2024 Fantasy Baseball: Sleeper pitchers to consider in the second half of drafts

After covering sleeper hitters earlier this week, our attention turns to hurlers who could become bargain picks in the middle or late rounds of drafts. This list includes several players who have the skills to take a major step forward and a couple of pitchers who could thrive by bouncing back to pre-2023 levels.

[Join or create a Yahoo Fantasy Baseball league for the 2024 MLB season]

Bailey Ober (SP, Minnesota Twins)

Starting pitchers contribute to four categories, with the wins category being largely outside of their control. Ober is carrying a meager 166.1 Yahoo ADP this season despite already having proven to be helpful in all three categories that reflect a hurler’s skill. The right-hander is a WHIP stud, having produced a lifetime 1.11 mark by virtue of having excellent control skills and generating plenty of fly balls. And his strikeout skills are above average, as is evidenced by his career 24.8% whiff rate. Finally, Ober owns a solid lifetime 3.63 ERA and has been better than that mark in each of the past two seasons.

Triston McKenzie (SP, Cleveland Guardians)

McKenzie could be a massive value pick by enjoying a bounce-back year. His 2023 struggles were less about results and more about durability, as he made just four starts due to a series of arm injuries. The right-hander is in stride with Cleveland’s other starters during spring training, which offers hope he can return to his 2022 form that resulted in a 2.96 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 190 strikeouts. For an investment at his Yahoo ADP of pick 223.2, this feels like a risk worth taking.

John Means (SP, Baltimore Orioles)

Means is the third consecutive pitcher in the article who makes his living off generating easy outs via fly balls. The left-hander owns a terrific lifetime 1.06 WHIP, and there is reason to believe that he can improve on his career 3.74 ERA given that he has been injured during most of the period since Camden Yards became a friendlier venue for pitchers. Means will open the season on the IL but is expected to return before the end of April, which makes him a terrific player to select in the final round and place in an IL spot.

Cristopher Sánchez (SP, Philadelphia Phillies)

Sánchez far exceeded expectations last year when he logged a 3.44 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP across 99.1 innings. His solid 24.3% strikeout rate was especially surprising for someone who was not considered to be a swing-and-miss pitcher, and his 4.0% walk rate ranked sixth among pitchers who threw at least 90 frames. Sánchez is trying to add a cutter to his repertoire this season, which could also further raise his ceiling.

Zack Littell (SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays)

I seem to be the Littell believer this year, as I end up selecting him in most of my drafts. The right-hander is the opposite case of Bradley, as he lacks the high-end upside due to a mediocre strikeout rate but is more likely to provide helpful ratios. Littell thrived during 14 starts last year (3.41 ERA) and was given a vote of confidence when manager Kevin Cash announced early in spring training that Littell would start the second or third game of the season. It’s clear that the Rays believe in the 28-year-old, which makes it surprising that he is going undrafted in virtually all Yahoo leagues.

Griffin Canning (SP, Los Angeles Angels)

Canning missed half of 2021 and all of '22 with back pain before posting mediocre results (4.32 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) in his return to the mound last season. The right-hander may have needed a bit of time to shake off the rust, as he recovered from a slow start to log a 3.78 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and a 10.5 K/9 rate across his final 16 starts. Going undrafted in most Yahoo leagues, Canning could reward managers who select him in the final round by simply repeating his most recent results across a full season.

Tanner Scott (RP, Miami Marlins)

By assigning him a Yahoo ADP of 155.5, fantasy managers are sitting on the fence with Scott, which doesn’t make much sense. The left-hander already has the closer’s role in Miami. Those who believe he can mimic his stellar results from last season (2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 104 strikeouts) should value him as an elite closer.

[2024 Fantasy Baseball Draft Rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

And managers who put more weight on his lifetime 4.00 ERA and 1.41 WHIP should assume that he will take a major step back and lose his ninth-inning gig. In all drafts, there should be a few managers who believe in Scott, who joined Félix Bautista as the only two pitchers to collect 100 strikeouts and a double-digit saves total last year.