Starting pitching is half of the fantasy baseball equation and when you take them in the early rounds you cannot afford to strike out. Here are three starting pitchers you should be letting others draft along with seven other names you should consider as alternatives.
Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
Fantasy owners are living in the past as Gonzalez continues to get taken higher than he should. Since some good luck (BABIP, HR/FB) helped him become the 13th most valuable fantasy player in 2012, Gonzalez has sunk to 141st in 2013, and 196th last year. He’s always been pretty reliable health wise but after four straight seasons of 195+ innings pitched, shoulder inflammation put him on the DL last season for a month. The mileage is wearing on his fastball as well as he’s seen steady velocity declines the past two seasons. Outside of that one flukey year, he’s never helped anybody in WHIP. He’s been getting drafted in the 8th round of 15 team NFBC leagues this year. Let him go. Hisashi Iwakuma (safer floor) or Carlos Carrasco (higher upside) are far better options in these rounds.
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
A late 3rd/early 4th round pick this year for people who are hoping for another repeat of 2013. They are betting on the wrong horse. On the cover, he would seem to be a reliable anchor as he’s coming off a career best numbers in numerous categories. However, under the surface the once reliable peripheral numbers for Wainwright are beginning to come apart. In 2014 he benefited from career lows in BABIP (.267) and HR/FB rates (5.3%). His first half 7.5 K/9 was well off his previous four-year average of 8.2. As he wore down throughout the year, his numbers continued to decline. A pedestrian 6.4 K/9, 3.54 xFIP in the second half and mediocre postseason brought questions about his health. Offseason arthroscopic surgery on his elbow to repair cartilage has raised more questions about how much he has left in the tank. There are too many red flags here to be using the 45th pick of the draft on guy who is clearly past his prime. I see nothing but downside here. Unless Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner or David Price fall to you, stick with a bat if it’s your turn at this point of the draft.
Sonny Gray, Athletics
Sonny Gray has been a solid pitcher for the past year and a half but I’m not buying his 85 ADP for 2015. Gray put together 219 solid innings last year but that was only good for 97th best on the player rater. I think he’s already very close to where his ceiling is. His 7.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are stretched long and barely supported by a mediocre 58.5% First-Pitch Strike and 8.7% Swinging Strike. His BABIP is a good bet to rise 15-20 points this year as well. If you’re looking for upside here, I don’t see any. If you’re lucky, he’ll just barely earn his value at this draft slot. If you’re unlucky and he regresses, you could end up with wasting a good draft pick for mediocre production. Do yourself a favor and wait a round to grab Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom.