Just beyond the first handful of fantasy baseball picks is where the biggest decisions loom. Do you use a late first round/early second round pick on a dominant starting pitcher or do you trust a position player without the hype surrounding those top-flight picks?
Starting pitchers somewhat resemble quarterbacks in that some owners reach for pitchers when other similarly capable players are still left either in the draft or on the waiver wire. The same happens in fantasy football every year, just with the quarterback position.
Early average draft positions currently have Clayton Kershaw going sixth, with Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber going in the top-14 picks. That's slightly different than the draft rankings, with those four players being ranked from nine to 18, according to Fantasy Pros.
Who are the position players?
According to the ADP consensus, here's the players ranked sixth through 15:
- 6. Clayton Kershaw, SP
- 7. Bryce Harper, OF
- 8. Charlie Blackmon, OF
- 9. Mookie Betts, OF
- 10. Giancarlo Stanton, OF
- 11. Max Scherzer, SP
- 12. Chris Sale, SP
- 13. Kris Bryant, 1B, 3B, OF
- 14. Corey Kluber, SP
According to ADP, there's not another starting pitcher until the mid-20s, so those first two rounds will likely only feature these four pitchers. It's basically between one of several solid outfielders or strong, consistent, high-strikeout pitchers.
What to do?
Busts don't happen as much in fantasy baseball compared to fantasy football, but it does happen on occasion with position players. Stanton won't be the same player we saw in 2017, but how far will he drop off? And Betts was supposed to be a top-three option in 2017, only to fall short of the hype.
Starting pitchers, though, generally steer clear of busts as long as injuries don't occur. You know Kershaw is going to be dominant. Scherzer, Sale and Kluber are near that dominant level. If you're wanting to be conservative and believe there are some position players with sleeper value later in the draft, then this is a nice spot for a starting pitcher.
Barring injury, these four starting pitchers are going to be among the top-five pitchers in fantasy baseball in 2018.
However, I'm not in the conservative game when it comes to starting pitchers. Having a solid No. 1 on your staff is important, but it's not necessary to have such a big hammer on your staff. If you can find a position player who can be a weekly dominant force, that is a better tool for your lineup. You can't find waiver wire position players who can compete with these kind of players.
Starting pitching, though, can be found on the waiver wire, especially with two-start pitchers. A decent two-start pitcher can contribute close to a dominant starting pitcher's level of strikeouts with one start. And if you get somewhat lucky, you may be able to get one or even two quality starts in those outings.
Two-start pitchers negate a bit of the overall effectiveness of these dominant starting pitchers. For me, I'd favor a Blackmon, Betts or Bryant every day over just one start a week from these pitchers.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH