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Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers
Don't get me wrong, I really like Michael Fulmer. He made significant improvements with his changeup last year to give him a strong third pitch to add to his mid-90s fastball and nasty slider. His pure stuff has clearly moved past the "future reliever" tag because of how much his changeup improved last season. He also pitches in a good home park for pitching, and has shown the ability to be difficult to square up when hitters do make contact against him. My main concern with him is in a long-term dynasty format. His delivery is pretty high-effort and violent, and I'm not sure how long he's going to hold up as a starter. Maybe he's conditioned enough and built enough to handle it over the long haul without a problem, but it's enough to give me a little pause before investing in him in a dynasty format. —Tim Finnegan

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
It feels very weird to say people should be avoiding Justin Verlander is fantasy drafts this year. He is, after all, among the best pitchers of his generation and very likely a future Hall of Famer. Not only that, but he’s also coming off one of the best years of his career and one in which he was a favorite to take home the American League Cy Young. He was the fifth-rated starting pitcher on ESPN’s Player Rater in 2016. After a couple of seasons in which he looked like he was firmly in the decline stage of his career, Verlander came back last season to strike out ten batters per nine innings while keeping his typically strong control.

Despite all of that, I suspect I won’t own Verlander in a single league this year. I don’t doubt that he’s still a good pitcher, but he’s currently being selected as the tenth starting pitcher in NFBC leagues and his ADP is eleventh on Fantasy Pros. As a pitcher who is entering his age-34 season who before last year was looking like his career would be over before anyone expected, I just can’t take him as an SP1. In NFBC leagues, he’s being selected ahead of Johnny Cueto, David Price, Chris Archer, Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Carrasco. I’d take all of them over Verlander. He’s still an all time great and if he starts to slip as the season approaches, I’ll reconsider. I doubt that’ll happen, though, and I’ll be letting someone else take on this risk. —Matt Collins

Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy owners have been waiting for Taijuan Walker to deliver on the promise he showed as a prospect. As recently as 2014, Baseball Prospectus had Walker ranked no. 11 on their “Top 101 Fantasy Prospects.” During the first half of last season, he looked like he was beginning to deliver. Walker finished the first half with a 3.66 ERA and 1.140 WHIP.

Unfortunately, his production took a turn in the second half. Walker registered a 5.21 ERA in his final nine starts. During that time, he was plagued by foot pain that ultimately resulted in offseason surgery. Some owners will draft Walker hoping to get production closer to his first half performance now that he’s pain free.

However, Walker is moving to Arizona this season. He’s bringing with him the fifth highest HR/9 (1.81) in baseball among starters with at least 130 IP. Chase Field allowed the second most home runs per game last season, and over the past three years it’s been an above average park for long balls from both sides of the plate.

Walker is being taken in the 16th round by early ADP data. He’s had two straight seasons of 25+ starts, and he’s yet to return the kind of value owners have been looking for. There are higher ceiling options being drafted behind him, and it might be worth taking a pass on Walker this season to see how he reacts to surgery and a change of scenery. —Eric Roseberry

Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
We have seen comments such as "so this is really an avoid at their current price article?" The answer to that question is an astounding "yes," as players in fantasy baseball are always tied to their price and always tied to their opportunity cost—what we could be acquiring if we were not acquiring the player we are acquiring.

That said, Urias, as we all know, is an exciting, young player. He is currently holds the 42nd-highest NFBC ADP, ahead of players like Matt Moore, J.A. Happ, Jeff Samardzja, Sonny Gray, Michael Pineda, and Marco Estrada. That is not a sexy list of names so it is likely that Urias—who threw a career high 122 innings across Triple-A and the majors (39 appearances and 22 starts) last year in his age-19 season—is being taken because (i) of the upside he possesses and (ii) he has yet to drastically disappoint fantasy owners the way many of the other starting pitchers have over the years.

His upside, however, will still be somewhat limited because his innings will likely be limited (probably through both shorter starts and skipped starts). He also carries risk in that we have never seen him consistently pitch to a lineup a third time around. He should be good when he plays, so if your league is super shallow or has tons of bench spots, then he is a fine play at his current price, but for most leagues (slightly deeper leagues), I'd prefer to wait for more boring, higher-usage pitchers. –Jeff Quinton

Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals
I'm prepared to eat my words. That's fine. Danny Duffy found the velocity he lost three years ago and, frankly, looks better than ever. My primary concern with him is his ground-ball rate, which ranked well within the bottom quintile of starting pitchers last year. There's plenty of research regarding a pitcher's ability to suppress contact quality, but it's mostly descriptive, not predictive. Dudes like Matt Cain and Barry Zito strung together several seasons of excellent contact management, but they're outliers; other dudes like Dallas Keuchel, who suddenly demonstrate this peculiar ability, let us down more often than not.

Duffy doesn't do this, though. He actually gave up a ton of hard contact last year. As an extreme fly-ball pitcher, that's not good. Duffster reminds me of Matt Shoemaker circa 2014: superb strikeout and walk rates but poor ground ball tendencies. I get it—Duff gasses 95, Shoe scrapes 91. The former was also a top draft pick and prospect a lifetime ago. But Duffy's only saving grace in 2016 was his strand rate. Granted, he has always been able to drum up above-average strand rates. So, too, did Drew Smyly and Sonny Gray prior to last year, though, so these things kinds of things aren't guaranteed. If it regresses at all, he'll be in bad shape, and that's before considering he loses any of his 2016 gains—or that he'll be pitching for baseball's second-worst team, per PECOTA. So, I'm wary. Few pitchers can make flyballs work the way Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander do. I'm not ready to place Duffy in that conversation. –Alex Chamberlain

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JasonPennini
3/03
Hi Alex, You have me thinking about Danny Duffy. When you say strand rate are you referencing his LOB%? Looking at Fangraphs his 2016 LOB% was listed at 80% when the league average is around 70-72%. The "LOB% explanation page" notes that pitchers with a high K rate can maintain above average LOB%s. My question is how high does a pitcher K% need to be to maintain a high LOB%? Duffy's K% was almost 26% for 2016, which the below link classifies somewhere between great and excellent. Another question, do you think his K% is sustainable? Seems to me a lot hinges on this Thanks for provoking the thoughts http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/lob/ http://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/rate-stats/
respo22
3/03
I like these questions... I have a lot of potential Danny Duffy suitors in my dynasty league... Definitely interested to here the answers to help me make a decision...
nkunke1
3/03
> We have seen comments such as "so this is really an avoid at their current price article?" The answer to that question is an astounding "yes," I think you mean "resounding," not "astounding."
respo22
3/03
I disagree... that was the best "yes" I've read all day...
fawkesmulder
3/03
You'd really take David Price, whose elbow might be shot (see: MRIs, consult with Dr. James Andrews), over Justin Verlander, who is basically the epitome of the modern pitching iron man. Verlander successfully reinvented himself as a pitcher, basically scrapping the changeup that was once quite good but has recently been inconsistent. Slider, curve, and fastball is still plenty to work with and he proved he's still got it. I don't think he's risky as the SP10 -- he could be better than that, and his injury risk is low IMO. Verlander's season stats are dragged down by horrendous start to the season, his true talent could be a sub 3 ERA stud, even at his age of 34.
redsoxthoughts
3/03
I wrote this before the Price news came out. The same iron man things could've been said about Price two days ago.
fawkesmulder
3/03
Fair point. Although it looks like Price isn't getting surgery for now, I'm still apprehensive about him this year.
Nacho999
3/05
Projecting pitching is brutal. I've had some success trading for guys before they become $30 pitchers the last couple of years. I acquired Quintana, Sanchez and now Giolito in an AL only keeper league before they got to $10. They weren't cheap in terms of subtracted talent, but I've decided after 30 years of playing this game, that it's more cost effective to farm out or trade for your own closers and aces before they become well known. It's not easy and you fail many times, but pitching is so scarce in our 10 team league that paying $30 plus for Sale, Price, Verlander, Hernandez and any other so called stopper at the draft every year is insane. I say $30, but I mean $35 or $40. I try to get young pitchers with tremendous upside or veterans who won't hurt you like Ervin Santana and spend my money on a solid everyday player like Robinson Cano. Guys like Michael Fulmer pop up every year, particularly those that traded over from the other league that nobody has been following. In fact I pay more attention to those pitchers than the ones we've all been following for years in the AL. The better the team, the more margin for error pitchers like Fulmer get so you like to grab pitchers on good to great offensive teams first, but sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith. Giolito might implode into a failed prospect, but one look at that hammer tells you he could figure it out. That said, I love these articles more than sleeper articles. I was shocked to see Danny Duffy here, but once you read the underlying argument it makes some sense. I think the article might have been named don't expect to get the same return from these hurlers this year. I don't know about avoid, but I love the attempt...Thanks...