Nine back-end starters

As your fantasy baseball draft unfolds, you may find other managers loading up on starting pitchers in the early rounds. Of course, you can’t afford to reach the 20th round without some aces. But what if you still need to add two or three starters? Here are nine sleepers to consider. All of them have ADPs above 200, and two (Dylan Cease and Yusei Kikuchi) are above 300. That means they’ll likely be there in the final round.

DYLAN CEASE, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Cease, who’s had a history of struggles with his control, had some wildness in his last Cactus League start, but he hasn’t allowed a run in 6.2 innings. He throws 99 MPH, with high spin, his curveball drops 8.4 inches more than an average curve and his slider in nasty. But his ADP is 359.  

CRISTIN JAVIER, HOUSTON

Javier has a superb rookie season, throwing 54.1 innings, with an ERA of 3.48 and a 0.99 WHIP. He struck out 25.2% of hitters and walking 8.4%, and he was effective in minimizing hard contact. His hard hit rate, xwOBA, and xERA were all in the 90th percentile, while his xBA was in the 92nd percentile.

YUSEI KIKUCHI, SEATTLE

Kikuchi’s transition from Japan to the MLB has been rough. He had a 5.46 ERA as a 28-year-old rookie and a 5.17 mark last year. But he added velocity and a new cutter that have led to improvements to his ERA indicators, and he looks like a new pitcher with four effective offerings. His ADP is 310.

JOHN MEANS, BALTIMORE

Means finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019. Then a spike in velocity in 2020 led to a dramatic increase in his swinging-strike rate, as it jumped from 8.7 percent to a Gerrit Cole-like 15.7 percent for his final four starts. Unfortunately, he still suits up for the Orioles.

JORDAN MONTGOMERY, NY YANKEES

Fantrax calls Montgomery a top sleeper. According to NFC, other pitchers drafted around him include Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Zach Davies. He’s already secured a spot in the Yankees starting rotation for 2021, which means he will have run support and will post wins.

MICHAEL PINEDA, MINNESOTA

Pineda only made five starts in 2020, but he posted a 3.38 ERA. His strikeout rate was over 22 percent for the fifth straight season and his walk rate continues to sit below seven percent. Pineda’s 86 mph exit velocity and 32.1 percent hard-hit rate were both the lowest he’s posted in the Statcast era.

EDUARDO RODRIGUEZ, BOSTON

Complications from COVID caused Rodriguez to miss 2020. He has always been able to generate strikeouts, and in 2019 he took a big step forward in preventing hard contact, with a career-high 48.5% ground-ball rate. He struggles with his command but has looked good this spring.

MARCUS STROMAN, NY METS

In 32 starts between Toronto and New York in 2019, Stroman posted 159 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings pitched to go with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and 10 wins. He opted out in 2020 but should be a solid back-end fantasy starter who can give you an ERA and WHIP that won’t ruin ratios.

JAMESON TAILLON, NY YANKEES

Taillon’s issue has been his ability to stay on the mound. He’s proven to be a reliable starter with excellent control who has limited damage against him. From 2016-2018, Taillon posted elite walk, overall barrel, and curveball spin rates, to go with a fastball velocity well above league averages. 

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