Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: A new pitching strategy — draft Dodgers
Want to build an elite pitching staff? You may not have to look far or wide to find it
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I'll be brief and direct in my sales pitch: What if I told you there was a way to put together a pitching rotation that could combine for a 3.44 ERA and 1.17 WHIP? I bet you'd be excited.
What if that group of starters could also be expected to win a bunch of games, thanks to the great teams surrounding them? What if they could be expected to combine for nearly 1,000 strikeouts between them? And what if they cost you just two of your first 13 picks?
Sounds like a winning rotation, doesn't it? There's a pretty good case for why you should just draft every Dodgers' starting pitcher on the board, it seems. It's a totally realistic plan.
And it might be a league-winning one. Here's how you do it.
First, you take two hitters with your first two picks, from wherever you happen to be drafting. Then, you target Walker Buehler (40.6 ADP, per FantasyPros.com), ideally with a late third-round pick. I'm a little more wary of Buehler's chances of being an ace due to workload concerns, but those concerns won't exist with this strategy, because you'll have Buehler's eventual replacement if you need him.
The same logic exists for Clayton Kershaw, who is a risk in the late-fourth/early-fifth range due to previous back issues, as well as the shoulder problem that sidelined him earlier this spring. Again, he's a risky pick on his own, but within the context of this strategy, you've got a natural replacement ready. You're building a contingency plan into your team.
Once you've snagged Kershaw and Buehler, you wait. Get as many good hitters and closers as you can in your next seven picks. Avoid the pitfalls of the mid-round pitchers, or target them selectively; if German Marquez falls to the ninth round, or Luis Castillo's poor spring scares some people off, pick those guys off as you want. But the focus in the first 11 rounds is to amass the very best offense you can build, plus a couple of very good closers That's key.
And then you move. Beginning in the 12th round, you snag Kenta Maeda. He should be good for 130 or so very good innings, before the Dodgers begin to shift him to the bullpen, as they have done in recent years.
Next up: Ross Stripling and Rich Hill, with ADPs in the 160-plus range on FantasyPros. You might feel like you're reaching taking them in the 13th and 14th rounds, but remember, whatever downside they might hold is mitigated by having their potential replacements in house.
Go get Hyun-Jin Ryu next, who had a 1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 9.7 K/9 last season, and who will somehow still be there when you draft in the 16th round. Complete the set with Julio Urias with one of your next two picks, and you've got them all.
And, if you're in an auction, you could probably get all seven for $50-55., you could have snagged all seven for $47, with a few going in the reserve rounds. This is a viable strategy in either format.
Depending on how else you spent draft capital on pitching, you're starting off with this as your pitching base, based on ATC projections from SportsLine's Ariel Cohen:
That's without accounting for the possibility that Stephen Straburg fell to you in the fifth, or you added Jack Flaherty, Jameson Taillon, or Jose Berrios in search of some upside. Or the elite closers you could afford to pick up because you know you're not going to be going after starters for a long time. However, you might just be able to avoid investing in any other pitchers, and just stream two-start pitchers in-season; you'll have at least one, maybe two two-start options from your Dodgers' core every week, too.
You've got that pitching staff to start with, and it cost you just two early round picks and a bunch of later picks. Sure, you'll have to deal with two of them not being in the rotation at any given point. But, given the depth and quality of this rotation, that won't matter — you should have five starting-quality pitchers to choose from at any point in the season. And, with this being the Dodgers, you'll likely be able to stash any one of them on the IL at various points in the season. The only downside is the possibility that three of them hit the IL at the same time, but you'll hopefully have a streamer or two who hit by then, too.
This is an unusual strategy, but it's easy to see the logic in it. Each Dodgers' pitcher might individually carry some risk that lowers their draft price and makes Fantasy players wary. Collectively, however, they should be excellent. By taking advantage of the teams' depth, you can mitigate that risk almost entirely, while building a pitching staff that should be the envy of your league.
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