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When to Target Pitchers (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

by Jason Friedman
Mar 3, 2023
When to Draft Pitchers (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

During the peak of the juiced ball era (and as recently as 2021), starting pitching was hard to come by, and elite starters were few and far between. Now, with the introduction of the league-wide humidor and the re-introduction of a decidedly de-juiced baseball (or so it is being reported), starting pitcher is as deep as it’s been in years. So, what does this mean for your upcoming draft? You can wait on starting pitcher!

Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

When to Target Pitchers (2023 Fantasy Baseball)

Starting Pitching

Let’s use this blind player comparison to demonstrate, using FantasyPros preseason projections.

Player A 23.2 210.4 13 196 3.24 1.10
Player B 39.6 172.3 12 205 3.08 1.01

If you want more volume, you can make the argument for Player A, but even if these two players were going at the same price, most managers I know would prefer to draft Player B. And Player B is going a full 2 rounds later! Player A is Sandy Alcantara, while Player B is Max Scherzer.

The same sort of comparisons exists later in drafts as well. Take a look at these two SPs and these two 2B:

Starter A 116.0 147.5 9 142 3.57 1.17
Starter B 161.2 141.1 9 146 3.49 1.17
Gleyber Torres 115.0 76 22 72 12 .260
Vaughn Grissom 169.2 59 11 51 13 .268

Again, most fantasy managers would choose Starter B, Jeffrey Springs, over Starter A, George Kirby. And even if you believe Kirby has more upside than Springs (which I don’t), surely, you’d rather have Springs + Torres’ combined stat line than Kirby + Grissom’s. While this is not an argument to draft Springs over Kirby, it further demonstrates that there is still quality SP later in your drafts while hitting-especially at certain positions-dries up quickly.

In general, the first major drop-off in SP talent comes after FantasyPros #21 SP, Cristian Javier, who goes around pick 66. Ideally, I’d like to get two SPs from the top 21 without spending a top 3-round pick at SP. I leave a lot of drafts with 2 SP from ADP range 37-60 (rounds 4-5) after going all hitters in rounds 1-3. This leaves me with three high-end hitters and a rotation anchored by two of the 13 SPs going in this range, including Justin Verlander (ADP 38.2), Max Scherzer (ADP 39.6), Carlos Rodon (ADP 41.0), Shane Bieber (ADP 49.2), Julio Urias (ADP 51.0), and Cristian Javier (ADP 66.4). This SP foundation is strong enough to allow you to wait on more SP until after pick 150 or round 12, where some of my targets include Dustin May (ADP 151.4), Chris Sale (ADP 154.2), Charlie Morton (ADP 159), and Jeffrey Spring (ADP 161.2).

Relief Pitchers

Target RP after round 11 (pick 132) in a 12-team league. Sure, Pete Fairbanks isn’t going to be quite as good as Emmanuel Clase, but take a look at the hitters you need to pass up to draft the Guardians closer as compared to the hitters available in the range Fairbanks is drafted:

Pete Fairbanks 193.6 18 3 75 2.80 1.07
Emmanuel Clase 38.8 36 4 71 2.38 0.96
Matt Olson 39.4 91 35 103 2 .253
Brandon Drury 193.2 60 19 63 2 .245

Clase and Fairbanks are basically a wash in 4 of 5 categories (and any advantage Clase has is minimal due to the limited innings relievers throw). The only real difference is 18 saves. Is 18 saves the equivalent of 31 R/ 16 HR/ 40 RBI and 10 points of BA from your 1B or CI? If you agree with me and answer “no” to that question, wait on closers and target these late-round relievers going after pick 140: David Bednar (ADP 140.8), Paul Sewald (ADP 181.2), Pete Fairbanks (ADP 193.6), and Evan Phillips (ADP 231.2).

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