If you're going to pull the trigger on a starting pitcher early in the 2018 fantasy baseball draft, you better make sure it's a slam dunk.
Good starting pitchers are not only available later in fantasy baseball drafts, but the two-start strategy is a proven model of success throughout the season. Having consistently good starting pitching is a nice thing to have for any roster, but just don't make the mistake of banking on a bust.
There's always a few every year in fantasy baseball and the starting pitcher position is not immune. Here's three starting pitchers with bust potential in the 2018 fantasy baseball draft.
Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees
The innings jump concerns me with Severino. He went from a career-high 71 innings in 2016 to 193 innings in 2017. He also went from the low 8s in strikeouts-per-nine-innings to over 10 in one year.
It was a breakout campaign in 2017, and I benefited from it greatly in my own fantasy baseball league. However, that's not a gradual increase like I've witnessed with my sleeper starting pitchers.
So I'm fading Severino based on his high average draft position. Currently, he's going off as the 31st overall player drafted and the eighth-highest pitcher. That's just too high for my blood, considering those stats from a year ago could be an aberration.
He's a good pitcher, but not good enough to warrant a third-round draft grade.
Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros
He was dynamic in the second part of last season. He had double-digit strikeouts per nine innings in the final two months. He was 9-1 in August, September and October, and his ERA was below 3 in those months, and even below 2 in September and October.
The hype train is going to be all out for Verlander, who has an ADP of 42nd overall and 12th-best among pitchers. That actually coincides with the expert rankings, too.
This season screams bust for Verlander, though. Before he went to Houston and during much of the first part of the season, his ERA was north of 4.00. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings actually dropped below nine in two of the season's first four months. And his walks were elevated.
He's going to be 35 and entering his 13th full Major League Baseball season. The end will come at some point, and he's had moments during his career where it looked like that end is near. I'm not gambling on him for my primary starter.
Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ray could be on the cusp of being a pretty dominant fantasy baseball starting pitcher. He also could be ready for a major decline.
Ray busted out 2017 with a 15-5 record and a ridiculous 12.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, which led Major League Baseball. He was obviously a nice weapon to have on your roster in 2017 based on his low draft grade and his strikeout ability.
And while I believe his strikeouts will continue at a nice pace, it won't be at that level, and I see bust in his future. In his two previous full seasons, he was a combined 13-27 overall with a 3.52 ERA in 2015 and a 4.90 ERA in 2016. He also loves giving up home runs (47 in the last two years).
The breakthrough he had from 2016 to 2017 is just too much. He's a strikeout guy, so he should be on rosters at some point, but his ADP at 45th overall and 14th among pitchers is too high with the question marks that circulate around him.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor for the Clinton Herald. During his free time, he blogs about fantasy sports and handicaps games. His Against The Chalk blog has earned him back-to-back Iowa Newspaper Association awards for Best Blog. Check out more at Against The Chalk.
Scott Levine can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH