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It’s the most incredible time to be alive in human history, but it’s not without challenges. For instance, take inflation (please! said Rodney Dangerfield) (RIP). Gas is up, rent is up, groceries are up. You may think Razzball is insulated from such inflationary struggles, but you’d be a blithering fool. Rudy’s been collecting all sorts of leftover lube from oil change businesses, with some of it even being used to prep the intricate parts of Hittertron and Streamonator for the rigorous calculations they’re about to run daily all season. And it’s really not my place to break this news, but even Grey is looking to offset the rising costs of running Razzball by starting his own line of mustache wax called “Grey’s Grease.” After this intro, another way they could save money is by firing me, but I’m counting on neither Grey nor Rudy are paying attention to a low-level peon writer like me.

We even have to be wary of rising costs at the draft table. Guys like Spencer Strider keep rising in cost, going as high as first overall in NFBC drafts, and Corbin Burnes, with a high of fourth overall. Even if those are one-off events, in the Gladiator I’m currently drafting, seven SPs were off the board by pick 34. Fortunately, if you listen to our esteemed Fantasy Master Lothario (and Brucely, if you aren’t, why are you here?), you know not to be anywhere near the top starters. To help in this pursuit, I will use another group of ratios to help you identify starter targets that will help you crush it in the pitching stats while you load up on mashers early in your last-minute drafts.

My favorite, immediate go-to stat for pitchers is K-BB%. It’s far from a catch-all, but I first look at this when I want quick info/opinion on what I think of somebody (or somebody vs somebody). Secondly, I will stick with a couple of ratios I’ve been using for my hitters articles, and that’s Z-Contact% and Hard%. Though here, I’m going to give it a little Missy Elliott; I’ma flip it and reverse it since this is a pitching article. These starters don’t give up much in-zone contact, and when they do, it’s hit weakly (or weekly, if Javier Baez is reading this). This is my third column this year, and it’s the second gratuitous stray Baez has caught from me. I’m certain he wouldn’t be reading Razzball or this article, but If I wanted to ensure he saw this, I’d just wad it up and throw it in the opposite batter’s box. He just can’t say no to that.

Onward…

My favorite 2024 draft szn crush started the drafts without a lot of fanfare, but has been receiving more helium than a weather balloon–Kutter Crawford. Crawford is currently the 76th SP off the board in NFBC drafts (as of 3/20/24), but he’s shown elite rates here that say the helium isn’t strong enough yet. Kutter was 31st in 2023 in K-BB% at 18.8%, but was borderline elite at limiting contact in the zone and at limiting hard contact, ranking 23rd in Z-Contact % (83%) and 11th in Hard% (34.4%). I used a minimum of 100 IP so even though it’s a smallish sample size, it’s not many fewer IPs than your more “established” starters throw anymore. With expectations of an increased role and Crawford cutting right through opponents through 13 spring innings (1.98 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 13 Ks with nary a walk), I’m looking at a Top 30 SP that I don’t have to pay anywhere near top 30 prices for.

Michael King is next on my target list, currently going 37th among SPs. King was “only” 41st in 2023 in Z-Contact%, with batters hitting him 85% of the time, but the difference between his rank and improving around 15 spots is like a percent; what’s that, 5-10 balls in play? The fun really starts with his K-BB%–an elite 22% (good for 10th). Lest you think “Yeah, but he was a reliever for a while and short-inning appearances buffed that,” you’ll be pleased to note that it increased to 24.2% after his conversion to a starter. Even if batters hit him 85% of the time they swing in zone, his Hard% is a truly elite 33% (good for 7th overall). I’m happily letting him fall to me as even a “reach” as a top-30 SP, and think we’re on the verge of a top-20 season; don’t let the weird relief appearance over in Seoul dissuade you here.

A pair of Twin-city hurlers are both really appealing options relative to ADP as well this year. Joe Ryan is the more popular arm, with an ADP of 26th among SPs, but he also sports ridiculous K-BB% (24.6%, good for 3rd) and Z-Contact% (79.6%, placing him 2nd). His HR problem is the only knock on him; he gets hit hard (only 85th best in Hard% at 41.6%). I think he’ll outperform his ADP, but he’s a little riskier just because he gives up so much Hard%. His teammate, Bailey Ober, is the guy I’m more aggressively targeting with the discount (talk about burying the lede of this paragraph). Ober is being taken as the 41st SP off the board in NFBC drafts but is borderline elite by the metrics I’m using here. Ober ranked top-20 last year in all three categories (20th in K-BB% at 20.2%, an elite 8th in Z-Contact% at 81.4%, and 20th again in Hard% at 35.4%). Ryan can reach top-20 status with some improvement to his HR problem, but Ober is the one who looks primed to outperform his ADP in a bigger way, giving you more return on that investment.

If you’re looking for a deeper league dart throw, check out Baltimore’s Tyler Wells. Wells doesn’t come with the same K-BB% chops as the hurlers above (17.7%, which is still pretty darned good), but he makes up for it by ranking 25th in Z-Contact% (83.7%) and limiting Hard% to only 38.7%. Again, I don’t see the upside of some of these guys, but he’s also going about 90 pitcher picks later than the guys above and seems to be entrenched in the Orioles rotation with a strong offense backing him and a deep left-field wall. I’ve got a couple of shares of Wells in two deeper leagues, so I’ve put my entry fees where my mouth is on this one.

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Chucky
Chucky
1 month ago

Deep Leaguer Jack Flaherty? Had a nice spring. Now a member of a burgeoning rotation with a clear ace in Skrubal. Looks like Flaherty is the ying to Skrbal’s yang.

Hoove
Hoove
Reply to  Chucky
1 month ago

Absolutely; he’s had a great spring, as have Mize and Reese Olson. All three guys are terrific targets. Olson was under consideration for me but his Hard% was a little higher than I was considering for these guys. All three having rotation spots for a team I think can win the ALC definitely make them attractive late-game choices.