When aces leave the board by the end of the fourth round, NFBC owners turn their attention to finding a second starter in the next 70 picks (#60-130). Some NFBC owners prefer to draft two aces to bolster their staffs, but this article will explore the starting pitchers that are ranked 16th-30th in SP NFBC ADP.
Another NL Central pitcher, Carlos Martinez, is going in the fifth round of NFBC drafts. Martinez walked more batters (44) in road starts last year and posted a 4.5% away hr/f, which led to a 4.00 xFIP away from Busch Stadium. He walked more (4.28 BB/9) LHB and allowed more hard contact (33.7%) to LHB. His ability to induce ground balls (56.4%) may help if St. Louis can lower the 74 errors committed by infielders last year (29 by SS). He threw first-pitch strikes (62.3%) at the same rate as his career numbers, but his SwStr% fell from 10.5% in 2015 to 9.4%. Until Martinez solves some control issues versus LHB, Steamer calls for a 3.52 ERA with 12 wins.
If his elbow recovers well from surgery, Jacob deGrom could offer the same value as the other two starters. Over the last three seasons, deGrom has posted better numbers (10 K/9 and 2.39 FIP) at Citi Field than on the road, where he has posted an 8.44 K/9 and 3.40 FIP. When facing a lineup for the third time through the order in 2016, deGrom struggled with a 4.79 ERA. Fewer first-pitch strikes (63.9%) and a dropping swinging strike rate (10.7%) hurt his 8.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Steamer projects similar peripheral numbers this year with a 3.49 ERA, 12 wins, and 8.8 K/9.
Even though Cole Hamels continues to miss bats (12.2% SwStr%), a drop in first pitch strikes (57.6%) hurt his control (3.45 BB/9) in 2016. His ability to keep balls on the ground (49.6%) should help if he can prevent his hard contact rate (32%) from climbing again. Allowing extra base runners via the walk hurt Hamels' 4.40 home ERA and 4.09 xFIP at Global Life Park. A steady career K/9 (8.62) and a 77.1% career LOB% should help him match Steamer's prediction of 13 wins with a 3.91 ERA, but owners should monitor his BB/9 this season, which could hurt his WHIP.
Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings
Fantasy Baseball SP Rankings
Masahiro Tanaka and Zack Greinke are both leaving NFBC draft boards in the seventh round. Tanaka improved his first pitch strikes (64.5%) to keep his walks (1.62 per 9) at a minimum. Tanaka's approach led to more contact (78%) and a similar hard contact (32.4%) rate, which contributed to a 3.61 xFIP. He allowed a few more extra base hits (6) and home runs (4) in nine fewer IP at Yankee Stadium, which led to a 3.86 home ERA. Steamer sees a similar win total (13) for Tanaka with a higher ERA (3.83) in 2017.
Left on base regression visited Zack Greinke in 2016, as his 86.5% LOB% from 2015 dropped to 71.9% last season. While he improved his control (67.8% F-Strike%) of the zone, he created fewer swings and misses (10.4%). More walks and fewer strikeouts at Chase Field kept his 4.81 home ERA almost a run higher than his road ERA. Steamer predicts a kinder 2017 for Greinke with a 3.67 ERA and 12 wins.
The Sweet Spot for Solid Production
Several pitchers could provide good value in the eighth round. Let other owners take Rick Porcello's 3.15 ERA and 3.89 xFIP from last season. Yes, Porcello will be decent if he continues to throw first pitch strikes (64.2%), but his swing and miss (8.2% SwStr%) ceiling limits his profitability. Steamer calls for 13 wins, a 3.93 ERA, and 7.6 K/9.
Kenta Maeda offers more strikeout (9.17 K/9) potential in the NL. His 3.58 FIP and 3.70 xFIP tell owners to expect similar outcomes in 2017. As he continues to miss bats (11.6 SwStr%) and create more ground ball swings (43.9%), he should have a good chance of matching last year's win total (16). His projected 2.33 BB/9 and 3.61 ERA could offer a decent value for teams.
Danny Duffy provides a chance for profit. Duffy improved his strikeout potential (9.42 K/9 and 12.9% SwStr%) and control (62.2% F-Strike%), which helped him lower his walks (2.1 per 9). Even with a fly-ball tilt (42.8%) and some hard contact (36.6%), Duffy managed a 3.51 ERA with a 3.79 xFIP. If he can keep the swinging strike growth with his curveball and changeup, he can post an ERA lower than Steamer's projection of 3.72 with a similar win total (12-14).
Aaron Sanchez improved his control (60.8% F-Strike% and 2.95 BB/9), but his 8.2% SwStr% limits the upside for his strikeout (7.55 K/9) numbers. A 54.4% GB% will help in Rogers Centre, but a 3.74 home ERA and 3.98 FIP raise some warning flags. Steamer's projection of a 4.00 ERA with 12 wins and an eighth-round price tag may scare potential owners away.
The White Sox are still holding onto Jose Quintana. Last season, Quintana's first pitch strike (65%) percentage fell closer to his career average, and his swinging strike (7.6%) rate fell. A rise in fly balls (38.7%) hurt his 4.03 xFIP. According to PITCH f/x, his curve balls induced fewer ground balls (38.9%) than his 46.6% career average, but an increase in ground balls (44.2% projected) in 2017 could help him post a lower ERA than Steamer's projected 3.74. Quintana can provide a steady 7.94 K/9 with 12-14 wins.
Injuries and Upside
Owners can take Julio Teheran's 10.3% SwStr% and 61.6% F-Strike% near the end of the eighth round. Steamer sees similar strikeout numbers (8.2 K/9) in 2017 with a 4.00 ERA due to an increase in BB/9 (2.52) and a drop in LOB% from 77.8% in 2016 to 71.7% in 2017.
Injuries to Rich Hill and Gerrit Cole last year have teams drafting them in the 8th/9th round.
The Pirates GM, Neal Huntington, reports that Gerrit Cole is taking part of a regular training program. An elbow injury may have played a role in his lower strikeout (8.5% SwStr%) numbers and his struggles against LHB (.321 BAA) last year. Cole continued to create ground balls (45.6%) at a decent rate, and he shutout the Cubs over eight innings on May 15. Injuries most likely elevated his 5.48 ERA in the second half. Steamer predicts that Cole will continue to induce ground balls (48.4%) while posting a 3.61 ERA, 8.25 K/9, and 12 wins.
Owners should continue to factor in Rich Hill's history of injuries. In 2016, he logged 110 innings with a 10.52 K/9 and 2.69 BB/9. He still creates consistent swings and misses (10.6% SwStr%) with some ground balls (45.3%). Owners that are willing to take a risk on Hill's IP can place confidence in his skills (10.14 K/9 and 46.8% GB) to post a predicted 3.12 ERA with 10 wins.
How many innings will Alex Reyes throw in 2017? With a fastball that touches 100 MPH and a curve ball that hangs around 78 MPH, Reyes has the potential to be the Cardinals ace in the near future. He posted a 10.17 K/9 in 46 MLB IP last year, but he struggled with first pitch strikes (56.1%) and walks (4.5 BB/9). Steamer projects 7 wins with a 10.68 K/9 and a 3.46 ERA in 118 IP, which are good numbers if owners can live with his projected 4.56 BB/9.
Finding a solid number two starting pitcher is valuable for teams, and some owners will even draft two of these guys to create a pitching advantage. My teams will own a few shares of Hendricks and deGrom, and they will own several shares of Maeda, Duffy, and Reyes/Hill.