2014 Starting Pitcher Draft Strategy

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Pitching is deep and offers a ton of variety. Make it work for you.

I wish I had some kind of novel idea as to what strategy you should employ for starting pitchers this year.  Most experts will tell you to wait on pitching in your draft.  I tend to agree.  There are two main reasons that I would suggest waiting on pitching:  they get hurt more often than position players and the position is very deep this year.

A theme that's been pretty constant in these draft strategy pieces has been the pursuit of value.  Why should a starting pitcher strategy be any different?  Clayton Kershaw will go in the first two rounds in almost every league.  The top guys will come off the board here and there throughout the next few rounds but there are plenty of deals to be had.  I'm not against picking a stud pitcher in the early rounds if you think he is the best player on the board.  Just don't get caught up in an early run on pitchers because you think there won't be anyone left.

My pitcher strategy (if I had one) would seem something like a hybrid of my first base strategy and my strategy for drafting outfielders.  Based on my rankings, I would say there are 13 studs available this year.  The top 4 or 5 will be taken in the first 3 rounds or so and then you'll start to see the rest of them coming off the board a little quicker in the following rounds.  As I said, I don't have an issue taking a pitcher early if he sits on top of your rankings but much like first base, I think you can find the values just below that.

There are a lot of level two fantasy pitchers such as James Shields and Matt Cain who can you can take as your number one guys.  While you might be lacking a Jose Fernandez, you'll be able to fill in with a couple solid guys like Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister.  After that, you can gamble on some upside plays like Andrew Cashner and Matt Moore.  Finally, start to fill your holes.  You have a bunch of strikeout pitchers with high WHIPs? Go get Dan Haren.  If you actually drafted Zimmermann and Fister, you might need some Ks.  Sounds like Tim Lincecum could be a nice fit.

The main ingredients for success as fantasy pitcher are limiting base runners and pitching a lot of innings.  The more innings a pitcher throws, the more impact he will have on your rate stats such as ERA and WHIP.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing but generally bad pitchers don't throw many innings.  K% and BB% are the two metrics I like to use best when evaluating a pitchers ability to keep people off base.  I began using a new "quick sort" method for starting my preseason pitcher rankings after reading an article by Glenn DuPaul.  I use an average of the projected innings from each of the projection systems available and multiple that by a pitcher's K%-BB%.  So the formula is simple - (K%-BB%)*IP. Since these projection systems don't give us K% or BB% and these stats stabilize fairly quickly, I use the stats from the previous season and make adjustments as needed.  This gives me a starting point and then I move guys up or down from there.  It's just a simple sorting tool but I've found it to be useful so hopefully it helps.

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