Starting pitchers are important in all fantasy baseball formats, but perhaps none more so than fantasy baseball points leagues. It’s easy to understand why so much emphasis is placed on this position once you understand the scoring system. You build your hitters and your pitchers, and while they are all apart of one team, they are two very separate entities and rack up different stats. In a Roto league, you only care about five pitching stats and really only four when it comes to starters. But in points league, everything a pitcher does on the mound matters.
Many points league reward points per out or inning, as well as per win, strikeout and you lose points for hits, walks or runs allowed. That makes it similar to Roto formats, but points leagues takes it to a new level. Pitchers are rewarded for quality starts and some points leagues will reward points for complete games, shut outs and more. I was in one points league that rewards points for pickoffs and subtracts points for a balk! That is how fully customizable many points leagues are in fantasy baseball.
The two biggest factors when looking for pitchers in points leagues are pitchers that can eat innings with a low WHIP. But perhaps even more so than that, you want pitchers who can deliver quality starts. Not only are they rewarded with points, but if a pitcher goes six innings and gives up three runs or fewer, the odds of them picking up a win also increase. Additionally, in points leagues you typically start fewer pitchers than in Roto, which means you should stockpile depth on your bench. Because of that, what a pitcher gives you on a per start basis should be weighted more than what they will give you over the course of a full season. Let’s run down the list of my favorite SP draft targets for points leagues.
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Pitchers to Target in Fantasy Baseball Drafts
You can also read Michael Florio’s hitters to target in points leagues.
Max Fried is one of my favorite pitcher targets regardless of format. Last season, he pitched to a 3.04 ERA with a 3.50 xERA and 3.45 xFIP to go along with 1.09 WHIP with a 23.7 percent strikeout rate. That is near ace-like production and he did so while matching his career high in innings. ATC projections forecast him to make an innings jump to 178 with similar numbers to last season. Fried showed the ability to go deep into games, picking up 19 quality starts in his 28 starts last year. In points leagues, Fried averaged over 16 fantasy PPG, which was towards the top of the league. In fact, that was more per game than Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and on par with Shane Bieber, all of whom go much earlier in drafts than Fried.
charlie morton is the second Braves pitcher to kick off this list. Morton is a strong target regardless of format as he pitched to a 3.34 ERA, 3.32 xERA with a 3.31 xFIP in a career high 185.2 innings. He did so while also posting a near 29 percent strikeout rate and 1.04 WHIP. Simply put, he was outstanding last season. He averaged 15.5 fantasy PPG, which was more than Peralta, Logan Webb, Jose Berrios, Sandy Alcantara, Lucas Giolito amongst many others. Morton picked up 19 quality starts in 2021. The best part? Due to the fact that he always comes with some injury risk, his ADP from him is just inside the first 100 picks and he goes outside the top 30 pitchers. Again, it’s easier to bet on injury risks in league points, especially when the risk is already baked into the ADP. In a Roto league, if a player missed a month, that is a huge portion of the seasonal stats you banked on now removed from your lineup. But in points leagues, it is just a few weekly matchups. It is a lot like fantasy football in the sense that you just have to make the playoffs in this format and then anything can happen.
Alek Manoah made 20 starts in his rookie season and was very effective. In his 111.2 innings he posted a 3.22 ERA, 3.32 xERA, 4.17 xFIP and a 1.05 WHIP with a near 28 percent strikeout rate. He turned 11 of those starts in quality ones as well. In his rookie season he averaged 15.6 fantasy PPG which was more than Morton and the long list of pitchers he outscored (see above). Those are aces with higher ADPs than Manoah, who goes just inside the Top 100 picks. Plus, at just 24 years old heading into his second season, there should be an expected jump in innings and he could just keep on getting better on a per inning basis. ATC projects him for 157 innings this season.
Adam Wainwright continues to marvel in fantasy baseball. Just a couple years ago it looked like Waino was fading out of the MLB but he had a resurgence the last two season posting a low three ERA in both seasons. He does not provide strikeouts like he used too, which is a bigger knock in Roto formats, but he does eat innings. Last season, at 39 years old, he still gave 206 innings with a 3.05 ERA (3.87 xERA and xFIP), with a 1.06 WHIP. He turned 22 of his 32 starts into quality ones and averaged a whopping 17.5 fantasy PPG. That was the same amount as Julio Urias and within a half a point of both Gerrit Cole and the AL Cy Young Winner Robbie Ray. Wainwright was on par with the elite pitchers that you see go in the first few rounds, but yet his ADP is just inside the Top 200. I understand there is risk investing in a 40-year-old, but at that cost? He is easily worth the gamble, especially in points leagues.
paul lopez is a personal favorite target of mine. Lopez pitched to a 3.07 ERA with a 3.55 xERA and 3.32 xFIP with a near 28 percent strikeout rate and a 1.12 WHIP in 102 innings. Half of his outings from him resulted in quality starts. Last season Lopez averaged 12.4 fantasy PPG, which was on par with Aaron Nola, Sean Manaea, Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Lopez’s ADP is just within the first 150 picks, but an innings jump should lead to him providing to be a value in points leagues.
Clayton Kershaw goes right after Lopez in ADP, so he provides another option for drafters that miss out. After basically making a career of having a sub three ERA, Kershaw posted a 3.55 ERA with a 3.17 xERA, 2.87 xFIP and a very strong 1.02 WHIP. Kershaw also missed plenty of bats, providing a near 30 percent strikeout rate. Kershaw posted a 72 percent strand rate, which is by far a career low for the Dodgers southpaw. Just a return to a career norm there could help the ERA get more the peripherals. Kershaw still has the stuff to be a very effective fantasy pitcher, the only concern is health. But again, it is easier to deal with an injury in points leagues as you start fewer pitchers and it is a weekly game instead of a yearly one like Roto. Kershaw remains a very good per inning pitcher and has the ability to return to being an elite one. He is worth targeting just inside the top 150 picks.
Kyle Hendricks is coming off a down year where he pitched to a career high 4.77 ERA with a 4.99 xERA, 4.61 xFIP and a 1.35 WHIP, while the strikeout rate fell to just 17 percent. So why should you want to draft a pitcher with career highs in ERA and WHIP and a career low in strikeout rate? Well, first, he eats innings. Hendricks threw 181 innings and turned 19 of his 32 starts into quality ones. Hendricks averaged 11.7 fantasy PPG last season, which was on par with Shane McClanahan and ahead of pitchers such as Yusei Kikuchi, Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Luis Castillo and Blake Snell. ATC projects some improvements, giving Hendricks a 4.56 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 180 innings. Hendricks goes outside the top 275 picks, meaning there is no risk in drafting him as one of your bench pitchers that you can stream in the right matchups.
Zack Greinke is currently going off the board outside the top 300 picks. That is after he pitched to a 4.16 ERA with a 4.39 xERA, 4.21 xFIP with a 1.17 WHIP and a 17 percent strikeout rate. He is very similar to Hendricks, but you get an even larger discount on him. Greinke turned 15 of his 30 appearances into quality starts and averaged 12.8 fantasy PPG last year. That was the same amount as Dylan Cease and more than Ian Anderson, Aaron Nola, Trevor Rogers, Sean Manaea, Luis Garcia, Pablo Lopez, Yu Darvish and many others. I know it may not be sexy by any stretch, but Greinke remains an effective pitcher in this format. Take advantage of that discount and draft him as a bench pitcher.
Kyle Gibson currently has an ADP outside the first 380 picks despite being an effective points league pitcher. Last season, he averaged 12.9 fantasy PPG and concerted 19 of his 31 appearances into quality starts. That 12.9 fantasy PPG is more than Greinke and the long list of pitchers that Greinke averaged more than (see above). Projections do not expect Gibson to duplicate his 2021 season, but it only takes a last round pick – if even that to take a flier on him. Gibson is one of those pitchers you can either draft late or grab off the waiver wire when you are in need of an arm in this format.
Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio
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