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Staff Post: Starting Pitchers to avoid in 2022 fantasy baseball

The Fake Teams writers tell you who to consider avoiding in your 2022 fantasy baseball drafts.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets - Game One Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball is back, and hopefully this weekend comes with a flurry of free agency moves. We already have a one-year deal for Clayton Kershaw (back with the Dodgers) as well as Carlos Rodon to bolster a suddenly nightmarish (for opposing hitters) San Francisco Giants rotation. There’s also Andrelton Simmons clogging up the Chicago Cubs’ middle infield, making your cheap Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal shares a little more dicey...but that one isn’t as notable.

It’s fitting that the more notable signings were pitchers, as we wrap up our starting pitcher coverage this weekend. Yesterday you got the staff favorites, but today you get our arms to avoid. Take it all as it comes, gamers. There’s no need to get nasty if you see a name you love. Just let the arguments below add to your level of information about a player. The more information I take in, the less biased I hope to become. That’s my goal, anyway.

ADP numbers are derived from the NFBC, the most recent three weeks of Draft Champions data (18 drafts). The draft rank includes starters and relievers, and is merely meant to act as a guide.

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Andrés Chávez)

NFBC ADP: 13.17 (max of 20)
Draft rank: 3rd

I absolutely love Shohei Ohtani, and wouldn’t dare to put his name on an “avoid” list if your league counts his hitting and pitching contributions as one player. If, however, we are evaluating just the pitcher, I’m looking elsewhere—although not because of a lack of talent. Ohtani is an incredible pitcher, capable of touching 100 MPH and boasting a disgustingly good splitter. However, I base my decision on his innings ceiling. He is not going to throw 200 or 180, and I’m betting even 150 are out of the question. That’s because the Angels will probably try to keep him healthy over the full season. I’d do the same. Any minor ache will result in Ohtani skipping starts. He was brilliant last year, with a 3.18 ERA and 10.77 K/9, but he only pitched 130 13 innings.

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (Skyler Carlin)

NFBC ADP: 24.56 (max of 30)
Draft rank: 8th

It may sound crazy that I’m avoiding arguably the best pitcher in baseball (when healthy), but his health is a major concern. Jacob deGrom was having a spectacular season for the New York Mets in 2021, notching a career-high 14.28 K/9 and a mere 14 runs allowed over 15 starts. However, a lingering injury to his elbow (UCL to be exact) limited deGrom to only 92 innings last season. While the Mets were hopeful he could overcome the injury, he nearly underwent more MRIs than he allowed runs in 2021.

Throughout the past two seasons, deGrom has accrued only 160 innings, which is fewer than the number of innings that 39 pitchers totaled last season. deGrom’s draft stock has dropped due to his injury risk, but he’s still going in the top 25 picks. While there’s the chance he remains healthy, I’d rather take another stud pitcher in the same range or wait to select a starter. Let someone else take the risk of using an early-round pick on deGrom.

Robbie Ray, Seattle Mariners (Mark Abell)

NFBC ADP: 52.11 (max of 64)
Draft rank: 21

Run away and run away fast. Last year wasn’t completely smoke and mirrors, but it also wasn’t not smoke and mirrors. While changing a home park alone shouldn’t be a deterrent, there are things that should make you nervous. He had the second-best BABIP year of his career in 2021, and the only other time was in 2017 when he had a similarly strong year—only to regress heavily in the ensuing 2018 season. His command issues have come and gone through his career, and consistency has not been his strong suit. Finally, he just signed a big deal, which could take an edge away from his competitive desire.

Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals (Garrett Atkins)

NFBC ADP: 75.33 (max of 103)
Draft rank: 32nd

I’m not buying him at his current ADP. His surface level stats were pretty good last season. He had a 3.22 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and a 9.8 K/9 over 78 13 innings. However, the underlying numbers are pretty bad. Flaherty had a 4.22 FIP which contributed to his 4.89 xERA. He was 25th percentile in average exit velocity and 27th percentile in hard hit rate. He also allowed a career high 28.3% fly ball rate. That is not something you want trending in the wrong direction. I realize the sample size is small but I don’t think fantasy managers are aware of how fortunate Flaherty was in 2021. I’m avoiding him for fear those underlying numbers rear their ugly head in 2022.

Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves (Heath Capps)

NFBC ADP: 90.22 (max of 102)
Draft rank: 36th

A 38-year-old starter who fractured his fibula in the World Series last year? My first reaction is to run away. And while Morton is reportedly “nearing the finish line” of his recovery, I’m still skittish of acquiring his services at ADP this year. He’s being drafted in the vicinity of some arms I like quite a bit—ones without the risk of good old Father Time and surgically-repaired ankles. Trevor Rogers (MIA) comes to mind, as do Yu Darvish (SD) and Frankie Montas (OAK). All three are quality SP2/3 types with more safety than Morton. And I speak this as a lifelong Atlanta fan. This isn’t a full indictment of Morton for this year. I think he will be quality when he pitches. But I could see Atlanta easing him in and limiting his innings early on. I don’t want to begin the year with my SP2/3 being managed in that way. I need more safety than that.

Who are YOU avoiding this year, ladies and gents?