The search for solid pitching for your fantasy baseball team is often a challenge. While late round hidden gems are always there during your draft, finding them can be a challenge. Being able to find pitching value in the later rounds needs to be an important part of your draft day strategy if you plan on competing for league title.

This article highlights four draft day pitching values with the potential to turn a profit in 2018 while still being available after round ten. When I say round ten, I’m speaking of a 15-team league. For 12-team leagues, we’re talking more like round 12 or 13.

To give you a clear picture on the value each of these pitchers provide, I’m listing them according to their current ADP alongside their current pitcher rank and dollar values. In this way, you can clearly see the potential profit and value they’ll each be adding to your fantasy team should you choose to draft them.

In addition to the value they provide based on their ADP vs Ranking, each of the pitchers in the table below have the potential to exceed projections based on the skills they each bring to the pitching mound.

Player Team Pick #

Round

15 Team

Round

12 Team

Pitcher Rank Dollar Value
Lance McCullers HOU 150 10.0 12.5 31 $12.90
Danny Salazar CLE 171 11.4 14.3 64 $8.41
Kevin Gausman BAL 204 13.6 17.0 54 $9.57
Michael Wacha STL 239 15.7 19.6 70 $7.45
Note: ADP is based on NFBC ADP data as of 24-FEB-18

Lance McCullers – SP, HOU

My personal expectation for 2018 is for McCullers to exceed both Verlander and Keuchel in virtually all fantasy baseball scoring categories. There, I went out and said it. However, I’m willing to stand by that claim all day based on the data below.

Season Name IP ERA FIP BABIP LOB%
2017 Dallas Keuchel 145.2 2.90 3.79 .256 80%
2017 Justin Verlander 206.0 3.36 3.84 .271 80%
2017 Lance McCullers 118.2 4.25 3.10 .330 68%

FIP vs ERA along with BABIP/LOB numbers indicate that both Verlander and Keuchel were on the lucky end of the draw while McCullers wasn’t so fortunate. From a core skills standpoint, McCullers looks slightly better than both as the table below indicates.

Season Name K/9 SwStr K/BB BB/9
2017 Dallas Keuchel 7.72 11% 2.66 2.90
2017 Justin Verlander 9.57 11% 3.04 3.15
2017 Lance McCullers 10.01 12% 3.30 3.03

The only question that remains for McCullers in 2018 are the health issues that have limited his success over the past couple seasons. I’m betting on the healthy version for 2018 and I’m hedging on more innings pitched than he’s currently being projected for by most sources.

Upside Potential: 13 Wins / 170 K’s / 3.67 ERA / 1.24 WHIP

Danny Salazar – SP, CLE

The outlook for Salazar in 2018 is positive although there will be some limitations to his overall output relative to his position as a #4 starter. He’s also had some control issues that temper his WHIP expectations, but overall, he can put up some strong strikeout numbers along with wins which are aided by a stellar defense backing him up.

Salazar makes this list based on his overall power pitcher profile and an abnormal BABIP in 2017 and a rather significant difference between actual ERA vs FIP/xFIP numbers. His HR/FB rate was also a bit out of the norm based on the previous 2 years.

The table below highlights all the bad-luck related factors that lead me to my optimistic projection for Salazar in 2018.

Season ERA FIP xFIP HR/FB BABIP LOB%
2015 3.45 3.62 3.48 12% 0.278 75%
2016 3.87 3.74 3.74 13% 0.307 76%
2017 4.28 3.48 3.21 16% 0.343 74%

All this leaves me optimistic on his chances to post numbers that will exceed his current ADP when you combine the above luck factors to the skill factors listed in the following table.

K/9 SwStr K/BB BB/9
9.49 12% 3.68 2.58
10.55 11% 2.56 4.13
12.67 16% 3.30 3.84

3 years of improvement in his K/9 rates combined with a swinging strike rate that is above average overall and stellar during the 2017 campaign. Again, the only knock is his BB/9 which limits his ability to post above average WHIP numbers.

Overall, you’re still looking at some pretty good value compared to where he lands on the draft board. Currently sitting as 11th – 14th round pick depending on the size of your league, Salazar offers a higher than average potential to return good on the investment.

Upside Potential: 10 Wins / 170 K’s / 3.78 ERA / 1.26 WHIP

Kevin Gausman – SP, BAL

Gausman lines up behind Salazar but ranks higher on my pitcher list. Currently the 54th pitcher on my list, he’ll likely be available in 13th round for 15-team leagues and 17th for 12-team leagues. Gausman’s 2017 season was a Jekyll & Hyde kind of season. While the 1st half was terrible, his 2nd half was stellar, albeit aided by an 84% LOB rate.

However, the potential that Gausman provides based on where he sits in the draft offers solid potential to profit in 2018. While not profiling as a pitcher with stellar overpowering skills, he is consistent and #1 pitcher on the depth chart for the Orioles. This gives him 200 innings pitched potential for a pitcher with a slightly above average K/9 and a decent BB/9 rate overall.

Season ERA FIP xFIP K/9 SwStr F-Strike K/BB BB/9 HR/FB BABIP LOB%
2015 4.25 4.10 3.80 8.25 11% 55% 3.55 2.32 13% .288 72%
2016 3.61 4.10 3.77 8.72 11% 57% 3.70 2.35 15% .308 81%
2017 4.68 4.48 4.33 8.63 11% 60% 2.52 3.42 15% .336 76%

As you see in the table above, Gausman not elite in any category, but he’s solid in most. His BABIP for 2017 was a bit out character which gives me a little hope of improvement in 2018 as well. In addition, his first pitch strike rate is trending above average coupled with a stable skill set overall. The biggest knock for Gausman is the park he pitches in and the division his team is in. Both factors temper any low ERA hopes overall.

In short, with Gausman on your fantasy baseball team, you’ll be adding stability, reliability along with decent production. To me, this is value proposition for a pitcher that you’ll be drafting in the middle to back end of your draft.

Upside Potential: 13 Wins / 190 K’s / 3.95 ERA / 1.35 WHIP

Michael Wacha – SP, STL

I’m not going to speak of how Wacha is considered a sleeper candidate for 2018. Most of the fantasy baseball sources around the web have already done that. Currently he sits in the 15th/16th round area for 15 team leagues and 17th for 12-team leagues, so he’s still underpriced in my opinion.

His 2017 BABIP was higher than normal and his FIP was over a half a run lower than his actual ERA, Wacha remains a rebound candidate for 2018. His solid skill set and #2 status on the pitching depth chart has all the makings of profit potential going into the draft this season.

Season ERA FIP xFIP K/9 SwStr F-Strike K/BB BB/9 HR/FB BABIP LOB%
2015 3.37 3.87 3.88 7.59 10% 63% 2.64 2.88 11% .272 76%
2016 5.09 3.91 4.05 7.43 8% 59% 2.53 2.93 12% .334 65%
2017 4.13 3.63 3.88 8.58 10% 66% 2.87 2.99 12% .327 72%

Wacha possesses an average swinging strike rate, improved first pitch strike rate, good control and a K/9 rate that’s above average. The skill set he provides and the profit potential he adds could help your team compete this season in the pitching department.

Looking deeper into his pitch arsenal, I couldn’t help but notice a dramatic improvement in the quality of his curveball. Combining this with his already above average fastball and a 4-pitch arsenal, he could take it to another level in 2018. Given his value, this could be worth stashing on your team in hopes of a breakout.

Upside Potential: 12 Wins / 170 K’s / 3.80 ERA / 1.27 WHIP

Summary

Pitching is a tough nut to crack in fantasy baseball, so you always need to be on the lookout for value picks to add to your pitching staff. The pitchers featured in this article can potentially provide your team with the added potential to put your team in the running for the league title. I hope this article has given you some additional insight that can help you during the upcoming fantasy baseball season. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome, so feel free to leave them below. Until next time, good luck with your drafting this season.

 

 

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Doug Lukas

Dedicated baseball enthusiast with a serious passion for helping readers succeed in all areas of fantasy baseball.
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