NatsGM Fantasy Preview – Pitchers


Pitching in fantasy baseball always invokes many strategies, as the best pitchers are traditionally only capable of helping in four of the five pitching categories, whereas the best hitters contribute across the board. This, along with the elevated injury risk involved with pitchers and the diminishing offense around the majors in recent years, often has people avoid pitching early in fantasy drafts. However, after years of the depth in fantasy being on the mound, 2016 feels like a year when the tide begins to turn, as pitching feels comparably weaker than in previous seasons.

Today in Part-1 of the NatsGM 2016 Fantasy Baseball Preview, I highlight several pitchers I like more than the consensus, and two names I will be avoiding in drafts. Select these names to form the nucleus of your pitching staff, and confidently begin building a shelf for your newest fantasy baseball trophy.

Pitchers I Like

Cole Hamels LHP Texas Rangers (10th/11th Round)

After many years of rumors, finally last summer Philadelphia dealt Hamels to Texas for an impressive haul of prospects. Hamels has suffered in recent years obtaining wins due to the Phillies poor on-field performance, but his numbers have remained consistent, with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 215 strikeouts in 2015. He should have a good shot at 15 wins and 200 strikeouts again this year, making him quite a bargain outside the top-100 picks.

Kenta Maeda RHP Los Angeles Dodgers (15th+ Round)

Maeda did not receive the massive salary outlay expected prior to the winter, due to some “abnormalities” in his physical examination. However, his numbers previously in Japan have been extraordinary and the transition with Japanese pitchers has been relatively smooth in the past decade. Hitters should struggle for the first few months trying to learn Maeda’s tendencies, which should benefit the Dodgers and fantasy players alike. The Dodgers are expected to have a strong team and quality bullpen, which will help Maeda win his share of games this season. If Maeda can stay healthy, I can see 14 wins, a 3.70 ERA and 180 strikeouts from him this season, making him an excellent value outside the top-150 to 175 picks.

Shelby Miller RHP Arizona Diamondbacks (15th+ Round)

The key piece in this winter’s most controversial trade, the Diamondbacks parted with a significant prospect haul to bring Miller to Arizona to team with Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin atop their rotation. The negativity from this swap, plus Miller’s incredible allergy to wins last season, has driven him outside the top-175 picks this year. However, do not overlook this talented 25-year-old, who posted a 3.02 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 171 strikeouts in 2015. If the wins can normalize, I foresee Miller providing Arizona with 12-14 wins, a 3.70 ERA and 180 strikeouts this season, a strong addition to any fantasy rotation.

John Lackey RHP Chicago Cubs (15th+ Round)

The Cubs made several higher profile moves this offseason, but the veteran addition of Lackey to their rotation could arguably be their best transaction of the winter. Lackey quietly posted an outstanding season in 2015 with 13 wins, a 2.77 ERA and 175 strikeouts and should slot well behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the Cubs’ rotation. Lackey is not a sexy pick, but at this point in the draft, the consistency of a 12-14 game winner with solid ratios and 160+ strikeouts should not be ignored.

Honorable Mention:     Steve Cishek RHP Seattle Mariners, Yu Darvish RHP Texas Rangers, Sonny Gray RHP Oakland Athletics, Hisashi Iwakuma RHP Seattle Mariners and Justin Verlander RHP Detroit Tigers

Pitchers To Avoid

Kenley Jansen RHP Los Angeles Dodgers (5th round)

Due to Aroldis Chapman’s legal issues and Craig Kimbrel’s non-elite 2015 season, Jansen finds himself being chosen as the top closer option this year, going in the middle of Round 5. He is a tremendous reliever and will help a team’s ratios and strikeout totals. However, his statistics do not deserve a premium on draft day compared to similar closers Cody Allen, Trevor Rosenthal or Ken Giles, being selected several rounds later.

Matt Harvey RHP New York Mets (3rd Round)

The risk factors with Harvey are overwhelming – first, he threw a career high 216 innings in his first season back from Tommy John surgery in 2015. Next his middle infield and projected overall team defense behind him in 2016 should be below-average, to be kind. Finally, he is being selected in the middle of round 3, ahead of other Aces Chris Archer, Dallas Keuchel and Zack Greinke. Harvey could have another fantastic season for the Mets, but let a fellow competitor take on the health risk and pick from similar starters such as Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber or Greinke.

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Wei-Yin Chen LHP Miami Marlins, Gio Gonzalez LHP Washington Nationals, Michael Pineda RHP New York Yankees and Noah Syndergaard RHP New York Mets

THE NatsGM Show #59 – Guest Mike Gianella


The NatsGM 2016 Fantasy Baseball Preview Week has arrived and to kick off the festivities we are proud to welcome Baseball Prospectus’s Fantasy Expert and 2015 LABR & Tout Wars Champion Mike Gianella.

This week Mike gives us a full fantasy baseball education, sharing common mistakes he sees from fantasy players and gives his take on “Paying For Saves”.  We then shift the discussion to his recent 2016 LABR Draft, as he gives an insight into drafting a roster and his thoughts on several of his picks.  Finally, Mike predicts how Carlos Correa, Mookie Betts and Marcus Stroman will produce in 2016 and shares a few of his favorite sleepers.

Thank you to Mike for joining the show and to you for listening.  Please Rate & Review & Subscribe to the show on iTunes and follow us on Twitter @Nats_GM.

THE NatsGM 2015 Fantasy Baseball Preview – The Sleepers

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The past two days here at have been spent identifying both hitters and pitchers that should be targeted during fantasy baseball drafts this year to insure victory. To conclude our fantasy preview coverage, today we shift our attention to players being selected later in drafts, commonly known in fantasy slang as Sleepers.

The term Sleeper is perhaps the sexiest and least concrete term in sports, as it has different meanings to each person. In general most consider a Sleeper someone who outplays his average draft position, though for me this fails to capture the entire concept – a late round pick who is the difference between a middle-of-the-fact finish and winning a championship. In order for a player to be considered a Sleeper for the purposes of this article, he must fall outside the top-200 in Average Draft Position on

In this article last year I successfully predicted excellent seasons for then Sleepers Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and Yordano Ventura. On the other hand I missed like Adam Jones on a low-and-away slider on my predictions on Ubaldo Jimenez, Colby Rasmus, and Nick Swisher. That’s still a .500 batting average and dare I say, better than most of the fantasy “experts”. These are my 2015 Sleepers.

THE Sleepers

1)   Oswaldo Arcia OF Minnesota Twins (ADP 200.1)

Arcia has weaknesses in his game, as his home park suppresses offense, he strikes out a lot and he provides little speed, but what he does provide is significant power and upside at a bargain price. He hit 20 home runs in 372 at-bats last season and has hit 34 homers in 723 career ABs. Still only 23-years-old, Arcia could hit 25+ bombs this season if he stays healthy for 500+ at-bats, with some potential for batting average improvement if he can learn to lay off the breaking ball away.

2)   Jenrry Mejia RHP New York Mets (ADP 220.5)

A converted starter, Mejia has an electric upper-90s fastball and quietly converted 28 of 31 save attempts in 2014. The Mets have starting pitching depth throughout the organization, meaning that Mejia’s success last season should portend a career pitching in relief. Mejia likely begins the season as their closer, especially considering Bobby Parnell will start on the disabled list, meaning he should be a cheap source of saves and strikeouts for the shrewd owner (me!) who drafts him this spring.

3)   Brandon Belt 1B San Francisco Giants (ADP 226.0)

Belt suffered a concussion last season that essentially wiped out the second half of his season, forcing him to struggle to a .243 average with 12 home runs. Allow this unfortunate injury to help you secure Belt late in drafts and grin like The Joker when this 27-year-old breaks out with 20+ home runs along with a handful of stolen bases.

4)   Danny Salazar RHP Cleveland Indians (ADP 229.4)

Salazar is a talented but woefully inconsistent arm who struggled in the first half of 2014, to the point where he was demoted to the minors, before returning later in the 2nd half and striking out 73 hitters in 69.1 innings pitched. Salazar is only 25-years-old and owns a career 10.3 K/9 ratio, which when combined with the expectation of an improved Cleveland team this season, gives him an excellent chance to breakout like Dakota Johnson in 2015.

5)   Nick Castellanos 3B Detroit Tigers (ADP 234.0)

This guy reminds me of the of the 1999 classic “Forgot About Dre” as the fantasy world is more than sleeping, they are in a coma, on Castellanos. Possessing one of the sweetest right-handed swings in baseball, Castellanos spent all last season as a 22-year-old in the big leagues and hit .259 with 11 home runs and 66 runs batted in. Now 23-years-old Castellanos should hit either #6 or #7 in a potent lineup behind Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Victor Martinez. I expect his batting average to jump closer to .280 this season, with 15+ home runs and 80+ RBI, making Castellanos a terrific value this late in drafts.

6)   Wily Peralta RHP Milwaukee Brewers (ADP 260.0)

Lost amidst the poor finish to the Brewers 2014 season, Wily Peralta blossomed into a mid-rotation major league starting pitcher, posting a 17-11 record with a 3.53 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 154 strikeouts. Fast forward and the 26-year-old Peralta is often going undrafted this spring, as his sub-7 K/9 rate is scaring off owners thinking last year was a fluke. Certainly the 17 wins will be difficult to match, but otherwise I see little reason why Peralta cannot match or surpass his 2014 numbers this season.

Honorable Mention:   Trevor Bauer RHP Cleveland Indians, Wilmer Flores SS New York Mets, Chase Headley 3B San Diego Padres, and Kennys Vargas 1B/DH Minnesota Twins

BOLD Fantasy Predictions

1) Shin-Soo Choo (192.2 ADP) will statistically outperform Nelson Cruz (60.5 ADP) in 2015.

2) Jimmy Rollins (133.2 ADP) will out produce Elvis Andrus (115.1 ADP) and Alexei Ramirez (96.8 ADP).

3) Justin Verlander (141.7 ADP) currently being selected outside the Top-35 starting pitchers, will finish 2015 as a top-20 starter.

4) Jason Kipnis rebounds like Charles Barkley from a poor 2014 to post a .275/15/70/25 statistical line for Cleveland in 2015.

* Have any fantasy sleepers and/or Bold fantasy predictions of your own – I encourage you to share them in the comment’s section. *

THE NatsGM Fantasy Baseball Preview – Pitching

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Pitching in fantasy baseball has always invoked many strategies, as the most dominant pitchers are typically capable of helping in only four categories (ERA, WHIP, Strikeouts and/or Saves and Wins) versus the best hitters, who contribute in all five offensive categories. This factor, along with the injury risk associated with pitchers, often has me avoid pitchers (like I do the gym) early in fantasy drafts. In fact, my personal preference is to avoid a pick on a pitcher until after Round 5.

Yesterday I highlighted five hitters I expect to have much stronger seasons in 2015 than most fantasy baseball “gurus” expect. Today in Part-2 I analyze the pitching ranks to spot some undervalued arms capable of returning plenty of value on draft day for your fantasy squad. Draft these names with confidence and starting building a shelf for your future fantasy baseball trophy.


1)   Gerrit Cole Pittsburgh SP (ADP 80.4)

The former #1 overall pick in 2011, Cole has quietly posted a 3.45 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 8.4 K/9 ratio over 255.1 innings pitched for the Pirates the last two seasons. Now 24-years-old and set with a terrific defense behind him, this feels like Cole’s breakout season toward becoming one of the best 10 pitchers in baseball. Draft him in the 6th round this year, as it will be the last time he escapes the top-4 rounds for the rest of the decade.

2)   Hisashi Iwakuma Seattle SP (ADP 116.5)

Because he pitches in Seattle in the same rotation as King Felix, Iwakuma’s success the past three seasons is often ignored, as he has a career 3.07 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 440 strikeouts in 524 innings pitched. Furthermore he has surprisingly won 38 games, including 15 in 2014, the past three years on largely mediocre Seattle teams – considering Seattle is expected to be a contender, Iwakuma should again flirt with 15-16 wins in 2015, with his usual low-3s ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Confidently draft Iwakuma as your #2-#3 starter in the 9th round and watch him anchor your fantasy pitching staff.

3)   Chris Archer Tampa Bay SP (ADP 143.7)

Lost in the difficult 2014 season for Tampa Bay was the breakout season from Archer, who threw 194.2 innings with a 3.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 173 strikeouts. He finds himself being drafted around the 12th round due to his lack of wins, but this 26-year-old has the talent to improve on his 2014 statistics and could benefit from a rebound season for the Rays. I am predicting 15 wins for Archer this season, along with a midseason selection to the AL All-Star team – make sure you shrewdly secure his services before another owner snatches him up.

4)   Andrew Cashner San Diego SP (ADP 153.0)

This is strictly a gamble on Cashner’s health, as his talent on the mound is unquestioned with a career 3.25 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. However, Cashner is being chosen outside the top-150 because he has thrown only 409.2 innings since 2010 and his 7.27 career K/9 ratio does not match his monstrous arsenal. That said Cashner has plenty of positives, as his pitches in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher-friendly division, the Padres are projected to have a strong bullpen and have upgraded their roster significantly this offseason. Still only 28-years-old Cashner has the potential to post 14+ wins with excellent ratios in 2015, something few names selected this late in the draft can do.

5)   Jose Quintana Chicago White Sox SP (ADP 186.0)

Slightly overshadowed on a pitching staff with Chris Sale and new arrivals Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson, Quintana is a talented arm in his own right, posting a 3.32 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 178 strikeouts in 2014. He finds himself going outside the top-15 rounds because he won only 9 games, much of which could adjust with an improved bullpen and lineup in 2015. Count on Quintana for 12 wins and 180 strikeouts this season, with the potential for more if the offense carries him to a few extra wins.