Don't pay for pitching!!! That saying might be the oldest saying in fantasy baseball history. While usually spoken in reference to saves, this adage is also being applied to the rotation as well. Today I come before you to break this mindset the masses follow like sheep. Having won back to back championships in two leagues the last two years, and only once failing to make the post season in any of my 5 leagues the past 2 years I can tell you pitching is important. While im not here to say you should have used up 3 of your first 5 picks on pitching or something crazy, I am here to say you will have to pay. I have found the new trend for teams to ignore pitching till late in the draft has been leaving some seriously talented pitchers falling to late in the draft, the key is knowing which ones to go for. Every year I focus on getting 4 different types of pitchers to construct my rotation, the first one you gotta pay for, the other 3 will fall to you.
1. Your Ace - Too many times I have seen great teams built around gaudy bats who falter in the post season because they never paid for that one Ace to lead the staff. Depending on league format I always try to get my ace in the first 5 rounds. In all 5 of my teams I have at least one of the following names, Kershaw(trade), Yu, Wain or Lee. Names like Strasburg, King Felix, Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Bumgarner, Verlander or Sale will work just as well, I personally just prefer the four aforementioned names. If you are looking over your fantasy squad and dont have one of the names above, it may be time to send out some 2 for 1 trades to get that ace to lead your staff.
2. Consistent #2 - Once you have your horse to lead the squad you are going to want your solid #2 guy to go out every week and get those QS's, K's, W's consistently. These are the guys who could suffice as an ace on most teams but there is always one or two who fall too low during drafts or are simply underrated in general. I made sure in all of my leagues to draft the likes of James Shields, J. Zimmerman, Greinke, Ryu or Hamels(trade). Those are names are always on my wishlist for my #2 starter but feel free to replace them with names like Price, Gio Gonzalez, Bailey, Iwakuma, or Cueto. There are definitely a ton of guys who could have made this list as a great #2 to compliment your ace, but I tend to look consistent for my #2, sure things that have been proven to do the same thing over the years. If you are still searching for that #2 guy, players like Hamels, Gio, Iwakuma, Bailey or even Ryu(recently added to the DL) can still be acquired for cheap, and will pay back big time over the course of the season.
3. High upside youngsters - Nows where it gets fun and you can really find the late value in drafts/trades. Pitchers with good upside tend to fall real late into drafts as no one knows what they are getting. The best part about this is if you already have your ace and #2 you dont have to hope these players turn out to fill that role for you, but if they do you find yourself in excellent position to run through pitching categories every week vs your opponent. I made sure to nab one or two of these guys in every draft - Cashner, Alex Wood, Wacha, Cobb, Ventura, Teheran, G. Cole, M. Minor(trade), and Pineda. Whats great about these names is there is no rush to grab one, just wait till most are taken and get the one thats left, or when trading for them go for the one who is playing well enough but not living up the the potential for one reason or another(Cole's low K's, Cobbs injury, Pineda's pinegate, Cashners recent average performances). Every year I find at least one pitcher who will be a #2 for you late in the draft or from a smart mid season trade, sometimes you get really lucky like I did last year and find yourself a Matt Harvey.
4. The fill in's - This is the point in the rotation where you really get to choose how you want your rotation to look. It is easy to find value in these players if they hit, but if they miss you wont really feel too bad about dropping them a few weeks in for a SP stream or a flier on some talent. I have composed my fill in pitchers with guys like - Jesse Chavez, Tanner Roark, Marco Estrada, and Dan Haren. Recently Ive dropped some duds for fill ins like Prospect Robbie Ray going tuesday vs the Astros, Prospect Marcus Stroman who could find himself in the majors soon, and Drew Smyly who could become a fixture for Det with Sanchez going down.
Ultimately the way I look at it is the earlier I go for pitching the more confident I am on nabbing high value hitters later in the draft such while everyone else is hunting for an ace. Guys like Jose Abreu, C.Blackmon, AGonz, Pujols, N. Cruz, B. Dozier, J.Morneau, J.Donaldson, A. Rendon, Melky Cabrera, and N. Arenado have lead the way to my ideology of building a solid rotation with solid bats and finding the late value at on both ends to balance the team out with upside.