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3 Starting Pitcher Busts for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts - AL Edition

Dylan Cease - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Injury News, DFS and Betting Picks

Sleepers and breakout candidates are popular topics as fantasy baseball managers prepare for their drafts. Hitting big on a player in the middle-to-late rounds can go a long way toward winning a title.

Another key to winning a league might be avoiding players who could potentially bust. Missing on a player who is drafted inside the top 125 can have a significant impact on a roster.

With that in mind, let’s highlight three American League pitchers who could be busts for the 2024 campaign.

Be sure to check all of our preseason fantasy baseball rankings for Roto, Points, H2H, dynasty, best ball, prospects and more:

 

Dylan Cease, Chicago White Sox

Cease was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2022. He finished with a 2.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 30.4 percent strikeout rate across 32 starts. He gave up just 0.8 HR/9, which was the lowest mark of his career. Part of that was because he allowed only a 31.2 percent hard-hit rate.

If there was any reason to pause, it’s that Cease’s production in 2022 didn’t match his previous stats, and by a wide margin. Before the campaign, he had never allowed a hard-hit rate below 37.5 percent, had never had a WHIP below 1.25, and had never finished with an ERA below 3.91. While his FIP wasn’t bad at 3.10, it was significantly higher than his 2.20 ERA.

Last season, Cease took a significant step backward. His hard-hit rate jumped up to 41.6 percent, while his WHIP finished at 1.42. That left him with a 4.58 ERA, although his FIP wasn’t quite as bad at 3.72.

With the White Sox diving into a rebuild, there were rumors that they might be willing to move Cease during the offseason. However, with them seeking a hefty return, he has yet to change teams. While he will likely begin the season on the White Sox, he could ultimately be moved by the trade deadline.

Cease currently has an ADP of 101 on Yahoo. The projection systems are forecasting that he finishes closer to his 2023 stats than his 2022 ones. ATC has him projected to finish with a 4.03 ERA, 4.04 FIP, and a 1.30 WHIP. THE BAT has him projected to compile a 4.24 ERA, 4.18 FIP, and a 1.31 WHIP. Despite him being a good source for strikeouts, his deficiencies elsewhere could deal a blow to fantasy managers who select him so high.

 

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

Verlander left the Astros before last season to join the Mets. It was the first time that he pitched in the National League during his illustrious career, but he had championship aspirations again with the Mets loading up on top talent. However, injuries and underperformance by some of their key players turned the Mets into sellers by the time the trade deadline arrived.

The Mets were quick to move on from Verlander, shipping him back to the Astros. He would conclude the season with 27 total starts, registering a 3.22 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and a 1.13 WHIP.

As good as those numbers were, there are plenty of areas to be concerned with for Verlander. His strikeout rate fell to 21.5 percent, which was his lowest mark since the 2015 season. His whiff rate was only 22.5 percent, while his hard-hit rate allowed ballooned to 41.3 percent.

Verlander will enter the season at 41 years old, so expecting him to produce like he did in his prime is not reasonable. The question is, does what he have left in the tank warrant his Yahoo ADP of 114? The Astros do have quality depth in terms of starting pitchers, so they don’t need to push Verlander to log 200 innings. They also have championship aspirations again, so it will be important for them to have Verlander healthy by the time the playoffs roll around.

Most projection systems have Verlander taking a significant step back this season. ATC has him projected for a 3.92 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and a 22.6 percent strikeout rate. Steamer has him projected to finish with a 4.22 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and a 22.4 percent strikeout rate. That lack of strikeouts would severely limit his upside in fantasy.

 

Chris Bassitt, Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays added Bassitt prior to last season to help bolster their starting rotation. He finished 2023 with a 3.60 ERA, marking his sixth straight season with an ERA of 3.81 or lower. He also logged 200 innings, marking his third straight campaign with at least 27 starts.

There were still some stats to be concerned about with Bassitt last season. His 4.28 FIP wasn’t as impressive as his final ERA. In terms of avoiding contact, he only had a 21.9 percent whiff rate and a 22.5 percent strikeout rate. His 8.3 percent barrel rate allowed was also the second-highest mark of his career.

Bassitt has spent most of his career with the Athletics, who have a pitcher-friendly home park. That’s part of why it wasn’t surprising to see him give up more home runs with the Blue Jays. His 1.3 HR/9 allowed broke a streak of three straight seasons in which he allowed fewer than one home run per nine innings.

Bassitt has an ADP of 117 on Yahoo. However, ATC, Steamer, and THE BAT all have him projected to finish with an ERA of at least 4.00 and a strikeout rate below 22.0 percent. They all also have him finishing with a WHIP of 1.22 or higher. None of those stats are particularly helpful to fantasy managers.



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