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Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher ERA Regression Candidates - Time To Sell High?

Javier Assad - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

It has been a fun year of pitching in the MLB. Ronel Blanco's no-hitter was one of the first highlights of the season. Ranger Suarez has been a revelation for the Phillies in 2024. Shota Imanaga has been baffling hitters consistently throughout the year.

From a fantasy baseball perspective, managers must identify pitchers who have a setup for significant regression in the coming months. Whether it is making a trade or bolstering pitching support through free agent adds, adapting to regression before it happens can be the difference in making (and winning) the playoffs.

Peripheral statistics are one of the best ways to make these judgments. FIP works to remove the "randomness" of fielding from a pitcher's performance (compared to ERA). xFIP goes one step further to remove the randomness of home runs that can be significantly impacted by a small sample size. Comparing a pitcher's current ERA to their xFIP is one of the best ways to assess for impending negative regression. Ben Ueberroth (@UeberMD) examines ERA-xFIP differences across the league to identify starting pitchers set for regression in the coming months.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Javier Assad - Chicago Cubs

The poster child (literally) for this article, Assad has been a revelation so far in 2024. His 1.70 ERA is good for a top-5 ranking across the MLB, an incredible feat for someone billed as the SP3 or SP4 for the Cubs this year. Although his career ERA mark is a solid 2.70, that comes across a relatively small sample size. The concern is an ERA-xFIP gap of -2.50, the largest on this list by a good margin.

One concern is a .238 BABIP, significantly below his .262 career mark. Another concern is a 9.2% BB%. Finally, his SwStr% is abysmal at 6.3%, and his CSW% is only incrementally better at 25.0%. It seems unlikely that Assad will maintain his current 21.1% K%, which is already middling. Assad is likely to end the season with an ERA between 3.50 and 4.00 but also may experience a dip in strikeouts.

With a strong approach, solid fastball, and flashes of brilliance, he is worth a roster spot in most leagues, but now is the time to try to get top-100 value out of him, since that ranking is likely to be lower at the end of 2024.


Tyler Anderson - Los Angeles Angels

Only James Paxton has a higher xFIP than Anderson on this list. Anderson is a major candidate to regress significantly from his current ERA towards his 4.88 xFIP. Anderson's career BABIP is .284, a galaxy away from his current, unsustainable .209 mark in 2024. While BABIP can be controversial, Anderson is undeniably "getting lucky" with balls in play in 2024.

He is further hampered by a 17.1% K%, the lowest of any player in this article. His control has been decent with an 8.2% BB% and contact against him has been just average based on a 36.5% hard hit %. In 12+ teams leagues, Anderson may be worth a roster spot. In shallower leagues, managers should seek more valuable returns via trade while they can. His current top-100 ranking will fall off a cliff shortly.


Ronel Blanco - Houston Astros

Ah Ronel, we hardly knew ye. At the beginning of the season, it seemed like the Astros rotation was overcrowded. Then multiple injuries happened and Blanco got his shot. Including the no-hitter against the Blue Jays that brought him roaring into the baseball lexicon, Blanco has three shutouts on the year. His classic fastball-changeup one-two punch has been lethal this year, with his changeup holding a strong 36.3% Whiff%.

This article is about regression, and that seems likely for Blanco. With an FIP of 4.00 and xFIP of 4.19, Blanco has managed to avoid blowups, but the setup is there. His xFIP has been above 3.00 every game this year, including the shutouts. He somehow managed to blank the Rangers in his second start despite an ugly 6.17 xFIP.

Blanco has likely carved out a season-long role in the starting rotation, but what the Astros will do when all of their starters are back from injury remains to be seen. Blanco's no-hitter may allow for enough name recognition to pull off a solid trade before a couple of blow-ups mar his numbers. It is definitely a sticky situation.


Seth Lugo - Kansas City Royals

The Royals' pitching staff has all suddenly seemed unstoppable. Cole Ragans is a known commodity coming into his own. Alec Marsh has been a pleasant surprise. Lugo has been perhaps the biggest surprise. He has been a decent pitcher from an ERA standpoint for most of his career, with his career mark standing at 3.32. However, a 1.74 ERA and 0.97 (!) WHIP are grounds for an All-Star nomination, and Lugo has never hung out in that stratosphere before.

His 3.23 FIP is decent and suggests moderate regression from his current ERA, but his 3.78 xFIP is more concerning and likely more telling. A 21.5% K% does not leave all that much strikeout upside, but on the other hand, Lugo has been limiting walks with a stellar 5.3% BB%, a hallmark throughout his career. While he will contribute as an SP3, possibly even an SP2, throughout 2024, he will not finish the season ranked top-10 across all players (hitters and pitchers) as he is right now. He is a prime example of a pitcher to move for a batter upgrade or reliever help.


James Paxton - Los Angeles Dodgers

It is painful to look at the Big Maple's peripheral statistics. Starting from a middling 3.49 ERA, Paxton holds a 5.56 FIP and 5.45 xFIP. This is going to get ugly, and not even pitching for the Dodgers is enough to make Paxton worth anything more than a rare streaming pickup.

It gets even scarier from here. His 13.5% K% is the third-lowest in the MLB right now for pitchers with 40 IP or more. Once a hallmark of his value, it seems Paxton can no longer be counted on for strikeout upside either. If managers can find a trade for a designated hitter, middle-tier reliever, or really anything of value, they should make the deal while they can.


Andrew Abbott - Cincinnati Reds

AA has pitched well recently, with a seven-inning shutout against the Padres preceded by seven innings of one-run ball against the DBacks. Single-game BABIP can be a bit volatile, but it is worrisome that Abbott's BABIP in all of his "good" outings (and some of his not-so-good outings) has been below .200. His 4.49 xFIP and 4.52 FIP essentially guarantee some blowups in his upcoming outings against his current 2.68 ERA.

Abbott does limit walks with a 6.6% BB% but also lacks significant strikeout upside with an 18.8% K%. He does limit hard contact very well with a stellar 30.6% hard hit %, good for a top-10 ranking this year. The Reds have underperformed as a team this year and perhaps rounding into form will add some wins to Abbott's line, but that remains to be seen. Abbott has potential and deserves a roster spot in most leagues, but be careful with any upcoming tough matchups as the writing is on the wall that his ERA will only go up over time.


Triston McKenzie - Cleveland Guardians

It has been an odd year for McKenzie. He had significant appeal as a mid-round SP coming into 2024 fantasy drafts. Then an arm injury was reported in April and with that has come a three mph reduction in his fastball velocity, a major concern. Despite that, he is still seeing regular starts and holds a 3.44 ERA.

Even though he is starting from one of the higher ERAs on this list, things are still going to get ugly for McKenzie. His 5.23 xFIP suggests impending doom. The decrease in fastball velocity is inevitably a harbinger of bad pitching outcomes, and three mph is significant. His strikeout numbers have come down along with the velocity, sitting at 20.2% K% from a career mark of 25.9%. Get out while you still can and take any value you can get via trade for McKenzie.


Carlos Rodon - New York Yankees

With a couple of stellar years in 2021 and 2022, Rodon has been a bit of an enigma for the past two years, much of which is related to injuries. So far in 2024, he holds a solid 2.95 ERA, but his xFIP currently sits at 4.52. His BABIP of .265 suggests that this is not derived from lucky or well-placed hits. The stat that jumps off the spreadsheet is the 44.0% hard hit %, putting him in the bottom 20 rankings of this telling statistic. An 18.3% LD% and 9.7% Barrel% also support the solid contact being made against Rodon.

Rodon used to have a significant strikeout upside, but that seems to have waned, possibly permanently, since his recent injuries. His amazing 34.0% K% across 2021 and 2022 has dwindled to just 22.0% in 2024. Rodon's name recognition and current ERA should be enough to get some sort of meaningful return for him in a trade, which managers should be exploring now before the wheels fall off (and the strikeouts remain low).


Jose Berrios - Toronto Blue Jays

Berrios gave up just three earned runs in his first five outings in 2024, reigniting hope that he could be a strong SP2 behind Kevin Gausman. Unfortunately, he has given up two or more earned runs in every outing since then, including an eight-run blowup against the Phillies a few weeks ago.

His current ERA sits at an above-average 2.98 mark, but his 4.62 FIP and 4.15 xFIP suggest he will end the season closer to 4.00, if not above. His 20.0% K% does little to inspire upside from the strikeout perspective. His 46.7% hard-hit % also profiles a pitcher who gets knocked around when guys are making contact. Overall, his peripheral stats do little to inspire confidence, and moving Berrios would be in most managers' best interest.


Marcus Stroman - New York Yankees

It is interesting to see two Yankees in this section and one below. What a puzzling pitching staff, a bit of a paper mache from home-grown guys like Gil cobbled together with big-name signings like Rodon and Gerrit Cole. Stroman may not be the biggest of names but he has garnered hype throughout his career. He currently sits at a decent 3.05 ERA, but his 4.77 FIP and 4.11 xFIP do little to inspire confidence.

Stroman's 11.0% BB% is a setup for disaster and his 8.8% SwStr% does little to assuage concerns. He currently profiles as both a bit volatile and quite hittable, a combination that bodes poorly for the remainder of 2024. His 20.3% K% is right at his career mark, so the strikeout upside will not be enough to salvage the inevitable rise in ERA. Managers could do worse than Stroman for one of their last couple of roster spots, but any value that can be obtained in a trade is likely worth more than what Stroman will provide for the rest of 2024.


The Other Guys

These arms hold an ERA-xFIP difference worse than -1.00 but for one reason or another are more likely to sustain their success compared to the guys above.

Shota Imanaga - Chicago Cubs

Imanaga holds an ERA-xFIP difference of -2.31, third "worst" behind Assad and Anderson. However, this is a great case in point of why one isolated statistic can be misleading. With an ERA of 0.84, regression is inevitable. With an FIP of 2.20 and xFIP of 3.15, Imanaga will continue to contribute. He is more likely to end up on the SP2/SP3 border than an ace, but keep him on the roster for all of 2024.

Ranger Suarez - Philadelphia Phillies

Suarez, like Imanaga, is somewhat unfairly on this list. With an ERA of 1.36, his ERA-xFIP will be relatively high. The key word is "relatively" since he holds an astounding 2.66 xFIP. Under the hood, he holds a 22.8% K%-BB%, good for a top-15 ranking across baseball. Suarez is having his coming-out party this year, and he is here to stay.

Reynaldo Lopez - Atlanta Braves

Pitching for the Braves, López has a lot going for him. He has a great setup for wins with a strong lineup and bullpen behind him. Furthermore, his 24.2% K% is strong, even with a mediocre 9.3% BB%. He will not maintain his current sub-2.00 ERA, but sub-3.00 is possible. Even an ERA around 3.50 this year coupled with strikeouts and wins makes López a strong fantasy pitcher in 2024.

Luis Gil - New York Yankees

Although he is due for a slight regression in ERA from his current 2.11 to closer to his xFIP of 3.57, Gil is a strikeout machine. His eye-popping 31.7% K% is only slightly above his career mark of 30.8%. The Yankees have been up and down but they afford him the opportunity for wins. Hold Gil, and consider targeting him if looking for strikeouts specifically.

Jon Gray - Texas Rangers

With a 2.21 ERA, Gray is yet another arm for which ERA-xFIP difference does not tell a fair story. With an FIP of 2.52 and xFIP of 3.56, Gray is set for continued success in 2024. He is backed by a strong lineup and should garner wins over the coming months. No reason to panic here for such a small chance of regression.

Jordan Hicks - San Francisco Giants

Despite a relatively large ERA-xFIP gap, Hicks has shown significant promise this year as a starting pitcher. With an FIP of 3.49 and xFIP of 3.99, inevitably he will regress, but even that regression suggests he will end up with an ERA around 3.50. Hicks has demonstrated solid control this year with a 7.9% BB%. His 18.6% K% is well below his career mark, and even though that career mark is largely from the bullpen, managers can expect an uptick in strikeouts with his 100+ mph fastball.

Reese Olson - Detroit Tigers

Olson finally captured his elusive first win of the season against the Blue Jays. Wins will always be a point of concern for Tigers pitchers. However, his 2.16 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 3.80 xFIP suggest his current performance is not all that far off from his season-long potential. He has a respectable 21.2% K% backed by a solid 12.4% SwStr%. Managers could do a lot worse at their SP3 than Olson. He is worth holding and certainly worth a pickup if available as a free agent.

Kutter Crawford - Boston Red Sox

Crawford's performance over the remainder of the 2024 season is a bit harder to predict with peripheral stats than many of the other guys in this article. His 4.08 xFIP is relatively concerning, but his sky-high .293 BABIP suggests that hitters are getting a bit "lucky" recently. While both statistics likely hold a bit of truth, Crawford also holds a solid 23.4% K% backed up by very little hard contact with a 31.5% hard hit %. Crawford may give up more runs in the coming weeks, but his floor is buoyed by strikeouts and soft contact.

Nathan Eovaldi, Texas Rangers

Injuries have hampered Eovaldi a bit, but he appears to be trending towards a return in mid-June. With the somewhat limited sample size, there is more volatility in his peripheral statistics. Nonetheless, with a stellar 2.61 ERA on the books so far and a 3.70 xFIP, Eovaldi will easily be an SP3 moving forward in 2024. His strikeout upside has always been there, and 2024 is no different with a 26.2% K%. Managers can expect a nice addition to their roster when he returns.

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Fantasy Football Discounted Veteran Running Backs to Target in 2024

Every fantasy manager wants to draft the young, explosive running backs. Bijan Robinson, Breece Hall, Jahmyr Gibbs, and De'Von Achane are all currently going within the first 22 picks of fantasy drafts. Robinson and Hall are usually going later in the first round, while Gibbs and Achane are going somewhere in the second round. Sometimes, though, there are discounted running... Read More

Bijan Robinson - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

Five Fantasy Football Breakout Candidates For 2024

With the calendar flipping to June, we are only a handful of weeks away from the start of NFL training camps. That means it’s officially time to start preparing for your fantasy football draft. One of the best ways to get a jump on your league mates is by correctly identifying potential breakout candidates. Nailing... Read More

Fantasy Football Running Backs To Prioritize in PPR, but Fade in Standard Leagues

With the NFL Draft behind us, team depth charts are beginning to take shape. Now, we can start to identify which backfields have a one-man show versus those relying upon more of a committee approach. This can be very valuable when identifying which running backs will provide more fantasy points in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues compared... Read More