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2024 Fantasy Baseball: 3 Breakout Starting Pitchers to Buy Low On

When I am searching for breakout starting pitchers who are prime buy low candidates, there are three stats that I look at:

  1. Groundball Rate
  2. Swinging Strike Rate
  3. BB/9

Obviously, there is a lot more that creates a true under-the-radar option.  If a pitcher is strong in these three areas, though, there is enough upside to make them worthy of a gamble.  Let’s take a look at three breakout starting pitchers who have the potential to emerge as difference-makers in 2024:

3 Breakout Starting Pitchers for 2024 Fantasy Baseball

Christopher Sanchez – Philadelphia Phillies

Sanchez is flying under the radar, but there’s no guarantee that he sticks in Philadelphia’s rotation. He will likely enter the season as the team’s fifth starter, though he could easily rise as high as third before long (you could argue that he’ll open the season as the fourth starter). Let’s be honest, does anyone trust Taijuan Walker or Ranger Suarez?  Sanchez showed out in all three skills over 19 appearances (18 games) in 2023:

  • 1.45 BB/9
  • 11.6% SwStr%
  • 57.0% Groundball Rate

He began using his changeup more last season (32.7%).  That made sense, as opposing hitters hit .147 against the pitch.  It also generated a significant number of swings and misses (23.06% Whiff%).  Couple that with his elite ability to generate ground balls and there is reason to get excited.

The biggest question is whether or not he can remain a starter as a three-pitch pitcher.  It was a small sample, but he didn’t show much variation with each pass through the order:

  • 1st Time Through Order – 3.27 ERA
  • 2nd Time Through Order – 3.52 ERA
  • 3rd Time Through Order – 4.00 ERA

Still, the development of an additional weapon, even if it was another fastball variation (he currently only throws a sinker), would go a long way.  Even with just this repertoire, however, he’s proven that there is enough upside.

In the last few rounds of your draft, he’s well worth the gamble.

Brayan Bello – Boston Red Sox

Bello is the biggest name you are going to find on this list.  He has true ace potential, though his 4.37 ERA over 214.1 IP in his MLB career says differently.  The strikeouts weren’t there last season (7.57 K/9 over 157.0 IP), though that’s a bit deceiving for the 24-year-old.  His SwStr% was 10.7% and he showed more both early (10.22 K/9 in April, 9.00 in May) and late (9.00 K/9 in September).  It’s not coincidental, as his three strongest strikeout months were the ones where he threw his slider at least 20% of the time.  While that’s not his swing-and-miss pitch, it likely helps to set up his changeup (21.21% Whiff%) as it gives opponents something else to think about.

The true key for Bello is finding more success with his fastball.  Last season opponents hit .307 against his fourseam fastball and .276 off his sinker.  As the pitches he throws the most, he needs better results with those.

There’s no questioning his control (2.58 BB/9) and groundball rate (56.2%).  He’s young, and figuring out how to succeed with a fastball that averages over 95 mph should come in time.  When it clicks, the sky is the limit.

Nick Martinez – Cincinnati Reds

Martinez moves to Cincinnati, where he currently looks set to open the season as a starting pitcher.  He only threw 110.1 innings for the Padres in ’23, and it is no guarantee that he will stick in the rotation all year. That’s a concern, but there’s enough in his underlying numbers to make him worth the gamble.  Of course, he is 33 years old, so how much projection will he really have? In fact, it’s really opportunity that will be paramount, as he showed more than enough last season:

  • 3.26 BB/9
  • 12.7% SwStr%
  • 53.8% GB%

He showed signs of how good he could be, including a 0.47 ERA in September. That came courtesy of a 10.89 K/9 (10.05 in the second half) and 2.84 BB/9 (he was at 3,18 or better in four of six months).  Obviously, he’s not that good, but it shows that the skills are there.

Martinez primarily uses five pitches, so there’s no question he has the arsenal to survive as a starter.  With his groundball rate, his new home ballpark shouldn’t be as much of a concern either.  The question comes down to chances, but with a $26 million contract (even with an opt-out) Cincinnati should provide him with that.

He’s not an ace, but as a late-round flier, everything comes together for the perfect opportunity.  If he does break out, he could prove to be a difference-maker at that value.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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