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Fantasy Baseball Draft Arbitrage: Pitchers to Target (2024)

Fantasy Baseball Draft Arbitrage: Pitchers to Target (2024)

My starting pitcher rankings are mostly based upon my fScores, with a heavier lean on fStuff and fERA than on fControl, even though fControl is necessary for pitchers to be starters.

A minimum of a 95 should be desired for a starting pitcher in fControl, though there are some exceptions in certain circumstances (i.e., Dylan Cease and prime Robbie Ray). The fScores have been historically accurate when it comes to pitching, and I continue to refine them further by installing arsenal bonuses based on a number of high stuff pitches, stuff plus and location plus embedded into the equations.

We will go through each of my starting pitcher tiers and select the biggest values in each tier where you can get the most production per tier for the value of each player. The goal is to select players who will give the same production as the rest of the pitchers in the tier at a much lower value.

If you are curious about the fScore ratings, you can check out my fScore rankings and information here.

Draft Arbitrage: Starting Pitchers (2024 Fantasy Baseball)

NOTE: All ADPs are based on NFBC after Feb. 1.

TIER 1

Corbin Burnes (BAL)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
123 120 108 166 129 129

Tim’s Rank: 1

ADP: 3

Reasoning: Corbin Burnes gets the edge over Spencer Strider for two reasons. The first of which is he has a better track record of durability and pitching more innings. Strider pitched 186 2/3 in 2023, which is a career high, against Burnes, who has pitched 202 and 193 2/3 in his last two seasons. Of course, Burnes has been around a lot longer to build up, but their track record sometimes speaks for itself. Additionally, while Strider has a 13% higher fStuff at 131, Burnes has a 39% higher fERA than Strider, meaning he is less likely to give up significant damage.

Lastly, he has a wider arsenal than Strider. Strider throws his fastball and slider a combined 93% of the time. While they are both insane pitches, Burnes has five pitches he mixes in at over an 8% clip per pitch. Burnes had the highest Stuff+ in baseball in the second half, including four pitches that rated over 116, while Strider had only one pitch (his fastball) over 116.

What about Gerrit Cole? Burnes beats out Cole just slightly with 4% better fStuff and 12% worse fControl. Still, Burnes again takes the day in fERA with a 19% edge. This one is closer to me than Burnes and Strider. Cole has been a legit stud for years and, like Burnes, has a legit five-pitch mix with three pitches over a 114 Stuff+. It’s fun to have the best fastball in baseball, but I’ll take the expanded arsenal and workload of players like Burnes and Cole, providing some nice value if you can get them in the second round of your draft.

TIER 2

Yoshinobu Yamamoto (LAD)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
101 113 127 165 126 144

Tim’s Rank: 5

ADP: 11

Reasoning: Yoshinobu Yamamoto gets hit in the rankings because he is an “unknown.” However, we saw him in the World Baseball Classic, where he was unhittable. Now, the Dodgers were just willing to give him the biggest contract in baseball history. I did a ton of work creating a correlation table between Japanese pitchers in their first year in the Majors and how stats correlated from their last three years in Japan. With that, I trust what I’m seeing on these fScores to be at least 80-90% accurate.

Joe Musgrove (SDP)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
90 107 120 150 120 129

Tim’s Rank: 10

ADP: 28

Reasoning: Joe Musgrove was excellent again in 2023 when he was healthy. He’s proven to be one of the better control and run prevention pitchers in the Majors for four years running now and manages a good number of strikeouts to boot. The Padres have a killer defense behind Musgrove (which will get better with Ha-Seong Kim moving to SS and Xander Bogaerts to 2B). Musgrove is only taking a hit because of his injuries last year, but he’s healthy and finished the season with solid numbers in just over 97 innings.

Musgrove has a six-pitch arsenal, with four of them being plus pitches with over a 102 Stuff+. Musgrove gets dinged in some rankings because his worst pitch is his fastball, but he only throws it 24% of the time and has good command of it. He plays this pitch up by also throwing a cutter and sinker, but his money pitches are that cutter against his curve, slider and changeup. Musgrove is a breaking ball master and has always been a high-command pitcheers since his Astros days. I’m not concerned about the durability; he had back-to-back 181 IP seasons before last year.

Blake Snell (NA)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
110 121 93 159 121 123

Tim’s Rank: 12

ADP: 19

Reasoning: Blake Snell has won two Cy Youngs in a row and has some of the best stuff in baseball. I think it’s funny some managers are drafting Tyler Glasnow ahead of Snell. While Glasnow might be better on a per-IP level, last year was his first season with even 120 IPs (which netted him a career-high 162 Ks), and he is slated to pitch in a six-man rotation in 2024. Drafters have a fear of Snell having durability issues even though Snell has more than 128 innings in five of seven Major League seasons (not including the COVID-19-shortened season). Snell has had four seasons with more Ks than Glasnow’s career-high K season.

If you are chasing Ks and excellent run prevention, Snell is your man. It’s worth taking the WHIP ding at his current value. You will get Ks, and Snell has a career 3.20 ERA. If you are drafting now, this is his best value before he signs (unless he signs with Colorado or something); buy low where you can! His arsenal includes four pitches (all plus – FA, CH, SL and CU) with a stellar fastball that has a 120 Stuff+, which he throws nearly half the time.

Logan Gilbert (SEA)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
117 106 116 130 117 123

Tim’s Rank: 14

ADP: 21

Reasoning: Logan Gilbert is underrated because he is consistently very good, but never great. Consistent goodness, in my mind, equals excellence. Pitching is incredibly volatile to begin with against position players. Much of the time, this is what you want in drafting a higher-end starter. Gilbert doesn’t have the best of stuff with four pitches (three of them plus, with the exception being the fastball by Stuff+). Still, Gilbert does have one of the best sliders in baseball, and his fastball should play better than it does. He seems to throw it at the right times, so he utilizes his pitch mix about as well as he can. This is a cerebral pitcher.

Gilbert also throws a splitter and knuckle curve, which are fun pitches. Plus, he could bring back the changeup, which disappeared in 2023 but was pretty good back in 2021. There’s a ton of upside here for a dude who pitches a ton of innings and is very smart. If you miss out on Logan Webb, Gibert can be your backup plan and you won’t miss a beat. Seattle is also a really nice place to pitch.

TIER 3

N/A

TIER 4

Sonny Gray (STL)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
110 103 106 153 118 119

Tim’s Rank: 22

ADP: 33

Reasoning: I swear this has nothing to do with me being a Cardinals fan because I still somehow have no shares of him. Sonny Gray had the best sweeper in baseball last season and has a seven-pitch arsenal with four of them rating as plus pitches (FA, Sweeper, FC and CU). The big boon for his value actually is him going to the Saint Louis, where he will have a great pitchers park behind him and one of the best defenses in baseball. Gray has a career 51% GB rate and when you have Nolen Arenado, Masyn Winn and Paul Goldschmidt behind you on the infield, you will be happy to let the hitters hit ground balls.

Gavin Williams (CLE)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
97 108 96 129 107 118

Tim’s Rank: 30

ADP: 45

Reasoning: Gavin Williams was a top-15 prospect for me at the beginning of last year and was up to the Majors quicker than I expected in 2023. He showed he has ace upside in his future if he can better harness the control. Williams has a classic four-pitch mix of FA, SL, CU and CH. The fastball and slider were the only pitches that graded out as plus in 2023, however the curve showed some good signs and could improve. His primary pitch in the Minors was the fastball, but it’s not a Strider fastball, and he may have overused it a bit in 2023. I compared him to a young Gerrit Cole when he was coming up and with some development he could still get there.

Yu Darvish (SDP)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
94 108 105 132 110 106

Tim’s Rank: 36

ADP: 48

Reasoning: Yu Darvish is your classic case of an older former All-Star coming off injury and being downgraded because of age and lack of 2023 playing time. While Darvish has seen a significant reduction in K% since 2022, he’s still way above league average and, per metrics, saw some bad luck in 2023 with a lower xFIP and SIERA than his ERA by about half a run. Darvish has not really seen any reduction in his velocity, and he ran a top-30 SP Stuff+ in 2023. With his seven-pitch arsenal, he carries five-plus pitches and a fastball that still rates out highly in Stuff+, even though it didn’t do much metric-wise in 2023. Trust in the Darvish track record here. He still has it – at least for another season at his current value.

Bryce Miller (SEA)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
99 105 110 107 105 113

Tim’s Rank: 37

ADP: 51

Reasoning: Bryce Miller started the 2023 season on fire once he was up, but the second half was not nearly as strong. That affected his hype going into 2024, so this is a value play on a rebound back to his strong first half. Miller rated 18th in all of baseball in Stuff+ over the entire season, with four of his five pitches rating as plus pitches (FA, gyro slider, sweeper and sinker). The fastball rates as an easy top-20 fastball with his Strider light-like action on it. He was a rookie last year and pitches in a phenomenal pitchers’ park. We would be crazy not to expect progression of his stuff. Miller is adding a splitter this offseason, too, so it should be interesting to see how it performs in the spring.

Bryan Woo (SEA)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
78 107 101 124 103 117

Tim’s Rank: 38

ADP: 52

Reasoning: Speaking of great fastballs, Bryan Woo has one of the best in the league, even though it doesn’t really register on Stuff+ (only 101; he racked up a 16.3% swinging strike rate on it). Woo runs a five-pitch arsenal with three to four plus pitches most outings, including a pretty similar repertoire to Miller with the killer fastball, cutter, sinker, slider and a changeup rather than a sweeper. Maybe Woo should add a sweeper to his arsenal to repurpose the slider.

Kyle Bradish (BAL)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
110 107 105 143 116 123

Tim’s Rank: 39 (18 pre-injury)

ADP: 59 (26 pre-injury)

Reasoning: Kyle Bradish was the second-best pitcher in the 2023 second half to Burnes, and we just got some bad news (as of Feb. 15) that Bradish has a UCL strain. We are not sure of the severity, but news out of Baltimore seems pretty positive. It reminds me of Brayan Bello last year or Zac Gallen the year before. Both those pitchers have ended up being pretty solid, so I’m going to buy the dip here on Bradish with some minor skepticism still in tow.

Bradish finished the 2024 season sixth overall in Stuff+ with an insane 171 on the slider (17.8% swinging strike rate). He runs a five-pitch arsenal with four plus pitches (FA, SI, SL and CU), all of which are killer weapons that he distributes pretty evenly with a well above-average pitch mix.

TIER 5

Aaron Civale (TB)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
91 100 113 129 108 113

Tim’s Rank: 44

ADP: 60

Reasoning: Aaron Civale rates out almost as a “Holly,” to use a Nick Pollock term. However we have to keep in mind the fScores are over a three-year period. In his time with Tampa after the break, Civale’s K rate jumped from 19% to 29.3%, while simultaneously dropping the BB rate from 7.2% to 5.6% and his SIERA from 4.71 to 3.36. I was all over Eflin last season and Civale will just be Eflin 2.0, except we had a little sneak peak in 2023 giving the non-fantasy football players a benefit and a jump on buying into what we saw in August and September.

Triston McKenzie (CLE)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
50 110 107 132 99 116

Tim’s Rank: 51

ADP: 64

Reasoning: Triston McKenzie was a top 30-ish starter pre-injury last year and there is nothing in his profile really saying he’s a worse pitcher. McKenzie only rocks a three-pitch arsenal with a killer curve and a plus slider to play with a slightly below-average fastball. Still, his stuff plays up, and if he can recreate what he did in 2021 and 2022, McKenzie is a steal at this value. He rates out as a top-40 starter pretty easily if he can reach 150 innings.

Emmet Sheehan (LAD)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
82 114 98 118 103 113

Tim’s Rank: 52

ADP: 78

Reasoning: Emmet Sheehan’s fastball never really caught on at the Major League level despite the great velocity. He has a four pitch mix of a FA, sweeper, SL and CH with all three breaking pitches rating as plus. Only the fastball wasn’t really working for him after his call up. Sheehan absolutely destroyed the Minor Leagues and then had a rough up-and-down starter and reliever Major League debut in 2023. Still, he should start all of 2024 in the six-man rotation after ending 2023 strongly with a 39.1% K rate and 2.78 SIERA in his final four starts.

Kutter Crawford (BOS)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
92 105 105 112 103 109

Tim’s Rank: 55

ADP: 76

Reasoning: Kutter Crawford rocked a top 30 Stuff+ ranking of all qualified starters on the season with four plus pitches (FA, FC [of course], CU and SL) in a six-pitch arsenal. Crawford boosted his stuff and his control simultaneously in 2023. While I don’t expect him to become a superstar, I do expect a consistent starter who could end up being a Jordan Montgomery for a few years to provide solid and consistent pitching at the back end of your staff.

Jon Gray (TEX)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
99 103 101 115 105 103

Tim’s Rank: 66

ADP: 95

Reasoning: Jon Gray is a little boring, which is why he drops so far in the rankings, but I think he’s one of the better and more consistent boring pitchers and doesn’t deserve to drop as far as he has. He has a standard four-pitch mix (FA, SL, CU and CH) and only two plus pitches (SL and CU). The slider is his best pitch, but the K rate in 2023 hit a career low of 21.6%.

His second half was a little weird because he got the K rate back up to 24.6%, but he got smashed with a .369 BABIP against. So even though he ran a 16.4% K-BB rate, he had a 5.25 ERA against a 4.14 SIERA, so we have a nice little buy window before the preseason on Gray for those who do their homework.

Paul Skenes (PIT)

fPDurability fStuff fControl fERA TOTAL FUTURE
45 111 104 112 93 108

Tim’s Rank: 66

ADP: 95

Reasoning: Now, I could be completely wrong on this, but I have a good feeling we see Paul Skenes way sooner than is expected. If he broke camp, I would be hardly surprised, considering the only real rookie of the year competition might be from Yamamoto. Plus, considering the new rules, the Pirates might not have many chances to go after that extra first-round pick and bonus pool with a rookie.

Skenes already has built himself up to a huge workload in college and can easily handle a jump to 150 innings in 2024 pending injury. He dominated in small sample sizes in the Minors and has already blown apart baseball gloves at Pittsburgh’s spring training. If the Pirates really mean what they say, and that they want to compete in 2024, they will have Skenes break camp with the team or at least be up at the Super Two deadline. This late in a draft (60-100 range), you won’t find players with his talent. If you have enough innings logged, Skenes is worth the risk.

DEEP LEAGUES

Tier 6: Logan Allen (CLE), Clarke Schmidt (NYY), Andrew Heaney (TEX), Tanner Houck (BOS), Max Meyer (MIA)

Tier 7: Matt Manning (DET), Joe Boyle (OAK), Alex Cobb (SF), Drew Thorpe (SDP), David Peterson (NYM), Nick Nastrini (CWS), Randy Vasquez (SDP)

More Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy


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