Most fantasy baseball owners use a similar draft strategy when it comes to starting pitchers. After grabbing a few stars to headline the staff, they take a bunch of chances in the middle and late rounds with the hope at least a couple of those starters excel.
It's a sound approach. The mistake many owners make, however, is relying on veterans that have fallen down the rankings in recent years––think Josh Beckett––based on name recognition. That's why it's important to do some homework on lesser-known late-round options.
Let's examine three starters that would make for solid investments late in the draft. They aren't going to be the aces of any fantasy staffs, but the production they should provide combined with where owners should be able to snag them equals good value.
Minor received some sleeper hype before last season and then got off to a dreadful start, including an ERA near 10 in May. As you'd expect, most fantasy owners gave up on him at that point. Don't be afraid to give him another chance in 2013.
The lefty was downright dominant in September, going 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 0.71 WHIP while striking out 28 batters in 31 innings. While those numbers obviously aren't sustainable, it shows the type of potential he possesses. He also had a sub-2.00 ERA in July.
At 25, Minor should be able to build off his success from the end of last season. As long as his strikeout rate remains high and he can avoid the home-run issues that plagued him early in 2012, he represents a high-upside rotation filler.
Rodriguez is an interesting case. Usually pitchers that have posted an ERA below 3.80 for six straight seasons would be coveted fantasy commodities. Instead, he's available late in drafts and can often be found on the waiver wire during the season.
It's because owners tend to prefer flash over consistency. Rodriguez didn't strikeout more than seven batters in a game last season. So when another starter on the free-agent market strikes out 12, it's easy to dump him to take a chance on somebody else.
More often than not, those flash-in-the-pan starts aren't replicated and Rodriguez keeps putting up solid numbers. Look for a rebound in his strikeout rate, which was well below his career average last season. Also, playing for an improved Pittsburgh Pirates squad in a pitcher's park makes him a good option late.
Until late last season Estrada was a fantasy afterthought. He had put up lackluster numbers while filling multiple different roles for the Milwaukee Brewers. Then they gave him to start on a consistent basis and his numbers improved.
He struck out more than a batter per inning over the final three months while posting solid peripheral numbers. Now a key piece of the Brewers' staff, he should receive a full compliment of starts and that gives him plenty of fantasy value.
His lack of starting experience at the major-league level means there's some risk in taking him. But, as long as owners don't spend anything more than a late-round pick on him, there's a good chance he will prove worth the investment.