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Staff Post: Starting Pitchers to Avoid in 2016

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Our writers offer you some starting pitchers they would avoid in drafts this season, including Felix Hernandez, Jose Fernandez, Michael Wacha and others.

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When preparing for your fantasy baseball drafts, it is a must to have a strategy before going into your draft. To assist you in your strategy, we have provided you with our Consensus Top 100 outfielder rankings for 2016, tiered rankings, and NL-only and AL-only rankings as well.

Now that we have provided you all these tools you need to prepare for your drafts, your fantasy draft preparation would be incomplete without some starting pitchers to target and avoid, which we provide you today.

We asked each of the fantasy baseball writers to provide you with the starting pitcher they would avoid in fantasy drafts this season, and you can find them along with their reasoning below.

Starting Pitchers to Avoid in 2016

Felix Hernandez, Mariners (Ray Guilfoyle)

This probably won't be a very popular choice, but there are reasons to believe that the 2,200 innings Hernandez has pitched over the last ten years are beginning to catch up to him. His overall season stats last season were solid, as he went 18-9 with a 3.53 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.53 xFIP, and a 1.18 WHIP. Actually, he won more games last season than he has since 2009, but his peripheral stats have begin to decline. Let's take a look:

K/9: 8.52, lowest since 2010

BB/9: 2.59, highest since 2009

HR/9: 1.03, highest since 2006

ERA: 3.53, highest since 2007

FIP: 3.72, highest since 2008

Hernandez's second half was even worse, as he went 7-4 with a 4.48 ERA, 4.26 FIP, a strikeouts per nine of 8.45, while his walks per nine were similar to his season walk rate. He gave up 13 home runs in 84.1 innings, and hitters slashed .270-.329-.456 against him in the second half.

His second half performance may be a blip, but we may look back at 2015 as the start of his decline years.

Jose Fernandez, Marlins (Daniel Kelley)

In 2013, Fernandez threw 172.2 innings and was Mr. Superman Guy. We all loved him. In two seasons since, he's pitched 116.1 innings. He's still basically been Mr. Superman Guy when he's been on the field, but that whole "on the field" thing has been tough. Superficially, his numbers have gotten worse each season, and he keeps missing time. I still love Fernandez, still think he's the coolest and stuff (I have my Baseball Twitter credentials well in hand, thanks), but to get him in fantasy, you'll have to draft him like he's a sure thing superstar who will anchor your rotation, and you need a rotation anchor who you can more or less count on to pitch most of the year. Yes, any pitcher is one throw away from a year's absence, but Fernandez in particular looks too fragile to count on. I like him as a No. 2 (ish) in fantasy, but as your rotation anchor? Too scary.

Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks (Domenic Lanza)

In 2015, Miller posted below-average strikeout and walk rates, and a league-average WHIP. Much of his value last season was derived from throwing 205.1 IP with a terrific 3.02 ERA, but he was little more than passable in most other fantasy categories. He is, in short, more valuable in the real world than he is in fantasy baseball. Miller does stand to add more wins this season, as the Diamondbacks should be much better than the Braves were last year - but he will also be moving to one of the toughest hitters parks in the game, and pitching in front of a shaky middle infield. There is quite a bit of risk here for a pitcher that is largely being treated as an SP2.

Tyson Ross, Padres (Michael Schwarz)

Sometimes we avoid pitchers based on our own experiences with them.  Benching Ross in August and September of 2015 enabled me to make a positive move in the tight WHIP category on my way to a roto-league championship, so I'm apt to avoid him again.  Still, his overall numbers were pretty good, and, contrary to my memory, his ERA actually fell in both August and September.  So what gives?  What accounts for my sense that Ross is moving in the wrong direction?  Well, for one thing, his WHIP has ballooned from 1.15 in 2013 to 1.31 a year ago, when he led the NL both in walks (84) and wild pitches (14).  His strikeout totals remain high, but I worry about his excessive reliance on the slider, which is so dominant that in 2015 it accounted for 76.7% of the swinging strikes he induced!  For the season, only 32.3% of Ross's sliders resulted in called balls, but that number increased to 37.3% in September.  What will happen to Ross's strikeout totals--his ticket to second-tier fantasy relevance--if hitters learn to lay off his slider?  Have they begun to do so already?  I'll let someone else draft Ross as the #25 overall consensus starting pitcher.

Michael Wacha, Cardinals (Rob Parker)

Michael Wacha gets too much hype, in my opinion. Look at his stats from last year and compare them to John Lackey. Sure, Wacha is younger and could still improve, but they really aren't all that different and are being taken rounds apart from each other in most drafts (ADP of 90 at Fantasy Pros for Wacha, 145 for Lackey). His 3.88 xFIP and even worse 4.03 SIERA from last year show that he isn't really some ace-in-waiting. I think the projection for Lackey is the same one I would use for Wacha, so don't buy the hype. He's still riding the optimism from a couple years ago, when he looked really good. His strikeout rate, FIP, and K%-BB% were all unimpressive last year and he has shown fatigue issues and he had shoulder problems in 2014. He's still ownable in all leagues, but he shouldn't be your number one or two starter.

Sonny Gray, Athletics (Jack Cecil)

Do you ever feel like you're waiting for the second shoe to drop, when nobody else is?  Lets say you were to look at all the pitchers who threw at least 160 IP (that number is referenced because its basically the equivalent of a 500 PA season, and it worked well with my pitcher to target), and just scroll through rate stats?  So if a pitcher had the 28th worst strikeout rate, and was basically average with walks, and was in the worse half of the league in contact%, would you want to invest highly in that?  Sure he may pitch in a nice home park, but he also has a terrible offense, and defense behind him, so he won't be winning many games either.  Sonny Gray seems like a guy with a great ground ball rate, and not much else.  Do i think he could be a top 35 pitcher, of course I do, except I think there is no way in hell you get him as the 35th pitcher off the board.  If he's just ok, you'll have drastically overpaid for Gray this year, and that's something i'm never willing to do.

Justin Verlander, Tigers (Heath Capps)

My kid brother LOVES to draft Justin Verlander. He had him back in the day when Verlander was king of the proverbial hill. The kid brother is still drafting him expectantly, waiting for a return to the promised land. I will do no such thing. Verlander is already the SP43 over at FantasyPros, and he will likely be drafted more aggressively than that ranking as we move closer to the start of the season. All this for a guy who finished as the SP48 last season, albeit in only 133.1 innings. But that's a part of it, too. It's always something with this guy, and it's been too much of a roller-coaster in recent years for me to draft him aggressively. Someone will beat me to him in every room, most likely. Shout-out to the FakeTeams writers for ranking him as the SP52--clearly more than one of us is on the same wavelength when it comes to Verlander.

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