Bargains on the Mound

To be honest, I don’t remember an off-season in which the Hot Stove has been this cold this late in the proceedings. This lack of front office activity has slowed the fantasy draft prep process quite a bit as roto owners continue to wait for moves that could change the market value of certain players.

Aside from selecting my picks and pans for The Fantasy Baseball Guide Professional Edition, I’ve been in fantasy baseball hibernation since the final regular season pitch was thrown on October 1. Well, that all changed last week, when I participated in a mock draft for the Street & Smith’s preview magazine.

While I try not to overrate the results of early mock drafts, I do pay particular attention to the starting pitcher position since selecting cheap starters with profit potential has always been an important part of my draft day strategy. So, who are some candidates for 2018? Here are a handful of intriguing options, all taken in the late rounds of the Street & Smith’s 23-round mock.

Zach Davies (Round 18, Pick 3)

Pitching in just his second full big league season, Davies managed to rack up 17 wins. But, his other stats–most notably the 9.6 H/9 rate and the 1.35 WHIP–were nothing to get excited about. Add in Davies pedestrian strikeout rate (5.8 K/9) and it might seem strange to identify the young righty as a guy worth targeting in drafts. But take a look at his second half splits. Over 15 starts following the All-Star break, Davies posted a stellar 2.87 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, this compared to a 4.90 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in the first half. Although his lack of strikeouts limits his fantasy appeal to deeper mixed leagues for now, it would not be surprising to see further improvement from Davies in 2018, his age-25 season.

Jacob Faria (Round 19, Pick 8)

The owner of a 3.13 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a 9.4 K/9 rate over parts of seven minor league seasons, Faria was called up by the Rays in early-June last year. He quickly proved that he belonged in the Majors, notching seven straight quality starts to open his big league career. Despite missing a month due to an abdominal strain, the 24-year-old righty’s rookie campaign was an overwhelming success as he wrapped up the season with a 3.43 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning in 16 games (14 starts). There’s a lot to be excited about heading into 2018.

Dylan Bundy (Round 21, Pick 6)

Bundy’s inconsistency in 2017 might scare off some owners, but the former top prospect pieced together enough dominant outings (2 ER or fewer in 14 of his 28 starts) to suggest that the righty could develop into a frontline starter. Keep in mind that the Orioles hurler is still just 25 years of age. Sure, he pitches in a tough division and in a hitter-friendly home ballpark, but those factors will only further deflate his cost, making him a potential late-round steal. He could certainly finish 2018 as a top-40 SP.

Jerad Eickhoff (Round 22, Pick 4)

After showing much promise in 2016 (3.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.0 K/BB), Eickhoff entered last season as a popular breakout pick, and I was a big believer in the Phillies right-hander, making a special effort to draft him in multiple leagues. So what did I get? How about a 4.71 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP across 24 starts? Not good. What is good is that Eickhoff will be overlooked by many owners thanks to his disappointing and injury-marred 2017 campaign. Let’s just erase 2017 from our memory and give him another shot. The cost is minimal and the reward is substantial.

Mike Clevinger (Round 22, Pick 8)

Pick #260? Really? Check out Clevinger’s 2017 stat line (12-6, 3.11 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.1 K/9) and this doesn’t make much sense at all. I guess the fact that the soon-to-be 27-year-old has yet to turn in a full season in a starting role sort of explains it, but pick #260? Really? The key for Clevinger will be to improve his control (career 4.6 BB/9). If he can make strides in that area, there’s top-30 SP upside here.

What? Stanton to the Yankees? I guess the Hot Stove isn’t so cold anymore.

Zach Steinhorn is the 2016 Mixed Auction Tout Wars champion. Follow him on Twitter @ZachMLB

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