8 Starting Pitchers Outside the Top 20 That Could Finish as SP1 (2020 Fantay Baseball)
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Finding a breakout player is often a key element to a winning fantasy baseball season. That’s certainly the case when it comes to pitching. Given the volatility of the position, there will be pitchers who climb the ranks to deliver a solid return on their pre-season rankings. Some may even join the ranks of the top pitchers in the league.
Along those lines, we’ve asked our writers to provide their selection for the pitcher who is currently outside the top-20 starting pitchers in our Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) that has the best shot to finish as a top-five fantasy baseball starting pitcher.
Q: Which starting pitcher outside the top 20 in SP rankings has the best shot at finishing as the SP1?
Lance Lynn (TEX)
While I think Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer could very much pull it off, Lynn is my pick. He was phenomenal last season, striking out 246 batters, but his ratios were a little lacking. Now that Texas has moved away from their extreme hitter’s park and into what is expected to be a pitcher’s park, Lynn could dominate from a ratio standpoint as well. In order to finish as a top starting pitcher, you have to be durable, and no one in baseball faced more batters last season than Lynn.
– Bobby Sylvester (@bobbyfantasypro)
It’s clear that people believe Lynn’s 2019 season was a fluke, which makes him an excellent value pick. First, he changed his approach by decreasing his sinker percentage while increasing his fastball and cutter percentage. He has a more effective cutter, and that has led to an increase in strikeouts. He also increased his average velocity across all pitches and swinging strike percentage, while decreasing contact percentage. The result of these changes? He finished with 16 wins, 246 strikeouts, and a 3.67 ERA in 208.1 innings — all career highs. Plus, he had a WAR of 6.8 and a FIP of 3.13, also career highs. The downside is that his hard and medium hit ball percentage increased, resulting in more home runs given up. Lynn is a great value at his current ADP, and he will be looking to build on his 2019 season.
– Brandon Torricella (@Btorricella3)
Jose Berrios (MIN)
Jose Berrios has developed into the Twins’ ace, winning 14 games and owning a career-best 3.68 ERA in 2019. However, he faded in the second half for the second consecutive year. The shortened 2020 campaign will only help Berrios, as he won’t have to worry about a second-half fade. Berrios’ strikeout rate (23.2%) trended down from the previous year, but his walk rate (6.1%) and groundball rate (42.1%) were both career-highs. The 26-year-old has struck out least 195 batters the past two seasons, and he could be on the verge of a breakout year. Berrios has the talent, and if he puts it all together, he has the best shot to finish the 2020 campaign as the SP1.
– Brad Camara (@beerad30)
I have been driving the Jose Berrios bandwagon for the entire offseason, but the irony is that he is not directly poised to benefit from a shortened season. Instead, we’re targeting the upside from a steady baseline. He has now pitched at least 190 innings in back-to-back season while holding his ERA and FIP both in the sub 4.00 range. In that same span, he allowed two runs or fewer in just over half of his starts — amazingly, exactly 17-out-of-32 in each season. If he can whittle down the few bad starts even further, Berrios quickly becomes one of the most effective starting pitchers for a fantasy team.
– Mario Mergola (mariomergola)
Trevor Bauer (CIN)
We’ve already seen an elite season from Bauer in 2018, so it’s not all that hard to see him dominating in his walk year. You know the strikeouts are going to be there for Bauer, and with a shortened season, his usual willingness to throw 120 pitches might even be stretched further, helping his win potential. But he also benefits greatly from the regional schedule, as he’ll likely get to face solely AL Central and NL Central teams. Other than Minnesota, few of the opposing offenses he’ll see should concern fantasy owners. There’s a path for Bauer to be the best fantasy pitcher in baseball, and there aren’t many (if any) other pitchers outside the top-20 in ECR about whom you could say the same.
– Dan Harris (@danharris80)
Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS)
I think Eduardo Rodriguez is really getting it together. I see him having a fine season as he leads a weak Red Sox pitching staff. While I think Corey Kluber will be fine in Texas and Trevor Bauer will return to form in Cincinnati, I do believe Rodriguez has the ability to become a top-notch left-handed starter who is entering his prime while pitching for a good club.
– Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff)
Mike Soroka (ATL)
Mike Soroka seems like the perfect example of a young pitcher that the fantasy world is neglecting far too much based upon one season’s FIP and xFIP. Rather than being afraid of potential regression, I’m betting Soroka makes adjustments and pitches to at least the 2.68 ERA he had last season. Let’s focus on all the easy changes Soroka could make to improve. He will improve upon his weak 7.32 K/9. On the flip side, his 2.11 BB/9 was actually the second-worst of his five-year career between the minors and majors, meaning he could improve there too. Finally, it’s a near certainty Soroka will use his fastball less and his off-speed pitches more in 2020. Both his slider and changeup should improve, boosting his overall performance. If Soroka can adjust like this, he could truly lead the NL in wins with a sub-3.00 ERA.
– Alex Altmix (@Altmix_23)
Brandon Woodruff (MIL)
Two months ago, my answer to this question was Corey Kluber. Now, given the likelihood of a universal DH, significantly shortened season, and the merging of divisions, Brandon Woodruff is my pick. His above-average strikeout rate, whiff rate, and groundball rate set a good foundation, plus the “Central” division figures to be the weakest of the three. Most importantly, I think Woodruff is the one pitcher outside of the top-20 to benefit the most from a shortened season. Woodruff sported an insane (and somewhat lucky) .193 wOBA last May, and a less-lucky-but-still-good .299 wOBA in June. His combined .256 wOBA over those two months was top-15 in the league, and most of the guys ahead of him are also inside the top-20 in ADP. Most pitchers probably aren’t pitching more than 90-95 innings this year, so if Woodruff can replicate those two months again (70 total innings), he has a chance to become the SP1.
– Carmen Maiorano (@carmsclubhouse)
Zac Gallen (ARI)
Zac Gallen was an extremely popular breakout candidate all offseason. Yes, the Diamondbacks have six starters, but the 24-year-old is realistically their most talented pitcher. I’m not worried about him making the rotation. While Gallen doesn’t have one trait that makes him stand out, he’s a strong player overall. There are just so many encouraging stats to back up this young right-hander with an impressive four-pitch arsenal. Gallen was the fourth-best pitcher at getting to an 0-1 count in 2019. According to Statcast, he was in the top 25% for exit velocity, xWOBA, xBA, xERA, and K%. He does everything well, and he posted a 2.81 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 80 innings as a rookie in 2019. I like him as a good bet to make the leap here in year two of his big league career.
– Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma)
Corey Kluber (TEX)
I understand the concerns here, as Kluber’s hard-hit rate ballooned in 2018, and his 2019 season was limited to seven starts due to a freak injury. Still, from 2014 to 2018, he was one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the business. He trailed only Max Scherzer in innings and bWAR (Kluber ranked third in fWAR) among starting pitchers. He may not finish the season as SP1, but the veteran sinkerballer has the best floor/ceiling combination among starters outside the top-20 rankings, and I’m betting on a return to fantasy relevance as he anchors the Rangers’ rotation in 2020.
– Daniel Comer (@DanComer404)