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Starting Pitchers Values To Outperform ADP For Fantasy Baseball Drafts (2024)

Taj Bradley - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Prospects, Draft Sleepers

The goal of your fantasy baseball draft every year is to try to find value in the early, middle, and late rounds. And there is probably no position that is more volatile than starting pitchers, as one arm injury can derail an entire season for a top pick, and a pitcher picked late in the drafts could transform into an ace (like Spencer Strider did a few seasons ago).

Drafting veteran pitchers can be boring, but at least there's usually a baseline of production that we can count on when we have multiple seasons of data to use. We often draft those pitchers for their floors, not their ceilings.

If I am drafting for upside and hunting value, then I often target younger pitchers who might be only a small tweak in their pitch mix or a minor correction to their mechanics away from taking their game to the next level. So it's no surprise that most of the pitchers on this list are in their early 20s. I tried to highlight several pitchers here who are available in different parts of the draft as well.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:

 

Bobby Miller, Los Angeles Dodgers

ADP: 89, Baller Move: 77

Miller's rookie season for the Dodgers was an unqualified success. He finished with an 11-4 record, a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP while making 22 starts. He struck out 23.6% of the hitters he faced while walking just 6.3% for a very healthy 17.3 K-BB%.

Miller can pound the zone with a 99 mph fastball and a 98 mph sinker. He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup. The change was arguably his best offspeed pitch, generating an 18.2% SwStr% and a 50% GB%. His overall GB% was 50% for the year, which bodes well for run prevention.

And if the curveball and slider continue to improve, then more strikeouts are likely to come as well. He has some excellent velocity separation from his fastball (high 90s) to the changeup (88 mph) to his curveball (79-80 mph) and he can throw his slider as hard as 91-92 mph or as soft as 87-88 mph.

Rarely do we see such a young pitcher (who will turn 25 in the first week of the season) with four to five quality pitches and excellent command. He has all the tools to become a dominant pitcher and will be surrounded by other great pitchers in this Dodger rotation and bullpen from whom he can learn. When you add in the run support he's likely to receive from a loaded Dodger lineup, then 20 wins aren't out of the equation either.

 

Gavin Williams, Cleveland Guardians

ADP: 208, Baller Move: 172

Williams made his debut for Cleveland last year after starting the season in Double-A and working his way up to the big leagues in a hurry. He doesn't quite have the velocity of a Bobby Miller, but he still brings it with authority with an average four-seam fastball velocity of 95.7 mph last season.

He has two quality breaking balls with a slider he throws around 85 mph and a curveball that averages 76 mph. He also threw a changeup just 6% of the time and it was easily his worst pitch as he allowed a .353 average on changeups and it generated only a 9% SwStr%.

His strikeout upside was on full display last August when he whiffed 22 batters over two consecutive starts (against Tampa and Toronto, who are both good offenses). However, he also had three starts where he walked four hitters and he finished with a 10.7% BB%. The quality of his stuff is not in question here, it's just about developing the type of command of his pitches that someone like his fellow teammate Shane Bieber has.

If you miss out on Bobby Miller earlier in the draft, Williams has a similar ceiling (but a much lower floor) about 100 picks later. We know that Cleveland has done a tremendous job developing pitchers and Williams could be on the cusp of going from good to really good this year.

 

Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels

ADP: 338, Baller Move: 273

Considering he was coming off an entire missed season due to arm surgery, 2023 was a pretty successful year for Canning, who is no longer a young prospect at the age of 27. Canning set a career-high in K%, whiffing nearly 26% of batters he faced while also showing the best control of his career with a 6.7 BB%.

You can easily glean from his Statcast metrics that generating swings and misses was a clear strength of his, as was his control. However, when hitters did make contact, it was high-quality contact as he gave up quite a few barrels and hard contact.

His fastball tops out around 95 mph, so he's not blowing it by hitters, but rather using it to set up his two best pitches -- his slider and his changeup. His curveball had just a 9.7% SwStr% and he threw it just 13% of the time -- mainly to show hitters a slower breaking ball (81-82 mph) than his slider (88 mph).

Last year, Canning showed the type of control that he needs to be effective. He also threw his fastball harder than he did at any point before his injury. As my colleague Corbin Young pointed out in the tweet above, it appears that Canning has made some important mechanical tweaks that created more movement on his breaking pitches. He's never thrown more than the 120 innings that he accumulated last season, so we will see if he can handle a full season of starts this year for the Angels.

Hopefully, the improved delivery will allow him to maintain the command that he showed last season and keep his arm healthy enough to last all season. If last year was any indication of what he's going to do going forward, he's being drafted far too late.

 

Taj Bradley, Tampa Bay Rays

ADP: 349, Baller Move: 257

Not many pitchers showed as much upside and volatility in the same rookie season as Bradley did last year. He came storming out of the gates in his first few starts of the season and looked like he was absolutely the real deal. However, he ran into control issues and experienced some major HR problems as well. Bradley allowed 22 long balls in just 21 starts.

The home runs were probably a little fluky bad as his HR/FB% was a massive 22.5%, but he still had a major issue with hitters making quality contact with both his fastball and cutter.

The changeup was phenomenal, generating a 20% SwStr% and a 32.8 CSW%. And while his curveball didn't get many swings and misses, it did have a 63% GB% and served as a nice change in velocity (79 mph) off his fastball and changeup.

At just 22 years old, Bradley is going to get a chance to keep fine-tuning his arsenal this season as he should start the year as the fifth arm in the rotation while both Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen work their way back. There's probably not a more talented fifth starter in baseball right now, and Bradley is well worth a gamble late in drafts based on his strikeout potential alone.

 

Tyler Wells, Baltimore Orioles

ADP: 400, Baller Move: 320

Wells was slated to start the year in the bullpen for Baltimore, but injuries to Kyle Bradish and John Means have opened the door for him to be the fourth starter when the Orioles break camp for the regular season with Cole Irvin likely the fifth starter.

Wells started 20 games last year and put up an impressive 0.99 WHIP and 3.64 ERA. He struck out 25% of the hitters he faced while walking just 7.2%. However, he did have an issue with home runs and a pretty unsustainable BABIP of just .200.

I'm not sure he can survive as a fly ball pitcher with just a 92.5 mph average velocity on his fastball. The good news is that he has four other pitches (cutter, changeup, curveball, and slider) that he can develop and tweak in his arsenal. This late in the draft, you're just looking for some reliable starters who can take the ball every fifth day without getting blown up, and Wells fits the bill there. If the Orioles rotation gets entirely healthy, there's a chance he moves back to the pen, but if he's pitching well, we could see him stick in the rotation, too.

 

Other Pitchers Who Could Be ADP Values

Here's a list of other guys I am high on this preseason -- you'll probably see some of them surface in future articles about pitchers to target!



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