Our pitching strategy has been consistent, as we are not drafting the top arms and identifying other pitchers throughout the draft to attack. There is not a lot of margin for error when drafting a pitcher high, and I would rather build a quality offense.
To implement this strategy, we need to draft pitchers who can still provide enough value for us to compete for a championship.
Two pitchers that I mentioned in my breakouts earlier in the month still fit this strategy. Oakland Athletics starter Jesus Luzardo has an average draft position of 105 and is poised to take the next step. Julio Urias of the Los Angeles Dodgers continues to build on a dominant postseason and is currently slated to be the club’s fourth starter. The left-hander has an average draft position of 120 and should provide enough value even if he does get used as a reliever throughout the season.
Los Angeles Angels Starting Pitcher Dylan Bundy
The change of scenery from the gauntlet that is the American League East to the American League West paid immediate dividends for Bundy. The right-hander set a career high in every category in 2020 and is looking to build on that this season.
Fantasy owners have been overreacting to last year’s stats all throughout but are not pushing Bundy any higher than the ninth round. It doesn’t make much sense.
Bundy’s fastball velocity has continued to dip. He averaged 93.7 mph in 2012, but only 90.2 mph in 2020. I’d expect that to continue, but Bundy has now used his other pitches more and not relied on the fastball, which resulted in his strong 2020 campaign.
The Opening Day starter for the Angels ended last year with a 3.29 ERA and averaged 9.87 strikeouts per nine innings. The ERA may end up being closer to 4.00 throughout the course of a full season, but the strikeouts will be there.
As we start the double-digit rounds, Bundy is a pitcher to attack in our drafts.
Miami Marlins Starting Pitcher Pablo Lopez
Believe it or not, the Marlins rotation has some options for fantasy owners this season. Lopez, Sixto Sanchez and Sandy Alcantara can all provide middle-of-the-rotation help in 2021.
They all have similar average draft positions as well. I’ll spotlight Lopez, as he took a step forward last year when he averaged 9.26 strikeouts per nine innings along with a 3.61 ERA. The 25-year-old has averaged 10.00 strikeouts per nine a couple of times in the minors so I believe there is more room for him to grow in that area.
The biggest concern surrounding Lopez and the rest of the Marlins is that the National League East is one of the best divisions in all of baseball. There could be some struggles as Lopez tries to navigate those tough lineups on a consistent basis.
The average draft position of 140 helps negate some of that risk.
Milwaukee Brewers Relief Pitcher Devin Williams
A strong strategy on an annual basis — and even more now with the lack of starters pitching deep into games — is to add quality relievers on your roster. Even if they don’t earn saves, they can still provide a boost to your pitching staff. This brings me to Williams, as he is the elite of the elite for relievers.
In 2020, the right-hander had an insane season, finishing with a miniscule ERA of 0.33 and an absurd 17.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 22 games. There’s no way he can keep that pace during the course of an entire season. We have to expect regression, but the high number of strikeouts per appearance should continue to be there.
Williams has an average draft position of 158 which makes him a strong target to help with your pitching ratios in Round 13.
Baltimore Orioles Starting Pitcher John Means
If you’re looking to fill out your pitching staff in the later rounds, Means could be your guy. The former American League All-Star dealt with a lot of adversity in 2020, but looked more like himself down the stretch. The left-hander allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts while striking out 21 during the final two.
I don’t think it’s out of the question for Means to average 9.00 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be the target number we’re looking for. The third-year starter will most likely settle around 8.00, which can still be strong for a back-end rotation piece in fantasy. The issue with Means is the Orioles won’t win a lot of games, so he may not help in that category, and the American League East is littered with high-powered offenses.
However, with an average draft position of 218, the upside is too much to ignore. These are the type of pitchers we need to hit on late in drafts, and Means could be that guy in 2021.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles