After covering overpriced hitters, we now turn our attention to a group of hurlers who are going earlier than they should in 2020 drafts.
Stephen Strasburg (SP, ADP: 27), Washington Nationals
Drafted in the range of 40-50 overall in recent years, Strasburg has surged to new heights after making 33 starts last season. But here are some numbers fantasy managers will want to chew on before making the 31-year-old their ace: 2 (the number of seasons he has exceeded 185 innings), 10 (his career IL stints), 245.1 (the number of innings he threw between the 2019 regular season and postseason). Spending an early pick on an oft-injured pitcher who is coming off a career-high workload is rarely a strategy that works out well.
Blake Snell (SP, ADP: 36), Tampa Bay Rays
Like Strasburg, Snell is not being pushed down draft boards despite his injury risk. The southpaw made just 23 starts last year, and he has topped 130 innings just once in his career. His injuries are not of the variety that managers should ignore either, as he has logged IL time for shoulder and elbow issues in the past two seasons. Snell was mediocre when healthy last year (4.29 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), and while poor batted-ball luck was a factor, he definitely isn’t a lock to produce low ratios when on the mound. Wise managers will skip Strasburg and Snell, preferring to grab a starter of equal value 10-20 picks later.
Tyler Glasnow (SP, ADP: 74), Tampa Bay Rays
Glasnow was dynamite last year (1.78 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) but missed all but 12 starts with a forearm strain. The nature of his injury is one that should scare fantasy managers, and those who are projecting him to take the mound every fifth day whenever the season starts aren’t accurately considering the downside. Additionally, Glasnow struggled with his control during parts of three seasons with Pittsburgh, and his 12-start sample isn’t enough to prove that he warrants a top-100 draft spot.
Mike Soroka (SP, ADP: 91), Atlanta Braves
Although Soroka is coming off an excellent rookie season (2.68 ERA, 1.11 WHIP), there are statistical reasons to expect a sophomore slump. The right-hander enjoyed a .280 BABIP, which is a low mark for a ground ball pitcher. His 79.9 percent strand rate is also a favorable mark, especially for a starter without overpowering stuff. Soroka is going to leave managers wanting for more in the strikeouts category (7.3 K/9 rate), and there is no guarantee that his ratios will be better than slightly above average.
Kenley Jansen (RP, ADP: 96), Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantasy managers with a long memory will remember the collective hand-wringing when Jansen lost a mile per hour on his fastball at the outset of the 2018 season. Although the right-hander has managed to work with his diminished velocity, he is now more of an average closer than a dominant one. Things continued to trend in the wrong direction for Jansen when he posted a 4.44 ERA in the second half of 2019 before being used for just 1.2 innings during a five-game NLDS loss at the hands of the Nationals. There is too much risk for Jansen to hold his current spot as the sixth closer off the board.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP, ADP: 128), Toronto Blue Jays
By this point in the article, you have figured out that I heavily value innings in the current pitcher landscape. Ryu is definitely a risky option in terms of volume, as his 182.2 inning effort last season came after averaging 73.1 IP per year from 2014-18. And after signing with the Blue Jays, the left-hander is going to deal with a negative switch in terms of home venue, run support, bullpen stability and defensive assistance. There is one reason to target Ryu (he was great in 2019) and several reasons to avoid him.
Alex Colome (RP, ADP: 153), Chicago White Sox
Colome presents more risk than managers initially realize when looking at his 2019 statistics (30 saves, 2.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP). He benefited greatly from a .217 BABIP, did not show closer-like strikeout skills (8.1 K/9 rate) and finished the year with a 4.12 FIP. The White Sox have solid ninth-inning alternatives in Aaron Bummer and Steve Cishek, and they may steer away from Colome if he experiences some luck regression. Additionally, the 31-year-old is in the final year of his contract and will be a trade bait if Chicago falls out of the race.
Robbie Ray (SP, ADP: 161), Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantasy managers continue to have a strange fascination with Ray, who is a helpful asset in just one category. The southpaw is an elite strikeout pitcher (career 11.1 K/9 rate), but his lifetime 4.11 ERA and 1.35 WHIP paint an accurate picture of someone who can’t keep the bases clean and consistently struggles with his ratios, innings pitched and win totals. His mediocre ratios, career-high of 174.1 innings and two seasons with more than eight wins combine to show Ray doesn’t belong in the top-200 picks.
Sean Manaea (SP, ADP: 166), Oakland A’s
Manaea posted a 1.21 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP across four September starts after returning from shoulder surgery while enjoying outlandish luck (.194 BABIP, 100 percent strand rate) and showing the lowest average fastball velocity (89.8 mph) of his four-year career. Managers would be wise to look at Manaea’s career track record (3.77 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 rate) and view him as a useful starter who doesn’t strike out many batters and has workload concerns. His current ADP is roughly 100 picks too high.