Knowing your settings is the most important factor when deciding on what starting pitchers to go after in a fantasy draft. Here are some examples to help you on deciding what to do based on your settings: (assuming the categories are the five standard – Wins, Saves, Ks, ERA, and WHIP)

No Innings Limit or Moves Limit – So three out of the five categories are volume based and you can just pick up enough pitchers and be active enough on the wire to win three out of the five. This works whether you are in a roto or head-to-head league. So wait on starting pitching, grab upside guys in the middle rounds. Best case, they pan out and you compete in all three categories. Worst case, they don’t and you just grab a ton of pitchers week to week or even day to day to win three out of the five categories

Maximum Innings per Week or Season – At this point you need some studs in your rotation to anchor your staff all year long but I would also not load up on pitching. You will want some aces on your team but then play the match-up game week to week to give you an advantage where you need to. I would rather scoop someone off the wire that faces Houston each week than a middle grade pitcher I am going to have to bench against solid team week to week.

Minimum Innings Pitched per Week (head-to-head leagues that also count HR against, Walks, etc.) – So the name of the game here is get in and get out with solid performances. We always like the A pitcher, two B pitchers, and then all upside late when drafting in these formats. Your A pitcher will go no matter what, your B pitchers will go when the match-up is good, and you hope your sleepers pan out.

There are a million combos for settings so I cannot go through all of them but what I am basically saying is know your settings, find ways to exploit them, and draft accordingly.

Second Best at Position – Yu Darvish

I have not seen any fantasy site that does not have Clayton Kershaw as their top pitcher and rightfully so. I do not need to go over the numbers but based on how strong he was he is the only pitcher that is worth considering taking in the first round in any draft. Our number two at the position ended up being Yu Darvish because of the strikeouts. 277 Ks in 209 innings is unreal, there is a real chance he could eclipse 300 this year.

Must Have Sleeper – Alex Cobb

I keep finding myself taking Cobb in all my mock drafts and real draft thus far. His average draft position is astonishing to me. For a guy going outside the top 115 picks he sure sounds like a guy everyone would be overpaying for. A 26 year old that gives almost a K per inning, and has a WHIP at 1.15 normally goes much higher – use that to your advantage and get a B pitcher at a discounted price.

High Upside Potential – Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole had similar hype to Clayton Kershaw after he was drafted, big guy, big arm, big league stuff. After being called up last season Gerrit Cole quickly became the ace of the Pirates pitching staff and will be the opening day starter this season. He is flying up draft boards but I think that 15 wins (even though it is almost impossible to count on wins year to year), sub 3 ERA, and 200 Ks is not out of question for Cole.

The Nerds Sleeper – Danny Salazar

We all have heard about Sabermetrics or the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records and according to all the baseball guys that use that as law, Danny Salazar is in line for a monster season. The kid has a cannon for an arm so his abilities to get guy out whether it is through strikeouts or ground balls should have yielded much better stats a season ago. Basically, the Sabermetric folks said Salazar got unlucky quite a bit and will not be as unlucky this year therefore he should breakout.

Draft Day Advice

Know your settings! When you should take Starting Pitching should be based on how your league is set-up. Too often do we hear from other fantasy sites “just wait on starting pitching” then when analyzing teams they always say – “great bats but you might have to trade for an ace later”. As a rule of thumb for FantasySmackTalk, always like one elite pitcher, couple for mid-grade pitchers, and then all upside late when drafting. Key is, use a tier system and let the pitchers fall to you at the correct spots.