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2021 fantasy baseball pitching strategy

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Yahoo Sports' Dalton Del Don and Scott Pianowski discuss the most important position in fantasy baseball, including a few different pitching options, strategies.

Video Transcript


SCOTT PIANOWSKI: Welcome back to Fantasy Baseball 2021. You need answers on the mound. You need strategy. It's the most important position in fantasy baseball. Just like we need to solve those running backs in fantasy football, we need pitching answers.

Some people are gonna attack this position early with a pitcher, maybe two. The pocket aces strategy. Other people say, no, wait a minute, the hitting is much more reliable. Take the pitching where it comes. Mr. Dalton Del Don, what's your pitching blueprint going into your 2021 drafts?

DALTON DEL DON: Personally, I'm very, very pitcher-heavy. Now I can see going extreme hitting and doing it opposite and trying something different coming off such a strange year. Not one pitcher reached 100 innings thrown last year. There's so many variables.

But personally I'm starting my fantasy baseball drafts with three, if not four, straight starting pitchers. The simple math suggests they have a bigger impact on the standings. 14 roster spots versus nine, really 6 and 1/2 if you count 2 and 1/2 relievers. So those starters are just simply impacting the standings more than a hitter can.

There are also fewer workhorses with teams going more and more to six-man rotations. If I don't get deGrom, Cole, or Bieber, I'm totally fine at the turn getting two aces still there. You know, Darvish or Bauer. Especially in overall contests, pitching has just been getting pushed up higher than ever from what I've seen so far, and I couldn't agree with the movement more. It makes total, total sense to me.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: When you talk about the diminishing workhorses, that's kind of like in football again. We don't see as many bell cows, right? So many teams have platoons in their backfield. They're gonna spread out the touches.

So I want you to look at innings more than maybe you normally might. It used to be, OK, who could throw 230 innings? Who could throw 215 innings? This year, I'm hoping to get 185 or 175 out of my horses because I know the next tier might go down to 150 or fewer.

The case of deGrom, he's my number one pitcher. Looks like no DH in the National League this year, so you got that going for you. And while I know chasing wins can be a fool's errand, you have a much better chance of getting wins if you're tied to a good team. deGrom has been famously unlucky in the win column the last few years, but the Mets have a much stronger team around him this year. I like that he's kind of been pre-disaster. He's already been through the Tommy John element of his career. So I think he's a great first-round pick.

I'd have no problem with Cole. I also like backing this up. I won't start off pitcher-pitcher. I won't be as extreme with you with maybe four straight pitchers, but I would like two of my first, say, five picks to be pitchers. If I could start off deGrom in the first and maybe get a José Berríos type in the fifth round, or maybe even dip down to round six, round seven where Kyle Hendricks might be available, Zack Wheeler, something like that.

I want a legitimate front man, I want a legitimate number two, then I can maybe think more on a budget, focus more on filling in those hitting gaps. But I think you better have at least one bona fide ace. And if you want to go all in on pitching, as it sounds like you're going to, I also think that's an interesting and workable strategy for 2021.

DALTON DEL DON: You know, some people worry about taking a pitcher who only plays once every five days with an early pick, but I'd argue that they are five times as impactful when they do pitch. Just look at the Vegas odds. They change so dramatically based solely on that day's starting pitcher. And I get that the injury risk also seems greater, but position baseball players are getting hurt all the time right now.

I will say I love the running back analogy. And a caveat, I did go running back heavy in my fantasy football drafts this year, so hopefully this starting pitcher strategy works out a little bit better.

SCOTT PIANOWSKI: I mean, we know the rule of thumb is anything can work if you pick the right players. And, of course, any good strategy can not work if you pick the wrong players. But, again, go back to your historical data and look what happened when people actually landed on the right pitcher. It's just going to give you more category impact.

So I want you to think long and hard at this as a strategy. And, hey, if you disagree with us, hit us up at Yahoo fantasy and tell us how you're attacking pitching this year. And if nothing else, attack the Yahoo fantasy baseball game. We have the best app. We have a wonderful draft applet. We want to see you drafting early and often in 2021.