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We have now reached the starting pitching portion of our fantasy preview, and obviously this is the most comprehensive position on the fantasy landscape. A lot will change over spring training as injuries inevitably happen. For now, though, this is where we stand in terms of ADP. As always, this data comes from NFBC drafts and the average round reflects a 15-team league. This is a big one, so let’s jump right in.

(Early) Early Rounds

You can’t go wrong picking one of these elite arms…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

1

Clayton Kershaw

LAD

5.07

1

2

Max Scherzer

WAS

10.72

1

3

Madison Bumgarner

SF

15.23

1

4

Chris Sale

BOS

20.20

2

5

Noah Syndergaard

NYM

20.58

2

6

Corey Kluber

CLE

24.10

2

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

For the most part, the elite starting pitchers have remained the same from last year. Bumgarner was included in this group in the spring of 2016, but he’s now at the end of the first round rather than the end of the second. The Giants ace brings everything to the table. He’s going to be near the top of the league in innings, he plays on a good team to get wins, and he plays in a great park to keep his ERA down. On top of that, 2016 was the fourth straight year in which he increased his K/9. Some people don’t like picking pitchers in the first round. If you’re not one of them, Bumgarner is a solid and safe piece at the 1-2 turn.

Noah Syndergaard, Mets

While most of the top tier has stayed the same from last year, Syndergaard is the one guy who made the big leap into the elites. After being selected as a fourth rounder last year, he has jumped to the middle of the second round and it won’t be surprising if he continues to move up boards this spring. Already a strikeout machine who throws in the high-90s, the Mets ace wants to throw even harder in 2017. If accomplishes his goal, he’ll be even higher in next year’s column.

(Middle) Early Rounds

If you want to build your staff around slightly discounted former aces, this is your tier…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

7

Jake Arrieta

CHC

32.74

3

8

Yu Darvish

TEX

35.52

3

9

Jon Lester

CHC

36.07

3

10

Justin Verlander

DET

42.25

3

11

Johnny Cueto

SF

43.17

3

12

David Price

BOS

44.68

3

13

Chris Archer

TB

53.61

4

14

Stephen Strasburg

WAS

55.17

4

15

Carlos Carrasco

CLE

55.75

4

Jake Arrieta, Cubs

After spending 2015 proving 2014 wasn’t a fluke, Arrieta took a step back towards his old self in 2016 and it’s caused him to move from the second to the third round. It’s not a huge downgrade in the grand scheme of things, but it would provide huge value if he can get back to his peak performance. His big issue last year was control, and it was backed up by a career-low zone rate and his lowest O_Swing_Rt since his last full year in Baltimore. As he enters his age-31 season, I don’t think I’d want to spend quite this early of a pick on Arrieta. There’s big time upside and it’s far from impossible that he’ll make good on it, but I’d rather have one of the two pitchers immediately following up as my staff ace from this tier.

Justin Verlander, Tigers

It’s weird seeing such a big name make such a big jump on this list, but that’s exactly what Verlander did in 2016. After a great season in which he finished second in the Cy Young vote, the Tigers ace has moved all the way up from the tenth round. The good news for Verlander and potential fantasy owners is that everything was backed up last year. He was phenomenal by DRA and cFIP, and his strikeout rate was buoyed by career-high swinging strike and O_Swing rates. The bad news is that he just turned 34. I have little doubt Verlander will be very good in 2017, but I’m not confident enough to call him a top-ten pitcher.

(Late) Early Rounds

The group of high-end SP2’s are an intriguing mix of bounce-back candidates and 2016 surgers…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

16

Kyle Hendricks

CHC

64.68

5

17

Carlos Martinez

STL

69.83

5

18

Jacob deGrom

NYM

73.20

5

19

Cole Hamels

TEX

82.26

6

20

Masahiro Tanaka

NYY

89.17

6

21

Zack Greinke

ARI

97.68

7

22

Kenta Maeda

LAD

101.65

7

23

Danny Duffy

KC

103.54

7

24

Aaron Sanchez

TOR

103.68

7

Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

After being selected at the end of the second round heading into last season, Greinke had his worst fantasy season since the start of his career. His stock hasn’t fallen too far, but I still love this value here. The bad news is he won’t be a huge help in strikeout rate, making him an ideal pitcher to draft after taking someone like Darvish or Strasburg as your SP1. The good news is his DRA and cFIP outpaced his ERA by a signficiant margin in 2016, and his defense will be improved with the return of A.J. Pollock. Don’t be surprised if he’s back at the end of the SP1 mix at this time next year.

Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays

Sanchez was one of the biggest starting pitcher breakouts in 2016, moving up a whopping 279 spots since last spring. He was incredibly impressive for Toronto in his first full season as a starter, using a high ground ball rate to outperform his peripherals. Like Greinke, he’s not going to be a huge help in strikeouts, so he needs to rely on the other areas to carry an SP2 profile. Unless he can improve his control — he walked three batters per nine innings last year — I don’t think there’s a ton of room for him to outperform this spot. However, I don’t think picking him here would kill you, either.

(Early) Middle Rounds

This small tier provides a nice combination of safety and upside…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

25

Jose Quintana

CHW

107.58

8

26

Rick Porcello

BOS

110.62

8

27

Julio Teheran

ATL

110.91

8

28

Gerrit Cole

PIT

115.91

8

29

Rich Hill

LAD

129.22

9

30

Danny Salazar

CLE

131.14

9

Rick Porcello, Red Sox

The reigning AL Cy Young winner is one of the most popular regression candidates heading into 2017, and it’s somewhat justified. You can’t really bank on 22 wins from anyone, and he posted just his second sub-4.00 ERA since 2010. However, the Red Sox offense should still be enough to help him post plenty of W’s, and great control helped his peripherals back up his results. On the one hand, Porcello is a better real-life pitcher than a fantasy one thanks to his relative lack of strikeout stuff and this is probably a round or two too early for my liking. On the other hand, he should still be a more-than-adequate SP3 despite some expected regression.

Gerrit Cole, Pirates

As he's a former no. 1 overall pick, we always knew Cole had ace-level potential. He made good on that in 2015 before regressing a bunch in 2016. Injuries were his biggest issue in 2016, and while they didn’t result in major surgery it’s hard not to worry about them in 2017. With that being said, those injury concerns are outweighed by him being a massively talented arm who is just entering his prime. It’s a risky pick, and not one I’d make if the start of my staff was also on the risky side, but this is a good spot for someone with his range of pros and cons.

(Middle) Middle Rounds

If you are looking for bounce-back candidates and/or pitchers who burst on to the scene in 2016, this is your tier …

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

31

Felix Hernandez

SEA

138.81

10

32

Michael Fulmer

DET

139.41

10

33

Matt Harvey

NYM

142.35

10

34

Tanner Roark

WAS

142.83

10

35

Dallas Keuchel

HOU

144.72

10

36

Kevin Gausman

BAL

148.16

10

37

Jameson Taillon

PIT

149.90

10

38

Marcus Stroman

TOR

163.61

11

39

John Lackey

CHC

164.88

11

40

Julio Urias

LAD

164.96

11

41

Steven Matz

NYM

167.54

12

42

Sean Manaea

OAK

173.13

12

43

Matt Moore

SF

178.16

12

Matt Harvey, Mets

Whereas teammate Noah Syndergaard was a high-profile riser, Harvey is one of the most notable fallers in terms of ADP. We all know what Harvey can be when he’s healthy and on his game. We saw it in 2013 when he was arguably the most exciting pitcher in all of baseball. Unfortunately, that was now four years ago and since then he’s been battling injuries. Supposedly he’s completely healthy heading into camp this year, but we’ve obviously been fooled by that before. He’s likely someone who’s stock will move in either direction depending on spring training performance. At this moment, though, I like this spot as a high-upside mid-round pick.

Kevin Gausman, Orioles

Gausman has long been one of the most exciting young pitchers coming up through the minors, and has been one of the poster boys of the Orioles’ inability to develop pitching. He finally got a chance to start all year in 2016, and he started to make good on his potential. The righty has the stuff to rack up strikeouts at a rate of about one per inning, and he has enough control to keep his WHIP manageable. If he can find a way to limit the home runs he allows, there’s a big step forward to be taken here. I love this spot in the draft to take that kind of leap, particularly if you went down a safer route with one of your other SPs.

(Late) Middle Rounds

Some of the most intriguing high-upside arms in the draft are in this tier…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

44

Lance McCullers

HOU

180.35

13

45

Jake Odorizzi

TB

181.87

13

46

Jon Gray

COL

183.52

13

47

Vince Velasquez

PHI

185.93

13

48

James Paxton

SEA

187.23

13

49

J.A. Happ

TOR

187.28

13

50

Jeff Samardzija

SF

197.51

14

51

Carlos Rodon

CHW

197.70

14

52

Jerad Eickhoff

PHI

202.12

14

53

Sonny Gray

OAK

206.06

14

54

Drew Pomeranz

BOS

212.36

15

55

Aaron Nola

PHI

214.59

15

56

Michael Pineda

NYY

215.90

15

57

Robbie Ray

ARI

217.88

15

58

Drew Smyly

SEA

222.29

15

59

Anthony DeSclafani

CIN

223.78

15

J.A. Happ, Blue Jays

Happ is something of a lite version of Rick Porcello. He’s coming off a somewhat out-of-nowhere breakout season in which he was involved in the Cy Young voting. The results were good enough that he’s moved up a whopping 150 picks since last spring. Where he starts to separate from Porcello is in age and sustainability. Happ is entering his age-34 season, so his best seasons are likely behind him. On top of that, he doesn’t really have a carrying skill like Porcello’s control. Instead, Happ is mostly fine at everything. I don’t see enough upside or safety here to take Happ this early.

Sonny Gray, Athletics

Heading into last season, Gray was one of the more exciting young arms in the league. His 2016 was supposed to be his true breakout where he joined the upper echelons. Instead, his season was disrupted by injuries and he wasn’t very good when he was on the mound. At this point in the draft, I’m fine with banking on a bounce-back from the former ace. However, his lack of strikeout stuff has always hindered his fantasy upside, and he was showing signs of decline as early as the second half of 2015. If he starts to creep up the board, I’d let someone else take this risk.

(Early) Late Rounds

This tier is highlighted by a couple former top pitchers and a couple up-and-comers…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

60

Adam Wainwright

STL

227.20

16

61

Taijuan Walker

ARI

231.90

16

62

Matt Shoemaker

LAA

232.36

16

63

Blake Snell

TB

233.94

16

64

Marco Estrada

TOR

234.01

16

65

Joe Ross

WAS

246.25

17

66

Ian Kennedy

KC

249.23

17

67

Garrett Richards

LAA

252.71

17

68

Jharel Cotton

OAK

259.14

18

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

For a long time, Wainwright was a staple of consistency and taken atop fantasy drafts year after year. After missing most of 2015, the righty came back last year and did not look like his former self. While there were flashes of the old Wainwright sprinkled in throughout the year, you have to really squint to see the possibility of anything close to that production in 2017. It’s late enough that I can’t fault anyone for taking this plunge, but I’d rather have one of the younger arms with more upside in this tier.

(Middle) Late Rounds

If you are looking for arms that surprised everyone after going undrafted last year, this is your tier…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

69

Junior Guerra

MIL

273.87

19

70

Hisashi Iwakuma

SEA

274.23

19

71

Dylan Bundy

BAL

274.99

19

72

Ivan Nova

PIT

277.04

19

73

Collin McHugh

HOU

285.65

20

74

Tyler Glasnow

PIT

287.81

20

75

Daniel Norris

DET

293.99

20

76

Eduardo Rodriguez

BOS

296.94

20

77

Zach Davies

MIL

298.78

20

78

Chris Tillman

BAL

298.90

20

79

Gio Gonzalez

WAS

299.75

20

Zach Davies, Brewers

Davies came out of nowhere as the Brewer’s ace last season, as he wasn’t even included in this column in the spring of ’16. Being the Brewer’s ace isn’t the highest praise, but it’s worth a late-round pick in fantasy. The bad news is that Davies is a better real-life arm than fantasy, as he relies more on weak contact than strikeouts. On the other hand, he just turned 24 and there’s not a ton of excitement around him. There’s always risk with this kind of lack of track record, but this is solid value for the 2016 breakout.

(Late) Late Rounds

Your last pitchers selected are… well, they’re pitchers…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

80

Jeremy Hellickson

PHI

308.48

21

81

Lance Lynn

STL

311.06

21

82

Alex Cobb

TB

311.65

21

83

Trevor Bauer

CLE

317.35

22

84

Jordan Zimmermann

DET

318.84

22

85

Adam Conley

MIA

318.91

22

86

Luke Weaver

STL

322.81

22

87

Francisco Liriano

TOR

324.15

22

88

Jason Hammel

KC

326.49

22

89

Mike Foltynewicz

ATL

326.52

22

90

Ervin Santana

MIN

326.88

22

91

Dan Straily

MIA

331.59

23

92

Matt Andriese

TB

335.24

23

93

Wei-Yen Chen

MIA

338.09

23

94

Tyler Skaggs

LAA

338.20

23

95

Brandon Finnegan

CIN

338.23

23

Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers

Last offseason, Zimmermann signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers and was being selected in the 10th round of drafts. Oh, how times have changed. His first year in Detroit was a disaster. To be fair, he was great in April, but that’s about all the good you can say. The only positive is that he suffered through injuries in 2016, and there’s some hope that he can turn it around with a healthy 2017. He’s probably my favorite choice in this tier, and the value seems right, but that’s not my way of saying I’d be psyched about having him on my roster.

The Undrafted

There are sooo many…

Rank

Player

Team

Avg. Pick

Avg. Round

96

Jose De Leon

TB

350.99

Undrafted

97

Tyson Ross

TEX

354.65

Undrafted

98

Lucas Giolito

CHW

357.47

Undrafted

99

Mike Leake

CIN

365.66

Undrafted

100

Tyler Anderson

COL

368.38

Undrafted

101

Jaime Garcia

ATL

371.13

Undrafted

102

Jose Berrios

MIN

375.14

Undrafted

103

Michael Wacha

STL

380.18

Undrafted

104

Luis Severino

NYY

388.09

Undrafted

105

Scott Kazmir

LAD

389.46

Undrafted

106

Josh Tomlin

CLE

390.78

Undrafted

107

Bartolo Colon

ATL

394.53

Undrafted

108

Alex Wood

LAD

397.82

Undrafted

109

Steven Wright

BOS

404.35

Undrafted

110

Zack Wheeler

NYM

412.32

Undrafted

111

Clay Buchholz

PHI

413.02

Undrafted

112

Archie Bradley

ARI

416.48

Undrafted

113

Matt Boyd

DET

417.38

Undrafted

114

Homer Bailey

CIN

421.45

Undrafted

115

Tyler Chatwood

COL

421.88

Undrafted

116

Mike Fiers

HOU

423.52

Undrafted

117

Nathan Karns

KC

430.92

Undrafted

118

Shelby Miller

ARI

438.15

Undrafted

119

R.A. Dickey

ATL

442.02

Undrafted

120

Ricky Nolasco

LAA

447.46

Undrafted

121

Kendall Gravean

OAK

449.39

Undrafted

122

Josh Hader

MIL

449.98

Undrafted

123

Chad Kuhl

PIT

459.54

Undrafted

124

Edinson Volzquez

MIA

459.54

Undrafted

125

Hector Santiago

MIN

471.22

Undrafted

126

Patrick Corbin

ARI

472.17

Undrafted

127

CC Sabathia

NYY

473.17

Undrafted

128

Hyun-Jin Ryu

LAD

480.45

Undrafted

129

Reynaldo Lopez

CHW

480.83

Undrafted

130

Charlie Morton

HOU

483.35

Undrafted

131

Andrew Cashner

TEX

486.78

Undrafted

132

Chad Green

NYY

498.41

Undrafted

This is an overwhelmingly large tier, and there are a lot of different kinds of pitchers here. To be fair, it makes sense to keep these names in the back of your mind, as pitchers are the most likely to get hurt at any given time. If you want some stashes, Giolito, De Leon, and Hader fit that bill, among others. If you want veterans who will probably be pretty boring, say hello to R.A. Dickey, CC Sabathia, and Ricky Nolasco. If you want 2016 All-Stars, say hello to Steven Wright.