Three Potential Breakout Pitchers of the Year
When looking for a breakout pitcher in 2018, I’m focusing on pitchers with an ADP of 200 or higher that have the potential to be drafted inside the top 25 starting pitchers in baseball in 2019. Here’s are the top three pitchers with breakout upside for me this year with my player profiles from the team outlooks on ScoutFantasySports.com.
SP Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals
Just based on ADP, the cat is out of the bag on Weaver this season. Therefore, it wouldn’t’ be fair to use him as a breakout pitcher.
Weaver had no problem with AA (6-3 with a 1.40 ERA and 88 Ks over 77 innings) and AAA (11-2 with a 2.37 ERA and 90 Ks over 83.2 innings) over the last two seasons. In his first start in the majors in 2017, Luke allowed four runs and seven baserunners over five innings with five Ks. Over his next eight games, Weaver had a special arm (7-0 with a 1.61 ERA, .213 BAA, and 58 Ks over 44.2 innings) helping Fantasy owners up the league standings in the pitching categories. The Brewers and the Cubs drilled up for 14 runs, 22 baserunners, and three HRs over 7.2 innings over his last two starts of the year. His late fade led to RH batters hitting .288 against him with five HRs over 132 at-bats. Luke pitched at a high level against lefties (.210 BAA). His AFB (93.5) was about league average. His changeup (.200 BAA) ended up being the only edge pitch in the majors. Over 22 games in the majors, Weaver has strength in both his walk rate (2.7) and K rate (10.9). He showed better command in the minors (1.8 walks and 8.8 Ks per nine). Last season Luke did battle a lower back issue a couple of times. His great changeup is the ticket to a successful career in the majors. When Weaver adds some more bulk and strength, his fastball is going to get more velocity and life in the strike zone. His command gives him elite upside. His next step is proving he can handle 200 innings in the majors. This season Weaver should make 30+ starts with a chance to pitch 180+ innings. I fully expect a great season – 15+ wins, sub 3.00 ERA, and 200+ Ks. Excellent gamble as SP2 in 15-team leagues with an ADP of 108.
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SP Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
As much as I would like to use Blake Snell as my breakout pitcher, I don’t like the division he pitches in. He’ll face the power-hitting Yankees and the Red Sox in many games.
For a young pitcher to have success in the majors, he needs to learn to get ahead in the count. The best pitchers in the game will throw 67 percent first-pitch strikes while the league average is about 62 percent in most seasons. Last year Snell only threw 53.8 percent first-pitch strikes, but he did improve on his 2016 walk rate (5.2 – 4.1 last year). Batters only hit .234 against him with his best success coming against lefties (.182 with no HRs over 66 at-bats). Blake pitched his way out of the majors after first eight starts (4.71 ERA) plus the Pirates lit him up for six runs and nine baserunners over five innings when he was called back up in late June. Over his last 14 starts, Snell started to look like a major league arm (3.49 ERA with 74 Ks over 77.1 innings). His walk rate (2.9) moved into a much stronger area. He put a stamp on 2017 with an electric performance in his last start of the year (no runs and two hits over seven innings with 13 Ks). At AAA in 2017, Blake had a 2.66 ERA with 61 Ks over 44 innings. Over seven seasons in the minors, he has a 41-29 record with a 2.81 ERA and 618 Ks over 529.1 innings. His AFB (94.7) continues to improve. Batters struggled to hit his four-seam fastball (.237 BAA), slider (.213 BAA), and curveball (.173 BAA) while his changeup (.260 BAA) still needs work. All the tools to be an elite arm, but he needs to throw more strikes. Right kind of bet in 2018 with excellent chance to reach 180+ innings with a sub 3.50 ERA and 200+ Ks.
SP Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres
Lamet has a 2.99 ERA over 298.1 innings in the minors with 336 Ks. His walk rate (3.8) had regression at AAA (4.6) and in the majors (4.3). After eight starts at AAA (3.23 ERA and 50 Ks over 39 innings), Dinelson received the call-up to the majors. Over his first 19 starts with the Padres, he allowed three runs or fewer in 15 games while posting a 4.15 ERA and .205 BAA. Unfortunately, four disaster outings (24 runs and 35 baserunners over 16 innings) masked some of his hidden upside. His best run came over ten starts (2.44 ERA, .185 BAA, and 66 Ks over 59 innings) after the All-Star break. Two poor starts (ten runs and 17 baserunners over 10.1 innings) to end the year pushed his ERA to 4.57. Lamet dominated RH batters (.155 BAA) while needing work against lefties (.263 with 35 of his 54 walks over 213 at-bats). His AFB (95.3) has plus velocity with batters hitting .260 against it. HIs slider (.141 BAA) is elite. Dinelson barely threw a changeup (about five decent of the time) with losing value (.333 BAA). With 150+ innings under his belt in two straight years, he looks poised for a run at 200 innings if he can shave off some walks. Lamet needs to develop his first pitch, improve against lefties, and throw more strikes to become a frontline starter. Pitching in San Diego gives him a chance at a 3.50 ERA in 2018 with 225+ Ks. Dinelson is the type of pitcher Terry Haney (overall winner in the NFBC) would be targeting in the 12th to 15th round (ADP of 220) in 15-team events to solidify the second tier of his starting rotation. In my thoughts while understanding his WHIP risk.
When doing the player profile for Dinelson Lamet, he had a Jake Peavy 2013 (4.11 ERA and 3.8 walks per nine) feel to his game. In 2004, Peavy went 15-6 with a 2.27 ERA and 173 Ks over 166.1 innings with growth in his walk rate (2.9).
Dinelson has a plus fastball and elite slider while showing the ability to dominate RH batters. Pitching in San Diego is a huge plus, and the Padres’ offense is getting better. Many Fantasy owners won’t see beyond his 4.57 ERA and poor walk rate (4.3) in the majors forcing these drafters to look for an arm with better major league stats on draft day.
Lamet will be tough to hit. If he can solve lefties and throw more strikes, his game has ace upside. When scouts describe him as athletic and fluid, I conclude that he has talent with more upside. His next step will come from growth and trust of his changeup, which is the pitch he will need to control lefties. With 153.1 innings under his belt in 2017 bewteen AAA and the majors, Dinelson looks ready to turn in a full season of starts in the majors. Priced to payoff in 2018 and he is my 2018 Scout Fantasy Sports Breakout pitcher.