My Starting Pitching Draft Strategy

I’m writing this looking at both the Yahoo! and the ESPN rankings. League settings should change your respective strategies. If you’re in a Roto league I’d value SPs a little higher than in H2H. Points leagues really depend on the scoring, but in my limited experience I found SPs provided me with a ton of points. It really depends on the settings though. I can’t really help with auctions too much because every draft is different. I can only recommend spending the extra dollars on the guys you like, it’s better to get to as close to $0 as possible and at the end of the draft extra money is useless money. This piece will cover how I would draft in a snake format for a 12 team standard scoring league.

1st Round
Y!/ESPN: Kershaw is the only pitcher in the 1st round and I tend to ignore pitchers in that early. I’m not drafting him.

2nd Round/3rd round
Y!: Darvish is pretty amazing, but I wouldn’t draft him if I had a pick in the 9-12 slot in the draft. Come 3rd round guys like King Felix, Cliff Lee, Jose Fernandez, Madison Bumgarner, and Max Scherzer will be coming back around to me in round 3, I mean I’m pretty much guaranteed one of these guys round 3 but I’ll adjust if I have to. If I can get Darvish in the late 2nd or 3rd round somehow I would also consider him, but generally will be taking 2 hitter the 1st 2 rounds. I would consider taking Wainwright or Strasburg if I had the 1st or 2nd round pick and wanted to take a stud before settling for my 1st pitcher in round 4.
ESPN: I can get Darvish towards the tail end of the 2nd round in these rankings, but I wouldn’t pick him ahead of of Harper. Starsburg is ranked 36th and I think he’s a steal in the late 3rd round, 36th puts him at the last pick of the 3rd round. You don’t have to draft pitching as high as Y! here on ESPN because they rank pitchers so much lower generally, probably because their standard format has more hitter positions, but if the draft dictates SPs, don’t be afraid to jump on a guy because his ranking is “too” low. I’ll probably have 3 hitters unless I can get Strasburg in the 3rd round.
4th/5th Round
Y!: If I can draft Sale in the 4th round, he’ll go early in the 4th round, and I don’t have a pitcher I will draft him no hesitation. If I already have a pitcher I would have to see which hitters are available. If Price can fall to me in the 5th round I would grab him. Even if I already had 1 pitcher. I’m wouldn’t draft Verlander or Grienke this early. If Anibal Sanchez falls to me in the 5th I would consider grabbing him as well. At this point in the draft I usually have at least 1 pitcher. Most likely Bumgarner, Scherzer, Lee, or Fernandez. If I have 2 SPs I would concentrate drafting hitters for the next 3 rounds, unless a pitcher fell to me again. I would not have 3 or more SPs by this point.
ESPN: I can draft Bumgarner pretty much anywhere in the 4th round, which is why I probably won’t be drafting Wainwright/Lee/King Felix in the early 3rd round. If I can’t get him there’s always Jose Fernandez, whose rankings allow me to get him anywhere in the 4th round most likely and maybe even the early 5th round. I wouldn’t draft Verlander or Grienke this early. I would have one SPs at this point. Hopefully Bumgarner. And the rest of my guys would be hitters. If I don’t manage a SP at this point I wouldn’t be too worried however.

6th/7th Round
Y!: I really like Gerrit Cole, but he’s ranked too high for me in the 6th round. If I didn’t have a pitcher I would risk drafting him now, otherwise I’d probably ignore him. The ranking here means that they expect major improvement right away and I generally don’t like banking on potential this early. I like both WSH SPs you can get right now and I prefer Gio a little more than Zimmermann for the K potential. But I would be fine with either. I’d ignore both CIN SPs here. I would draft Cobb ahead of Cain here in the 7th if I needed a 2nd SPs. At this point I’d feel most comfortable with 2 SPs and would be okay with 3 SPs. I wouldn’t have 4 yet.
ESPN: If I can get Anibal Sanchez in the early 6th round I’ll pull the trigger every time. I probably wouldn’t draft any SPs in these rounds unless Cain fell to the late 7th round. Even if I only have 1 pitcher at this point, heck even if I had no pitchers, There are such steals further in the draft I’ll be okay. I’d feel most comfortable with 1 SP.
Y!: I’ve always liked Mike Minor, but the draft price seems a bit too high for me here, but if I’m weak at pitching I’d consider him. If I needed a 2nd pitcher I’d also consider drafting Shields at the end of the 8th. I’m not drafting Hamels because he’s already having arm troubles. Stay away. I’m probably not drafting either Brave SPs Medlen or Teheran. The same goes for Cardinal young SPs Miller and Wacha. Especially if I have 3 SPs. Now with Medlen apparently feeling forearm tightness, I want him even less, but whoever I can get cheapest would be the most appealing to me. Except Medlen. Don’t draft him. When did Salazar get bumped up to 103? Everyone’s favorite sleeper isn’t really a sleeper at that price anymore. So I probably won’t be drafting him. I’m avoiding Matt Moore, dat walk rate, and I think Hyun Jin Ryu will do better than Grienke this year, I’d still be a little hesitant here. At this point will have 2 or 3 SPs.
ESPN: Why is Jared Weaver ranked so high?! I’m ignoring him. Both WSH SPs can be drafted here in the 8th round. Sign me up for that. I would avoid Latos because of his knee strain, which scares me off right now. Tanaka, Miller, and Medlen probably won’t be drafted by me either. I don’t have anything against them, except I hate them all personally obviously, I just believe that there are better pitchers out there I can draft. So Gerrit Cole was ranked a little too high for me on Y!, but here on ESPN I can get him around pick 96. He’s someone I want and will most likely get, I’d bid aggressively. I like Fister a ton, but I think he’s ranked 2 rounds too early and there’s a distinct difference, at least fantasy wise, between him and Gio/Zimmermann…but on ESPN there apparently isn’t. You can get all 3 of these guys in the 9th round. At this point in my ESPN draft I probably have Bumgarner and either Gerrit Cole and/or one of the WSH duo that isn’t Fister. At this point I will have 2 or 3 SPs.
10th/11th/12th Round
Y!: Doug Fister in the 11th round is where I see some value, I’ll take the 4th starter for that stacked Nationals rotation here if I can. I’m probably not drafting Iwakuma because he has a finger injury and likely won’t start the season, but at the same time if he falls because the other managers feel the same way then I’ll take him. Value is value and he’s supposed to be back in early April. I like Cingrani, but I think he was bumped up by Yahoo! too. I’m drafting Liriano in the 12th round, I’d even draft him in the 10th round if I had to. I think his bounce back is legit and I’m drafting a 2nd staff ace at hugely discounted price. Liriano is someone I will be getting. By the end of this round I would have 4 or 5 pitchers.

ESPN: I’ll jump on Alex Cobb if I can and I know that Cole Hamels price tag looks tempting, but I’ve only heard bad news about his arm this spring. When the pitcher himself says he’s not feeling good, that’s really really bad. If I can get Wacha in the 12th at 143 overall I’ll draft him, but I wouldn’t expect him to last this long. Hyun Jin Ryu and Teheran in the 11th look like a decent price. I’ll probably only be drafting Dickey in the Y! leagues and I won’t be drafting Lester anywhere. By the end of these rounds I’ll have 3 or 4 pitchers. I wouldn’t be upset if I had 5.
Early Late rounds (144-200)
Y!: Weaver and Samardzija are ranked ahead of Cashner. But Cashner’s the guy I’m targeting. If I can’t get Cashner, I’d love to get Kuroda whose ranked 8 slots after him. If I can somehow get both I wouldn’t mind reaching to get them in the 11th and 12th round. Usually later in the drafts rankings mean much less, so if you have to reach for the guy you want, grab them and don’t regret it. Sonny Gray at 163 is a guy I’m thankful didn’t get bumped up by the Yahoo experts. I’m willing to draft him as early as 11th/12th, but hope to get him in the in the 13th. I’m also targeting Burnett, Dickey, and Masterson in the 15th round. With Dickey being the priority. I will have 6-9 pitchers by the end of the 16th round.
ESPN: I like Cashner and Kuroda if I can get either of them as my 4th SP. Cingrani, Salazar and Gray are all guys I’d target this late. Everyone’s going to be wanting them, so I would have to reach to get them, with Salazar being the priority. I like Wheeler, but I like those guys more and I like where I can get him in Y! as well. I will be getting Liriano. And somehow he’ll be my 5th starter drafted when he can produce as good as my 2 and 3 guys. I like Burnett as well at 198. I would be pretty happy getting Burnett and Liriano, but I’d prefer Salazar/Gray and Liriano. Generally in the later rounds I’ll be drafting SPs at a higher rate than I did early on. Be careful as other managers will likely be doing this too with their lineups filled out. No player is off limits. I will have 5-8 pitchers at this point.

Late Rounds (200-300)
Y!: CJ Wilson doesn’t have the best WHIP, but this late in the draft he may be the only guy who can realistically get over 200Ks. Corbin looks alright if he falls,*don’t draft Corbin as he’s out for the season, but I’d rather have either Corey Kluber at 226 and Zach Wheeler 232. At one point Salazar, Cingrani, Gray, and Wheeler were all ranked next to each other. Well somehow Wheeler’s draft stock got worse. What?! I don’t understand it, but I’m buying. The MIL aces at 233 Gallardo and 248 Estrada sure have fallen. I think they’ll bounce back, but I’d Kluber and Wheeler ahead of them, and I’d prefer Gallardo of the 2 MIL SPs. I like Tyson Ross in that cozy Petco Park. If Carlos Martinez gets a starting job he’ll jump much higher on my board, but at this moment Joe Kelly holds that spot. I like AJ Griffin over Josh Johnson and Taijuan Walker. I like Travis Wood and Ivan Nova all the way down at 272-273. I’ll probably have a share of both of the them on my teams. Old man trio Hudson, Colon, and Lackey are all ranked pretty low. I don’t think they’ll be bad, but I think there are beter options. Dan Straily and Rick Porcello are guys I’d love to own. I will have 8-12 SPs at this point. If I have 12 SPs I’d probably ease up on drafting them.
ESPN: There’s a 6 player buffer- Estrada, Parker, Lynn, Santana, Lackey, Tillman- hiding Ivan Nova and Rick Porcello, which are the 2 guys I want. Depending on where Ervin Santana signs could change my opinion on him, but right now he’s a FA. I’d consider taking a flyer on Yovani Gallardo. A 28 year old pitcher with 4 consecutive years of 200 plus Ks and he pitches in the NL. He’s never had the best control, but the Brewers were a mess last year with the Braun Steroid debacle and I think the ace of the Brewers will be much better this year. Alex Wood should have a spot in that Braves rotation and could show some significant value. He’s probably the only Brave SP I’ll own this year, I’m just not expecting a full season from him. After the 1st 2 months last year Dillon Gee was great.Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 12.27.25 AM

Of course the person who’ll draft him will probably just drop him during the year, so I’ll get him then. Niese was great after the All Star Break as well.  I think if you can afford to start AJ Griffin at home only you can get a 4th SP for you easily, of course that can probably be said for all the OAK starters. *Now both of these guys, Niese and Griffin, are showing discomfort in their arms in spring training. Just ignore them now. I like Phil Hughes out of the AL East and as a late round flyer. I probably won’t be drafting Taijuan Walker when there seems to be problems with his arm, but I don’t blame you if you do, he seems to have been hyped forever. Corey Kluber is somehow ranked after 300. I’d draft him much early than that, like at 200, but if you can get him here why not? Tyson Ross at 358 seems ridiculously underpriced as well. Both these guys are people I’d make sure I get. At this point I’ll make sure to have 8-10 SPs.
Late Late Rounds
Y!/ESPN: Dillon Gee, Nathan Eovaldi, Yovano Ventura, Kevin Gausman, Archie Bradley, Drew Smyly, and Tanner Roark are all guys I’ll take a flyer on. James Paxton interests me more than Walker as he’s healthy and might get a chance to start the season depending on how well he does in spring training. Yovano Ventura has the 5th starting spot in the rotation now, so he’s definitely worth a flyer. I generally like to use my bench space for extra SPs. In H2H leagues, quantity goes a long way to fix mistakes. The guys you draft here are droppable, but I wouldn’t overreact too much from 1 start either. Jose Fernandez wasn’t spectacular right out of the gate, but if you held on to him you got rewarded in spades.


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