Which 2015 Starting Pitchers Should You Target After The Early Rounds?

Of the top 25 starting pitchers at the end of last season, 10 of them came from later points in the draft. Corey Kluber, Tyson Ross and Johnny Cueto were middle round picks. Phil Hughes and Garrett Richards were available in the later rounds while Jake Arrieta, Tanner Roark and Collin McHugh were largely undrafted. There were also pitchers on the fringe of that top 25 like Alex Wood and Scott Kazmir that were late round picks. If you had thought that you need to pay a high price for an elite pitching staff, think again.

Just because there a lot of possible successful pitchers found after the early rounds does not mean there aren’t duds too. There were over a hundred starting pitchers drafted outside of the top 25 so you have to know where to look to find those wonderful little needles in the haystick.

Earlier this offseason, I highlighted pitchers that I think have the capability to be elite hurlers this year despite not being drafted in the early rounds. You don’t always need “elite” pitchers though. Sometimes it’s a matter of finding above average pitchers deep in your draft. Using a modified version of my benchmarks that were used to find sleepers, we can find good pitcher options all the way to the last rounds of your draft. Those benchmarks are:

  • Swinging Strike % above 8.5
  • Contact % under 80%
  • Strikes to Balls Ratio above 1.70
  • K-BB Differential above 12.5%

More information about those statistics are found in my previous sleeper article linked above. I’ve found that pitchers who meet these benchmarks have a better chance of success because of their ability to create swinging strikes, avoid batter contact and throw lots more strikes than balls. These pitchers don’t rely on luck or defense as much because of their strike zone dominance.

Within the 2015 draft pool, there are 154 starting pitchers potentially on draft boards this year by my estimation and only 30% of those meet the above criteria. Those who met the criteria had a 3.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP with a 8.9 K/9 on average last year. The 70% of players who did not meet that criteria meanwhile had a 4.12 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 6.8 K/9. Pitchers with this skill set are clearly more successful and, no surprise, they are mainly found in the early rounds of drafts. The beauty of using these benchmarks is that we can find pitchers who meet them at any point in the draft though.


1-75 ADP 76-125 ADP 126-225 ADP 226-300 ADP 300+ ADP
# SP Drafted 18 12 33 23 68
# Meeting MC Criteria 16 9 10 5 6
% Meeting MC Criteria 89% 75% 30% 22% 9%

You can see that a large majority of pitchers in the early rounds meet this criteria. Once we cross into the middle rounds, the numbers flip and a large majority of pitchers do not meet this criteria instead. Let’s look at those pitchers that meet the criteria starting in the 126-225 ADP tier:


126-225 ADP Range

  • Michael Wacha
  • Ian Kennedy
  • Michael Pineda
  • Matt Shoemaker
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Mike Fiers
  • Collin McHugh
  • Drew Smyly
  • Homer Bailey
  • Danny Salazar

226-300 ADP Range

  • Jenrry Mejia
  • Jake Odorizzi
  • Ervin Santana
  • Drew Hutchison
  • Carlos Martinez

300+ ADP Range

  • Jason Hammel
  • Shane Greene
  • T.J. House
  • Chase Anderson
  • Marco Estrada
  • Chase Whitley

You may have noticed that there were five pitchers who did not make the cut despite having an ADP better than 125. In case you were curious, those five pitchers were Adam Wainwright, Sonny Gray, Hisashi Iwakuma, Tyson Ross and Lance Lynn. Feel free to adjust them on your draft boards however you see fit.

If you’re looking to fill out your rotation after the top pitchers go off the board, the players above represent good ones to target. It would be risky to attempt but, heck, you might even be able to build your entire staff with these names if you choose to bypass pitchers early on.

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  • Nicholas Schuller
    03/10/2015 at 1:26 PM

    Great work!

  • Smitty
    03/12/2015 at 3:20 AM

    Doesnt Scott Kazmir meet your criteria?

  • Smitty
    03/12/2015 at 3:23 AM

    Nevermind, his contact rate is 80.2%

  • Peter Nabel
    03/25/2015 at 12:48 AM

    Is there a way to split for NL or AL Only??

  • TJ
    06/05/2015 at 12:55 PM

    A little late to the game on this post, but great work. Random thought, but have you thought about looking at each pitcher's fastball velocity as part of your formula? Might help narrow down from the 21 players you listed. I'm using this year's velocity so it might skew the results and I didn't look back at previous years to see how well this still works; but let's take a look at point totals as of 05 June 2015 (1/3 of the way into the season) using the point systems you posted about on March 17th, minus those with less than 40 innings pitched this season (of course hindsight is 20/20)
    Michael Wacha – 218.8
    Michael Pineda – 197.3
    Jason Hammel – 193.5
    Jake Odorizzi – 181.8
    Collin McHugh – 168.6
    Carlos Martinez – 160.3
    Danny Salazar – 153.1
    Drew Hutchison – 131.3
    Chase Anderson – 127.1
    Matt Shoemaker – 111.1
    Shane Green – 107.5
    Mike Fiers – 92.1
    Marco Estrada – 84.3
    Ian Kennedy – 66.5

    For reference here are a select few from the Top 10 of your Special Blend.
    Clayton Kershaw – 186.3
    Max Scherzer – 238.6
    Madison Bumgarner – 192.8
    Jordan Zimmermann – 176.1

    Now let's look at who has an average fastball velocity above 91.5 (originally I used 92 – only changes by 1 player – Shane Greene)
    Michael Wacha – 93.5
    Michael Pineda – 92
    Jason Hammel – 92.2
    Jake Odorizzi – 90.8 (misses the cut)
    Collin McHugh – 90.4 (misses the cut)
    Carlos Martinez – 94.3
    Danny Salazar – 95.5
    Drew Hutchison – 92.2
    Chase Anderson – 91.2 (misses the cut)
    Matt Shoemaker – 89.2 (misses the cut)
    Shane Green – 91.9
    Mike Fiers – 89.4 (misses the cut)
    Marco Estrada – 89.5 (misses the cut)
    Ian Kennedy – 90.8 (misses the cut)

    That changes your list to
    126-225 ADP
    -Michael Wacha
    -Michael Pineda
    -Danny Salazar

    226-300 ADP
    -Carlos Martinez
    -Drew Hutchison

    300+ ADP
    -Jason Hammel
    -Shane Greene

    I'm likely very happy with my team if I target one or two of the 126-225 guys, plus 3 of the 4 226-300+ guys. If I had Greene, judging by his Swinging Strike %, Contact %, FIP, SIERA, BABIP, and drop in velocity from his previous 3 seasons by almost a full mph; I likely would have tried to sell him had I drafted him. But like I mentioned before hindsight is 20/20. Let me know what you think.