Five Starting Pitchers to Target in the Late Rounds

Selecting the right late-round pitchers can have a big impact on your fantasy team. Here are five starters who could round out a staff on draft day.

Kyle Harrison of the San Francisco Giants pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 1: Kyle Harrison #45 of the San Francisco Giants pitching against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on October 1, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Suzanna Mitchell/San Francisco Giants/Getty Images)

Many fantasy baseball drafters prefer passing on early, front-line pitchers in order to build up depth in offensive categories (or sometimes even saves). That’s a viable strategy, but it also puts extra pressure on the middle and late rounds when it comes to which starting pitchers to target.

The list below should help drafters navigate those waters. Each of these hurlers brings good value and solid upside, despite an ADP outside the top 200. None of these pitchers is likely to be an “ace” in 2024, but each can stabilize the back end of a staff.

*** ADP based on FantasyPros Consensus Rankings at the time of writing

Brandon Pfaadt, Arizona Diamondbacks – ADP: 209

Pfaadt made his first six MLB starts before the All-Star break last year. For the most part, his first taste of the bigs was sour, as the rookie righty limped to a 9.82 ERA and 1.87 WHIP while surrendering nine homers over 25.2 innings.

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However, Pfaadt would get another chance to rejoin the Diamondbacks’ rotation following the midseason intermission, and he took full advantage of it.

Pfaadt made 13 appearances (12 starts) from July 22 forward last season, posting a 4.22 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 73:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 70.1 innings. From the early struggles to the later successes, Pfaadt improved his hard contact rate by nearly 10% and his strikeout rate by more than 7%.

The righty continued to impress during the Diamondbacks’ playoff run, turning in a 3.27 ERA and 26:5 K/BB ratio over 22 frames. A breakout could be looming for Pfaadt.

Kyle Harrison, San Francisco Giants – ADP: 230

A Rookie of the Year candidate to be sure, Harrison is a lock for a rotation spot with the Giants, despite his limited big league experience; he only has seven MLB starts under his belt. All those outings came down the stretch in 2023, and the young lefty delivered some promising results.

Over 34.2 innings, Harrison recorded a respectable 4.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 23.8% K%. Perhaps his most surprising accomplishment was that he walked only 11 batters, despite sometimes struggling with control in the minors.

Harrison will also have the benefit of working his home games in the league’s best pitching environment, Oracle Park.

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Kenta Maeda, Detroit Tigers – ADP: 256

Maeda missed all of 2022 due to Tommy John surgery. He made it back for the start of the 2023 season, and though he had solid results early on, the veteran was clearly not at 100% just yet. He had a disastrous start on April 26, after which the Twins shut him down for nearly two months. That time off helped, as Maeda was ready to roll when he returned to the mound on June 23.

Over his final 17 outings (16 starts) of the 2023 regular season, Maeda worked to a solid 3.36 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while racking up strikeouts at an excellent 29% clip. That represents a return to peak form for the righty. However, he is entering his age-36 season. That’s one reason for his lower draft stock, along with his not being too far removed from a significant injury.

Still, the Tigers appear ready to take a step forward in the AL Central, and they will be relying on Maeda to help stabilize the rotation. He can do just that for fantasy managers as well.

Michael Wacha, Kansas City Royals – ADP: 276

Speaking of time on the shelf, Wacha spends some pretty much every year. He has managed just 127.1 and 134.1 innings over the last two seasons, respectively. At the same time, his results on the mound are difficult to argue with.

Between his time in Boston in 2022 and San Diego last year, Wacha has won 25 games while posting an outstanding 3.27 ERA and 1.14 WHIP and limiting the opposition to a .227 AVG. He’s not often thought of as a strikeout pitcher, but the 32-year-old righty is not a lost cause in the category either, punching out 22.4% last year.

Now in KC, where he’ll be counted on to help lead a young club, Wacha brings almost no risk at his draft status.  

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Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels – ADP: 306

While few were paying attention, Canning enjoyed a largely successful comeback season in 2023.

The 27-year-old righty missed all of 2022 with a back injury. He earned a spot in the Angels’ rotation after a good spring last year, but a groin issue would delay the start of his season to mid-April. He was finally able to climb back atop an MLB mound on April 12 for the first time in nearly two calendar years.

The first half of last season was a bit of a rollercoaster for Canning results-wise, but there were encouraging signs. Following the All-Star break, however, he really settled in. Aside from a short IL stint between late July and early August, he was one of the bright spots for the Halos.

Across 53 frames in the second half, Canning turned in a 3.91 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and an elite 30.1% K%. He backed that up with a 13.3% SwStr% and 72% Contact% while sitting nearly 95 mph with his heater and effectively mixing all four of his pitches. Canning is all upside at his draft price.