by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Over the past few days we’ve seen a few intriguing, “low-end” pitching signings that could create potential value for fantasy owners. Will Miles Mikolas return from Japan and deliver? Can Mike Minor transition back to the rotation for Texas? Let’s take a look and see if either are worth owning for 2018 and beyond:
Miles Mikolas – St. Louis Cardinals
While Mikolas failed in the Majors (5.32 ERA, 1.42 WHIP over 91.1 IP), he showed significantly better stuff coming up through the minors (7.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9). That led to him getting an opportunity in Japan, where he’s thrived over the past three years:
8.0 K/9 (378 K)
1.5 BB/9 (69 BB)
Now the question is going to be how those numbers will translate back in the Majors. Obviously he didn’t show a spike in strikeouts overall, but over his three years in Japan he showed improvements:
- 2015 – 6.6 K/9
- 2016 – 8.2 K/9
- 2017 – 9.0 K/9
That does give hope, but it is a different game and expecting him to replicate a strikeout per inning could be a stretch (though given the aggressive nature of MLB hitters, it also isn’t impossible). No one is going to question his control, considering he also showed it in the minors, and calling the NL home will help.
While the Cardinals appear to have a crowded rotation, it is hard to imagine they gave him the guarantee they did and don’t plan on utilizing him as a starter. The added depth gives them more ammunition for a trade, and Mikolas appears primed to be an intriguing option in all formats. He may not be an ace, but with his control giving him a good shot at an above average WHIP and the potential for strikeouts he has the upside of a Top 30-40 option.
Mike Minor – Texas Rangers
The fact that he signed with Texas isn’t a surprise. The fact that they are looking to transition him back into the rotation, though? That one seems a little bit peculiar.
While Minor had always shown intrigue as a starter, he appeared to find a home in the bullpen in ’17 as he posted a 2.55 ERA and 1.02 WHIP thanks to strikeouts (10.20 K/9) and control (2.55 BB/9). There are a few obvious concerns with the thought of him moving back to starting:
- Workload – After not appearing in the Majors in 2015 and 2016 (he threw 41.1 IP in ’16), he only threw 77.2 innings last season for the Royals. Just how many innings will he be able to throw in ’18?
- Home Runs – He’s never been known as a groundball pitcher (37.2% for his career) and now moves into a hitter friendly ballpark. That could definitely create issues
- Strikeouts – Not only will he be starting in the AL, but he showed a spike in his SwStr% last season when coming out of the bullpen (11.8% vs. 8.9% for his career). Can he maintain an elevated strikeout rate, or will he have to conserve his arm to be able to work deeper into games and see the rate regress?
It’s not to say that Minor isn’t intriguing, but we’d be a lot more intrigued with him as a potential closing option for the Rangers. Monitor him closely, but don’t expect gaudy numbers.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: