The timing of when to stop trusting veteran starting pitchers is not an exact science, and this is reflected in the performance of the two arms being profiled in this week’s installment. Justin Verlander recently achieved the big 4-0 at the end of February, and our other experienced hurler being discussed, Adam Wainwright, will be sitting before a birthday cake adorned with 42 candles at the end of August this season. The question we should be asking ourselves as we head into the 2023 draft season is: can another season of value be extracted from either or both of these veteran pitchers, or is it time to pass them up?
Justin Verlander New York Mets ADP: 39.44
A pitcher in his late 30s who misses an entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery does not jump out as the ace you would be interested in pinning your fantasy rotation hopes onto. Those fantasy owners that believed in the righthander and his ability to overcome a late career injury were rewarded exponentially. Will Verlander suffer some negative regression from his third Cy Young award-winning season results? It seems unlikely he can again produce a sub-2.00 ERA (witness the projections above) but there is no reason to doubt his ability to produce victories and quality starts in significant numbers or to utilize his command and control to supply a sub-1.00 WHIP. Verlander’s WHIP is stellar due to his low walk rate (1.49 BB/9 over 175.0 IP last season). He also has a historical ability to keep the ball in the park, and his strand rate has been fantastic for a significant period of time.
He heads to the Mets this season, his first stint with a National League team, but given the scheduling these days in baseball, that is not necessarily a change that requires extreme adjustment. He also reunites with his former Tiger teammate, Max Scherzer, which will provide the Mets with a superior one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Granted, he did not make the top 5 list in the Draft Guide, but he certainly qualifies as an ace that should be selected as an early round SP that you can build a rotation around.
Adam Wainwright St. Louis Cardinals ADP: 277.04
There was speculation aplenty that the veteran Cardinal starter would head off into the sunset with Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina and hang up his cleats. Wainwright flipped that script and agreed to a one-year deal with the Cards, and will look to continue his rebound to useful fantasy starter status after stumbling for a few years (2016-18). Unsurprisingly, his fastball continues to shed velocity, coming in below 89 MPH for the first-time last season, and he therefore is a below average strikeout producer at this stage of his career. He offers his owners a sub 4.00 ERA, which is a valuable ratio to plug in for significant time on the mound as the No. 3 starter in the St. Louis starting staff. His low strikeout production leads to his fantasy value being appreciably depressed, as witnessed by his ADP. He would certainly be worthy to consider as a back of the rotation option for your fantasy squads, as the ratios are advantageous presuming he racks up the innings again, even if the counting stats are limited-think SP5/6 for your team.
Drafting veterans heading toward the ends of their careers may not necessarily be the most exciting method to build your fantasy rotation, but getting solid ratio and/or counting statistical fabricators on your fantasy squad is always a wise move. Some may balk at using an early draft pick on a player coming off a(nother) award winning season like Verlander but that decision could allow you to formulate a strong pitching staff. Grabbing a veteran such as Wainwright that can roll up substantial innings while also contributing useful ratios and wins or QS is a wise late round pick. These two SPs could form a nice bookend set of pitchers for your fantasy team.
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