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Players to Avoid: Pitchers (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Mar 19, 2022
Zac Gallen

Zac Gallen had significant regression last year.

It’s a good practice to have players you’re avoiding near their average draft position (ADP). The following players won’t necessarily be complete busts. However, I expect them to underperform their ADP and expert consensus ranking (ECR), making them players I’m fading anywhere near either mark.

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Zac Gallen (SP – ARI): 129.6 ADP/134.0 ECR

Zac Gallen entered last year as a burgeoning borderline ace. According to FanGraphs, through his first 27 starts spanning 152.0 innings, he had a 2.78 ERA, 9.8 BB%, 28.5 %, 1.17 WHIP, 12.5 SwStr%, and 31.3 CSW%. However, Gallen’s 4.08 SIERA probably should have hinted at significant regression.

Last year, Gallen had a 4.30 ERA in 23 starts totaling 121.1 innings, aligning well with his 2019-2020 SIERA. In addition, his WHIP ballooned to 1.29, his strikeout rate dipped to 26.6%, and plate discipline numbers cratered. The following table demonstrates his plate discipline numbers from FanGraphs.

Gallen's plate discipline numbers were worse across the board last year for the integral stats on the table above. However, I'm most alarmed by his swinging-strike and called-strike rates falling notably, especially the 3.4% dip for the former.

Finally, the Diamondbacks have a lackluster offense that will probably decrease his winning odds. He is the SP37 in ADP and SP38 in ECR. However, I have him as SP51.

Clayton Kershaw (SP - LAD): 130.2 ADP/126.0 ECR

Clayton Kershaw has been an elite pitcher for more than a decade. Further, his 3.55 ERA, 3.17 xERA, 3.10 SIERA, 4.3 BB%, 29.5 K%, and 1.02 WHIP last year were excellent with sparkling plate discipline rates to boot. But unfortunately, his season was cut short prematurely, resulting in 22 starts and 121.1 innings pitched.

Specifically, a flexor tendon strain ended his 2021 campaign. Kershaw had a platelet-rich plasma injection for his flexor tendon back in October.

I'm terrified of his flexor tendon strain because forearm injuries are frequently a precursor for ulnar collateral ligament injuries that require Tommy John surgery. I was also concerned by the club's decision not to tender Kershaw a qualifying offer. However, they've since agreed to a one-year deal with the stud lefty, creating minor optimism for me regarding the team's opinion of his medical info. Still, Kershaw has had recurring back issues in recent seasons that are another concern beyond the flexor tendon injury.

As a result, I'm unwilling to pay the sticker price of the SP38 in ADP. Moreover, I expect Kershaw will get picked earlier in the wake of re-signing with the Dodgers. However, I'm nearly in alignment with the SP43 in ECR. I can live with an SP4 with Kershaw's risk profile, but I doubt he'll last until that point.

Craig Kimbrel (RP - CHW): 165.4 ADP/193.1 ECR

Craig Kimbrel isn't the closer on his present team. Yet, he has an RP14 ADP and ECR. That's nuts. Sure, Kimbrel is a trade candidate. Still, what if the market isn't what the White Sox are happy with? Will they take a lesser offer to get his $16 million off the books? Maybe. However, they may choose to keep him, hope he builds value during the year after a disastrous conclusion to last year, and trade him during the year.

The risk he's not earning saves isn't baked into his ADP and ECR. Further, his time with the White Sox was alarmingly much like his 2019 and 2020 work with the Cubs. The following table shows Kimbrel's 2019-2020 stats and his numbers in 24 relief appearances for 23.0 innings in the regular season with the White Sox.

So, I probably engaged in hyperbole comparing his 2021 work with the White Sox to his numbers in 2019-2020. However, Kimbrel was bad for the Pale Hose. If Kimbrel had maintained his elite production from earlier in 2021 (36.2 innings) with the Cubs, I would understand getting ahead of a trade and picking him at his present ADP. But instead, he got knocked around after the cross-city trade. So, I'm fading him.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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