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Starting Pitchers to Target in 2018

Plenty of options out there.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Starting pitchers are by far the most volatile players in fantasy baseball. Take last season’s top 10 starters by rank across the industry. Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto were all much worse than their draft day price. Sure, a couple of those were injury related, but that’s the risk with starting pitchers. Odds are, one (if not two or more) of the SP Big 4 (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber) will be a bust this season, injury related or otherwise. Long story short, I’m here to help you navigate the tricky waters known as starting pitcher.

Gerrit Cole

Current Rank: 61
Expect Consensus Rank: 82

We rarely get excited when a pitcher goes from the National League to the American League, but Cole is the exception. I honestly thought his draft price would be closer to top 15 than just outside the top 20 like it is now. I will take that as a buying opportunity. Cole is a former top prospect who pitched better than his numbers suggest last year. On the surface, Cole went 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA. His underlying stats line up closely to his 2015 season in which he finished 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and was fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. He gave up too many home runs. Through his first four seasons, Cole had a 0.6 HR/9. That number jumped to 1.4 HR/9 in 2017. I’m calling it a fluke. Plus, the Astros are allowing Cole to use his offspeed pitches more frequently. This should help Cole and could even increase his strikeout numbers. He has top 10 SP upside this year.

Zack Godley

Current Rank: 100
Expect Consensus Rank: 126

Godley was a fantasy surprise in 2017. He posted a 3.37 ERA and 9.6 K/9 over 25 starts. His FIP of 3.41 even suggests his performance was legit. Somehow, Godley only managed an 8-9 record. If he can repeat his numbers, he has a real shot at 200 strikeouts. The win-loss record should improve as well.

Side note: The humidor has increased the value of every Diamondbacks starter. I like Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, and Taijuan Walker more than I did in December.

Jacob Faria

Current Rank: 178
Expect Consensus Rank: 230

After the top 40 at SP you’re really shooting for upside in most leagues. The waiver wire is usually deep enough where even if you miss, you can grab a guy of equal value on waivers. Faria is a pitcher who has real upside if everything clicks. In 14 starts, Faria posted a 3.42 ERA and 8.7 K/9. Through his first 11 starts, Faria had a 2.81 ERA and an even 9 K/9. He got knocked around over his next two outings before going on the DL. I’ll excuse those two games to injury. A solid mid-3.00s ERA with around a strikeout per inning is great value going outside the top 200 in ADP.

Mike Clevinger

Current Rank: 203
Expect Consensus Rank: 229

Clevinger’s draft stock is sure to rise after news he will begin the year in the Indians rotation. He put up a 3.11 ERA with a 10.1 K/9 over 27 games last season. He walks too many (4.4 BB/9) but the potential for 200 strikeouts on a team where he should get plenty of wins makes Clevinger roster worthy in most formats straight from the jump.

Michael Wacha

Current Rank: 218
Expect Consensus Rank: 252

Wacha feels a little forgotten going around 250 overall. His underlying numbers suggest he’s been incredibly unlucky the past two seasons. In 2016 he put up a 5.09 ERA and he posted a 4.13 ERA last season. His FIP those years? 3.91 and 3.63 respectively. He also increased his K/9 last season by 0.8 compared to his career mark. He’s only 26 years old. If he starts pitching closer to his FIP, Wacha will be a solid fantasy starter in 2018.

In addition to these players, here are a few other options who are currently ranked outside the Top 300 of the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings:

Tyler Chatwood
My Rank: 295 Expert Consensus Rank: 309
5.17 ERA at Coors Field. 3.75 ERA everywhere else.

Matt Shoemaker
My Rank: 318 Expert Consensus Rank: 361
Has been great for stretches over his career.

Nick Pivetta
My Rank: 422 Expert Consensus Rank: 458
9.5 K/9 last season. Risk/reward pick.