Welcome Back Baseball Fans!
This is our last full week before Opening Day and most of you are cramming for your final drafts this year. If you in are deep leagues (16+ teams), you often have tough choices at the back of your draft. Do you choose a washed up vet to fill out your bench or a lottery ticket prospect that may clog a valuable roster spot that isn’t even on the 25 Man Roster on Opening Day?
Using the baseline we established last week when we discussed late round rookie relievers, the typical MLFS league setup is: 16-team, 26-man roster with a mixed scoring format that considers counting stats and sabermetrics (QS, W, K-BB, SV, ERA, WHIP, HR/9 and IRS+H). Tuesday night was my MLFS draft using this set-up. Since I primarily participate in dynasty leagues, this is my only league to see how the players faired whom I wrote about last week. Let’s review…
Josh Hader – I suggested his price should be 17th-18th round, and he went #258 overall in the 17th round.
Drew Steckenrider – ADP has him at #76 RP, #452 overall rank but an average value at #396 which is a 25th round pick. I actually took my own advice and reached a little grabbing him in the 21st at #334 overall. My rotation and bench were set so I filled out my last few picks with high ceiling middle relievers.
Joe Jimenez – ADP at #94 RP, #576 overall rank, #561 average value. This falls safely outside the drafting range but I suggested he would be worthy of a late-round pick. He was selected in the 24th round, #334 overall and I was sniped with him next in my queue at the time.
Trevor Hildenberger and Wilmer Font were not drafted. Hildenberger was a surprise to me as he was being selected cleanly in this range in Yahoo and CBS leagues and had an average value of #366. He should be an early waiver-wire claim. Font was a “what-the-hell” kind of pick in super deep leagues. Not surprised he didn’t go here.
Anyway, back to this week’s topic, rookie starting pitchers to consider late in drafts. Each team will require 5-7 starting pitchers. 414 total players of which 80 – 112 SP will be drafted. There are two primary ways you might approach late round SP needs: back-end of rotation guys possibly out of camp OR top-end prospects that may give you half a season. Here is an overview of the guys I will look at…
|75||278||Alexander Reyes (STL – SP)||305||293||269||255||244||273.2|
|79||297||Luiz Gohara (ATL – SP)||307||272||334||317||271||253||292.3|
|87||337||Michael Kopech (CWS – SP) NRI||268||357||356||307||288||315.2|
|102||401||Walker Buehler (LAD – SP,RP)||317||318||357||331||330.8|
|119||442||Jack Flaherty (STL – SP)||357||379||371||375||370.5|
|122||448||Tyler Mahle (CIN – SP)||420||425||362||402.3|
|175||593||Dillon Peters (MIA – SP)||567||550||558.5|
|180||607||Sandy Alcantara (MIA – P)||570||629||599.5|
|183||615||Erick Fedde (WSH – SP)||673||580||626.5|
Before we look closer at these two primary strategies, I want to look at the one outlier that is definitely worth drafting before any of the others on this list…and no, it’s not Othani. I am tired of hearing and talking about him and he doesn’t really fit the scoop of this article. He’s going to get drafted higher due to a guaranteed rotation spot and potential for offensive stats in leagues that let him swing both ways.
I considered including Alex Reyes in my RP piece last week because he is likely to start out in the bullpen when he is cleared to play. That being said, there is no working scenario where the Cardinals do not intend to work him into the rotation by season’s end. All reports point to St. Louis activating him by May 1st in the bullpen. The plan is to stretch him out so he gets in the rotation by the end of the season and hits around 100 innings. Regardless of what opportunity he gets, you will want him in your lineup to rack up the Ks with his plus-plus fastball and a nasty curveball. In my draft this week, he went #299 overall in the 19th round. The pitchers that were picked in the same round (Sabathia, Happ, Wainwright) have limited upside and Reyes is well worth stashing for a month for the potential return.
Top Prospects That You SHOULD Consider Stashing
All four of these guys were covered during my pre-season MiLB Pitcher rankings of 2018 Impact Arms. I’m not going to go into a scouting report again as you can follow that link to read that if you want that info. Instead, I will hit on WHY you should consider drafting them in a deep redraft or keeper league.
Top of the list is Atlanta fire-baller, Luiz Gohara. His ADP rank is the #79 starting pitcher, #297 overall with an average of #292. He is the only pitcher on this list that made the ADP list on all six sites. He made his MLB debut last September by making five starts that were mediocre at best. The strong camp for Sean Newcomb and acquisitions of Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir made it less important that Gohara is ready for the rotation in April. This is a good thing as he sprained his ankle and has been shut down this Spring. The injury works in the Braves’ favor as they can allow him to fully heal and perhaps pass the Super Two threshold before he joins the rotation. I would expect to see him in Atlanta at some point in May. McCarthy or Kazmir will be hurt by then and Gohara will slip in nicely and be well worth a 19th round price tag. He actually went #220, Round 14, in my recent draft. That may be a reach considering Tanner Roark, Patrick Corbin and Julio Teheran were all still on the board.
Next up is the top White Sox pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. He comes in as the #87 ranked SP in ADP, #337 overall with an average draft slot around #315. He is one of the more anticipated debuts that is expected in 2018. He started out hot in camp but got hit hard over his last three Spring Training starts. Chicago’s rotation will be rough out of the gate, but no one expects them to compete this year anyway. My guess is that they keep him in AAA to continue working on his changeup and command into the Summer to pass the Super Two and have him join the rotation when Carlos Rodon returns from injury. Now all of a sudden a rotation of Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer begins to shape up into the young, dangerous staff the White Sox can build on. In my draft, he went #397 in the 25th round. That feels about right since he will miss the first 2-3 months in the minors.
My favorite on this list is Walker Buehler. After his debut in September as a member of the Dodgers’ bullpen, Buehler will start the season in AAA solidifying his credentials for the rotation after just limited innings past AA last year. They don’t need to rush him with their deep veteran rotation to start the season. Buehler is a special talent who already is known to have four pitches. This Spring he appears to be working on a two-seam fastball and changeup in addition to his existing arsenal. This will help increase his out-pitch options and keep the ball down and more likely in the park. These developments plus his command leads me to believe he will enter the rotation as soon as he is called up. Initially, I believed he would start in the bullpen this year to protect his innings, but after seeing what he is doing in camp, that may no longer be in the cards. He comes in as the #102 SP for 2018, #401 overall at an average ADP of #330. in my recent draft, he was snagged right on point at #333 in the 21st round, one pick ahead of when I was poised to snag him.
The final pitcher in this category is Jack Flaherty. He has been inconsistent this Spring but has his strikeout groove working. Like Los Angeles, the Cardinals have their rotation set to start the season. Since Reyes joins the bullpen once he is ready, Flaherty should be the first man up early this season when injury strikes the rotation. Jack cruised through AA and AAA last year but had a rough exposure to the Majors. He has three Major League pitches and has shown improved command. If he continues that trend out of the gate, he should be up in St. Louis and in the rotation during the early part of the season. His ADP was the #119 SP, #442 overall with an average ADP of #370. He went undrafted in my recent draft and will be a prized waiver-wire pick up early in the season.
Early Season Rotation Candidates
I just want to touch on four prospects that have all pitched in the Majors and have a great chance to break camp in the rotation or shortly after. These are not your household names but they could provide some depth for your rotations in deep leagues. Mind you, none of these guys were in the Top #414 ADP but sometimes you gotta take a “WTF type of pick” to end your draft because that is more interesting than Dan Straily or Joe Kelly. So here we go…
Tyler Mahle is almost a lock to break camp in the Reds’ rotation due to multiple injuries to their established starters. He had a breakout 2017 season and tasted the Majors last Fall. Despite some control issues during that stint, he is known as a plus command pitcher and has had a great camp. He should contribute in category scoring leagues and worth a late flier. The Miami Marlins have a shaky rotation at best. Dillon Peters was a favorite to land a back of the rotation spot out of camp. He still has a chance as he looks to have regained some control after a rough start to the Spring. Due to injuries and lack of talent, he could be an “innings-eater” in very deep leagues. You probably need to have 20+ teams in your league to seriously consider him, but don’t sleep on streaming him early in the season if needed. Fellow Marlin’s teammate, Sandy Alcantara, is a much more intriguing prospect that could have some value at some point this season. He is on this list because his talent is above all others ahead of him on the depth chart in Miami. There was a lot of noise that he had a legit chance to grab a rotation spot as late as last week, but he was optioned to AAA on Tuesday. Miami could be playing the Super Two game or he could be up in April. Keep an eye on him for an early waiver claim or grab him in the last round if you are looking for an upside WTF pick. Finally, Erick Fedde, is the opposite of these other three because the Nationals rotation is stacked. He is on this list because if he grabs the 5th spot in the rotation he should be rostered in all 16 team leagues. The former 1st round draft pick still has high aspirations for a Major League career, but the Nats may choose to give AJ Cole the spot because he is out of options. Either way, he should pitch really early in the season and should be on your radar.
Enjoy your last week of drafts and we will wrap up off-season coverage next Thursday as we celebrate the holiday that is MLB Opening Day.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 22nd, 2018 from 7- 8pm EST for episode #108 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Professor Mark Rush. By day Mark is the well respected Law & Political Professor of Washington & Lee University and by night is the Chief Editor as well as a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles are published every Monday morning and his primary focus is starting pitching.