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Five Undervalued NL Starting Pitcher Targets for 2016 Drafts


The National League is simply loaded with elite pitching. You could miss out on most of the top ranked guys and still find yourself with an abundance of options heading into the middle rounds. Still, it's important to know what you're looking for when those later rounds approach and there are holes to fill at SP on your roster. Finding hidden value at the starting pitcher position could make or break the final outcome of your 2016 fantasy squad.

Some of the guys we're about to discuss do not exactly qualify as sleepers, per se. But, with the plethora of quality pitching available, these players may drop far lower than their true value suggests. Let's take a look at how you can secure some of the NL's most dependable and exciting pitchers for a cheap price come draft day.

Editor's note: You can find more draft values and potential sleepers in our running list all preseason long, and be sure to also check out our rankings dashboard which is loaded with lots of great analysis.

 

Starting Pitcher Draft Values - National League

Adam Wainwright (STL, ADP 71.3)

NL Pitcher Rank - 14th

Analysis: Let's start by acknowledging the abundance of red flags surrounding Wainwright. Chiefly, he'll be turning 35 in August and nobody wants to take a gamble in the early rounds on aging pitchers. Also, it's worth noting that he's coming off a significant injury after missing most of the 2015 season with a torn Achilles tendon. Above all else, it's difficult to even qualify Wainwright as a sleeper - he's ranked among the ranks of other elite pitchers in a national League that is stacked with top-tier talent.

Even still, the ranking is too low for Wainwright. This is a man who has finished among the top-3 Cy Young vote-getters for each of his past four full seasons. Over the past six years, he boasts a 2.80 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and a 1.11 WHIP, despite a 2010 Tommy John surgery. It's unreasonable to expect Wainwright to finish among the Cy Young contenders in his twelfth MLB season. However, it's ridiculous to consider him over the hill. The torn Achilles is not the type of injury to incur long-term consequences. Though he's thrown the fastball less and less over the past few seasons, his velocity has not significantly declined, still hovering in the 90 mph range. Most importantly, that curveball is still nasty and will continue to rack up strike outs. With 997 curveballs thrown over the past two seasons (that is, all of 2014 and the brief stint in 2015 before the Achilles injury) Wainwright has struck out 105 batters and kept opposing hitters to a .149 AVG. If he can stay healthy, Wainwright is a lock for another fantastic season, and will most certainly contribute in the win category by leading a perennially potent Cardinals club.

 

Steven Matz (NYM, ADP 129.7)

NL Pitcher Rank - 27th

Analysis: Matz started 14 games at the Triple-A level in 2015 with the Port Saint-Lucie Mets. In those 90.1 innings pitched, Matz recorded a 2.19 ERA, racked up 94 strike outs and yielded just six home runs. The Long Island native may have seen some success in the minors, but pitching in the big leagues is a much different story. Not true for Matz. In six starts near the end of the season for the Mets, (after missing a few months with a lat injury) the 24 year-old maintained a steady 2.27 ERA en route to a 4-0 record, not to mention extended success in the postseason.

Somehow, Matz is still among the least fear-invoking pitchers in the Mets rotation. For fantasy purposes, that's actually good news. Matz won't have to endure the challenge of facing rival aces in marquee matchups as often as the likes of Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, likely giving him a better chance to succeed. Matz still needs a wider Major League portfolio to prove his worth, but in many ways he is more promising than fellow pitchers lumped in this ranking bracket. For example, Raisel Iglesias (another rookie in 2015) holds a ton of promise heading into 2016, making him the 20th ranked NL pitcher on FantasyPros. Though Iglesias pitched 60 more innings than Matz in the MLB (not to mention Iglesias was promoted to a flailing Reds club while Matz entered a playoff-bound title contender), Matz proved to be much more effective on the mound. Namely, Matz boasted an ERA nearly two full points lower than that of Iglesias (4.15). In all fairness, Iglesias shows much more strikeout potential, but Matz clearly seems like the most reliable option. I would certainly rather snag Matz than the other pitchers in his vicinity, including Gio Gonzalez and Patrick Corbin.

 

Raisel Iglesias (CIN, ADP 144.0)

NL Pitcher Rank - 20th

Analysis: Okay, forget everything I just said about Matz - Have you seen what Iglesias can do? The 26 year-old Cuban rookie blew batters away in an abbreviated 2015 MLB stint, evidenced by his 9.82 K/9 ratio. That figure was good for sixth in the NL among qualified starting pitchers. Not bad for a rookie. In all fairness, being ranked at 20th in the NL at the brink of his first full season is quite the accolade, considering he is among big-time guys like James Shields and Shelby Miller. So, why is he being drafted behind guys like Steven Matz when strikeouts reign supreme in fantasy baseball?

Well, his 4.15 ERA might be a daunting figure for some. Among the other top-10 NL finishers in K/9 for the 2015 season, Iglesias' ERA was the highest by a noticeable margin. But much of that had to do with luck. In the Cuban league, Iglesias was known much more for his control than his strikeout ability. After all, this is a guy who can just barely touch 95 mph on the radar gun, and that's on a good day. His 3.55 FIP is not too far off from Matz' 3.61 figure. The shallow confines of the Great American Ballpark are not doing him many favors. But all of the metrics point toward a lower ERA in 2016. Unfortuantely, that may coordinate with a regression in the strike out department. Either way, Iglesias is one of the key high-ceiling guys heading into next season and could be a quality pickup if he lingers into the middle rounds. Be careful of Reds fans in your league, they will likely be keeping an eye on him from the outset of the draft.

 

Wei-Yin Chen (MIA, ADP 208.0)

NL Pitcher Rank - 32nd

Analysis: Chen has quietly staked a reputation for himself as one of the league's most consistent and reliable pitchers over the past few seasons. While the Orioles organization was plagued by disappointing seasons from promising stars like Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman in 2015, Chen silently carried the load for the team and provided ample support for a high-powered offense to get the job done. He delivered quality starts in 21 of 31 starts and allowed more than three earned runs on just four occasions, never allowing more than six. All of this paid off in 2015 in the form of a respectable 3.34 ERA. He struggled with the long ball, (28 HR, good for a 1.3 HR/9 rate) but never let games get out of hand.

Listen - Chen is not going to blow people away. His strikeout numbers are underwhelming, but they won't kill your fantasy team. That's the best thing about Chen - he won't kill you in any category, as many high-ceiling guys being taken before him undoubtedly will. He may not have as much luck in the win category in 2016 playing for a lowly Marlins squad. With that being said, his home run problems should be alleviated in Marlins park as compared to a hitter-friendly Camden Yards. Chen has managed more and more control with each passing season, as shown by his steadily declining ERA totals (4.07 in 2013, 3.54 in 2014, 3.34 in 2015). In his age 30 season this year, there's no reason to believe his concentration should waver. At the end of the day, Chen's security is worth more than Andrew Cashner's uncertainty or the shakiness of other pitchers taken before him, such as Alex Wood and Jason Hammel. He may not produce many complete game shutouts, but Chen will be a great asset for an already strong team.

 

Tanner Roark (WSH, ADP 338.0)

NL Pitcher Rank - 61st

Analysis: Ranking Roark this low should be considered criminal. There are multiple guys ranked above him who will miss great swaths of the season with injuries and a handful of guys above him who are flat out no good. Now, I'm sure many of you are thinking the same thing right now - who even is Tanner Roark? It's a fair thought, considering he spent the entirety of 2015 in the Nationals bullpen and didn't even have much success there (4.38 ERA, 1.306 WHIP). The only lesson those numbers teach me is that Roark has no place in the pen. His true calling is as a starting pitcher.

OK, that may be a bit melodramatic. It starts to sound more realistic when you take a closer look at what Roark did as a starter for the Nats in 2014. In 31 starts, Roark finished the season with a 2.85 ERA, 1.092 WHIP and a 138/39 K/BB ratio. Roark's success can be most impressively quantified by his 5.1 WAR, good for sixth in the NL and placing him among the ranks of Jake Arrieta and teammate Jordan Zimmermann, both Cy Young contenders that year. Somehow, Roark's success was completely overlooked, despite the fact that he saw much more consistent success than the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. It's extremely unlikely that Roark will find the same success as his 2014 campaign. However, he will be in the starting rotation after the club traded away Zim and Doug Fister. 61st is simply too low. In most draft formats, he may not be chosen at all. If he's still lurking near the final rounds of your draft, he can be an incredibly value pickup as his consistency is almost a guarantee and his upside is sky-high.

 

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