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Later-Round Starting Pitchers - Targets and Avoids

Once you reach the middle-to-late rounds of drafts, everyone wants to draft some upside fliers that can provide a great return on value. You can take a risk or two on a variety of different players, including a prospect, forgotten veterans, players returning from injuries, or even players with skills but have playing time concerns. But it's essential to know the player pool so you can take a chance at a spot in the draft that you're comfortable without deviating from your overall strategy, and also avoid players with some question marks coming into the season.

Today we are looking at some later-round starting pitchers for you to consider drafting, and also those to be cautious of. Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant 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 2021 Draft Kit. Be sure to subscribe today and start reading all 300+ of our 2021 player outlooks, and many other premium articles and tools, available exclusively in our 2021 Draft Kit.

Featured Promo: Get any full-season MLB and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Team Sync platform, Premium articles, daily Matchup Rating projections, 15 lineup tools, DFS cheat sheets, Research Stations, Lineup Optimizers and much more! Sign Up Now!

 

Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Ryan Yarbrough was finally utilized more as a starter than a follow-on pitcher, contrary to previous years and it suited him quite well. He didn't impress in the win column (the sole win was as a follow-on starter), but the supporting stats should cause some eyebrows to raise. Yarbrough had a 3.80 FIP, 1.19 WHIP and tied Kenta Maeda for the MLB lead (minimum 50 innings pitched) in Chase rate (40.8%).

Many will frown at his 13.7% K-BB rate. However, his Chase and 13.3% Swinging Strike rate are encouraging of future improvements in strikeouts to accompany his stellar 5% walk rate. Yarbrough utilized a four-pitch mix and it is his least throw pitch, slider, that gets the most strikeouts (35%) while his changeup forces batters to expand the strike zone (44%). Yarbrough also attempted to alleviate any concern as a starter by holding batters to a .229 AVG the third time through the order (3.00 ERA), despite a .304 BABIP.

Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are no longer in Tampa Bay which leaves Yarbrough a stable spot in the rotation. He is a great option near pick 255 to help stabilize the ratios, assuming you've already hedged your strikeout numbers.

--Ellis Canady - RotoBaller

 

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners

After two years in the Bronx, left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton is returning to the Seattle Mariners after spending the first six seasons of his career in the Pacific Northwest. In eight big-league seasons, the 32-year-old has a 3.58 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 753 1/3 innings (136 starts). But the Canadian southpaw had a rough 6.64 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 28.9 percent strikeout rate and 7.8 percent walk rate in only five starts (20 1/3 frames) and dealt with a forearm injury in 2020 with the Yankees.

There's plenty of risk with Paxton -- he's never made more than 29 starts or thrown more than 160 innings in a single season -- but he should have a rotation spot locked down if he's healthy in Seattle. He's gotten in some simulated work during Spring Training and made his Cactus League debut on March 21 against the Brewers. He struck out eight batters while walking a pair over 4 1/3 innings in that outing. As of now, "The Big Maple" is healthy and looks ready to rock for Opening Day.

At a current ADP of 241--which has crept up over the last few weeks--Paxton isn't a bad low-risk investment in the late rounds of deep mixed leagues, mainly because of his career strikeout rate of over 25 percent.

--Keith Hernandez - RotoBaller

 

Domingo German, NY Yankees

The New York Yankees and fantasy managers have a tough decision to make when it comes to starting pitcher Domingo German. The 28-year-old had a 4.03 ERA in 2019 with 18 wins in 143 innings pitched. He accumulated 9.63 strikeouts per nine innings and an FIP of 4.72.

German missed the rest of the season and was suspended for all of the shortened 2020 campaign. This was due to an investigation on a domestic-violence case against him. The 28-year-old isn't assured of a rotation spot in 2021, but general manager Brian Cashman also isn't ruling him out.

In the Dominican Winter League, German had a 7.16 ERA with 18 strikeouts. At his current ADP of 315, there isn't much risk, which is what you should be looking for in a pitcher that missed all of 2020 and who has seen his strikeout rate drop in each of his three big-league seasons from 2017 to 2019. Unless he's injured in spring training, German has a very good shot at opening the season in New York's rotation.

--Daniel Yanofsky - RotoBaller

 

Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Griffin Canning didn't take the step forward in his second season that many had hoped for. In fact, his WHIP took a slight downturn to 1.37 due to an elevated walk rate of 9.7%. Otherwise, his peripherals were mostly the same as 2019 and produced a ho-hum profile from a fantasy perspective.

There are some silver linings, though. First, he never got truly beat up, never yielding more than four earned runs in a start. Also, he was at his best in his final two starts of 2020, giving up one ER in each while striking out 17 in his final 11 innings. Canning may not be ready to make huge strides to fantasy stardom but he offers a high degree of safety at the back end of a rotation.

He is still experimenting with his four-pitch mix to keep hitters off balance but must throw more strikes to last longer into games. Canning's ADP of 305 makes him an afterthought in most drafts. He offers more safety than other young hurlers going around that range such as Mitch Keller and Domingo German but the ceiling may not high enough to entice drafters.

--Pierre Camus - RotoBaller

 

Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez was in the midst of a breakout season before going down with a lateral strain in September. Hernandez posted a sparkling 3.16 ERA and a 6.8 K/BB rate in six starts before his season ended prematurely. Hernandez's weapon of choice was his knee-buckling slider, a pitch that opposing batters mustered a meager .114 BA against last season. Hernandez also generated a monster 21% swinging strike rate with the pitch. While Hernandez only tossed 25.1 innings in 2020, his 17.7% swinging strike rate with his slider in 2019 shows that this is a bona fide strikeout pitch.

Outside of his killer slider, Hernandez is a rather flawed pitcher. He was practically a two-pitch pitcher in 2020, throwing either a four-seam fastball or slider 94% of the time. While challenged by his slider, batters had no problem with Hernandez's 91.4 MPH heater. Opponents hit .274 against Hernandez's fastball with a .210 ISO and an 81.3% contact rate. Perhaps most embarrassing for Hernandez is that batters had a 92.3 MPH average exit velocity against his fastball, meaning that on average hitters sent Hernandez's fastball back harder than he threw it. Hernandez's poor fastball has given him a case of chronic Gopheritis, as Hernandez allowed 1.75 HR/9 last season, and has a 1.87 HR/9 rate for his career.

Hernandez has surrendered 36 home runs in his career, and 23 of them have come off his fastball. Hernandez might be able to get away with having bad fastball if he had another solid pitch, but his changeup is nothing more than a show-me pitch and he ditched a subpar sinker heading into 2020. Hernandez could be a good streaming option in 2021, especially at home where he owns a 3.53 ERA all time, but he's volatile and shouldn't be trusted to delivery quality innings in high volume.

--Elliott Baas - RotoBaller



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