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4 Breakout Starting Pitchers For Fantasy Baseball Drafts - NL Edition (2024)

Brandon Pfaadt - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB News

The term "breakout" drives much of the stress in a fantasy baseball player's life during draft season. Everyone's looking for the next breakout, but very few will ever find one.

Luckily, I've got four enticing National League starting pitchers who have a great shot at breaking out in 2024 and returning well on their ADPs. It isn't advised to draft too many of these types, but sprinkling in a breakout name here and there in your draft will provide bountiful returns for you this season.

Look back at the American League version of this article. There were so many intriguing breakout candidates at the starting pitching position that we had to split it into two articles!

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

 

Starting Pitching Breakout Candidates

Michael King, San Diego Padres

High-end young bullpen arm to mid-level starter is a fairly well-trodden path with varying results (e.g., Jeffrey Springs, Michael Lorenzen, Chris Sale, etc.). Michael King made the leap late in August 2023, joining the rotation as a two-inning opener and pushing to 70+ pitches in every start by early September. King was rock-solid in his late-season run as a true starter, with a 2.02 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 31.9% strikeout rate, 5% walk rate, and 1.09 WHIP through seven starts.

The back end of San Diego's rotation is barren, so King should maintain a starting role. While you don't have enough to disregard his injury history and unproven endurance, King has the talent and opportunity to break out. A 150 ADP is a decent price for a pitcher with a fantastic shot at breaking out.

 

Cristopher Sanchez, Philadelphia Phillies

Very few were expecting Cristopher Sanchez to give the Phillies the type of season he did in 2023, with a 3.44 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 24.2% strikeout rate, and 4% walk rate through 18 starts. While it was an impressive run, the 27-year-old didn't do enough for long enough to hold the attention of fantasy baseball managers, as he is currently available to draft well into the 200s.

Sanchez wasn't working with the God-given stuff most pitchers are, as his sinker and changeup both possess sub-75 Stuff+ grades. While that is usually a sign to stay away, incredible command (101 Location+ grade) and clever pitch usage elevate those pitches.

Regarding his pitch usage, his sinker usage lowering from 61% in 2022 to 43.5% by the end of 2023 likely played a part in his impressive September. Opting for a more robust changeup (elite 23.1% SwStr% rate on the pitch) worked wonders. When his changeup usage ticked up to 40.5% in September, he had one of his best months (2.48 xFIP, 28.1% strikeout rate, 4.2% walk rate, 1.07 WHIP), and that pitch still maintained a jaw-dropping .137 wOBA on 139 pitches in September.

While you may want to write his 2023 season off as unsustainable, an elite-performing changeup, impressive command, and an elite Phillies lineup means you should expect something close to the same. If his sinker and new cutter can sustain the improvements displayed in his first spring training start, this season could take him to the stratosphere.

 

Brandon Pfaadt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Many had extremely high hopes for top prospect Brandon Pfaadt coming into the 2023 season. To say he fell short early would be an understatement, with an 8.20 ERA, 7.22 FIP, 3.13 HR/9, and 17.5% strikeout rate through his eight starts before August.

Come August, Pfaadt looked like a completely different pitcher. In 10 regular season starts, he held a 4.14 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 25.6% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate, and 1.38 HR/9. This regular season stretch ramped up to an incredible postseason performance, as the rookie held a 3.27 ERA, 29.9% strikeout rate, 5.7% walk rate, and 1.09 WHIP through 22 innings pitched against the Brewers, Phillies, Dodgers, and Texans.

There was never concern about his abilities; with his momentum, Pfaadt can give us a full season of what we received in the 2023 postseason. A 213 ADP is good value for the former top prospect.

 

Tylor Megill, New York Mets

There are a bunch of lovely tidbits coming out of the Mets' spring training about starter Tylor Megill, i.e., his 'American spork', three scoreless innings against the Astros, laudatory words from manager Carlos Mendoza, and a noticeable aura of confidence radiating from the 28-year-old.

It's difficult to judge the accuracy of this sort of evangelism; some of it may be incredibly impactful but the rest may be disinformation. It's especially difficult to take it seriously when it's for a pitcher with a 4.70 ERA, 18.5% strikeout rate, and 10.5% walk rate through 25 starts in 2023.

That off-brand ghost fork could be the key to a break-out season for Megill. His four-seamer is the crux of his pitching issues; while it has otherworldly extension, a .407 wOBA on the pitch indicates it simply does not perform well enough to justify its 55.7% usage rate. Adding a strong put-away pitch raises Megill's stock, but it may do more good simply by taking reps from an over-used fastball.

While it may feel like these are all the moves of a man on his last legs, fellow starters Luis Severino, Sean Manaea, and Adrian Houser aren't in much better condition. A 607 ADP signals expectations are low, but Megill has the opportunity to turn heads this season.



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