Streaming WHIP Starting Pitcher Strategy

I love the idea, almost to a fault, of taking one or two of the top 5 SPs in the first and/or second round. The reason I like getting these top arms is that they provide a ton of strikeouts with great ratios. This base in ratios allows me to ignore pitching for almost 10 rounds and then bottom feed. One problem I’ve run into with this strategy is that I won’t have this option available if I’m picking in a draft’s first few spots. I’m not passing on the five-category hitters and according to the current NFBC ADP (average draft position), the top Aces will be gone by the time my second pick comes around. If I’m forced into this situation, I’m considering going with the what I’ll call the “Streaming WHIP” plan.

The basis behind this roto-only strategy is to concentrate on pitchers whose value is in WHIP and ERA and ignore strikeouts. After the first five starters, all the other pitchers have a check-mark (or three) against them like inexperience, injuries, or inconsistent production. The goal is to focus on those without strikeouts. The strikeouts (and Wins) will instead come from streaming starters while hoping the rate stat base holds up. For reference, here are the pick ranges for an owner picking in the top four picks

Draft Picks from the Top-4 Positions
Rounds Range
2 & 3 27 to 34
4 & 5 57 to 64
6 & 7 87 to 94
8 & 9 117 to 124

And here are some of the pitchers available near or after pick 27 in NFBC drafts with their projected (Depth Chart) innings, ERA, and WHIP. I divide up the pitchers into those who should be there to draft (Blue) and not available (Red) based on historic ADP.

Starting Pitcher NFBC ADP Ranks
Overall Rank Name ADP ADP High ADP Low IP ERA WHIP ERA & WHIP SGP
7 Blake Snell 27.0 17 40 192 3.24 1.20 2.1
8 Gerrit Cole 27.6 16 34 199 3.48 1.13 2.5
9 Trevor Bauer 33.1 16 43 195 3.56 1.20 1.3
10 Clayton Kershaw 35.0 15 47 185 3.23 1.12 3.1
11 Luis Severino 35.4 24 50 198 3.45 1.14 2.4
12 Walker Buehler 35.5 24 44 163 3.27 1.18 2.0
13 Carlos Carrasco 35.9 29 47 199 3.40 1.13 2.7
14 Noah Syndergaard 39.4 24 51 176 3.50 1.17 1.7
15 Patrick Corbin 46.1 28 56 182 3.43 1.21 1.4
17 James Paxton 51.8 38 69 172 3.46 1.15 2.0
18 Stephen Strasburg 57.3 43 79 177 3.66 1.19 1.1
19 Jack Flaherty 58.5 38 77 164 3.69 1.24 0.3
20 Mike Clevinger 60.8 41 82 170 4.00 1.29 -1.0
21 Jameson Taillon 62.9 45 83 192 3.89 1.26 -0.4
22 Zack Greinke 63.8 43 91 204 3.85 1.22 0.2
25 Madison Bumgarner 73.1 47 101 205 3.94 1.24 -0.3
27 German Marquez 74.8 49 98 193 3.88 1.24 -0.1
28 Jose Berrios 77.2 46 105 196 4.26 1.28 -1.7
29 Michael Foltynewicz 77.7 62 107 194 4.02 1.28 -1.1
32 Miles Mikolas 84.9 44 116 200 4.04 1.24 -0.6
35 David Price 90.4 63 130 196 3.95 1.23 -0.2
36 Zack Wheeler 90.8 73 121 171 3.85 1.26 -0.3
40 Robbie Ray 108.0 80 141 176 3.68 1.27 0.0
42 Luis Castillo 110.9 90 137 173 4.00 1.26 -0.7
45 Charlie Morton 116.4 85 155 152 3.50 1.23 0.8
46 Carlos Martinez 118.9 82 158 180 4.05 1.37 -2.2
47 Kyle Hendricks 120.9 72 147 196 4.04 1.28 -1.1
49 Chris Archer 128.8 97 155 194 3.64 1.23 0.6
50 Masahiro Tanaka 132.7 91 162 153 3.92 1.20 0.3
51 Kyle Freeland 134.1 55 214 197 4.62 1.43 -4.8

There is a small chance Aaron Nola makes the first grouping, so likely I’m picking one or two from the first group. It’s interesting to see their ADP grouped together. Owners near the draft’s top know they have zero chance of seeing anyone close to this talent in the fourth or fifth round. I’d probably move Kershaw after Paxton but would not mind any of the rest.

If drafting in the fourth spot (27th pick), it would be interesting to see who makes it back in the 3rd round at pick 34. If none of the “Blue” group make it back, I would not reach for the next three and just see who makes it make to the 4/5 turn.

At this turn, I’m going hitter/hitter if I picked two starters in rounds 2 and 3. If I got only one starter, I’m hoping Paxton or Corbin fall or grab Greinke or Flaherty. After 5 rounds, I’ve likely picked three hitters and two pitchers.

The 6/7 turn is just ugly for starters with closers coming off the board at I regular clip. I’m passing on Price and Wheeler and will probably double tap hitters unless I feel I can bump Ray up. A possibility exists I will take a closer if the pool is thinning out.

At the 8/9 turn, I’m a huge Morton fan and would love to pick him up at this point. Hopefully, he lasts until then. Also, I will need to take a closer if I didn’t take one at the previous turn. Statically, Archer and Tanaka may make decent choices but I don’t trust either with an ERA under 4.00.

Here is how the draft would work out.

How the Draft Works Out
Round Pick
1st Stud Hitter
2nd SP
3rd SP/Hitter
4th Hitter/Paxton/Corbin
5th Hitter/Greinke
6th Hitter
7th Hitter
8th Closer
9th Morton?

My ideal plan would be to have the four WHIP guys at the top, 2 closers and 3 starters from the last picks or waiver wire. To perfectly implement this plan, I think I need to have three starters in the first five picks and hope for Morton, and then just grab hitters with my other picks. The plan’s killer is that no decent option, unless some drops, at the 6/7 turn.

It’s a plan, but it’s a plan I don’t 100% feel I can pull off. Or even have a 50% chance of doing. All I would say for sure is that if I’m given a top pick, I’ll go with a starter in the 2nd round and have to go by feel from then on. I think the “Streaming WHIP” could work out but it’s just an option. I may just need to go with my normal plan of hoarding strikeouts.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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You should complement them with some elite middle relievers making streaming less risky.
After Morton, Joe Musgrove, can be a cheap option for the lowering the whip.