If your fantasy baseball philosophy is anything like mine, chances are you decided to fade pitching in at least one league this year. This strategy can go a number of ways. Sometimes, despite spending significantly more on offense at the auction, you’re able to hit on a few (or more) bargains and end up with more profit coming from the pitching staff. Other times, you might only get what you paid for, which isn’t much.
In the latter scenario, action is necessary. This isn’t real-life baseball, where general managers don’t make big trades until June at the earliest. It’s the middle of week six of the season, and all that should mean is there’s plenty of time left for your team to come together and make a run at a fantasy pennant. But you must actually plug your team’s holes, whether they are on the pitching or offense side.
In one of my AL-only leagues, it looks like I’ve been able to essentially add a starting rotation on the fly for the second year in a row. Each year, I managed to buy one reliable starter at the auction for a bargain. Last year, it was Corey Kluber and this year it was Jake Odorizzi. Buying at least one solid guy like that is crucial, but will still leave you behind the more balanced pitching staffs if you’re unable to hit on some bargains.
When it’s clear that your bargain pitchers aren’t getting the job done for you, which could be as early as the first few weeks of the season, then it’s time to get aggressive on the waiver wire. While there are always a few good offensive players that slip through the cracks and are still available, it’s usually easier to add pitchers (both starters and relievers) off the waiver wire because there are usually more pitchers that have to be replaced during the season.
After basically ending up with just Kluber on auction day last year, I was forced to be aggressive on the wire and added Phil Hughes, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Jesse Chavez, and Cody Allen. Now, my impatience led me to drop Hughes after only a few starts and before he really showed how good he was last year, but ultimately I don’t regret doing it because I needed to be aggressive in addressing my pitching staff, and that process eventually led to adding almost an entire staff off the wire. I had enough pitching after these early additions that I even dealt McHugh to help improve my offense. You can never really have too much pitching, though.
This year, while I faded starters after buying Odorizzi, I bought two closers at the auction in Allen and Zach Britton and another reliever in Wade Davis. If I could avoid a bunch of April disaster starts, I thought I’d have pretty good ratios by the end of the month, but Kendall Graveman, Asher Wojciechowski, and Zach McAllister had other ideas. Even Allen was pitching like he needed to be reserved. I was desperate for starters now, but I didn’t panic and again was aggressive in building my staff. I traded Britton and Alex Gordon for Michael Pineda after week three, a trade that seemed like a bit of a steep price to pay from a value perspective, but was necessary given my desperation (and looks tremendous now).
Soon, Jesse Chavez was inserted into the Athletics rotation and I welcomed him back on my team with open arms. He’s looked good in his last two starts since first getting an opportunity with a good spot start against the Angels. I added Detroit’s Kyle Lobstein, who isn’t flashy but gets the job done, and then last year’s Comeback Player of the Year Chris Young. Young has had two excellent starts against the Tigers (11 IP, 0 ER, 12 K, 3 BB) and could be the final piece of the puzzle for my staff. While Young won’t light up the radar gun with his fastball, he’s a fly-ball pitcher in a pitcher-friendly ballpark with the Royals’ outstanding outfield defense behind him. It’s still early, but all signs point to him having a good year, he’s even struck out 19 batters in 23 innings after posting 108 strikeouts in 165 innings last year.
Perhaps your auction or draft didn’t go exactly how you planned, but that doesn’t have to be the end of your season. Be aggressive in identifying and addressing your team’s needs and you too can finesse your pitching staff into contention.
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