The power is gone!
There’s an offensive shortage!
Wait on pitching!
It seems like all the talk in Fantasy circles this spring has centered around this lack of offense and the corresponding overabundance of pitching. Normally I seem to run counter to popular opinion, but in this case I find it rather hard to argue. In my drafts so far I’ve found that it’s getting hard to find power, with much of it being attached to low batting averages (Chris Carter, Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Javier Baez) and hitters that bring limited returns because of their obvious flaws.
You’d think that with power on the wane, speed would be easier to find. That’s just not the case. Sure you’ve got Jose Altuve, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Billy Hamilton, but then you’re talking an investment in the first three rounds of your draft. I like Ben Revere, Brett Gardner, and Kolten Wong in the middle rounds, but once you get past them, speed is just as hard to find as power. It comes with a heavy price in pretty much every other 5 X 5 category.
Thus, we move on to the main idea of this column. It is my belief that you can build a competitive (not without risk) pitching staff even after spending your first 14 picks on offense. Do I recommend this strategy? Not exactly. I do like to roster one elite level starting pitcher to provide a nice base for my ERA and WHIP, two categories I think we can game a little bit. It’s also going to be hard to roster two relievers we can feel good about while also getting four or five of the safer starting pitchers on this list. After all the other owners in your league aren’t going to stand by and let you cherry-pick your top choices from this list. Building your Fantasy pitching staff entirely on late round pitchers is a risky, but intriguing strategy. It’s not something you want your children to try at home. Let’s see what these pitchers look like.
43 Late Round Pitchers to Consider
Just an FYI; we’re using the FantasyPros Consensus ADP for this exercise. Your mileage may vary depending on the site you draft on and the skill/experience level of your league. Also, with the sheer number of pitchers involved, I’m not going to go into an in-depth analysis. I’m just going to break them down into tiers and give you my quick thoughts on each pitcher.
My Later Round Fantasy Rotation
With so many Fantasy owners waiting on pitching, there can be a lot of competition for any pitcher with a hint of late round goodness, so I’ll try to provide a plethora of options in each tier. (FantasyPros Consensus ADP in italics)
Late Round Rotation Anchors: They might not be your traditional aces, but these are the late round pitchers I feel most comfortable with. Ideally I will be able to roster four or five of this group at a minimum.
- Chris Archer, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (171): Electric stuff and at an age (26) where many pitchers are ready to take the next step.
- Michael Pineda, RHP, New York Yankees (181): I find it very easy to see Pineda as a Top 20 pitcher at season’s end. He just needs to stay healthy and figure out how to finish hitters off.
- Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Miami Marlins (254): Advanced metrics say there is some regression coming. I think his stuff may just defy some of those metrics. Won’t likely repeat 2014, but he’ll be a steadying force on a high-risk staff.
- Danny Salazar, RHP, Cleveland Indians (234): Salazar may never have the command needed to pitch deep into games. Still all he needs is 175 innings to challenge 200 strikeouts.
- Drew Hutchison, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (257): Those advanced metrics that look down on Henderson Alvarez are smiling on Hutchison. His 10.17 K/9 in the second half of 2014 makes me smile.
- Mike Fiers, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (190): Feel free to dismiss Fiers and his 89 mph fastball. With the exception of 2013, when he was dealing with injuries, the strikeouts have always been there for Fiers.
- Drew Smyly, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (186): The early season tendinitis is a bit concerning, but Smyly has a pretty high floor. He may never have elite strikeouts, but everything else is in place for very nice No. 3 Fantasy starter.
- Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners (271): How quickly Fantasy owners write off the previous year’s top prospects. Walker has everything needed to be a No. 1 starter at some point. I say he starts on that path this year with 12-15 wins and 180+ strikeouts.
Taijuan Walker has been very impressive for mariners this spring. If he’s the 5th starter, Seattle still has depth, w/ elias
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 13, 2015
- Brandon McCarthy, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (232): While he’ll always be a health risk, McCarthy is in the perfect situation to build on last year’s second half. Dodger Stadium will also be much friendlier than Chase Field and Yankee Stadium.
- Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (258): The Orioles have jerked Gausman around a bit, but he’s guaranteed a rotation spot this spring and should have the opportunity to pitch through any bumps in the road.
- Matt Cain, RHP, San Francisco Giants (216): You try pitching with shards of bone floating around in your elbow. While that may be a bit dramatic, I’m willing to give Cain somewhat of a bye for his 2014 dud. At his current ADP, I’m willing to take the risk for what is potentially a No. 2 Fantasy starter.
- Francisco Liriano, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (195): He’ll bring you plenty of strikeouts… maybe some headaches and ulcers as well, but plenty of strikeouts.
- Scott Kazmir, LHP, Oakland Athletics (202): Sure he wore down a bit in the second half of 2014, but he was pretty damn good before that. The ballpark is going to alleviate some of the risk. Unfortunately the A’s offense may alleviate some of the wins.
- Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels (191): If Shoemakers can maintain last year’s 1.59 BB/9 then he’s for real. His minor league numbers do give pause, but all of his Major League peripherals are solid.
- Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Houston Astros (204): I really though Keuchel would be a darling of the Fantasy industry this spring. Instead he’s being ignored. He had a somewhat high 75.5 LOB%, but otherwise his peripherals say he was pretty much for real last season.
- Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (214): The strikeouts were nice, but Odorizzi’s 6.32 ERA on the road says streaming him may be a necessity. Maybe the one pitcher on this top tier that I would consider moving down.
- Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers (237): At 28 Holland is still young enough to be on the way up. I think a small bump to his 2013 stats isn’t too much to expect.
- Chris Tillman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (221): Tillman is a pretty decent pitcher with some innings eater tendencies. If he’s my fifth best starter I’m feeling ok with that.
End Game Upside Plays: This is a risky group. Some may implode while others may just get sent back down. Probably can’t afford to roster more than two of these pitchers in the regular rounds of a draft. I would however grab as many of these guys as my reserve roster would allow. A couple out of this group will likely come through big.
- Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox (307): Young pitchers often struggle in their first go round. Rodon has a special feel to him though and the Sox aren’t shy about pushing young pitchers. I’ve got a feeling we’re gonna see some pretty great things from Rodon whenever he makes his debut.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) March 8, 2015
- James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners (236): Paxton probably has the highest floor of any pitcher in this lower tier. The ballpark will dull a lot of growing pains and Paxton has the stuff to develop quickly into a No. 3 Fantasy arm.
- Kyle Hendricks, RHP Chicago Cubs (305): I get the lack of strikeouts, but Hendricks made 13 starts last year and was very effective. He’s being almost completely ignored. I’ll take the flier.
- Carlos Martinez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (272): I’m not a fan of his control, but the Cardinals are not wrong very often. I’d feel more comfortable in the reserve rounds, but there’s no denying his stuff.
- Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Oakland Athletics (294): I love the absolute absence of risk at this point in a draft. Pomeranz has the pedigree and the stuff to become a Top 30 Fantasy pitcher. Now he just needs the health and consistency.
- Jesse Hahn, RHP, Oakland Athletics (372): Hahn may only give you 125 innings, but I’ll take those innings if they’re like what he did last year.
- Tony Cingrani, LHP, Cincinnati Reds (345): He’s done it before. You can blame his 2014 struggles on his limited repertoire. I’ll blame it all on injuries. His velocity is back early and when he’s right, Cingrani misses bats.
- Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland Indians (320): Ihave to admit to liking the character that is Trevor Bauer, and the stuff is not too far behind. Will he ever gain the consistency to harness his electric repertoire? I’ll take a shot at pick 300+.
- Andrew Heaney, LHP, Los Angeles Angels (395): Another “failed” prospect. He got ate up by the long ball in his debut season, but we’re talking 29 innings here. I’ll take a shot with this pitcher, in that ballpark, behind that offense.
- Charlie Morton, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (533): Morton was really having a pretty solid season before hip issues derailed it. He’s boring and lacks upside, but he can be a nice streaming option when he’s going well.
- Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (403): I like this guy for the story, but I love this guy for what he did at three minor league levels in 2014. We’re talking about 163 strikeouts in 122.2 innings. Is he ready? I’m not sure, but I know the opportunity is if he is.
- Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (250): I liked Sanchez more as a sleeper in the bullpen. His minor league BB/9 isn’t pretty, but he did much better once he got to Toronto. He’s going to start on my bench, but he’s worth a late round grab.
- Brett Anderson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (428): This one’s just a hunch. Anderson was pitching
- Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (405): Moore was nowhere near as good as his ERA and 17 wins in 2013 would suggest, but I’m wondering if his elbow was behind some of that. At any rate, he’s worth a flier for a little bit of help after the All-Star break.
My Late Round Bullpen
Building a bullpen in the late rounds may be a bigger challenge than your starting pitchers. Every draft is different and in some drafts pretty much every closer may be gone. With that caveat here are the relievers who are available in the 15th round and beyond. I’ll list them in order of preference. (FantasyPros Consensus ADP in italics)
Must Get One of These Four:
- Hector Rondon, RHP, Chicago Cubs (173): It may have seemed like he came from out of nowhere, but Rondon has a bit of pedigree. There’s nothing in his peripherals that causes alarm. Solid K-rate, good control, and lots of groundballs (49.2% in 2014).
- Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres (169): He has to be treated a little gingerly, but he’s had a consistently elite ERA and WHIP for the last five years.
- Santiago Casilla, RHP, San Francisco Giants (192): I have no qualms about drafting Casilla… as long as I can add Sergio Romo a little bit later.
- Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers (193): I’m not gonna say I don’t have concerns, but the numbers themselves look pretty damn good. Seriously the Brewers aren’t likely to turn to Jonathan Broxton without a lot of leash.
And a Second From This Group:
- Sean Doolittle, LHP Oakland Athletics (185): I’m not a fan of torn rotator cuffs. I’ve never even had a platelet rich plasma injection. I thought that was Ivan Drago stuff. But if that can get Doolittle back to pitching like he has for the last few years, then so be it. There’s obvious risk, just squeeze Tyler Clippard on your roster and you’re golden.
- Jake McGee, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays (207): Yep, taking the quality of Doolittle and McGee over the health of some other “sure things.”
- Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas Rangers (194): A 5.97 K/9? Hey it was up to 6.75 in the second half… Well, he gets saves and there is no competition in that bullpen.
- Ken Giles, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (239):
And a Few For My Bench:
- Brad Boxberger, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (267): Love the strikeouts. Sadly I think the Rays will give Grant Balfour the first shot at saves. This is the guy I’m using while I wait for some of my upside plays to prove themselves.
- Sergio Romo, RHP, San Francisco Giants (284): See mediocre stats of Santiago Casilla.
- Neil Ramirez, RHP, Chicago Cubs (466): Strop may be second in line, but Ramirez is the better pitcher. I’ll take the better pitcher.
- Kevin Quackenbush, RHP, Sand Diego Padres (379): Benoit is babied for a reason. If the elbow barks too much, the Padres may turn to a Quack… I promise that’s the only Quackenbush joke I ever use.
- Danny Farquhar, RHP, Seattle Mariners (468): The crooked hat has got affect Fernando Rodney at some point and Lord Farquhar has the stuff to do a reasonable impersonation.
Late Round Pitchers in Practice
So am I willing to put my money where my mouth is and use this in one of my money leagues? You bet your damn bippy I’m not. I like money. I am however curious enough to give it a go in our Free Draft Simulator powered by FantasyPros. If you haven’t tried it, it’s pretty damn cool You can choose your draft slot and then you draft against the computer that is using the experts rankings to make its selections. If you use the pro version, you can connect it to a live draft and it will make selections along the way, based on expert rankings and your team’s needs.
|Late Round Pitching Staff|
|Hector Rondon (ChC)|
|Michael Pineda (NYY)|
|Michael Fiers (Mil)|
|Danny Salazar (Cle)|
|Drew Hutchison (Tor)|
|Matt Cain (SF)|
|Taijuan Walker (Sea)|
|Kevin Gausman (Bal)|
|Drew Pomeranz (Oak)|
|Joakim Soria (Det)|
|Jesse Hahn (Oak)|
|Trevor Bauer (Cle)|
|Anthony Cingrani (Cin)|
|Danny Farquhar (Sea)|
Anyway, I was curious to see what kind of Fantasy pitching staff I could build after using the first 14 selections to build my offense. The results were pretty much what I expected. I had the No. 1 offense as one would assume, but the projections had me finishing in last place with absolutely terrible pitching numbers.
As you can see from the list at the right I got a lot of the pitchers I targeted. Now of course I like these pitchers more than most, so I’d expect the projections to be pretty pessimistic. There’s a bigger problem with projections for this type of pitcher though.
I am 100% sure that quite a few of these pitchers will do well. The problem is that you can’t project which ones, so the projection will be pretty much worst case in every situation. I am pretty confident that the pitchers I rostered here could finish middle of the pack in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. I would have need to draft closers with my first two picks (15 and 16) in order to have a shot in saves.
So what’s the lesson here?… Oh wait, there was supposed to be a lesson? OK, the lesson is that the rumors are true. There is a lot of pitching out there and a lot of these late round pitchers will come through with value that matches that of the pitchers taken many rounds earlier.
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