Draft Day Targets: Three Starters Who Could Emerge As Top 15 SP (And Reach 200+ K)

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Last season there were 18 pitchers who reached 200 K, but with strikeouts continuing to rise across the game would it be surprising to see that number increase?  It may not be a significant bump, but in our 2019 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (click here to purchase) we have 22 pitchers projected to reach or surpass that threshold.  Some of them are going to be obvious (like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander), but some of the names may surprise you.  Who has the potential to get there (who didn’t last season)?  Here are three names to watch, all of whom could emerge as Top 15 starters during 2019:

Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies
2018 Strikeout Total – 188
2019 Projection – 200

Pivetta may be the biggest surprise on this list, though he wasn’t far off last season and is generally being discussed as one of the best breakout pitchers to target.  Last season in the Majors he posted a 12.0% SwStr% and having fallen short has more to do with the number of innings he threw then anything.  He only tossed 164.0 innings, and if he had reached even 180 he would’ve been a lock to get to 200+.

With both his curveball (15.75% Whiff%) and slider (17.30% Whiff%) bringing swing and miss potential, coupled with a fourseam fastball that averaged 95.52 mph, is there any reason for doubt?  Don’t point towards the minor league numbers as reason to be skeptical either, as the Phillies have a history of seeing their young pitchers add strikeouts as they ascend (look no further than Aaron Nola).

Luis Castillo – Cincinnati Reds
2018 Strikeout Total – 165
2019 Projection – 205

He only threw 169.2 IP last season, but the once hyped youngster was striking out less than a batter per inning.  Do we think he’s going to throw 210 innings in ’19?  Of course not, as his 13.5% SwStr% indicates significantly more potential and he has two wipeout pitches (Whiff%):

  • Changeup – 26.81%
  • Slider – 16.45%

He struck out 69 batters in 66.1 IP in the second half and with more experience could be even better this season.

Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
2018 Strikeout Total – 182
2019 Projection – 212

Like Pivetta, Flaherty is being discussed as one of the bigger breakout pitchers of 2019.  It makes sense, especially after he posted a gaudy 10.85 K/9 over 151.0 innings in the Majors (182).  Those numbers alone tell us that with a full slate of starts it’s easy to envision Flaherty getting 200+ K.  His 13.4% SwStr% backs it up, and he brings a pair of pitches that opposing hitters struggled to make contact against (Whiff%):

  • Slider – 23.96%
  • Curveball – 15.92%

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he was using his slider more and more as the season progressed (30.59% from July 1) and that only supports a tremendous strikeout rate.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

3 COMMENTS

    • I don’t currently. I would say Flaherty may have the higher upside if it all comes together, but I’d trust Mikolas a little bit more for only ’19 (I believe in the strikeout potential that he develops a little bit further)

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