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The hunt for pitchers during the final stage of fantasy baseball drafts can be one of the more taxing tasks of the whole process.
A handful of hurlers at the back end of starting rotations will be available, and you have to sift through their weaknesses to find a potential late-round steal or two.
MLB experience, team performance and the ballparks the pitchers call home are among the factors to consider when trying to find a sleeper pick for your rotation.
Houston’s Jose Urquidy and Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller displayed glimpses of talent after being called up in 2019, but they need to flash more consistency to climb the positional rankings in 2020.
Colorado’s Jon Gray has produced consistent numbers in a few stat categories, but he comes with the risk of pitching at Coors Field.
Urquidy, Keller and Gray and many others will be low-risk, high-reward fantasy selections. If they shine, they will be viewed as draft steals, but they could also flounder and be cut early into the campaign.
Top Sleeper Pitcher Targets
Jose Urquidy, Houston
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Urquidy was brought up from the minors as an extra arm to aid the Astros’ postseason quest, and his challenge now is to shine in the majors for a full season.
The 24-year-old was not overly impressive in nine regular-season starts, as he earned a 3.95 ERA and struck out 40 batters over 41 innings.
Since he hasn’t proved himself as a quality MLB starter yet, there will be hesitancy to take him at any juncture of a fantasy draft. But if Urquidy produces some solid outings on the mound, he could be in better shape to profit in the win column since Houston’s offense is one of the best in the league.
Working closely with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke should also help Urquidy develop his approach on the mound.
The Astros showed last season that they trust the right-handed hurler in big moments, as he appeared in four postseason games. If he can develop into a solid back-end starter in their rotation, he has the potential to help fantasy rosters.
Due to his status on a contending team, it makes sense to chance on him in the latter rounds over some pitchers who may struggle to get run support.
Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh
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Keller’s 1-5 record and 7.13 ERA from 11 starts in 2019 does not inspire confidence.
While those numbers could shift you away from the 24-year-old, he is worth considering in the final few rounds because of his strikeout capabilities.
Keller fanned 65 batters over 48 innings, and if he can improve other facets of his game, he could turn into a decent addition at the back end of fantasy rotations.
It makes sense if some owners are hesitant to nab a volatile pitcher for a Pittsburgh team that isn’t projected to win many games, but others could find the slightest bit of worth because of his fastball.
In the best-case scenario, Keller turns into an above-average fantasy contributor who provides support in weeks where he starts two games.
But until he proves he can keep his ERA down on a consistent basis, he is only worth a late-round flier.
Jon Gray, Colorado
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In most cases, four straight 10-win seasons would make a player an intriguing fantasy option.
Since Gray pitches at Coors Field, there is more risk involved, as he has not produced an ERA under 3.65 in his five-year career.
You could make the case the 28-year-old has more value than other late-round pitchers because he has shown an ability to work past the high ERA totals and win games.
Gray carries the most value with strikeouts since he has recorded at least 150 in three of his last four campaigns.
His consistency in the win column could persuade some owners to line him up as a back-end starter, and if he finds a way to drop the ERA and manage the conditions in Colorado, he could shine as a value pick.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90
Statistics obtained from Baseball Reference