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10 Must-Have Pitchers to Draft (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

10 Must-Have Pitchers to Draft (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Procuring undervalued players in fantasy baseball drafts is an outstanding building block for a championship run. The following 10 pitchers are undervalued and are must-have picks at or slightly before their average draft position (ADP).

Must-Have Pitchers

Pablo Lopez (MIN – SP) – 54.0 ADP

Lopez is justifiably being selected earlier than his ranking last season. According to the value-based ranking (VBR) metric, Lopez was the 19th most valuable pitcher in 2023. He’s presently the 14th pitcher selected in 2024 fantasy baseball drafts.

Obviously, based on his ranking, Lopez had stellar surface stats. He had a 3.66 ERA, 11 wins, 1.15 WHIP and 234 strikeouts in 194.0 innings last season. Still, Lopez’s underlying data was even better.

According to FanGraphs, Lopez had a 3.00 xERA, 3.28 xFIP, 3.37 SIERA and 30.1 CSW%. All of his ERA estimators were lower than his ERA. Top-shelf plate discipline statistics also supported the righty’s elite strikeout rate.

Furthermore, he’s a workhorse in an age of pitchers getting removed after two trips through the order. Lopez is an ideal SP1 for gamers loading up on hitters early or an overqualified SP2 who can lay the foundation for league-best pitching if paired with another ace.

Freddy Peralta (MIL – SP) – 71.5 ADP

Peralta had a sluggish start to last season before a white-hot finish. He made a tangible change to his pitch mix to turn around his season. According to FanGraphs, through his first 17 starts, he had a 53.4% fastball rate, 21.7% for the slider, 13.2% for the curveball and 11.7% for the changeup and tweaked those to 48.1%, 22.3%, 11.0% and 18.6% in his final 13 starts. The most notable changes were reducing his fastball and curve usage and cranking up his changeup.

In Peralta’s final 13 starts spanning 73.2 innings last season, he had a 2.81 ERA, 2.54 xFIP, 2.67 SIERA, 0.88 WHIP, 5.6 BB%, 36.3 K% and 30.6 CSW%. Even with Peralta’s early-season struggles, he had a 3.35 xERA for the full season.

Peralta’s elite finish to last season points to his upside. He also has a superb 2021 season on his resume. Finally, after throwing a career-high 170.1 innings last season (including the postseason), Peralta can have an even more significant impact this season if the Brewers allow him to set a new high for innings. Only 25 pitchers threw at least 180.0 innings last year in the regular season, a mark well within Peralta’s reach.

Jhoan Duran (MIN -RP) – 85.0 ADP

Duran is a firebreathing monster at the back of Minnesota’s bullpen. Among relievers with at least 40 innings in 2023, Duran had the sixth-lowest xFIP (2.75) and the seventh-lowest SIERA (2.78), largely supporting his 2.45 ERA.

The hard-throwing righty had 27 saves and a 32.9 K%, the latter validated by his 16.2 SwStr% and 29.6 CSW%. In addition, Duran kept the ball on the ground, tallying a 65.9 GB% last season. He’s the total package and worth a top-100 choice to anchor a fantasy team’s bullpen.

Cole Ragans (KC – SP/RP) – 103.5 ADP

Many things went correctly for the Rangers on their path to winning the World Series. However, they were unable to unlock Ragans. The lefty was an ace for the Royals.

In 12 starts totaling 71.2 innings for Kansas City, Ragans had a 2.64 ERA, 3.28 xFIP, 3.57 SIERA, 1.07 WHIP, 9.4 BB%, 31.1 K% and 29.1 CSW%. The southpaw also had a 101 Stuff+, 102 Location+ and 104 Pitching+. Ragans wasn’t a fluke. The 26-year-old blossoming stud is worth a top-100 pick.

Andres Munoz (SEA – RP) – 138.0 ADP

Munoz is projected to close for the Mariners after saving 13 games for them and closing the season in that gig in 2023. The rocket-armed righty had a 2.94 ERA, 3.00 xERA, 3.12 xFIP, 3.08 SIERA, 1.27 WHIP, 10.4 BB%, 31.8 K%, 35.9 CSW% and 59.0 GB%.

Munoz’s walk rate is the only underwhelming stat in his profile. Yet, his elite strikeout rate and high groundball rate will allow him to work around an elevated walk rate successfully. Munoz is an ideal RP2 for fantasy squads.

Nathan Eovaldi (TEX – SP) – 206.3 ADP

Eovaldi was initially penciled into 10 Pitchers to Avoid because of a disastrous finish to the regular season. The oft-injured hurler was on the Injured List (IL) from the end of July until early September. His velocity was diminished when he returned, and opponents crushed him.

Eovaldi would be toxic for fantasy teams if his season ended with the regular season. Instead, Eovaldi was lights out in the playoffs. In six starts spanning 36.2 innings in the playoffs, Eovaldi had a 2.95 ERA, 3.05 xFIP, 3.14 SIERA, 1.12 WHIP, 6.5 BB% and 26.8 K%. Equally important, Eovaldi recaptured his missing velocity in the playoffs. Eovaldi has a ton of upside at a minimal cost.

Nick Pivetta (BOS – SP/RP) – 218.8 ADP

Pivetta had a rocky start to the season last year. He was able to right the ship as a bulk reliever before the Red Sox gave him a few more opportunities to start in addition to serving as a bulk reliever. Pivetta was pulled from Boston’s rotation after a start on May 16 and didn’t start for them again until July 31.

From July 31 until the end of the season, Pivetta had 13 appearances (eight starts) spanning 61.2 innings, spinning a 3.94 ERA, 2.99 xFIP, 2.94 SIERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6.5 BB%, 33.6 K% and 31.8 CSW%. The veteran righty also had blistering pitch-modeling data, recording a 127 Stuff+, 105 Location+ and 112 Pitching+. Pivetta could turn into a pumpkin. However, he’s a steal after the 200th pick if his production at the end of last season sticks.

Brandon Pfaadt (ARI – SP) – 225.5 ADP

Pfaadt didn’t hit the ground running in his rookie season. Still, he saved his best work for last and flashed fantasy baseball utility. In his final 13 appearances (12 starts) in the regular season, Pfaadt had a 4.22 ERA, 4.06 xFIP, 3.90 SIERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.4 BB%, 24.4 K%, 28.4 CSW%, 102 Stuff+, 106 Location+ and 107 Pitching+.

Moreover, in five starts totaling 22.0 innings in the playoffs, Pfaadt had a 3.27 ERA, 3.23 xFIP, 2.96 SIERA, 1.09 WHIP, 5.7 BB% and 29.9 K%. The 25-year-old hurler had pedigree as a prospect and results in the playoffs. As a result, Pfaadt is an ascending young pitcher gamers shouldn’t sleep on.

Mason Miller (OAK – SP) – 263.0 ADP

Miller has been unable to stay healthy. Thus, the A’s are likely moving Miller to the bullpen, where he’ll have a chance to win the closing job. Miller got his feet wet in 10 appearances (six starts) for the A’s last season.

The righty’s fastball had an average velocity of 98.4 mph and could tick upward in shorter relief stints. He also showcased incredible bat-missing stuff in the minors, tallying a 21.1 SwStr% in 12.0 innings in Triple-A last season. Even bad teams can produce saves, and Miller could help fantasy teams more than the typical late-round dart throw at saves.

Graham Ashcraft (CIN – SP) – 343.5 ADP

In 26 starts spanning 145.2 innings in 2023, Ashcraft had a 4.76 ERA, 5.00 xERA, 4.57 xFIP, 4.80 SIERA, 1.37 WHIP, 8.3 BB%, 17.8 K% and 26.2 CSW%. Those numbers don’t provide a compelling case for selecting Ashcraft in fantasy leagues this season.

However, the soon-to-be 26-year-old righty’s 47.8 GB% last season and 50.7 GB% in the majors can help him navigate the homer-amplifying nature of Great American Ball Park. The actual draw for taking a chance on Ashcraft is his pitch modeling, though.

Among starting pitchers who had at least 120 innings in 2023, Ashcraft’s 128 Stuff+ was the highest mark. He also had a 99 Location+ and 103 Pitching+. Ashcraft’s cutter and slider had Stuff+ grades of 116 and 166.

Encouragingly, Ashcraft’s electrifying arsenal began to produce results in the second half of last year. In his final 10 starts totaling 64.0 innings, Ashcraft had a 2.81 ERA, 4.28 xFIP, 4.42 SIERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.8 BB%, 19.9 K%, 26.9 CSW%, 47.2 GB%, 130 Stuff+, 103 Location+ and 106 Pitching+.

Ashcraft’s ERA estimators indicated he had good fortune. Nevertheless, they were an improvement, and the seeds are planted to blossom into a fantasy asset this season.

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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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