2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit

2018 Fantasy Baseball: This Year’s Luis Severino


Luis Severino is a textbook example of why Fantasy owners are so enamored with young pitchers. The former top prospect became a star last season, posting a 14-6 record with a sparkling 2.89 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Of course, Severino improved his metrics across the board compared to his disappointing 2016 season. His K% jumped to nearly 30% and his BB% fell to an elite 6.5%. His SwStr was also a ridiculous 13.0%, putting him 11th in the Majors between Stephen Strasburg and Zack Greinke.

This season, Severino is (rightly) being drafted as a top 10 pitcher and won’t provide the incredible value he gifted owners with last season. The question now becomes ‘which young pitcher will have a breakout season and become the next Fantasy ace?’ Here are several young arms who may be on the verge of a breakout.

This Year’s Luis Severino

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Luis Castillo, Cincinnati Reds

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Stop me if you’ve already heard Castillo’s name this offseason. Outside of Shohei Othani, no player has been hyped more than Castillo this spring. To be fair, his performance at the end of last season was well worth the hype. In 89 innings, Castillo had a 3.12 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. More impressively, he had a 27 percent K-rate and induced a ridiculous amount of ground balls (58.8%).

His average fastball velocity (97.5 MPH) ranks third behind Noah Syndergaard and Severino, and his change-up generated a 23% whiff rate. In fact, his change-up was the eighth most valuable change-up in the majors last season. Along with an above average slider, Castillo definitely has the stuff to continue performing like he did in 2017.

His above average 8.9% walk rate is the biggest negative on his resume. However, it was heavily influenced by his first two starts where he walked eight. It certainly looks like Castillo will be the next big thing, and many owners agree, as his ADP is moving into the top 100. If you’re looking for a “sleeper” to be the next Severino, look elsewhere because you’ll have to pay a high price to get on the Castillo hype train.

Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals

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What is it with the Cardinals and their endless supply of solid pitching prospects? After joining the St. Louis rotation in July, Weaver flashed enough skill to make him one of this season’s most popular breakout candidates. In a 60 inning sample, Weaver finished with a 3.88 ERA, which was supported with a 2.83 xFIP. Weaver held a 4.24 K/BB and induced nearly 50% ground balls. If not for two horrible starts to end the season (14 ER in 7.2 IP) Weaver would have finished with an ERA under three, and his draft price would be even higher.

With a solid fastball/change-up combo, Weaver was able to generate a near 10% swinging strike rate. His change-up is his biggest money pitch, generating a 13% whiff rate and a 5.5 pitch value. His ability to limit hard contact also gives him a high floor. It remains to be seen if he will maintain the high BABIP (.335) he had last year but it may not drop too much with FanGraphs projecting the Cardinals defense to be worse than last year. 

With a FantasyPros ADP of 123, Weaver will come cheaper than Castillo but he does not have the same elite stuff that Castillo has in his arsenal. Owners need to be aware of a likely innings limit for Weaver, but the innings he does pitch should be very productive.

Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays

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Oozing with upside, Snell has the potential to be one of the highest K upside pitchers in the league. He came up through the minors with high strikeout upside, posting 33% K-rates for two consecutive years at Triple-A Durham, before being recalled to the majors. Unfortunately for Snell, his high walk rates (12.7 BB%) led to struggles in his first season.

Snell’s struggles continued in the first half of 2017, as he posted a 4.85 ERA while walking nearly six(!) batters per nine innings. His second half was a completely different story. In 77.1 innings, Snell held a 3.49 ERA and cut his walk rate in half to 2.91 per nine innings. Along with his improved control, Snell increased his swinging strike rate by three percent in the second half.

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This spring, Snell is inspiring plenty of confidence, as he’s struck out 10 and walked just one across seven innings. If he is able to maintain his improved control and continue to induce more ground balls (46% in the second half) Snell is a good a candidate as anyone to become a front-line Fantasy starter.

Lance McCullers, Houston Astros

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If you’re okay with massive injury risk, McCullers has all the skills to be the next Fantasy ace. Last season was looking like his breakout year, as he held a 3.05 ERA and a 10.45 K/9 in the first half. He was finally getting control of his arsenal, walking just 7% of the batters he faced. Unfortunately, injuries hit him once again and he hit the DL two separate times due to back issues.

When he finally got “healthy” McCullers was not the same pitcher. In an ugly second half, his ERA was 8.23 and his BB% jumped by three percent. The injuries put a huge damper on what was going to be a career year. On the bright side, his playoff performance (2.61 ERA) gave owners a glimmer of hope for this season.

McCullers’ stuff is some of the best in the league and is the biggest reason there is always hype around him. His curveball is an absolute game changer, generating 18% whiffs and ranked as the third best curve in the league based on pitch values. His ability to generate ground balls (61.3%) is just another point on his impressive resume.

There are a LOT of “ifs” with McCullers. However, if he can stay healthy and put it together for a full season, owners are looking at someone who could push 15 wins and 200 strikeouts.

Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Corbin is the oldest member on this list, but has had the most career success as well. Corbin is a former All-Star who had his career temporarily derailed by Tommy John surgery. Three years after his surgery, Corbin finally looked like himself last season. On an improved Arizona team, Corbin tied a career high in wins (14) and games started (32).

Corbin’s recovery had not been going well, as he had a 4.75 ERA in the first half last season. Corbin finally turned it around in the second half, posting a 3.26 ERA to close out the season. Increased usage of his slider led to a career-high 8.45 K/9 and an improvement of his BB/9 to 2.89.

Despite his solid second half, there are two things to be wary of when it comes to Corbin. First, he has a tendency to give up home runs (1.23 HR/9) which led to a lot of blow-ups. Second, he has a lot of trouble performing on the road (5.09 ERA, 1.97 WHIP). Even if he becomes an average pitcher on the road, his overall line will look a lot better.

If Corbin continues his Jekyll and Hyde splits, his home performance will be more than worth it. He already generates a ton of ground balls (50%) and managed to limit HR at Chase Field (0.61/9). As you may have heard, Arizona will be getting a humidor this season, which has been shown to decrease exit velocity by 2-3 MPH. This should help lower his unsightly .326 BABIP and further depress his home ERA.

Corbin is showing signs of a posy-injury breakout and could be a low-end SP2 or solid SP3.

Bonus Breakout

Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks

Corbin’s teammate Godley is another popular breakout candidate who I went over in our 2018 Breakout Candidates piece.

2018 Fantasy Baseball Position Previews
CatcherFirst BaseSecond BaseThird BaseShortstopOutfieldStarting PitcherRelief PItcher

Check out the rest of our great Fantasy Baseball content as the 2018 season approaches.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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