RotoBaller's average draft position tool is a great new tool to help you prepare for your upcoming fantasy baseball draft. It works for positions with substantial depth, like outfielders and starting pitchers.
Just like in real baseball, fantasy pitching is an enigma at times, and something that almost every fantasy expert has a different opinion on. Some will never take a pitcher in the first round, no matter how good, while others believe getting one or two ace pitchers is a must. Some experts don't draft closers, yet others will end up reaching for the elite ones early. Then there is the argument over who is really more valuable, back end rotation guys who can accumulate stats by eating innings, or dominant middle relievers who get the most most out of the few innings they pitch. Whatever your view is on fantasy pitching, one thing is certain...making the wrong moves in the pitching categories can lead you to a long season.
With our ADP tool, we can help weed out some of the overvalued arms who may cost you a high draft pick, and offer some comparable later round options draft sleepers. Lets begin with a guy who, in my opinion, is one of the most overvalued pitchers in fantasy baseball.
Overvalued: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (ADP: 36)
I've seen Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg pitch in person many times, and trust me, the kid is electric. The same can be said for his fantasy production, as Strasburg is a lock for a solid ERA and WHIP, and 190-plus strikeouts per year. So what's the problem, here? It's health, which more times than not is the great equalizer in fantasy sports. The RotoBaller ADP tool has Strasburg at an ADP of 36, which in a standard 12-team league, puts him in the third round. That's not terrible, but in most of the mock drafts I've done so far this year, I've seen him go about 10 picks earlier. While I'm not one of those experts who balks at taking ace starters early, I don't like taking guys who are an injury waiting to happen that early either. Strasburg has had injury issues in two of the past three seasons, and many pitching experts are convinced that his violent mechanics will lead to more arm trouble down the road. If that's not enough, even when he is healthy, he's on a constant innings watch. That not only has a chance to severely cut into his win total (as evidenced by his 8 wins in 2013), but who wants to take a chance of not having their second or third round pick in the month of September when Strasburg reaches his innings limit and is shut down by his team, like he was in 2012. Strasburg is already an ace who still has plenty of upside, so maybe I'll be wrong on the Washington ace. Still, with an ADP that early, Strasburg is too much of a risk for me.
In case you had your heart set on Strasburg and are now having second thoughts, here are two pitchers who offer comparable skills and can be had much later in drafts.
Sleeper: Danny Salazar, Indians (ADP: 172)
Want all of the upside Stephen Strasburg has to offer without spending an early round pick? If so, Cleveland future star Danny Salazar may be the pick for you.
After being called up last July, Salazar put up ace-like numbers the rest of 2013. In 10 starts, Salazar posted a very solid 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, but what really should catch the eye of fantasy owners is the fact that Cleveland youngster struckout 65 batters in only 52 innings pitched. That's a K/9 rate of 11.3, or two whole K's better than Strasburg's 9.39 K/9, and with an ADP in the 170s, he can be had in most drafts 10-11 rounds later than Strasburg.
With Ubaldo Jimenez taking his talents to Baltimore, there is zero chance that the pitching strapped Indians leave Salazar out of the rotation for 2014, but that doesn't mean there aren't concerns here as well. First, I'm not sold on the Indians repeating their success from last year, so don't be counting on Salazar to be leading the league in wins. I'm also pretty sure that over a full season, Salazar's K/9 rate will take a hit, although he should still be able to average at least a punchout per inning. Also, as with Strasburg, and most young pitchers in today's game, you have to be worried about an innings limit. I'm not sure what Cleveland's plans are for watching Salazar's innings, but I can't see him throwing more than 175 innings this year. Those concerns aside, Slazar's value at the moment is completely tied to his ADP, and the fact that you may be able to find a guy who turns into Cleveland's ace toward the end of your draft. Danny Salazar has the chance to be the Jose Fernandez of 2014, and if you decide to play it safe and pass on a guy like Strasburg, targeting Danny Salazar is a smart idea.
Undervalued: Homer Bailey, Reds (ADP: 120)
With an ADP of around 120, Homer Bailey is a tenth-eleventh round pick on average, and quite frankly I don't get it. There is so much to like about Bailey, and for one reason or another, he's not getting the same love as other comparable pitchers like Madison Bumgarner (who has an ADP of 55).
Maybe he doesn't offer as much upside as Salazar or Strasburg, but Homer Bailey has been a lock for 200 innings pitched the past two seasons, a feat that Strasburg has yet to accomplish. After winning 13 games with a 3.68 ERA, 168 strikeouts, and a 1.24 WHIP for a very solid 2012, Bailey improved significantly in 2013, posting 11 wins a 3.49 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 199 strikeouts. Those numbers are comparable to guys like Strasburg, Bumgarner, Verlander, Iwakuma, and even Felix Hernandez last year, yet for some reason, Bailey continually goes 5-6 rounds later than those guys.
Sure, Bailey pitches in a bandbox of a home ballpark, but his HR/FB% was actually better than Strasburg's last year at roughly 10%, and his GB% is headed strongly in the right direction and was above average for the first time in his career. Still only 27, Bailey is entering his prime years just as his numbers are knocking on the door of "ace" status. I am targeting him in all of my drafts this year, and if you plan to wait on pitching in your draft, Bailey is the guy to go after.