Which 2016 Starting Pitchers Should You Target After The Early Rounds?

Pitching has become increasingly important in the landscape of fantasy baseball in 2016. You can no longer get by with one elite starting pitcher carrying a staff of otherwise average pitchers because there are too many good pitchers out there. You now need to have an entire pitching staff of great hurlers in order to win your pitching categories. In order to accomplish such a feat, you have to be able to find great pitchers to target in every phase of the draft.

I outlined my method for finding elite starting pitching talent outside of the early rounds of your fantasy draft earlier this offseason. That method gives you a list of six possible pitchers to target but that’s a pretty narrow view and won’t help you put together a complete pitching staff in your drafts. I’ve widened the parameters used in that previous post in order to cast a bigger net and find pitchers all throughout the draft that could make up a great pitching staff for you in 2016.

The Methodology

The method to find good pitchers is similar to my process of finding elite sleeper pitchers. I still look at a lot of stats related to making batters miss while also avoiding walks. This should generate a list of pitchers who can create their own luck, in a way, by ensuring they aren’t putting guys on base on their own and ensuring they can strike out batters when needed. The benchmarks I use here are:

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

These pitchers can command a strike zone and dominate batters which make them the type of pitchers that you want on your team. When looking at pitchers who meet that criteria though, you’re going to see most of the early round pitchers on this list because they are the type of pitchers who have those traits. Since we’re looking for draft bargains here, we start looking at pitchers who are being drafted outside of the top 10 rounds on average.

Does It Work?

There were 46 SP’s drafted in any round last year that met this criteria and they averaged a 3.55 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. On the other hand, there were 86 drafted SP’s that did not meet the criteria in 2015 and they ended up averaging a 4.16 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 7.0 K/9. Needless to say, you were better off if you stuck with pitchers who met this criteria. Some of the good values that you found in the middle or later rounds with this method were Michael Wacha, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Carlos Martinez and Jason Hammel. Meanwhile, you would have avoided flukes in those rounds such as Jered Weaver, Phil Hughes, Anibal Sanchez, Tanner Roark, Andrew Cashner and many more.

The 2016 Data

There are 136 starting pitchers on most draft boards in 2016 by my estimation and only 53 (39%) of those pitchers met this criteria.It is no surprise that most of the pitchers who met this criteria are found in the first 10 rounds (25 of those 53) but the beauty of using these benchmarks is that we can find pitchers who meet them at any point in the draft. Here is how it breaks down throughout the various stages of the draft:

1-125 ADP 126-175 ADP 176-225 ADP 226-300 ADP 300+ ADP
# SP Drafted 32 17 12 27 48
# Meeting MC Criteria 25 9 6 5 8
% Meeting MC Criteria 78% 53% 50% 19% 17%

While the middle rounds still have half the pitchers meeting the criteria, that means that you have a 50/50 chance of picking a pitcher who does or does not meet the criteria. Once those rounds are over, it becomes very rare to find any pitcher who meets the criteria but there are still a surprisingly good number of ones to find late that have the ability to deliver great value.

The 2016 Pitchers To Target

Lets’ take a look at each of those parts of the draft to see which players meet the criteria. As you creep into each stage of the draft, these are the players that you want to be targeting in order to shape out your staff. Combining players from each of these tiers with some elite talent from the early rounds gives you a high chance of constructing a winning pitching staff.

126 to 175 ADP Range

Justin Verlander, DET
Raisel Iglesias, CIN
Michael Pineda, NYY
Jose Quintana, CHW
Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA
Collin McHugh, HOU
Drew Smyly, TB
Scott Kazmir, LAD
Luis Severino, NYY

176 to 225 ADP Range 

Jake Odorizzi, TB
Gio Gonzalez, WAS
Taijuan Walker, SEA
Mike Fiers, HOU
Patrick Corbin, ARI
Jason Hammel, CHC

226 to 300 ADP Range

Ian Kennedy, KC
Joe Ross, WAS
Anibal Sanchez, DET
Kevin Gausman, BAL
Clay Buchholz, BOS
Nate Karns, SEA [Note: Is not currently projected to be in Opening Day rotation]

300+ ADP Range

Erasmo Ramirez, TB
Jerad Eickhoff, PHI
Vincent Velasquez, PHI
Drew Hutchison, TOR [Note: Is not currently projected to be in Opening Day rotation]
Tyler Duffey, MIN
Mat Latos, CHW
Adam Conley, MIA [Note: Is not currently projected to be in Opening Day rotation]

It is notable that there are seven pitchers who did not meet the criteria in the early rounds (1-125 ADP Range). Adam Wainwright and Marcus Stroman didn’t have 2015 data to use so that’s why they aren’t there. The other five are Tyson Ross, Garrett Richards, Michael Wacha, Jordan Zimmermann and Francisco Liriano. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ensured to underperform but I would use a bit of caution if you were targeting them in the early rounds as an SP1 or SP2.

You’ll also see there are some players on that list above that are not currently projected to be in the starting rotation. You’ll want to keep an eye on those battles in Spring Training before you use any sort of pick on them. If they make it into the rotation, they might be nice undervalued pieces to add into your own rotation.

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  • Travis
    03/14/2016 at 1:54 PM

    Did you ever get a chance to look at my (a few month late) post on your 2015 post? Perhaps looking at a pitchers fastball speed to help narrow the list down a bit more? I haven’t had a chance to look into it further to really decide if it would be beneficial or not, but it seemed to have some value 1/3 of the way into the season last year.

    Using the same 91.5 mph, this list narrows down to:
    126-175 ADP Range
    Luis Severino
    Jose Quintana
    Justin Verlander
    Raisel Iglesias
    Michael Pineda

    176-225 ADP Range
    Patrick Corbin
    Jason Hammel
    Gio Gonzalez
    Taijuan Walker

    226-300 ADP Range
    Clay Buchholz
    Joe Ross
    Nate Karns
    Kevin Gausman
    Anibal Sanchez

    300+ ADP Range
    Vincent Velasquez
    Mat Latos
    Drew Hutchison

    • Luke
      03/14/2016 at 2:00 PM

      Oh yeah. I totally forgot about that. I like the idea. I’ll see if it has any effect on how the results turned out. If it does, I’ll let ya know.