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4 Undervalued Starting Pitchers (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

4 Undervalued Starting Pitchers (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

Undervalued starting pitchers have different archetypes. They can be young or old. They might have had ERA estimators in 2023, which outpaced their surface stats. Others might have had eye-catching pitch-modeling data. Yet, one of the featured starting pitchers had sterling numbers but has likely been undervalued in drafts because of his lengthy injury history. In other cases, age biases are depressing their average draft position (ADP). The following four starting pitchers are being underrated and underdrafted.

Undervalued Starting Pitchers

Michael King (SD – SP/RP) – 156.7 ADP

King was the headliner in a package of pitchers the Padres received from the Yankees in a blockbuster trade for Juan Soto. King was lights out in New York’s bullpen in 2022 and through most of 2023. However, he was a revelation after transitioning to the rotation.

King made his first start in 2023 on August 12, was used in relief in two subsequent appearances, and closed the year with eight more starts. According to FanGraphs, in King’s nine starts, he had a blistering 2.23 ERA, 3.04 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA, 1.14 WHIP, 5.5 BB% and 31.3 K%. However, the fly in the ointment was his low workload, pitching only 40.1 innings in those starts.

The Yankees were understandably cautious with King. Eno Sarris from The Athletic noted that King’s 104.2 innings in 2023 were the most he’d pitched since tossing 149 in 2017. King has an extensive injury history. The 28-year-old pitcher’s injury history is likely the only reason he’s available in the 150s.

Beyond King’s sterling surface stats and ERA estimators, he also had superb plate discipline and pitch-modeling data in his starts. He had a 33.3 CSW%, 112 Stuff+, 106 Location+ and 107 Pitching+. Injuries are the nature of the beast for pitchers. Yet, the caliber of pitching King demonstrated as a starter last season was remarkably high and a gift at his ADP. Gamers should be willing to reach a round ahead of ADP to secure King’s services.

Chris Sale (ATL – SP) – 174.3 ADP

Sale’s 4.30 ERA in 20 starts spanning 102.2 innings last season wasn’t exceptional. However, the veteran lefty had more encouraging ERA estimators, namely his 3.71 xERA, 3.72 xFIP and 3.50 SIERA. Last season was Sale’s first exceeding 100 innings since pitching 147.1 in 2019.

The velocity on Sale’s fastball and pitch mix in 2023 weren’t out of place from his best seasons on the bump. In addition, his 13.2 SwSt% was his highest mark since 2019, and his 30.4 CSW% was also rock-solid.

Sale’s slider (17.2 SwStr%) and changeup (16.9 SwStr%) were genuine putaway pitches, helping him post a 29.4 K%. The veteran southpaw also had a stellar 6.8 BB% last season. The primary reason for the gap between his ERA and ERA estimators was his 69.9 LOB%. Sale has had a 76.9 LOB% in his career, and regression to his norm would do wonders for his ERA in 2024.

The 34-year-old lefty can also benefit from being traded from the Red Sox to the Braves. Truist Park has a 1.038 park factor for runs. So, it’s a hitter-friendly park. However, Atlanta’s home is an environment upgrade for Sale since Fenway Park’s 1.170 park factor for runs is the second-highest in MLB.

Charlie Morton (ATL – SP) – 220.7 ADP

Morton isn’t a spring chicken. This will be his age-40 season. Nevertheless, the veteran righty is comically underrated. He’s pitched over 160 innings in five consecutive non-pandemic seasons. Morton’s 3.64 ERA in 2023 was admittedly better than his 4.70 xERA, 4.27 xFIP and 4.44 SIERA.

However, Morton continues to sport bat-missing stuff. He had a 25.6 K%, 12.5 SwStr%, 30.6 CSW% and 106 Stuff+. Morton had an uncharacteristically high 11.6 BB% last season, his highest mark since reaching the majors in 2008. Since 2020, his walk rate has climbed from 5.9% to 7.7%, 8.7% and 11.6% last season. The trend wasn’t ideal, but regression to a sub-10 BB% is probable. Morton is an excellent late-round dart.

Ryan Pepiot (TB – SP/RP) – 232.7 ADP

Pepiot’s ADP is baffling. He’s a young pitcher with prospect pedigree, success in Triple-A and a promising start to his big-league career. In 114.0 innings in Triple-A since 2022 (23 starts and two relief appearances), he has had a 2.84 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 BB% and 30.3 K%.

Pepiot reached The Show for the Dodgers in 2022 and pitched around lousy control. His control was much sharper in 2023. In all, Pepiot has pitched 78.1 innings across 17 appearances (10 starts) in the majors, twirling a 2.76 ERA, 4.60 xFIP, 4.15 SIERA and 28.7 CSW%.

The disparity between his ERA and ERA estimators might raise some eyebrows. However, Pepiot’s 3.25 xERA in 42.0 innings in 2023 should assuage some concern. Moreover, the youngster’s pitch modeling last season was tasty. He had a 101 Stuff+, 110 Location+ and 108 Pitching+, with his fastball (102 Stuff+) and slider (112 Stuff+) earning above-average grades. Pepiot’s 96 Stuff+ for his changeup wasn’t impressive.

However, the changeup was his highest-graded offering by FanGraphs’ scouting report and had a 45.7 O-Swing%, 18.9 SwStr%, 1.7 BB% and 27.1 K% in 2023. Pepiot has the tools in his tool belt to thrive as a starter for his new club, the Rays.

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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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