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Staff Post: Starting Pitchers to Target in 2019

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The Fake Teams writers tell you who to draft in your fake baseball drafts.

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Starting Pitcher Week is drawing to a close, which means we only have relievers to cover next week, and then we are done with every fantasy baseball position. If you just arrived here, we’ve been at it since mid-January. Here’s what you missed:

As for our targets on the hill, you won’t find Clayton Kershaw in this space. Come espouse on the merits of Kershaw in yesterday’s comments. Now let’s down to some targets...

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Cleveland Indians - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mike Clevinger, Indians (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 60.41

Mike Clevinger is my target. Look at Clevinger’s stats from 2016 to 2018, and you see a steady increase in starts, wins, ERA, and WHIP. You also see a decrease in walks per nine innings. Furthermore, look at how Cleveland has cultivated their entire starting pitching staff to improve each year, and I feel like Clevinger is primed for a breakout year.

Divisional Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Colorado Rockies - Game Three Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

German Marquez, Rockies (Punk is Dead)

NFBC ADP: 77.22

German Marquez had a great 2018, capped off by a 2.25 ERA and 12.1 K/9 over his last 13 starts. His walk rate dropped to 1.7 BB/9 over that span as well. That stretch included six starts at Coors Field. He’ll still have Coors to contend with in 2019 (his ERA was almost two runs higher at home) but his high strikeout rate makes him a solid option going outside the top 20 at starting pitcher.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

Andrew Heaney, Angels (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 164.57

I didn’t want to go easy on myself, so my self-induced parameter was a pitcher outside the top 150. Nick Pivetta, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tyler Glasnow, and Nate Eovaldi all fit that parameter too. But I find myself aiming for Heaney. Way back in December I reviewed the best 10 starters in the Majors from 2018. I wanted to see what those guys did well, and then find some comparable options. Heaney was a name that popped up, along with guys like Zack Wheeler (90 ADP) and Jameson Taillon (60 ADP). All three of these pitchers ranked inside the Top 15 in O-Swing% (chase rate) a year ago. All three of these starters ranked inside the Top 30 in swinging strike rate a year ago. Heaney also showed growth in soft contact allowed, as his 21.1% mark was seventh-best in the whole of the MLB. His 11.8% swinging strike rate a year ago was better than Berrios, Greinke, Taillon, Wheeler, and Foltynewicz (to name a few). He tossed a whopping 180 innings in 2018, ranked 32nd in the MLB. Now another year removed from elbow surgery, if he builds on that number at all you’re looking at a guy who ranks top 15 or 20 in innings pitched AND offers you 9.00 K/9. I will be eternally devastated that Smada took him two picks ahead of me in TGFBI. I thought I could comfortably take Heaney at pick 153—you know, a full round ahead of his NFBC ADP. But not in the Champions League. Nope.

World Series - Boston Red Sox v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Three Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox (Joe Gentile)

NFBC ADP: 172.94

Joe didn’t have time to get me his low-down on a target, but I know Glasnow and Eovaldi are his guys based on our staff Slack chat. I talked up Glasnow yesterday, so Eovaldi it is. I stole some propaganda from Joe’s Twitter feed:

And here’s some love for Eovaldi from @PitchingNinja on Twitter, that Joe once pointed me to:

Making good on his word, Joe snagged Eovaldi in Round 11 of TGFBI. And Eovaldi went in Round 12 of my draft, right after Ross Stripling (for reference). He’s a great way to round out your staff, and your only concern should be a ceiling of probably 150 or so innings. But as has been stated repeatedly in this place, we aren’t as concerned about innings anymore—there just aren’t many guys flinging 200+ with regularity. Not in the age of the epic bullpen.

Who do you like as a pitcher target in 2019? Who did we miss?