The key to winning a championship in fantasy baseball is to find some gems in the late rounds of your fantasy baseball drafts. Anyone can draft a top-10 player, but only the good ones can find the diamonds in the rough.
Below are some NL starting pitcher sleepers for 2017. I analyze five starting pitchers from the National League who I think will break out in 2017 and provide great return based on their current draft stock. Also check out my piece on the five American League sleeper starters.
Editor's note: for even more draft prep, visit our awesome 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It has lots of in-depth staff rankings and draft strategy columns. You will find tiered rankings for every position, 2017 impact rookie rankings, AL/NL only league ranks and lots more. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
NL Starting Pitcher Sleepers
Lance Lynn (SP, STL)
Lynn had been a consistent and effective starter for the Cardinals for four straight seasons until 2016. From 2012-to-2015 Lynn held a 3.38 ERA, an 8.65 K/9, and for three straight seasons he was among the top-two starters in all of baseball for HR/FB rate. After the end of the 2015 season, it was announced he needed Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire 2016 season. He was able to make it back for a brief rehab stint in the minors, but ultimately never made it back onto the field. Heading into 2017, you should feel fine about taking Lynn at his reduced price.
Lynn will have no limitations on him this season, and has said his arm feels good right now after not throwing for the majority of last season. After taking the entire season to recover and not rushing himself back, he will now have a full offseason to work through some of the complications pitchers face when returning from this surgery. Regaining control will be huge for Lynn, who throws a heavy dose of fastballs every time he starts. He is fully capable of returning to his top-30 fantasy SP status, and is currently the 88th ranked SP on FanasyPros.
Mike Montgomery (SP, CHC)
Montgomery was acquired by the Cubs last season from the Mariners, and filled a very important role for them in their World Series run. He was mainly used out of the bullpen, and earned the save in Game Seven to clinch the series for Chicago. Throughout the minors he has been a starter, and he will be stretched out this offseason to help Chicago's rotation this season. He will need to compete with the oft-injured Brett Anderson for the fifth starting spot, but has a good chance to win the spot if he pitches like he is capable of.
Montgomery has an elite changeup that Baseball America ranked as the best in the Royals system for two straight seasons while he was coming up through the minors. This pitch helped him have an outside contact rate (o-contact %) of 56.3 percent, which was top-10 among qualified starters. He actually threw his cutter and curveball more than his changeup last season, and those two pitches held opposing hitters to a .080 and .081 average respectively. Montgomery's ability to mix his pitches and induce soft contact (25.5 percent Hard Hit %, fourth best among qualified starters) make him an interesting late round option even though he doesn't strike a ton of hitters out.
Tyler Anderson (SP, COL)
After sitting out all of 2015 to help his elbow fracture properly heal, Tyler Anderson became an afterthought in the Rockies organization. He went through a brief rehab assignment to begin the 2016 season, starting in High-A and and ending with three starts in Triple-A Albuquerque. Once he got the call-up to the majors he never went back, ending the year with Colorado and leading the team in ERA. Over 19 starts in the best hitters park in the majors Anderson held a 3.54 ERA, supported by a 3.59/3.3.64 FIP/xFIP. His ERA at home (3.00, 78 innings) was surprisingly better than on the road (4.71, 36.1 innings).
Anderson has been able to succeed by limiting hard contact. His 24.2 percent Soft Contact rate placed him second in the league among starters who qualified, and his 85.1mph exit velocity was the best mark in the majors last season. His 3.54 K/BB rate would have also placed him in the top-25 among starters last season. Not too shabby for a guy who didn't pitch in 2015. If Anderson can up his strikeouts a bit (7.79 K/9 last season) he can easily out-perform his current ADP. Jon Gray gets the most buzz in Colorado, but Anderson is the Rockies pitcher I want to own this season.
Vince Velasquez (SP, PHI)
The 24-year old righty flashed his huge upside early in the season in 2015 with a dominating, complete-game 16 strikeout performance against the Padres. Velasquez held a 10.44 K/9 rate last season, and a FIP/xFIP of 3.96/.3.67 that suggest he pitched better than his 4.12 ERA would indicate. His season was cut short by the Phillies after he reached his innings limit, ending the year with 131 innings.
The fatigue may have gotten to Velasquez; after holding a 3.32 ERA in the first half, he faded down the stretch with a 5.33 ERA over his final 52.1 innings. He should be able to reach 170 innings if he stays healthy, and should be more accustomed to a major-league workload this season. Velasquez has an elite fastball at 94 mph on average, topping out at 97.8mph. This pitch generated a SwStr% of 11.4 percent last season. Velasquez is also working to refine his curveball this offseason, something he feels he didn’t utilize enough last year. He may get shut down late in the year again, but has the raw stuff to dominate until that point.
Jerad Eickhoff (SP, PHI)
Eickhoff may not be the most exciting option on the Phillies, but was the most stable starter of the bunch last season. While the rotation was decimated with injuries, Eickhoff stayed healthy and threw a career-high 197.1 innings. With the lowly Phillies he held a 3.65 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, and was one of only 20 major league pitchers last season to throw at least 190 innings with a sub-3.70 ERA.
If you look at his season as a whole, he was as consitent as it gets; he never missed a single start, and pitched into the sixth inning in all but four outings. Unlike most young pitchers, Eickhoff seemed to get stronger as the year went on. His September ERA sat at a pretty 2.52, which was the 12th best mark in the league for that month. He allowed three earned runs or less in his final eight starts, and held hitters to a .206 average over that span. Eickhoff has said he would like to get over 200 innings this season, and has been working on his changeup to help compliment his curveball, which hitters hit just .159 against last season. A guy that can give you 200 innings with a 3.50 ERA can be an extremely valuable fantasy asset.