With lots of fantasy drafts taking place this weekend and for those owners who may have drafted already, but want to add a player or two to their team, here are some undervalued starting pitchers to look over. There is a ton of talent on this list, so make sure to pay attention to all the guys listed below because you never know where the next, big talent will come to form.
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
Coming off of a 24-0 season in Japan, Tanaka will look to make an immediate impact in the states as the newest member of the Yankees’ pitching staff. The 25-year-old right hander signed a seven-year, $155 million contract during the offseason, adding great pressure to his highly anticipated first season in the Bronx. In seven seasons in Japan, Tanaka posted a 99-35 record with a 2.30 earned run average, but during his past two seasons he managed to reduce his ERA to an epic 1.27.
With his exploding 96 mph fastball and devastating split-finger, Tanaka should quickly gain the respect of most Major League hitters. Expect him to win around 15 games and approach 200 strikeouts this year, especially since the Yankees did a great job upgrading their aging offense during the offseason. He seems to be going relatively low in the majority of fantasy drafts, which makes some sense for a player who hasn’t played in the Show yet. With that being said, it should be well worth taking a chance on adding this stud to your roster.
Gerrit Cole, Pit
Most 23-year-old pitchers don’t come as polished as Pirates ace Gerrit Cole. The beefy right-hander had an outstanding rookie season, where he collected 10 wins with a 3.22 ERA and 100 Strikeouts in 117.1 IP. His fastball averages around 95.5 mph, but has been known to flirt with triple digits on a good day. Having a deep arsenal of pitches (curveball, cutter, changeup, slider, and sinker) makes the former UCLA Bruin tough for opposing batters to figure out, especially when the extra zip on that heater decides to show up.
During the first half of the season, Cole sported a 3.89 ERA to go along with a 5.40 K/9 ratio. After the All-Star break, he began to dominate hitters and trimmed his second half ERA down to 2.85 with an eye-popping 10.97 K/9. Numbers like this tend to catch the eye of fantasy owners, so as long as he isn’t drafted unrealistically high (ESPN ADP: 11th round), then you have my blessing on using him to bolster your squad’s rotation.
Michael Wacha, StL
How could one forget about the magic that Wacha brought to the Cardinals during their 2013 postseason run? With just 65 innings of regular season baseball under his belt, the 22-year-old managed to be named NLCS MVP, before falling just short of a World Series title. Standing at six-foot-six, Wacha’s mound presence has proven to be a big factor in dazzling some of baseball’s top hitters, especially when the lights shine the brightest. The Iowa native possesses a changeup that gets groundballs 66.7% of the time, which is complimented with a plus fastball and swooping curve that keeps hitters honest.
Just like Cole, Wacha’s fastball reaches the upper 90s, but it’s the right-hander’s curveball that needed work this offseason in order to take him to that next level. Pitching to the best defensive catcher in the big leagues in Yadier Molina and learning behind a well-polished Adam Wainwright will be key in his development. His current ADP is 129.9 and he usually gets selected somewhere around the 13th round of fantasy drafts. Although we only have a small sample size, Wacha has the potential to be absolute fantasy gold. Owners should expect big things out of him, knowing that the Cardinals organization seems to know how to win a game or two these days.
Andrew Cashner, SD
Here we have yet another flamethrower for you fantasy owners who are looking to add pitching depth to your rotation during the late rounds of your draft. At age 27, right-hander Andrew Cashner is going into his fourth season as a big leaguer. After a brief stint with the Cubs, he ended up being dealt to the Padres in a four-player trade involving first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Pitching in the spacious Petco Park can be quite refreshing for any pitcher and Cashner seems to be taking full advantage of it. The Texan went 10-9, with a 3.09 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 175 innings pitched in 2013. Not exactly the flashiest numbers around, but there is definite potential from a fantasy standpoint due to his low ERA and WHIP.
Like Wacha, Mr. Cashner stands at a daunting six-foot-six and has one of the more impressive fastballs on this list. It averages at around 95 mph, and has been known to top out around 99 mph. His slider has been quite effective against right-handed hitters, and has proven itself by piling up a good number of punch-outs. Many fantasy owners are waiting until around the 17th round to obtain Cashner, which is great value for a pitcher with this type of upside and overpowering stuff. If he can get his changeup working as well as his other pitches, he could become someone to get excited about.
Sonny Gray, Oak
It’s always Sonny in Oakland! In 2011, Gray pitched extremely well at Vanderbilt and earned himself a first-round selection by the A’s (18th overall pick). Two years later, the 24-year-old was called up to the Big Leagues after spending half of the season in Triple-A. Gray has ace-like stuff and in 12 appearances, he managed to hold a 2.67 ERA, 9.4 K/9, and respectable 5-3 record during the second half of 2013. It would be unrealistic to expect him to duplicate that low of an ERA in 2014, but it would be wise for any fantasy owner to have high hopes for this up and coming right-hander.
With the loss of both Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin due to injury, manager Bob Melvin recently named Gray the Opening Day starter. Without a doubt his ERA will be somewhere in the low to mid 3s, along with a good dose of strikeouts and decent WHIP. It is almost certain that the frontline starter will outperform his draft-slot this year, where on average he is being taken with the 164th overall pick.
Chris Archer, TB
It is safe to say that the Rays have had their fair share of impressive young pitching over the years. We all know what David Price brings to the table and the talented southpaw Matt Moore has blossomed into what some would call ace material. With that being said, next in line to shine is the brilliant Archer. The 25-year-old right-hander really helped my fantasy team last year outpitching some of my team’s aces at one point.
Archer led all AL rookies in ERA, opponents’ average (.226), shutouts (2), complete games (2), WHIP (1.13), and hits per nine innings (7.5). He finished third in voting for the AL Rookie of the Year award behind teammate Will Myers and Jose Iglesias of the Tigers. I expect a cool 12-14 wins out of Archer in 2014, so fantasy owners should do what they can to draft him in the later rounds.
Zack Wheeler, NYM
Many experts are expecting big things out of Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler in 2014. With the painful, year-long absence of ace Matt Harvey due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets are going to need Wheeler to be on his A-game if they are going to compete in what appears to be the toughest division in the National League.
In 17 appearances last year, the southpaw finished with a 7-5 record, a 3.42 ERA and a solid 7.56 K/9 ratio. He didn’t get to complete the campaign due to shoulder soreness and with the teams’ playoff hopes far from possible, shutting him down was the smart thing to do. Fantasy owners should pay attention to his availability come draft day, as he might even have the chance to become the teams number one starter over the ancient Bartolo Colon.
Alex Wood, Atl
At 6’4, 215 pounds, Braves’ starter Alex Wood will look to get back to where he left off last season as a rookie. The quirky left-hander spent most of his career in the bullpen, but was eventually added to the starting rotation when an unexpected injury bug hit the team. The former 2nd round draft-pick in 2012 posted a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts, with 54 punch outs in 56 innings.
Wood was even more effective in relief, where he struck out 23 batters in 21.2 innings while holding onto a minuscule 2.08 ERA. His strikeout ability makes him a valuable fantasy sleeper and his owners should expect anywhere from 170-180 Ks this season. There’s nothing wrong with getting mid-round production out of a player who is generally drafted extremely late, if at all in some leagues.
Michael Pineda, NYY
Michael Pineda appears to be at the end of his two-year journey back to the Big Leagues from a major shoulder surgery. On Tuesday, Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi broke the news that the lengthy right-hander will be the teams’ No. 5 starter this season. Pineda was nothing short of dominant as a member of the Mariners and has proven this Spring that he can indeed be the beast that Yankee fans were expecting before hearing the bad news two years ago.
The 25-year-old went 2-1 in four Grapefruit appearances with a 1.20 ERA while striking out 16 batters in just 15 innings. Owners should realize that there is definite risk involved with Pineda, as no one knows if he can stay on the field for an entire season. With that being said, this pitcher has far too much raw talent to go unnoticed, especially with the caliber of season that New York is projected to have.
Yordano Ventura, KC
Ventura’s triple-digit heater has earned him a safe spot in the Royals’ young rotation. The 22-year-old flamethrower is considered one of baseballs’ top prospects and is on his way to becoming fantasy relevant in 2014. His intense strikeout ability can help fantasy owners in deep category and roto leagues and the Dominican rookie has had quite the spring, going 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 4 quality starts. Many are choosing Ventura over his struggling teammate Danny Duffy as the better sleeper pitcher to add depth to their anxious fantasy squads. This is the type of draft pick that can make someone look like a complete genius, so thank us later for this one.