Fantasy Baseball Sleepers: Starting Pitchers
As I sit down to begin this edition of the fantasy baseball sleeper series, Opening Day is just a week and a half away. A day we thought may never come is right around the corner. I’m also not sure about you, but my schedule for the next week or so also includes an alarming amount of drafts because I have a fantasy baseball problem. A problem that I’m fine with having.
Just as he has done in years past, Nate will bring his favorite sleepers per position of the upcoming fantasy baseball season. For each position he will offer three sleepers, with outfielders, starting and relief pitchers seeing five suggestions. He’ll take into consideration both points and category leagues in his suggestions.
We’ve touched bases (pun intended) on each of the fielding positional slots. Now, we move to arguably the most important position in fantasy baseball, starting pitching. Pitching, like the outfield, is a position where you want to target at least one guy early in your drafts but will ultimately be looking for these sleepers to fill out your final roster and bench spots. Let’s get into it!
Ranger Suarez (Philadelphia Phillies)
Position Rank: 48th
2021 Stats: 8-5, 1.36 ERA, 106 IP, 107 K & 1.000 WHIP
If you watched any of Suarez’ starts a season ago, you know how dominant he was. He made the transition from the pen to the Phillies’ starting rotation about mid-way through the season and did not disappoint. He was held to an inning count for the majority of his starts as well. He’ll start the year in the Phillies’ rotation and will look to serve his first full season as a starter. What’s really promising when it comes to Suarez is that his strikeout and walk ratings did not change from his transition out of the pen. If he can repeat what he did a year ago, even with a regression, he’ll outplay his 13th round ADP easily.
Jordan Montgomery (New York Yankees)
Position Rank: 60th
2021 Stats: 6-7, 3.83 ERA, 157.1 IP, 162 K & 1.278 WHIP
Jordan Montgomery’s stats at face value may not jump out at you but there are some underlying statistics that can help prove his importance. His curveball and changeup, his two most used pitches, had a WIF rating of 40-percent. In 2021 he had a batting-average-against of less than .200 and a slugging percentage against under .305 with those same two pitches. Last season he had the eighth best swinging strike rate in all of baseball. Montgomery has the tools, this could be his breakout year. If a few things go his way, he’s a double digit win guy who you can currently find in the 16th round of 12-man leagues.
Jon Gray (Texas Rangers)
Position Rank: 73rd
2021 Stats: 8-12, 4.59 ERA, 149 IP, 157 K & 1.329
Jon Gray is a name I’ll be leaving almost all my draft with. I’m very high on him. Why you may ask? Because he’s finally free of Colorado. He’s been pitching at Coors Field his entire career, which has obviously elevated his stats, pitching in the league’s top “hitters’ park.” He moves to the Rangers, who made a lot of moves this off-season to better their team. Gray can be had in the 21st round of 12 man leagues. He will almost certainly have a career year now that he’s out of Colorado, statistics wise. He’s also pitching for one of the best offenses he’s had in his career now. I’m expecting big things out of Gray this year.
Alex Cobb (San Francisco Giants)
Position Rank: 74th
2021 Stats: 8-3, 3.76 ERA, 93.1 IP, 98 K & 1.264 WHIP
Alex Cobb pitched outside the AL East last season for the very first time. He enjoyed the change as he had a career year in many categories. He had his highest strikeouts per nine innings (9.5) last season with the Angels. He is a ground ball pitcher and will benefit from that above-average defense behind him that the Giants can offer. He played with the MLB’s worst defense in Los Angeles a season ago. There obviously is a health risk with Cobb, but you’re getting this guy in the 22nd round of 12 man leagues. The Giants also are known for getting the most out of their veteran pitchers. Expect a career year out of Cobb this year.
Dakota Hudson (St. Louis Cardinals)
Position Rank: 107th
2021 Stats: 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 8.2 IP, 6 K & 0.923 WHIP
Dakota Hudson saw just two starts a season ago after recovering from Tommy John surgery which is keeping his average draft position rather low. In 2019, Hudson won 16 games and tossed 174 innings. After missing most of 2020 and 2021 due to injury, he’s back and ready to put in a full season of work. I don’t expect him to get to 175 innings pitching, but getting 150 out of a guy you’re finding in the 29th round of 12 man leagues, that’s what we call a steal and sleeper!