We’re in the thick of fantasy baseball drafts, and thinking about bounce back arms can help with drafting pitchers who may be overlooked. Surely, there’s some risk, which is why we think of them being in this “bounce back” category. I wouldn’t recommend overreaching for these arms. Rather, get a feel for how your draft is going, and pick them up in the most optimal round where you can relish in their success, or not feel too disappointed if all doesn’t go well.

Below, pitchers will be listed with their team, and starting pitcher rankings from RotoGraphs, ESPN (roto leagues), and RotoWire (roto leagues).

Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants

RotoGraphs: 22 ESPN: 19 RotoWire: 33

RotoWire likes him the least, and that can be understood. While Bumgarner is pitching for a team that is weak offensively, his home park is still Oracle Park (formerly, AT&T Park). Bumgarner has lost his dominance, but there’s a chance flashes of it will come back. I don’t think we should see a sharp decline in his performance if he’s able to stay healthy. A couple of seasons with injuries has cast a dark cloud over him. Because of this, 2017 and 2018 were seasons where he pitched the least innings since breaking into the league in 2010, with his lowest K/9 as well. 2011 to 2016 Bumgarner pitched 200 plus innings, but we’ll probably see 180-ish innings. Expectations going into 2019 shouldn’t be sky high, but keeping a safe, realistic ceiling will be in your favor while drafting. Expect low win total, because of the Giants’ offense, as mentioned earlier. K/9 and BB/9 should improve. 8 K/9 and BB/9 in the lower 2’s are reasonable. This spring, Bumgarner has pitched 12 innings with 12 strikeouts, but also has an ERA of 8.25. Don’t be too alarmed by runs being given up, as starting pitchers use this time to get into their groove. He struggles more during the first month of the season, so if you draft him, don’t panic too early on. If he’s able to string together a few great starts, he could be an enticing trade piece if you have holes to fill.

Yu Darvish – Chicago Cubs

RotoGraphs: 28 ESPN: 56 RotoWire: 77

2018 was disappointing for Darvish, and it has many very weary of him. With his best ranking at 28, and worst at 77, there’s a wide range of expectations. The Cubs’ offense will give him better run support than what Bumgarner will get from the Giants. The NL Central division will still be competitive, so if there are any concerns early in the season, the Cubs will probably err on the side of caution. That doesn’t sound promising, but just something to keep in mind. What does sound promising is how he feels about his fastball and slider. Darvish also had a nice start today (March 14), pitching four innings, striking out five batters, and giving up just one run. He is trending in the right direction, and should be able to maintain K/9 over 10 and an ERA under 4. Many projections have Bumgarner getting more wins (and innings pitched) than Darvish, but I may even consider drafting Darvish before Bumgarner, especially in leagues where wins are a category.

Sonny Gray – Cincinnati Reds

RotoGraphs: 76 ESPN: 99 RotoWire: 59

What to do about Sonny Gray? I totally understand those who aren’t drafting him. I think that the change of scenery will do a lot of good for Gray. Last season, things got to the point where Gray was moved to the bullpen. He allowed 14 home runs, with 11 of those being at home. Gray’s new home is also a hitter’s park – Great American Ball Park. But could it get any worse? I’m leaning towards, no. Going from Oakland to New York City must be a shocker. Episode 150 of Benched with Bubba, with Eno Sarris, gives a small glimpse into Gray and what he’ll be working through. It seems like he’ll have better support with a staff that’ll work with his strengths as pitcher, rather than setting him up for disappointment. Gray’s being drafted in the later rounds. If you’re able to set yourself up with pitchers in the earlier rounds, you could take a shot on Gray.

Jimmy Nelson – Milwaukee Brewers

RotoGraphs: 48 ESPN: 85 RotoWire: 150

Nelson will be making a comeback this season, after missing all of 2018 due to injury in late 2017. In 2017, he really came into his own as a pitcher. Sporting a 12-6 record, with 199 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA. The future of the Brewers in 2018 was looking bright, and it was, despite missing Nelson for the season. He won’t be making the Opening Day roster, and it’s unclear when he’ll be joining the team. Nelson made his first start of the spring this week, pitching one inning, with three strikeouts, and allowing two earned runs. The Brewers want Nelson to get back to full strength and intend use him as a starter instead of easing him in through the bullpen. The rankings from RotoGraphs and ESPN are rather high for a pitcher who won’t be starting the season. I think that goes to show how much the rankers like him despite missing time. Will Nelson get back to his 2017 form? We hope so. But even with a little less strikeouts and an ERA near 3.80, that’s worthy of bounce back discussion, considering he did miss an entire season.

Thank you for reading, and good luck with your draft and fantasy baseball season!