10 Starting Pitchers To Consider In Deep Leagues

It can be a struggle in deep leagues to fill out the final arms in your staff. Instead of talking about popular targets to chase in the middle rounds, I’m going to highlight ten starters to consider when searching for the final arms of your 15-teamer staff.

I originally set the ADP threshold at past the 300 mark, but I elected to dive a little deeper, setting the bar at 350 instead. That means guys I’d recommend targetting like Mike Minor, Dan Straily, German Marquez, Mike Leake, and Matt Shoemaker are off the list. This is legit deep, not that weak stuff.

The Pretty Deep

Collin McHugh (ADP 362)

The reason McHugh is this far down in your drafts is because he doesn’t have a job. The Astros acquired Gerrit Cole and McHugh is the clear odd man out. It’s unfortunate, really, as I genuinely believe he’s turned into a very serviceable starter – even for 12-teamers – as he made legitimate changes to his repertoire with a revamped slider and improved heater. However, it’s not a complete death sentence for McHugh as starts could appear quicker than you’d expect. There’s a chance he gets shipped out before opening day to fill a team’s final spot or in the rotation, but better yet, the Astros staff is filled with injury risks from Dallas Keuchel who hasn’t exceeded 170 frames since 2015, Lance McCullers who hasn’t made more than 22 starts in his career, and Charlie Mortonwho has averaged under 20 starts per season in his career. The path to 25 starts for McHugh is surprisingly smooth, making him a solid investment past the 350 mark.

Jerad Eickhoff (ADP 362)

I’m not expecting big things from Eickhoff this year, but it wouldn’t be smart to look at 2017 and let it sour your impression. Eickhoff was affected by nerve irritation in his right hand, creating numbness in his fingers and sidelining him for the final month, and it makes perfect sense. Eickhoff’s slider lost nearly three inches of vertical drop, formerly inducing a .234 BAA in 2016, and spiking to a horrid .356 mark in 2017. He also lost a tick of velocity on his fastballs, and I’m willing to take a chance that his injury-laden season made it difficult for Eickhoff to perform up to standard, with the 1.20 WHIP and 3.65 ERA of 2016 not so far off.

Reynaldo Lopez (ADP 363)

If you’re upside hunting, Lopez is the one to target. Yes, a 14.5% strikeout rate in eight 2017 starts suggests otherwise, but given that his curveball had a startlingly low 6.9% whiff rate after an impressive 16.3% mark in 2016, I’m willing to believe the small 101 pitch sample is more to blame than his innate skill. Slated to be in the White Sox rotation out of the gate, Lopez has the skillset to be a productive starter, with a season of 22% K rate, 7% BB rate and sub 4.00 ERA plenty tangible. That’s worth your attention at the end of drafts.

Anthony DeScalfani (ADP 372)

Despite not having the highest ADP of the lot, Tony Disco is easily my favorite target of the list, and the player I’m hoping to own in my 12-teamers as well. DeSclafani is returning from a sprained UCL that took him out for the entirety of 2017, leaving many to forget the productive 3.28 ERA and 1.22 WHIP 2016 campaign. His success is fueled by an excellent slider that induced a paltry .089 ISO in 2016, while also featuring a 16.1% whiff rate. The rest of his arsenal – a sinker that gets the job done inside the zone and a curveball that induces plenty of grounders – does its part to keep him afloat, making him a surprisingly sturdy arm as long as he’s on the field. There’s no reason not to slot him at the end of your staff for the upcoming year as he continues his healthy spring.

Jakob Junis (ADP 383)

Back to riskier selections is Junis, who is getting attention here solely because of one pitch: his slider. It’s a dominating offering that finds the zone over 45% of the time while inducing more than 15% swings-and-misses. There were flashes of success from Junis last season when he relied heavily on the pitch and the question becomes if he will increase his over usage of his slide piece in 2018. The rest of his repertoire isn’t as deep as you’d like to see, with a middling fastball and without a third pitch that he can trust on any given day. Still, I like chasing specific pitches and Junis’ slider is as good of a pitch to chase when you’re at the bottom of the barrel.

The Super Deep

Robert Stephenson (ADP 443)

Like Junis, Stephenson has a fantastic slider to his name – 23.8% whiff rate with batters hitting just .136 off it last year – but not the heater you want to see paired with it. The velocity isn’t the problem, but he struggles to find the plate constantly, and when he does, it was smacked for a .260 ISO. If Stephenson can find a way to turn his four-seamer into a non-toxic pitch (it doesn’t even need to be a great fastball, just not so detrimental), his changeup and slider can do the rest, providing a pitcher that can hint a 25% strikeout rate without demolishing your ratios. It’s a big if, but that’s the kind of ceiling that is rarely found this deep.

Kyle Gibson (ADP 446)

I’m surprised to be talking about Gibson so much this pre-season, but I just can’t overlook his marvelous eight-start run to end last season, recording a 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 23.7% K rate, and 5.2% BB rate. The fantastic stretch came paired with an improved slider that returned a marvelous 26.3% whiff rate as it was located more consistently down-and-in glove side, avoiding the plate plenty more. He altered his position on the rubber as well, while also altering his arm-angle. Whatever the exact reason for his success was (maybe all parts coming together?) the results were incredibly productive and shouldn’t be ignored for 2018. This can certainly be noise and you’ll be dropping Gibson after his first or second start of the year, but there could be some level of truth to Gibson’s fantastic 2018 send-off.

Chris Stratton (ADP 481)

Small sample and all, Stratton still surprised in the first 10 starts of his career, three of which included a total of 27 strikeouts. With most of these, Stratton comes with a money pitch you want to believe in, here with a curveball that returned a 14.0% whiff rate that could move closer to 17%. I gushed over the pitch last season, and even in some of his successful starts he used to pitch much less frequently than ideal, focusing on weaker secondary pitches in the later innings. What gives Stratton a leg up is a heater that he commands well in the zone, separating him from others on this list. Using a two-pitch mix with the occasional slider and changeup could spell plenty of success for Stratton as he holds a secure spot in the Giants’ 2018 rotation.

Andrew Triggs (ADP 499)

Did you know that Triggs featured a 10.4% overall whiff rate last season with a groundball rate just under 50% and induced only 26.7% hard contact? There’s hope that fortune can shift his way after a 62.5% LOB rate last season, making it possible his 4.27 ERA and 1.33 WHIP across 65.1 IP takes a step forward. His 17.7% strikeout rate seems a bit low given his whiffability and his 23.1% mark from 2016 hints at better days to come. Don’t sleep on Triggs, there’s plenty of upside in the tank and as long as he’s off the DL, he deserves your attention.

Joe Biagini (ADP 580)

And finally, there’s Biagini, who I’ve spilled plenty of ink discussing as a potential breakout candidate for 2018. His three-pitch mix of fastball/curveball/changeup sets him up plenty well for strikeouts and weak grounders, with a questionable cutter bringing him down. More importantly, though, is the signing of Jaime Garcia that has stripped Biagini of a rotation spot. Still, the Blue Jays have expressed they want to keep Biagini stretched out as a starter, making it possible for Biagini to get his fill once the inevitable injury bug hits the Jays’ staff. Keep an eye on his performance in the spring and hopefully he gets his shot early in the year.

Nick Pollack is the founder of PitcherList.com and has written for Washington Post, Fantasy Pros, and CBS Sports. He can be found making an excessive amount of GIFs on twitter at @PitcherList.

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That’s a hell of a whiff rate on Triggs. Even getting batters to whiff on pitches he hasn’t thrown yet! Killer stuff. ?