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Fantasy: 5 pitcher breakout candidates

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Filling out your starting rotation is routinely one of the most difficult tasks on draft day. Grabbing an ace early will help, but finding value later on is crucial to success.

Here are five pitchers to target in the waning rounds who could perform beyond their current expectations.

Average draft positions as of Feb. 27, courtesy of FantasyPros.

All stats for 2020 projections are from FanGraphs.

Zac Gallen, D-Backs (ADP 134)

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145 9 4.04 1.22 9.9

Technically, Gallen broke out last season, which is why the right-hander is going off boards ahead of pitchers like David Price, Mike Minor, and teammate Robbie Ray. However, he's still flying somewhat under the radar due to the volume of innings he's thrown. You should take advantage should the opportunity arise.

The 24-year-old amassed 80 innings between the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks last year and struck out batters with impunity. His walk rate - over four per nine innings - is a bit troubling, but it was his first taste of big-league action. Don't expect Gallen to be babied with an innings limit; including his time in Triple-A, he threw 171 1/3 frames last year.

Dinelson Lamet, Padres (ADP 132)

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144 10 3.54 1.13 11.3

Lamet is already going early for a pitcher with 187 career innings to his name, especially when you consider that the right-hander made it back from Tommy John surgery last year to throw just 73 frames. But those 14 starts were fascinating.

You probably shouldn't be looking to take Lamet earlier than the ninth round in standard 12-team leagues based on the Padres potentially not getting him many wins and his ERA not being particularly dominant. However, his 33.6% strikeout rate ranked sixth among all starters with at least 70 innings pitched - ahead of Blake Snell, Lucas Giolito, and Jacob deGrom to name a few. That's a fun profile if everything clicks.

Caleb Smith, Marlins (ADP 209)

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179 9 4.43 1.26 9.4

He's not young, but Smith showed flashes of brilliance last year, and it's not hard to see why. The left-hander's spin rate ranks in the 85th percentile, according to Baseball Savant, which has led to an above-average exit velocity, strikeout rate, and expected batting average.

Those numbers were reflected in his first-half performance. Over his first 12 starts, Smith held opponents to a .198 AVG while authoring an impressive 3.41 ERA. Injuries sidelined the 28-year-old around the midway point of the season, and he never really returned to form, posting a 5.36 ERA over his final 16 starts.

Jose Urquidy, Astros (ADP 230)

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158 11 4.23 1.15 8.8

Urquidy is being treated as an afterthought, and he shouldn't be. As the Astros starter most likely to lock down the fourth spot in the rotation behind Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Lance McCullers Jr., he's going to get wins.

The 24-year-old dominated Double-A competition last year, then somehow showed improved strikeout numbers in Triple-A before earning a promotion to the majors. If the right-hander can manage his home run rate - which spiked at the juiced-ball levels (Triple-A and MLB) last year - then he should easily outpace Joey Lucchesi, who is going at a similar spot.

Brendan McKay, Rays (ADP 323)

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92 6 3.69 1.13 9.9

The fact that McKay is going after the likes of Rick Porcello and Mike Fiers isn't just mind-boggling; it's indefensible. While it's true that the Tampa Bay Rays may deploy him in ways that could potentially hamper his fantasy value, he's too good not to take a flier on - even as early as the 15th round (where Luke Weaver and Mike Foltynewicz are going).

After an incredible major-league debut when he flirted with perfection against the Texas Rangers, the former No. 4 pick ran into some home run issues - the first hiccup of his pro career. He still flashed elite swing-and-miss stuff, striking out seven or more batters in five starts (while never throwing more than 5 1/3 innings in those appearances). If the ball is de-juiced and he gets regular starts, he could even outperform Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner, who are going 15 rounds earlier.

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