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Starting Pitching Sleepers for Fantasy Baseball Drafts - National League

Starting pitching is always one of the more fun positions to watch in fantasy drafts. You can grab an ace in the early rounds or wait around a bit longer and grab some value in the middle to later rounds.

As we saw this past season with Logan Webb, Freddy Peralta, and Robbie Ray (amongst others) there’s always going to be valuable starting pitching additions in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.

Whether it’s a youngster on the rise, a change of scenery, or a return from injury there’s definitely a handful of intriguing guys to keep an eye on this season. Here are five of my favorite starting pitching sleepers in drafts.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Alex Cobb - San Francisco Giants

Cobb signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants this offseason. With their recent track record of getting the most out of their starting pitchers, many feel Cobb will be next up on that list. I certainly could see that being the case with the 34-year old right-hander.

Cobb is actually coming off a relatively strong year with the Los Angeles Angels. He made just 18 starts, but pitched to a 3.76 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.92 FIP, and struck out 98 batters over that span.

Cobb finished fourth in baseball allowing just 0.5 HR/9, which was his lowest rate since his rookie year. He certainly should be able to carry that over to 2022 playing all his home games in Oracle Park.

As he’s done throughout his career, Cobb mainly leaned on his off-speed pitches last season, particularly his sinker and splitter. The splitter was his most effective pitch, generating a 35.2% whiff rate. Those two pitches along with his curveball certainly played a major factor in helping him generate the second highest ground ball rate (54.1%) of his career. That mark was good enough to finish 12th in all of baseball, and should also play well with the Giants. With a strong bounce-back year under his belt and the potential upside of joining the Giants, I’d say it’s definitely worth it to take a flier on Cobb.

 

Dakota Hudson - St. Louis Cardinals

Hudson very quietly made a late-season return as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery. He made two appearances, totaling 8.2 innings, but walked just one batter and struck out six over that span. Most importantly, he was able to get back out there healthy and looks ready for a full workload in the Cardinals rotation this season. In his last full season, Hudson finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting after winning 16 games, pitching to a 3.35 ERA, and striking out 136 batters.

Hudson certainly had his fair share of struggles with walks, posting an 11.4% walk rate during that season. However, in a small sample size, he was able to decrease that number during the pandemic shortened season.

Hudson’s go-to pitches over his career have been his sinker and slider, leaning on them 74.4% of the time back in 2019. Those two pitches certainly have played a big factor in him generating a 58.4% ground ball rate for his career. That number certainly plays well in the pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium and with the elite Cardinals defense behind him. According to Baseball Savant, they finished first in OAA last season.

Of course, with his injury troubles, Hudson is a bit of a risky pickup. For the reasons listed above and him still being just 27-years old, I’d definitely take a chance on the talented right-hander.

 

Jesus Luzardo - Miami Marlins

Not too long ago, Luzardo was looked at by many as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. He was absolutely dominating in the minors, but thus far that success hasn’t carried over to the big league level. Luzardo pitched well and finished eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting during the pandemic shortened season. He missed time last season with a hand injury and struggled when he returned to the Athletics.

Luzardo was optioned to Triple-A towards the end of June and then was flipped to the Marlins at the trading deadline in exchange for Starling Marte. The lefty looked like a perfect change of scenery candidate, however, his struggles continued in a Marlins uniform. Over the second half of the season, Luzardo made 12 starts and posted a 6.44 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and 5.07 FIP. One of his biggest issues was limiting the walks, as he posted a 5.0 BB/9 and 11% walk rate which was a 4.1% increase from last season.

While the initial results haven’t been all too good at the big league level, I’m not quite ready to give up on the youngster quite yet. There’s still a ton of potential left in that left arm of his. The Marlins have been a powerhouse at developing pitching prospects over the past few seasons. There are only a few teams who I think may be able to fix the young southpaw, and the Marlins are certainly one of them. Luzardo has big-time swing-and-miss potential, and if he figures things out, could provide some great value in drafts this season.

 

Tony Gonsolin - Los Angeles Dodgers

Heading into last season after a breakout pandemic shortened season, many thought Gonsolin could be a breakout candidate. However, he ended up battling a shoulder injury and when he was on the mound, was mainly used as an opener.

He ended up making just 13 starts and only pitched 55 innings on the season. When he was out there, however, Gonsolin did enjoy success, pitching to a 3.23 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 4.54 FIP, and recording 65 strikeouts.

Granted in a small sample size, the advanced metrics are real pretty for Gonsolin. While he had some major issues with the walks (14.2%), he did post strong strikeout (27.2%) and whiff rates (29.7%). On top of the control issues, he also saw a slight velocity decrease. Gonsolin mainly relies on his fastball, splitter, and sinker, throwing them 91.2% of the time. The latter two were his best pitches last season, generating whiff rates of 41.4% and 47.8% with the splitter and slider, respectively.

Gonsolin is certainly an injury risk, but if he can stay healthy, he should have his chance to pitch full-time in the starting rotation. The talented right-hander is a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm and could be a valuable asset in fantasy this season.

 

Tylor Megill - New York Mets

When the Mets needed him the most, Megill was a huge addition to their starting rotation. Despite making just three starts above Double-A prior to his call-up, Megill made a strong big-league debut. He stuck in the rotation and went on to make 18 starts and posted a 4.52 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.69 FIP, and 99 strikeouts. Both his strikeout (26.7%) and walk (7.1%) rates were extremely strong for a youngster.

His cool and calm demeanor on the mound, even against some of the top offenses in baseball, was extremely impressive.

Although, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the righty. Megill was stellar early on in the season but began to falter off as the year went on. He particularly struggled over the last two months of the season, pitching to a 6.10 ERA and allowing 15 of his 19 home runs.

Speaking of home runs, that was another blemish for the young right-hander. His 1.9 HR/9 was the highest he’s allowed in his pro ball career. He’s going to have to cut down on that and flatten out his 29.6% flyball rate a bit. One thing to keep in mind with his late-season struggles is Megill was not only coming off missing the 2020 season, but his 130 innings pitched were also the most he’s thrown thus far in his pro ball career by a wide margin.

Even if the Mets add another starter when the lockout is lifted, Megill should see meaningful innings this season. If he does ultimately start the year as depth in Triple-A, he figures to be first in line to jump into the rotation when needed. 

Megill has the talent, confidence, and poise to succeed in the big leagues. He’ll certainly benefit from another year learning from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and pitching alongside Jacob deGrom and Max ScherzerIf he receives the innings, Megill could be looking at a breakout sophomore season at the big league level.



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