STARTERS: Sixth starters, 2021

One of the biggest draft day mistakes that owners make is to overvalue Opening Day roles.

It might seem natural to target Opening Day starting rotations when filling out your pitching staffs. After all, they include the guys who already have starting jobs, and we all want to get out of the gates quickly in our fantasy leagues.

But early-season roles on pitching staffs are fluid, especially when it comes to starting pitchers. Injuries will create openings. So too will poor performance, or strong performance from guys outside of a team's initial starting rotation.

Over a six-year period from 2013 to 2018, a team's starting rotation as of Opening Day comprised a lessening amount of the total innings thrown from their starters for the entire season:

Year  SP IP By Opening Day Rotation
====  =============================
2013                74%
2014                74%
2015                72%
2016                73%
2017                69%
2018                69%

Here are several pitchers with MLB experience in each league not currently in their team's starting rotations who could provide nice value later in 2021.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Kolby Allard (LHP, TEX) was one of the better pitchers in TEX camp this spring. He posted a 15/4 K/BB in 11 IP. While Allard hasn't shown impactful skills in the majors, he did show an ability to avoid barreled balls in 2019. He's a former 1st round pick and 9C prospect. At age 23, it's too early to dismiss him.

Randy Dobnak (RHP, MIN) was totally dominant this spring. He had a 19/0 K/BB in 15 IP, and he paired that elite command with tons of groundballs (2.22 GB/FB). Those skills serve as a reminder of the upper-tier skills he posted during his MLB debut in 2019. There's some nice profit potential here.

Deivi García (RHP, NYY) won't start the season in the NYY rotation because he struggled with his command in the spring (14/8 K/BB in 14 IP), but expect him to get another look there soon. He posted a 124 BPV at age 21 in 2020. He remains a premium investment, especially in keeper leagues.

Michael Kopech (RHP, CHW) will look to consolidate his elite raw stuff from the bullpen, at least to start the 2021 season. After being touted as a future rotation anchor, Kopech has struggled with injuries and bad control. He's a good post-hype play now, especially since he's another year removed from Tommy John surgery.

A.J. Puk (LHP, OAK) is another high-upside arm that could present himself as a good value due to his lack of a starting job to begin the season. He's a former 9C prospect that also missed the 2018 season due to Tommy John surgery.

Cal Quantrill (RHP, CLE) improved his skills foundation in a small sample size in 2020 (118 BPV in 32 IP). After struggling against lefties during his rookie season in 2019, Quantrill limited them to a .506 OPS and had a 3.6 K/BB against them in 2020.

Chris Rodriguez (RHP, LAA) is a top pitching prospect that is flying under radar due to the chronic back issues that he has endured the past few seasons. Rodriguez looked healthy this spring (10/1 K/BB in 8 IP) and will get to work in a long relief role out of the LAA bullpen. He's a premium speculation in deep leagues.

Patrick Sandoval (LHP, LAA) didn't win a spot in the LAA starting rotation, but expect him to end up there in short order. He flashed his strikeout upside this spring (18/9 K/BB in 14 IP). Even a modest reduction in his walk rate could help him become an impact starting pitcher.

Garrett Whitlock (RHP, BOS) had a really big spring training (12/0 K/BB in 9 IP). He's a Rule 5 pick that has shown good command at multiple stints in the minor leagues. He's worthy of a stash on your bench if you play in a very deep league.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Carlson Fulmer (RHP, CIN) was the 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft and is a former 9D prospect. Chronically bad control halted his development. That weakness suggests that his future home might be in the bullpen. Regardless of his role, put him on your watch list and don't hesitate to speculate in deep leagues if he is showing signs of harnessing his control.

Tony Gonsolin (RHP, LA) was fantastic in LA camp this spring (18/3 K/BB in 14 IP) after posting near-elite skills in 2020 (135 BPV in 47 IP). He has a great shot to emerge as an impact starting pitcher once a slot opens up for him.

Josh Lindblom (RHP, MIL) had 14 K in 9 IP this spring after posting a 105 BPV in 2020 that was hidden by the 5.16 ERA he posted that season. He's another good value play at his 379 ADP.

Alex Young (LHP, ARI) featured a strong 133 BPV in August 2020 before faltering down the stretch. He added nearly two mph to his fastball velocity. He was dominant at times this March too (12/2 K/BB in 11 IP). He's someone that is available in most leagues (748 ADP). He's worthy of stashing at the end of your staff.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.