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A bad starting pitcher in fantasy can knock your team out of contention, push you into the second division, and make you curse the day you started playing fantasy baseball. Our fantasy staff has put together a list of arms that we think you should avoid on draft day.

Yu Darvish, Rangers
Look, I like Yu Darvish a lot. He’s on the short list of pitchers I actively want to watch when they toe the rubber, and I’m stoked that he’ll be back on a big league mound this year. I look forward to hopefully drafting him in future years. But he’s currently going off the board 34th among starting pitchers, in the eighth round. Let’s take a best-case scenario here, where he jumps right in, doesn’t miss a beat, and puts up a similar line to his 2014 campaign (144 1/3 innings, 10 wins, 3.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine, 3.1 walks-per-nine). That effort was worth $13 of mixed-league value. Toss another three or four bucks onto the tally for the 60 replacement-level innings you’ll need to log over the first six weeks of the season (this is the best-case scenario, after all), and you’re looking at maybe, possibly scraping your way to a marginal profit on that draft price.

But that’s just a ton of risk to assume in full. It often gets treated as such, but successful Tommy John recovery is in no way, shape, or form a given. And even when it is, command and control tend to be the pitching elements that take the longest to round back into form. That’s okay for some guys, but for starters who already walked a fine line with their control, it doesn’t make for a welcome uncertainty. Darvish fits that bill despite progress in attacking the zone before he went down. Elite strikeout totals prop up his profile, and if there’s any attrition there his margin for rate stat error shrinks very quickly. Add in the specter of a minor setback that costs him another couple weeks, or any other maladies that crop up over the final four months of the season, and you’re quickly looking at flushed draft capital.

I’d just as soon take another hitter with my eighth-round pick and wait for the next round to toss my third-starter lot with Hisashi Iwakuma, Jeff Samardzija, Shelby Miller, Jake Odorizzi, or several other guys going in Darvish’s draft neighborhood —Wilson Karaman

Sonny Gray, Athletics
I don’t want to throw shade on Gray. For several nonessential narrative-driven reasons, perhaps most notably because he’s a former collegiate ace, a product of a powerhouse program (Vanderbilt) that possesses a bulldog demeanor and rises to the occasion in big moments. The issue from a purely a fantasy perspective is Gray’s current average draft position (ADP). Given the relationship between his realistic statistical ceiling, and the availability of comparable options performance-wise later in drafts, it’s almost impossible to justify the lofty investment. To further illustrate, let’s fire up a blind player comparison using PECOTA’s 2016 projections.







Player A






Player B






Player C






Clearly, “Player A” is Gray, whose PECOTA forecast falls right in line with the performance we’ve seen throughout his career, but is noticeably bearish on his rate statistics. “Player B,” Adam Wainwright, is important for contextual reasons. There is a high degree of probability, especially if you just look at PECOTA, that the 34-year-old veteran will be a better fantasy performer than Gray this season. Granted, he got hurt last season, but it was a torn Achilles, not an arm injury, and he even came back in late September to make several appearances out of the bullpen.

The final blind comparison illustrates the broader point of this exercise and provides the greatest incentive to shy away from Gray at his grossly inflated ADP. “Player C” is White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana, who is currently being drafted exactly 100 picks later. Based purely on their projected performance, is there an appreciable difference, enough to justify the chasm from an ADP standpoint, between Gray and Quintana?

Quintana has eclipsed 200 innings in each of the past three seasons, while posting a 3.40 ERA and averaging 173 strikeouts per year. The primary reason he consistently remains a remarkably underrated fantasy asset is because he’s somehow never won more than nine games in a single season, which is an incredible statistic for your next dinner party conversation.

The counter argument here is that projections aren’t the end-all, be-all. The notion that Gray, who owns a 2.88 career ERA over nearly 500 innings, could exceed PECOTA’s projection is entirely valid. However, his strikeout upside is virtually non-existent and if he’s going to post a sub-3.00 ERA again he’s going to need to repeat a .255 BABIP, which was roughly 40 points lower than the league average a year ago and more than 20 points below his career rate entering the year. With the upside built into his draft day price, what’s the advantage of taking Gray in the fifth round when a comparable pitcher like Quintana is available in the 12th round of 15-team leagues? —George Bissell

Raisel Iglesias, Reds
I know, he's the darling of the fantasy community at this juncture. He's currently going 40th among starting pitchers per NFBC data, which seems optimistic based on what he's accomplished so far. That's not meant to be a knock on Iglesias, exactly, but it's worth pointing out that all of his value is likely priced into that draft slot, meaning there's much more downside to be had than upside.

Let's start with the positives: He misses bats (26 percent strikeout rate), keeps the ball in the zone (seven percent walk rate), and keeps the balls on the ground enough (47 percent groundball rate). The problem is that when batters are able to elevate, the ball goes over the fence too often (14 percent HR/FB rate), and that shouldn't be expected to change given the ball park (and division) he plays in. It's not just the ball park, of course, but given his predilection for pitching in the zone so often, with a solid, but not bat-missing fastball, the home runs seem likely to continue. Obviously his slider is a premium bat-missing weapon, but he'll have to establish himself with fastballs early in the count, as he did in the second half of the season last year, and if that remains a concerted effort, the league is likely to adjust and pounce.

Additionally, his BABIP after last season was .268, buoyed by a seven-start stretch (July 21-August 23) where opponents batted .178 against with a .225 BABIP. Surely, every good pitcher has extreme runs, so I don't mean to imply we should just regress this towards his mean and move on, but give the limited sample, a stretch like this has a profound effect on the overall stat line, and the likelihood that he can replicate the season-long results is limited. I know his FIP and xFIP say he's significantly better than he was last season, but this isn't necessarily a profile (or a park) where normalizing home-run data points is the logical thing to do. The question then is: If he is only a bit better rather than significantly better, would you still take him 40th among starting pitchers? —Craig Goldstein

Jeff Samardzija, Giants
Focusing on Samardzija's 4.96 ERA probably overstates how poor he was in 2015, but there are plenty of warning signs as Shark moves to the Bay. His 17.9 percent strikeout rate was the worst of his career and a full five percentage points lower than any other year spent as a starter. His mid-90s velocity is still intact, only now it’s backed up by a pair of secondaries whose whiff rates don't inspire much confidence in a rebound. Hell, you can’t even blame the fact that he led the league in hits allowed on bad batted-ball luck. Samardzija’s .306 BABIP last season wasn’t too far out of line with his career norm, even as he traded in some grounders for flyballs. That shift may help him as he moves to a more favorable home park, and his continued stinginess with ball four limit his WHIP downside. Still, despite PECOTA’s optimism (3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) and the fact that he’s about as durable as they come, there is little reason to take the name value above younger, steady options with a track record similar in both quality and quantity (Jose Quintana, Shelby Miller) or upstarts who are potentially on the verge of a breakout (Yordano Ventura, Taijuan Walker). —Greg Wellemeyer

Alex Wood, Dodgers
I get wanting to bet on Wood to bounce back. He was really, really good in 2014, he'll pitch in a ballpark that should allow him to be good again and could rack up wins playing for a good Dodgers team. But Wood was rather average last season, is part of an incredibly muddled starting rotation picture this season (even after the Brett Anderson injury) and is really a pretty run-of-the-mill option if he's not missing bats like he did in '13 and '14. Wood's velocity ticked down a notch in 2015, his changeup became fairly useless and Wood didn't up his groundball rate enough to make up for his lack of whiffs. Add in his delivery and the injuries it would seem to invite and there are too many red flags for me to feel comfortable with here. Wood's ADP is actually 64th among SP (per and that's more reasonable than I expected, but still a little rich for my tastes. Wood isn't a guy I'd avoid at all costs, but in a 12-team league I'd need him to be my seventh or eighth SP option, not my fifth or sixth. —Ben Carsley

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I'd also add any starting pitcher with an Oriole on the front of his uniform...
Sigh... The Gray section illustrates the problem of using PECOTA for projections. 500 IP is not enough sample size apparently, and despite earning a Breakout Rate of 24% and an Improve Rate of 61%, the projections still call for a career worst year for him, and by a full run.

What's the point of even developing a projection system if you're just going to change the numbers when you disagree? PECOTA sees the same Sonny Gray statistics and sees all the numbers of the most comparable players in baseball history and dispassionately projects a range of likely outcomes. It may very well be wrong, but it's also seen a lot of pitchers fall apart after 500 good innings, so it hedges.

It's just one of many predictive tools. It's not magic. Whenever I see a projection I don't agree with, my first reaction is not to say PECOTA sucks, but to figure out what it's picking up that I didn't see and maybe adjust my own thinking if warranted.
In a dynasty draft, mlb squad is in good condition and minors are pretty healthy too so need doesn’t totally apply tho would probably lean pitcher help side if anything. 12tm keep 25 of 36 lge, 5×5 h2h. Would you draft Ian Happ or Frances Martes? Thx