Starting Pitcher Late-Round Fliers for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

Starting Pitchers you should be drafting in the final rounds.

You’ve read the 2024 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Rankings Strategy article already because you’re obviously a smart fantasy baseball manager. That means, to win your drafts in full, you need to take full advantage of the final rounds of your draft, picking who I call “Binary Starters” – pitchers who you will know the first week of the season if they are worth the hold or should be replaced overnight.

Find your core of starters in the first half of the draft, select a few stabilizers with fun upside in the middle, then throw risk to the wind and go for the gold late. Here are my favorite late targets in my 12-teamer and 15-teamer redraft leagues for 2024.


12 Team All Upside Dart Throws

Give me all the excitement and possibility of six frames with legit strikeouts who we could turn into pitchers we hold throughout the entire season. Remember, you’re not drafting a best-ball team. You’re assessing ceiling and these guys carry it in spades, without the innate volatility that will make it difficult to discern if it will stick or not (Hunter Greene, I doubt we’ll ever feel comfortable starting you). If they don’t get their rotation spot, don’t make proper changes, fail to make the right adjustments out of camp, etc. – then we drop them. Easy. Don’t think too hard about it.


1. Kutter Crawford (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I’m a fan y’all. Crawford has a high iVB four-seamer with good (not elite) VAA and decent enough extension and velocity to let that thing soar upstairs. And guess what? LHBs saw the pitch far upstairs and held a 16%+ SwStr rate against it. Wait, aren’t same-handed batters supposed to whiff more against upstairs heaters? They are! But Crawford doesn’t elevate as effectively against RHBs, still keeping it upstairs near a 60% hiLoc, but far more hittable than ideal, near a 55% zone rate. In other words, if Kutter goes further up the ladder with the pitch instead of settling inside the top third of the zone, he should earn more whiffs, more strikeouts, and fewer hits as its ICR rate is sure to drop from its 48% rate.

And that’s it. Seriously, from a skills standpoint, it’s the only noticeable flaw. Sure, he could be a bit better with his curve and changeup (especially to LHBs), but the kutter and slider are both fantastic pitches at earning strikes and mitigating hard contact to both lefties and righties, while the slider is a huge whiff pitch against righties. In fact, it’s filthy with the holy trinity at play – sub 30% ICR, 65%+ strike rate, and 20%+ SwStr rate – which may be a product of its 20-25% usage against RHBs, but hot dang do those numbers suggest throwing it more.

With a four-seamer that dominates upstairs and should become better with an adjustment, a slider that earns whiffs to propel strikeouts, and a reliable cutter that does exactly what it should against both righties and lefties to earn consistent strikes, Crawford has the skills you want to be a legit starter. There are two problems: The Red Sox & the volume. It’s not a great situation pitching in Fenway and the offense isn’t quite as potent as it once was, denting Crawford’s Win potential. Another blow comes in the form of Crawford’s workload. The right-hander tossed 90+ pitches just five times last year and we haven’t seen him get the long leash of 6+ innings quite yet as he tallied roughly 130 frames in 2023. That’s not to say he can’t, but there is haze in the leash we’ll see from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox have made a pair of great moves behind the scenes with Andrew Bailey and Kyle Boddy joining their development staff and I have to believe they’ll see the same thing I do with Crawford’s four-seamer. Here’s my #1 sleeper pick of the year. With @SEA + @LAA as his likely first two starts of the year, you’re going to want to take a shot on this.


2. Yusei Kikuchi (TOR, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Kikuchi is shockingly close to being a legit starter. 2023 saw a large improvement in two areas as the season developed, and there’s a part of me that wants to take a shot on Kikuchi taking that final step forward to becoming a stud arm.

The first shift is an obvious one. On May 7th, Kikuchi began moving away from his changeup in favor of a curveball that allowed him to cut his walk rate tremendously as the pitch returned a near 70% strike rate – far better than the 51% clip his changeup held against RHBs. While his curve still has room to grow (please, get just a little bit lower and find the zone more often against LHBs), it was a major improvement from his cutter and changeup of previous seasons.

The second is a trend for Kikuchi to throw more high heaters. His sub-40 % clip against righties in previous seasons climbed to 47% last year, which is still below average but possibly a sign of more to come in the year ahead. But Nick! He’s allowed so many HRs, why do you want him to throw more high pitches? Because his struggle to get the ball properly elevated is why he’s allowed so many home runs. Kikuchi’s four-seamer would be elite if he were able to locate it at the top of the zone or higher at will, featuring one of the best VAA marks of any starter in the majors and thrives with its 95+ velocity + excellent extension (its 15″ of iVB is low but doesn’t matter when paired with such a good VAA and extension at 95+ mph). Seeing Kikuchi have a mental approach shift to feature more high heaters (which makes sense to tunnel with the new curveball) could indicate that he’ll lean into more in the year ahead.

Mental approach isn’t everything, though, and if there has been one criticism of Kikuchi over the years, it’s been his command. Kikuchi’s fastball plots often look like shotgun blasts, while his slider and curve often land well over the plate and far from their intended locations. It very well could be a rhythm situation that we’ll only see for bunches during the year (he did hold a 2.69 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 27% strikeout rate across 77 IP and 14 starts in the heart of the 2023 season, after all), though I’m all for taking a shot at Kikuchi in drafts in the hopes he can get that four-seamer hiLoc% closer to 60% as he continues to lean on his slider and curve for strikes.


3. Luis Severino (NYM, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Severino is weird and simple at the same time. His four-seamer was crushed last season despite lower velocity and it’s pretty easy to see why – he lost 1.5 inches of iVB on his four-seamer. It could be that simple of a story, but then again, his slider and changeup were also far less effective and that’s where things get confusing. His slider lost 10 points of SwStr rate against RHBs and was crushed by LHBs, while his changeup was horrific against LHBs and the only saving grace he had against RHBs (phew).

There’s talk that Severino was tipping last year (I also noticed some myself with the speed of his delivery, but that’s a hard one to lean into as a hitter) and it’s possible that tweak will save his secondaries, though his missing iVB on the heater is the one that scares me the most, even if batters were more aggressive on the heater than ever before. Are the Mets a good enough crew to get it all ironed out? I’m not entirely sure. I also wonder whether he can nail down the low-90s cutter into his mix as well. I absolutely adored that pitch when it was cooking in late 2022.

At the very least, Severino’s price tag in drafts makes him an admirable late-round flier. After all, his velocity is still up, which showcases a lack of physical decline that is normally the hurdle for those cascading down from their peaks. Take a shot and see if Severino is able to miss bats again with both his heater and slider – if so, you suddenly find yourself having an SP #3/#4 for the cost of very little at the draft.


4. DL Hall (MIL, LHP)



I completely thought Hall was destined for the pen with the Orioles and neglected to think about Hall much at all. However, now that he’s suddenly in the running to start for the Brewers (it sure seems like they traded for him to let him start), Hall becomes the kind of arm you go for at this range. Could it be disastrous? Oh, absolutely, but I was absolutely shocked to see him with just a 6% walk rate in 2023 across his short 19-frame sample. That alone should get you amped because, let me tell you, the stuff is good enough to be a legit impact SP in any league. It’s just about command at this point.

As a reliever, Hall was pumping 95/96 mph heaters, which could very likely fall down to 94 mph as he stretches out to be a starter, though I’m not concerned if it does. Why? Because he features both elite extension and elite VAA. We’re talking seven feet of extension and a 1.5 adj VAA, and those marks are glorious. Pairing that with a high strike rate makes me excited for his potential as the SwStr rates are massive behind that offering.

At first I thought Hall lacked a reliable secondary pitch against RHB, and while the small sample may be the true catalyst, Hall’s changeup performed well across the 61 he tossed in 2023. Batters struggled to make strong contact; he earned many strikes with a 31% CSW, and this allowed him to not rely on a slider he’s still figuring out how to locate.

Speaking of which, there’s polish left to add on that slider to LHB as well. It has solid gyro movement, but Hall is still refining its consistency to spot it down-and-glove side. It’ll earn whiffs galore when it’s located, it’s just a question of that feel will arrive.

And that’s really the big question with Hall. The arsenal is strong enough to be a Top 50 SP easily, but the large concern over the years has been his command. The low walk rate last year can be hand-waved given the low sample, and I need more convincing that his four-seamer is actually a 65-70% strike pitch. Wait, what gives you such hesitation? His delivery. Hall is a southpaw slinger, featuring a 97th percentile horizontal release point from the left side, which means he’s attacking the zone at a sharp angle that generally speaks to inconsistent locations and lower overall strike rates. It’s not a death sentence + I’m happy to report he doesn’t land cross-body, speaking to potentially more consistency than we traditionally see for extreme release points. It means that we draft Hall and watch closely. Is Hall able to locate well enough in the zone to get through at-bats or is he consistently fighting against himself instead of the batter? Don’t hang onto this too long if it looks apparent that Hall doesn’t have the command to make it work. Sidenote: I’m so excited he gets the Milwaukee camera angle that is PERFECT for lefties like him.


5. A.J. Puk (MIA, LHP)


The Marlins have made it clear they will stretch Puk out in the spring in hopes of having him as a starter, and I’m kinda stoked for it. Puk features elite extension and Adj. VAA that allowed the four-seamer to boast a 14% SwStr rate last season, despite not locating it with precision inside the zone (Puk, stop chucking it 62% in the zone at just 37% hiLoc! GET THAT THING UPSTAIRS as its iVB is terrible and needs the VAA to work best). It’s the foundation for Puk’s big sweeper that batters held just a 33% ICR against and routinely earned strikes, though I’d love to see that mark climb a little higher than 60%, especially considering that’s about all Puk has to offer.

A transition to starter seems great with those pitches, but with Puk’s questionable command, an expectation for worse four-seamer performance given the typical velo dip moving from pen to rotation, and lack of third option make me skeptical it’ll pan out consistently enough to avoid the dreaded Cherry Bomb level at its peak. And keep in mind, the Marlins rotation is technically full with Trevor Rogers‘ expected return.

All of that said, take a shot on it. Watch Puk have a new changeup to stave off RHB, embrace the BSB mentality, and run away with the job in the spring. The upside is tantalizing enough to reserve him as a late-round flier you can easily drop early without worry.


6. Emmet Sheehan (LAD, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table

I kinda love Sheehan, but the problem I have is the comedy routine the Dodgers are sure to give him in April, mimicking these frustrating ice cream vendors. Will Sheehan start this week? Nah, that’s an off day. Okay how about now? Yeah sure. WHAT?! FOUR INNINGS?! You didn’t ask for more. I’m not sure I want the ice cream anymore.

But hot dang, if they let Sheehan properly start, I think he can be great. His low arm angle grants him excellent VAA on his four-seamer with solid extension that helped his four-seamer return just a 34% ICR against RHBs as Sheehan actually elevates his four-seamer. Dodgers, please keep your hands away from this approach. Sheehan’s heater also fared well against LHBs with his ability to land it inside often, though he may have gotten a bit fortunate as the pitch leaked out over the plate frequently.

His secondaries are where I’m hoping to see growth in 2024. Sheehan’s changeup flashed plus against LHBs with a 21% SwStr, though he struggled to wrangle it, resulting in many poor misses on and off the plate. He’ll need to bolster its 58% strike rate while bumping its usage to become a consistent producer against lefties.

We saw two different sliders from Sheehan last season, a rare sweeper scattered throughout the season, and a gyro slider that improved across his last three starts to become more of a weapon. In fact, it wasn’t until his final start of the year that we saw that slider look like a legit strikeout pitch, returning 7/28 whiffs and properly fueling a nine-strikeout effort in just 4.2 frames.

I love taking a shot on Sheehan at the very end of drafts as a pitcher who I’d like to monitor early in the year. If Sheehan is getting a helping of Dodgeritis as he either gets skipped or is limited heavily, then I’m moving on quickly. However, pay attention to his pitch mix and approach. If Sheehan continues to rack up slider whiffs while keeping elevated fastballs and polishes his changeup, he’ll be a hold for the full year for all your 12-teamers.


7. Jordan Hicks (SFG, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


The Giants signed Hicks to add him to the rotation and I’m awfully curious what comes of it. The biggest hurdle is his strike rates: Hicks’ sinker barely climbed out of the sub-60% strike rate hole last season, while his sweeper hasn’t hit the 60% plateau before – and I’m not ready to throw that out the door in a transition to starter. There is hope that the new four-seamer he’s working on over the off-season will let him live more in the zone, where his elite 100 mph velocity (maybe more around 98+ when not coming out of the pen) can survive despite not featuring elite extension, iVB, or VAA.

All of that said, Hicks’s flashy heaters have routinely featured elite ICR marks that keep batters at bay. Even the simple adjustment of finding the zone more often with his sinker would result in solid results with a digestible walk rate and WHIP. His slider seemingly breaks the space-time continuum as it comes in 15 mph slower, but it may be too slow as batters have casually walloped the pitch, outside of 2022 against RHBs in a small sample. I can’t help but worry that the pitch needs more polish in order to suggest he can hold a 25%+ strikeout rate in a rotation spot.

I’m all for taking a chance on Hicks at the end of drafts to see how his control shapes up early and if he’s getting a long enough leash to go at least five frames early on. I’d still encourage a short leash in April if we’re seeing the same ole “thrower not pitcher” that is sure to induce a headache or ten, though Hicks may be one of those guys who finally finds his groove in June and stuns us for a few months. There’s potential here that shouldn’t overlooked in 12-teamers.


8. Edward Cabrera (MIA, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Y’all. I don’t know what to do. When Cabrera is doing his thing – getting his four-seamer close enough to the zone at 97+ mph and not left over the heart of the plate, his breakers (I think most are sliders, not curveballs, but that’s just me) landing at the bottom of the zone, and 92 mph changeups not wildly missing arm-side – the dude is as filthy as they come. In addition, I don’t think his mechanics are so bad that command can’t come in the future. However, he just hasn’t done it yet. And as of right now, a pick on Cabrera is more likely to be a “HIPSTER” on your team rather than a reliable starter every five days. That said, if he’s able to make that tweak to find reliability in location, his ceiling is MASSIVE. We’ve seen leaps in walk rate in the past and his pitches innately have low ICR rates. It could be as simple as a shorter arm circle, or ensuring he stays true with his shoulder. Or those could be far off and he can’t make the tweak. It’s a gamble and I think with Cabrera particularly, it’s important to watch his spring and first start of the year. Understand whether he’s grown in command across everything and go from there. Does that mean you’re in on Cabrera? I guess I am now. Huh. I should also note, I’m not sure I believe in the Marlins development to get this sorted out – they have been great with changeups, but not with overall command. Keep your ear to the ground about Cabrera’s off-season workouts.


9. Alek Manoah (TOR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


What happened? His fastballs got obnoxiously worse and he struggled to earn strikes. In 2021 and 2022, Manoah dominated right-handers with his four-seamer and sinker. These pitches routinely allowed weak contact with stupid high strike rates while the four-seamer returned fantastic SwStr rates as well, allowing his slider to thrive down and away. He still had some issues with left-handers, but as long as he could continue to bully RHBs with fastballs, everything was fine.

He lost a tick of velocity in 2023 and the dam broke. Suddenly his 33% ICR four-seamer returned 52% ICR (oh no), forcing him to turn to sinkers instead, which were still decent but regressed as well.

Meanwhile, his struggles against LHBs were amplified, with all of his pitches failing him with low strike rates and demolition inside the zone. It’s refreshingly straightforward and believable that Manoah could return to form if he’s able to get his fastball velocity back (the shape is still good!), which should, in turn, give him the confidence to earn over 70% strikes on his fastballs again (not the 60% he had in 2023).

However, there is the intangible aspect of Manoah himself, who was inconsistent off the field as well. I hate to assume a pitcher is unable to focus and do the work needed for them to get back to their former self, though Manoah’s 2023 suggests it may be a bigger ask for him than others. It makes for a last-round flier you can assess in the spring (is he bullying with 94 mph heaters again?) and take it from there.


10. Aaron Ashby (MIL, LHP)

2022 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


He missed all of 2023 with a shoulder injury and aims to make the rotation out of camp. I feel for the lefty in the summer of 2021, though his 2022 campaign taught me a valuable lesson of fastball shapes and what makes a strong foundation as a left-hander. Ashby’s sinker jumped from an elite 26% ICR in 2021 to a middling 39% clip in 2022, a likely regression given the unsustainability of a sub 30% ICR for a primary fastball year-to-year. Nevertheless, if the slider was able to keep its elite marks of 2021, it would have mitigated the damage. Sadly, the pitch was far less tempting to chase out of the zone, dropping its strike rate by nearly eight points, while batters shellacked the pitch to the tune of a 37% ICR. Yikes. Yeah. That slider was everything for Ashby in 2021 and without it to lean on, the sinker had to do more. His changeup is still great, but the one-two punch of sinkers and sliders isn’t the viable combo we want, let alone the lack of whiffs from his sinker that require the slider (and changeup, for that matter) to push over a 20% SwStr rate to be a consistent 25%+ strikeout arm.

Now that he’s returning from a shoulder injury, the possibility of a full year should be out the window, and we can only hope his walk rates fall if he can get his slider back to its former self. Don’t count out Ashby if he earns a rotation spot. Just understand that he lacks that overpowering fastball to blow past arms, forcing his slider and changeup to be the reliable pitches late, and needing the Brewers’ defense to step up for all his sinkers that will be hit into play – his near 60% groundball rate is sure to be repeated, making that .325 BABIP and near 9.0 hit-per-nine the true culprits of his high WHIP. In summation (I miss ya Fast), Ashby doesn’t have SP #1 ceiling as he’s too reliant on weak contact ala Stroman types, doesn’t have two overwhelming secondaries, and doesn’t miss bats with his fastball, though he has a chance to go 25%+ strikeouts and allow more weak contact than his peers.


11. Louie Varland (MIN, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Please let him start. Please let him start. There’s even more concern that Varland won’t get a rotation spot after the Twins added Anthony DeSclafani to the rotation, but if I had my way, the Twins would leave Paddack in the pen and give Varland the chance to go every five days. Why? Because his four-seamer is DOPE.

Varland has great extension at nearly 7 ft along with an elite VAA that allows his 94/95 mph to excel upstairs, even with middling iVB at 15+ inches. However, the pitch was walloped a ton last season as Varland struggled to get it consistently upstairs. It’s clearly an approach he’s aiming to have and one I believe he can harness over time.

His secondaries aren’t lacking, either. He doesn’t carry a demonstrative weapon to match with the best, but many at-bats see a solid 90 mph cutter that earns strikes consistently and makes batters question his four-seamer’s veracity when he can establish it around the zone. There’s room to grow with Varland’s slider, though, as the pitch failed to eclipse a 60% strike rate while its lackluster SwStr rate left much to be desired. However, Varland tugged the pitch too far out of the zone down-and-away with shocking precision, granting hope that he can make the adjustment to pull the pitch closer to the plate with a simple tweak rather than a massive overhaul.

The arsenal speaks to 5/6 innings of consistency far more than that of Paddack, with legit upside if he can get the heater upstairs and add a touch of polish to his slider. The risk here is not just a demotion to the pen, but a dent to ratios if his 2.00+ HR/9 returns, which we should know soon into the season as we monitor his overall command.

Circle Varland as a legitimate sleeper to target at the end of drafts, especially given he’s a cut candidate if he fails to earn a rotation spot out of camp. Let’s hope Minnesota does him right.


Update: The Twins are currently favoring Anthony DeSclafani over Louie Varland for a rotation spot out of camp, which makes me less inclined to chase Varland at the current moment. He’s still worth the dart-throw on the chance he lands the #5 spot the first week of the season, but the chances are lower than we expected in early February.


12. Tanner Houck (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Houck has it set against right-handed batters. It’s a sinker/slider combo that eats up batters on both sides of the plate. Sinkers go backdoor and inside to earn called strikes and weak grounders as its elite drop and exceptional horizontal ride make it a worm-burner that nullifies power bats easily. They set up his two-plane slider that carves up strikeouts down-and-away with ease, while confidently landing over the plate as well. It’s filthy and RHBs are in trouble against Houck.

However, those are the only skills Houck brings to the table, which doesn’t quite work against left-handed bats. He’s tried a splitter, but that pitch was demolished and returned a poor 53% strike rate last year – a mark I wouldn’t expect to rise given the pitch’s difficulty to perfect. His four-seamer is a pitch that should be permanently shelved in all but two-strike counts when he can surprise batters up and out of the zone, and his cutter doesn’t do a whole lot. It’s possible the latter can be refined with time and turn into a reliable strike offering against LHBs, while the slider could become the back-foot threat Chris Sale made famous from the opposite side.

The Red Sox seem determined to give it a shot with Houck and we’ll see in the spring if he’s able to find a good plan of attack against lefties as the sinker/slider should continue to keep him afloat against the majority of hitters. I wouldn’t classify Houck as a stellar command arm, though, and it makes me concerned he won’t be able to find the right groove to rid himself of the dreaded Cherry Bomb label. However, to his credit, that sinker helps him generate quick outs, which helped him reach the sixth more often than expected. Just figure out a better cutter or changeup, please. That’s the last piece Houck needs to keep him locked in the rotation indefinitely.


13. Trevor Rogers (MIA, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Rogers should not be ignored. He had just four starts in 2023 and then disappeared to injury for the rest of the season. Injury risk Nick! At the price point of drafts (read: FREE) injury risk means nothing. If he’s starting out of spring and inside the Marlin’s rotation, chase the upside. His 93 mph four-seamer could return to its 94/95 velocity from 2021 and I adore that he split his fastballs into high four-seamers and low/LHB-jamming sinkers with elite arm-side movement in the few games we saw. His changeup is still fantastic and his sweeper could be a reliable strike pitch. The tools are there, it’s more about health than anything. Watch for him sitting 94 mph (and hopefully a reliable slider?) in the spring. If it’s there, I’m circling him in drafts.


14. James Paxton (LAD, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Paxton to the Dodgers makes all the sense. Sign a pitcher to take over for April while Buehler ramps up, and then by the time Paxton inevitably gets hurt or fatigued, Buehler slides in to take his place. I kinda love taking Paxton in my drafts given his showcase of quality in his early starts each season before his body fails to keep up with his desires to pitch six frames. The team situation is great, he’s likely to pound 95/96 mph heaters that effectively dodge damage due to elite extension, and if he has his curve and/or cutter working, you’re going to get bankable production while you’re searching for long-term options on the wire in April. Just don’t hold on too tightly once he stumbles, okay?


15. Ricky Tiedemann (TOR, LHP)

I remember seeing Tiedemann last spring training and believing in his 99 mph heater paired with a vicious slider that can go back-foot to RHBs. I’ve since cooled down a bit on him given the questionable shape of his 95 mph heater (it was a max velo of 99 mph, sadly) that features extremely low iVB marks, and I worry that he doesn’t have the pristine command required to maneuver it around the zone to set up his deadly breaker and his changeup that returned fantastic Stuff+ marks in Triple-A. The Jays have been slow with Tiedemann throughout the minors (justifiably so after he was impacted by a shoulder injury last season), which splashes cold water on the idea of Tiedemann appearing in the rotation early in the season. That said, the moment he appears later this year – who else do they have to replace a starter in the rotation? – he’ll be an instant pick-up. I sure hope that when the time comes, he throws enough strikes and is able to keep the velocity up without shoulder soreness impacting him. Is he someone to stash in 12-teamer drafts? I’m leaning away from the idea given how long you’ll likely be waiting and sacrificing a valuable roster spot in April. That’s up to you, though.


16. Prelander Berroa (CHW, RHP)

Here I was, demoralized and resigned to my fate to watch Berroa turn into a relief arm for the Mariners in 2024. There’s no room. They said. Why would they let him start? They said. And then the light shone through. Suddenly hope appeared as Dipoto gave me a blessing I never anticipated. Berroa not only was traded, but he was dealt to a team in dire need of something electric in their rotation as they piece together a season, twiddling their thumbs until their front office actually does something good for the team. The Chicago White Sox.

Let me tell you all the good things first. When I watch Berroa, I see Cristian Javier with more velocity and a better slider. His heater comes in at around 96 mph (maybe 94/95 in the rotation?) with great iVB and a flat VAA with good extension (the FAN-tastic Four qualities that outline a potential four-seamer to elevate to fan batters) that forces me to emit noise when it blazes by bats, and then he mixes in a devastating slider in the upper 80s. Wait, did I say mixes in? My apologies, I mean wants to throw it more than 50% of the time. Hey, when it’s a filthy slider and you can land it in the zone decently well, you throw it a lot.

But, um, the dude walks guys a ton. We’re talking 14%+ traditionally in the minors and when we talk about prospect pitchers, a major red-flag is a high walk rate. But we’re also talking about 35%+ strikeout rates, too. It makes Berroa out to be a maddening Cherry Bomb type, AND YET I’M EXCITED. Look, I get it. You don’t want to chase Berroa because A) There’s no guarantee the White Sox even stick him in the rotaiton B) Berroa pitched few than 100 frames last year and C) That command is clearly suspect. That’s absolutely rational and fair and you’re likely right.

HOWEVER, I watch Berroa and see less mechanical disaster than expected with those walk rates and hot dang, he feels far closer than other mega-walk fellas I’ve seen to find a balance to get that heater upstairs while that slider is the stabalizer in and out of the zone. It’s possible and sitting here, outside the Top 100 SP, you have nothing to lose. Take the chance, make it happen. POP THAT CORK, FINGERS SNAPPING.


Deep League Toby Fliers

In deeper leagues, the focus is less on peaks, and more on the potential high floor that can be difficult to find on the wire in-season. Look to these pitchers for surprising stability at a heavy discount.


1. Cristopher Sánchez (PHI, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Sánchez is pretty remarkable. His sinker gets a ton of horizontal movement and a fair amount of drop, allowing it to sit away from lefties and still give them fits at an unsustainable sub 20% ICR rate. He’ll allow more hits across a larger sample next season, but we shouldn’t expect a massive swing of the pendulum. Even without his slider acting like the traditional southpaw silver bullet to dispose of left-handers, Sánchez’s sinker will grant him the advantage in same-handed matchups.

Against right-handers, it gets a bit weird. The changeup is a monster at near 40% usage and 21% SwStr rate, mirroring the sinker well but at 11 mph slower that has the bottom fall out from under it. But that sinker plays a delicate game of 25-30% called strikes and a 50% ICR. It’s a dangerous affair, though his +8 Hit Luck suggests Sánchez already saw its floor, while gaining a touch of command polish (inside half locations were favored, oddly enough) could also hint at improved performance in 2024.

There’s also the question of his slider. There were times Sánchez was limited to just two pitches when his feel for the slider disappeared, either leaving it too far inside the zone or missing for an easy take, and its 40%+ ICR against righties is a showcase of its unreliability.

This makeup isn’t an arm primed to return another 3.44 ERA, 1.05 WHIP season. However, Sánchez’s efficiency on the bump, as he consistently earns outs with sinkers and whiffs with the changeup, does suggest he can be stretched out to six frames more often, while settling inside a 20-25% strikeout rate with digestible ERA and WHIP ratios. His sinker and changeup are strong enough foundations that he can be trusted enough to roster in 12-teamers, though the wheels could fall off if his sinker doesn’t improve against right-handers.


2. Michael Wacha (KCR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


The changeup is unreal and his command + approach is fantastic, making me surprisingly dig Wacha more than I thought I would. His four-seamer has a ton of iVB, though its steep VAA does hurt it, making it more of a surprise upstairs pitch and something that can work low for called strikes instead. This is the Zac Gallen approach: If you have a steeper VAA on your heater with a high iVB, then you can steal low called strikes on your four-seamer, then pair it with changeups and curves effectively. And what do you know, Wacha holds a 21% called strike on four-seamers – good for 80th percentile in the majors.

There are small adjustments to be made with pitch selection here and there, and he does feature a much higher ICR% than I’d like across his arsenal, but 33% dope changeups will keep him afloat throughout the year (70% strikes, 33% ICR, 21% SwStr, 32% CSW… incredible. It can do no wrong). Like Lugo, the move to Kansas City should work for Wacha, especially given their tendency to let pitchers extend past 85 pitches and fight for six full innings, not to mention the drop in infield defense shouldn’t affect a fly-ball arm like Wacha as much.

Health is always in question for Wacha, though health matters far less past SP #50, where you’re happy to get any productive innings from the starters you draft at this point. If health is the biggest problem, then enjoy the production you get before the time on IL – far better than those whose quality is the question at hand.


3. Seth Lugo (KCR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Lugo’s sinker is a lively pitch that destroys batters when it doesn’t leak over the middle of the plate. It’s rare to see whiffs on fastballs away and off the plate, but Lugo’s sinker can do that against left-handers, while it earns many chases on the handle of bats to right-handers. The big hook and sweeper do their part as well, though I wish I had more praise for his four-seamer and changeup.

Seriously, that four-seamer is not great. We’re talking a whopping 50% ICR last year, which means its incredibly high 71% strike rate may not have been the best approach, especially with its locations being well over the plate. It does have solid iVB and VAA marks, but there’s some tweaking to be made here to prevent damage, especially without the San Diego infield defense behind him to scoop up the near 50% groundballs he’ll induce.

Lugo is missing that one last piece to solidify the arsenal when his sinker can’t spot the edges, preventing him from elevating into Top 40 SP territory. The groundball focus makes his WHIP a touch higher than ideal (stupid grounder BABIP) and those needing volume should feel relatively safe with Lugo, especially with the move to Kansas City – the Win chances may be slightly depreciated (the Royals should be a better offense in 2024, though), while the park and division should help, even if there is a more balanced schedule than years past.


4. Jameson Taillon (CHC, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


When considering Taillon, it’s best to throw away a lot of his 2023 season. His first half came with plenty of struggles, from losing confidence in his cutter, to injuries and lacking any sort of rhythm. I had the opportunity to sit down with Taillon in December (listen to the chat on our podcast network), where he opened up about his four-seamer, developing his sweeper, and adjustments he plans to make for next season.

It’s weird writing this blurb as I feel the numbers from 2023 don’t paint the picture of what to expect. His four-seamer was battered by right-handers as he left it out over the plate far too often, though I don’t expect the pitch to act the same next season. The potential is there for him to soar consistently across six frames, demolishing right-handers with a bevy of options – cutters down-and-away, sweepers off the plate, sinkers inside, and surprise four-seamers upstairs – while the key will be to create a game plan against left-handers. Taillon could return to the cutter inside, mixing in a new splitter, more sweepers, and four-seamers upstairs, it’s a matter of getting the work done this off-season to execute it next year.

What’s fun for me is understanding how Taillon could surprise many early in the year, allowing us to draft him late and paying close attention to his skill set early on. I really hope that four-seamers find their way upstairs consistently once again.


5. Erick Fedde (CHW, RHP)

2022 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Look who it is. Don’t Trust The Feddes, right? I think so? If we get the Fedde from 2022, obviously we want nothing to do with this. However, he spent a year in the KBO where he was the best pitcher in the league, to the tune of 2.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 209 strikeouts in 180.1 frames. But that’s the KBO! Very fair, though Fedde is not the same pitcher of old. Eric Longenhagen broke down many of the changes Fedde made, including better control, an improved slider feel, a new splitter for whiffs, a sinker that generates more sink and grounders, a cutter to jam left-handers, and a four-seamer that can hit 96 mph, creating a complete five-pitch mix. That outlines a Toby in my book and if you’re searching for volume, Fedde is sure to get a ton of innings for the White Sox, especially with what should be a much-improved strike rate (and thus walk rate). I’d be kinda intrigued about it, though the Wins will be difficult to come by. Not the worst last-round pick, especially if Fedde goes the opening weekend – he’d get the Tigers and be a super sneaky stream. If Fedde looks mediocre there, you can swap him out at the first FAAB period to a younger arm who hasn’t even made a start yet.


6. Garrett Whitlock (BOS, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Unlike Houck, Whitlock has both elements he needs: a devastating two-plane slider that destroys RHBs and an elite arm-action changeup that comes with a 10-inch drop vs. his sinker – all that allows him to handle RHBs and LHBs alike. The problem? His sinker isn’t nearly as good as Houck’s. He’s battled injuries. His slider and changeup make too many mistakes. That’s three problems. WHATEVER. That sinker was a better offering in the past, but Whitlock’s tendency to stay away for called strikes instead of jamming inside doesn’t help the situation, nor does its mediocre movement and dip in velocity from ~95 mph to 93/94 last year.

Whitlock does carry some of the best extension in the game, though, which allows him to get more out of that sinker than the usually low-to-mid 90s heater, and amplifies the effectiveness of his secondaries as batters have less time to react to their aggressive movement. Rhythm is truly what Whitlock needs most at the moment, and it pains me that I feel the Red Sox will not give him the security of a #5 spot out of camp. It’s possible Whitlock soars and forces Houck (or Koufax forbid, Crawford) to the pen, but we’ll likely have to wait for an opportunity to arise elsewhere before Whitlock gets another shot. When that does happen, we can only hope he’s given a long enough leash to find that rhythm of his secondaries while spotting sinkers well enough to turn into a pitcher reminiscent of the peak Cleveland Guardian days, destroying batters with two 20%+ SwStr pitches and a “good enough” fastball.


7. Casey Mize (DET, RHP)

2021 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Mize is an unknown as he returns from TJS and should earn a rotation gig out of camp. I’d be disappointed if he had the same skillset we saw in 2021: zero pitches above a 13% SwStr rate with his slider acting as an overall strike pitch, a middling 93 mph sinker, a four-seamer that was often saved to elevate in two-strike counts (inefficiently), and an occasional splitter that held a 20% CSW. It’s an exciting time in March when we get a first look at the new man after healing from TJS, though I’d temper expectations. He has a whole lot to change to become a stable fantasy arm – I don’t expect his .254 BABIP-driven 1.14 WHIP to get replicated with his sub-20% strikeout rates. Something has to make us move up in our chairs.


8. Matt Manning (DET, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I was fortunate to go on the Detroit Free Press podcast and Mark Darosh said something that didn’t sit right with me at the time. “I think of Zack Wheeler when I see Matt Manning.” It didn’t make sense – Wheeler’s four-seamer is one of the best in the game and Manning’s is…blegh? Well, I see it now, but in the end, we’re both right. Manning’s mechanics are similar to Wheeler’s, with similar elite extension and great VAA on his heater. The problem? It comes in 2-3 ticks slower than Wheeler’s while boasting a sub 40% hiLoc% – good for 5th percentile in the majors. Yikes. It does mean that if Manning can nail down an upstairs approach and find a little extra velo, then there is a legit ceiling to be had. That’s something, right?

The slider is arguably better than Wheeler’s, too. Its 99th percentile PLV isn’t rooted in its whiffability but its immense zone rate, along with a low 32% ICR that enabled Manning to get through more games than his currently pedestrian four-seamer would dictate for other pitchers. Sadly, the curve and change do little to affect the rest of the approach and you have a pitcher who had a massively fortunate season (98th percentile BABIP, 85th percentile HR/FB) with a 16% strikeout rate that requires a large shift in ability for growth. Oh, and he hasn’t started 20 games in the majors yet, almost forgot that one. If he’s sitting 95+ in the spring, he has my attention, but I doubt we’ll get there.


9. Clarke Schmidt (NYY, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Schmidt has all the tools he needs to have success as a starter and hold rates under a 4.00 ERA and 1.20 WHIP – a mark he held in the valley of the season from May to September across four months. Righties have trouble dealing with his cutter and sweepers over the zone, while they whiff often against the lateral breaker and a big curve that could improve with another season in the bigs. I wish he would save his sinker a bit more, turning away from the pitch over the plate and simply sitting inside as the only pitch that goes the opposite direction. Its 31% usage against righties last year is a touch too high and a cut to 20% for jamming batters would allow his secondaries to dominate more frequently, while amplifying his inside sinkers more than ever.

The real issue is against lefties and I hope Schmidt can take a step forward with his approach to fix it. Without a four-seamer or changeup (that 3% usage slowball doesn’t count y’all), Schmidt features away sinkers around 20% of the time (blegh) and his sweeper gets pummeled when it doesn’t get taken for a strike. That leaves his cutter to do most of the work getting strikes, while his curve is mostly saved for two-strike counts down-and-in, which wasn’t as successful as you’d like to see.

That said, he’ll certainly get another full year in the rotation, given the haze around Rodón and Cortes, unless both are healthy out of the gate and the Yankees add another starter. At the very least, he’s incredibly likely to get regular starts at some point before the end of May. I think this regular playing time can do Schmidt a ton of good to get into a groove with that curve and cutter, helping him dampen his biggest weakness. Maybe throw more curves outside two-strike counts and focus on them a little more toward the middle than hugging down-and-glove-side?

If we see Schmidt every five days with the Yankees, he’s a solid 15-teamer play, with Toby consideration for your 12-teamers given his 20-25% strikeout rate + solid Win chance with the Yankees. They’ll need him for at least five frames if not hoping to get six consistently. You could do far worse at the end of drafts than Schmidt.


10. Jhony Brito (SDP, RHP)

Brito is an interesting one. His sinker does a great job living inside with 96 mph velocity and excellent arm-side run, and I adore his command to sit there consistently. He saves the four-seamer for two-strike counts, which doesn’t work since his delivery is incredibly over-the-top and the pitch has poor vertical break, leaving the changeup and curve as his only options as a putaway pitch. Sadly, the curve is a 12-6 without the depth you want to see, forcing his changeup to do all the work. If he can become more consistent with the slowball against RHBs, there’s some upside there, though it soars against LHBs and should continue to do so at 40% usage. In short, he’s a sinker/change guy who needs a cutter for LHBs and a sweeper for RHBs, neither of which I have faith in given his arm-side break on his four-seamer and high vertical release point that makes a sweeper difficult to get around properly. I wonder what development we’ll see on a breaking ball, though if he unlocks one, there’s legit upside to be had as an innings eater. The sinker and change are a solid foundation, he just needs that whiff pitch against righties and one more option against lefties.


11. J.P. France (HOU, RHP)

2023 Stats Tables
Pitch Repertoire Table


The assumption is that France has the #5 SP spot above Urquidy entering the season, and if that holds, there’s value to be had. Despite France featuring four-seamers nearly 50% of the time and the pitch getting torched by batters on both sides of the plate, his secondaries make up plenty of the slack to keep his head afloat in a great situation for the Astros. RHBs are served cutters for a 70% strike rate that keep batters at bay, while sprinkling in a slider that carried a shockingly low 53% strike rate against those batters last season. Expect France to make the adjustment to not bounce as many slide pieces and get more out of the pitch to help stave off RHBs against his struggling heater.

LHBs get a different look of changeups and curveballs, each boasting a phenomenal sub 30% ICR. I adore France’s confidence in his changeup, frequently taking advantage of aggressive batters when behind in counts, while the curve’s sub 60% strike rate leaves me wanting a bit more from his best breaker.

France isn’t primed for a breakout campaign ahead of him. His four-seamer is far from a foundation to build upon, while his quartet of secondaries lacks the electricity needed to ascend the ranks, likely keeping his strikeout rate comfortably under 20%. However, the Astros provide all the benefits of potential Wins and solid defense that can turn France into a decent streaming play, if not a back-end option for 15-teamers in desperate need of volume.


12. Michael Soroka (CHW, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


I don’t really know what to say about Soroka. We’ve barely seen him since his 170+ IP 2019 season, dealing with injury after injury, then just 32.1 IP last year that were all kinds of weird. He suddenly earned four-seamer whiffs with 60% hiLoc despite terrible shape on the pitch across the board. He’s still jamming RHBs with sinkers as well, with a decent slider away, and a changeup that should perform better over a larger sample against LHBs.

The big pro here is the situation: Soroka is going to get all the opportunities to eat innings for the White Sox, finally getting the canvas he’s been seeking for the last four years. I loved him back in the day as a young arm in a great situation and absurd command for someone his age, suggesting he’d develop better than your typical rookie. However, now that he turns 27 in August, time is running out and the skills aren’t there yet. He’s an arm to be aware of for 12-teamers as a possible early pick-up if he’s hitting the edges effectively and working more than a two-pitch mix for each side of the plate (changeups vs. LHB, sliders vs. RHB). 15-teamers, I’d consider Soroka as a dart throw near the end as someone who could surprise us with decent ratios and a 20%+ strikeout rate. The White Sox will win some games, right?


13. José Urquidy (HOU, RHP)

Urquidy is the only arm truly on the fringe (I apologize, but I refuse to write about Brandon Bielak) with Garcia and McCullers both resting on the sidelines and Shawn Dubin waiting in the minors (he may see some frames here and there but I wouldn’t anticipate as a proper starting option with his high walk rate). As for Urquidy, his four-seamer used to be a solid offering, earning flyballs galore and avoiding massive punishment, but it returned a horrific 51% ICR vs RHB last year. It’s a product of two problems: Urquidy’s struggles to earn strikes with his slider against RHBs, which allowed batters to sit heater constantly + his massively increased hiLoc% from near 50% to well over 60%. But wait, he has 19 iVB on his four-seamer! That’s BONKERS! It does and is the catalyst for his high flyball rates, but even with the elite iVB, his ghastly VAA and extension mixed with low-90s velocity degrade its potential. I’d actually suggest Uruqidy go the Zac Gallen route of low four-seamers, stealing called strikes low in the zone and setting up the changeup, as the heater is too hittable upstairs even with the vertical movement. It makes me wonder if we can throw away the poor 2023 campaign and specifically look for his slider to find the glove-side edge more often in concert with low heaters to make it all come together again for a solid year. Keep an eye on this.


14. Ryne Nelson (ARI, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


As little excitement as I had for Nelson during the second half of 2023, I can see how he could easily flip the script in 2024. Despite the sub 10% SwStr numbers, his four-seamer carries excellent vertical break at 94/95 mph, which could outline dominance if he’s able to raise its 37th percentile high locations – get that pitch upstairs (maybe with a tick of more velocity?) and suddenly he’s bullying batters left and right. His slider also speaks to far more success if he brings it out of the 12% usage dungeon, which we did see across three of his September outings with 20%+ usage. The breaker’s elite 24% ICR, solid PLV, and 60% strike rate speak to being the proper #2 Nelson needs moreso than the cutter and changeup. I do worry a little about his command, though more time on the hill making small tweaks with the timing of his front shoulder could smooth things out quickly. With the Diamondbacks likely needing Nelson every five days out of the gate, I’d pay attention to his development. He’s not a lost cause as we see with many other young arms after a season or two.


Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

2 responses to “Starting Pitcher Late-Round Fliers for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts”

  1. Sweet Chin Music says:

    Bravo Nick, this is great stuff. Thanks

  2. Mario Mendoza says:

    This might be the best sub article of the List! Great, thank you

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