Spending big on starting pitching is risky, which is why I still refuse to do it, even in this new era of the pitcher. After all, pitchers tend to carry a higher degree of injury risk than hitters, and the year-to-year performance level of pitchers tends to be less predictable, even for the top-tier hurlers. In an auction, I usually draft one $20 arm, but the majority of my rotation consists of single-digit dollar players. Hopefully, my $20 guy earns his price, but overall, when drafting starting pitching, I like to limit the potential for disappointment.
Although the field of underachievers these days isn't quite as large as in years past, it always includes a handful of marquee names, and this year is no different. Thankfully, I do not own any of the following 20-plus dollar starting pitchers in Mixed Auction Tout Wars, though with three and a half months remaining in the season, there's still plenty of time for them to turn things around.
Matt Harvey ($29) - Maybe all of those innings last season have caught up with him. Or maybe Harvey's 2016 struggles have nothing to do with workload. The bottom line is that the Mets' Opening Day starter has managed to record just six quality starts in 14 tries and sports career-worst numbers in ERA, WHIP, hit rate and strikeout rate. Being that three of his six quality starts have come in his last four outings, there's reason to think that better days are ahead. But finishing the season as anything close to a $29 pitcher will be a tall order.
Corey Kluber ($26) - The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, Kluber posted a solid but not elite stat line last year. Despite this, he was still drafted as a fantasy ace this season, with many owners believing that a return to his 2014 form was within reach. Well, the Indians righty has pitched to a mediocre 4.23 ERA through 14 starts. But his 1.07 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 rate, 4.7 K/BB ratio and 2.94 FIP all suggest that Kluber is actually a wise trade target if he can be acquired at even a minimal discount.
Gerrit Cole ($22) - Perhaps it is unfair to include Cole on this list, as he's currently on the DL with a triceps injury. However, a glance at his 2016 stat line reveals that aside from the 2.77 ERA, the Pirates righty was falling well short of expectations, with a career-high WHIP and hit rate and career-low strikeout rate. The 25-year-old surely has a bright future, and he's already one of the top pitchers in the game. But with no clear return timetable, there's reason for his fantasy owners to be concerned. If I could trade him for 70 cents on the dollar, I might do it.
Dallas Keuchel ($21) - Coming off a Cy Young season in 2015, Keuchel has yet to find his groove this year, and at this point, it's beginning to look like he may never find it. The Astros southpaw is 3-9 with a 5.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP through 14 starts, and he has notched back-to-back quality starts just once. Hey, at least the strikeout rate (8.3 K/9) is strong. Keuchel owners can go ahead and see what they can get for him on the trade market, though I doubt the return will be overly exciting. Sitting tight and hoping for a turnaround could prove to be the better move.
Chris Archer ($20) - Speaking of sitting tight and hoping for a turnaround, this is the route I chose to take with Archer in the one league where I own him, a keeper league in which his cost was merely a ninth round pick. Unfortunately, this patient approach really isn't working out. The Rays righty is walking too many batters, allowing too many hits and serving up too many homers. His lofty strikeout rate (10.8 K/9) is the primary reason why he remains an every-week starter in most mixed leagues. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I still believe that Archer will bounce back.
But even if he doesn't bounce back, at least I didn't spend big on him.