It’s a new dawn in the fantasy baseball world. We can now put out baseball content unapologetically. None of this “if we have a season” or when we do, or debating over how long it will be. Baseball is BACK, people!
As such, here are our staff targets at the starting pitcher position. All ADP data is derived from the NFBC, and the ‘draft rank’ means a pitcher’s ranking among all pitchers (starters and relievers included).
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (Andrés Chávez)
NFBC ADP: 52.95
Draft rank: 22nd
Yes, he is almost 33, but don’t let his short 2021 distract you from the fact that a healthy Chris Sale is arguably a top 10 pitcher and could be top five, even if that kind of upside is unlikely to be reached at this point. In nine starts after returning from Tommy John surgery, he posted a 3.16 ERA with a 3.69 FIP in 42.2 innings, striking out over a batter per inning (10.97) and walking 2.53 per nine. His .358 BABIP should also come down a bit, and his fastball velocity should return to its normal levels in his second post-surgery season. Now that the rust should be off after so many months removed from surgery, Sale should win a lot of games in a quality Red Sox lineup, while finishing with rock-solid ratios and a boatload of strikeouts. I realize I may be the high man on Sale, but he’s a guy I would target.
Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants (Skyler Carlin)
NFBC ADP: 70.40
Draft rank: 26th
Logan Webb was able to put together a fantastic season for the San Francisco Giants in 2021. In his third year in the majors, Webb logged a career-high 148.1 innings for the Giants, where he posted an impressive 3.03 ERA, a .309 BABIP, and only .55 HR/9 while recording an 11-3 record. So where did Webb make improvements in his pitching last season? For starters, Webb utilized his four-seam fastball way less than previous years, going from using his four-seam fastball 31.9% of the time in 2020 to only 9.6% in 2021. Instead of deploying his four-seam fastball often, Webb implemented a cutter sparingly in his repertoire, his curveball 27.7% of the time, and he used his sinker a career-high 38.2% of the time. His usage of his sinker helped him induce a career-best 60.9% ground ball rate while his new mixture of pitches aided him in producing a solid 26.5% strikeout rate. If we can continue to see Webb build upon his 2021 campaign, he’s in store for a remarkable 2022 season in a pitcher-friendly park with the Giants.
Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays (Mark Abell)
NFBC ADP: 72.20
Draft rank: 29th
Gausman has a sub-4.00 ERA in three of his last four seasons. His chase and whiff rates are among the elites in the league, and since Covid-19 began he has maintained a sub-1.15 WHIP. Sure, the move to Toronto could be concerning, but I would argue everyone running away is why you should pick him up at value. Knocking him just for the park shift when his underlying metrics are all strong can lead to tremendous value. Last season he had 33 starts, but only FOUR starts allowing more than three earned runs. Furthermore, he had seven or more strikeouts in 18 of those starts, yielding very strong strikeout returns.
Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners (Garrett Atkins)
NFBC ADP: 152.50
Draft rank: 62nd
Gilbert seems primed to take a big step forward in 2022 and I plan on rostering all of him I can get. In 2021, he has a so-so debut. He had a 4.68 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 128 strikeouts over 119.1 innings pitched. However, his xERA was 4.09 and his FIP was 3.73. Gilbert showed great control in 2021, especially as a rookie. His 5.6% walk rate was 88th percentile. He also finished strong, with a 2.70 ERA over his final six games. The former first-round pick has high upside, especially in the AL West.
Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs (Heath Capps)
NFBC ADP: 184.65
Draft rank: 71st
I’ll confess that my pitching rotations would probably bore most readers to tears. I want floor, floor, floor. Stroman is just one example of that. He’s extremely durable, as evidenced by opting out of the 2020 season and still returning to fling 179 innings in 2021. He has a career 3.63 ERA, but has logged marks of 3.22 and 3.02 over his last two seasons. He’s also seen his HR/9 trend downward since leaving Toronto, and he’s shown incremental growth in his K-rate while also trimming down his walk rate. His 2.21 walks per nine was 19th among qualified starters last year, and only 11 of those guys bested Stroman’s 7.94 K/9. This is a simplistic list, zeroing in on who is good at limiting free passes and logging strikeouts, but it is excellent company: Nathan Eovaldi, Max Scherzer, Corbin Burnes, Julio Urias, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Gerrit Cole, Sean Manaea, Jose Berrios, Brandon Woodruff, and Sandy Alcantara. Berrios is an interesting one, given that he’s now a member of Stroman’s former team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Is he a safer bet for wins and strikeouts? Probably so. But Stroman is being drafted over 100 picks later, and he offers a similar skill set. Check the ATC projections:
Stroman: 10 W, 3.96 ERA, 142 SO, 1.28 WHIP
Berrios: 13 W, 3.90 ERA, 195 SO, 1.20 WHIP
Okay, okay. Maybe it’s not that similar. We all know Berrios has a much better team context than Stroman. I just dig the floor that Stroman provides with ratios, and I still think he has some upside to continue improving his K-rate and limiting free passes. Add in not allowing home runs...this is an ultra-safe option to be a glue guy on your fake teams in 2022.