Since keeper season is over for many, and our Keeper List is already available to the public, we’re going conceptual in our discussion of pitchers this week. If you’re still making keeper decisions, please feel free to check out that link, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with anything specific.
How Many Starters to Keep
To understand the relative worth of keeping pitchers and hitters, it helps to go back to the foundational principles of your Scoresheet team. The traditional Scoresheet team allows you to keep 13 players in a continuous league. If you look at a baseball team in the abstract, 13 keepers makes perfect sense—eight hitters, five pitchers in an NL format (DHs, of course, complicate matters, but then as everyone always says, the DH rule adds strategy to the game). Just because that’s the natural order of things, however, doesn’t mean you have to set up your team that way.
In Scoresheet, you really shouldn’t care much about who your top five starters are. Instead, think of your starting pitching corps as a team of 7-8 pitchers, of whom 2-3 will be in long relief or hidden away on your farm to soak up innings. That means that it’s okay to keep only three starters if you love your fourth outfielder, or your backup catcher. In fact, this may be preferable, as it’s easier to find good pitching than good hitting in the draft and during the season. Conversely, you can keep six starters if you like them all. We don’t generally advise this, however, both for the stated reason and because of the uncertainty of pitchers.
Living With Risk
No matter who you’re keeping, or in which round you’re drafting, the hitter you’re looking at is probably a better value on the aggregate than the pitcher. You’re less likely to see your starting second baseman bust than your equivalent third starter. Of course, the goal is not to have the draft that returns the most value, but rather to win, and we hear that having a few starters helps (yes, the bold strategic advice you’ve come to expect from team TTO). So you have to draft them sometime. Some strategists recommend minimizing risk as much as possible—taking only pitchers likely to be healthy and adequate. We don’t necessarily agree.
We’ve mentioned this on the podcast a few times, but we’re relatively low on Jose Quintana, a pitcher so otherwise beloved that his name has been legally changed to an emoji that represents the Most Underrated Pitcher In Baseball (Probably either the Hands on Head, or the Smirking Cat). It’s not that we don’t think he’s good, it’s that he’s not much of an upside play. When you compare him to Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco (pitchers around the same Average Draft Position), he’s less likely to bust than they are, which even smart forecasters can sometimes elide into reading as “unlikely to bust.” As Dave Cameron so astutely wrote this week on Just A Bit Outside, everyone is a prospect. No matter who you draft, you’re carrying some risk, so why not take the player with the chance at greatness? If you have to mitigate the risk no matter what, draft your innings later. That’s what Aaron Harang is here for. In most formats, but especially the standard ones, you’ll be able to draft inning-eaters later (but remember, inning eaters bust too).
Dealing With Prospects
So if it’s relatively easy to draft innings in Scoresheet, but hard to find greatness, what do you do with your pitching prospect? In general, our advice is to avoid them, at least until they hit the upper levels. This isn’t blanket advice, of course, since even we have our pet prospects, but non-elite lower level pitching prospects have more value in trade or as the Scoresheet equivalent of penny stocks than they do on your team. Lewis Thorpe, for example, is an interesting upside prospect, but your roster space is much more tightly constricted than that of the Minnesota Twins. The Twins can afford to give him development time, while you’re spending 28th-round picks year after year until he hits the majors. And once he does, the likelihood that he’s a near-immediate success is probably south of 25 percent. Unless you’re playing with different rules, or you’ve given up on competing this year almost entirely, a player like that doesn’t belong on your roster.
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