Nobody drafted Dellin Betances last year, but a lot of people, myself included, were able to ride him to championships. By definition, this year's Betances -- a set-up ace who can be picked up off waivers -- will go undrafted, and likely won't be pegged by me in this blog post. But if you want to structure your pitching staff around a handful of trustworthy starters and about five relievers, including one or two set-up aces who can be taken among your last four or five picks, here are some guys to consider:
Andrew Miller - ADP: 250
It will be very interesting to see how the Yankees choose to use Miller and Betances this season, but it would take some significant regression for Miller to not have fantasy value even if Betances gets all the saves. He was second among all relievers last season (trailing only Aroldis Chapman) with a 42.6 percent K-rate, and he knows his way around the A.L. East, having pitched his two best seasons for the Red Sox and then the Orioles. I could see the Yankees opting to go closer-by-matchup, giving the left-handed Miller 10-20 saves with 65-80 innings, while Betances gets 20-30 saves and 80-90 innings. Miller's current ADP is fair if he remains in a set-up role all season, but it becomes a massive bargain if he starts to amass saves.
Wade Davis - ADP: 267
There's no need to go into much detail with Davis. This post could have just as easily been titled, The Search For The Next Wade Davis. Still, even though everyone knows how good Davis is, he's not getting treated like a legitimate building block for a fantasy staff. Take Davis with confidence ahead of any starting pitcher who makes you uneasy on draft day.
Yusmeiro Petit - ADP: 283
Manager Bruce Bochy has already declared that Petit will be used as a super-reliever, which gives him the inside track to logging the most innings of any of these six relievers. His overall numbers from 2014 may not stand out, but as a reliever he was utterly dominant, posting a 1.84 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 59 strikeouts in 49 relief innings. Extrapolating those numbers out over 90-100 innings would make Petit worth a top-200 pick. I have a feeling he will be on a lot of my teams this year.
Brett Cecil - ADP: 343
A common theme among most of these pitchers is there is a realistic scenario where they get saves for their owners at some point in the season. Cecil is the one guy who could actually begin the season as the lone closer for his team if the Blue Jays decide to award the fifth starter spot to Aaron Sanchez. The lefty's 32.5 percent K-rate last season slots him right in between Cody Allen and Koji Uehara among relievers, yet it does not seem like the public perception of Cecil has caught up to this reality. Whether closing or not, look for Cecil to be a useful contributor in at least three of the five pitching categories (ERA, WHIP and K's).
Jordan Walden - ADP: 462
I'm not sure why Walden isn't being taken in more leagues given how shaky Trevor Rosenthal was last season. It may seem crazy, but I would not be surprised if Walden ends up being the best pitcher involved in that Jason Heyward trade, despite being just a reliever. Walden actually has the same flaw as Rosenthal, as he walked 27 batters in 50 innings last season, but that does not mean he won't be the first guy to get a shot to close if Rosenthal's command is an issue once again and he blows a few saves early in the season. The Cardinals were close to making a switch in the ninth inning last season, so I would look for manager Mike Matheny to act decisively early on if he loses confidence in Rosenthal. Even if he is the set-up man all season, Walden should be able to post a K-rate above 30 percent en route to 80-90 strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00 if he can stay healthy.
Alex Meyer - ADP: 492
It's pretty odd that Meyer is getting taken this late in drafts considering he will spend most, if not all of 2015 in the big leagues. There might be more upside if he is used as a starter, but it is really difficult to envision a scenario where he is not useful in fantasy if he is pitching out of the bullpen. In the write up on the Twins' farm system I hedged, saying if he were to end up in the bullpen he could be a right-handed Aroldis Chapman, pumping triple-digit gas with a plus breaking ball. Meyer had a 27.1 percent K-rate in 130.1 innings at Triple-A last season, and that rate would tick up out of the bullpen. He will be stretched out to the point where he could easily offer close to 100 innings in relief if that's how the Twins choose to use him, and in that case, 125-150 strikeouts could be possible.