Ottoneu Arbitration Targets – Pitchers

Ottoneu arbitration is underway, and over coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some potential arbitration targets going position-by-position. If you are new to Ottoneu arbitration, check out this article from Brad Johnson a few years back – it is a collection of links to all you need to know about Ottoneu arbitration.

For this series, I will mostly focus on the allocation form of arbitration, though I think these names work just as well as targets if your league does vote offs.

Today, we’ll start by looking at pitchers and I kind of regret starting here, because this might be the hardest position. First of all, I find it more difficult to identify good targets at pitcher because, strategically, I want to apply arbitration to players who will still be valuable in 2-3 years and pitchers are far more likely to suffer serious injuries or otherwise decrease in value. Second, there are 664 pitchers rostered on in at least one Ottoneu league at this time, so there are a lot of names to parse.

There is also the general challenge that finding arbitration targets will vary by league. For example, there is someone out there playing in a league with a $19 Jacob DeGrom. There is someone else playing with a $75 Jacob DeGrom. His median salary is $50. At $50, I don’t think DeGrom is an arbitration target, so I won’t include him in this article, but if you are in that league with a $19 DeGrom? Yes, you should target him in arbitration.

For the purposes of this series, I will focus on players whose median salary makes them a good arbitration target. If they are a good target at their median, that means they are a good target in half of leagues, and very likely are a good target in another 10-20% of leagues where they are above their median but still relatively low priced.

With the introduction out of the way, here are my proposed arbitration targets at P in no particular order:

  • Spencer Strider (ATL, Median Salary: $5) – Strider finished 2022 first in points per inning pitched (P/IP) among all SP with 75+ IP. Yet, due to his unexpectedly quick emergence, he is universally cheap. His max salary is $27, and I think you can make a case that he is an arbitration target even at $27. Early lists have him as a top 20 fantasy pitcher for 2023 and while those lists are not a perfect fit for Ottoneu rankings, they are close enough to give you a sense of what Strider’s value will be when auction season rolls around. I wouldn’t hesitate to push him up to $30.
  • Shane McClanahan (TBA, Median Salary: $9) – McClanahan is more established than Strider and expectations were higher, so his price is higher. Plus, he was likely an arbitration target for some managers last year. But at less than $10, he is still well below fair market price. I suspect he would push $40 at auctions and while I don’t see the need to shove him to $40 in arbitration (you can always push him more next year, remember), I wouldn’t let him sit south of $30, either.
  • George Kirby (SEA, Median Salary: $5) – Kirby finished the season at 4.89 P/IP but part of that was a late season fade, maybe due to the strains of the longest season of his career, as he put up 31.17 points over his 12.1 IP. Without that trio of starts, he would have finished with 5.14 P/IP. And I think there is more there. He was up and down for his first ten starts, then had a 1.80 FIP the rest of the way, including the rough finish. It’s not fair to assume that 1.80 represents his true talent, but it hints at the upside. He hasn’t shown what Strider has and doesn’t have the track record of McClanahan, so I could see stopping closer at $20, rather than $30, but I would certainly want him pushed to double digits.
  • Ross Stripling (TOR, Median Salary: $3) – Stripling isn’t nearly as exciting as the other names on this list, but your goal in arbitration is to reduce value from your opponent’s roster and he can help with that. Given his history, he doesn’t need a ton of dollars added, but there are some arsenal changes here I really like. He introduced a sinker and used his four-seamer less. He used his curve less and his slider and changeup more. There’s deeper analysis to be done on how much this changes who he is, but for now it is enough to give me reasont to buy into the improvement. I don’t think he needs to be pushed above $10. If he repeats his 2022, you can target him again next year. But he’s a good target for a team that either doesn’t have many other great targets or where the other targets are already used up. If a team has Strider and Stripling, and the rest of the league pushes Strider to $35, you might be better off pushing Stripling to $5 than Strider to $37.
  • Nestor Cortes (NYY, Median Salary: $5) – It is almost cliché at this point to note that Cortes isn’t just fun and unique and a good story, but actually a legitimately good pitcher. It feels like we’re required to point out, “actually, Cortes is really good!” as if people don’t realize it. Well, Cortes is really good. His four-seamer induces a ton of chases, helping drive a high whiff rate. Per Baseball Savant, here is a list of SP with a better run value per 100 pitches on their four-seamer than Cortes: Luis Castillo. That’s it. And his cutter, while not quite as elite, is behind only five other SP. Two nasty pitches like that, plus a slider that induces league-average xwOBA and well-below-league-average xwOBAcon is a great arsenal. The hesitation, the random side-arm pitches, the sweet mustache? All that is just icing on a very sweet cake. I would happily push him to $20.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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CC AFCmember
1 year ago

My goal is pretty much to never allocate to pitchers. I want my arb dollars to stick with the other owners as long as possible. The pitchers will break at some point, at which point they will be released and auctioned again during the season or the next year, and my arb is gone. Comparatively, I can find hitters to stick with arb dollars and they’re typically immune even from injury – e.g. Albies, Acuna, Tatis were never cut. Sometimes I can’t avoid it because a roster sucks and there’s not a strong hitter candidate, but prob 95% of my arb is going to hitters.