It's been said time and time again, but fantasy championships truly are won during the mid to late rounds on draft day. Whether you're able to find a diamond in the rough comes down to research and a little bit of luck. Selections become vitally important when it comes to filling out your pitching staff after taking a pair of aces in the first 10 rounds. Here is a look at a few mid to late round starters who should help you compete for the title in 2013.
Doug Fister – Detroit Tigers
Fister got off to a slow start in 2012 and was limited to just over 160 innings due to a nagging side injury. But let's not forget how good he was in the second half once that injury finally healed. In 15 starts following the all-star break, the lanky right-hander posted an 8-4 record and a miniscule 2.67 ERA while tossing 101 innings. When all was said and done in 2012, Fister had compiled a 10-10 mark with a 3.45 ERA, a 1.194 WHIP and 137 strikeouts.
While Fister, who will turn 29 in February, may never approach 200 strikeouts in a season, his totals won't necessarily hurt your squad either (he averaged 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year). In addition to that, Fister posts perennially low ERA and WHIP numbers – he has career marks of 3.48 and 1.180, respectively. If the Detroit hurler is able to stave off injury in 2013, he should have a career year with 15-plus wins, 160 K's and an ERA around 3.50. Those numbers from your No. 3 or 4 starter will certainly give you an advantage.
Jonathon Niese – New York Mets
People seem to forget that Niese is still young and learning how to pitch at the Major League level. The southpaw had a breakout season for the Mets in 2012 and is primed to build on that success this year. Niese accumulated a career high in innings pitched last year (190.1) and went 13-9 with a tidy 3.40 ERA. He also posted a career-low WHIP of 1.172 and struck out 155 batters.
In a surprising twist for a young pitcher, Niese actually got stronger late in the season last year. During the second half of 2012, he went 6-5 with a 3.01 ERA and 64 strikeouts. In all 13 of his second-half starts, Niese pitched at least six innings. He also won his final three starts of the year. Much like Fister, Niese isn't going to blow you away with his strikeout totals, but he misses enough bats to post solid numbers. Still just 26-years old, Niese could be in line for a fantastic season, even with the fences at Citi Field being moved in. He should top the 200-inning plateau and will win close to 15 games.
Jeff Samardzija – Chicago Cubs
The former Notre Dame football star burst onto the scene last year and had a relatively strong season for a first-year starter. Like most young pitchers, Samardzija hit a few bumps in the road – he went 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA in five June starts. Despite the rough patches, however, Samardzija still won nine games and posted a respectable 3.81 ERA with 180 strikeouts.
As Samardzija continues to grow into a pitcher rather than a just thrower, his walk rate will go down and his WHIP should improve. In 11 starts after the all-star break last year, Samardzija was terrific. He had a 2.58 ERA and 80 strikeouts in just 73 innings. He also walked just 19 batters while posting a minute 1.023 WHIP. In his final start of the season on Sept. 8, Samardzija tossed a complete game against the Pirates as the Cubs won 4-3. It was his only complete game of the year.
While the Cubbies aren't expected to win many games this year, Samardzija should win 10-13 of them. If he's able to approach 200 innings pitched, he could very well exceed 200 strikeouts as well. Keep Samardzija in mind when you're looking to draft a fourth or fifth starter.