Starting Pitcher is one of the most volatile positions in Fantasy, which presents a good chance of drafting starting pitcher busts. The position is the most injury prone and most inconsistent in all of baseball. It’s also the position with the most spots in your starting lineup, making it necessary to draft an ace on draft day. With all of this importance at a position in Fantasy sports, comes the risk of not drafting good value.
Drafting starting pitching is always a complex discussion before each Fantasy Baseball season. There are many different strategies on how to tackle the position, each differing on the scoring strategy used in your league.
The most common strategy this year is to draft three bats and two starting pitchers in the first five rounds. This is likely to produce the most balanced result in all formats, and gives you two strong aces, who come at a premium in Fantasy Baseball. Another option is the Kershaw strategy, which is when you draft Clayton Kershaw with your first pick, then draft 15 batters, and finish by drafting nine pitchers. This strategy is most used in points formats, but there is enough pitching depth to do so in any format.
In rotisserie formats, there are always more radical formats like ignoring starting pitching or relievers. By doing so, you’re loading up your roster in seven or eight categories, and taking a loss in the others. Now even though this strategy makes sense on paper, a lot can go wrong with these schemes. Both strategies limit your margin for error and can screw over your roster. I know I personally hate seeing big discrepancies between positions in my starting roster. Plus, trading throughout the season might mess up the strategy you employed on draft day.
Now with all this talk about strategy, which is the best way to go? Before making a decision, study your league’s scoring system carefully to help formulate your strategy. With that being said, going balanced and going three bats and two pitchers early makes the most sense. This allows you to draft two premiere aces, get seven or eight bats in the first 10 rounds, and then draft starting pitchers with upside later in drafts. Of course, these later round pitchers can be either starting pitcher busts or diamonds in the rough. I can help you by pointing out some players who are likely starting pitching busts in 2017.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Busts
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
I know it’s smart to focus on strikeouts when drafting starting pitching, but Archer may be too flawed to do so. Archer struck out the 15th most batters in 2016, but was also torched all season. The Rays’ ace finished with a 9-19 record, 233 strikeouts, a 4.02 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP. I understand how appealing strikeouts are in roto and category leagues, but are these numbers worth it? I mean what’s the difference between taking Archer and Robbie Ray for strikeouts?
There’s a big difference on draft day that’s for damn sure. ESPN has Archer ranked as the 12th starting pitcher, and going 60th overall. This is a really high position to be taking a pitcher with an ERA above four and someone who will lose a ton of games. As good as his strikeout totals are, Archer would only be contributing in one of the five pitching categories. This is simply not good enough for roto leagues where you’re drafting him as SP1 or SP2.
His value isn’t any better in points leagues either, as each earned run is negative two points. If you’re looking for an increase in strikeouts, I’d recommend drafting Robbie Ray in the 24th round and only start him on the road. Stay clear of Archer on draft day as his lack of category contributions isn’t worth his draft position.
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Just two years ago, King Felix was a first round draft pick in Fantasy, but not so much anymore. King Felix has struggled with his numbers as he dealt with injuries last year. Reports from Seattle indicate that Hernandez’s fastball has lost an additional two mph from last season. This decrease in velocity will be detrimental for King Felix and his ability to strikeout batters and get out of innings.
Last season, King Felix went 11-8 with 122 strikeouts, a 3.82 ERA, and a 1.32 WHIP. These numbers are scary considering his ERA is over 0.6 runs higher than his career average, and his WHIP is 0.14 above his career average as well.
Even with all this regression, there are still many fans who are believers in King Felix. His big name and career numbers will make him a common reach on draft day. My advice is let this happen and have a good laugh about it. There are just too many bad signs and too much regression to draft Felix. ESPN currently has King Felix going 142nd overall, which isn’t worth it based on his limited upside. King Felix has regressed too far, so focus on drafting pitchers with more upside.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Another Mariners pitcher makes the bust list here for 2017. Last season, Iwakuma definitely struggled with giving up hits and runs. Even with these struggles, Iwakuma got some outstanding run support as he won 16 games. However, wins can be fluky, and even though they matter in Fantasy, they aren’t great indicators of a pitcher’s success. Even with going 16-12, Iwakuma struggled with control as he had 147 strikeouts, a 4.12 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP. His 2016 ERA and WHIP are far above his career numbers of 3.39 and 1.14 respectively. Iwakuma is also 35, so any major adjustments to improve command don’t look likely.
All of this doesn’t provide a lot of upside for a pitcher going in the 15th round. I love consistency more than most Fantasy players, but Iwakuma hasn’t even been very consistent. Without control in the American league, pitchers will greatly struggle with the ALs lineups. None of Iwakuma’s numbers or his situation really stand out or make me want to draft him.
As I said with King Felix, you should be looking for pitchers with more upside than this. For these reasons, I will be avoiding Iwakuma on draft day, as he isn’t appealing in any facet of his game.
Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox
Drew Pomeranz had an electric start in 2016 until he was traded at the deadline to Boston, and of course the AL East is where NL pitchers go to die. Pomeranz was a Top 10 Fantasy pitcher in points formats in San Diego, but struggled with control and winning games in Boston. In San Diego, Pomeranz had a 2.80 ERA, but in Boston he had a 4.53 ERA.
Pomeranz finished 2016 with an 11-12 record, 186 strikeouts, a 3.32 ERA, and a 1.18 WHIP. What makes matters worse is that Pomeranz isn’t even guaranteed a starting spot in the rotation. Boston’s rotation is headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. The Red Sox have Pomeranz, Steven Wright (all-star), and Eduardo Rodriguez competing for the fourth and fifth spots.
ESPN currently has Pomeranz ranked as the 42nd pitcher and the 184th player overall. His ranking is higher in points and categories formats, but Pomeranz doesn’t wow you in any category. Even though I expect his win-loss ratio to improve, I would expect an ERA in the upper 3s. Pomeranz doesn’t have any strikeout pitches that really wow you either, which limits his upside. For these reasons, I’m avoiding Pomeranz in drafts this season as he’s a likely a starting pitcher bust.
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
After missing almost all of 2015 with an achilles injury, Wainwright struggled greatly in 2016. Fantasy owners over-drafted Wainwright in 2016, despite returning from a very serious injury. Wainwright finished 2016 with 13 wins, 161 strikeouts, a 4.62 ERA, and a 1.40 WHIP. This was far under what we have all come to expect from the Cardinals’ ace, as his control was awful. Despite having an exceptional month of July, Wainwright had three months with an ERA of over five.
ESPN currently has Wainwright ranked as the 41st pitcher and the 183rd overall player in roto leagues. This rating is pretty fair, but I know his name will cause people to reach for him. Wainwright has tons of fans, and they will all think taking him four rounds early will be a steal. All you have to do is resist the urge and go for another pitcher with more upside. Follow the drafting site’s projections and fill your roster with what you need most. Don’t fall for the trap of reaching for Adam Wainwright.
When it comes to a volatile and inconsistent position like starting pitching, you need to be careful who you draft. Injury risk aside, almost every pitcher has some source of concern on draft day. The important thing is to not let big names get you reaching early. Let your peers make the mistakes on draft day and put yourself in a position to win.
Focus on starting pitchers with upside and ones that contribute in most pitching categories. By taking a balanced and precautionary approach, you will finish draft day with a stacked roster. Be sure and double check the rules of your league to understand how and when to draft starting pitching. Finally, have some fun, and follow these guidelines to ensure you avoid the starting pitcher busts this year.
- Yu Darvish
- Kevin Gausman
- Matt Harvey
- Jake Odorizzi
- Rasiel Iglesias
- Jordan Zimmerman
- Taijuan Walker
- Michael Wacha
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