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Late-Round Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Targets: ERA

The category targets are flowing! Today we're back to starting pitching, talking about ERA.

This category proves to be one of the toughest ones to find help in later in the draft. That is not to say that there won't be great ERAs coming out of the late-round pitchers, but it's very hard to identify them ahead of time. This stat is also quite random, with a lot of things going into it that are subject to high amounts of variance.

Let's talk about what to look for, and then give some later-round ERA targets. Check out all our top fantasy baseball sleepers to prepare for draft day.

 

The Makings of ERA

The three thing categories that are most correlated with ERA are strikeout rate (K%), walk rate (BB%), and ground-ball rate (GB%). A good formula to use is to look for pitchers meeting this criterion:

  • K% Above 25%
  • BB% Below 8%
  • GB% Above 45%

This will give you a list of pitchers that are doing a good job preventing contact and baserunners. Those are the makings of a good ERA. Let's zone in on some potential names that can help a team's ERA.

 

The Pitcher Draft Targets

Luis Garcia, Houston Astros (ADP 150)

Garcia came out of nowhere last year to become a great fantasy option down the stretch. He checked all three boxes here, going for a 25.2% K%, a 5.9% BB%, and a 45.7% GB%. His arsenal is very, very deep:

You can see there that he posted strong ground-ball marks on three different pitches, and had five different offerings with above-average CSW% marks. This is a talented young pitcher. While it is a limited data sample, and we can never know what to expect in the future (especially in the ERA category), his strong strikeout, walk, and ground-ball marks make him a great candidate to post a strong ERA in 2022.

Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves (ADP 95)

Morton's marks over the last four seasons have been outstanding, check them out:

Year K% BB% GB%
2018 28.9% 9.2% 47.4%
2019 30.4% 7.2% 48.2%
2020 24.7% 5.9% 41.6%
2021 28.6% 7.7% 47.8%

Seemingly the only reason for his lower ADP is the age (38), but there weren't any signs of problems last year so there's at least a decent chance he'll post another healthy and successful year in 2022. That is really the only question at this point, and the fact that he has that devastating curveball I think has helped him age quite gracefully. The old guys on the mound that have continued success seem to all rely on a curveball, and I think Chuck Morton can do it for us one more time this year.

Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays (ADP 110)

Another not super cheap name here, but McClanahan looked elite in his short rookie season and the sky seem to be the limit with the lefty. He routinely touches 100 miles per hour on the gun and has a devastating slider to go with the fastball.

Last season he posted a great 27.3% K%, a 7.2% BB%, and a 45.5% GB%. There is nothing not to like in his profile. The only reason to hesitate is the innings question. The Rays are really careful with their pitchers, especially the young ones. He threw more than 90 pitches just twice in his 25 starts and got through six innings only six times despite his good efficiency overall. That makes it a bit tougher to draft McClanahan in quality start leagues, but there is little doubt in my mind that he will post one of the league's better ERAs in 2022.

Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins (ADP 170)

Even in a down year for Gray, he went for a strong 27% K%, an 8.7% BB%, and a 47.2% GB%. The ERA was not good for him last year (4.19), but the high amount of strikeouts and ground-balls are giving me belief for the 2022 season.

The other thing working in his favor is this move away from Cincinnati. Great American Ballpark is a brutal place to pitch and was once again a top-three park for homers in 2021. Gray's HR/9 ballooned to 1.26, the second-worst mark of his career. I would expect that to improve dramatically in 2022, which should help his ERA.

Give me some Sonny Gray after pick 150.

Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins (ADP 130)

It was a shame that Lopez's season ended early last year because he was truly breaking out. In 141.1 innings, he had posted a 27.5% K%, a 6.2% BB%, and a 47.0% GB%. That was by far the highest K% of his career, and he did while maintaining a very good walk rate. It was truly impressive stuff, and he was getting better and better every time out right before the injury.

The positive side of that is his price stayed cheap, so we can take another shot on him with limited risk this year. He has posted great ground-ball rates in all four of his seasons in the bigs so far and has never posted a walk rate above 7.5%. If he is truly a 25%+ K% pitcher now, he will be one of the better fantasy pitchers in the game while healthy.

He is a good guy to keep an eye on this spring because if he's looking fully healthy, he's a steal down at pick 130.

Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants (ADP 250)

Good things happen when you're a pitcher that escapes the Baltimore Orioles. Check out Cobb's last four seasons (2018-2020 with the Orioles, 2021 with the Angels).

Year K% BB% GB%
2018 15.4% 6.5% 49.5%
2019 13.3% 3.3% 46.0%
2020 16.8% 8.0% 54.5%
2021 24.9% 8.4% 53.3%

You can see the huge differences there. Cobb's strikeout rate massively spiked last year and he maintained one of the league's best ground-ball rates.

He is no spring chicken at the age of 34, but if 2021 is any evidence, we don't have much to worry about in that regard. Last year he posted a strong 32.2% CSW% with his sinker, and then an elite 20.2% SwStr% and 65% GB% with the splitter. Those are two main offerings, but they work quite well together.

The other really positive thing here is the move to San Francisco, a very good defensive team in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. I really am expecting Cobb to murder his ADP this year – get him in your draft queues!

Others Pitchers to Consider: Ranger SuarezJon Gray, Huascar Ynoa



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