2024 Fantasy Baseball: 12 sleeper pitchers not getting enough love in drafts

Fantasy baseball analyst Dalton Del Don offers up a series of draft sleeper candidates per position — he wraps things up with the pitchers!

Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Pfaadt struggled after initially getting called up to Arizona last season, but he recorded a 19.1 K-BB% after the All-Star break that would’ve ranked top-15 among starters. He then posted a 3.27 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with a 24.1 K-BB% (that would’ve ranked behind only Spencer Strider in 2023) over five starts in the playoffs.

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Pfaadt curiously remains affordable at draft tables despite owning a strong minor league resume and dominating in the postseason.

Shota Imanaga, SP, Chicago Cubs

Imanaga will be making his MLB debut at 30 years old, and the lefty reportedly flashes strong Stuff+. Most projection systems are bullish, calling for a 1.21 WHIP and a K-BB% that would’ve been top-20 among starters last season. Imanaga is available more than 180 picks into Yahoo drafts.

Orion Kerkering, RP, Philadelphia Phillies

Kerkering enters the season fighting to win a spot in Philadelphia’s bullpen, but he could easily finish it as the team’s closer. The Phillies have no obvious candidate to close (lefty José Alvarado likely opens with the role), while Kerkering recorded a 1.51 ERA with a 0.89 WHIP and 79 strikeouts over 53.2 innings across the minors last year. He also pitched high-leverage innings in the NLCS and already possesses some of the filthiest stuff in baseball. Kerkering has the upside to be a top-five fantasy closer should he get the opportunity in Philadelphia, yet his ADP sits outside 225 picks in Yahoo drafts.

Aroldis Chapman, RP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Chapman’s elite fastball returned last season when he posted a 2.95 SIERA (top 10) and the third-best K-BB% (26.9) among relievers. He also recorded the second-best K% (41.4) while punching out 103 batters over 58.1 innings. Meanwhile, David Bednar’s K-BB% fell to 17.6 in the second half, and he's currently dealing with right lat tightness, so there are warning signs for the incumbent.

Bednar enters the season as Pittsburgh’s closer (if healthy), but Chapman is a role change away from being one of the most valuable fantasy relievers.

Michael King, SP/RP, San Diego Padres

King was one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers last season, including posting a 2.02 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and 45 strikeouts over 35.2 innings (six starts) after officially joining the rotation in late August. His overall numbers need context considering he spent most of the season pitching from the bullpen, but King’s CSW would’ve ranked second had he qualified — sandwiched between Spencer Strider and Tyler Glasnow. King’s K-BB% would’ve ranked sixth — ahead of Gerrit Cole. King is legit, and he now gets to pitch in the NL West and in Petco Park after being traded to the Padres in the Juan Soto deal during the offseason.

King does have an injury history and is now being asked to start, but his upside is well worth his 131.0 ADP.

Yuki Matsui is also a fantasy sleeper who could emerge as San Diego’s closer.

Kyle Harrison, SP, San Francisco Giants

Harrison is like many young hurlers who need to improve their control, but he might be the best lefty pitching prospect in baseball. He posted a 35.6 K% in Triple-A and will benefit from pitching in a park that dramatically decreases home runs. Harrison oddly struggled mightily against left-handed batters (.333 BAA) once reaching the majors after not surrendering a single home run to a lefty in Triple-A (.171 BAA) all season.

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

He had a 0.87 WHIP with a 25.7 K-BB% against right-handed batters during his brief work in San Francisco, so while both splits figure to regress in 2024, one could view them as quite encouraging. Harrison looked dominant during his spring debut and enters his rookie campaign locked into San Francisco’s starting rotation.

MacKenzie Gore, SP, Washington Nationals

Gore is a former top prospect who finally appears to be figuring it out. His 25.9 K% would’ve ranked top-15 among starters had he qualified last season, while his 18.2 HR/FB% would’ve ranked second highest and is sure to regress. If Gore can take a step forward with his control, he’ll be a fantasy steal (246.9 ADP) even while pitching for Washington.

Kutter Crawford, SP/RP, Boston Red Sox

Crawford posted a 3.96 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with 94 strikeouts over his final 88.1 innings after settling into Boston’s rotation last year. He’s locked into the role entering 2024, and his K-BB% (19.6) after the All-Star break would’ve ranked top 15 among all starters for the season. Crawford is a key sleeper.

Hunter Brown, SP, Houston Astros

Brown’s 5.09 ERA came with a 3.74 SIERA last season, so he’s due for regression in 2024. His 26.8 K% would’ve ranked 12th among starters if he qualified (he needed just 6.1 more innings), next to Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler. Brown should improve during year two and will benefit from pitching for an Astros team projected to win the third-most games this season. Brown isn’t being drafted as a top-40 starter in Yahoo leagues, but he’s a top-35 SP on my board.

Griffin Canning, SP, Los Angeles Angels

Canning likely won’t rack up wins pitching for the Angels, but he’s back on the fantasy scene thanks to increased velocity last season after returning from multiple injuries. Canning posted an 11.55 K/9 (30.1 K%) with a 3.26 FIP after the All-Star break, when his 23.9 K-BB% would’ve finished behind only Spencer Strider for the season. Canning has four effective pitches and strong minor-league numbers, yet he’s going after 65 SPs are off the board with an ADP of 251.7.

Dany Jiménez, RP, Oakland Athletics

Mason Miller undoubtedly has the most fantasy upside in Oakland’s bullpen, but he’s a big injury risk, has a much higher ADP and “will gradually move up the ladder” rather than open the season as closer. Meanwhile, Oakland’s GM mentioned Jiménez’s name first when asked about the team’s closing situation. Jiménez posted a 1.72 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP over his final 17 appearances after returning from a shoulder injury last season, so he looks like a source for early saves who’s going undrafted.

Ricky Tiedemann, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

Tiedemann dealt with injuries throughout last season but remains one of baseball’s best pitching prospects. His bulked-up physique and filthy stuff have created buzz throughout Toronto’s camp. Tiedemann will be among fantasy’s most sought-after waiver-wire adds once he gets his chance this season.