As the starting pitcher options move off the draft boards, owners can look for their fourth SP between picks #180-220 in most drafts. We will explore four possible options for a fourth SP.

Option A - The Breakout

Owners may be able to draft the first option at #180 in NFBC leagues, but he is often going higher than his ADP, as seen in his #109 minimum pick. Many publications are touting this SP for a breakout year, which one can start to see in his 3.13 xFIP in the second half of 2016. During that span, he posted an 8.92 K/9 and a 1.11 WHIP. When we look at the whole season, his increase in average fastball velocity (from 94.1 MPH to 96.7 MPH) and growth in first-pitch strikes (from 53.5% in 2015 to 62.4% in 2016) contributed to his success. He also created more swings and misses (from 7.2 SwStr% in 2015 to 11.7% in 2016) last season. If his control (1.79 BB/9) gains stick in 2017, he could post an ERA even lower than Steamer's projected 3.48 ERA.

Option B - Thin Air

Pitching in Coors Field has kept this SP's ADP around #182. His 3.61 xFIP was a run lower than his 4.61 ERA in 2016, and he did not give up as many hard hit balls (30.5% HARD%) last season. While many would expect his home ERA to be higher, his 4.38 BB/9 in away games contributed to a 4.91 away ERA, a 4.07 away xFIP, and a 1.40 away WHIP. While pitching at home, he induced more ground balls (46%). He struggled when facing the order for the third time, as seen in his 7.50 ERA and 9 HR allowed in 42 IP. While his fastball averaged 95 MPH, his slider missed (24.1% SwStr%) missed the most bats. Steamer sees some growth with a 4.13 ERA, 12 wins, 9.29 K/9, and a 3.20 BB/9.

Finding Your #2 SP

Option C - Returning from Injury

The third SP option is currently leaving NFBC boards at 205.86 overall. Injuries limited him to 117 IP with an ugly 5.69 ERA in 2016. After two strong seasons of 200 + IP, most publications are expecting this fourth SP to bounce back, as his 4.13 xFIP illustrates. In 2017, his success will depend on his ability to keep the ball on the ground (54.1% career GB%) and lower the spike in hard contact (33.6% HARD%) from 2016. He will also attempt to raise his swinging strike rate (8% in 2016) closer to his career 9% SwStr%. His home park should help depress runs, and regression should help lower his ERA. Steamer calls for 10 wins, a 7.37 K/9, and a 4.06 ERA.

Risk and Upside - #3 SP

Option D - Breakout #2

Owners can draft another breakout candidate at #208 overall (#146 minimum) in the 13th/14th rounds. A regression in his 60.6% LOB% should help lower his 4.78 ERA in 2016 closer to his 3.08 xFIP. In 2016, he struck out more batters (9.81 K/9) while creating more soft contact (23.2%). His ability to create more ground balls (55.2% GB%) should help in a park that ranked seventh in HR/9 in 2016. A 23.7% HR/FB at home should move closer to his career 14% HR/FB. If Steamer's prediction of a 72.8% LOB% holds, this breakout option could post 10 wins with a 3.66 ERA and an 8.48 K/9.

Recap

At the right price, I will buy several shares of Option A, Option C, and Option D. In several early NFBC drafts, Option C ended up as the cheapest option of the four SP, and Option A continues to climb up draft boards.

Fantasy Baseball SP Draft

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