As fantasy owners get ready for the 2014 season, there are always thoughts about starting pitching and at which draft stages you should be targeting certain pitchers. There are the usual suspects who will get picked in the first few rounds, but there are some starters that owners shouldn't forget about in the process. It is those pitchers that get taken in the later rounds that can really impact the fortunes of your fantasy baseball team and propel you to a championship. To that end, there are five rookies/prospects in particular who may give owners an advantage this season. It is likely that all five of these pitchers will pitch at least half the regular season at the big league level. Here are the pitchers that owners need to be tareting in this year’s draft.
2014 Fantasy Baseball Impact Prospects: Starting Pitchers
Masahiro Tanaka - Yankees
The crown jewel of this season’s free agent class was the young righty from Japan who went 24-0 for Rakuten with a 1.27 ERA. There is no doubt that he is a good pitcher and has had a sub-2.51 ERA in each of the last five seasons in Japan. The question about him is whether or not he can take that talent and use at the major league level. The Yankees will put him in the No. 3 spot in their rotation and hope for the best. Fantasy owners need to think cautiously, however, and so you shouldn’t be taking Tanaka too early. A selection in the sixth or seventh round as a second or third starter would be wise.
Taijuan Walker - Mariners
Walker made his debut last season in Seattle with a 1-0 record in three starts. He struck out 12 in 15 innings, as well. He is going to find himself in the Mariners’ rotation probably right off the bat to begin 2014, and that should present the opportunity for a smart fantasy owner to pick Walker late in the draft. Seattle made a flurry of offensive moves to support their pitching staff, so a productive Walker should be able to squeak out 12-14 wins if he can make 30-32 starts. Fantasy owners need to be selecting Walker this season with one of their final picks while watching his progress in the early going.
Archie Bradley - Diamondbacks
There are going to be a lot of expectations on Bradley during the 2014 season, as many believe he is the best pitching prospect in the minors right now. He finished 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA last season in 26 starts in the minors. Arizona isn’t going to wait too much longer to bring Bradley up to become one of their top starters, so he will probably have 20-25 starts for the Diamondbacks. Dynasty league owners should already have Bradley on their rosters, but in redraft leagues, he is someone worth selecting late, especially if he breaks camp with the team.
Jameson Taillon - Pirates
The Pirates have been careful with Taillon and he may not make his major league debut until after the 2014 All-Star break, but when he gets to Pittsburgh, watch out. He was just 5-10 last season at Double-A and Triple-A with a 3.73 ERA, but he averaged nearly a strikeout per inning as well, and is beginning to show the world why Pittsburgh made him the No. 2 pick in the draft in 2010. He should slot in perfectly behind Gerrit Cole by the end of 2014. He is a player that you should consider with one of your final draft picks if you can afford to stash him on the bench until June or July.
Carlos Martinez - Cardinals
St. Louis gave Martinez a great opportunity to dip his feet in the water with the big league team. He went 2-1 with a 5.08 ERA in 21 appearances for the Cardinals. He even got 12 games of postseason experience along the way. The team is likely going to want Martinez in the starting rotation this season instead of the bullpen, which makes his value go up in a big way. The fact that he is on the Cardinals likely leads to an extra couple wins, as well. He is someone that should be drafted in the late rounds of 2014 drafts because of his dual (SP/RP) eligibility.