If I had to guess, around 90% of baseball fans would prefer to watch a high scoring baseball game full of home runs to a low scoring pitchers duel. Well, this article is for the 10% of people who side with the pitchers, because we are going to be analyzing the undervalued pitchers in this year’s Fantasy Baseball drafts.
First things first, let me get something clear; What I said above isn’t true. Whether you prefer high scoring games or lower scoring games, as long as you play Fantasy Baseball, pitchers should matter just as much, if not more, to you than hitters.
In head-to-head leagues, normally a win for a pitcher is the single highest value for any statistic. However, just like all of the other articles in the SCFE draft kit, we will be covering the category-based (H2H categories or rotisserie) point of view.
In category-based leagues, half of your categories will be pitching categories. So unless you want to lose, you will have to pay attention to both sides of the ball.
With that out of the way now, let’s get right into revealing the top three undervalued starting pitchers in Fantasy Baseball this year.
Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Pitchers
**The following list is in order of ADP (per CBS)
Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox
We kick off this list with Carlos Rodon, the young southpaw for the Chicago White Sox. Rodon was highly touted coming out of North Carolina State in the 2014 draft. He has electric stuff, as his fastball can touch 100 mph but sits comfortably in the mid 90s.
Coming out of college, Baseball America labeled his slider as “one of the best sliders college baseball has seen in years”, giving it a 70 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. Many people called him the best college left-hander since David Price, and he ended up being drafted with the third overall pick by the White Sox.
Rodon’s minor league career has been short lived. It took him a grand total of 11 appearances on eight starts before he got the call. Last season, he started 28 games, going 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA. He gives up way too many home runs, giving up 23 in 2016. This was 12 more HRs than during the 2015 season in which he started five less games than in 2016. However, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
In 51 career starts, he has 33 quality starts, a pretty good number for someone his age. He cut his BB/9 rate almost in half from his rookie season to last year, and he strikes out a lot of batters for a starter (9.16 K/9 in 2016), which isn’t surprising given his elite stuff.
Eventually, I believe he will be a Top 20 starting pitcher in Fantasy, but we may have to wait a couple of years for that. For now, I expect that with another year of development, he can be a 4th/5th starter with elite upside. He will be a key contributor in strikeouts and quality starts, while not hurting your ERA one bit.
Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s
In one of the most disappointing seasons from a starting pitcher in recent memory. Sonny Gray went from a 14-7 record with a 2.73 ERA in 2015, finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting, to an abysmal 5-11 record with an even worse 5.69 ERA in 2016.
First, let’s take a look at what was different between the two years. At first glance, you notice that he pitched in 91 less innings in 2016 than in 2015. That is to be expected since he pitched in nine less games and obviously didn’t pitch as long in each game due to struggles. His walks were up, which is slightly alarming, but his strikeouts didn’t dip by too much. His hits, home runs and just about any hitting stat went way up, but it is all due to one underlying statistic … BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
For pitchers, their opponents usually have a BABIP around .300, and if a pitchers BABIP is way higher or lower than that number, you can expect a regression to the mean. However, the rule of thumb is if a player has a generally high or low BABIP for a few seasons, then they can maybe sustain a BABIP that’s further away from .300 than norm.
Sonny Gray was one of the elite pitchers that had a BABIP much lower than .300. In fact, in his first three MLB seasons, Gray’s BABIP was as follows: .276 in 2013, .277 in 2014, and a crazy .255 in 2015. In 2016, that number rose all the way to .319. While it is alarming that he suddenly became so bad once his BABIP went back to the average, you can’t ignore the fact that he is being drafted as the 54th starting pitcher this year according to CBS.
When it is all said and done, this is how I look at it. His BABIP will likely drop down. Maybe he doesn’t go back to the Cy Young candidate that he was in 2015, but once his BABIP drops closer to his career average, it will place him right around his ADP. However, there still is the possibility that he is a Top 10 Fantasy starter.
So when you hear everyone say that he is a high-risk, high-reward player, remember that that is wrong. You are either going to get a player that is spot on with the value that you paid for him, or you will get an elite starter. That slight possibility makes him more than deserving of making this list.
Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels
Ironically, the player who’s ADP is right behind Sonny Gray happens to be the next guy on our list, and that man is Garrett Richards. Garrett Richards is coming off an injury that made him miss most of last season, but has been a great Fantasy pitcher in the two years prior to the injury. Now here is the question: how does his Fantasy outlook look in 2017?
Well, for starters, let’s pick out the positives and negatives of Richards. The positives are plentiful. In 2014 and 2015, he combined an elite ERA with a good amount of strikeouts. Whether your league counts quality starts, wins or both, he has you covered.
While his BB/9, H/9, HR/9 and WHIP aren’t elite, he won’t hurt you in any of those categories. So what is the obvious downside? Hint: It isn’t the fact that he led the league in wild pitches in both 2014 and 2015. Still don’t have it? Well, here it is: injuries.
Garrett Richards tore his UCL, which was the injury that kept him out last season. Yes, the dreaded Tommy John injury. Except, he and the Angels opted to not go with Tommy John surgery and instead went with a stem cell injection and rest. While unconventional, there has to be a reason behind this decision, and either way Richards is back to 100% for the upcoming season.
So, even with the injury as a major downside, I don’t have any explanation for his ADP being so low. Richards is easily a Top 30 Fantasy pitcher if he stays healthy, which I believe he will. With his ADP currently labeling him as more of a SP5, he is surely someone who I will try and get onto as many of my teams as possible this season.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Be sure to check out other great articles from our draft kit using the links below.
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