With the season coming to a close, now is a good time to look back to see which MLB teams provided fantasy owners with the most valuable pitching resources this season.
This chart looks at players currently ranked in the top-50 at starting pitcher and top-25 at relief pitcher in both CBS (points) and ESPN (roto) rankings – broken down by team. If you’re curious about which players ranked where, a detailed breakdown of the ranks are found here. If a player was eligible at both starting pitcher and relief pitcher, they were only included once, and if a player was ranked in the top 50/25 in one format, but not the other, they were not included. If a player was traded, the team which they pitched a greater number of innings was given credit.
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As was the case with the most valuable fantasy hitters, baseball’s better teams feature more pitching contributors than rebuilding and non-contending ones.
This didn’t stop the 73-84 Mets from contributing three starters and one reliever to the ranks. While Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia were expected to pay fantasy dividends, Zack Wheeler (19 at CBS and 23 at ESPN) was one of fantasy’s biggest surprises in 2018. Wheeler posted a 3.31 ERA (3.24 FIP) and 179 strikeouts in 182.1 innings for the Mets this season. Most notably, Wheeler cut his walk rate– down to 2.79 BB/9 after posting a career rate of 3.57 BB/9. A change that Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway attributes to Wheeler attacking the strike zone more aggressively early in the count. Wheeler’s pedigree and approach changes will make him an interesting player heading into 2019 drafts.
The Mariners and fantasy owners enjoyed surprise seasons from Wade LeBlanc and Marco Gonzales. Neither Gonzales or LeBlanc generate a ton of K’s, but both pitchers limit walks and kept their ERA’s under 4.15 – good enough to rank towards the bottom of the top-50 in both points and roto formats at starting pitcher.
With more teams electing to take a committee approach to closing, the top relief pitchers featured several non/part-time closers in ESPN formats. Josh Hader, Adam Ottavino and David Robertson all rank in the top-25 at ESPN despite few saves to boost their value – Ottavino and Robertson have 11 saves between the two of them and Hader has 11 to his name. Relievers that spent the majority of their season closing – Shane Greene and Brad Boxberger, both of whom collected over 30 saves each, missed the top-25.
In Atlanta, only Mike Foltynewicz placed in the top-50 at both sites. Braves’ starters Sean Newcomb, Julio Teheran and Kevin Gausman all ranked in the top-50 in the CBS game. Anibal Sanchez, who has enjoyed a resurgent season at age-34, ranked 38th at ESPN and 60th at CBS. Sanchez’ FIP is three quarters of a run higher than his ERA (2.96) but still sits at a respectable 3.67. Sanchez has been able to limit home runs in 2018 (1.03 HR/9) and with homers down throughout baseball, the gopher balls that derailed his 2015-17 seasons may not be a problem for him moving forward, either.
The Cardinals enjoyed productive fantasy seasons from Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty and the now deposed closer, Bud Norris. A healthy Carlos Martinez or Alex Reyes and a rebound from Luke Weaver could mean even more fantasy value from the St. Louis staff in 2019.
On the offensive side of the game, only three teams failed to produce a fantasy hitter in the top-12 at any position. Only four teams contributed just one. When it comes to pitchers, the talent is more heavily concentrated at the top. Six teams failed to produce a fantasy starter or reliever on the list and eight more produced only one.
The Chicago White Sox might be the most promising of these teams. Some of their young pitchers – Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon could take a step forward and provide fantasy value next season. Top prospect Michael Kopech will be sidelined for 2019 while he recovers from Tommy John surgery but could be an impact pitcher upon his return. Dylan Cease is another highly touted White Sox pitching prospect that looked good during his ten starts at double-A this summer. In addition to Kopech and Cease, Alec Hansen (91), Zack Burdi (111) and Dane Dunning (113) all place in the FanGraphs Top 131 prospect list.
Unfortunately for some of the worst performing teams, there doesn’t appear to be immediate help on the way. The Orioles, Royals and Giants don’t have a single pitching prospect ranked on the FanGraphs list. A rebound season from Madison Bumgarner or consistency from Dylan Bundy (stop me if you’ve heard this before) could be sources of fantasy value in 2019.
The Blue Jays (Nate Pearson), Angels (Griffin Canning) and Twins (Stephen Gonsalves) have only one prospect each on the list. Shohei Ohtani will likely miss 2019 (at least as a pitcher) but could be elite upon his return to the mound in Anaheim. Kyle Gibson, who just missed ranking this season, could place if he is able to repeat his performance. A rebound from Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez is not out of the question, but also far from a sure thing given their recent performance and recurring finger problems.
Pitching can be tough to predict, but based on the 2018 results, there may be some teams that you want to steer clear of when drafting your 2019 fantasy pitching staff.
Nick thinks running a Major League or fantasy baseball team is incredibly easy. Until he is handed one of those coveted GM positions, his writing at RotoGraphs will illustrate how to do it properly. Fantasy baseball trade consultations and anything else can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeted to @nickdika.