To some of us, Opening Day IS the first day of Spring. It is the most beloved day for baseball and Fantasy fans. It is so important in people’s lives that they even want to declare the first day of baseball a National Holiday! While I would not go that far, you can bet there will be a lot of call-offs on March 29.
Furthermore, every Fantasy Baseball player is gearing up for their draft and/or auctions. They worry about what strategy to employ? Which player will be there for their next pick? Also, they want to look like the smartest owner in the league by grabbing the best players at the best values.
One major element to winning any Fantasy league is to identify players who are undervalued. Players who will outperform their ADP. Players who you can grab late in your drafts and watch them outperform the players drafted long before them. I came up with a list of 5 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Pitchers for 2018 that you can hopefully grab and look like the smartest owner in the room. Good Luck!!!!
5 Mightily Undervalued Pitchers In 2018
J.A. Happ, SP, Toronto Blue Jays (FantasyPros SP ADP: 72)
J.A. Happ has been selected by Manager John Gibbons as the Opening Day Starter for the Blue Jays. It’s the first career Opening Day nod for Happ. The southpaw owns a 30-15 record with a strong 3.33 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9 in 340 1/3 innings over the last two seasons.
Last season, Happ was 10-11 with a 3.53 earned-run average for the Blue Jays. He missed six weeks early last year battling through an April elbow injury but he settled in and produced a 1.31 WHIP with 142 strikeouts in 145.1 innings.
Happ finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2016. He posted a 20-4 record with a 3.18 ERA and finished ranked as the No. 75 overall player. J.A. Happ is not a very sexy pick but he is a very useful mid-to-late round fantasy starter. He will provide quality starting depth on your Fantasy roster. He is projected for double-digit wins and an ERA under four. The Blue Jays and Fantasy owners are hoping that Happ continues the dominance he exhibited in September. He went 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA, striking out 32 batters with eight walks in 31.2 innings.
I would draft J.A. Happ ahead of Erwin Santana (SP ADP: 70), Lucas Giolito (SP ADP: 65), Rick Porcello (SP ADP: 59).
Dinelson Lamet, SP, San Diego Padres (FantasyPros SP ADP: 62)
Dinelson Lamet experienced extreme peaks and valleys on his way to a 7-8 record with a 4.57 ERA over 114.1 innings as a rookie last year. The most notable stat was his strikeout rate (10.9 K/9), which ranked ninth among all major-league starters. After his first nine starts last season, he was 3-4 with a 6.40 ERA. He did strike out 62 over 45 innings and had opponents hitting just .229. However, he also allowed 11 homers in those starts and allowed three runs or more five times. On the other hand, he gained steam over his final 12 starts. He allowed three runs or more just three times while going 4-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 69.1 innings. The young right-hander also allowed just seven dingers and held opponents to a .197 average.
He had trouble with left-handed hitters (.263) all season. On the other hand, he dominated right-handed hitters (.155), consistently hit the mid-to-upper 90s with his fastball and a wipeout slider. The good news is Lamet brings back his filthy stuff to work in tandem with a third pitch as he is now working on a changeup.
The strikeouts alone make him a valuable option in all Fantasy formats. In addition, he plays his home games at Petco Park, where the second-fewest runs per game were scored last season. MLB.com analyst Mike Petriello feels that Lamet, now 25, could be poised for a breakout season in 2018. Look for Lamet to continue to rack up the strikeouts as he grows as a pitcher. He has the upside to be a Top 30 starting pitcher and a player who is still being undervalued.
I would draft Dinelson Lamet ahead of Rick Porcello (SP ADP: 59) and Kevin Gausman (SP ADP 51).
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox (FantasyPros SP ADP: 95)
Eduardo Rodriguez will begin the 2018 season on the disabled list. He was still recovering from significant offseason knee surgery in October to address the recurring kneecap dislocations that were troubling him. There was always uncertainty if Rodriguez would be able to be ready for Opening Day. However, he has been progressing well enough to toe the rubber in a minor league start in which he threw four innings. He is projected to be available to take a spot in the rotation by mid-April.
If fully healthy by the end of April when he is expected to return, he can be a difference maker for the Red Sox and fantasy rosters. When we look at his 2017 season overall, it was a step in the right direction for Eduardo Rodriguez. He started 24 games for the Red Sox with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.282 WHIP, which was the lowest WHIP of his career. Additionally, he achieved personal bests with his 25.8 % strikeout rate, 4.05 SIERA, and 137.1 innings pitched.
Rodriguez has shown flashes over his short career but needs to produce to his potential on a consistent basis. This includes being fully healthy in recovering from his knee injury that was hindering his progress over the past few seasons. He should be in the starting rotation by the end of April especially with fellow lefty starter Drew Pomeranz also starting the regular season on the DL. Look for him to continue his ascension to fantasy relevance and a sleeper you can grab in the late rounds of your draft.
I would draft Eduardo Rodriguez ahead of Jordan Zimmerman (SP ADP: 90), Michael Kopech (SP ADP: 88), Miles Mikolas (SP ADP: 84).
Chris Stratton, SP, San Francisco Giants (FantasyPros SP ADP-149)
With Madison Bumgarner (hand) and Jeff Samardzija (shoulder) starting the season on the disabled list, Stratton is a lock for the San Francisco’s starting rotation. The 27-year-old right-hander certainly showed promise in two big-league stints thus far. He produced a 3.67 ERA in 68.2 career innings in San Francisco. He went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his nine starts after moving permanently into the rotation last season and struck out nearly a batter per inning.
Stratton was one of the few positive things that will be returning to the Giants in 2018. He ended the season with a 3.82 ERA and struck out 20% of the batters he faced. Additionally, he produced a 2.0 GB/FB ratio over 58.2 innings in 2017. The only real concern with Stratton is his BB/9 rate of 4.3. If he can clean that up, he would definitely cement his hold in the starting rotation.
He makes a fine back-of-the-rotation starter in most fantasy formats. He is projected with a slightly above .500 record and an ERA just under four. Chris Stratton is basically free as he is being drafted 462nd overall. With the opportunity to start the season in the rotation, he is a great dart throw and one of my favorite deep sleeper pitchers to get on your Fantasy rosters.
I would draft Chris Stratton ahead of Brandon McCarthy (SP ADP: 145), and Daniel Norris (SP ADP: 140), Matt Moore (SP ADP: 135).
Michael Clevinger, SP/RP, Cleveland Indians (FantasyPros SP ADP: 56)
Manager Terry Francona mentioned that Clevinger will open the season in the rotation, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. “Danny (Salazar) is not going to be ready,” Francona said. “We’re looking for (Clevinger) to have a big year. He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type of pitcher.” Francona and Clevinger both have talked about him throwing 200 innings this season.
Mike Clevinger spent a large part of the season in the rotation while posting a 12-6 record and 3.11/1.25 line with a 10.1 K/9 ratio in 27 games (21 starts). Over 121.2 innings of work, he struck out 137 batters against 60 walks and allowed 92 base hits. His high BB-rate (4.4) and low ground-ball rate are concerning (39.5 percent).
Clevinger has battled control issues throughout his pro career. His pitching motion is rather violent, arms and legs exploding as he throws. When in a tight situation, his adrenaline kicks in and he overthrows. However, he has now learned through experience as evidenced by how he has held opponents to a .221 average at the big-league level while striking out a quarter of the batters he’s faced.
Clevinger ended the 2017 season with a plenty of confidence after posting a 5-1 record with an outstanding 0.99 earned run average in September. His numbers last season were as good or better than many other pitchers being drafted well ahead of him. He can clearly miss bats, which goes a long way in fantasy. With Clevinger set in the Indians starting rotation, look for him to have a career season and to cement the Indians as the best rotation in baseball.
I would draft Mike Clevinger ahead of Dylan Bundy (SP ADP-47), Charlie Morton (SP ADP-46), and Gio Gonzalez (SP ADP-39).