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Staff Post: Starting Pitchers to avoid in 2021 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers tell you which arms to pass over in fantasy baseball.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a bit late on Friday evening, but that’s no reason to hold onto these staff avoids. The people want what the people want, and late is better than never. In case you missed it, earlier today we dropped our favorite starting pitcher targets, and Andrés made a case for Joe Musgrove to take yet another step forward. It’s been a full week of starting pitchers, and yours truly will cap it off over the weekend with the state of the position...finally.

For now, let’s trudge through the darker side of things, as we dive into the arms you can pass over in your 2021 fantasy baseball drafts.

Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 21.68

Buehler has been an amazing pitcher since his MLB debut. In fact, he owns the ninth-best ERA since 2018 at 3.03, and the fifth-best WHIP at an even 1.00. The problem is how the Dodgers handle his innings. In 2020, Buehler averaged 4.5 innings per start. Just one of his eight starts went six innings. How will they treat him coming off a season where he logged just over 60 innings, including the postseason? I’m thinking lots of 4-5 inning starts. They have plenty of arms available for spot starts and “opener” or piggy-back situations. I can’t spend a top 25 overall pick on that. I’m avoiding him at his top 10 starter price tag.

MLB: NLCS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 104.80

I understand I’m probably alone in this, but a few things have me concerned. First, his .250 BABIP was lower than any of his minor league career. He had a walk rate of 6.57/9, which is atrociously high. He got hit hard, allowing a HR/FB of 17.2%—showing me that his pitches might not be converting yet to the major leagues. Finally, his short sample size (24 innings) was likely just enough for batters to get enough video and cadence to prepare for him this year. To be clear, I think the long-term projections for Anderson are positive. But this year, I am not buying in.

Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 129.56

Corbin is concerning, but I’ll present two sides of the coin. Here’s a (somewhat) rosy outlook:

A less bright picture is the 2020 one, when Corbin allowed the most hits in the league—85 over 65 23 innings, to be exact. Also less rosy are continued concerns about Corbin’s velocity. He only managed 90.2 MPH on average in 2020, and history tells us that he really needs to work around 92 MPH to be effective. He did reach 92 MPH this week in his second spring start—however, this just seems like too shaky of a situation for me to buy in. Seasons are long, and starters will be tempted to conserve a little energy to make it over the long haul. Corbin himself has already spoken of wanting to make 30+ starts this year. I don’t think he has a ton of wiggle room given the struggles we witnessed last year. I think he’ll eat innings for Washington, but I don’t think they’ll be vintage low 3.00s ERA Corbin innings. I’ll pass on him this year and let someone else be wringing their hands over his velocity.

MLB: ALCS-Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Cristian Javier, Houston Astros (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 213.36

I’ll give props to Javier for dominating the minor leagues and having a 3.48 ERA debut in MLB in 2020 with just two pitches. However, his FIP was 4.94, and his xFIP 4.86. There is a reason behind the disparity: he is an extreme fly ball pitcher who uses one pitch—his fastball—nearly two thirds of the time. Big league hitters can adjust quickly, and Javier, who averaged only 92.2 MPH with his heater last year (below the league average and in the 40th percentile) will need to refine his arsenal and develop more weapons if he wants to succeed in the long-term. His fastball is deceptive, but with a 52.2% fly ball rate and a meager 8.7% swinging strike rate, there is no surviving in the bigs.