In my last article, we discussed the strategy that I was approaching the 2020 MLB season with. The basic premise is to fade the super high end pitching options at cost and draft hitters instead. That still leaves you having to fill out a rotation. This article will put forth some fantasy baseball starting pitching targets that lay further along in the draft.
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume the draft has gone well for the first few rounds. You loaded up on hitters for the first five rounds and you landed a Tyler Glasnow as your first starter. After that, I try to pair Glasnow with two “safer” pitchers. Maybe the upside isn’t wildly high but I feel confident in the two to put up solid numbers through 60 games. The other two I’ll try to make some upside picks to possibly get ace-like performances in the short sprint of 60 games.
This really isn’t an expectation that Gray repeats his ERA of 2.89 last season, and he’s likely not going to strike out over 10 batters per nine innings. Gray lands here due to his track record over seven seasons, producing an ERA of 3.55 or lower in five of them. Considering one season was with the Yankees and it was clearly not the right fit makes me even happier to draft Gray.
His ground ball rate has always been at 50 percent or higher, which is the kind of pitcher you want when he pitches in Great American Ballpark. The launching pad in Cincinnati checked in as the fourth highest home run rate via FantasyPros.com ball park factors.
The FIP for Gray last season was 3.42 which is probably more about where he’ll land this year. The LOB% (left on base percent) was nearly 80 percent so there’s some regression due but I will happily take a starter with a 3.50ish ERA and striking out about a hitter per inning around pick 100.
You better believe I’ll be the first one to tell you that Hendricks is among the most boring options in fantasy. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, there’s likely not a ton of upside and he’s not going to win categories by himself. What he does offer is stability.
In his six seasons with Chicago, he’s pitched at least 139 innings every one with the exception of his rookie season. His ERA has never been above 3.95. Even the FIP has never been over 3.88, which helps suggest Hendricks knows how to limit runs.
Additionally, it’s at least worth noting that all four of the other teams in the NL Central finished in the bottom half in runs per game in 2019. Even with a Brewers team that was close to average and a revamped Reds lineup, the division simply isn’t an offensive powerhouse.
It doesn’t hurt that the Pirates have maybe three major league hitters in their lineup. Of the 60 games this year, 40 are against the Central (and they play the Royals and Tigers, bottom five teams in runs per game in 2019). He’s got no sizzle but Hendricks should help establish a floor for your pitching staff.
What better place to swing for upside than a pitcher who has already shown he can do it. Montas was electric in his 96 innings for the A’s last season before serving a suspension for PED usage. The ERA was 2.63, the FIP was 3.00 flat and he was striking out over a hitter per inning. On top of that, he had a top 20 splitter in the league according to FanGraphs.
Per BrooksBaseball.net, Montas threw the splitter about 18.6% of the time in 2019 and his whiff percentage is eye-popping. It sat at 22.7% and was easily his best mark of his repertoire. Not only that but hitters only had a .155 average and a .262 slugging percentage against the pitch. His splitter and slider are both lethal, helping push his K rate to 26.1%.
His suspension might actually work slightly in his favor this season. With only playing 60 games and Montas not coming off a large workload, Oakland should be able to lean on him. I don’t believe he’s being valued properly in drafts right now.
If you miss out on Montas (he and Gray are so closely bunched in ADP that getting both might be tough), I suggest Shohei Ohtani. The layoff has given him time to recover from Tommy John surgery and the plan is he gets eight starts this year. He’d have to be great in those eight but you can use him as a hitter as well, adding value to the pick.
Just go ahead and give me all the Lamet shares this year, please and thank you. He’s the exact style of pitcher to try and match with a Hendricks type, with his K rate of 33.6% in 73 innings last season. The Padres are pushing to make the postseason this year and the leashes should be off their young staff. This includes 27 year old Lamet, who dazzled as a strikeout pitcher returning from Tommy John in 2019.
With a minimum 70 IP, only 10 pitchers had a higher K% than Lamet in 2019. Of those 10, the only starters to best him were Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Mike Clevinger. The four healthy pitchers in that group go as top 10 options while Lamet is barely cracking the top 125. Even with an ERA of 4.07 like last year, he would represent value. Both the FIP of 3.91 and the xFIP of 3.44 suggest he may have been slightly unlucky. The BABIP of .311 certainly supports that notion also.
If Lamet can prevent a few more runs this season, he could be primed for a monster run and is a fantastic fantasy baseball pitching target later in your draft.
Thank you for reading Fantasy Baseball Pitching Targets! Feel free to tweet me @bucn4life with any and all questions, check out the MLB page on WinDailySports.com and let’s chat in the WinDaily Discord as well!
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