Fantasy Baseball Slack and Forth: Overvalued Pitchers for 2021
Over the past few weeks, Jim Sannes, Austan Kas, and I have hopped on Slack to discuss how we're viewing season-long fantasy baseball drafts this spring. We've run through some hitters and pitchers we think are due for bounce-back seasons this year, and just last week, we dove into hitters we think are being overvalued.
For our final roundtable, we took a look at which pitchers may be overvalued this season. Here's what we had to say!
All average draft position (ADP) data comes from March NFBC drafts.
Kenyatta Storin: If I’m being honest, I had a tough time choosing someone for this exercise, because it’s just so easy to nitpick pretty much anyone outside the top handful of picks. I feel like I can rationalize drafting or fading just about anyone.
So I dunno if this is cheating, but I’m saying the Dodgers’ starters collectively give me pause, including both the early guys (Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw) and some later starting options like Julio Urias. On paper, they’re all varying degrees of awesome, so I’m not saying I won’t pick any of them, but I think I’m more willing to push them all down a couple of pegs.
For Bauer, it’s because he’s typically the fourth pitcher off the board, and while he could be excellent, it’s a steep pick for someone who has posted an ERA below 4.00 in only one full season (2018) outside of last year’s small sample.
As for the others, it mostly comes down to innings, as we know the Dodgers are going to maximize their depth as they always do, which potentially caps the ceilings of Buehler and Kershaw. Urias seems tough at a top-120 ADP, as he’s never posted a high workload.
Jim Sannes: Wow, SNIPED.
My pick was Bauer, too. So clearly I'm in agreement with that aspect of it, though for different reasons.
You mentioned the volume, which is a red flag for everyone except Bauer. He'll probably excel there. But I have the same concerns around whether he can duplicate 2020.
It was a smaller sample of 73 innings. So when you see a disconnect between his swinging-strike rate (12.8%) and his strikeout rate (36.0%), it matters more. I'm 100% in agreement with you that he is totally off the radar at his current slot.
Austan Kas: I am not at all in on Bauer at his current ADP range. But in general, I very much agree with what Kenyatta said at the start. There are so few pitchers I feel great about.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, like I said, it’s easy to poke holes at a lot of early guys. But at least guys like Yu Darvish and Lucas Giolito pretty much carried over their 2019 marks into 2020, whereas Bauer was meh in 2019.
Also, all these guys (and Shane Bieber) benefited from facing a lot of bad offenses with the unique schedule last year. So Bauer’s numbers came against teams like the Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jim Sannes: The only pushback from me is that I'm a bit more willing to roster the other Dodgers. Buehler, specifically, is going to give you such good ratios that I'm not as worried about the volume. I also think the other guys in his range -- Aaron Nola, Max Scherzer, Luis Castillo -- have at least some cause for concern, too. So Buehler's fine by me.
Austan Kas: Buehler is the one guy on their staff I want at their current cost. It's so weird to say that because they have so many awesome pitchers.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, I totally get that with Buehler, and I don’t mind him as much at his ADP compared to Bauer and Kershaw.
Austan Kas: Speaking of that ADP range, that's where my avoid is going. It pains me to say this because I love (and fear) him, but I'm passing on Max Scherzer this season.
He's going into his age-37 campaign, and he has to fall off at some point. We may have seen the start of it in 2020, when he posted a 3.56 SIERA, 31.2% strikeout rate, 7.8% walk rate and 14.7% swinging-strike rate.
Those are still great numbers, but they also represent a downward trend, with the SIERA and walk rate being his worst clips since he emerged as an ace with the Tigers. His average exit velocity allowed of 88.5 MPH was his worst-ever mark since that data began being tracked in 2015, as was his 8.4% barrel rate allowed. There are worrying signs, and he isn't getting younger.
Of course, with how great he has been, Scherzer could take a step or two back and still be an extremely productive pitcher in fantasy -- especially when there aren't many surefire aces out there. And as Jim said, the other pitchers in this range aren't perfect. But Scherzer may be losing some of his upside, and at an ADP of 28th overall (SP9), he is someone I can't really get behind right now.
Please don't tell him.
Kenyatta Storin:**insert Angry Scherzer gif**
Jim Sannes: The concerning thing with Scherzer is that he needs the elite strikeout and walk numbers to be old Scherzer given his batted-ball marks. He's not a standout there, so any slippage in his peripherals matters more. It's not enough where I'm avoiding Scherzer outright, but your concern is valid.
Kenyatta Storin: So, I 100% understand all the worries. But because I’m worried about just about every pitcher, I think I’m still okay with him at around where he’s going. Part of it is that he should get volume, so barring him totally falling off a cliff, he should at least give you a solid floor of strikeouts, which you can’t say for a lot of guys.
Austan Kas: That's fair. I don't have a pitcher in that range other than Buehler who I feel a ton better about than I do Scherzer. I'd probably just opt to take one of the bats instead like Bo Bichette or Corey Seager.
Kenyatta Storin: I buy that.
Jim Sannes: Yeah, that's why I can't fully commit to Scherzer despite seeing the case for his having a floor. If the choice is going Max there versus getting a bat, I'm probably going to pass over Scherzer and the others pitchers.
Austan Kas: And if you're not in a league with sharps, Scherzer could go a little higher than his NFBC ADP based on who he is.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, pitching is so tricky this year, so it may depend on how much you think pitchers are going to fly off the board. I think once you get outside roughly the top 20 or so it really starts to drop off.
Jim Sannes: That's part of the reason why my backup avoid was Lance Lynn. I'm more out on Bauer at his slot, but Lynn's a close second for me.
The volume will be there for sure. He's a horse. But his dip in strikeout rate last year was concerning.
The reason Lynn was so fun in 2019 was that he gave you big innings with a massive 28.1% strikeout rate. Last year, that fell to 25.9%, and his swinging-strike rate dipped to 11.2%. For a guy entering his age-34 season, that gets your attention.
Lynn's kind of floating in no-man's land, between Kenta Maeda at the end of one tier and Corbin Burnes at the start of another. I like both those guys more than Lynn. So when the choice is Lynn versus getting some massive power upside via Pete Alonso or Aaron Judge, I'm going hitter there and circling back on pitcher the next round.
Kenyatta Storin: I kind of think Lynn is the last of that top-20ish group (unless you feel comfortable with Stephen Strasburg), so I’m OK with him depending on whether or not you’ve picked a pitcher in your draft to that point. But I agree that he doesn’t have the same pizazz as those other guys you mentioned.
Jim Sannes: Part of the reason I don't like Lynn is that I really like Burnes. I know it's a small sample, but his strikeout and batted-ball numbers last year were gross.
Kenyatta Storin: Yeah, I’d definitely take Burnes over him.
Austan Kas: I still haven't fully come to grips with how good Lynn was in 2019.
I like a few arms in Lynn's ADP range more than I do Lynn -- Maeda, Strasburg and Burnes to name a few.
Kenyatta Storin: Yup, no argument from me there. Outside of maybe Stras, but I totally get it.