For the eighth year in a row, I’ll be breaking down category sleepers at each of the 5x5 roto categories. So far we’ve looked at batting average, WHIP, home run, strikeout, ERA, stolen base, saves, and RBI sleepers. In the ninth installment of the series we’ll be reviewing starting pitchers who can be sleepers for wins. Over 10 weeks, I will be providing a list of sleepers for each 5x5 roto category (BA, HR, RBI, R, SB, W, ERA, WHIP, K, SV). After looking at categories that were more based on player skill over the first five weeks, we shift to categories that are more dependent on opportunity, supporting cast, and batting order spot.
Before reading any further, it’s important to note the definition of a sleeper. In this case, it’s a player who will exceed draft day ADP AND projections in a particular category. The players are broken down by mixed league sleepers and single league sleepers.
For year-to-year individual performance, Bill Petti of Beyond the Boxscore did an outstanding job back in 2012 of running down the year-to-year correlation of most of the stats we’re concerned with and wins have an extremely weak correlation.
However, when we look at stats that correlate with the teams that accumulate the most starting pitcher wins, there are a few numbers that stand out based on past analysis of 2013-2016 numbers.
Team Starting Pitcher Wins Correlations
|Year||Runs Against||Team Wins||Quality Starts||Innings per Game Start|
Numbers closest to 1 or -1 show the strongest correlation. The correlations with quality starts as well as innings per game start haven’t been consistently strong over a four-year period, but the correlation is still strong enough to be worth mentioning. Runs against have had a more consistent correlation, which seems fairly obvious since we expect the most effective pitchers to be winners. Other stats evaluated that had extremely weak correlations include run support per nine innings, run support per game start, pitches per game start, and bullpen ERA.
It must be stated that this strong correlation doesn’t necessarily imply good teams <i>cause</i> individual starting pitcher wins, but still it’s clear that the best teams undoubtedly have the most starting pitcher wins. When we break down individual results from 2014, among the 25 pitchers with at least 15 wins, only four of those were on teams that finished below .500. In 2015, only 13 pitchers notched 15 wins, and only one (Felix Hernandez) was on a team that finished below .500. In 2016, only two pitchers (Chris Sale and Jose Fernandez) out of the 23 15-game winnings were on a team below .500.
More recently, fantasy managers have to contend with managers’ quicker hooks and the “opener.” There were still 17 pitchers with 15-plus wins in 2019, but that number shrunk to only five pitchers last season, with eight other pitchers tallying 14 wins.
Keeping in mind the correlation between team wins and starting pitcher wins, one exercise for finding possible discounted wins from starting pitchers is to evaluate baseball’s best teams.
Below are the current teams with the best odds to win the 2022 World Series. Granted, these odds will change after the lockout concludes and teams fill out their rosters with free agents and trades, but we do now have a general idea of the top teams. Like average draft position in fantasy baseball, we can use these odds as a guide to predicting baseball’s best teams in 2022.
White Sox +1200
Blue Jays +1200
Odds from PointsBet Sportsbook as of February 15, 2022.
While I still stick to the starting pitching mantra of paying for the skillset and hoping that the wins follow, taking a pitcher from a good team can certainly be used as a tiebreaker as you search for profit from the wins category. Below is a breakdown of some possible “wins sleepers” from these top eight teams.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Walker Buehler and Julio Urias are locks for the starting rotation, with Trevor Bauer also regaining his slot, pending a possible suspension from MLB. Behind them, the Dodgers have three strong and reasonably priced candidates for rotation spots with Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney, and David Price. Each of that group is outside the top 300 of NFBC ADP, with Price well down on the list. Youngsters like Mitch White, Andre Jackson, and Ryan Pepiot are also on the radar, but another rotation addition like free agent Clayton Kershaw would greatly diminish their chances of seeing significant starts.
The Astros are probably comfortable with their pitching depth, as Justin Verlander has effectively replaced Zack Greinke in the rotation with cheapies Jake Odorizzi (ADP 478) and Cristian Javier (ADP 319) waiting in the wings. There will be questions about Lance McCullers Jr.’s health until Spring Training begins, as he returns from an elbow injury, but the trio of Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy is set. With a rotation that looks seven deep, it could be difficult for the likes of Brandon Bielak and Tyler Ivey to see opportunities. This is also the annual spot where we mention former top prospect Forrest Whitley is still around, but he’s not a viable option until midseason following Tommy John surgery.
New York Yankees
Gerrit Cole remains the top pitcher taken in most fantasy drafts this season, and lefty Jordan Montgomery is in the middle tier at ADP 215. From there, the Yankees starting candidates get interesting. Former superstar Luis Severino has thrown a grand total of 18 MLB innings over the last three seasons, though fantasy managers still buy the upside at ADP 174. Nestor Cortes was a savior for the rotation last year, but the market is far from convinced with an ADP of 361. Jameson Taillon is returning from an ankle injury, and lost velocity last season as he currently has a 307 ADP. Injuries and off-field issues have led to inconsistency for Domingo German, who could be on the outside for a rotation spot to begin the year along with talented young pitchers Michael King, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, and Luis Gil.
New York Mets
The Mets entered the offseason with a desire to shore up the rotation, and they certainly did that by signing Max Scherzer to a massive deal. Jacob deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Carlos Carrasco are set in the rotation, as well, but their injury histories shouldn’t leave fantasy managers very confident. Previously mentioned sleeper Tylor Megill is in a great position to profit with an ADP of 315, while David Peterson, Trevor Williams, and Thomas Szapucki stand as viable depth.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox starting rotation looks all but set with Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, and Dallas Keuchel coming off of 28-plus start seasons. There probably isn’t much unexpected win value to be found in that group, unless you believe Keuchel can return to form. Michael Kopech is expected to join the rotation after spending most of last season in relief, and his 172 ADP makes him an interesting upside play. The swingman will likely remain Reynaldo Lopez, though Chicago could still acquire further depth.
Toronto Blue Jays
It hurts to lose reigning AL Cy Young winning Robbie Ray, but Kevin Gausman is a good alternative. He should pair well with fellow durable right-hander Jose Berrios, and fantasy managers also still have high expectations for Alek Manoah (ADP 94) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (ADP 201). The fifth starter job looks like Ross Stripling’s to lose, though his innings totals have been mostly limited in his MLB career. The Jays have Nate Pearson, Anthony Kay, and Trent Thornton among their possible alternatives who could turn out to be excellent fliers if the ball rolls their way.
The defending World Series Champs have enviable pitching depth again. Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Ian Anderson make for an imposing big three, while Huascar Ynoa (ADP 241) remains intriguing after the flashes that he showed last season. At the moment, the fifth spot in the starting rotation is up for grabs between Tucker Davidson Touki Toussaint, and Kyle Wright, with Mike Soroka possibly returning from his second torn Achilles by midseason. Top prospect Spencer Strider is also worth mentioning, but it could be difficult for him to emerge from the crowd this season.
Tampa Bay Rays
It’s been tough to find innings eaters in the Rays starting rotation over the last few seasons, but the starting five is still loaded with talent. Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz could be the team’s top two starters for years to come, and Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patino aren’t slouches, either. The addition of Corey Kluber is an interesting one, but the right-hander’s health has proven unreliable over the last three years. As usual, Tampa Bay’s depth could create some diamonds for fantasy managers, with Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming on the MLB squad, as well as Yonny Chirinos potentially returning from arm problems at some point.