Originally written on Fantasy Baseball Dugout  |  Last updated 11/9/14

While in most traditional 5×5 fantasy baseball leagues they still contribute statistically to 50% of the scoring, pitchers don’t get the respect they often deserve at draft time. The main reason for this is obvious – starting pitchers only contribute once every five days, and relievers only face a handful of batters (at best).

One of the most common questions at draft time is when you can get value for a pitcher. Now, taking elite pitchers out of the equation like Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay, the best time to consider taking a starting pitcher is likely the 3rd round, even better if you can stetch it to the 4th round. In the first three draft rounds, depending on where you end up in the draft order, your selection pattern should likely resemble something like this:

  1. Best available hitter – likely to come from 1B or OF
  2. Elite player at thin position (2B or SS) or multi-category contributing hitter (1B, 3B, or OF)
  3. Multi-category contributing hitter (likely either at 3B or OF) or Ace pitcher
  4. Starting Pitcher

If you’re going to reach for an ace, go for it in round 3. However, round 4 is clearly the best time to try and draft a pitcher. There are a couple more questions inside this question related to picking closers or pitchers not named Verlander or Halladay. Let us break them down for you…

What is the best draft slot to take a pitcher in the first round?

  • According to Average Draft Position (ADP) information available from Mock Draft Central, the best draft slot in 2012 to take a pitcher in round one is pick no. 7 in traditional mixed leagues. According to their statistical data, Verlander is the only pitcher that should be selected in the first round of any mixed leagues of medium size or smaller (10 to 14-teamers). In 16-team mixed leagues or larger, Roy Halladay (our no. 1 starting pitcher for 2012) barely cracks round one, with an ADP of no. 15.

For tips on when to draft closers and when to draft a pitcher AFTER Verlander and Hallday - 

What is the best round to begin drafting closers and relief pitchers?

  • One of the world-renowned fantasy baseball experts on Yahoo! once made the recommendation to not be the guy “who drafts the first or second closer” but make sure you’re the third. At least, I think that was the advice he gave…? Bottom line: drafting closers and relievers in fantasy
  • baseball is similar to drafting team defenses in fantasy football (for those of you who play). You don’t want to be the first guy to make the leap… but you definitely don’t want to be the last to get a closer, either. Currently, Craig Kimbrel (our no. 1 closer/reliever for 2012) carries with him an ADP of no. 57 overall. So, it’s pretty safe to say if you’re drafting a closer any earlier than late round 4 or round 5 in most mixed leagues, it’s too early. It’s probably also good fantasy baseball draft advice to make sure you have your talent-thin hitter positions (C, 2B, and SS) as well as your ace starting pitcher selected before you attempt to take a closer or non-saves reliever.

I didn’t get Halladay or Verlander. When is the NEXT best time to draft a pitcher?

  • As we mentioned above, the best time we recommend to draft a pitcher AFTER Verlander or Halladay is the fourth round. Now, this isn’t a perfect rule – so make sure you pay attention to your draft. Aces like Kershaw, Lincecum, Lee and Hamels, Sabathia, Felix, Weaver and Price could be gone by the start of round 4 of your draft. If a run on starting pitchers happens in your league in round 2 – don’t get stuck having to build your entire staff around Yovani Gallardo or Zack Greinke (unless, of course, you can get BOTH of them). But, if you draft starting pitchers in round 4 and 5, then take a reliever or other position player in round 6 – your team should remain competitive, particularly in 10-team or 12-team leagues.

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