Football is here, but the Fantasy Baseball season is far from over… or maybe it already is for you. It with that second thought in mind that we’re going to look at some breakout pitchers for their potential values in 2018. Several youngsters have entered the Top 40 (and even better) discussion for next year.
As always, we use SOBB (breakdown here) as the initial base when projecting a pitcher’s future performance.
Range of starting pitcher SOBBs (K-BB%) and the values they hold.
Range of relief pitcher SOBBs (K-BB%) and the values they hold.
Cheers or Tears
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY – Tanaka has the sixth best SOBB since the All-Star Break at 25.2. There are several reasons behind Tanaka’s second half success, starting with his SOBB. Tanaka’s K% is much higher in the second half at 29.9 (23.2 first half), his BB% is terrific at 4.7 and he’s improved his home run rate (2.03 to 1.42). When his metrics are that strong, it’s no surprise that he is carrying a 3.13 ERA. While Tanaka’s first and second half splits weren’t this drastic last year, we now have two straight seasons of Tanaka turning into a Fantasy ace after the break. For 2018, the smart move looks to be letting someone else draft him high based off his ceiling, then wait for the mediocre numbers and trade for Tanaka before the second half arrives.
While we’re on Tanaka, his teammate Luis Severino has also been great in the second half but without a first-half slump like Tanaka had. Severino has a 22.3 SOBB (13th best) in the second half, which is the exact same mark as his first half SOBB. Severino surprised many, myself included, and is in the Top 25 discussion for 2018.
James Paxton, SEA – Paxton missed a few starts this year, but it hasn’t derailed his breakout campaign. Paxton has only two truly poor starts with a 2.70 ERA and the fourth highest SOBB (31.7) in the second half. His full-season mark is a very nice 21.8, but Paxton has been getting better deeper into the season. After setting a career high in SwStr% last year at 11.7, Paxton has bumped that up to 13.1 with another career best in F-Strike% at 65.7. He’s also throwing his curveball more than ever, and it’s become his second most-effective pitch with a 6.0 pitch value, according to FanGraphs. Paxton is having his breakout season, and he’s on his way to being a Top 15 pitcher in 2018.
Taijuan Walker, ARI – As with Paxton, Walker is having his breakout season, which wasn’t guaranteed with his move to Arizona. Even after going from Seattle to a hitter’s park, Walker has still managed to post a 3.60 ERA and 13.7 SOBB for the year. The year-long SOBB doesn’t look great, but Walker has picked things up since the All-Star Break with a 23.2 mark, good for 11th overall. While Walker has allowed at least two runs in every start since June 14, he only has one with more than three and the strikeouts have increased. Walker has 38 strikeouts in 35.2 innings since July 2 versus just 60 in 69.1 innings prior. The biggest difference is that Walker has improved his F-Strike% and his manipulation of the strike zone, and both have increased batters swing percentage outside of the zone. Walker isn’t a Fantasy stud, but he’s put himself inside the Top 40 for starters next year.
Like Tanaka, Walker has a teammate that’s impressing too, as Zack Godley is in the Top 20 for SOBB at 21.1 since the break. Godley’s year-long mark is solid too at 17.9, and he’s been a pleasant surprise for the Diamondbacks. Godley’s xFIP isn’t much higher than his ERA (3.28 to 2.94) showing us that it’s not luck driving his success. Godley has a great 14.1 SwStr%, gets ahead of batters 63.1 percent of the time with a very nice 35.7 O-Swing%. Godley joins Walker as another potential Top 40 pitcher for the 2018 season.
Aaron Nola, PHI – Nola is only in his third season, but it feels as if the hype has been around much longer. Nola was a highly regarded prospect, and injuries (and poor luck) derailed his 2016 season. Nola missed some time again this year, albeit brief, but since June 22, he’s been terrific. Nola has a 1.76 ERA in those nine starts with a 21.7 SOBB (21.4 since the break) and 1.04 WHIP. Everything about Nola has been better since June 22 and has held after the break. Nola is posting his best F-Strike%, SwStr% and O-Swing%. Nola’s improvement has been in his control and use of his fastball and curveball, which has led to all of those metric increases. As long as Nola can stay healthy, he’s yet another player seeing his 2018 value improve by the start.
Streaming Pitchers to Target Next Week (Last 30 Days Stats)
Brewers: 20.9 SOBB, 28.7 K%, 68 wRC+
White Sox: 19.0 SOBB, 24.9, 80 wRC+
Rays: 17.1 SOBB, 25.6 K%, 77 wRC+
Padres: 16.7 SOBB, 23.1 K%, 90 wRC+
Astros: 9.5 SOBB, 17.2 K%, 128 wRC+
Tigers: 10.5 SOBB, 19.2 K%, 104 wRC+