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Mid-Round Pitching Targets (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Joshua Thusat
Mar 27, 2022

This year I’m choosing my midround pitchers by analyzing the way Tier 1 pitching has changed. A casual observer of starting pitching might sound like a cliché grandfather: “Pitchers these days don’t work as hard as the old days.” If anyone is looking at the National Past Time and feeling like it’s not the same, that’s because it’s not the same. But that doesn’t mean the skill is diminished.

In 2010, forty-five hurlers threw 200 innings. Last year, only four pitchers managed the feat. Now, there weren’t that many 200-inning pitchers in 2002 either, so it can be argued that workloads will eventually increase.

Countless articles have identified the primary cause for this workload change: injuries.

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In any case, for the top ten starting pitchers (not named Ohtani) on FantasyPros, only five went beyond 180 innings in 2021: Zach Wheeler, Walker Buehler, Sandy Alcantara, Julio Urias, and Gerrit Cole.

If you’ve got one of those guys, lucky you. This leaves us five more pitchers with the “skills + innings.”

For these remaining pitchers, many managers are concerned about the health of Jacob DeGrom and Shane Bieber. Max Scherzer is gold, and I could round up and say that he pitched 180 innings. But he’s 37, and the point here is that the top-tier is disappearing or changing. We don’t know how much longer we’ll get a chance to see Mad Max do his thing (so enjoy this, New York).

What does this mean in our fantasy baseball community?

For me, the answer is acceptance. I can’t control the real game, but I have control over the fake one. Innings-pitched is baked into the ADP, and this may be misleading. You may even be able to find a market inefficiency. If I begin to look at a pitcher who will give me 150-160 innings, but the other counting stats are in line with what I want from an SP 1, that’s my target if he drops to the middle rounds. I’ll figure out how to make up innings as I manage pitching throughout the season.

Naturally, this still involves some speculation on skills, but here’s a list of pitchers that might reach 150 innings with good K/9 skills and a low FIP from the previous year.

To make this list, their K/9 must be above 9.10, just below Buehler’s 9.19, since he is the lowest K/9 Tier 1 starter. They had to pitch 130 innings last year, so I can project that they’ll make 150. Their FIP was 3.50 or lower.

I’ve ordered them according to their K/9

Another name people might like that just missed the list is Jordan Montgomery, who pitched 157.1 innings with a 3.69 FIP and a 9.27 K/9.

The near sub-3.00 ERA (so-called Tier 1) pitchers interest me. Rodon, Gausman, Peralta, Rogers, Morton, Eovaldi, and Webb. There's my group. Some will go earlier than the middle rounds, so I think Eovaldi and Rodriguez are standout names, particularly Rodriguez if you read my recent article on pitching sleepers, "3 Starting Pitching Sleepers." Wood and Bassitt could also be interesting at their price point, especially in auctions. I included their FantasyPros ADP, which may or may not be a lesson on the arbitrary nature of projecting the best place to draft someone. Rely on your own cheat sheet.

The middle of your draft happens around pick 120 overall. It's unlikely that Cease, Montas, Morton, Rogers, or Rodon will fall to the 10th round, but if they do, take them. Next in line would be Eovaldi and Bassitt. They can be had through Round 13. I'm worried about Rodon's arm, and the White Sox were too. But we should take some comfort in the Giants signing him, especially since they have done wonders with pitching lately. I'd start with Eovaldi. A late dart-throw exists in Alex Wood, but with an ADP near Round 20, we're beyond the purview of this article.

If we expand the categories slightly to help us identify any other midround talent, and go as low as 100 IP last year, with similar K/9 and a FIP under 4.00, these names pop out (again, from highest K/9 to lowest).

Check out that pristine FIP from Ranger Suarez. I should also point out that he had a 59.2% groundball rate. Sonny Gray also had a 47.2% GB. Manaea was at 42%. These were by far the lowest ones from these six. It's possible they're worth our attention.

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Joshua Thusat is a featured writer at FantasyPros.

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