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I'm going to be honest. Wins are not my favorite category. In fact, they're my least favorite. I don't even like them as a stat, much less one-tenth of your scoring system, but I don't make the scoring systems. More importantly, my disdain for the win should in no way suggest they aren't exploitable. You can project wins ... just don't tell that to Jacob deGrom.
For the most part, good pitchers who pitch deep into games get wins. According to Vegas, the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Indians are projected to win the most games this year. A good pitcher on one of those teams should win more than expected, all other things being equal. The Orioles, Marlins, Tigers, Royals and Rangers are projected for the fewest wins. Can you even name a starter you want to draft off those teams?
A good offense is obviously a bonus, and a great bullpen can also help, as long as that bullpen isn't too deep. Surprisingly, it turns out a "starter" may actually help (see Ryan Yarbrough). But what likely has the biggest impact on wins is how you structure your team.
Middle relievers like Josh Hader are becoming more valuable than ever due to their enormous strikeout numbers and great ratios, but they don't help you in wins at all. If you're tempted to go reliever-heavy in a standard CBS Roto league but scared of the impact it will have on wins, just plan on treating one of your pitcher slots as you would in a points league by streaming two-start pitchers. I would just be prepared to keep multiple pitchers on your bench if you're going to do that because the waiver wire isn't as bountiful in that format. Also be prepared that you aren't likely to "win" wins with this strategy, but you can survive.
As for searching out specific names to target, I've got a sleeper, a breakout and some late-round options as well. First, let's take a look at last year's wins leaderboard.
- Blake Snell - 21
2. Corey Kluber - 20
3. Luis Severino - 19
What you need to win
Below you'll find the average number of wins by place for the category in 2018. These numbers are for a standard, mixed, 12-team league. In an eight- or 10-team league, these numbers would be higher. In a 15-team league you could aim lower.
I don't know exactly how many games Joe Musgrove is going to win in 2019, but I'd make a sizable wager it's more than six. Musgrove missed time at the beginning of last season and struggled to get going when he was healthy. But down the stretch he was reliably pitching deep into games.
Musgrove went at least six innings in 10 of his final 11 starts of the season. In his final 13 starts he had a 3.84 ERA and a 3.60 FIP. He doesn't strike enough hitters out to be an ace, but he posted a 1.79 BB/9 and a 1.18 WHIP in 2018. As long he stays healthy in 2019 he should approach 200 innings and quite possibly double his win total.
Jose Berrios finished with a line very similar to what I expect in 2018. He just didn't do it in a very reliable way. Still, the final numbers were very solid -- 18th in innings pitched, 17th in WHIP and 15th in strikeouts. Unfortunately, only two of those are Roto categories. Berrios was plagued by the long ball and a rough stretch in the middle of the season that drove his ERA out of the top 30, while some rotten luck held him to just 12 wins. Six times he pitched at least six innings, allowed two runs or fewer and didn't earn a win.
While I'd expect Berrios to simply have a little more luck in 2019, that's not enough to call him a breakout in wins. I also expect the 24-year-old to continue to make progress as a pitcher. As good as he was when he was on, he had some truly dreadful performances. A little bit of consistency could go a long way for a pitcher who has already shown an ability to miss bats and pitch deep into games.
I get it, Rick Porcello pitches for the Red Sox. They're arguably the best team in baseball. He's going to win some games. But he just won 17 games with a 4.28 ERA, averaging less than six innings per start. Porcello's ERA+ was 102, which is slightly better than the 98 he posted in 2017 when he lost 17 games. Porcello's ERA was the second-highest for a 17-game winner in the last five years, behind only 2015 Colby Lewis. We all remember how that ended.
The truth is, Porcello is a league-average pitcher, and 2016 was an outlier. He was fortunate to win as many games as he did last year, and in Rotisserie he's very mediocre without those wins. He's a fifth-starter in most leagues, so don't pay any more.
Remember Collin McHugh? He's a starting pitcher again!
McHugh worked exclusively as a reliever in 2018 and was absolutely phenomenal with a 1.99 ERA and 11.7 K/9. Those ratios won't be repeated, but the Astros have a shortage of starting pitchers and McHugh looks fairly secure as a member of the starting five.
This is a guy who threw 358.1 innings as a starter from 2014-15 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. If he comes anywhere close to those numbers in 2019, he's going to win a bunch of games on one of the best teams in baseball. He will absolutely be relevant in mixed points leagues as well because of his SPARP eligibility.
Vince Velasquez has had brutal results the past couple of years, but I'm not ready to completely give up on him. He had a 9.9 K/9 last year and a 3.75 FIP. He also made 30 starts for the first time in his career. I'm not ready to say he will definitely turn into the pitcher we all expected either, but in NL-only he has enormous upside as late as you're going to be able to get him. Velasquez can rack up a ton of Ks and if he's just serviceable as a starter he should rack up a bunch of wins as well on a resurgent Phillies team. He's a reserve-round dart throw in mixed leagues, but I'll be taking shots on him in NL-only.
Wilmer Flores signed with Diamondbacks, and it sure sounds like he's going to get a chance to play every day in Arizona. Flores has been an underrated hitter for the Mets, largely because of playing time. Like Grichuk, Flores doesn't find himself on a great offense, but he should have a good opportunity to slot into the top-six in the order. If he does, 75 RBI is not out of the question.