The Perfect (New) Recipe for Drafting Pitchers

Last season around this time I wrote an article showcasing a recipe that would help select starting pitching in drafts. I queried the heck out of a dataset containing 2022 end-of-season pitcher data and 2023 projected data, slicing and splicing the list down to an interesting group of pitchers, each having done or expected to do the following:

  • A SwStr% in 2022 of at least 11%. (2022 MLB SP average – 10.7%)
  • A K/9 projection (steamer) of eight or better. (2022 MLB SP average – 8.18)
  • Positive pVals (Pitch Info) on at least two pitches in 2022.
  • An ADP greater than 100.

Heck, I even got two articles worth of content out of those bullet points in “Thinning the Herd” part 1 and part 2. But looking back I have to say, it did not go well. Like a decent chef experimenting with too many ingredients, the recipe brought me the following:

Thinning The Herd
Name NFBC ADP 2022 SwStr% Proj K/9 Proj K/BB Proj K-BB% Value
Nestor Cortes 114 11.1 9.5 3.7 18.3 $-8
Kyle Wright 119 11.9 8.4 2.9 14.2 $-
Luis Garcia 151 13.0 9.0 3.1 16.2 $-
Charlie Morton 161 12.2 9.8 3.4 18.2 $-8
Jeffrey Springs 169 13.1 9.0 3.3 16.5 $-
Drew Rasmussen 173 12.1 8.1 3.2 14.6 $-
Tony Gonsolin 174 12.3 8.7 2.9 14.6 $-9
Patrick Sandoval 219 13.3 9.0 2.7 14.8 $-28
Frankie Montas 220 12.6 8.9 3.4 16.7 $-
Carlos Carrasco 310 13.0 8.5 3.3 15.5 $-46
Alex Wood 362 11.0 8.9 3.8 17.3 $-19
Josiah Gray 383 11.4 9.1 2.5 13.8 $-22
**ADP as of 1/24/22
***Steamer projections

Ouch. Bad. I did bad. Why even bring this back into the light? Well for one, it goes to show you how much of a crapshoot selecting pitching can be in late rounds. I mean, Nestor Cortes was friggin’ great in 2022! Springs and Rasmussen went out on injury very quickly into the 2023 season, and Garcia, Montas, and Wright joined them as pitchers who threw less than 50 innings, stopping them from even registering on the auction calculator’s 2023 year-to-date setting. The collective innings pitched amongst these 12 pitchers was less than 1,000 at 939.

Like any chef who makes his dinner guests hide portions of his dish in their napkins while giving the rest to the dog under the table, I simply won’t put my knives away. I sharpen them! I’m back with a new recipe baby! When are you and the family free to come over for dinner again?

This year, after reading Ron Shandler’s Fantasy Expert, I’m reminded of a simple strategy in Shandler’s LIMA plan. I’ll use LIMA for a dash of old-school and Stuff+ for a pinch of new-school. Here’s my new recipe:

  • LIMA: K%>=25%, BB<10%, HR/9<1.3
  • Stuff+ Fastball (FA, SI, FC) >=100
  • Stuff+ Secondary (SL, CH, KC, CU, FS) >=100
  • A called strike rate (CStr%, SIS) >12%
  • Pitched at least 50 innings in 2023

Here’s what we end up with:

The Pitching Recipe: Starters
Name Team K% BB% HR/9 CStr% Stuff+ Location+ Pitching+
Zac Gallen ARI 25.0% 6.6% 1.1 17.3% 105.8 104.2 107.4
Gerrit Cole NYY 27.9% 6.2% 1.3 16.0% 121.0 103.7 108.8
Corbin Burnes BAL 27.0% 7.5% 1.1 17.0% 127.4 102.2 106.6
Aaron Nola PHI 25.8% 5.3% 1.3 17.8% 101.2 107.2 105.8
Zack Wheeler PHI 25.6% 5.8% 1.0 14.3% 109.2 105.7 111.4
Spencer Strider ATL 34.9% 8.2% 1.0 14.9% 124.6 104.1 111.9
Kevin Gausman TOR 28.6% 6.4% 1.1 16.7% 105.3 104.0 105.3
Jesús Luzardo MIA 27.4% 7.8% 1.2 15.7% 102.4 100.2 101.3
Freddy Peralta MIL 29.4% 8.4% 1.2 15.0% 102.9 101.6 104.9
Hunter Brown HOU 25.5% 8.7% 1.1 16.7% 104.0 100.1 101.2
Grayson Rodriguez BAL 26.1% 7.9% 1.1 15.5% 116.6 101.9 107.6
Tyler Glasnow TBR 31.4% 7.7% 1.2 16.9% 121.1 100.7 108.7
Michael King NYY 26.5% 8.1% 1.1 21.5% 113.1 102.0 104.6
Cole Ragans – – – 25.5% 9.7% 1.0 14.4% 100.6 99.3 101.7
Bryan Woo SEA 25.8% 7.7% 1.2 15.2% 103.3 101.8 103.6
*ATC Projections (BB%, K%, HR.9)
**2023 Stats (CStr%, Stuff+, Pitching+, Location+)

Rather than show individual pitch model scores, I’m using the aggregates. I also used a smaller threshold for called strike rate than the league average (16.4%) because it opened the pool up. This may be a fool’s errand because one look at the list of pitchers above leaves any drafter saying, “Duh.” Yet, the presence of a few, such as Bryan Woo, Hunter Brown, and Michael King should raise some eyebrows. I would certainly like to have one and maybe two of these pitchers to establish a strong foundation though I would be very careful about the combination.

The relievers that fall in this query create a longer list. Going into 2024, some are sure shot closers while others may be given the chance to compete for a closer role. Others still might be the next man up. The highlighted red cells point out a warning, yet there’s certainly room on fantasy rosters for these skilled relievers:

The Pitching Recipe: Relievers
Name Team K% BB% HR/9 CStr% Stuff+ Location+ Pitching+
Matt Strahm PHI 28.8% 6.9% 1.2 16.9% 104.1 104.0 104.4
Julian Merryweather CHC 29.2% 9.7% 1.1 16.9% 124.6 100.3 108.9
Craig Kimbrel PHI 29.9% 9.9% 1.2 17.3% 125.2 101.8 114.1
Camilo Doval SFG 29.0% 9.9% 0.7 16.0% 115.5 100.4 98.9
Rafael Montero HOU 25.1% 9.0% 1.1 13.3% 105.7 105.5 106.8
David Bednar PIT 29.0% 7.9% 0.9 12.9% 117.9 101.2 106.2
Yimi García TOR 26.0% 6.7% 1.2 15.7% 111.8 100.7 104.5
Reynaldo López – – – 27.7% 8.5% 1.1 12.6% 125.5 99.0 103.1
Kevin Ginkel ARI 26.3% 9.2% 0.9 14.9% 106.6 100.4 102.3
Ryan Pressly HOU 27.5% 6.6% 1.0 16.3% 155.6 102.0 117.1
Clay Holmes NYY 25.1% 8.7% 0.6 20.2% 124.1 98.9 101.0
Jhoan Duran MIN 32.7% 8.5% 0.7 13.4% 128.6 98.2 105.1
Ryan Walker SFG 27.0% 8.9% 1.0 19.5% 115.0 100.4 104.1
Evan Phillips LAD 27.7% 7.3% 1.0 19.7% 120.9 102.6 108.3
Hunter Harvey WSN 27.1% 7.0% 1.1 16.0% 116.1 102.8 107.5
Paul Sewald – – – 29.3% 8.8% 1.3 16.9% 136.1 102.2 113.9
Caleb Ferguson LAD 26.7% 9.4% 0.9 16.7% 108.2 101.4 100.4
Jordan Romano TOR 28.5% 8.7% 1.1 15.2% 125.1 98.9 104.2
Andrew Nardi MIA 29.0% 9.8% 1.1 15.0% 111.7 103.7 107.4
A.J. Puk MIA 28.8% 7.5% 1.1 20.2% 115.1 102.5 108.7
Raisel Iglesias ATL 29.5% 6.3% 1.2 14.2% 96.3 105.3 101.4
Gabe Speier SEA 26.4% 6.5% 1.1 15.9% 103.5 104.0 102.7
Brooks Raley 레일리 NYM 25.7% 9.3% 1.0 17.9% 107.8 96.4 100.1
Jason Adam TBR 29.5% 8.2% 1.1 17.6% 123.9 94.1 102.2
Sam Hentges CLE 25.5% 8.9% 0.8 19.0% 95.3 98.7 98.2
Josh Sborz TEX 28.9% 9.2% 1.2 17.7% 115.9 96.3 102.0
Shawn Armstrong TBR 25.1% 6.8% 1.1 14.6% 104.5 108.0 107.8
Danny Coulombe BAL 25.3% 7.9% 1.1 17.3% 114.5 95.6 100.5
*ATC Projections (BB%, K%, HR.9)
**2023 Stats (CStr%, Stuff+, Pitching+, Location+)

Last year’s recipe had its flaws, particularly in its usage of pVals as a predictive metric. Now that we have Stuff+ available on FanGraphs the substituting of the two seems right. Remember that these are projected skills, mixed with last year’s results. These pitchers will tweak arsenals, arrive at spring training in shape and out of shape, and will likely end up on the IL at some point during the season. The best we can do is draft pitchers who have shown great skills in the past and are predicted to show them again in the future.





5 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
JD, Too
3 months ago

Nice article. Zone contact percentage is a good stat to look at, too.