draft capital distribution unless you wait until at least the 11th round before taking SP3. If you go hitters with your first 4 picks, you are likely going to need 3 SPs in the next 6 rounds. After a couple of drafts, you will just follow those combinations instinctually.







  1. AL KOHOLIC says:

    Great advice Rudy,thanks for your expertise

    • knucks says:

      @AL KOHOLIC: agree with Al

  2. TheTinDoor

    TheTinDoor says:

    I actually prefer streaming in Weekly leagues.

    Without daily moves, there’s a natural limit to IP. Nobody can run away just by volume; each SP roster spot is worth around 6 IP/week, + 2-start weeks.

    So then, streaming simply becomes finding the *1 or 2* best available starts for the entire week. There’s no crush of volume demands, so you get to cherry-pick only the best streaming spots.

    • i do as well. to me it’s a necessity b/c it’s super rare to have 6 quality SPs going every week b/c of injuries, bad matchups, etc. but i hate having multiple holes which is what killed my co-owned nfbc main event draft despite a killer offense.

  3. Ian says:

    Super advice. I don’t know as much (or have as much time to prepare) as my other 11 competitors in my basic Roto leagues but I want at least a team that’s not laughed at. So I thought I could solidify key (razzball approved) players the first 8 to 12 picks or so by reaching somewhat. So I’d have 12 (pre arranged teams) in front of me during the draft. If I pick 9th I simply pick ( in order) the players on my “9th” pick team. Each pick would have two players to choose from (ie Olsen or Aguilar for 1st base pick).
    So I set draft wizard to “15 team setting” which helps to create the reach scenario. This is an example of a typical 9th pick team I did (first 10 picks).
    T Turner
    And so on
    So I know there will be a similar player available if one wasn’t there. At least I’m just picking and not scrambling. Apparently “war room” is great but will I be getting the players I really love? What do you think? Any advice appreciated!

    • i think it’s worth looking for short cuts and seeing where it nets out. on first glance, i only see one OF in your first 10 picks and the AVG is really depending on Guerrero to hit .300+ his rookie year. so a little tweaking here and there to find a little better balance and i can be on board.

      • Ian says:

        @Rudy Gamble: yeah… should balance everything out and add them up. Thanks.

  4. Skip Mcgillicuddy says:

    Steamers latest projections have drastically changed from December to now, any explanation as to why? Multiple players have seemed to rise/fall when comparing the two lists. Is it tweaks to the projection system/process itself? Thanks.

    • no major changes as far as i see/know to rates. i make continuous changes from the 1.0 release of projections in early January through opening day (though the changes tend to be heaviest in January/early February). the changes are mostly driven by my playing time estimates and batting order distributions.

      • Skip Mcgillicuddy says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Ohh got it. I was looking at the steamer proj downloadable excel docs from fangraphs today, some proj seemed to have changed from early December (around the 5th). Playing time/Trades and BOD would change some rankings. Thanks again!

  5. Dave D says:

    I have drafted two NFBC DC’s and took a fairly radical approach that I hope pays off and believe will. I plan to have three regular SP’s and stream 3 or 4 each week based on matchups from another 12 or 13 rostered. In my first ten rounds I took one solid closer and one later SP while loading up mostly IF bats witha couple OFs sprinkled in. League one my first SP was Happ, league two was Berrios. Throw in Hendricks as a #2. Then I mixed upside guys like Pivetta, Glasnow, Lucchesi with guys who have been mostly good but not highly ranked: Oddorizi, Mengden, Urena, Straily, Barria. Took a flier on some guys in later rounds that may outperform ADP: Lauer, Borucki, Tropeano, Faria, Plutko, Reid-Foley.

    I’ve seen guys draft a lot of SP’s before but not really try my approach of trying to get 16-17 starters and streaming. The main thing for me is having depth and maintaining interest and I hope this model works. I’m totally giving up on drafting prospects for position players and sticking only with guys who will be on MLB rosters and playing.

    Any thoughts on this or other approaches in DC, Rudy?

    • thanks for commenting on the post. well, i’ll be honest. i always draft a shit-ton of SPs and stream….but I also draft SPs throughout the draft including first couple rounds. there is so much SP attrition that you have to draft a ton of SPs IMO.

      it just seems like you aren’t drafting an ace. otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward. maybe you are even doubling up on SP2s. this can work (grey won a DC last year with Darvish as his ‘ace’) but it just depends on how well you draft SPs.

      • Dave D says:

        @Rudy Gamble: Yeah, deep SPs seem vital. It doesn’t seem worthwhile rostering more than 5 or 6 relievers. I won a DC three years ago, skipped a year then last year my pitching was good but injuries killed offense and I didn’t have the depth, especially in OF to compensate. Given there are 14 position players and 9 pitchers starting each week I’d rather be most solid with bats and take more chances with arms and try to take advantage of good match ups. That is definitely easier with SPs than any other position.

        • that seems about how i distribute the hitters/sp/rp. it sucks when the depth runs out. i think my Catcher last year went to shit after whiffing on Tom Murphy/Miguel Montero as C3/C4 and my RPs were sunk by Osuna and Strickland’s stupid broken hand.

          • Dave D says:

            @Rudy Gamble:

            Yeah, let’s both hope for a rebound year in DC. Drafting there is so fun but so frustrating later when helpless to make adjustments. I love the challenge of the format nonetheless.

  6. Squat Cobblers says:

    Great post as usual Rudy! Please find time to do more! Love the strategy/process posts better than player-specific posts but those are also necessary.

    Trying to wrap my head around the differences in drafting SPs in my two leagues of preference: 15-team NFBCs and 12-team RCLs. I feel I have a decent grasp of the RCLs, but I have difficulty in the weekly 15-teamers. I lean hitters early (say first 3 rounds) but am concerned about missing out on an ace. ADP over the last month shows that Corbin/Noah likely to be picked prior to my likely 4th round pick. Should I feel comfortable with the likes of Paxton/Flaherty/Strasburg/Clevinger/Taillon as my *ace* …or do I need to act sooner? Thanks!!

    • thanks. i don’t think you NEED an ace but it’s worth going through mock drafts to determine what team construct you feel comfortable with. i feel like offense is super deep this year and imagine i’d draft an SP in first 3 rounds of most 15-team drafts. there isn’t one SP going in NFBC 35-125 that i have valued better than ADP! but i have 6 in the first 33. so that’s part of my thought process…

      • Squat Cobblers says:

        @Rudy Gamble: That’s interesting. But isn’t the range of ADP in the early part of drafts equal to the margin of error on projections (especially SPs)…meaning, one is not certain of getting value? So, just take best player available early?

  7. Roger Anderson says:

    I created a spreadsheet that uses the projections and matchups for our 8-10 H2H league. It tells me projected Ws, points, and weaknesses. I do mock drafts for practice. After each draft, I am always predicted to be at or near dead last. During the season, I replace 50% or more of my team, I use Hittertron & Streamonator daily. I have been to the finals 4 of the last 5 years and won the last 2 (either I am getting better or fatigue has set into our league).

    I figure if I can get 2 good HR, 2 SB, a 300 BA, and 2 solid SPs the rest can be found on waivers or rookies eventually. The benefit of an H2H is that you just have to make it into the playoffs with the best team at closing, not all season long. This is why I count on you Rudy (and maybe Grey) to give me good data and guidance all season long.

    • nice. seems like you got a good strategy going. effort + tools creates such a massive advantage in shallow mixed (12 teams or less). there’s still an advantage up to 15 team weekly but it is hard to compete without an above average draft.

  8. SwaggerJackers says:

    Good advice Rudy!

    I’m usually a pretty loyal Grey follower in avoiding top pitchers so do you have any recommendations of who to avoid between picks 50 and 100 in the SP pool? Specifically, are you avoiding any of Buehler, Flaherty, Clevinger, Paxton, Strasburg, Tailon, C Mart, Wheeler, Berrios? I’m guessing most of my teams will have some combination or two or three of those guys.

    • @SwaggerJackers: Compared to NFBC ADP, I am lower on this whole tier of pitchers and some like Clevinger and Taillon are 4 rounds lower. If I get shut out on aces, i’m basically just trying to cut losses in this tier. my projections/rankings are up to peruse/debate.

  9. SwaggerJackers says:

    @Rudy: I wanted to follow up with you on my keeper options in one league. Here are the details:

    10 Team Roto Daily League
    Keepers can be kept indefinitely with no penalty. Can keep 7:

    JD Mart
    Juan Soto
    Khris Davis

    You advised against keeping Verlander due to advanced age so I traded him for a pick. Now my follow up question is: which hitter should I try to move? Thanks for all the solid advice!

    • @SwaggerJackers: i’d hold on Lindor, JDM, Soto. Khris would be the guy I’d want to trade. Not sure why you’d trade Hoskins and Bryant.

  10. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:

    Great stuff! In fairly shallow leagues – say, 12 team weekly leagues where you can only slot 6 SPs and 3 rps per week – do you tend to go the Stars/scrubs route for pitching (drafting 2 guys from the top 20 then then rest from the bargain basement since there’s always pitching on the wire) or do you prefer spreading it out?

    The last couple years in that league, I’ve noticed my final staff is unrecognizable from my drafted staff, except for the top 1 or 2 guys (so I’m wondering if I should commit to that framework even more)

    • @Duda Want to Build a Snowman?: yes, in 10/12 team leagues, i’m all about stars/scrubs with pitching. people always think pitching when it comes to streaming but I find there’s more value in hitting. Give me two aces and then a couple guys after Round 12.

  11. Harry Beanebag says:

    Great job, as always, Rudy! How does a starting pitcher draft strategy change in a keeper league? Specifically, one where each team gets to keep 5 players (up to two SPs). And more specifically, my team’s keepers are all batters and good ones. They are:
    K. Davis

    I don’t pick until the third round (there’s 12 teams total). Suffice it to say all of the “aces” will be kept.

    Eager to see/read your thoughts! Keep up the great work!

    • @Harry Beanebag: Thanks. Sweet top 4 keeper list. KD isn’t a bad top 5 but would be willing to drop him if you had a top 20 SP instead. If not, then it’s just about finding value in the draft at SP. My focus would be specifically for this year – yeah it’d be great if you found a Snell but I’d rather a Happ than a Glasnow. Draft depth and try to load up on guys with solid home parks for pitching. So underrated. It’s what made me regret drafting Jon Gray even more last year….you never feel safe!

  12. Jason P. says:

    Rudy, this is great advice, thanks!

    I have a chance to get Chris Sale ($40) for Javy Baez ($12) straight up. He’ll go with these other pitching keepers:

    Folty ($2)
    Iglesias ($9)
    Flaherty ($0)
    Paxton ($11)
    Pivetta ($4)

    My hitter keepers:

    Sal Perez ($7)
    Olson ($11)
    Albies ($4)
    Robles ($3)
    Rosario ($4)

    I expect some regression from Baez, and I worry about Sale’s second half injury issues last few years, but in my league (playing its 26th season this year), you don’t win titles without an ace SP. Most others will be kept. Do I make this deal?

    • @Jason P.: it’s a bold trade. i like Sale a lot and obviously Baez is a better bargain. But MI is super deep and you can now spend almost all your other money on hitters. so i’m on board w/ your read of the situation.

  13. RicoSuave says:

    Great work Rudy!

    16 team H2H weekly points league… redraft

    I’m picking at #6. (snake draft) What do you recommend (as far as strategy goes) when drafting.


    • hard to say w/o knowing implications of points format. as the post notes, i’d plan out when you are taking SPs and how much you are investing. then you can go backwards and figure out the hitting.

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