Early Starting Pitcher ADP -- It's All About the Depth

Not that there isn’t a ton of information you’re getting from this ADP series, but if there’s only one thing that you take away from the multitude of articles you’ll be reading between now and Opening Day, please let it be that starting pitching is ridiculously deep. Obscenely deep. So deep that you can’t dive to the bottom of the pool and make it back up to the surface for air in time.

We can take the obvious and say 30 teams with five starters each gives you 150 starters from which to choose, but you know as well as I do that it doesn’t end there. You’ve got minor league call-ups throughout the season and middle relievers who are actually swingmen and get a number of starts as well. Not that the swingmen are guys you target in your draft, but we all know how bananacakes the fantasy community gets when they hear some kid is throwing 95 mph heaters with pinpoint command in Double-A. Only a matter of time before the kid gets fast-tracked to the majors, right?

But seriously. I’ve done a series of mock drafts already, from draft guides to ones just for fun. I’ve mocked with fantasy experts and guys who are just doing it for fun as they just get their prep work underway. I’ve launched the Mock Draft Army, for crying out loud. We’ve done 12-teamers, 15 teamers, mixed league, single league, you name it. And after each and every one, everyone makes some sort of comment on the ridiculous depth of the starting pitching.

Just to give you an example: I did a 15-team mock the other day for one site and decided that I was going to see what kind of staff I would end up with if I filled every starting offensive position first and then picked my rotation. How would the depth stand up then? Obviously this isn’t a strategy I recommend to anyone, but I needed to see that side of the spectrum first. It was a two-catcher, mixed league with five outfield slots and the usual middle, corner, utility thing going on, so that meant my first pitcher would be taken in Round 15.

Well, it’s not a world-beating staff, by any means, and I won’t say that it doesn’t have its flaws, but it’s actually a lot better than I thought it would be. A lot better. My first starter was Chris Archer and from there I went with Tony Cingrani, Taijuan Walker, Josh Johnson, Alexi Ogando, and Tim Hudson. I also splashed in some closers in David Robertson, Tommy Hunter and Nate Jones. Definitely some youthful upside for strikeouts and potentially decent ratios, the third closer was added in to help supplement the ratios of Hudson and potentially Johnson. Again, not a killer staff, but not too bad considering my first pitcher was picked in the 15th round.

So with all of that, let’s take a look at the current ADP for starters by way of the NFBC. To save some space, I’ll just list the top 80 here and then we’ll discuss a few noticeable things.

Starting Pitcher ADP – Top 80

Rank Player Team Avg Pick Min Pick Max Pick
1 Clayton Kershaw LAD 6.18 3 18
2 Yu Darvish Tex 16.82 7 25
3 Max Scherzer Det 28.31 12 40
4 Jose Fernandez Mia 28.72 20 41
5 Adam Wainwright StL 33.62 19 44
6 Stephen Strasburg Was 34.44 24 49
7 Felix Hernandez Sea 42.9 33 53
8 Justin Verlander Det 44.49 20 71
9 Cliff Lee Phi 44.62 23 61
10 Madison Bumgarner SF 47.82 34 60
11 Chris Sale CWS 49.87 38 58
12 David Price TB 53.74 40 69
13 Zack Greinke LAD 60.85 47 79
14 Cole Hamels Phi 62.36 46 78
15 Anibal Sanchez Det 76.13 58 103
16 Jordan Zimmermann Was 86.05 62 123
17 Michael Wacha StL 86.33 65 119
18 Hisashi Iwakuma Sea 88.74 63 104
19 Gerrit Cole Pit 93.33 50 119
20 James Shields KC 97.56 73 124
21 Gio Gonzalez Was 99.77 70 138
22 Mat Latos Cin 101.15 66 137
23 Mike Minor Atl 102.08 79 138
24 Matt Cain SF 102.62 66 134
25 Homer Bailey Cin 110.77 69 148
26 Alex Cobb TB 116.38 84 147
27 Shelby Miller StL 117.08 56 161
28 Matt Moore TB 118.85 62 164
29 Kris Medlen Atl 119.46 80 160
30 Julio Teheran Atl 126.33 65 179
31 Jered Weaver LAA 137.15 85 179
32 Danny Salazar Cle 139.41 101 196
33 Masahiro Tanaka NYY 140.08 48 321
34 Tony Cingrani Cin 149.03 106 190
35 Hyun-jin Ryu LAD 152.26 115 201
36 Andrew Cashner SD 159.74 106 199
37 Francisco Liriano Pit 163.51 106 227
38 Patrick Corbin Ari 169.28 118 218
39 Jon Lester Bos 172.56 132 218
40 Jeff Samardzija ChC 175.31 128 217
41 Doug Fister Was 175.79 121 230
42 C.J. Wilson LAA 180.56 135 241
43 Johnny Cueto Cin 188.79 144 226
44 Clay Buchholz Bos 194.08 109 248
45 Justin Masterson Cle 202.28 131 267
46 CC Sabathia NYY 212.44 146 273
47 Zack Wheeler NYM 214.97 153 259
48 Neftali Feliz Tex 216.15 162 315
49 Taijuan Walker Sea 218.13 126 264
50 R.A. Dickey Tor 218.56 151 268
51 Marco Estrada Mil 222.26 133 270
52 Lance Lynn StL 224.49 154 268
53 A.J. Griffin Oak 228.33 178 269
54 Chris Archer TB 228.36 194 295
55 Ubaldo Jimenez Cle 241.64 198 297
56 Brandon Beachy Atl 243.23 188 318
57 Chris Tillman Bal 247.15 193 309
58 Tim Lincecum SF 249.1 207 296
59 Hiroki Kuroda NYY 251.05 212 291
60 Matt Garza Mil 257.46 187 328
61 Derek Holland Tex 261.74 164 488
62 A.J. Burnett Pit 262.79 153 372
63 Jarrod Parker Oak 266.31 198 317
64 Yovani Gallardo Mil 266.67 191 325
65 Dan Haren LAD 268.72 188 315
66 Alex Wood Atl 270.85 194 346
67 Jake Peavy Bos 271.41 205 317
68 Dan Straily Oak 272.15 186 328
69 Tyson Ross SD 275.08 227 344
70 Ian Kennedy SD 275.9 196 321
71 Scott Kazmir Oak 276.15 230 342
72 Corey Kluber Cle 279.18 225 325
73 John Lackey Bos 281.21 240 334
74 Ervin Santana KC 291.9 260 351
75 Jose Quintana CWS 296.59 263 334
76 Bartolo Colon NYM 300.79 228 343
77 Archie Bradley Ari 302.05 214 395
78 Josh Johnson SD 304.74 255 352
79 Rick Porcello Det 306.54 228 399
80 Ivan Nova NYY 306.85 228 348

One of the caveats to remember about the NFBC is that it doesn’t allow trading due to the money involved and the lack of desire for drama and potential collusion. So while many who do play in this league probably know they should/could wait on pitching, there’s always a bit of an overwhelming need to grab that ace before the top 10 or 15 run out. Need that anchor, is what they’re likely telling themselves. So when you see that run, from Max Scherzer (28.31) through David Price (53.74), that’s really where it’s being driven. If the only pitchers they can add come from the waiver wire, then they feel that this is a move they have to make fairly early. Things tend to spread out a lot more after that.

Youthful Exuberance

We go through this at virtually every position, but for some reason, when it comes to starters, owners go much crazier over pitchers. Probably because, a young hitter who hits 30 home runs at High-A won’t necessarily hit that many with each advancement of level, but a kid throwing 95 mph throws 95 mph no matter what level he’s on. But while that may be the case, there are other things you need to be careful with in the case of young pitchers; that being pitch counts, innings limits, and, of course, when that expected Tommy John surgery will arrive.

Still, fantasy owners fall all over themselves to grab them, as evidenced by the ADP of pitchers such as Michael Wacha (86.33), Gerrit Cole (93.33), Shelby Miller (117.08), and Danny Salazar (139.41). The moment one of these guys gets drafted, the chat room heats up with comparisons and questions as to which one you’d rather have more. But while all four are incredibly talented – and I think we can also add Sonny Gray, Tony Cingrani and eventually Taijuan Walker into the mix – fantasy owners need to make sure that they aren’t getting caught up in the hype. Will these guys pitch a full season? Will their coaches coddle them in the early goings of the season or will they let them reach 100 pitches if they’re able? It’s great to have these guys on your home team, but fantasy is a business, and unless you’re in a long-term keeper league with no contracts, it’d be a real shame to pass on quality, proven talent just because you get caught up in the fray. Be careful how you build your staff.

We’ll continue to go through a number of starters throughout this series and track the rising and falling ADP trends, but for today, remember, it’s all about the depth here. There’s plenty of pitching to go around, so do your homework and you’ll be just fine.


Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for nearly two decades on a variety of web sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him directly at


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