As NBA and NHL season start winding down MLB season is just starting up. We have exactly 9 days until Opening Day, so I’m sure most of you have your season long draft coming up I know I do. I will be releasing a series of articles with 5 players at each position that will be on my draft board the first is staring pitchers.
SP is arguably the most important position if your league is a points league. They will get you the most points per week overall. In category leagues (my personal favorite) they aren’t as important, but if you have a small number of bench spots you will need pitching that you can trust.
So, now lets get into my 5 pitchers you could build a team around. Obviously the top pitchers are Kershaw, Bumgarner, Severino, Sale, Kluber, and Carrasco, but they will not be in this article. These will be more under-the-radar guys who should go overlooked…
Carlos Martinez: C-Mart is pegged to be the Cardinals opening day starter and is coming off a down year for his standards. Last season he had a 12-11 record with a 3.64 ERA, but had 217 strikeouts and opposing hitters hit .232 against him. Martinez also had a 9.53 K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings) in 2017, so this means over the course of 9 innings (a game) he was striking out on average 9 and a half batters.
C-Mart’s ERA was inflated last season because his home runs allowed sky rocketed from 15 in 2016 to 27 in 2017. I think part of this was being forced to try to exceed expectations with Wainwright being subpar. C-Mart knows that he is the top pitcher on this team and will prove them right for having confidence in him.
Robbie Ray: Ray is the ace of the Diamondbacks’ Rotation and definitely the best pitcher on this team. Ray lowered his era and batting average against in 2016 from 4.90 and .267 respectively to 2.89 and .199 in 2017 while striking out 218 batters both seasons. Ray also had a 12.11 K/9Part of this extreme decrease was Ray’s dominance on the road last season. In 15 road games totaling 87 innings Ray had a 1.86 ERA, .176 batting average against, and 119 strikeouts. In his 13 home games totaling 75 innings he had a 4.08 ERA, .225 batting average against, and 99 strikeouts.
The batting average against and strikeouts are good, but his 4.08 ERA at home is a little worrisome until you consider that he was pitching in one of the top hitters parks in the league. Ray allowed a total of 23 home runs last season, 18 of them were solo home runs. The only worrisome thing I see here is the home ERA but that has a good chance at improving this season. He also has a pretty rocking beard, but it is not the best beard on his team that belongs Archie Bradley.
Jon Gray: Jon Gray came into last season as one of the most talked about young pitchers in the game and was a supposed to be a top fantasy option, the he got hurt in Spring Training and most people forgot about him. I was not in that group who forgot about him. In 20 games Gray had a 10-4 record with a 3.67 ERA, .266 batting average against, 9.1 K/9, and 112 strikeouts over 110.1 innings.
For those who don’t know Gray pitches in the most hitter friendly park in baseball in Colorado, but his home splits last season were surprisingly better than his road splits. At home Gray finished with a 5-1 record, a 3.13 ERA, 41 strikeouts, and .244 baa over 46 innings. If Gray can pitch that well in such an extreme hitters park, his road and overall numbers should come around. Gray also never went over 100 pitches in the regular season last year because he was coming off an arm injury so he should be fully ready to go in this season.
Kevin Gausman: Gausman was 11-12 with a 4.68 ERA, .283 baa, 179 strikeouts, and 8.63 K/9 in 186.2 innings. Now if you look at these stats you’ll think ‘wow he is not good at all’, but his stats are skewed to who his catcher was. With Caleb Joseph as his catcher Gausman pitched to a 2.62 ERA, .237 baa, 122 strikeouts over 113.1 innings.
Who is the Orioles starting catcher this season you might ask? Well that would be Caleb Joseph. Joseph and Gausman came up together in the Orioles system so they have the familiarity and chemistry. I’ve always been a fan of Gausman since I found out this fun fact about him: In college he would eat one powdered donut before taking the mound, and then he would eat four donuts in between every inning. So if you too eat about 25 donuts over a course of about 2 hours you have something in common with what a MLB pitcher used to do in college.
Hyun-Jin Ryu:Over the past three seasons Ryu has had his fair share of injuries while completely missing the 2015 season and most of the 2016 season. Ryu came back from these injuries in 2017 and pitched to a 5-9 record, 3.77 ERA, .263 baa, 116 strikeouts, and an 8.24 K/9 over 126.2 innings. Before going down with his injuries Ryu pitched to a record of 28-15 with a 3.19 ERA, .254 baa, and 292 strikeouts over 344 innings in 2013 and 2014.
Ryu is now slotted to be the number five pitcher in the Dodgers rotation, and does not have the high expectations of being the second best pitcher on this team weighing down on him anymore. Ryu comes with some injury risk, but you should be able to be draft him in the late rounds, and if he can return to his 2013/2014 form he will be a steal in your drafts.