Building a $9 NFBC Pitching Staff

On Thursday, I had a bit of fun and shared my dominant, future category-leading $14 offense, assembled using NFBC auction values and selecting 14 $1 hitters. Today, I flip to the pitching side and share with you the pitching staff you fear will earn top points in each category.

The $9 Pitching Staff
Name W* SV* SO* ERA* WHIP*
Kevin Gausman 7 0 139 4.22 1.32
Yusei Kikuchi 8 0 128 4.75 1.38
Pablo Lopez 7 0 125 4.21 1.27
Justus Sheffield 6 0 118 4.55 1.45
Cole Hamels 7 0 117 4.21 1.34
Miles Mikolas 7 0 90 4.05 1.22
Corbin Burnes 4 0 89 4.67 1.33
Matt Magill 3 8 66 4.16 1.32
Scott Oberg 4 9 65 3.73 1.29
Total 53 17 937 4.33 1.33
*ATC projections

This is not a good pitching staff. It’s worth noting though that I only had 37 choices. Could you do better?!

Kevin Gausman totally baffles me, but we did see some life after he moved to the bullpen in Cincinnati. While he will return to the rotation, he’s now a member of the Giants, and even though their home park figures to be a little less pitcher friendly after some changes, I’m guessing it’ll still remain a pitcher’s park, and a pretty darn good one. At some point, that mid-90s fastball and elite splitter have to lead to a major breakout and strikeout rate surge, right? RIGHT?!?!

When spring training was still a thing, Yusei Kikuchi was throwing with increased velocity. That’s really all I needed to know to take a $1 chance on him. Maybe that will fuel the performance we expected last year in his MLB debut.

With excellent control, a slight ground ball tilt, and good changeup, the foundation is there for Pablo Lopez to earn positive value in deeper mixed formats.

I’ve talked about Justus Sheffield this year, and love to bet on the guy who already has the quality of stuff (excellent slider/changeup combo), but just needs to sharpen his control. That kind of sharpening can sometimes happen overnight with no warning. He’s exactly the type of pitcher I like to load up on for free (reserve round) or essentially free ($1) in auctions, figuring at least a couple of them will break out.

Cole Hamels’ shoulder issue is likely keeping his price down, but with no start date in sight, he should have more than enough time to get healthy. His skills have been in decline, but he has still managed to keep his ERA below 4.00 and is once again in a good situation in Atlanta. I’m not expecting fireworks, but at this price, just getting an old veteran unlikely to torpedo your ratios is a win.

Miles Mikolas surprised with a sub-3.00 ERA in 2018 in his return to MLB, but then disappointed last year when that ERA jumped above 4.00. A forearm injury held down his price before the season was delayed, but he should be healthy when the season does ultimately begin. He’s typically not the kind of pitcher I bother buying, as a low strikeout, good control type, but the overall package is solid, albeit boring. With the need to mix young upside with safer veterans, Mikolas must take a spot on this cheap pitching staff.

Corbin Burnes is the ultimate speculation, and an excellent one at that given his cheap price tag. Sure, it came mostly in relief, but do you realize he posted a 17.2% SwStk% last year over 49 innings? His fastball averaged more than 95 mph, while his slider, curve, and changeup all generated double digit SwStk% marks. That slider perhaps generated the highest SwStk% I have ever seen on a FanGraphs page at 35.1%. Is there a word that’s better than elite? If so, that pitch has earned that description. There’s no rotation spot for him right now, but the Brewers starting staff is not a picture of good health, or filled with established performance. He’s on exactly the type of staff that should give him an opportunity to start at some point.

One of the biggest challenges when trying to build the cheapest possible pitching staff is buying enough saves or potential for saves. As you could imagine, there were no locked in closers going for a buck. Duh. However, there were a number of relievers with either a strong chances at saves, or a reasonable chance at earning a couple. That still won’t be enough to show well in a projected standings, but speculating is really the best that can be done.

I opted for Matt Magill, who is at least a top candidate for Mariners saves after recording five last season, and Scott Oberg, who finished last season as the Rockies closer. I don’t find Magill particularly good, and the signing of Yoshihisa Hirano gives the Mariners another option, albeit perhaps not a very good one, but there’s no obvious candidate to save games in their ‘pen. So by default, as long as Magill doesn’t stink up the joint, he should certainly save a bunch of games. Shockingly, Wade Davis has been named the Rockies closer, even after losing the job last year, en route to a…wait for it…8.65 ERA. That’s right, the Rockies are handing back the closer gig to a pitcher who allowed nearly a run every single inning in 42.2 innings. Yeah, my money is on Oberg, who is actually pretty solid, tallying more saves in that bullpen.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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KJL
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KJL

Not too bad, considering. Taijuan Walker an option?