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Later-Round Starting Pitchers - Targets and Avoids

Once you reach the later rounds of drafts, you start thinking about upside fliers that can provide a great return on value. These are the rounds to take risks on more unknown commodities like prospects, forgotten-about veterans, players returning from injuries or players that have previously showed promise but haven't put it all together yet. Knowing about the deeper player pool can help you be more flexible throughout the draft, especially if you can identify someone you like and plan your earlier picks around that.

Today we are looking at some late-round starting pitchers who need to be considered. Do we think they are draft targets, or players to avoid? Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and be one of your later-round draft sleepers? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Normally only available to Premium subscribers, the five outlooks below are meant to give you a taste of the in-depth analysis you receive with our industry-leading 2019 Draft Guide. Be sure to subscribe today and start reading all 400+ of our 2019 player outlooks, and many other premium articles and tools, available exclusively in our 2019 Draft Guide.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, premium rankings, projections, player outlooks, top prospects, dynasty rankings, 15 in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research. Sign Up Now!


Kenta Maeda - SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenta Maeda has been a low-cost starter who reliably offers SP4 upside at a fraction of the cost. In 2018, Maeda was generally able to repeat that trend except that the Dodgers glut of starters mean that Maeda was shuffled to the pen. He still finished the year with 153 strikeouts, 8 wins, and a 3.81 ERA over 125.1 innings.

The strikeout total was helped by Maeda’s time as a reliever, but his ERA and WHIP were remarkably similar in both roles. The Dodgers dealt Alex Wood, so that clears up some space in the rotation, but Maeda will still be competing with Ross StriplingRich HillHyun-Jin Ryu, and Julio Urias for playing time. Unless the Dodgers suffer a rash of injuries, Maeda will be hard-pressed to find a spot in the rotation for the entire year. Furthermore, the Dodgers have a reputation for manipulating the 10-day disabled list to work around having seven legitimate starters.

Despite those concerns, manager Dave Roberts has said that Maeda will begin the year in the starting rotation. Fantasy owners can expect a 2019 season similar to 2018: 130 IP in 20 starts and about 40 games total. That should allow Maeda to generate a 3.80 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 140 strikeouts, which is a bargain at his current ADP of 228.

--David Emerick - RotoBaller


Jimmy Nelson - SP, Milwaukee Brewers

Jimmy Nelson missed the entirety of the 2018 season while recovering from right shoulder surgery to repair a partially torn labrum and strained rotator cuff, but optimistic reports about his health led many owners to draft him anyway hoping for a big second half (current writer included).

It remains to be seen if his injuries will have any lasting effects, but his big 2017 (12-6, 3.49 ERA, 3.15 xFIP, 27.3% K% over 175 1/3 IP) is a tantalizing taste of the upside a healthy Nelson could offer. The Brewers provide an excellent supporting cast, so a healthy Nelson should be able to pile up wins to go along with solid ratios.

You can mitigate your risk by seeing how Nelson looks in Spring Training before selecting him, but be warned that he will become much more expensive if he looks healthy in March. Current ADP data suggests that Nelson is virtually free (268.37), so the best play might be to take him now and hope for the best once Spring games start.

--Rick Lucks - RotoBaller


Alex Wood - SP, Cincinnati Reds

Alex Wood showed some serious regression in the 2018 season in which he posted a 9-7 record, 3.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 135 strikeouts. He was coming off a stellar 2017 with a 16-3 record and 2.72 ERA (that was aided by a very low BABIP). Alex Wood now gets (has) to call The Great American Ballpark "home". Known as a hitter's park, this is a significant downgrade in venue from Dodger stadium.

Although Wood was able to improve his HR numbers in 2018 (0.06 decrease to HR/9 and 2.6% decrease in HR/FB), he'll have to do even more to keep them down in a favorable home run park in Cincinnati. Especially considering he posted the second-lowest ground-ball rate of his career, which meant increased line drive and fly ball rates. He'll also have to counteract the 10.2% increase in hard-contact rate. Wood's K/9 of 8.01 doesn't offer much K upside for fantasy owners. The good news is, despite his regression in 2018, he still managed his best season since 2014. Additionally, his ERA of 3.68 was worse than his FIP of 3.53, indicating that he may have lost a few runs due to below average fielding.

Overall, the skillset and some red flags in the 2018 season coupled with the downgrade in home venue shouldn't land Wood high owner's lists of 2019 players to draft. His current ADP of 225 seems like a fair valuation for what Wood gives you, though you may be able to find better upside around this pick.

--Zach Alexander - RotoBaller


Freddy Peralta - SP, Milwaukee Brewers

Freddy Peralta opened some eyes in his first season in the big leagues, starting with his major league debut in May, when he fanned 13 Rockies in Coors Field over just 5.2 innings. The now 22-year-old went on to finish the season 6-4 with a 4.25 ERA over 78.1 innings.

Coming through the minors, he was heralded for his swing-and-miss stuff and Peralta lived up to the hype as a member of the Brewers rotation. Over 16 appearances in 2018, the right-hander rung up 96 hitters for a 11.03 K/9 and a hair under a 30 K%. While the strikeout totals are sexy, the high-walk rate (4.6 BB/9) is something of caution and he will certainly need to get it under control if a continued stay in the rotation is in the cards.

Setup for his first full season in the majors, the Rotoballer rankings list Peralta as the 73rd SP, while a current ADP of 331 is as low-risk, high-reward as it gets for a pitcher with the strikeout potential that Peralta carries. Keep in mind that with his low inning totals and high-walk rate, his skillset is more suited for category leagues than a points format.

--Steve Janik - RotoBaller


Matt Boyd - SP, Detroit Tigers

Matt Boyd posted the best ERA and K/BB ratio of his career in 2018. Unfortunately, his ERA was still a mediocre 4.39 and his K/BB ratio barely cracked usefulness at 3.12. In the first two months of 2018 it looked like Boyd was finally breaking out. In 57 innings he posted a 3.00 ERA and 1.07 WHIP for the Tigers. But eventually the clock struck midnight on Boyd, and he struggled to the tune of a 5.08 ERA and 1.9 HR/9 during his final 113.1 innings in 2018. Same old Matt Boyd, right?

Well, he did make one major change in 2018, and that was ramping up his slider usage from about the 10-12% range to a whopping 31%. The slider is Boyd’s best pitch; batters managed just a .172 AVG against it last season and whiffed at it 16.54% of the time. This shift in pitch mix could prove fruitful for Boyd, especially if in turn he gets away from his sinker. Batters pulverized Boyd’s sinker last year with a .352 AVG and .670 SLG against the pitch, but he also threw just 10% of the time in 2018.

Boyd is a flawed pitcher, of that there's no doubt, but a new slider-heavy approach could make him a solid post-hype sleeper. Draft Boyd in one of the last few rounds and take a wait-and-see approach with him. Boyd is a high-risk sleeper, but try and avoid letting him do too much damage to ratios early in the season.

--Elliott Baas - RotoBaller

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