While most fantasy owners are deep into their offseason slumber, those who stay ahead of the competition are already eyeing the results of early 2018 mock drafts. And although rankings are inevitably going to fluctuate between now and Opening Day, a few pitchers are emerging as potential value picks during
While most fantasy owners are deep into their offseason slumber, those who stay ahead of the competition are already eyeing the results of early 2018 mock drafts. And although rankings are inevitably going to fluctuate between now and Opening Day, a few pitchers are emerging as potential value picks during the middle or late rounds of the selection process.
1. Luke Weaver, starter, Cardinals
After going 7-2 with a 3.88 ERA across 60 1/3 innings with the Cardinals last season, Weaver has the potential to take another step forward next year. After all, the right-hander was set back by a .335 BABIP despite posting a stellar 25.9 percent hard-hit rate. Having finished with exemplary marks in FIP (3.17) and K/BB ratio (4.2) last year, Weaver -- who owns a lifetime 1.99 ERA in the Minors -- could emerge as a No. 2 mixed-league starter in 2018.
2. Dinelson Lamet, starter, Padres
While he posted an unimpressive 4.57 ERA in 2017, Lamet showed exciting skills by logging an elite 10.9 K/9 rate with an 11.8 percent swinging-strike rate across 21 rookie-season starts. To take a step forward, the youngster will need to improve his command after recording a 4.3 BB/9 rate and a 1.4 HR/9 rate last year. But given his mid-90s fastball and outstanding slider, the 25-year-old will head into 2018 with the potential to compile 200-plus whiffs.
3. Mike Clevinger, starter, Indians
Clevinger established himself as a long-term rotation fixture in 2017, going 11-4 with a 2.84 ERA across 21 starts. And while the righty certainly enjoyed his share of batted-ball luck when working out of the rotation (.269 BABIP, 80.4 percent strand rate), he also showed promising potential by logging a 3.70 FIP in that role. Although he has inconsistent control (lifetime 4.6 BB/9 rate), Clevinger could use his swing-and-miss stuff (career 9.6 K/9 rate) to become a major shallow-league asset this season.
4. Kevin Gausman, starter, Orioles
After posting a 6.39 ERA with a 7.9 K/9 rate and a 4.0 BB/9 rate over his first 20 starts in 2017, Gausman inspired optimism with a strong finish. Recording a 9.5 K/9 rate and a 2.8 BB/9 rate in his final 14 outings, the righty notched a 2.70 ERA in that span. Even if he continues to deal with home run problems in '18 (1.4 HR/9 rate from '15-17), Gausman could display the form that resulted in a 3.77 ERA from '14-16.
5. Brad Hand, reliever, Padres
One of baseball's best relievers across the past two seasons (2.56 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 11.5 K/9 rate), Hand thrived as a closer (19 saves) after assuming the role last July. The southpaw clearly has the skills to remain effective across a full season in the ninth inning, but he could come as a draft-day bargain due to concerns that the Padres will not afford him the necessary opportunities to be a top-tier stopper. Those concerns may be unfounded, though, as San Diego pitchers combined for 45 saves during the team's 71-win season in '17.
Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.