A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Razzball from my winter slumber and told you all about some early slow drafts I’ve been doing this season, starting all the way back over Thanksgiving weekend. I only mentioned hitters from these drafts, and am now ready to start discussing their pitching brethren. Since I’ve noticed that there is suddenly a lot more fantasy baseball content out there over the last few weeks in terms of rankings, ADP, etc., I’m ready to concentrate less on where guys were drafted in my leagues, and move on to looking at a handful of fellows who I’m already feeling at least mildly warm and fuzzy about. On second thought, these guys may not exactly make me feel warm and fuzzy, more like adding them to a roster will make me a little less sick to my stomach at the end of a long draft than some of the other names that will be out there. Since deep league fantasy baseball is my usual thing, I’m taking a very, very early look at guys who will be drafted in later rounds. I’m still contemplating strategies for how I’ll draft (or purchase at auction) starters this year — between the massive disappointments that many of my second and third tier pitchers (must take this moment for obligatory shout-out to my personal 2018 deep league-ruiners, Jose Quintana and Jon Gray) and the wacky “opener” hijinks that will no-doubt be prevalent again this year, I feel like I’m going to need a different strategy for every league based on its specifications. For now, though, I know that I want to keep an eye on a handful of starting pitchers that I can turn to late in a draft or auction, regardless of format, which brings us to today’s list. Just to keep things deep-league relevant, all of these guys are outside of the top 225 in terms of current NFBC overall ADP, so anyone on this list is pretty much just waiver-wire fodder for most shallow, standard leagues. As we deep-leaguers know, however, one man’s waiver-wire fodder…
Kenta Maeda (227). Would it excite me to draft Maeda this year? No. In fact, I might cry a little if and when I do so. He was all over the place last year, both in terms of his pitching and the way the Dodgers utilized him, but that K rate looked pretty good by the end of the season (153 punch outs in 125 innings in 2018). This late, in a deep league, not sayin’ I wont take a flyer or two on him.
Joe Musgrove (237). Loved the guy as a sleeper last year, and after a forgetful/injury-filled season, it feels like we’re more or less back to where we were a year or so ago. I am certainly going to temper any enthusiasm I’m feeling for him, but will happily scoop him out of the fantasy bargain bin late in a draft… if nothing else, kind of loving the fact that he kept his WHIP attractive (1.18) through his injuries last year — don’t we all appreciate a gentleman who knows how to handle his WHIP?
Tyler Skaggs (240). I can already feel myself ramping it up for this guy way too hard too fast, and could be destined for heartbreak, but I just can’t resist him this late. If (and yes, it’s a big if) he can somehow manage to stay healthy, I think he could put together a pretty nice season — his numbers last year (4.02 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 129 Ks/40 BBs in 125 innings) aren’t exciting… except they kind of are when you realize that they include a 10 earned run game AND a 7 earned run game over the course of a couple weeks that one has to think involved pitching through injury/returning too soon from injury.
Colin McHugh (271). I expected his ADP to have already climbed up a bit given that it appears very likely that McHugh will be part of the Astros’ starting rotation this season, but he still isn’t getting a lot of fantasy love. He may be one of those guys who never is able to flex his stuff as a starter and will always be much more effective in shorter, reliever-y stints, but in real-life and deep-league fantasy, this late in a draft I can live with that potential disappointment.
Dereck Rodriguez (293). Rodriguez is a guy who I didn’t trust even a little last year, and by the end of the season very much regretted that I hadn’t grabbed him in even a single one of my NL-only leagues. I’m putting a pretty big asterisk on his this year because I think he was pitching over his head/getting somewhat lucky last year (2.81 ERA/1.13 WHIP, but just 89 Ks in 118 innings), but once you get to talking about guys who are being drafted around #300 overall, you’re gonna be dealing with some pretty big asterisks.
Anibal Sanchez (304). Clearly the fantasy community is not buying the turn-around of Mr. Sanchez, who had a shockingly good season (2.83 ERA/1.08 WHIP, 135 Ks in 136 innings) after years of not being rosterable in even the deepest fantasy league. I can’t imagine we’ll see anything close to what he did last year, but he’s on a playoff-caliber team, and just in case some of the changes he made to his game that led to his 2018 success stick in 2019, I may grab him in a league or two.
Mike Fiers (315). I usually pass on pitchers with strikeout rates this abysmal (139 in 172 innings last year, which if I’m doing the math in my head correctly, lines up with his career numbers pretty closely) in leagues of any size, and his ERA/WHIP numbers for 2018 also seem to be outliers (3.56/1.18 last year, 4.04/1.27 career). Why am I even mentioning him, then? Because this is a post about starting pitching flyers to take when you’re desperate at the end of a long draft in a deep league.
Marcus Stroman (319). Stroman burned me last year, and while I thought the painful memories would keep me away completely this year, I do enjoy a good clearance sale and may have to draft him if he’s practically free. I’ll be ready to dump him at a moment’s notice, but unlike many of the players on this list, Stroman at least has a decent bit of upside in him.
Freddy Peralta (321). I don’t know if Peralta was mostly lucky, or really, really good at pitching to have K’d 96 batters in 78 innings while averaging around 90 miles per hour on his fastball, but I’m going to be at least a little intrigued to find out at this point in a draft. Sure, Peralta is listed behind 5 or 6 other guys on the Brewers’ starting pitching depth chart (Chacin, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson — who could himself warrant a spot in this post if you’re into guys who are coming off of scary injuries with super long recovery times, Zach Davis, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodrufff…) even without them yet having traded for anyone, but the more I look at that list of pitchers, the likelier it seems like there may be a place for Peralta on it.
Jose Urena (352). An unproven starter on what could arguably be the worst team in baseball in 2019? You know we’re getting down to the end of this list. He’s another guy who I’d normally avoid at all costs, and probably will again this year, due to a ridiculously ugly strike out rate (130 in 174 innings last year). But somehow he managed to pitch to a 1.18 WHIP as well, which probably involved lots of luck — one would have to guess that much uglier numbers lie ahead for Urena in 2019, but in the deepest of leagues, he’ll at least be sitting there on my cheat sheet as a last-minute name to consider.
Ryan Yarbrough (361). This blurb isn’t just about Yarbrough specifically; think of it more as a challenge to figure out which middle reliever, in our new post-opener world, is going to have 16 wins this year. Every time I look at that number, I think it’s a mistake. That’s the same number as Verlander had in 2018, one fewer than Scherzer and one more than Gerrit Cole, and 70% more wins than your NL-only Cy Young award winner. For years I’ve been looking for a way to game the wins category, a category that I generally despise… chasing decent-but-not-great relievers who also happen to often be the pitcher of record in the games they enter is probably not the most brilliant way to attack this problem, but doesn’t mean I won’t give it a try.