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More 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.

Last week we looked at five pitchers to target late. Today we are looking at even more 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.

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Jesus Luzardo - SP, Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo’s supersonic rise through the minors got off to a slow start in 2016 when he had to have Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2017 to earn a 1.66 ERA across 43 innings with a 10.0 K/9. Luzardo followed it up with an excellent 2018 with a 2.88 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 109 innings across three levels, High-A, Double- and Triple-A. If that wasn't impressive enough, he accomplished all of this as a 20-year-old.

His 2018 numbers include 16 innings at Triple-A where he had a 7.31 ERA that was over-inflated by a .469 BABIP. As part of the TJ recovery process, Luzardo was pulled late in the season to limit his innings. With three plus pitches, Luzardo is the type of arm that can become the ace of an A’s staff that doesn’t have a solid core group.

Therefore, Luzardo should be given an opportunity at mid-season, at the latest, to come up and produce, assuming he starts 2019 similar to his overall 2018 performance. Luzardo is already a hot commodity in early drafts with an ADP of 251. Even though he is RotoBaller’s 79th starting pitcher, the southpaw could easily outperform his draft value.

--Ellis Canady - RotoBaller


Julio Urias - SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Julio Urias was once a top pitching prospect, but a shoulder surgery slowed his progression in 2017. Before his season-ending surgery, he displayed the promise in 2016, pitching to a 3.69 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 77 innings.

Urias missed most of the 2018 season, but he returned to the mound in September and again demonstrated the skills that once made him a top prospect, especially with a velocity (93) that has returned to pre-surgery levels. He pitched four innings out of the bullpen, striking out seven batters and allowing one hit. Urias’ performance in the highly stressful postseason situations was even more impressive, considering he is only 22 years old.

In 2019, Urias will likely start in the bullpen but regardless of his role, a 20.7% swinging strike rate will be very productive for fantasy rosters. There is a natural pathway to a starting job as most of the Dodgers rotation is either injury prone or well past their prime. Rotoballer ranks Urias as the 78th starting pitcher, and he currently has an ADP of 276, so he can be acquired late in drafts. The smarter choice is to obtain his services near the 21st round.

--Ellis Canady - RotoBaller


Reynaldo Lopez - SP, Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez emerged in 2018 to lead his team in ERA (3.91) and finish second in innings pitched (188 2/3) and strikeouts (151). From July through season’s end, Lopez improved significantly in strikeouts while reducing walks, culminating in a stellar 1.09 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 in September. With the strong finish, Lopez is a legitimate fantasy candidate with an ADP of 251.

While no one is drafting him as a frontline starter, he’s firmly in sleeper territory. Just 25 years old, Lopez is currently penciled in as the White Sox third starter. Health permitting, he should once again clear 30 starts. If Lopez can develop usable peripheral pitches to complement a 96 MPH heater, the strikeouts should tick up from last year’s 7.2 K/9. Contrarily, his wildness (3.6 BB/9) and alarming 5.22 xFIP suggest he has a long way to go before he earns blind trust in fantasy circles.

At his current price, Lopez is a fine late-round grab for depth and upside. If he carries over his second-half momentum from 2018, the investment should immediately pay off. The risk of failure at the end of drafts is marginal, the potential for Lopez to make material strides comes at a very reasonable cost.

--Andrew Le - RotoBaller


Trevor Williams - SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

On the surface, Trevor Williams had a good fantasy season in 2018. He posted a 3.11 ERA and 14 wins in his first full season as a starter for Pittsburgh. Beneath the surface, however, things look a little murky. His strikeout rate was a meager 6.64 K/9, the fifth-lowest K/9 among qualified pitchers and the second-lowest among qualified pitchers with an ERA below 4.00. His 3.86 FIP would ostensibly back up his 3.11 ERA, at least to some extent, but even that metric seems inflated thanks to his bloated 4.68 SIERA and awful 2.29 K/BB ratio.

Williams does have one standout skill, something he has consistently excelled at throughout his professional career from A-ball to the majors, and that is home run suppression. He allowed just 0.79 HR/9 last season, which was tied for eighth-best among qualified pitchers. Williams does this by limiting hard contact with an 85.6 MPH average exit velocity against and a 30.6% hard-hit rate against. This is a repeatable skill and should be helped by the fact that Williams calls PNC Park home.

His fastball tops out around 91 MPH, and he would be lucky to crack 7.0 K/9, but Williams could be a decent source of ERA, WHIP, and wins once again in 2019. There isn’t much room for growth in his profile, and there is little margin for error in his contact-management pitching style, which makes his current ADP of 238 seem a little rich given the lack of upside.

--Elliott Baas - RotoBaller


Collin McHugh - SP, Houston Astros

After missing the majority of the 2017 season with an elbow injury, Collin McHugh returned to health in 2018, but as a member of the Houston Astros bullpen. He found tremendous success in his new role generating 94 strikeouts across 72.1 innings pitched with a 1.99 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. A large part of his success last season was attributed to his newly developed slider, which kept opponents to a .105 AVG with no extra-base hits.

The advancement of this breaking-pitch also helped McHugh become dominant against right-handers. Among pitchers with at least a 40 IP sample, his .196 OBP was the best mark in baseball. The effectiveness against righties should continue in 2019, and with Lance McCullers Jr. out for the year and the departures of Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, McHugh is set to return to the starting rotation. There is, however, a concern here for innings pitched as he only has just over 135 IP in his last two seasons combined. The Astros could also add an arm at some point, which would send McHugh back to the pen.

His 2018 numbers as a reliever will not directly translate as a starter but expect McHugh to provide roughly a strikeout per inning and an ERA in the mid-three range with a higher ceiling if moved back to the bullpen. McHugh is an excellent option to fill out your fantasy pitching staff at his 298 ADP, but be sure to have depth at the position with a potential workload limit.

--Riley Mrack - RotoBaller

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