Fantasy: 5 breakout candidates (pitchers)

Finding quality pitching in fantasy baseball can sometimes be arduous. You may think your rotation is rock-solid on draft day only to get smacked in the face with injuries, surprising ineffectiveness, and horrible luck.

It’s important to nail the mid-to-late rounds when constructing a pitching staff, especially if you didn’t reach for top arms early on. Here are five breakout pitching candidates who could propel your team to victory.

Average draft positions as of Feb. 26, courtesy of FantasyPros

Eduardo Rodriguez – Red Sox – ADP 156

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Is 2019 the year E-Rod puts it all together? Based on his returns over the past two seasons, it’s somewhat surprising the 25-year-old southpaw isn’t higher up on draft boards. He has routinely posted big strikeout numbers, pitches for a team with one of the most dangerous lineups in the game, and has solid command.

He was en route to breaking out before spraining his ankle in mid-July. To that point, he was 11-3 with a 3.44 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 9.46 K/9. If he can stay healthy, he could become the second-best starter in Boston.

Nick Pivetta – Phillies – ADP 186

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Pivetta is an exciting talent and is not being drafted until Round 15 to 18. He’s shown growth in consecutive years and struck out 188 batters over 164 innings last season while walking fewer than three per nine innings. His current average draft position has him going after unsigned ground-ball specialist Dallas Keuchel and veteran Jon Lester. Pivetta’s high-K upside paired with an improved offense behind him should make the right-hander a more attractive choice.

Increasingly, Pivetta is looking like one of those underappreciated players who’s suddenly about to hit it big on the grandest stage. Although he stumbled as soon as the calendar turned to June last year, he was mostly lights-out over his first 11 starts, posting a 3.26 ERA and 10.40 K/9.

Alex Reyes – Cardinals – ADP 212

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Technically still a rookie, Reyes’ path to being a consistent major-league presence has been repeatedly delayed by injuries. He made it all the way back from Tommy John surgery last summer but was sidelined with a torn lat after his lone big-league appearance.

Prior to his season ending, he showed no ill-effects from his arm surgery as he ripped through the minors. He struck out 44 batters in 23 innings across four minor-league levels and didn’t allow a single run. With Carlos Martinez’s health and Adam Wainwright’s effectiveness in question, Reyes could waltz into a starting gig from the outset or shortly thereafter.

Joey Lucchesi – Padres – ADP 247

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The Padres’ rotation is a bit of a mess, and it’d be a challenge for even big-time fans of the team to recite their five projected starters from memory. Lucchesi will get the chance to lead the way as the staff’s de facto ace barring a late signing.

As a rookie in 2018, Lucchesi posted a 4.08 ERA with a 10.04 K/9 over 130 innings. If he even takes a moderate step forward, he’ll outperform his draft slot.

Joe Musgrove – Pirates – ADP 257

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A key piece from the Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade, Musgrove is primed for his best season in the pros. While his ERA in 2018 was a middling 4.06, his 3.59 FIP suggests he was actually quite better. His 7.80 K/9 could stand to improve, but where Musgrove won’t hurt you is in the walks department. He issued only 23 free passes in 115 1/3 innings last season.

The Pirates’ offense could endanger Musgrove’s win potential, but he’s otherwise a safe – if not flashy – pick near the end of your draft. The low walk rate should allow him to last longer in games, giving him a solid floor in fantasy even if his ceiling is lower than others.