It’s still only early February and meaningful baseball feels light years away, but as far as I’m concerned it’s never too early to think about your next fantasy draft. Last week we thought a bit about the outfield, but this week I’m in the mood to switch gears entirely. So, let’s ponder some starting pitchers who are going late in drafts that could conceivably outperform their ADP. We’ll keep things outside the top 250 players selected based on current NFBC ADP, including a few guys outside the top 400 that likely won’t see little yellow stickers with their names on them on draft boards outside of NL-only, AL-only, and similar formats of interest only to those of us in the deep-league world.
Ryan Yarbrough (NFBC ADP #256). I’ve never been excited by Yarbrough due to his lackluster K rate. After I noticed his current price point was at least mildly intriguing, though, I realized that my fellow Razzball scribe, the one and only Coolwhip, recently wrote up a lovely Ryan Yarbrough Sleeper piece. If you’ve always felt the same way I do about his lack of punch-outs, it just might change your mind.
Dane Dunning (#287). Am I waiting with bated breath as the 20th or 21st round of a 15-team mixed draft gets to me, hoping and praying that Dunning will fall so that I can bask in the glow of having him on my pretend baseball team? Nope, but I’m not kicking him out of bed, as they say, once we hit pick 300 or so either. Not much to lose at that point, right? He’s unproven at the big league (and even at the triple A) level, he’s already 26, and his walk rate alone may end up being a fatal flaw. But, I still think he has a decent shot to be the kind of guy who can nicely fill out a fantasy rotation in deep leagues. His cup of coffee last year was more than decent (35 Ks vs. 13 walks in 34 innings, with a 1.12 WHIP over his 7 starts). Also, don’t forget that his new home park (Dunning was traded to the Rangers in December in the Lance Lynn deal, in case you missed it — or saw it and didn’t care) was described by the great wordsmith Joey Gallo as “big as hell.”
Deivi Garcia (#314). I recently took Garcia with the 370th pick in a deep draft. Will he be a meaningful cog – or even a part of – the Yankees’ rotation in 2021? Will he ever even see my active fantasy lineup? Who knows, but at that price I don’t mind taking a shot to find out. His handful of MLB innings last year (34.1 to be exact) produced meh overall numbers including a 4.98 ERA. He’s short and wiry, which isn’t exactly the dream combo for a major league pitcher, but the experts tell me his “active spin rate” is impressive, and even in a tiny sample size I like to see a K/BB ratio like the 33/6 he put up last year. This could be a make or break season for him, and I’ll probably grab a couple shares just in case he ends up going with “make.”
Adam Wainwright (#424). Here’s some good things about Wainwright: he had a (surprisingly) solid season last year, he should get the ball every 5th day when healthy, and he’s back with a team that is projected to give him a great deal of run support. Here’s a couple sketchy things about Wainwright: he’s like 50 (okay, he’s 39; I looked it up), and he had his best stats in years in 2020 and was probably seriously outperforming his peripherals. Once you’re this deep into a draft, though, and really need some pitching help, sometimes it’s better to go with the devil (and by devil, I mean underperforming fantasy baseball player) you know rather than the devil you don’t.
Alec Mills (#468). I had Mills at the end of my queue late in my last draft for multiple rounds, figuring he’d be a last-minute escape hatch in case I suddenly found myself beyond desperate for a starting pitcher. Not gonna lie, dude is so boring that I honestly don’t remember if I ever actually drafted him or not. How is a guy who pitched a no hitter in the middle of a pandemic — in a year when most of us thought there wouldn’t even be a baseball season at all — boring? Well, it probably has something to do with his stunningly mediocre overall numbers, or at least his career 4.15 ERA. His disappointing K rate in 2020 was actually his worst in several years, though, so things might improve on that front… and his career WHIP, 1.17, is actually very good. Numbers like that will get you a spot this far back in my deep-league draft queue any time.
Josh Fleming (#490). It seems deep-league pitching often both begins and ends with good control but a less-than-stellar K rate, and here we go again on that front with Fleming. He’s never going to be an ace (or even an innings eater as long as he’s in a Rays uniform, for that matter), but he showed enough in limited time in 2020 for me to take a flyer in an AL-only league or similar. Even if he was pitching over his head with last year’s 2.78 ERA/1.11 WHIP (in 294 career minor league innings, he has a 3.40 ERA/1.15 WHIP, for what it’s worth), Fleming is the kind of low-risk gamble I don’t mind taking around pick 500.