2018 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers: Spoiler Alert

by Tyler Thompson
2018 fantasy baseball overvalued pitchers

Who here hates a spoiler? I don't think anyone enjoys being told the ending of a movie followed by the phrase "I definitely recommend it". What about that time you recorded the game so you could watch it later and get a notification from Bleacher Report saying that Team X won? Yeah, it's not fun at all.

With that in mind, when I do my pitcher rankings for FantasyPros, I do my best not to view any other site rankings. This is mainly to avoid bias, but also I don't want anyone to spoil where pitchers are being drafted to me. I want to have that warm feeling of ranking a guy in the top 30 at SP and seeing that I am high on him. Or in the opposite case, I want to know which pitchers I won't be owning at their current ADP.

To remain unbiased, not only do I have to blind myself from ADP, but it's important to fully evaluate each pitcher for what they will be in 2018. It's not just about what happened in 2017. It's more about why 2017 happened and how it compares to their history in the majors or minors. Once assumptions start to arise from which they hold no merit, that's when a pitcher gets improperly valued.

Specifically, when evaluating why pitchers get overrated, I came across a few reasons:

  1. The pitcher has prospect hype - the dude has a 55 prospect grade or higher for a team that could call him up soon.
  2. A pitcher is new on the scene - only showed elite stuff for a small sample size.
  3. The pitcher has a long tenure of success - aging pitchers never wear off that memory of ace-status.
  4. A pitcher gets a change of scenery - the grass is always greener for pitchers changing teams.

This exercise was not as fun to do as my piece on undervalued pitchers. I'm typically a positive person, especially when it comes to fantasy sports. I don't enjoy spewing negativity over players I don't like. However, it's a necessary evil when you want to win your leagues, which makes me an even more positive person. Vicious cycle. Ramble on.

2018 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers

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Jake Arrieta, Free Agent (SP25)

Yet to be signed in free agency, there are plenty of questions surrounding his real-life and fantasy value heading into the 2018 season. He is certainly looking for a multi-year deal, which is giving teams pause. In the same way, looking at his past two years, fantasy drafters need to be feeling a similar sort of hesitation.

After an all-time superhuman performance in 2015, we saw a normal fallback to humanity for Arrieta in 2016. However, the 3.52 FIP and 3.68 xFIP pointed towards another fall in 2017, which did happen with a 3.53 ERA and a drop in about 2/3 of an inning per start. What's alarming though is that he had a FIP and xFIP of 4.16 and 4.11 in 2017, respectively. That's indicative of a further fall from grace moving forward.

Looking at all the projection systems only darkens the room. Steamer specifically is down on him, predicting a 4.19 ERA with peripheral stats to support it. I don't believe he falls that far, but I certainly can't see him coming back to vintage or even 2016 Arrieta. His days of being an SP2 in fantasy are over, which is pretty much what you're paying for him in drafts.

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Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers (SP56)

Those viewing last year as a fluke one-off season for Hamels need to reconsider. The 34-year-old needs to a plethora of favorable events to bounce back and I am not a believer.

Many people will point to the oblique injury last year and how it affected his season. That's fair and likely true to some extent. Besides, Hamels had never had a K-rate under 20% in his career until the 2017 season. However, to throw up a 17% strikeout rate is just horrendously bad and needs to raise more eyebrows. Additionally, this is his second year of a ~9% walk rate after his career rates were closer to ~6%. This leads me to believe that he's really having to dig in to get hitters out at this stage in his career.

The batted ball data also supports another bad year for Hamels. Homers have always been an issue for Hamels and you can expect at least another 1.09 HR/9 if not worse. His 0.251 BABIP allowed in 2017 was 33 points lower than his career BABIP and he's been pitching too long to have that stark of a change. His 2017 LOB% was six percentage points lower than his career average. Therefore, even if he was pitching through injury, there were plenty of things going his way just to keep his ERA at 4.20.

Obviously, as the 56th ranked starter, no one is really going out on a limb to draft him highly. However, we saw Felix Hernandez in a similar position to this last year as a recent example of old aces losing ground. Experts were too scared to drop him further in the rankings and he threw a stinker of a season. I fear that the rankers were too fearful of dropping Hamels down based on namesake. I'm betting on higher strikeout upside in this pitcher tier and leaving Hamels for others to draft.

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Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays (RP14)

After a fantastic 2016 season, Colome was highly regarded as one of the next big closers in the game. He was being selected in the top 10 at RP in 2017 drafts and likely gave you plenty of value. Without a doubt, saving 47 games with a 3.24 ERA is about as good as you can ask for from your closer.

Despite all of this, Colome checks most of the boxes for 'overvalued closer' heading into 2018. We will start with the peripheral stats, which deteriorated substantially for Colome last year. If you ask how many saves it takes to mask an 11% drop in strikeout rate and a 4.32 xFIP, the answer is 47. Not to be lazy, I dove into his repertoire to try to understand this drastic change. I noticed something strange with his pitch mix that should scare drafters.

2018 fantasy baseball overvalued pitchers

Credit: FanGraphs

After his fastball became super hittable, he started throwing a cutter that no one had seen before. Now, with a year's worth of tape on it, don't you think hitters and coaches will see it coming? The cutter may be a great pitch, but the fastball is trash and he throws no other pitch. When hitters start loading up on that cutter, the hits will follow.

Other than the regressing peripheral numbers, I still don't understand why we rank this guy so highly. He closes for a bottom-feeder in the AL and could even get traded out of the closer role. The rebuilding Rays have made it no secret what their plans are moving forward. Don't draft Colome or else you will be following a similar path.

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Jeurys Familia, New York Mets (RP21)

Familia had an eventful 2017 season to say the least. After serving a 15 game suspension due to domestic violence, he threw 9 mediocre innings before a scary shoulder injury. Upon returning, he threw 15 more mediocre innings to finish off the season. Are we ready to write off last year as a fluke or is there something more here?

First, there is the performance issues from last year. A 5.47 BB/9 is extremely poor and points to the lack of command throughout the year. Sometimes a high walk rate is okay if you've got the strikeout upside, but Familia isn't really that exceptional in that category either. His 9.0% K-BB% would have been 140th among qualified relievers in 2017.

Additionally, there is the news about him sharing the closer role with A.J. Ramos. New manager Mickey Callaway has a different style when it comes to bullpen usage. I would bet that Familia still gets over half of the save opportunities, but who knows how the new system will look. What if Familia starts pitching like he did last year while Ramos and Anthony Swarzak dominate?

All in all, there's just too much negativity going on here. I have Familia in the last tier of closers, which has me missing out on him at RP21. It's not the worst value out there considering Familia was drafted as a top 12 closer the last two years. When I see a bad situation though, I don't hesitate to stay away despite the depreciated cost relative to previous seasons.

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

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Mark March 5, 2018 - 10:40 am

Re: Cole Hamels
The Rangers are looking to implement a 6-man rotation, thereby giving him 3 or 4 less starts.

Tyler Thompson March 5, 2018 - 5:45 pm

This is an interesting tidbit of information, Mark. I didn’t know the Rangers had enough arms to pull that off! Haha. Well, that may help Hamels stay at full strength, but yeah, agreed, the decrease in volume puts me further off him.

Monday March 5, 2018 - Fantasy Baseball Links - FantasyRundown.com March 5, 2018 - 1:32 pm

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