Plenty of Upside Available in the Upper Starting Pitcher Tiers
Early on in drafts, you know which pitchers you’re taking. If you don’t, we have you covered with our Top 40 Starting Pitchers broken into tiers. But what about when you get deeper into your draft? How long can you wait before you round out your pitching staff? Should you look for safer pitchers or players with more upside?
Let’s look at 52 more pitchers who make up tiers nine through 15 to give you mid-to late-round options. As always, we’re using a 5x5 format.
It wasn’t just luck that caused Sonny Gray to have a disappointing season in 2016; he just wasn’t that good. His strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate, BABIP, strand rate, HR/FB ratio, ERA and FIP were all worse than they were in 2015 … Eventually, Coors Field caught up to Jon Gray. He’s still quite possibly the best pitcher they’ve ever had there, and I’d love him as a No. 3 on my Fantasy staff … Drew Smyly was finally healthy enough to pitch 30 games last year. It didn’t go as planned, but I like him for an upside pick in this tier … What a weird three-year stretch for Tanner Roark. He’s a solid rotation guy who we thought was lucky in 2014. He struggled in 2015, but was a Top 15 starter in points leagues in 2016. His rotation spot is safe, but you should expect regression in his 2.83 ERA … We jumped the gun on Carlos Rodon last year, as far as breaking out goes. His breakout should happen in 2017, although he will be hindered by a lack of wins and the lack of a competent catcher … Speaking of players we thought would regress negatively, J.A. Happ did the opposite, carrying his Pittsburgh momentum into Toronto in 2016. He continued to rely on his fastball and pound the zone with it.
You don’t have to take Jharel Cotton this high, but he’ll end up being a Top 50 pitcher at the very least. He has a good makeup of pitches with his changeup, curve and especially his cutter … I love Jameson Taillon’s makeup, but until he develops a third pitch, he’ll stay in this tier … Hisashi Iwakuma isn’t sexy and he’s always a risk to get injured, but he’s a low-ceiling, high-floor pick … We always want a boost in strikeouts for Jake Odorizzi. Is this finally the year we get it? … Sign me up as an Ivan Nova believer. What was the secret to his success in Pittsburgh? He walked just three batters in 64.2 innings … I get changing the eyesight with your pitches, but I don’t get how Marco Estrada makes a living throwing fastballs up in the zone … Dylan Bundy is one of “my guys” this year. Great post-hype breakout candidate. He made the transition from the bullpen to the rotation rather smoothly last year … What do we make of Aaron Nola? He has an elite curve, but he doesn’t generate the swings and misses that you’d like to see … We overhyped Vincent Velasquez after his 16-strikeout game against the Padres in April. He’s still a pitcher with a ton of upside … Jeff Samardzija didn’t kill you last year. Considering how his career has gone, you’ll take a repeat of it this year.
There is a lot of upside in this tier, and Sean Manaea has some of the highest upside in the game. He struggled out of the gate, but came into his own as the season wore on. Look for him to get close to the elite strikeout rate he showed in the minors … If I knew for sure Alex Reyes had a rotation spot and he got his control under, well, control, he’d be much higher in my starting pitcher ranks … Are we going to stop pretending that the Matt Moore breakout is coming? … Chris Tillman is similar to Iwakuma with his nice floor, but relatively low ceiling … Want to wait to get an elite strikeout pitcher? Robbie Ray is your guy. He was second only to Jose Fernandez for qualified starters in 2016 with 11.25 K/9 … Julio Urias screams upside and breakout, but we have to remember he’s still only 20 years old, and he’ll be treated with kid gloves again.
Assuming Matt Shoemaker can return from his hideous injury last year, he’s a safe strikeout pitcher for this late in the draft … I love Blake Snell’s curveball and his .043 average against, but I hate his lack of control more … He’s still not signed, but Tyson Ross can be a steal for someone if he’s healthy and continues to rely on his slider … Garrett Richards’ gamble to get plasma injections instead of Tommy John surgery seems to have paid off. If we had 100 percent assurance he was fine, he’d be ranked higher, too … I’m worried that Lance McCullers may never be able to stay healthy. There’s no denying the skills … I’m fading Taijuan Walker if I can help it. His home run problems will only get worse in Arizona. He’s going to be a reliever in the next couple of years … Benefit of the doubt for Jordan Zimmermann for last year? Possibly, but he’s not a guy I’m wanting to draft.
He doesn’t have the upside of Rodon, but I’m still not quitting James Paxton, either. He has an elite cutter that he needs to keep throwing to maximize his potential … Jerad Eickhoff doesn’t have a super high ceiling, but he’s pitching in the right division to have a nice floor … The talent has never been an issue, it’s the health. It’ll be a fresh start for Jaime Garcia in Atlanta … Not a lot of usage on his arm, but are we trusting the breakout from 31-year-old Junior Guerra last year? He has an elite splitter, which has a nice cut-action to it. He needs to repeat that success with the pitch to remain a Fantasy mainstay in 2017 … Alex Cobb might be a little low. It’s his first full season back from injury. He will be a nice value here … Owning one Rockies pitcher is rare enough, but Tyler Anderson is another one you can own. He had a 3.78 ERA at Coors Field … Let someone else draft Scott Kazmir because they recognize his name … Ian Kennedy will eat innings for you, and at least he’s in a ballpark that hides his home runs a bit. While he allowed more homers in 2016 than he did in 2015, his HR/FB dropped from 17.2 to 12.8 percent.
At this point, you want upside. Gio Gonzalez does not have that … Speaking of guys lacking upside, I missed big time on Adam Wainwright last year. Lesson learned. Let someone else draft him because of his last name … Brandon Finnegan was streaky last year and the ballpark is working against him, but he’s a high-upside lefty you can stream … Let’s not bury Lucas Giolito based on 21.1 innings pitched. He needs to get more movement on his pitches and get his control down, though … My love for Joe Musgrove is through the roof, but if they block him with Charlie Morton, I can’t have him as high as I want … I like a pitcher that does research on spin rates and such. I really want Trevor Bauer to put it together, but the trust factor isn’t there with him yet … He dominated the minor leagues, but struggled in the big leagues. Great upside with Jose Berrios.
Jeremy Hellickson was smart to accept his qualifying offer. I’m not expecting him to be a Top 30 pitcher again … Collin McHugh is still throwing his curve a lot, but he hasn’t had the same success with it, as his opponents have raised their batting average against the pitch in each of the past three years … Adam Conley first time through the lineup – 3.02 ERA. Second time through – 2.61. Third time through – 6.23 … It wasn’t a great year for rookie pitchers. Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison are Tyler Glasnow’s competition for a rotation spot … if the Pirates don’t trade him. He needs to work on his control and continue to develop his changeup … Oh look! It’s another Rockies pitcher. I’d prefer to stream Tyler Chatwood, though … We loved Wei-Yin Chen heading into 2016 with his move to Miami. It didn’t go as planned, but I’ll give him another shot … He pitched close to his peripherals, but I just don’t care for Zach Davies … Mike Leake is who he is. He’ll eat innings and not crush you.
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