2024 Sleeper Pitchers (Undervalued Fantasy Baseball Starters To Target)

Fantasy baseball is a weird little game. Those of us who play it end up caring a lot about things like the “perceived value” versus the “actual value” of baseball players. We find ourselves hoping to draft players that the public doesn’t see as valuable while we secretly think that the player is going to perform better than expected. We want to be smarter than the other people in the draft and we want to show that by finding value among the players they are presented to us during our drafts.

That whole concept is a tricky thing though! How can we just know which players are undervalued, right? Well, that’s why posts about “sleeper” players became quite popular once the internet became a thing. At the end of the day, fantasy baseball owners desperately want to find undervalued players so that they can outsmart their pathetic little league-mates.

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to help you find value where others don’t see it and this post will shine some light on starting pitchers that you may want to get before others in your league do.

The idea of my sleeper posts is not to give you sure-fire absolute locks. I just look to give you a list of players that you can target at low-risk points in your draft with the idea that these players may have a 20% chance of breaking out in a big way and a decent chance to perform average if nothing else.

Finding The Sleepers

We have to accept that a pitcher’s ERA and WHIP are subject to whims of good luck or bad luck. There’s been a concerted effort in the baseball community to figure out how we can use statistics to determine how good a pitcher is independent of the fielders and other factors outside of their control. And, that’s the sort of knowledge that I have sought out too. I want to know which pitchers are good at pitching regardless of what last season’s ERA and WHIP are telling us.

How Do I Select My Sleeper Pitchers?

So, instead of analyzing ERA and WHIP, I’ve analyzed fringe statistics that are more in control of the pitcher. This led me to identify a handful of statistics that correlated to better ERA and WHIP numbers the next season. To build my sleeper system, I took those statistics and looked at the league averages each year to identify groups of pitchers that performed above the league average in almost all of these statistics. Each draft season, that system gives me about 30-40 pitchers that should be among the best in the league. Most of those are pitchers being drafted in the early rounds but there are always about 10-15 pitchers that are on that list but being drafted in the later rounds. These are the pitchers that interest me and they are the pitchers that I reveal to you today for 2024.

The Stats I Look At

  • K-BB% – The percentage of strikeouts per PA minus the percentage of walks per PA.
  • Contact% – How often the hitter made contact with the pitcher’s pitches.
  • Swinging Strike% – How often a hitter swings and misses at a pitch that the pitcher threw.
  • Ball In Play% – Of all the strikes thrown by the pitcher, how many were from balls hit into play.
  • Strikes to Balls Ratio – Number of strikes thrown by a pitcher divided by number of balls thrown.
  • 0-2 Counts Forced% – For each PA against a pitcher, how often it reached an 0-2 count.
  • Hard Hit% – Of balls hit off the pitcher, how often the ball was determined to be hit “hard”.

The Benchmarks I Set For 2024

Looking at the league averages, I set a benchmark for each stat based on how strongly the stat correlates to future ERA, WHIP, and K/9 success. For 2024, those benchmarks are:

  • K-BB above 16.5%
  • Contact under 74%
  • Swinging Strike above 12.4%
  • Ball-in-Play under 27.1%
  • Strikes-to-Balls Ratio above 1.71
  • 0-2 Counts Forced above 25.5%
  • Hard Hit under 32.7%

So, This Method Actually Works?

This method works simply based on the fact that pitchers who meet the benchmarks tend to have better results than those who don’t each year. It’s not a perfect system by any means but, on average, you would do well if you just drafted pitchers who met this criteria and left the others for your league-mates.

The results above include pitchers in the early rounds of drafts too but if we only looked at pitchers being drafted after the 10th round, pitchers who met the criteria had a 4.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 8.8 K/9 historically versus a 4.26 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9 for those that didn’t.

But, aside from it just giving you better pitchers on average, this system is important because it gives us a shot to find pitchers later in our draft each year who will perform like early-round talents. Last year, if you trusted this system, you would have targeted Pablo Lopez at his 155 ADP and you would have stashed Tarik Skubal as well. That would lead to some nice results but these are not sure-fire hits. Lucas Giolito was also recommended last year and did not meet expectations. Nick Lodolo was recommended and would have not sniffed a fantasy lineup for the majority of the season. The bright spot is that the recommendations on this list each year are very low-risk. You don’t need to spend expensive draft capital on them and you at least give yourself a chance to find a gem.

Basically, you need to pick your spots so let’s look at what spots you have to choose from this year.

2024 Undervalued Pitchers To Target

This is always an exciting process for me as I don’t know which players the numbers will reveal until I’ve finished the process. Sometimes I can be excited by the names that come up while I can be fully perplexed other times. You may find yourself in the same boat as we look at the list together this year.

SP Sleepers in the 125-175 ADP Range

Hunter GreeneCINSP224124.2
Chris SaleATLSP435136.8
Bailey OberMINSP328153.4

It’s always promising when a sleeper on this list is a young pitcher with immense talent. Hunter Greene is the first name on our list this year and, oh, the talent he has. He racked up 12 K/9 across his first two seasons and that alone is obviously rare for a starting pitcher. In 2023, he had a 1.41 WHIP but that’s largely because of the .339 batting average on balls in play against him. Luck wasn’t his friend last year but, luck be damned, I’m banking on the talent here and I see myself trying to get Greene on multiple teams of mine this year.

Now, Chris Sale is staring us in the face and daring us to draft him. Nobody questions the talent of this former fantasy ace. We all question the durability at this point and some may question whether the elite skill is still there as he posted a 4.30 ERA last year over 20 games started. The underlying numbers in my system point to that 4.30 ERA being fluky so we have to believe the talent is still there. If the price is right for you to take on the injury risk, Sale offers an intriguing gamble and potential bargain.

Bailey Ober represents a middle ground between those two. He’s a guy entering the prime of his career who hasn’t yet put together a full MLB season. Ober had an odd year after starting with amazing numbers but he’d find himself demoted to AAA after struggling for a month or two. Despite that, he still finished with a 3.43 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 last season over 26 starts. Yes, he had some struggles last season but he represents a guy who can deliver elite results with great command of the plate. He feels like a great value pick at his current 150-ish ADP.

SP Sleepers in the 175-250 ADP Range

Nick PivettaBOSSP131184.2
Bryan WooSEASP524190

It always interests me when I see a player appear on this list across multiple seasons as it can mean many things and that brings us to Nick Pivetta. He appeared on this list in 2019 where I also encouraged you to draft Shane Bieber as a sleeper. Pivetta and Bieber went in different directions from there but Pivetta is back on the list here in 2024.

Pivetta comes off a year in which he actually found more success as a reliever than a starter but he did enough to convince the Red Sox that he deserves a shot to be their Opening Day starter. I do worry about him as I wonder if we are overinflating his good relief numbers from last year when we look at his overall numbers. He hasn’t yet shown he can consistently succeed as a starting pitcher. That being said, there’s a reason why Pivetta is being drafted this late and the price is about right to take a gamble. If he truly turned a corner last year then he could be a decent SP3 or SP4 for your team this year.

Bryan Woo will be coming into his first potential full season as a starter and he has the potential to deliver a 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 10 K/9 for you this year. He’s shown strikeout ability at every level of the minors and he’s had decent control to go along with it. But, he’s also young and hasn’t yet put in a full season of work at any level so I can’t envision him being a full-season star for your team. As with Pivetta, he could deliver you nice value from the point he is being drafted though. You would take Woo knowing that he may not have the stamina yet to deliver great results for the entire season.

SP Sleepers in the 250+ ADP Range

Kutter CrawfordBOSSP327269
Lance LynnSTLSP336303
Emmet SheehanLADSP5?24310.8

There are questions galore in this tier of players!

Kutter Crawford is an interesting case for the same reasons Nick Pivetta is interesting. Crawford also had decent overall numbers last year but had much more success in his 21 innings as a reliever (1.66 ERA) versus his 107 innings as a starter (4.51 ERA). But, still, his underlying profile suggests that he has good overall traits. We just need to gamble on whether he can find success and consistency as a starter. At all levels of the minors, he has had dominant strikeout stuff but he has been inconsistent with his control. With how late Crawford is going in drafts, I view him as a lottery ticket to have on your bench in hopes that he gets hot and stays hot.

Lance Lynn is Lance Lynn. At 36 years old, we’re not expecting him to be anything different than what he’s shown us his whole career. Last year was a bit of a debacle as his ERA ballooned because of a huge spike in the HRs hit against him per FB. Since my system seems to like the quality of his arsenal, I expect some of his numbers to stabilize and he should offer some nice value at 300-ish pick in the draft. I could see him as a great option to have stashed on your bench for the right matchups as he should flirt with an ERA below 4.00 and a WHIP below 1.20 again.

Emmet Sheehan may or may not be in the rotation for the Dodgers so this represents a gamble. He was competing for a spot as the 5th starter but suffered a shoulder injury during Spring Training. While he’s not dealing with a major injury, we are just left not knowing what his status is to start the year. Given the weirdness of the Dodgers and their rotations and the idea that the 5th starter spot isn’t secure anyway, I don’t know if I can endorse rostering Sheehan but he’s someone to keep an eye on. If anything, you could stash him if you have a big bench size in your league.

Wildcards and Waiver Wires

Clayton KershawLADIL36314
Domingo GermánPITMinors31550

These are two names that came up in my results but I am not endorsing them as true sleepers given that Clayton Kershaw only has an ADP this low because he is starting the year on the 60-day injured list. For Domingo Germán, he was only just signed by the Pirates to a minor league deal so he doesn’t have a true pathway to helping your fantasy team yet. If he gets a role in their rotation during the year, he’s worth a look though.

All of these sleepers have the talent to help your team this year. We just need to see if they get the opportunity, luck, and health that they need. It’s a relatively short season in the grand scheme of things and a lot of crazy things will happen. Here’s hoping that we all draft some undervalued stars for our team and that we find ourselves celebrating with champagne at the end of our fantasy seasons.

Have a great 2024 season and keep on rockin’ in the free world.

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  • Reply
    03/20/2024 at 9:30 AM

    Great stuff as always Luke!
    Just one question, why are the sleepers on this list (including their ADP) differ so much from the Value and Werth that is calculated on the Cheat Sheet (using special blend)?

    • Reply
      03/20/2024 at 11:21 AM

      Great question that I probably should have addressed over the year at this point, haha.

      So, the WERTH values using Special Blend are based on me combining the different projections that exist. It gives you a good baseline of what an average performance for that played would be on the upcoming season. My sleepers, on the other hand, are guys that I’m projecting to outperform expectations regardless of projections. If the Special Blend projections were my own personal creation, I’d edit them to reflect this. But, the Special Blend projections are just that: a blend of projections that are out there.

      As for the ADP, that’s the average draft position of a player based on the site you choose. Each site has it’s own ADP based on how they rank players so that is showing you when you would typically expect a player to be drafted based on the site you are using.

  • Reply
    03/22/2024 at 11:24 AM

    Love this, thank you! Are you doing the SEARCH FOR NARCO again?

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