Finding quality sleeper starting pitchers is one of the most important aspects of winning fantasy baseball championships. I don't like to grab starting pitchers too early in drafts, so my team relies on starting pitchers that outperform their average draft positions.
Last year, I was able to grab Luis Severino off the waiver wire, along with Aaron Nola, who contributed in major ways en route to the fantasy baseball championship round in my league. So who is it going to be this year? Here's my three favorite sleeper starting pitchers in the 2018 fantasy baseball draft.
Aaron Nola, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
OK, maybe he can't be considered a major sleeper, but I'm still putting him in that category based on my expectations. FantasyPros lists him as the 18th-best starting pitcher with an overall ranking of 77th overall among all players.
In a standard 12-team league, you'd be able to nab him in the seventh round, which would be incredible value for what I believe Nola can be.
He's a top-10 starting pitcher in fantasy baseball in my mind. In only his third season in Major League Baseball, Nola improved across the board, and continued to be a monster in strikeout-per-nine-innings. His ERA dropped last season, his wins quality starts improved and his strikeouts-per-nine-innings went up from 9.8 in 2016, to 9.9 in 2017.
His strikeouts staying near the level of 10 is what excites me. He's going to get you strikeouts, and he is showing the ability to be a dominant pitcher in improving his Earned Run Average. The Phillies should be better, so his wins will likely go up. He became far more consistent in 2017 and that shouldn't stop in 2018.
He can be a solid top pitcher for your fantasy baseball team, and you're getting him at a great level.
Jose Berrios, SP, Minnesota Twins
He's another young pitcher who should continue to get better.
Berrios was a machine during the early part of 2017, only to fade in the second half. That's to be expected out of such a young pitcher and he had a similar trajectory that Nola encountered in 2016. Much like Nola, though, I'm expecting better days ahead for Berrios.
He's a highly touted prospect, who can register strikeouts. He had 8.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings last season and I'm expecting that to reach the nine-strikeout range in 2018. He's the 31st-ranked pitcher, according to FantasyPros, putting him as the 118th ranked player overall.
He's not going to be a dominant starting pitcher for your roster, but he can provide solid statistics each week. He's young, so he also has potential, which is something you can't always find at this level. Most of the pitchers near this ranking are already known commodities. Berrios isn't that way. It's not a conservative pick, but it's one that could pay major dividends.
Zack Godley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
There seems to be a theme among this group, with it being littered with inexperienced pitchers who showed big gains in 2017.
Godley fits that mold and I expect him to be better than the 35th-ranked pitcher, with an overall ranking of 139. After a terrible 2016, his strikeout rate ballooned to 9.6 in nine innings in 2017, and his ERA dropped from 6.39 in 2016 to 3.37 in 2017.
He's still young, so there's room to grow, and I like the approach to looking for the strikeouts, rather than pitching to contact. His walk rate was actually higher in 2015 and 2017 (both solid years) than in 2016, but his strikeout rate was much higher in 2015 and 2017. He's better when he's looking for strikeouts and not pitching to contact.
If he continues down that same path in 2018, he should be a solid find at this level.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ScottLevineCH