Starting Pitcher Late-Round IL Stashes for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts

The starting pitching IL stashes to consider for 2024 fantasy drafts.

The final rounds of your fantasy baseball drafts are filled with different types of gambles, and filling your IL spots with starting pitchers is a popular choice. We can look at Tarik Skubal last season as the ceiling for these picks, though Carlos Rodón can be used as a showcase of the great harm that comes from relying too heavily on future value.

Inherently, there is no harm in drafting an IL stash as they are “free” roster spots before the season begins. However, there are a few downsides that may escape traditional wisdom. Be aware of these pitfalls of IL stashes before spending your final picks on potential future production:


Know Your League Settings

This isn’t as simple as “How many IL spots do I have?”. Take a moment to understand if you can keep a player in your IL spot even when they’ve been officially activated – the rule of Still ILL often applies and it’s wise to leave pitchers on the IL for at least their first start as they rarely go a full five frames in their return.

In addition, your league may have limited transactions per week, which may not reset until after the first full week of games. If you draft a pair of IL stashes at the end of your draft, you’ll have two fewer of the highly precious transactions between the end of your draft and April 8th. Imagine if you draft on March 10th and have just four total transactions to make for four weeks, with two of them filling up your roster. Brutal.


Be Disciplined

If you’re drafting an IL stash, decide now if you’re going to drop them in-season when (not if, WHEN) you run out of IL spots. Bench spots in-season are absurdly valuable (Monday/Thursday hitters for extra at-bats or streaming SP throughout the week or an extra reliever to help with a few strikeouts & ratios) and holding onto the hope that Drew Rasmussen makes an impact in August while suffering in May is not the decision you should make. Production now is 3x as valuable as production later.


Injury Timelines Are Often Wrong

I add an extra few weeks, if not a month, to the whatever timeline we’ve been given. If they say “targeting July”, I’d just assume August until I heard otherwise. Injuries are weird, y’all, and you’ll always hear the optimistic answer from quotes.


Be Ready For Them To Ramp Up

Finally, if you’re taking on an SP IL stash, understand that they usually aren’t their best selves initially, meaning that when they do return, they won’t be producing at their best level until a week or two after, in most cases. The one exception is Jacob deGromwho is dope whenever he pitches and who cares.


Tier 0

This list was originally made before recent news of injured starters from spring training. I’ve added this tier above the rest as you will be stashing them for far less time, making them go much earlier in drafts than the rest. Expect this list to grow as spring continues.


Walker Buehler (LAD, RHP)

2022 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Update: I wrestled with putting Buehler inside this article as I’m not sure if the Dodgers will actually have him on the IL instead of as a minor leaguer once the season starts. Now that it’s confirmed Buehler won’t leave camp inside the rotation, he’s a tough pitcher to rank in the pre-season. If he is an IL stash, then he’s the #1 IL stash ahead of Bradish. I Buehler to arrive in Mid-May or so, carrying a short leash at first, then expanding to the full six by the All-Star break or so. I have some small concerns about the quality of inning now that he doesn’t have sticky stuff, FWIW, which is outlined below.


It feels weird ranking Buehler and I’m likely going to jump back and forth throughout the pre-season. Buehler shouldn’t be expected to be pitching for the squad until the end of April at the earliest, especially with the signing of Paxton, as the Dodgers are trying to do everything they can to preserve him for their playoff run at the end of the year. Does that mean he’s on the IL to start the year? I’m okay with that. Honestly, I don’t know…? It may mean he’s in the minors instead and that would be all kinds of annoying as he steals a roster spot for the most critical weeks of the season. Maybe he forces himself into the rotation in April? It’s possible, but not necessary and I’d imagine having Buehler ramp up and never slow down during the season is preferred over a start-stop-start mid-way through, especially when they have a clean bill of health across their other arms at the start of the year.

With all that out of the way, what can we expect of the quality of Buehler’s outings? This is where I have more hesitation than I expected. Buehler’s four-seamer was absolutely bananas in 2021…before the sticky stuff ban as it went from 18.5 iVB to just over 16 inches by the end of the year and early 2022. Losing two inches of iVB on a four-seamer is a big deal, and paired with Buehler’s propensity to not elevate the pitch (Dodgers, GET IT TOGETHER), I have to wonder if that heater will be a golden offering post-TJS or not. I’m inclined to believe Buehler’s arm will feel better than it did in 2022 when we had our concerns about his performance, though it’s unclear right now where his skills are.

The slider, curve, cutter, and change were all solid offerings that made Buehler a complete pitcher, though he showed many signs of struggle commanding them before going under the knife – a problem that may be rectified with a healthy elbow. I have little doubt that Buehler will help teams this year as long as he’s healthy with this arsenal, but a 3.00 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP and 25%+ strikeout rate may be out of the cards without the old fastball.

Buehler has the makings of a pitcher you’re absolutely thrilled to have rostered in June while he induces all the anxiety in April, wondering why you have this stuck roster spot for at least a month. Buehler may not even give you production the moment he returns, either, with the Dodgers possibly ramping him up at 3-4 innings for the first few games. My feelings toward stashing players have shifted over the years, and I now see a curmudgeon in my reflection as I favor the short-term value moreso than the stash/long-term value of the seasons (get your value now and worry about next month later), which has me leaning toward skipping Buehler in drafts – it’s not a 100% lock he’s a stud! – and yet, I just can’t turn him down at this point. The chances of Buehler helping you across 140 frames are higher than those getting drafted behind him, even if you have to wait a little longer to get it.



Kyle Bradish (BAL, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table



Update: Kyle Bradish has been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and will start the season on the IL. It’s unknown how long he will be out for, though there is more optimism in camp that he’s avoided major injury to force TJS. My “reading the tea leaves” guess is that Bradish will be out until May/June, forcing him to fall deep in my drafts closer to the #60/70 Ranks, after I’ve already solidified my rotation.

Bradish can be better and it’s been swirling in my mind all off-season. Think peak Kluber and you have something close to Bradish with a 90 mph slider that is disgusting as one of the best pitches in the game and a curveball that should be thrown far more than it is now. What shocks me is the low strike rate on his slider, hovering 62% instead of 65-70% like his curveball. Up the usage on both (curves are more used for LHB, sliders for RHB, and all I ask is ¿por qué no los dos?) and feature that slide piece for strikes and you’ll have yourself a glorious time.

Meanwhile, his four-seamer shouldn’t be called as such. It’s a cutter dangit, and I really hope Bradish begins to realize he should be treating it like one. His current gameplan is to backdoor it against left-handers (which is fine, but he can really soar like Mariano’s if he finds the skills to bust batters inside and saw off bats), while right-handers see the pitch far less often, and it normally reside upstairs…the place a pitch like Bradish’s shouldn’t live. Instead, why not go down-and-away to set up the breakers or get the end of the bat? The sinker is used more for right-handers, and it lands upstairs more often than you’d want and instead needs to sit inside and off the plate more.

I should mention, this entire discussion is post-May Bradish, where he realized Oh dang, I should stop leaning so hard on my four-seamer and was brilliant thereafter (Starting June 8th: 2.31 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 27% strikeout rate across 120.2 IP in 20 starts. Yeah.). Change is clearly possible, especially for a fella still early in his MLB career. Throw in a winning club and a blank check to go as long as he wants each start, well you’ve got yourself a nice stew brewing. There is 30% strikeout upside if he leans more on those breakers and adds that last lick of polish while figuring out the proper way to utilize the odd attributes of that four-seamer cutter.


Kodai Senga (NYM, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Senga Senga Senga. The man who was horribly inefficient for the first 12 weeks of the year then cruised afterward for a 2.74 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 30% strikeouts rate, and 9% walk rate across 101.2 IP in 17 starts. That’s the good stuff. I find it awfully difficult to assess Senga as it felt too good to be true. His 6.8 H/9 for the year is an obvious peak (or is it a trough?) that is sure to worsen in the year ahead; his splitter is deadly, but its low strike rate puts pressure on his four-seamer and cutter to find strikes and avoid damage (again, hit rate has to rise); and said cutter performed too dang well for a pitch that was often located well inside the zone for me to believe it’s destined to avoid damage regularly through another season.

I also have concerns about Senga’s overall command. Watching him pitch on both stellar and poor days, the unreliability of location makes the pitching fan in me squirm. Each at-bat comes with at least a pitch that wildly misses its spot, and while he often can execute the pitch that gets the out, it’s a tightrope traversal similar to Blake Snell that I don’t like trusting for the full year.

All of that said, I do wonder if his skills can improve to combat these signs of regression. His four-seamer should be earning more whiffs than it currently does, but his inability to elevate and take advantage of its shape holds it back, allowing right-handers to slug it for an ICR over 50% in 2023. Ouch. Meanwhile, there’s work to be done on the slider – if it takes off, then Senga may become a more reliable arm who doesn’t need to rely on his daily feel of the Ghost Fork or hope that batters still fail to wrangle his cutter in the zone.

There’s a thought his second season will be smoother after needing time to get used to pitching in the states, including tossing a different ball than overseas. In addition, Senga could have the stamina now to start every five days, opening the door for a 180 IP season, if he’s able to keep the efficiency he had in the second half. I have my concerns that he’s destined for a 1.20 WHIP and a 3.60 ERA or so, but the strikeout rate will continue to be 25%+ with the filthy Ghost Fork, and considering Senga shouldn’t be a detriment for your ratios, those strikeouts elevate him into a sturdy arm that helps each team he’s on. Sadly, I’d rather chase a pitcher with a higher ceiling that doesn’t carry the baggage of an inevitably high walk rate and far worse hit rate.

Update: Senga is dealing with a posterior shoulder issue and will not be ready for opening day. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined for, though he should be considered out until May at the earliest.


John Means (BAL, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Each year, there’s hidden value in the draft that goes to pitchers who deliver “Relevant Volume”. Not your guys who have a 3.00 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, but who make 30 starts, give you 12-15 Wins, close to a strikeout per game, and an ERA and WHIP combo that is better than what’s on the wire. Means could be that guy…if health allows him. The team context is on his side, he has the tools in his arsenal to string together six innings comfortably (it’s a fantastic changeup, a four-seamer that can earn whiffs upstairs, and a slider + curve that we’ve seen steal strikes in the past), it’s simply a matter concerning about his elbow inflammation in late September after a return from not only TJS, but a back injury as well.

Sadly, the raw skills don’t scream “breakout” like they used to. His velocity came back at 91/92 mph, not the 93+ we saw in 2021, while the development we were anticipating on his breakers back in the spring of 2022 was back to square one. I have some small concerns about location consistency as well, rooted in Means’ delivery tilting him toward third base, forcing a bit of wobble on release instead of geared straight toward home plate. It prevents him from getting on top of his changeup, while also affecting his ability to locate high-and-tight fastballs to right-handers. It’s something that can be overcome in time once he gets into a rhythm, though.

Means is an arm to consider to pad the end of your rosters, someone may find himself sticking around far longer than you expected. The home run rates of old will be lower given Walltimore’s existence, while the Wins could pile up quickly. The moment health gets in the way, though, it’ll be wise to cut your losses.

Update: Means is delayed and will not be ready by opening day. The expectation is “about a month”, marking a May return to the field. He’s not worth an IL stash in most leagues.



Tier 1

In all honestly, deGrom is the only IL stash I’d actually consider outside of Tier 0. He’s the best pitcher on the planet when healthy and I have the highest confidence of all SPs here that he will help your teams in September, especially with the Rangers aiming for another October run.


1. Jacob deGrom (TEX, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


He’s the best pitcher on the planet. Seriously. His command is fantastic, even if it’s mostly just four-seamers and sliders, but both pitches are the best in class and are spotted brilliantly to make the start feel like it should be a historic one. It’s unclear when deGrom returns, though he’s worth the IL stash simply for the clear swing in your favor if he’s able to return before the season’s end. But how good will he be when he returns? Even if it’s not the far-and-away SP #1 as he was before, there’s so much room before “not worth it” that we shouldn’t be asking that question.


2. Max Scherzer (TEX, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


It’s four-seamer/slider with a sprinkle of changeups against RHB, four-seamer/cutter/change/curve against LHB, and it’s getting worse each year. The changeup used to be a major nullifier against LHBs pre-2020 and has since struggled to earn the same whiffs, though it still mitigates hard contact well as it fights with a 60% strike rate. His slider took a massive hit last season, falling from its standard 26%+ SwStr rates against right-handers to a mortal 19% in 2023, with far higher ICR as well. It may have been a product of batters jumping on the pitch earlier in counts (21% Early Ball In Play rate is awfully high), as the pitch’s attributes and locations were in line with career norms.

I dig Scherzer’s cutter against LHB and his curve can be flipped in for strikes against both batters, though that four-seamer isn’t the destroyer of worlds it used to be. An 11% SwStr to RHB in both 2022 & 2023 after a history of 14%+ rates (18% in 2018!) is a huge part of Scherzer’s degradation process, while it still allows too many home runs.

With Scherzer now missing half of the season recovering from back surgery, he’s already going to fall to the end of drafts as an IL stash. I have no problem drafting him – he should help your team when he does return – though keep in mind that there is a lower and lower floor every year with the soon-to-be 40-year-old Scherzer. You may get two months of top-of-the-line production as he lays it all out of the field, but without the fastball and slider of old, he’s not the same guy.


3. Jeffrey Springs (TBR, LHP)

He went under the knife in April last season, opening the door for a second-half return for managers who want an injury stash. His personal philosophies aside, Springs could have the same dominant changeup, though the command may take some starts to return. Not my favorite stash for the likely shake-off of rust + his inflated adoration given his two 2023 starts of dominance came against the Tigers and Athletics.


4. Robbie Ray (SFG, LHP)

2022 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table

We don’t expect Ray back until July at the earliest after undergoing TJS in early May 2023. I’d be a little cautious of his ability when he comes back given Ray’s breakout came when he finally learned how to throw his fastball inside the zone after years of struggles. The last element to return from TJS isn’t velocity but command, which could mean your season-long investment as an IL stash may be fruitless for another few weeks even after he returns.


5. Drew Rasmussen (TBR, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table

Rasmussen didn’t undergo TJS in favor of a hybrid internal brace that will allow him to return sooner than a traditional TJS procedure. However, it still speaks to a mid-season return, and you can expect many to stash him coming out of drafts. His cutter is supreme with stellar marks across the board, and he sports a rising heater with exceptional cut that destroys left-handers and a slider that looks destined to rack up whiffs. He’ll likely get the “Tampa” treatment upon return, though, limiting him to just five frames or so for a fair number of starts. Be prepared for it if you elect to tuck him away for months.


6. Dustin May (LAD, RHP)

Instead of traditional TJS, May underwent UCL revision last July with the hope he returns near the All-Star break. You can IL stash him if you like, I wonder if it’ll be too much of a hassle, though if he’s able to wrangle his cutter and sinker out of the gate, he’s sure to help in September when the Dodgers will want to ramp him up for the playoffs.


Tier 2

We’re starting to get to “Are they actually going to return and will it actually help me?” and unless you have unlimited IL spots, I honestly wouldn’t bother.


7. Clayton Kershaw (LAD, LHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table

NICK, HE’S NOT ON THE DODGERS. Pfffft, he’s gonna sign with them in like June or something and don’t act like you think otherwise. I’m fine stashing Kershaw at the end of your drafts if you want, but I guarantee you there will be a time during the year you’re going to need that IL spot and drop Kershaw. Don’t forget – the Dodgers will likely limit him in his first start back and you won’t even want that start after the long wait, making an even harder situation of “do I hold for the next start or drop him?” after holding him for months while he repairs his shoulder. I’d rather take a flier there instead.


8. Lance McCullers Jr. (HOU, RHP)

Lance is recovering from his mid-June flexor tendon injury that originally had a timeline of 12-13 months and it makes for a decent IL stash, but not one I’m jumping for in leagues. When he does return, will we see him able to trust the same slider or curve as we did before? Will his notoriously questionable control still be apparent, leading to short four-inning outings (the likely scenario initially at the very least) consistently? He was a Cherry Bomb before and introducing the wrinkle of recovering from injury makes it a tougher sell.


9. Alex Cobb (SFG, RHP)

He’s out until July or so with a hip injury and when he does return, he’s likely to still rough up your WHIP with a poor hit rate, and the strikeout rate will be dependent on his splitter being at its peak, an experience that comes along too infrequently for my tastes. Cobb is the perfect example of a pitcher who we ignore in drafts and wait to see how he looks post-injury before considering him for a questionable stream.



10. Luis Garcia (HOU, RHP)

Remember him? Garcia underwent TJS in May of 2023, which likely spells a full season on the mend, but we could see some frames from him late in the season as the Astros could be desperately looking for reliable innings. His cutter and slider combo can be fantastic when it’s cooking, though, I wouldn’t expect to see it all come together in his limited time, let alone if we even see him at all.


11. Tyler Mahle (TEX, RHP)

2023 Stats Table
Pitch Repertoire Table


Oh hey, another solid starter who the Rangers are hoping to throw significant innings down the stretch. Mahle is on the shelf with TJS and the Rangers signed him to a two-year deal, mostly paying for the second year. When Mahle does return, I’m excited to see what he can do over a full healthy season (and hopefully some of 2024). In April, we saw an improved four-seamer shape nearing 18 iVB, though there were velocity issues holding him back. He improved his slider as well, focusing more on vertical break than a sweeper shape, and also increased the drop on his splitter. Oh Driveline, thank you for what you do. He’ll have my attention when he does return to the field, especially if he’s sitting 94 mph again and actually getting that four-seamer upstairs against right-handers instead of whatever that outside approach was last year – kids, don’t throw four-seamers middle-away to same-handed batters. Thanks.


12. David Peterson (NYM, LHP)

Peterson is on the shelf after undoing hip surgery and won’t be stretched out and ready to return until opening day is well in the past. When he does return, I wonder what we’ll actually get from him. His elite slider of 2022 still boasted a 20%+ SwStr this past year, though it came in a little tighter and he attempted to nail the arm-side corner more often. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the whole schtick with the excellent extension but horrible fastball shape, and I’d be saving Peterson as just a streamer.

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 IL Stashes for 2024 Fantasy Baseball Drafts”

  1. Regi King says:

    Nick, awesome list! My main league is H2H points. We have three IL spots to use. I prefer to fill with starting pitchers like deGrom, Scherzer, etc. but who are some hitters I can fall-back on if I cannot get my top pitching choices? Jasson Dominguez comes to mind, but are there others?

  2. Jake Heisenripbauer says:

    Would you hang onto Sandy Alcantara in a dynasty league? 20 team H2H league with 5 IL spots

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