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Mid-Round Starting Pitchers - Fantasy Baseball Outlooks


Here at RotoBaller, we've been producing fantasy baseball analysis all offseason. As part of that, our awesome MLB team has written up detailed 2019 fantasy baseball outlooks for 400+ players. These player outlooks include RotoBaller's analysis on how we expect player to perform in 2019, where to target them in 2019 drafts, and supporting stats to back up the analysis. Typically, we only include these outlooks for premium subscribers, but we have a special treat for you.

Over the next few weeks we'll be releasing some exclusive player outlooks for each position. 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.

Today we are looking at some middle-round starting pitchers who need to be considered. Do we think they are draft targets, or players to avoid? Are their ADPs overvalued or undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and be one of your key draft sleepers? Read on to see our take. Be sure to subscribe as well, and read all 400+ of our 2019 player outlooks available exclusively in our 2019 Draft Guide.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Carlos Martinez - SP, St. Louis Cardinals

As recently as May of 2018, Carlos Martinez looked like he was ready to take the next step towards being a full-blown ace. Then a lat injury derailed his season, and when he returned a month later, he struggled with his control and further injury issues. Martinez transitioned to the bullpen where he served as the Cardinals’ closer, but the team has stated it will use him as a starter again in 2019. That will change if Martinez struggles with health or effectiveness, but given the value of a top-tier starter, the Cardinals are going to give Martinez every chance to reestablish himself as a starter.

The range of outcomes for Martinez is as wide as any pitcher in baseball. He could return to SP1 levels of 2016 when he managed a 3.04 ERA and 174 strikeouts, or he could fall out of fantasy relevance. He’s more likely to end up as a starter with a 3.45 ERA and a strong strikeout numbers or a mid-tier closer in the style of Arodys Vizcaino (a productive pitcher with control issues that make him something of a headache to own).

If Martinez's ADP stays where it is now around 125, he’ll be drafted alongside mid-tier closers like Wade Davis and Ken Giles. However, Martinez potential to dramatically outperform those players is so high though it’s hard not to see many managers reaching for him one or two rounds early.

--David Emerick - RotoBaller

 

Kyle Freeland - SP, Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Kyle Freeland had an amazing year in 2018, posting the best season in club history with a 17-7 record and 2.85 ERA (8th among qualified pitchers). He also had a 1.25 WHIP, 3.67 FIP (20th), 46% ground ball rate (18th), and a 31.6% hard hit percentage (16th). Though he walked too many batters at 3.11 BB/9 (17th highest), his 0.76 HR/9 (7th lowest) and 82.8% strand rate (4th highest) kept those runners from scoring more often than not. He also doesn’t rack up strikeouts, notching just 173 strikeouts in 202 1/3 innings pitched.

Freeland averages just 91.6 MPH on his fastball and sported a non-elite 9% swinging strike rate (44th) in 2018. However, his sparkling record, low ERA, and extremely low HR/9 look even more impressive when you remember that half of his starts were pitched in the most run-friendly environment in all of baseball, Coors Field. In fact, Freeland pitched much better at home in 2018 (10-2 with 2.40 ERA at home, 7-5 with 3.23 ERA on road).

Make no mistake, the 25-year-old rising star was absolutely dominant in 2018 in just his second MLB season - a lot of people would be surprised to learn he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. He is being drafted with the 120th pick on average, while RotoBaller has him at 143rd and 36th ranked starter. Though he hasn’t displayed the strikeout upside yet, last year’s gem of a season deserves more attention than it received and you can draft him with confidence anytime after the 85th pick.

--Kyle Ringstad - RotoBaller

 

Nick Pivetta - SP, Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta took several encouraging steps forward after a disappointing rookie campaign in 2017, but still settled for a 7-14 record with a 4.77 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. Considering he won’t get saves, that made him subpar in four-of-five standard pitching categories for traditional fantasy formats. But we can’t ignore his 188 strikeouts in 164 innings, good for a 27.1% clip that ranked 22nd out of starters with at least 100 innings, and that his underlying metrics point to more.

That 4.77 ERA had a 3.80 FIP, 3.42 xFIP and 3.51 SIERA lying beneath it, as Pivetta cut his walk rate down from 9.8% to 7.4% while gaining in strikeouts and trimming his HR/9 from 1.69 to 1.32. While he succumbed to several “implosion” starts and needs to be able to tourniquet a bad inning, the defense behind him was a disgrace. Fangraphs gave the Phils a -45.6 DEF score, good for 28th overall and worst in the NL.

This also highlights why Pivetta and teammate Vince Velasquez are the only two SPs within the top-30 strikeout rate leaderboard to have an ERA a full run or more above their FIP. Now with Jean Segura at shortstop and Rhys Hoskins at first and no longer manning the OF, Pivetta holds top-25 SP upside as the 39th starter off the board in our staff rankings.

--Nick Mariano - RotoBaller

 

Yu Darvish - SP, Chicago Cubs

It was around this time last year the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to a lucrative six-year, $126 million deal. The Cubs felt strongly in the 32-year-old's services, but after seeing just eight starts from the righty before he was shut down with a stress reaction in his right elbow, Darvish’s future remains unclear. Originally brought in to replace Jake Arrieta, the 40 innings of work we saw from Darvish was enough to make anyone nervous. He walked 21 hitters and gave up seven HRs, good for a 4.95 ERA.

The good news is all reports suggest his elbow is in great shape, and it’s also worth mentioning his fastball still averaged around 95 MPH even when he was hurt last year. Glass half full, Darvish reverts back to his 2017 form, a year where he posted the 12th-highest strikeout rate among qualified pitchers. Glass half empty, the nightly guessing game continues - keep in mind Darvish allowed 10 earned runs across four postseason starts for the Dodgers in the same year.

We also have to factor in age as well as the Cubs’ thinning rotation, but an ADP of 158, which places him somewhere close to the Round 13 mark, seems more than reasonable considering a potential bounce-back. Just be prepared to take the bad with the good - the bad being a slight loss of command and some inflated walk rates; the good being a career .198/.275/.337 line against righties.

--Ryan Cook - RotoBaller

 

Josh James - SP, Hoston Astros

Houston Astros starting pitcher Josh James passed higher profiled pitching prospects to get to the majors in 2018 at the age of 25. With all the discussion this offseason about him, you’d think he is the ace of the future. James started his career as a 34th-round pick of the 2014 draft. Thus far, it has culminated in 2018 where James started three games and appeared in a total of six that resulted in two wins and a 2.35 ERA.

He also displayed a 31.9% strikeout rate and was able to get batters to chase outside the zone more than a third of the time (34%). In his short stint in the majors, he saw his fly-ball rate (43.4%) skyrocket to a level he’s never seen before, but there is no reason to be worried as he was primarily a ground-ball pitcher in the minors. James also has the advantage of a team that knows exactly how to get the best from their pitchers. Offensively, there will be plenty of runs to increase the chances for wins, assuming he can keep the team in contention.

In 2019, James has a solid chance of starting the season in the rotation as three spots are up for grabs. Even as a rookie, James is the 53rd-ranked starting pitcher according to RotoBaller staff and is appropriately valued with an ADP of 208.

--Ellis Canady - RotoBaller

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